Questions to ask yourself about the movies seen in class:   (or in some cases these are just some of my notes and scribblings.



(Audiovisual Library   495-4467)


The Tree of Life      (Movie 9889 UGLAVC)  *29*    

(Bruce Lane, village of Huehuetla in Puebla   -     the Fiesta of  San Salvador)


"Los Voladores" (the Flyers) is a 1500 year-old rite sacred to Quetzalcoatl, the Morning Star. From its origins on the Gulf coast of Mexico, the ritual spread throughout Mesoamerica: a special square was reserved for it in Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, and a variant is still known among the Quiche' Maya in Guatemala.

Today "Los Voladores" is best known in its original home in the Huasteca region, especially among the Totonac, who have lived in the area for millenia. The version shown in the film is from Huehuetla, in the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

The film opens with images from the Nuttall, Laud, and other Codices, and poetry from "Cantares Mexicanos", a collection of pre-hispanic Nahuatl verse from Texcoco.

At the home of one of the Voladores, we watch the preparation of the characteristic seven-branched wax candles, crowned with a representation of the Volador pole (a mayordomia obligation, part of the cargo system). Intercut with the candle-making, children learn the ritual of the Voladores by re-enacting it from start to finish.

In the forest, the Voladores bless the tree chosen for the rite. The tree is felled and dragged by 300 Totonacs along mule trails into the village, where it is wrapped with vines and raised entirely by hand to its new place in the churchyard. Preparations are completed as the Voladores bring the hub, the sacred symbol of dynamic change (Olin), from its place at their home altar, set it on the tip of the pole, and thread the ropes which will bear them on their flight carefully through the hub and around the pole.

Dressed in costumes drawn from 18th-century European models, the Voladores join the statue of San Salvador, the Risen Savior, in the fiesta procession. As the capitan of the Voladores dances on the narrow bub, high above the flagstones, other dance groups perform: Huehues, Quetzales, San Migueles, and Negritos. Then the Voladores descend head down, arms spread, in a slow spiral, to the sound of drum and flute...

Combining ritual, dance, music, poetry, and art, "THE TREE OF LIFE" is a meditation on the mystery at the heart of human life. It calls us to keep the world in balance with our lives.


1. Libations prior to cutting down the tree

2.  flute and drum

3.  power of dance for making a place (and a ritual) sacred

4.  live chicken under the tree when implanted into the center of the plaza

5. church and candles

6.  parade of saints, music, incense

7.  skyrockets

8.  saint & devil  (good & evil)

9.  head down as they descend from tree -  like birth


children playing at being voladores

cutting down the tree w/ dance and flute rituals for sacralizing the proceedings.

 (they circle the tree--which is up to 8O feet tall--once it has been selected in the forest)

burial of chicken , eggs, and alcohol under the pole/tree

6 flyers and the central sun (eagle/dancer) seemingly recreate the world tree and then situate it with

ritual, then recreate the origins of the world. (n.b. the 6 at the top the world tree could be seen as the

wak chan like atop the Hauberg serpent/world tree.   the "eagle dance" is currently seen as a

ritual for ensuring a successful harvest, a good rainfall and the harmonious succession of the four seasons.

The tree is a huge planting stick -- cf. the pole in the popol vuh that the 400 boys (pleiades/sky) try to kill

Cipacna with

The voladores are today a semi hereditary affair, often involving practice since childhood.

At El Tajin there are 5 voladores.  Four  fly down, circling the tree thirteen times while the fifth, representing

   the sun, dances and plays and drum

   on the tiny platform at the top.  (each of the four circling the tree 13 times

   give 52 revolutions (which is the number of haabs for the haab and tzolk'in to

   synchronize again.  



Popol Vuh    (Vidcass 1959 UGLAVC)  *60*


A.  Creation and Destruction of the World

1. Tree of skulls with forbidden fruit, "picked" by maiden  Blood Woman

vs.  garden of Eden, tree of apples/knowledge, picked by Eve


2.  hawk swallowed the snake, which swallowed the toad, which swallowed the louse.


3  ANTS -   ants are important in the Popol  Vuh - 

              monkey twins put hero twins on ant mounds to kill them

              hero twins helped by ants in house of knives – where ants cut the flowers for them

          (Bob Bye)  ants seem to be important in plant lore of the tarahumara, and particularly important

             regarding Datura.


4. Where did Hunahpu lose his head


5.  Who sacrificed themselves into the fire and became the sun and the moon.



Shunka's Story    (Vidcass 6294)   *20*


What language does Shunka speak?




The Lacandon Maya Balché Ritual    (Vidcass 6290)  *40*


How do you make balché ?


What do they make it in?


Is it alcoholic?


Where do they keep the "Godpots" /  incense burners / censers


Do the women join the men in the Godhouse?





Daughters of Ixchel      (Vidcass 7721  *29*          THIS FILM NOT APPLICABLE THIS SEMESTER


What is the theme of this film?



Todos Santos Cuchumatan       (Vidcass 1269 UGLAVC)  *41*


What is the theme of this film?


What language do the protagonists speak?    Is it a Mayan language?


What country is represented in this film?



Todos Santos: the Survivors     (Vidcass 22O2 UGLAVC)  *58*


What language is spoken in Todos Santos






Appeals to Santiago    (Movie 10,273  UGLAVC  [or Vidcass 6293]) *27*


What language is represented in this film?


What is done with the Virgin and the saints?


What is done with the banners?


Who dances with bundles in this film


This film is one of the few in which alcohol is not indulged.   T or F ?





Sacred Games  *75*   (Vidcass 1812  UGLAVC)   


What is the theme of this film?


What language is spoken by the protagonists in this film 



The Tarahumaras     (VIDCAS 4900 UGLAVC)   *30*



%To Find Our Life    (Movie 10,250)   *57*


(Peter Furst,  Barbara Meyerhoff)


holy water - the blood of Christ


ingest peyote - take the host (wafer)  Life = Peyote

 abstain from salt, food, washing (except w/ holy water), sex


perils of the journey - 1) clashing rocks


burn offerings - incense


talk backwards - reversal / transformation/ metamorphosis (one transformation is from maize to

deer to peyote)


knotted string -

     knot for the day

     knot for sin  

     knot for person


giving and receiving (sharing)


role entry - people take on gods' identities


 (people tend to be identified by things on or near their heads

 (e.g. you put on you "party hat", "fishing hat", mask, face, etc.)



5 sacred colors of maize

5 petals of peyote flower

5 journeys to become full mara?akame


Music - Animal horn - trumpet (but no flute)

bow instrument




red "kan" crosses on Huichol hat brim (of Ramon, the shaman)


grey squirrel tail on hat crown

hawk plumes on hat


portable thrones   (situating and centering devices)


deer horn crown with garland of peyote


as the group gets smaller, does the religion become more personal and more intense?  (Lacandones)


"baptismal" holy water poured over the head.

                1) watering corn (of which people are made)

                2) fixing the soul

                3) cleansing and purification



Tepoztlan    (Movie 9464  UGLAVC)  *30*


30 minutes -- The film records the traditional lifeways of Tepoztlan, a small mountain village forty miles from Mexico, City.  The cultivation of maize provides a seasonal structure for village life--with the planting of seed after the first rains, to harvest time, and through the long dry season.  Against the backdrop of ancient pyramids, Tepoztlan's Aztec heritage is kept alive in many of the villages' daily activities.  Annual fiestas, blending Christian and non-Christian customs, are depicted


Discussion questions.

1. What kinds of transportation are used in Tepoztlan?  Describe how the streets are paved.

2.  Describe how the people in Tepoztlan carry heavy loads.  How are babies carried?

3. What are the men's responsibilities in Tepoztlan?  the women's responsibilities?

4. Describe how the women of Tepoztlan wash their families' clothes.  In what different ways do the people make use of Tepoztlan' mountain streams?

5. What kinds of goods are sold in the market?  How are the different articles displayed?  How are they packaged for sale.

6. Identify the different steps in the cultivation of maize, from planting to harvest.  Describe the tools and machinery used.  When is maize planted?  When is it harvested? What limits the size of the crop?

7. How do the people make use of the different parts of the harvested maize?

8. Describe how tortillas are made.  What kind of stove is used for cooking?

9. What work is done after the harvest is over during late autumn?

1O. Describe the "Day of the Dead."  Describe some of the other fiestas and celebrations.

11. Why do violations of land rights often result in bloodshed?

12. Mexico's Revolution of 1910 led to a more just distribution of land; it also resulted in the growth of industrialization. In what ways do you think industrial development might affect Tepoztlan?  How do you think the traditional life-styles might change?


   pilgrimage  (3 days, to Señor de Chalma -  one of the Cristos)

               compare to the 43 day Huichol pilgrimage to Catorce.


   pole of the castillo -  the fireworks pole with all its spinning

            parts and the shower of gifts coming from it.

            recalls the flying pole / eagle dance of the Huastecs



To Make the Balance      (Vidcass 6292)    *33*


What state are the Zapotec protagonists of this film in?


What is the theme of the film?




Mayan Voices; American Lives     (Vidcass 4792)  *58*


Who directed this film?



The Tree of Knowledge   (Vidcass 6990) *27*


What language is represented in this film?