Ritual ceremony of the Voladores
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Ritual ceremony of the Voladores
The ritual ceremony of the Voladores (‘flying men’) is a fertility dance performed by several ethnic groups in Mexico and Central America, especially the Totonac people in the eastern state of Veracruz, to express respect for and harmony with the natural and spiritual worlds. During the ceremony, four young men climb a wooden pole eighteen to forty metres high, freshly cut from the forest with the forgiveness of the mountain god. A fifth man, the Caporal, stands on a platform atop the pole, takes up his flute and small drum and plays songs dedicated to the sun, the four winds and each of the cardinal directions. After this invocation, the others fling themselves off the platform ‘into the void’. Tied to the platform with long ropes, they hang from it as it spins, twirling to mimic the motions of flight and gradually lowering themselves to the ground. Every variant of the dance brings to life the myth of the birth of the universe, so that the ritual ceremony of the Voladores expresses the worldview and values of the community, facilitates communication with the gods and invites prosperity. For the dancers themselves and the many others who participate in the spirituality of the ritual as observers, it encourages pride in and respect for one’s cultural heritage and identity.
Decision 4.COM 13.62
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Ritual ceremony of the Voladores has been transmitted from generation to generation and constantly recreated by the communities concerned in response to their interaction with nature and the universe;
- R.2: Inscription of the element on the Representative List would contribute to fostering understanding of and respect for cultural diversity, stimulate dialogue among stakeholders, and enhance visibility and awareness of the importance of intangible cultural heritage;
- R.3: Several factors threatening the viability of the element are identified and a set of safeguarding measures such as establishment of the School for Volador Children are described, supported by demonstrations of the commitment of governmental authorities as well as the communities concerned;
- R.4: The Voladores themselves, along with other civil and public institutes, were widely involved in the nomination process either individually or through their associations, and their free, prior and informed consent is provided;
- R.5: The element is inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Mexico maintained by the National Council for Culture and the Arts.
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