Arts & Entertainment

Dance of the Pole Flyer returns to Guatemala after 2 years of pandemic

By Esteban Biba

Cubulco, Guatemala, Jul 22 (EFE).- Two men in traditional Mayan garb climb to the top of a pole 30 m (98 ft) high and secure themselves to the shaft with ropes round their ankles before jumping off together to honor Saint Santiago, the patron of this town in northern Guatemala.

Indigenous elders in Cubulco, some 200 km (120 mi) north of Guatemala City, told Efe that the Danza del Palo Volador (Dance of the Pole Flyer) is a pre-Columbian ritual adapted to Catholicism.

The dance is the focus of 10 days of celebrations leading up to the July 25 Feast of Santiago (Saint James the Elder).

After two years without the festival because of Covid-19, the event is back with all the trappings.

The process begins with a procession of scores – and sometimes hundreds – of the men of Cubulco into a nearby forest to select the tree that will serve as the pole.

The tree is then felled, cut to the correct dimensions and dragged back to town. Following a blessing, it is planted in a hole 3m deep in front of the parish church.

A small platform is attached to the top of the pole to accommodate two people whose job is to help the flyers attach the ropes and launch themselves.

To the strains of music from a marimba, the flyers seek to impress with elaborate moves during their gradual descent to the ground.

Cubulco is in Baja Verapaz, one of Guatemala’s poorest provinces as well as the one that suffered most in 2020 from the successive blows of Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Every year, residents of Cubulco are among the thousands of Guatemalans who set out for the United States in search of a better life.

One of the things that friends and family who remain behind do to make those emigrants feel connected to Cubulco is using their smart phones to send video of the Dance of the Pole Flyer to loved ones in the US. EFE


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