Monday, January 7, 2013

Holiday traditions in Maltrata: Los espejeros

I'm not sure if this one counts as a holiday tradition since it doesn't have to do with Christmas or New Years, but I'll include it anyway since it's in January (and really interesting!): the visit of los espejeros.

los espejeros

Last year the espejeros came to Maltrata on January 7th. Maltrata has an ongoing relationship with the town San Sebastián Cuacnopalan in the state of Puebla. The patron saint there is Saint Sebastian, whose is celebrated on January 20th. Though it’s not exactly clear to me why, a group from Cuacnopalan makes a pilgrimage to Maltrata (on the 7th? the first Saturday? I’m not sure) and then on January 20th a group from Maltrata goes to Cuacnopalan.

los espejeros 

The procession started at the old train station, near the entrance to Maltrata. There were what looked like huehues with masks and costumes, though these also had whips they cracked. They were followed by a band made up of bugles and snare drums. Then came the espejeros, mostly boys and young men with a few girls mixed in who danced (or maybe it would be better to say moved with coordinated steps?) with tall “pyramids” covered in mirrors, colored garland, streamers, flowers and images (of the Virgin Mary? Saint Sebastian? other Saints? I didn’t really get a close look) on their heads. Following the espejeros was a group carrying the banners, the flower arrangements and the image of Saint Sebastian. A few men were setting off fireworks as they went, announcing their arrival.

Here's a video of the procession going by: 

The procession made its way to the church...

...and then there was a mass. 

From there they continued up to the mayordomo’s house, where a large tent, chairs and tables, and a stage had been set up. The mayordomo is the person or group in charge of (most importantly – that pays for) the celebration. There are about 40 different mayordomos for various religious celebrations. Some of the bigger celebrations are for December 12th (Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe) and Holy Week / Easter. The cost to the mayordomo depends on which celebration it is and how many people will be attending. I think people are generally mayordomos for 1 year (in charge of their particular celebration 1 time), though others choose to be the  mayordomo of a particular celebration for life.

tables and chairs set up under the tent for the celebration

image of San Sebastián, flowers, and candles

Everyone ate mixiotes, rice and beans.  Later that evening the band started playing and there was dancing. 

The espejeros put their headpieces back on to dance one more time that evening:

They also danced the baile del guajolote (turkey dance). For the baile del guajolote, one or more baskets are prepared before the celebration. The most important part is the turkey (or two), whose head sticks up out of the basket, secured between decorated dowel rods. At a pre-wedding celebration I attended, I saw a basket filled with a turkey and chicken decorated as a bride and groom. The basket is wrapped and decorated so I have never seen what is inside, but I think food and maybe drink are included as well.

The baskets are gifts. During weddings, they are a gift from the family to the padrinos, who have helped with the wedding. I’m not sure exactly who prepares or eventually recieves it during the relgious celebrations.  

Before anyone recieves the gift though, they have to do the guajalote dance. Generally men dance with the (heavy!) baskets, trading off, and the women dance with incense or flowers. I’ve seen a few times that, after the men have danced for a bit, there’s a call for women to dance with the turkey-filled basket. I danced with the basket that evening – and it was heavy! 

Here's a video of the baile del guajolote:


  1. very interesting I am from maltrata but I havent really lived there spent a lot time outside of Veracruz this is helping learn more things about my hometown

  2. Wow! When I started this blog I never expected to be able to help someone learn about their hometown. I have loved my experiences in Maltrata and I'm glad I was able to share them with someone interested in Maltrata. Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting!