Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Todos Santos Cuchumatan, Guatemala

On November 1 in the cloud covered mountain town of Todos Santos, Guatemala there is a horse race to celebrate Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day).
However it's no ordanary horse race.
There are horses, but is no real race track, nor professional jockeys, nor betting, nor roses, nor ladies with flowery hats. There may be a prize, but I'm not aware of what it might be. I think the real prize is probably bragging rights.

This is a rough and tumble sprint race over a dirt road.

However, there is pageantry.
The day before and the day of the event there is usually lively marimba music, dancing and lots of drinking.
The riders wear colorful traje (clothing) that is traditional to the area. This typically includes striped bright red pants, wool chaps, blue and white striped woven shirt, wool jacket and a straw bolo type hat with a blue woven band and feathers.
The riders seem to be of all ages, both young and old.
The whole town comes out to see the race and they line up along the dirt road route to bear witness.
Everyone is dressed for the occasion.
The kids seem to get the prime viewing spots.
Prior to the race the riders often have a few adult beverages which bolsters their bravado.
Then they line up along a wooden post.
Then a whistle blows... and they take off.
The riders fly down the dirt road, arms spread, yelling, full gallop for about 100 yards. Then they turn around and do it again... and again... and again.
As the race goes on, some riders fall over and get injured. But if they are able they get back on their horse and continue.
Take a close look at this rider's face. He bears the marks of years of experience.
It's an amazingly colorful and brutal celebration.

For more about this event check out this video.

5 comments:

  1. Wow! Crazy but awesome. So glad you got to be there to experience it. Would they let you ride?

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  2. I think that in the past if you were a gringo, inebriated and had 30 quetzales you could ride. But I didn't see any gringos riding. Hopefully they're keeping it local.

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  3. crazy! the extra alcohol seems like a big red flag when you have a lot of people on horses riding super fast but what do i know?

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  4. All the riders drink before they start riding. It's los bravos that drink between each run. In the past they would drink an alcohol distilled from sugarcane. Now it appears that the beer brand Gallo is a favorite.

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  5. Thanks for sharing, sounds like quite the event!

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