You can’t begin to imagine my delight when we stumbled upon the Papantla Flyers on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta! The Malecon is the recently renovated boardwalk which without a stroll down our #VallartaFUN trip would not be complete. I approached one of the flyers or Voladores as they are called, who was working on his costume and asked when the performance would be, “en cinco minutos!” he replied holding up his five fingers. 5 minutes, how lucky could we be?!
The pictures in the slideshow are examples of the detail of the costumes and the performance.
|Truly a sight to see!|
This ancient ritual ceremony of the Voladores dates back to 600 BC and has been designated by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The purpose of this designation is to help preserve and bring awareness to the ritual of the Dance of the Flying Men, also known as the Papantla Flyers. There are 33 registered groups of Voladores, Flying Men. Legends tell the original ceremonies began during the dry season when elders sent out men to pray to the gods for rain and fruitful crops. A large tree of over 65 feet would be sacrificed which would take 200 men to post in the ground. Everything surrounding the ceremony, the costumes, the preparation and dedication of the pole, and the actual flight were all highly sacred with precise rituals. Entire communities would help in preparation. Today, performances are done in many areas of Mexico including major tourism destinations. There are even international traveling troupe performances.
The costumes are full of symbolism. They are decorated with hand needle and bead work representing the beauty of nature. The red of the Papantla flyers pants signifies the values honored, the white shirt is said to represent the purity of the human spirit. The plume on the cone shaped hat symbolizes triumph while the colored ribbons attached reference the rainbow. The mirrors signify the reflection of life and flowers express fertility. The Voladores make 13 turns around the pole which represents the tree of life and the 4 flying men the corners of the earth. The 5th man stands in the middle at the top while playing a chirimía with his left hand, the small 3 holed bamboo flute and with his right hand playing the attached deerskin drum, the teponaxlte. To say one must be coordinated to be a Papantla Flyer is an understatement!
See the Voladore working in the shade of the sculpture?
We’ve had the privilege of seeing performances by Papantla Flyers on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, near Cancun in the Riviera Maya at Xcaret Park and at the site of the Mayan ruins in Tulum. In order to preserve the culture of the Voladores, the Mexican state of Veracruz has created schools where children can learn the sacred ancient rituals, prayers and music to become Papantla Flyers.
Have you ever seen the Papantla Flyers, where? Please leave your comments below.