Voladores de Papantla – A Dangerous Mexican Dance Ritual

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The “Voladores de Papantla” (Papantla Flyers) or Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony/ritual still performed in Mexico today.

The ritual consists of a dance and usually five voladores (flyers), sometimes called hombres pajaro (bird men), climb to the top of a pole of up to 150 feet or 45 meters in height, launch themselves from it and slowly descend circling the pole with ropes tied to their feet. The fifth volador remains on the top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. 

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When I was in Mexico City last week, on our way to a museum we walked by the voladores. We stopped to see them for a few minutes. It was quite something.

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The ritual is believed to have originated with the Nahua, Huastec and Otomi peoples in central Mexico, and then spread throughout most of Mesoamerica.

According to one myth, the ritual was created to ask the gods to end a severe drought. Although the ritual did not originate with the Totonac people, today it is strongly associated with them, especially those in and around Papantla in the Mexican state of Veracruz.

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A fellow volador selling handmade wooden toys and woven fans.

The ceremony was named an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in order to help the ritual survive and thrive in the modern world.

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Have you ever seen such a thing? What do you think of this dangerous tradition?

9 thoughts on “Voladores de Papantla – A Dangerous Mexican Dance Ritual

  1. It looks amazing. I wonder how many injuri8es happen?


    1. Good question. Weirdly, I don’t think very many.


  2. We saw voladores when we were in Playa del Carmen a few months ago but didn’t know the background of the tradition. Thanks so much for giving us some good background 🙂


  3. Where you at the park in where the Natural History Museum is located? I think it looks familiar, because we spotted the Voladores de Papantla right after that. My husband calls it “pole dancing like a man”, lol. Great post!


    1. very close to the museo de antropología, is that the one you mean?


      1. yes! so cool 🙂 just went there last January!


      2. that’s awesome, and even more that you recognized the park!


  4. I saw some voladores de papantla in Veracruz once, I loved reading more about them!


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