Ritual ceremony of the Voladores
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
The ritual ceremony of the Voladores (‘flying men’) is a fertility dance performed by several ethnic groups in Mexico and Central America, especially the Totonac people in the eastern state of Veracruz, to express respect for and harmony with the natural and spiritual worlds. During the ceremony, four young men climb a wooden pole eighteen to forty metres high, freshly cut from the forest with the forgiveness of the mountain god. A fifth man, the Caporal, stands on a platform atop the pole, takes up his flute and small drum and plays songs dedicated to the sun, the four winds and each of the cardinal directions. After this invocation, the others fling themselves off the platform ‘into the void’. Tied to the platform with long ropes, they hang from it as it spins, twirling to mimic the motions of flight and gradually lowering themselves to the ground. Every variant of the dance brings to life the myth of the birth of the universe, so that the ritual ceremony of the Voladores expresses the worldview and values of the community, facilitates communication with the gods and invites prosperity. For the dancers themselves and the many others who participate in the spirituality of the ritual as observers, it encourages pride in and respect for one’s cultural heritage and identity.