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
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 Wikipedia.org
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