In the little town of Citilcum, near Izamal in the state of Yucatan, no one knows exactly what is the origin of a local tradition called Kots Kaal Pato, a ritual of blood and death featuring sacrifices of animals that is difficult to understand nowadays.
During the celebration, families of Citilcum (pronounced Kitilcum in Mayan language) meet in the center of town, where days before a pavillion has been set up.
Once gathered at the site, residents of Citilcum hang piñatas that are filled with animals instead of fruit or candy, as it is a costum. The animals were caught the night before by the local children.
Amongst these unfortunate animals there are iguanas, birds, kittens and possums.
Like any other celebration involving a piñata, people beat the piñata with a wooden stick until it breaks making the candy fall to the ground, unfortunately what falls in this “ritual” are live animals and if they´re not killed by the beating, townspeople will just grab the animals and throw them to the air, kick or trample them to death.
At the end of the celebration, after all the animals are dead, a goose is sacrificed in an equally barbaric way.
The bird is tied up by the legs, with its head hanging down, and the contestants have to jump in order to grab the poor animal’s head and rip it off, while the crowd applauds and laughs. That’s where the name of the ritual comes from: “Kots Kaal Pato”.
The contestant able to rip the bird’s head off, earns the right to take the body home and cook it.
This is what gives the people their identity, but no one, not even the elders can explain the origins or the reasons for the celebrations to take place.
“We do not know the origin of this tradition. I learned it from my parents and my parents from their parents. Some time ago it was done in a large kapok tree nearby, but in 2002, when Hurricane “Isidoro” hit Yucatan, the tree fell down, so now it is done in the town central square “ recounts Mr. Idelfonso Tec, born and raised in Citilcum.
Freddy Poot Sosa, renown researcher of the Mayan culture, who has made several documentaries on the life and culture of indigenous communities of the Yucatan Peninsula, was equally puzzled. “I did not know there was a celebration like that, I guess it’s a very local and exclusive celebration of the town of Citilcum” he said.
Although no one knows the origin of the celebration, what is certain is that the barbaric ritual of Kots Kaal Pato still takes place every year in Citilcum.
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