Mexico: Ritual flying in magical town Cuetzalan

Cuetzalan, Mexico – In 2009, the Danza de los Voladores, or Dance of the Flyers, was recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, the UN agency responsible for education, science and culture. It is a pre-Colombian, Mesoamerican ceremony that is still practised in very few areas of Mexico.

The ceremony is a rain and fertility dance seeking harmony between the ancient gods and the earth and its people. The performers dance around a 30-metre-high pole, then climb atop it. The flyers representing four elements – water, wind, earth and fire – perform a ritualised greeting to the four cardinal directions and fling themselves off while attached to ropes, spiralling down as the platform to which their ropes are attached slowly unwinds and lowers them to the ground. One person remains on top of the pole playing a flute, beating a drum and dancing.

The ritual has since been adapted to be performed during Catholic ceremonies and is also performed for tourists.

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