Papantla & Cuetzalan

10th August 2011

Papantla [19] is the centre for vanilla production and stopping off point for the ruins of El Tajín, the Totonac capital from around 600AD to 1200AD. We were excited to see the Voladores (Flyers) in front of the church. This ancient Totonac rite, originally to help break a drought, is performed by 5 men wearing bright ceremonial clothing to represent birds. While one dances and plays a flute on top of a pole 40 metres above the ground the other 4, tied at the waist by a rope, fall gracefully and fly to the ground revolving around the pole forming a pyramid shape. It is truly a spectacular sight. We never tired of watching them. Click here for a short video.


We were lucky to be in Papantla for the International Indigenous Pueblo day when bands played and the town swelled with people dressed in their finest.


A 3 hour bus trip up into the mountains on a rough rocky road bought us to the remote Cuetzalan [20], one of Mexico´s pueblos mágicos. With its steep cobbled streets, overhanging roofs and vistas of the green hills, it really is magical when the mist and rain roll in. There is a market (tianquis) on Sundays when villagers in traditional dress arrive from the surrounding area. As luck would have it, we arrived for the weekend fiesta of song, dance and food. The local speciality cecina (smoked pork) and the forest fungus were delicious.


The Voladores (Flyers) of Papantla - one dances and plays a flute on top of a 40 metre high pole ...

... while the 4 others fly off

The pole is as high as the church steeple

A Volador flies past the church bell tower

Voladores start young

Food stalls set up around the plaza in Papantla

Pozole - pork soup with chilli, corn, lettuce, radish, onions and tortillas

On International Indigenous Pueblos day, women ...

... men ...

and children come to Papantla dressed in beautiful traditional clothing

El Tajín archaeological site

Pyramid of the niches

Another pyramid with ...

... carved stela of the God of Thunder and Lightning

One of the 17 ball courts at El Tajín

Painting showing the ancient ball game

Carvings related to the ball game on one of the courts

Fish hook decorations on a pyramid

Columns feature on this one

Cuetzálan Church with the tarp up for the festival

Sunday market at Cuetzálan

Steep cobbled streets

Food stall at the market

Traditional men´s dress

Lady embroiders blouses for sale

Typical ladies dress