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Flying High in Mexico City

by planetnomad on June 18, 2010

Men clad in kaleidoscope-like colors-Check!

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 in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City D.F.

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!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley June 18, 2010 at 10:54 am

Great post! Glad my little Twitter questions were of some inspiration. I still think Los Voladores are amazing, and hope I can check them out one day!

planetnomad June 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for the comments Ashley! Yes, I love when readers pose a question or make a comment. In this case, it generated some head-scratching on my part and led me to rewind the old memory bank to the day I saw Los Voladores. You MUST see them someday!

Sarina June 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm

How interesting, Mark! Thanks for introducing me to something new – that’s what I love about travel tweeters, the journey continues even when one is chained to a desk deadlining.

Best Wishes,
Sarina Singh

Julie Broadbent June 19, 2010 at 3:55 am

Mark – I love your writing style! Perfect length for a blog post, and includes great pics. Gracias por compartir.

planetnomad June 19, 2010 at 10:10 pm

@ Julie- As always, thanks for the warm comments…I am moved by them! You know I love sharing and always look forward to your posts as well!

planetnomad June 19, 2010 at 10:25 pm

@ Sarina: Thanks a bunch for visiting my site! I am thrilled that you found this piece to be interesting. I am also always fond of sharing my travels with others in hopes that some curiosity might be spiked and something “new” becomes alluring. A BIG thanks again for stopping and please don’t be a stranger!

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