Cinqo de Mayo and other Mexican Celebrations

By: The Scribe on Thursday, May 5, 2011

Each year on May 5th, many Mexican-Americans (and some Mexicans) gather together toFour thousand Mexican troops defeated 8,000 French soldiers celebrate Cinqo de Mayo. Compared to some celebrations it is a fairly modern one. The celebration celebrates the victory that Mexican troops had during the French occupation of Mexico.

On May 5th, 1862, a force of 8,000 French troops attacked the Mexican army. The odds seemed overwhelmingly in favor of the French. After all, the Mexicans only had about 4,000 troops in their army and the French had proven undefeatable in battle. In the fifty years preceding the battle, no army had managed to defeat the French. Things seemed hopeless.

And yet, they weren’t. Even though the Mexican army was much more poorly equipped, they not only defeated the French they were able to crush them. The battle was known as the Battle of Puebla. In modern times, while the celebration of the Mexican victory is still celebrated by the people of Puebla, Cinqo de Mayo is not celebrated on a massive scale throughout the rest of Mexico. It is, however, being celebrated by many Mexican-Americans who are currently living in the United States. The day has, for them, become a way to celebrate their Mexican heritage.

Cinqo de Mayo is a modern celebration but there are other celebrated traditions that are much older. One perfect example is the Danza de los Voladores or Dance of the Flyers. This is a tradition that has its roots in the time predating the Spanish presence in Mexico. While it is performed in Mexico, the tradition has actually spread throughout much of Mesoamerica.

The practice is a spectacular one. A team of five dancers scales a pole that is 30 meters in height. Four of the participants attach themselves to ropes and the fifth balances on top of the pole. The man on the pole dances and plays a flute, all the while remaining balanced at the top. While he does so, the other four participants (who are known as voladores) launch themselves from the top of the pole. They descend from the top of the pole with only ropes to keep them from falling to their death.

Four voladores ritualistically descend a 30 meter pole While the five individuals are traditionally men, women have recently been allowed to take part in the ritual. Women were first trained as voladores starting in 1972 although their participation in the ritual is still quite rare.

The modern version of this ritual was started as a way to appease the gods after a brutal drought that happened approximately 450 years ago. The four voladores represent the elements of earth, water, air and fire. In more ancient versions of the ritual there were taboos and other aspects attached to performing the ritual. In the past, the voladores did not represent the elements. Instead, they would often be dressed in bird costumes instead. There was also much more ritual attached to the harvesting and preparation of the tree that would form the pole used in the ritual.

Different areas of Mexico and Mesoamerica celebrate this practice differently. There are often differences in the shape of the pole


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