The house where the killing would happen
I woke up at 6:00 am because I was invited to go see the men kill a bull. At around 5:00 am they do a rosary to then proceed to kill the bull that would be used to feed the people during the Fiesta del 15 de agosto (the Festivity of the 15th of August) where the Virgen de la Asunción is celebrated. Some ladies start at that time making the tamales, which is a corn-based dough wrapped usually in corn husk to then be steamed. In this region, a type of wide grass leaf is always used instead of the corn husk. Ricardo and I skipped the tamal making part in the morning; we just went to see how they killed the bull, he went to help out of course, like the rest of the men.
Altar for El Señor de Alotepec (The Lord of Alotepec)
This is the bread that is always served along with the organic coffee that they produce
When we arrived, almost immediately, I was invited to have some coffee and bread. Shortly after that, they were going to kill the bull. The bull. I saw his solemn eyes, as if he already had been a witness of such a sacrifice before. He knew it was his time. I felt very sorry for him, but then I understood that this is the way it has to be.
The bull willing to be part of the celebration
When his head was pushed against the pole by the ropes where he was tied to, that was when the pain felt human. His big, black and round delicate eyes only looked at the ground. That is when I completely understood that he was resigned to that faith. He didn’t even fight them. I suppose that is what made me realize that not even the bull was against what they were doing to him. It is a sacrifice, but everything is eaten. I want to believe that deeply, the bull wanted to be part of the sacrifice.
After this realization, the men brought the bull down to the ground by pulling the ropes where he was tied to. They made sure that he was completely tied, giving him not a millimeter to move. One man took out a knife, then he cut the skin in front of the neck. He then proceeded to stab it to the point where he started bleeding.
It is painful to remember the sound that his body would make as he was bleeding to death. There has been a murder. We are all accomplices. Bloody. Blood is always involved of course, but we still enjoy that meat, as caldo de res (beef soup), steak, etc.
Skinning the bull
The women making the tamales de amarillo (seasoned chicken tamales)
As I was eating, surrounded by about 15 men, something stroked me as a little odd, why was I the only woman eating amongst them? After several visits, it was explained to me the way the hierarchy works; Men eat first, then children and at the end the women, but the latter eat in the kitchen. I did not know that me as a visitor, even though I am a female, was regarded as equal with the men from the village when it comes to eating.
Tamales ready to be enjoyed!
Women eating in the temporary kitchen. It is a common practice to build temporary kitchens or rooms to store all the materials or goods that will be used in their festivities.
Every body part of the animals killed is used.
Disposing the intestines
La Fiesta del 15 de agosto is one of the main three festivities in Alotepec. I was so privileged to be part of the preparations for it. It was interesting to learn that a bull costs anything between $15,000 to $20,000 pesos, which is roughly about $1,000 USD. What is important to consider is the fact that the festivity host is the one responsible for these expenses, but they do it graciously, for it is an honor to be hosting it. This person is called the mayordomo. Every man in Alotepec is expected to be a mayordomo at least once in their lifetime. Because a considerable amount of money has to be invested, the man has to sign up and start saving years ahead of time. All the expenses that would be invested in the festivity are not solely the mayordomo’s responsibility, but a monetary cooperation is set for every man 18 years of age and older that can range from $200 pesos up to $800 pesos, $13 to $55 USD. It might not seem like a lot of money to some, but for some of the people that live in this village it is since they only make roughly $4 USD per day. In some cases, exceptions are made. I will later share more about this topic, since I still have an immense amount of things to learn from their culture.
What you have read is from my limited and subjective perspective as an outsider. Unfortunately, I could not stay until the 15th for the actual festivity.
August 09, 2014