Men suspended and spinning from a pole rivaling the height of a 10-story building-Check!
Men performing a centuries-old Totonac tradition-Check!
All performed in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park-Check!
I was fortunate enough to witness this in Mexico City a few years back and still recall my flat-out amazement for such an exhibition of thrill and tradition. Sure, I had seen other indigenous rituals and cultural performances throughout Mexico, but never like this! Like the time I saw the daily Aztec dancing in Mexico City’s zocalo, or the Jarana dancing in Merida’s Plaza Mayor. All impressive, no doubt! But, to see “Los Voladores” in Chapultepec Park is to add to your cultural cache while being transfixed simultaneously. It’s a win-win!
Los Voladores, or literally, “the flyers”, perform their ritual several times daily to mimic a long-standing tradition rooted in the Totonac culture. They begin by climbing, one by one, until all five are atop and ready to call forth the god of fertility as some versions claim. They also claim that this ritual was performed as a plea to ending an extended drought that was prevalent at the time.
While four of the members ready themselves by strapping ropes to their waists and looping them around their feet, the fifth member steadies himself on the square frame from which he will “coordinate” the process by clouding the acoustics with his lyrical flute-playing. Once things are in place, the four men suspend themselves head-first and begin whirling about, orbiting the pole as they descend. All four will eventually circle the pole 13 times, which, if multiplied by each of the four, equals 52 to neatly coincide with the number of weeks in the ancient calendar year.
Though this captivating ritual is performed at various places throughout Mexico, including its birthplace of Papantla, Veracruz, this one in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park is a must stop and well worth the visit. It can be seen multiple times daily for free, but donations are encouraged.
A quick note: Inspiration for this short piece came from a fellow blogger and friend, Ashley, at No Onions Extra Pickles who once asked me about “My Mexico pic of the day” which I posted on Twitter. The photo happened to be about….you guessed it! Los Voladores!