A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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I wondered if we would have interesting dreams so near the ruins, but neither of us remembered any. Early in the morning, we saw people leaving the ruins to go to work and school, adding to the sense of the continuity of life. As soon as the site was officially open, Kelly took off for several hours with his video camera. I enjoyed a little more dog time and then roamed the site for a while myself.

Back at the entrance area, I had a question for a young man at the front desk with whom I had spoken the day before. There was another man with him, also in the white shirt and beige slacks that signaled they were employees of the site, which is run cooperatively by state of Veracruz and the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

I had noticed the enthusiasm of everyone working there, not typical stolid museum guard personalities at all. “Everyone who works here seems so interested in the site,” I began. “Are you archaeologists?” I thought they might be graduate students.

No, said the older man, they weren’t archaeologists. The younger one explained that they were Totonacs themselves. They spoke Totonac in their homes, from childhood. These great ruins were the creations of their ancestors. He said a couple of other things that I couldn’t quite understand… I was getting better at following spoken Spanish, and they were speaking more clearly than most, probably from their exposure to other foreigners. But still I rarely understood 100% of a conversation. I told them that I was writing a book about our trip, and Alejandro, the younger man, gave me his email so I could let him know the download page.

Rosana with one of Totonacs

Rosana with Alejandro in front of the museum entrance

When Kelly and I met up for lunch back at Cando, flute music was being played nearby. The Voladores, or flyers, were about to perform the Dance of the Flyers. I quote from a tourist information brochure:

The Dance of the Flyers is the most important of all the Totonac Dances. A group of five dance first on the ground to the music of flute and drum – they wear full-colored costumes – this is preparation for the flying. Four flyers take their places in the “square,” then the Caporal or Chief of the Dancers takes his place, and it is he who takes up the flute and drum.

The Symbolism of the Dance: the cords must be of sufficient length to permit each dancer to make thirteen turns before reaching the ground – this number multiplied by the four dancers gives 52, the number of years in the Totonac century.

Voladores, known throughout Mexico

The Voladores, known throughout Mexico, perform a Totonac dance of ancient symbolism.

The Caporal, sitting atop the pole, represents the Sun God whilst the flyers represent the sun’s rays coming to fertilise the earth. This is because of the local belief that the sky deity is masculine whose essence is fire and the earth, feminine, whose essence is water, and that the conjunction of the two results in fertility.

It was a lovely and awe-inspiring sight. We left El Tajín with a feeling of immense satisfaction, a sense of having been greatly enriched. It would turn out to be one of the high points of the trip.

[Next: relaxing beach time along the Veracruz coast, then a hot spring]

One Response to “Talking with Totonacs at El Tajín”

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