Todos Santos Cuchumatán: Carrera de las Ánimas

The Horse Race that is not a race!

It is not a race in the sense that no one is competing against anyone here.
In fact, some elders feel offended when one refers to the tradition as a race. There are several stories about the origin of this Mam tradition, but it seems like they have left out the voice of the elders who tell the oral accounts.
During the conquest of these lands by the Spaniards, they use horses as “weapons”. Mayan people were terrified just by the presence of horses. “We were the first people to tame the conquistador’s beast!” There are some variations here, it is not clear whether a group of warriors from this town stole horses from the conquistadors and rode them to show they were not afraid, or they somehow got their hands on some horses. The Mam warriors rode the horses to show their horsemanship skills and that’s how this tradition began according to some elders of the town.
It is not just about the horses, this is a test of endurance, of commitment. The riders start the festivities 3 days before the “race”. There is about six houses of very influential people in the community, that are host to different groups of riders. There is a lot of alcoholic drinks being drank here, there is a lot of dancing for hours and hours. In fact, a lot of the riders go several days without any sleep, they drink from the beginning of the festival to the last day, and it does not end with the horses race, no, the next day, very early in the morning, they head to the local cemetery to bring flower offerings to their deceased ones or to have a drink on their honor. The cemetery becomes another festival of dancing and drinking, and there is always a marimba playing local songs.

The feathers on the hats and the ribbons on the back of the riders are to represent the feathers of the Quetzal Bird.

© 2014, Eli Orozco. All rights reserved.

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  • elgordo

    Gracias por las fotos y comentario.