Rites of the tlalhmáquetl, a tradition with Mesoamerican roots

29/04/2021

The prayers related to the agricultural cycle survive in the region of La Montaña, in Guerrero, thanks to the tlalhmáquetl, the Nahuatl name of the priest who presides over these rituals. This personage is the connoisseur of an indigenous cultural heritage transmitted orally, to whom is attributed the ability to speak with entities, divinities, and nature.

The tlalhmáquetl, the Nahuatl name of the priest who presides over the most important rituals of petition for rain during the agricultural cycle in La Montaña, Guerrero, is part of a religious tradition with Mesoamerican roots that survives to this day. In this ritual, San Marcos, who represents a transmutation of the ancient rain gods, is venerated.

The tlalhmáquetl is the connoisseur of an indigenous cultural heritage transmitted mostly orally, to whom is attributed the extraordinary ability to speak with entities, divinities, and powers of nature, such as air, wind, and clouds that belong to the supernatural and immaterial world. In the region, it is said that the tlahmáquetl is characterized by his wisdom and prudence.

Thanks to the dedication and extraordinary abilities of these characters, the prayers have been preserved in Nahuatl and have been transmitted orally to the present day. Such a character is chosen by predestination, which can manifest itself in a dream, an apparition, or express itself in some ability. He is also a healer, and this makes him a character with supernatural powers, capable of warding off hail, bad winds, and nefarious events such as droughts, which can be the consequence of the anger of the divinities.

This priest is the most representative subject of the whole community, as he incorporates in a single person the values of the ancient cultural tradition together with that of the collective identity. This is a region of difficult access, where water is scarce and subsistence agriculture is still practiced. The most common crop is corn, mainly rainfed.

The life of the campesino communities revolves around the corn cycles, which have also acquired deep symbolic meanings. It is within this framework that the ritual of petitioning for rain is carried out, in which prayers are said at the top of the hills, in front of the offerings or ritual deposits.

These prayers are very solid, resistant, and have a function in the cosmovision of the communities that practice them, besides being a body of doctrine of a whole ritual discourse. They are closely linked to subsistence, which is why they have withstood the onslaught of Christianity, evangelization, and modernity.

San Marcos is the most recurrent saint in the rites of the tlahmáquetl, and although others are mentioned, he has to do with rain and, consequently, with food. He has to do with rain, but also with the hills where he lives; he is the lord of the mountain, of the caves, of everything that has to do with the sources of subsistence.

Source: National Institute of Anthropology and History