11 photos

With the help of the Lonely Planet Mexico Guide, this ritual has many symbolic fascinations. Some have connections to Pueblo ritual in the American Southwest according to some sources. This Totonac ritual was traditionally done once a year, but has become a daily tourism attraction for better of worse. The intepretation is that it is a fertility rite with the fliers making the appropriate invocations to the Four Corners of the Universe before falling to the ground, bringing with them the sun and rain. Note that each flier circles the pole, which can be sixty feet tall and in this case steel, 13 times giving a total of 52 revolutions. This is obviously the number of weeks of the Gregorian calendar, but also has important implications in pre-Hispanic calendars of Mexico and parts of Central America. Pre-Columbian Mexico had two calendars, one corresponding with the 365 day solar year calendar. The other ritual calendar has 260 days. A day in one calendar coincided with a day in the other calendar every 52 years! How is that for a bit of magic? The four fliers and the drum/flute player in the middle make a quincunx, the Four Corners of the World with the Cieba tree in the middle to hold up the sky. I have simple notations on many of these visuals which may help with the conceptualization and practical aspects. This series was taken in June 1980.

This series in now in the photo archives of the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum in Sante Fe, New Mexico. If you have interest in them contact: http://www.palaceofthegovernors.org/photoarchives.html