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The Festival of the Sun

Presentación de banderas

Momento en que los alféreces se dirigen hacia el templo de San Ildefonso para la presentación de banderas ante el jManojel | El Santo Entierro

Tenejapa is one of the original towns of the Highlands of Chiapas, a place where the roots in rituals still prevail, a deep connection with their ancestors, in fusion with the Western vision, syncretism. For this reason, their ceremonies and offerings still have glimpses of the ancestors, grandmothers and grandfathers of the great Mayan civilization.

One of the rituals where there is a series of activities, which lasts 13 days is the 'carnival', which in the Tseltal Mayan language is written Tajimal k'in and is interpreted as 'The festival of the sun'. Every year the date changes with reference to the Gregorian calendar, because in Tenejapa, the Mayan calendar is used, which has 18 months, each month is made up of 20 days.

For 13 days of the last month, this ritual is celebrated, which has several aspects, such as the ceremony of offering to the sun, which is represented with a bull or cow made of mat, it is one of the important characters of this celebration, therefore, it is also one of the highly respected positions, as well as the 'Mayan priests' or the guides called jnail, in ancient times there were always four older people who knew the songs to communicate with the guardians, other positions that have a very important function They are the musicians, one person who plays the drum, another who plays the flute and another who plays the trumpet. There are also two characters who are like jesters, they constantly hum the melody of the flute, imitating the rhythm in a melancholic way, in Tseltal are called Alosil, a kind of singers or announcers.

The characters that demonstrate this ritual are the so-called alféreces, captains, the bankilal, who dominate the entire festivity in number and are represented by nine main people, to whom a consecutive number ranging from one to nine is assigned as older brothers ( First Bankilal, Second Bankilal, Third Bankilal…).

These last characters are accompanied by a woman, who is generally their wives, but in certain cases, such as children, they must be accompanied by their mother, their aunt, their sister or some other person who knows the song of protection and presentation. of the position, without that support from a woman, the man or child will not be able to participate in the ritual of the Festival of the Sun.

There are three groups, the group that represents the cow, the group that represents the bull and the group that represents the beings of the underworld, each group is announced before the Holy burial, Manojel who represents the Sun in this festival.

On the first day, the flags are presented at the temple of San Ildefonso. Previously, each participant prepares his flag, which consists of a red cloth with green edges that is tied to an isbon stick, in the Tseltal language it is called si' ban.

Everything happens in the ritual, when they finish this act, they all gather at the elder brother's house, in the house of the main character Bankilal, where they wait for the others and then they all go to the temple and present the flags, this is how the first begins. day of the carnival, of the Tajimal K'in, the festival of the sun.

Similar activities occur later, but on Monday, which is the second day, they begin to assemble the bull and the cow mat, each made by a different group in their respective spaces, in the house of their Elder Brothers, Bankilal.

The person in charge of performing the Cow dance goes to the temple to appear before the Holy Burial, jManojel, so that after that, he goes out to the atrium where everyone in the group is already waiting for him along with the musicians and begins to dance to the rhythm of the drum, flute and trumpet.

At that moment, the drink is shared among all the participants, it is a liquor based on cane and corn called Pox, which translated into Spanish means medicine or remedy.

After this dance, they go to each of the alfereces' houses so that the cow or bull continues dancing until the sunset and continue the next day, to protect the petate cow, a welcoming ritual is done in Bankilal's house, with a candle, copal and salt, which are placed in front of him for his protection.

This is one of the main days of the carnival, the others are on Thursday, which is where they do a kind of bullfight in the San Sebastián ceremonial center, there the participants dress in a red suit decorated with bells and a cane that will appear as the horse, in Tseltal is called kuchoji'bal, also at this time, the women accompany this ritual by carrying another drink whose ingredient is fermented wheat bran, piloncillo and water, called Chi'lja', in Spanish Chicha.

When they finish this ceremony, they again go to the house of each participant to pray before a kind of altar that they build especially for this day. Also here they share atole, and that is why it is called Uch' ul, the day of drinking atole.

On Friday, in the case of the Vaca de Petate group, they meet in the main house to prepare the sweet chilacayote. The wives of the nine main characters carry out this activity, along with the musicians.

While this is happening, the group of the petate bull performs the ritual of the bullfight, also in the ceremonial center of San Sebastián.

The next day, Saturday, the first group, that is, the group of the petate cow, will once again gather at the ceremonial center of San Sebastián to perform the sweet chilacayote ceremony, this food will be shared among the participants as a ritual act, this day is called lo' mayil, in Spanish Eating the sweet chilacayote, it is also called Uch' ch'ich'el wax, which means drinking the blood of the wild cat, which is actually sharing the Pox drink among all.

In the middle of this ritual, those of the third group come on stage, who are the beings of the underworld, people who are disguised with masks of different characters, they dance to the rhythm of the violin and the guitarrón, they are characters who constantly make jokes and jokes. , they meet in the ceremonial center and are generally invited to the houses where they want to see the act, the dance, the laughter, the jokes.

Thus, the small valley of Tenejapa is filled with laughter, jokes, the echo from the mountains that surround the town, of the flute, the trumpet and the drum.

Wednesday arrives, a special day, because they carry out the sowing ritual, a very solemn ritual, but at the same time, one of joy, because they make a representation of how to sow, the process of selecting the seed, the permission to the guardians, the song to the earth, the representation of the sowers, of the animals that steal the seeds, of the hunters.

This is done in a ritual, with respect, with Pox, with songs, with flute and drum music, solemnity and joy.

This same act is repeated the next day, on Carnival Thursday, in the main ceremonial center, in the central square of the town, with the only difference that, at the end, they go in front of the temple of San Ildefonso to do the dance, the closing of the carnival.

Friday is the last day of this offering, the festival of the sun, and it ends with the sacrifice of the cow and the petate bull.

Each group goes out to the streets of the town with lassoes, shouts and jokes, while in the main house traditional music with harp, violin and guitar is heard, waiting for the cow or the bull, as the case may be for the sacrifice.

In this activity, the main character, the cow or the bull, is captured, and with certain protocol it is taken to the main house to be placed in front of a table where the sacrifice is made figuratively, Pox is poured into a vessel pretending to be the blood, which is drunk and shared by all those present, an atmosphere of melancholy is felt, some people cry, some people dance to the rhythm of the music, here ends the Tajimal k'in, the Festival of the Sun, the carnival.