May 20, 2015

1596 MEXICO (Veracruz) - Ritual ceremony of the Voladores (UNESCO ICH)

Founded in the 13th century by the Totonacs, in the Sierra Papanteca range and on the Gulf of Mexico, Papantla is the heart of the Totonacapan region and still has strong communities of Totonacs who maintain the culture and language. This is the home of vanilla, which is native to this region, the El Tajín archeological site, and the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers). Named also Palo Volador (Pole Flying), the Danza de los Voladores is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony / ritual still performed today, albeit in modified form, in isolated pockets in Mexico. It is believed to have originated with the Nahua, Huastec and Otomi peoples in central Mexico, and then spread throughout most of Mesoamerica.

In Maya mythology the creation of the world is associated with a mythical bird deity (Itzamna) residing at the World Tree (the center of the world). It seems that the ritual was created to ask the gods to end a severe drought. It consists of dance and the climbing of a 30m pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth, the Caporal, remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. In pre-Hispanic times, the ritual was far more complex, involving taboos and meditation. The participants were thought to impersonate birds and in some areas were dressed as parrots, macaws, quetzals and eagles. These birds represented the gods of the earth, air, fire, and water. 

Although the ritual did not originate with the Totonac people, today it is strongly associated with them. The Totonac dress for this ritual consists of a red pants with a white shirt, a cloth across the chest and a cap. The pants, hat and chest cloth are heavily embroidered and otherwise decorated. The cloth across the chest symbolized blood. The hat is adorned with flowers for fertility, mirrors represent the sun and from the top stream multicolored ribbons representing the rainbow. The four voladores typically circle the pole 13 times each, for a total of 52 circuits, or the number of years in the Aztec "calendar round".

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the series The 40th Anniversary of National Commission for Free Textbooks, issued on October 28, 1999.

The last stamp was issued to mark the anniversary of 350 years since the foundation of the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the first public library in colonial Mexico, sometimes considered the first in the Americas. In 2005, it was listed on UNESCO's  Memory of the World Register.

Danza de los Voladores - Wikipedia
Ritual ceremony of the Voladores - UNESCO official website

Sender: G. Alonso Jimènez (direct swap)
Sent from San Miguel el Alto (Jalisco / Mexico), on 17.09.2014

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