Monday, May 6, 2013

Bird men

A steel pole stands in Chapultepec Park, on a grassy area just by the entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology. The paved walkway beyond throngs with strollers and food vendors, and people sit on benches and on the broad raised curb of the fountain.

If you're there at the right time, you will hear a flute sound, and watch as a man brilliant in red and white raiment ascends the pole to the top, quick as lightning.

He's joined by four others, and there at the top they perch on a square frame and spin, wrapping their ropes around a central capstan, until they still. The flute and drum sounds again and then they fall back and fly, spinning back to earth in a dance that puts your heart in your throat as you watch.

This is the Danza de los Voladores, also called hombres pajaro, or "bird men," an ancient tradition that may have begun with the Nahua, Husatec and Otomi people in Central Mexico. Today, in Chapultepec Park, it's performed by members of the Totanac people, who come from the state of Veracruz.

The ceremony is said to have originated at a time of drought, as a ritual to appease the gods.

In their version, the four voladores, or flyers, represent the four directions as well as the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. The fifth man, who remains dancing at the top of the pole, represents the sun.

Their dress, red pants, white shirt, and an embroidered chest cloth and cap, represent flowers and blood.

The brilliant colors, the flying ribbons and the motions of the dancers as they soar around the pole in air resembles the flights of birds.

In Chapultepec Park, this dance is performed daily, every two hours. The dancers do not receive a fee for this; they depend on the contributions of viewers.


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

What a display of death-defiance and derring-do!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

My breakfast is having a hard time staying down -- yes, I'm getting motion sickness just watching these amazing bird men!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Oooh, I always love your travel posts. You were in the right place at the right time for this one!

smalltownme said...

Fearless men!