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Color en México
Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico - a town with a beautiful secret...
(May 2000)

Many travelers seek the 'non-tourist' experience; to smell the character of a place unaltered by the needs of the package vacation. This photo story is for you.

Welcome to Huamantla (wa-mant-la), a town with a beautiful secret...
 
Click for larger image!  - Our gracious host gathers firewood to heat her Aztec 'bath' - a pre-hispanic sauna said to cleanse the body and soul of evil spirits. This type of sauna is now very rare, and the art of their construction slowly being lost. We were grateful, therefore, for this opportunity to bath as our pre-hispanic ancestors did, hundreds of years ago. Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)
Click for larger image!  - In the true spirit of adventure we disrobed and entered this small dome - despite the suffocating temperatures within!
Only the cooler air at floor level is breathable. Your body is immediately drenched in sweat. A straw mat (tapete) prevents burns from the stone floor.
As you struggle for breath you are expected to thrash your body with branches of herbs. The pain is sharp as the toasting herbs vent the hot air onto your skin. The result, apparently, is body free of bad spirits (and moisture for that matter). Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)

Our gracious host gathers firewood to heat her Aztec 'bath' - a pre-hispanic sauna said to cleanse the body and soul of evil spirits. This type of sauna is now very rare, and the art of their construction slowly being lost. We were grateful, therefore, for this opportunity to bath as our pre-hispanic ancestors did, hundreds of years ago.

In the true spirit of adventure we disrobed and entered this small dome - despite the suffocating temperatures within! Only the cooler air at floor level is breathable. Your body is immediately drenched in sweat. A straw mat (tapete) prevents burns from the stone floor. As you struggle for breath you are expected to thrash your body with branches of herbs. The pain is sharp as the toasting herbs vent the hot air onto your skin. The result, apparently, is body free of bad spirits (and moisture for that matter).

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Click for larger image!  - Before entering the dome, several buckets of hot and cold water are placed inside.
When the heat becomes unbearable, you soap and rinse with warm water. After emerging from the sauna it is an effort to stand up without fainting! We drank gallons of water and rested our heads until the throbbing subsided.
Was our skin beautifully cleansed? Certainly. Will we be getting rid of the shower? Doubtful! Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)
Click for larger image!  - Huamantla has a little fame for its annual festival, highlights of which include 'carpeting the streets' and a running of bulls.On Saturday night the whole town (and many visitors) engage in a religious procession through the streets. Every road on the route (and that includes almost all of them) is brightly decorated, giving a carpet like appearance. Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)

Before entering the dome, several buckets of hot and cold water are placed inside. When the heat becomes unbearable, you soap and rinse with warm water. After emerging from the sauna it is an effort to stand up without fainting! We drank gallons of water and rested our heads until the throbbing subsided. Was our skin beautifully cleansed? Certainly. Will we be getting rid of the shower? Doubtful!

Huamantla has a little fame for its annual festival, highlights of which include 'carpeting the streets' and a running of bulls.On Saturday night the whole town (and many visitors) engage in a religious procession through the streets. Every road on the route (and that includes almost all of them) is brightly decorated, giving a carpet like appearance.

Send to a friend! Send to a friend!
Click for larger image!  - Workers by day, artists by night. A huge number of the residents participate in the decoration of the streets - a momentous task that can only be started after the business day is done but must be completed before procession arrives! Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)
Click for larger image!  - While some of the roads are decorated with fresh cut flowers and moss, the majority are decorated with colored sawdust which is sieved through stencils to create the fantastic designs you see here. Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)

Workers by day, artists by night. A huge number of the residents participate in the decoration of the streets - a momentous task that can only be started after the business day is done but must be completed before procession arrives!

While some of the roads are decorated with fresh cut flowers and moss, the majority are decorated with colored sawdust which is sieved through stencils to create the fantastic designs you see here.

Send to a friend! Send to a friend!
Click for larger image!  - The 'carpeted' streets are magnificent to behold; the variation and intricacy of the designs seems to know no bounds. The designs on this street are bordered with fresh cut flowers. Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)
Click for larger image!  - The more artistic engage in freeform sand 'painting'. Colored sand is gently poured to create a magical image. Unlike conventional painting, mistakes are not easy to correct (ever try picking up sand?). Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)

The 'carpeted' streets are magnificent to behold; the variation and intricacy of the designs seems to know no bounds. The designs on this street are bordered with fresh cut flowers.

The more artistic engage in freeform sand 'painting'. Colored sand is gently poured to create a magical image. Unlike conventional painting, mistakes are not easy to correct (ever try picking up sand?).

Send to a friend! Send to a friend!
Click for larger image!  - A young donkey becomes an unwitting part of the celebrations, representing the donkey on which Mary is said to have ridden in her search for a place to rest. Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)
Click for larger image!  - As an exceptional sand picture unfolds, one can be forgiven for thinking that everyone in the town is a latent artist, showing off their skills just once a year. Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)

A young donkey becomes an unwitting part of the celebrations, representing the donkey on which Mary is said to have ridden in her search for a place to rest.

As an exceptional sand picture unfolds, one can be forgiven for thinking that everyone in the town is a latent artist, showing off their skills just once a year.

Send to a friend! Send to a friend!
Click for larger image!  - The masses make their way to the starting point of the procession as the final touches to the decorations are hastily applied. More than a few stop to admire the dramatic make-over. Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)
Click for larger image!  - The main church in the town is the focal point of the celebration, with bands and lavish sand paintings (not shown). The procession will begin at 11pm. Keywords: huamantla,tlaxcala,mexico,mexican,tradition,traditional,mezcal,aztec,virgin,mary,procession,flower
(Click to view)

The masses make their way to the starting point of the procession as the final touches to the decorations are hastily applied. More than a few stop to admire the dramatic make-over.

The main church in the town is the focal point of the celebration, with bands and lavish sand paintings (not shown). The procession will begin at 11pm.

Send to a friend! Send to a friend!
Information

Huamantla is in the state of Tlaxcala, to the east of Mexico City. On a map, look for it to the southeast of Tlaxcala city. There is a regular bus service to Huamantla.
 
The festival documented in this newsletter takes place in August every year and runs over two weeks.
 
Nearby attractions: The twin ruins of Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl are relatively close by and well worth a visit - look out for photos in an upcoming newsletter!

  
Cuba - Rotorua, New Zealand - Christ Church, Dublin - Monument Valley, Arizona - Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico - Staffa, Scotland - Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico - Costa Rica - Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico - Fiesta, Mexico City - Making Lacquer, Olinalá, Mexico - Talavera Ceramics, Puebla, Mexico - Mata Ortiz Pottery, Mexico - Lebanon
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