Guatemala Todos Santos Horse Race Video Part 1

Indigenous Maya men in traditional costumes celebrate All Saints Day (Todos Santos) in the race made famous by National Geographic, that left out the best parts which are herein included.

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Horse Race Todos Santos Chuchumatanes Huehuetenango Guatemala The Story

Guatemala Todos Santos horse race is held in Todos Santos Cuchumatanes located in the department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, high up in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes (about 8,000 ft elevation).The population is indigenous Maya. More than 90% still speak the Mam Language and the majority also speak Spanish.

The annual name day festival "Todos Santos" (Spanish) All Saints' Day (English, also called All Hallows Day; and the preceding evening (Halloween) the "Eve of All Saints".The Festival is celebrated on October 31 and November 1, and includes traditional dances, marimba music and the well known and highly publicized traditional horse race called "Skach Koyl". On November 2, the "Day of the Dead" everybody goes to the cemetery to visit their departed relatives.

The "Skach Koyl" Race is not quite the quaint picturesque event represented by "National Geographic", but it is definitely worth a trip if you are interested. While most of the "todosanteros" as the locals are called, wear traditional costumes daily, during the festival everybody is wearing their Sunday Best and the competitors in their finery outdo each other.

The night before the race "All Hollows Eve" Todo Santos is alive with Marimbas, parties and a lot of drinking. The following day the race begins. The race is a continuous point to point (about an 1/8 of a mile) and back again race lasting hours. Traditionally the race is a test of "bravery" and "endurance", speed is not important, but riders having a drink (usually Quetzalteca* or beer) every time they get from one point to the other is a requisite. After the first hour most of the riders are drunk and getting drunker. It is not unusual for riders to fall off horses, often being trampled by the other horses and sustaining serious injuries, occasionally a rider is killed.

The winner is chosen by the Elders and the municipal authorities and "he" wins a live cockerel and the title of "El Capitan". How old the tradition is and its origins are questionable, but it has been going on for decades at least. One of the more popular origins of the race often repeated, is that after being conquered by the Spaniards the Maya were not allowed to ride their own horses except for once a year. This story seems rather dubious since the horses came with the "conquistadors" and the Maya were not known to have horse before that. 
If you are interested in cultural anthropology, sociology and like adventures a visit to Todos Santos for the Festival might just be your cup of tea.

The following Information is from from

Guatemala Department Huehuetenango Municipality Todos Santos Cuchumatanes
Municipality 269 km2 (103.9 sq mi)
Elevation 2,500 m (8,202 ft)
Highest elevation 3,828 m (12,559 ft)
Population (Census 2002)
- Municipality 26,118
- Urban 2,980
- Ethnicities Mam, Ladino
- Religions Roman Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Maya
Category: Travel & Events Tags:Todos Santos Guatemala horse race mayan traditions sociology anthropology Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes travel Guatemala

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