Voladores de Papantla in Banderas Bay

Strolling along the famous “malecon” (boardwalk) is one of the most sought out activities for residents and locals living in Banderas Bay. The beautiful Puerto Vallarta waterfront is actually the heart and soul of the bay. This is where you will find many varieties of boutiques, eateries, bars, as well as unique statues and sculptures that are situated along the boardwalk, However, there is one sight that you won’t want to miss: the Voladores de Papantla. The Voladores de Papantla (Flyers of Papantla) are a tradition throughout Mexico, though they originated in the state of Veracruz. The ritualistic acrobatics of the performers is incredible as they soar through the sky playing instruments.

Voladores de Papantla in Banderas Bay

On the north end of the malecon, you will see a large pole rising from the beach where the talented and amazing performers wait each day to delight visitors, performing several shows a day. The acrobats are dressed in vibrant, traditional embroidered outfits, which look spectacular as they spin around the pole in this special ritual.

The Birdmen

The five voladores are sometimes translated as “birdmen” because they fly through the air. In order to perform this ceremonial ritual, they climb to the top of the pole where they will sit patiently for the master spinner to get to the top of the pole. The master spinner will begin to play a flute, emitting a very distinct tune that you won’t be able to get out of your head for hours afterwards. The four other birdmen will tie one foot with a rope to the top of the pole, then they will each start spinning slowly falling upside down until they each reach the ground. Each of the men will spin 13 times to mimic the cycles of the moon.

Where did this tradition begin?

Hundreds of years ago, ancient legend has it that in central Mexico a sacred ceremony was created in response to a severe drought. The land was ravaged, bringing about starvation and extreme hunger. The locals wanted to please the gods so they would release the rain, believing that the gods were starting to feel neglected. So they created this ceremony.

Five young men were sent into the forest to find the tallest tree. After they had asked and received permission from the mountain god, the men removed all the branches from the tree and cut it down. They dragged the tall trunk back to the village and erected it to create a very tall pole. Then, the five men dressed up as birds, climbing to the top of the tree pole to get the gods’ attention. One of the men remained at the top playing music while the four men jumped from the pole. Legend has it that the gods were pleased and rewarded them with rain.

Ancient Ritual Intangible Cultural Heritage

UNESCO has recognized this ritual as part of Mexico’s intangible culture heritage and is thus protected.

For everyone who visits or lives Banderas Bay the Voladores de Papantla are certainly one of the highlights.

See more activities to enjoy in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit here