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Photographer's Note

The DANZA DE LOS VOLADORES, or Dance of the Flyers, is a ceremony/ritual which has its roots in the pre-Hispanic period and presently best known as associated with the town of Papantla, Veracruz.

Although the ritual did not originate with the Totonac people, today it is most strongly associated with them, especially those in and around Papantla, as the ceremony has died off in most other places.

It is believed to have originated with the Nahua, Huastec and Otomi peoples in central Mexico, and then spread throughout most of Mesoamerica.

The ritual consists of dance and the climbing of a 30 meter pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum.

The ceremony begins with a dance and song called the son of forgiveness. After this, the five begin to climb the pole with the chief or caporal going first. The caporal will not descend but rather will stay at the top of the pole until near the end of the ceremony.

The four voladores represent the four cardinal directions as well as the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. The caporal represents the fifth sun.

At the appropriate moment the four voladores fall backwards and descend to the ground suspended by the ropes, wound 13 times each, i.e. a total of 52, the number of years in a Mesoamerican solar cycle.

As the ropes unwind, the voladores spin, creating a moving pyramid shape.

According to myth, the ritual was created to ask the gods to end a severe drought.

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The ceremony was named an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in order to help the ritual survive and thrive in the modern world.

These days the dance can be seen not only at the ancient Totonac site of El Tajin, but also at some tourist sites in Central-Mexico, such the Museo de Antropologia in Mexico-City and near Teotihuacan.

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song title reference: Ozzy Osbourne

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Additional Photos by Benny Verbercht (BennyV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3045 W: 35 N: 6707] (34748)
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