Carnival in San Cristobal
photos by Don and Lois Porter

On Thursday we noticed a big stand being built in the plaza in front of the cathedral. We asked and learned that carnival celebrations were to be performed Friday and Saturday. The information about what was happening eventually appeared on posters (which failed, however, to mention any scheduled times). Performing groups from 8 or 9 surrounding villages and towns put on dancing and ritual events characteristic of their communities. We caught one of the groups Friday night, and saw all four of them Saturday night. The Chenalho group featured the amazingly dressed "monos" (monkeys). The group from Tila entertained to the delight of the crowd with ritual battles between "tigres" (tigers) and "toros" (bulls). The tigres, usually wearing pants and a skin (ocelot?), would run and jump about, leaping onto the toros, trying to grab their horns. The toros would swing their horns up and down and try to hook the tigres. The youngest tigre, pictured running here, was a great hit with the kids in the crowd -- in fact, with everyone in the crowd. He leaped up entirely on top of a toro at one point, and was swung about, clinging to the toro mask. There was also another group of dancers from Tila participating as the battle raged, and they included a few cross-dressed guys -- there were no women dancers at all at any time. Following the end of the Tila dancing, each of the toros and tigres were treated to a cleansing. They lay face down on the stage, and were rolled over by others, while being swatted with a branch (of suitable spiritual quality, for sure). Meanwhile, another participant took a big swig from a bottle (firewater) and spewed the mouthful over the toro or tigre dancer to dispel any remaining tension. Next up were the San Fernando dancers and musicians, who featured a lion dancer. And the final group Saturday were from Pantepec. More cross dressers, and also some dancers in white masks with fancy red capes and big swords -- representing Spaniards.This is a Zoque-speaking community, and the dance is representative of Zoque culture.

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Musicians Friday night Bull mask Friday night Authorities Friday night Young group Friday night
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Tenejapa elder Monos - monkeys from Chenalho Chenalho musicians Saturday night Monos showing back decorations
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Tiger from Tila Bull from Tila Tila dancers San Fernando dancers
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Pantepec dancer Tila dancers Tila bull dancer getting cleansed Pantepec dancers
Lois in the front row

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