The first time I saw it was at a park, on my way to the the Tulum Ruins gate, I thought there was some kind of festival going on. Five men in their full ethnic costume were on the pinnacle of a 30-m pole with extended rotating wooden planks in all four directions. These men are called voladores. One guy was playing on a flute and stood in the middle, literally on top of the pole—without a safety gadget or a harness that would save him should disaster happen. He carried a small drum with him, too. When he danced while playing his drum and at the same time balancing on the pole, the audience looked up with much bated breath. It was scary. I could hear my heartbeat.
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Then, slowly, the four men descended through the rotating platforms. Their feet were tied to a rope which was attached to the pole. They launch themselves away from the platform where they were sitting and started circling the trunk–in upside down position. Think about bungee jumping position but instead of jumping and bouncing, these men were circling the pole, like they’re flying down. They circled the pole 13 times until they reached the ground. Each of the 4 men circled 13 times that sums up to 52 circles.
Does the number 52 sounds familiar to you? Yes? No? Well, it’s the number of weeks we have in a year!
In ancient times, people performed this ritual of Voladores to ask the god of agriculture to bless them with good harvest and enough rain for their farms. Those four voladores represent earth, wind, water and sun. They are essentials for a good harvest. The man in the middle is called caporal, the center of the universe.
Today, the Rituals of Voladores are performed in public parks where tourists go. I saw it in the touristy part of Tulum and twice in Playa del Carmen. While I was looking up and in awe at the rituals, a guy tapped my shoulder and extended his right arm, holding a small-sized sombrero half-filled with dollar bills and coins. I smiled and dug my left hand into my back pocket and dropped him a dollar.
Ah, it’s version of busking!