Peripatetic Yya of the Mixtec

Abstract

The despescuezada is an annual ritual performance that takes place in the Mixtec-speaking town of San Juan Mixtepec, Oaxaca, México (Figure 1). In the linguistic variant of Mixtec called Sa’an Savi, the town of San Juan Mixtepec is referred to as “Ñuu Snuviko,” or “the place where clouds are made to come down.” The community of this Sierra Madre del Sur mountainous town gathers every June in order to perpetuate a cycle of communal cleansing through the killing of several roosters by twisting, pulling, and finally yanking off their heads. The sacrificial blood is symbolic of a purging of wrong words or actions, the community’s sins thereby jettisoned so that the gods will initiate a fertile rainy season. Perhaps a ritual persistence from the pre-contact era, rituals involving the decapitation of birds feature in several visual narratives in Postclassic Mixtec codices or tonindeye, the “histories of lineages,” thereby pointing to an indigenous persistence in public rites and ceremonies continued today in the Mixteca.

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