Todos Santos is a small Mam speaking Mayan village in the western highlands of Guatemala. The yearly festival in Todos Santos, (All Saints in english), falls on November 1, the Day of the Dead, also known as All Saints Day. The highlight of the festival is an all day horse race, conducted on the main road below the town, where the men of the town ride back and forth on rented horses drinking as much alcohol as they can while the crowd whistles and shouts to egg them on. There are no clear winners, no betting, and not much horsemanship. Wearing their traditional clothing, red striped pants and a wide colored woven shirt, the men tie colored plumes of feathers to their hats and bandanas across their bodies and fly up and down the road holding on for dear life.
A town transformed by immigration to the United States, the festival is a chance for Santeros living abroad to come home and demonstrate their wealth and success in the north. They pay for marimba players, buy livestock to be slaughtered and eaten, rent the horses, and of course buy tons of beer and liquor. After a day of racing, they retire to family homes to eat and dance, before spending the following day in the cemetery, drinking and remembering their relatives that have passed on.
Todos Santeros mount horses during the annual town festival.
Francisco Martin rides a horse led by a cowboy through town to the racecourse. Francisco is an immigrant living in Oakland, CA, and he returns every few years for the festival.
A horse bucks its rider and tries to escape the racecourse.
Francisco Martin, left, and his brother argue with horse brokers about their mounts. The horsemen bring dozens of mounts into the town for the 3 day festival, and rent them to the men.
A mud splattered rider tries to hold onto a beer between rides.
A rider tries to hold on to his mount. The riders are rarely horseman, and ride horses that are brought in from outside the town expressly for the festival.
An elderly man watches drunk neighbors stumble home.
The extended Martin family gathers in the cemetery after the races.
A young boy watches the races.
Young Mayan boys and their mothers gather in the cemetery.
Todos Santeros attend a carnival.
Drunken men sprawl in the street as a rider passes by at the conclusion of the festival.
All photos Â© 2008 by Victor J Blue
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