Voladores de Papantla: A Ritual Ceremony in Puerto Vallarta
One of the most memorable activities of both visitors and residents alike in our destination is strolling along the famed Malecón. This amazing waterfront path is truly the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Here, one of the biggest highlights is taking in the sights and sounds of the enchanting Voladores de Papantla (Flyers of Papantla) who soar through the air as they perform their ritual.
This ritual ceremony in Puerto Vallarta begins with five voladores (also known as birdmen) climbing to the top of the pole, where they sit and wait until the master spinner of the group perches and begins to play his distinguishing tune on the flute.
Each of the other four voladores have one foot or waist tied to the top of the pole, from which they begin to slowly spin upside-down until they reach the ground. As they fall closer to the Earth, they turn around a total of 13 times, during which time they “dance” as the master spinner guides the experience and plays his music from the top of the pole.
There is a large pole situated next to Puerto Vallarta’s Malecón, where these talented performers put on a dazzling show several times throughout the day. The men dress in beautiful traditional garb adorned with colorful embroidery as they perform a special dance while spinning around the pole.
This ancient ceremony dates back hundreds of years ago in central Mexico when a severe drought ravaged the land and caused hunger to the local indigenous people. In order to please the gods who felt neglected and therefore withholding rain, this ceremony was created to ask them to return the water.
Five young men scoured the forest and cut down the tallest tree they could find and proceeded to remove its branches (after receiving permission from the mountain god). After dragging the tree back to their village, they placed the trunk into the ground to create a pole. The men dressed up as birds and climbed the tree trunk to gain the attention of the gods. Four of them then jumped from the top as the fifth remained to play music, which pleased the gods who subsequently ended the drought.
This ancient ritual is so significant to the culture of Mexico that UNESCO named it an intangible cultural heritage to protect and promote it.