Published: December 2nd 2006November 1st 2006
Places Visited:- Nebaj, Todos Santos
The next hike was a 7 day hike from Nebaj to Todos Santos. The main reason to go was to watch the day of the dead festival and the famous horse race. The day of the dead is a huge festival in Latin America and they celebrate it on the 1 & 2 of November. They take this time to remember past friends and family and visit the local cemetery with loads of different brightly colored flowers and celebrate the life they once had.
In Todos Santos they also have a huge horse race, which is hundreds of years old. Before we came we weren’t sure what the race was all about and now after even more confused! Firstly the race is not a race as there are no winners, it was just crazy and very dangerous?! To explain....... The previous year the men enter the competition and can not pull out as this would be a disgrace to his family, they also have to pay $2000 US dollars to enter which is a lot of money for any Guatemalan so a big status thing if you can enter the race. Todos Santos also
has big links to the states as the majority of families that live here have some family there and the town is a very popular place to find Coyotes which are drivers which will illegally take you to the states and get you set up and started, which once again costs around $2000. Most of them can only pay a small amount and have to pay the rest over the year and leave their family behind for security. To get to the states is very risky and dangerous and even with these dangers we talked to a lot of people that have come back from the states just to take part or watch the event and then after will take the risk all over again to get back. Just crazy!
Back to the event. It mainly starts the night before where virtually every man gets wasted on booze and dance a traditional dance until the early hours. The race then starts at 8.00am and then race until 12 and breaks for lunch and beer and then starts again from 2-5. The men we seen on the horse were still wasted and carried on drinking and couldn’t even get on
the horses and had to be helped up by family and some of them even tied on to the horse to make sure they stayed on! The track is 200 meters long and they then race from one end to the other and just keep repeating this with only about 30 seconds rest in between whilst they turn around! They were a few fallers to begin with but nothing to drastic. The fun began after lunch. The men were so tired and topped up on fresh beer that there was a lot more falls. One right in front of us. The guy slipped from his horse at the start and then got up quick to dodge the horses which he managed until he dived to the near by fence where a horse clattered into him and then another over him as he fell he hit his head on a rock and was unconscious I had to pull him of the track and then loads of locals ran to help him. If he had broken anything it was tuff as the locals don’t know much about first aid, as they just kept on shaking him and slapping him to wake him
up. I was thinking, if his neck wasn’t broke it surely is now!! Luckily after 10 mins he was conscious but bleeding from the head and nose. Hopefully he would have been o.k?
In the afternoon the riders also began to sacrifice chickens they would ride a few laps holding the poor bird by its wings and then by its neck, very sick and barbaric and probably about 50 birds were sacrificed this way! When I said I was confused about the point of this race, it was mainly because there were never more than 20 riders on the track but sometimes only 10 and there must have been about 40 different riders taking turns and a few back up horses so it was hard to tell that once you fell if that was it or you could just rest for a while and then start again!? The horses looked like they had the worst of it as they were exhausted and covered in sweat and being whipped to go faster and faster, very sad. To top it of we seen some of these horses in the night in fields and the riders didn’t even bother to take the
saddles off and then the day after we seen them being ridden again to were ever the rider lived some up to 50 miles away and maybe further. The RSPCA would have a field day! Michelle was not happy.
There are more photos below