The Tamaletom Flyers of San Luis Potosí, who perform a version of an ancient Mesoamerican pole-flying ceremony and ritual, have been officially recognized as part of the state’s heritage through a declaration this week by the state Congress.
The Voladores de Tamaletom, as they are called in Spanish, will now be eligible to have their performances included in state cultural programs and budgets and allow local authorities to create programs to preserve, spread, promote and reinvigorate the tradition of the Teenek, or Huastecan, people.
Several similar ceremonies celebrated throughout Mexico and Central America were named intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2009, in order to help the ritual survive and thrive in the modern world.
The Teenek flyers perform a ritual similar to that of the better known Papantla Flyers, a group of voladores from Veracruz.
The Ceremony of the Flight of the Teenek from Tamaletom, also known as as the Flight of the Hawk, is celebrated during festivities related to the new year, spring, Holy Week and the Day of the Dead, but was originally intended to ask the gods for a good harvest and to thank them after having one.
Through the declaration by Congress the flyers hope to maintain the tradition by creating a school. Instruction in the dance and ritual currently begins with children as young as eight, said Benigno Robles Reyes, director of the Ceremonial Center of Tamaletom.
Tamaletom is a community located in the municipality of Tancanhuitz in the Huasteca Potosina region, about 60 kilometers south of Ciudad Valles.
Robles said Tamaletom is the only place in San Luis Potosí where the flyers’ ritual takes place.
The Teenek community accompanies the ritual with drums and small wooden hornpipes. Each flyer represents a cardinal point of the compass and in their descent they simulate the flight of a hawk.