Even though I’ve been in and out of Guatemala for the better part of almost three years, there are traditions I’ve never encountered before and some which I still don’t fully understand. As part of Antigua’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, there were two such events I was looking forward to watching: The Baile de Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians) and the Quema de Toritos y Alas (Burning of Wings and Bulls).
Baile de Moros y Cristianos
This dance is one of those traditions that have endured even though the actual events that inspired it occurred well before colonial times and a continent away. In Spain, this tradition is much more elaborate and recalls the time when Moors (or Muslims) dominated the territory that is now considered Spain. Eventually, the Christians reconquered their land from Muslim rule in the 15th century. By the time Spaniards established themselves in the territory that is now Guatemala, they had already been celebrating their victories over Moors for centuries.
These dances, in particular, were a not-so-subtle reminder for the Maya that the Spaniards were on the side of the “good” guys and would triumph over those who opposed them. Spaniards represented Virgin Mary in her customary blue, while the Moors were dressed in red, much like the devil, who was purported to be on their side. Additionally, there are good sheep and evil goats. This allegory played nicely with the Maya’s religious beliefs, which strongly assert the existence of good and bad spiritual forces and conveniently co-opted by Catholic missionaries