Los Tigres de Suchiapa

Suchiapa is mentioned in only a few guide books, yet it has one of the most intriguing festivals in Chiapas with a week of parades and mini-dramas.

 

This is the celebration of the equinox that begins on the Sunday before the Thursday of Corpus Cristi, 60 days after Easter. Parades from the various barrios make their way to the center of town. Leading each parade are the tigres, or jaguars. They stand tall in bright yellow and black-spotted suits. Then comes the “giant,” with carved and painted snake’s head and long feathered poles. Some say the tigres represent the god Tezcatlipoca, while the serpent represents Quetzalcoatl, two deities who are in eternal conflict. “Davidsito,” of David and Goliath fame, is played by a child with bow and arrow and a crown of tin. He keeps the peace between the two opposing forces. “Calala” is another central character in the parade. He carries a whip and a deer’s head on a huge frame around his waist. The deer represents the earth. It’s said that the tigre catches the children and brings them to the Calala who whips them to release bad energy and promote good health. Interspersed between the various characters are the Chamulans with white faces. Periodically, the tigres stop, turn, kneel, and growl at the Chamulans, their historical adversaries from the Chiapas Highlands. If you look closely, you’ll see a special pet that also takes part in the parade, iguanas draped over shoulders or held lovingly in crooked elbows.

 

While the parades move down the streets, young girls dressed in pink gowns and elaborate bejeweled crowns dance with their princes in the small chapel. They represent the queen of Spain. After they dance, they too lead their own parade through town.

 

During the week of Corpus Cristi, it’s well worth the two-hour drive from La Joya Hotel San Cristóbal, down the mountain with breathtaking views across the valley, around the outskirts of Tuxtla Gutierrez, and through the beautiful canyons to Suchiapa. This is an adventure that you’ll want to add to your travels in Mexico.

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