México on the National Mall
Washington Travel Blog› entry 42 of 66 › view all entries
A highlight of summer in Washington, DC, is the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. For this year's festival, the featured country was México and the USA folk theme was Asian Pacific Americans. (Americans with ancestry in Asia or the Pacific islands.) I try to get there more than once during the relatively brief presentation--only two weekends and a few weekdays on either side. So, I first took some time on Friday to go over and scope out the festivities.
The Mall at the Smithsonian Metro stop was bustling. Good to see so many people out on a sunny Friday. In front of me were the craft displays from Mexico and the artisans. But, to the right, mariachis were playing in the music tent. I went over there first. I listened for a while to Mariachi Tradicional Los Tíos, a group from Jalisco.
Time for lunch before the Voladores at Noon, the highlight of this Folklife Festival. I selected Chicken in Mole Poblano.
Noon. Time to line up around the Palo Volantín erected in the middle of the festival grounds. The Festival had brought Voladores from Tamaletón in San Luis Potosí to perform the Danza del Bixom Tíiw ceremony. We'd seen the Voladores de Pantalpa perform at Tulum. That was more or less a show. But this would be as real as one could see without traveling to Tamaletón on a feast day. To perform the Danza del Bixom Tíiw, four voladores, or fliers, mount a pole, tie on and "fly" to the ground, while revolving around the pole thirteen times. (That has significance for 4x13=52 weeks in the year.) The ceremony dates back to the pre-Columbian era and originated as an offering to the god of corn for a successful harvest.
The ceremony began with a procession by four women and four men, the voladores. (Women are rarely voladores.) The women left offerings of corn and other items at the base of the pole and proceeded to use a censor to spread incense over the offerings. At the same time, the men danced while one played on a flute and wooden drum. The women then took up a garland spread around the pole while the first two men ascended. The women slowly danced around the pole holding the garland. (A sort of Maypole dance I thought.) The last two men, including the captain with the flute and drum, then ascended. The four fliers made final preparations, tied on their ropes and then lay back to dive off of the pole. The revolving upside-down descent of Los señores voladores was spectacular! The captain continued to play his flute and drum, while also suspended upside-down, all the way down! At the bottom, the voladores righted themselves and landed.
On Saturday, I returned to the Mall to take in more of the Folklife Festival. Susan came, too. We arrived at 11:00 a.m. at the time things were getting started. More crowded today--but not as crowded as tomorrow on the Fourth of July! We were headed for the cultural displays when we saw a troupe performing in El Salo n de México, the dance tent.
We went to the cultural area to see more there.
At Noon, Los voladores de Tamaletón again performed the Danza del Bixom Tíiw ceremony to great acclaim. Afterward, Susan and I had lunch in the other festival site, celebrating Asian and Pacific heritage. We selected Chicken Tikka from the Indian food tent along with Mango Lassi to drink. Mmm, this was good! Better than the Mole.
A lot of dance was going on in the Asia Pacific area. The previous day I'd watched a Mongolian-American heritage troupe perform traditional dance.