Thursday, July 19, 2007

Flying: Los voladores


Yesterday we visited the archeological site at Cempoala, just north of Veracruz. This is not one of Mexico's grand archeological remnants -- though I'm not knocking the labor that went into moving all these stones. It dates from not long prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. In fact, the folks who built these ceremonial grounds allied with Hernan Cortez against theie neighboring enemies, the Mexicas. Not that this won them anything; within a few years most of the indigenous inhabitants had succumbed to small pox or been enslaved by the white guys with the high tech armaments.



The highlight of this visit was getting to see the flight of los voladores. Okay -- this show is a little hokey -- an adaptation of what must certainly have been quite a solemn, religious ceremony now serving to extract the tourist dollar. But what a show!


Four men in pseudo-Aztec costume climb a 35-meter high pole.


They wind the ropes they are tied to around the central column by rotating the platform.


When fully wound, the ropes form a tight knot around the top of the pole.


A leader-musician climbs up to join them ...


...and honors the four directions with pipe and drum while standing on top of the column.


Meanwhile their similarly costumed assistant solicits $2 each from the crowd of spectators.


Finally los voladores launch themselves into whirling flight...


...while the piper continues to play.


The four swing round and round...


...in what appears to be a trance, a meditative state.




All good things must end.


I wonder what it is like to pull oneself out of that silent trance and re-enter gravity? That must be a moment of danger.
***
Back in the tourist shops, the piper appears as a calaca.

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