16 jun. 2011

The Totonac of Mexico

Danza de los voladores de Papantla
PEOPLES OF THE WORLD
Name: Totonac
Living Area: states of Veracruz, Puebla and Hidalgo (Mexico)
Population: 411.300
Language: Totonac
Comments:   
The Totonac people resided in the eastern coastal and mountainous regions of Mexico at the time of the Spanish arrival in 1519. Today they reside in the states of Veracruz, Puebla, and Hidalgo. They are one of the possible builders of the Pre-Columbian city of El Tajín, and further maintained quarters in Teotihuacán (a city which they claim to have built). Until the mid-19th century they were the world's main producers of vanilla.
In the 15th century, the Aztecs labeled the region of the Totonac "Totonacapan"; which then extended roughly from Papantla in the north to Cempoala in the south. Totonacapan was largely hot and humid.
Totonac women were expert weavers and embroiderers; they dressed grandly and braided their hair with feathers. The Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún stated that, in all aspects of their appearance, the women were "quite elegant", women wore skirts (embroidered for the nobles) and a small triangular poncho covering the breasts. Noble women wore shell and jade necklaces and earrings and often tattooed their faces with red ink. Married women wore their hair in the Nahuatl fashion while peasant women wore their hair long. Likewise, the noble men dressed well, adorning themselves with multicolored cloaks, loin cloths, necklaces, arm bands, lip plugs and devices made of the prized quetzal feathers. Hair was kept long with a thick tuft of hair on the top tied up with a ribbon.
The Traditional religion was rather complex, as described in the early 1960s by the French ethnographer, Alain Ichon. Unfortunately, no other major essay on Totonac religion has since emerged. Mother goddesses played a very important role in Totonac belief, since each person's soul is made by them. If a newly born child dies, its soul "does not go to the west, the place of the dead, but to the east with the Mothers". Ichon has also preserved for posterity an important myth regarding a maize deity, a culture hero with counterparts among most other cultures of the Gulf Coast and possibly also represented by the Classic Maya maize god. As to traditional curers, it is believed that they "are born during a storm, under the protection of thunder. They think that a lightning bolt strikes the house of a new-born baby ..., and makes it ... under its possession".

Known by their: Danza de los voladores de Papantla
The Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) is a ceremony/ritual which has its roots in the pre-Hispanic period and presently is best known as associated with the town of Papantla, Veracruz. It is believed to have originated with the Nahua, Huastec and Otomi peoples in central Mexico, and then spread throughout most of Mesoamerica. The ritual consists of the dance and the climbing of a 30 meter pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. According to myth, the ritual was created to ask the gods to end a severe drought. Although the ritual did not originate with the Totonac people, today it is most strongly associated with them, especially those in and around Papantla, as the ceremony has died off in most other places. The ceremony was named an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in order to help the ritual survive and thrive in the modern world.

© Text and image: Wikipedia

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