San Luis Acatlán - The Town - Atlzazilistle (Festival To Petition For Rain)

Atlzazilistle (Festival To Petition For Rain)

In late April and early May, the Nahuas in this community participate in this event of pre-Hispanic origins to bring about the rainy season and to assure good crops. Community members who have migrated as far as Mexico City and Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl return each year for this event. The festival begins on April 25 with the blessing of the seeds and climaxes in the beginning of May with a number of events. During this time these people offer birds, flowers, food, copal and wax figures at the various hills and other places considered sacred. However, the highlight of this event are the staged fights among various masked figures.

The rain petition begins on the last days of the festival when men in masks, wearing jute sacks and carrying whips, called "tlacololeros" move in procession to the community leader's house. Here they offer the leader (called a "mayordomo") mezcal and pozole to invite him to the ceremonies. After this, the entire community goes to church as the church bells ring. In the early morning of May 2, dances dating back to pre-Hispanic times are performed. On May 3, there is a procession to Mount Cruzco. Last but not least, in the center of the town, men with leather masks, huge gloves and orange, yellow or green overalls painted to make them look like tigers (or sometimes jaguars) gather in groups of up to 22 to stage fights. The belief is that the harder the tigers fight, the more abundant the rains will be when they come. Each tiger is anonymous and fighters take care to dress away from everyone else to maintain that anonymity. Younger boys, are dressed similarly by their fathers, with cardboard masks and have the tasks of keeping the crowds back and sometimes helping one tiger against another. The adult tigers, called "tecuani" have leather masks decorated by local artesans, some of which are worth as much as $200USD.

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