Atlzazilistle: The Jaguar Fight Rain Ritual

I love Mexican traditions, and if you’ve read my previous posts, we have plenty of them!  Recently I learned about an amazing tradition, unique to our state Guerrero.  It is a rain ritual and I would love to share it with you.

Atlzazilistle (or the Jaguar fight rain ritual) is a petition for rain and fertility.  The festival takes place in the village Acatlán, about 6 hours from Ixtapa.  Each year the events begins with the blessing of the seeds on April 25, and the climax of the celebrations arrives in early May with festivities organized by the hosts and community authorities.

During the festival people offer birds, flowers, food, copal and wax figures at various hills and sacred places.  One of the most interesting and picturesque rituals happens on May 2, with staged fights among various masked figures.  Early in the morning the tlacololeros (men in masks, jute suits and with whips) visit mayordomo at his home, where they offer him pozole and mezcal as an invitation to the ceremonies and a signal of the start of the ritual.

"Jaguar Dance" by Susan Contreras.

“Jaguar Dance” by Susan Contreras.

After this, the entire community gathers at the church, where the tlacololeros, the cotlatlastin (men of the wind) and tecuanis (men dressed as a jaguar) are presented.  The church music is played by teponaxtli (a slit drum made of hollow hardwood logs) and the chirimía (a wooden flute), while the church bells formally announce the start of the festivities.  At that moment tecuanis (people dressed as jaguars) gather in groups of 22 and begin to fight.  This part of the ritual aims to bring rain and good crops, as it is an ancient belief that “The more the tecuanis (jaguars) fight, the more rain falls.”

The fights continue to the next day, when participants march to the top of a sacred hill Cerro del Cruzco.  This is the climax of the offering to the earth (huentli) to bring rains and good crops.

During the festivities each of the tecuanis keeps complete anonymity.  They dress and groom alone so their opponents – who can be their friends or even family – don’t recognize them. The tecuani use a skin mask made by craftsmen of Acatlán.  They are amazingly beautiful and considered a master craft, and can sell for hundreds of US dollars.

This tradition has been passed from generation to generation, and it is believed that every stroke of a wrestler over another is a prayer for good rain and good soil.

This is quite the festival!  And I look forward to seeing the results from this year’s harvest.

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