Todos Santos is a tiny mountain village where golden maize hangs drying in the sunlight, where girls braid ribbons into their hair and walk hand in hand and the men wear matching clothing they sew in street side shops. However, the usually peaceful community that holds strong ties to their heritage becomes a wild spectacle from October 31- November 2 when the town is flooded with people who come to witness the biggest festival in Guatemala, All Saints Day. The village hosts a carnival, traditional mask dancing, miramba music and of course the famous drunken horse races.
Although alcohol was banned in May of 2008, during All Saints Day the local men binge drink in preparation for the races held on November 1. People crowd along the makeshift fences and watch the men wildly race up and down a sand track all day long. Riders are occasionally thrown from their horses and are quickly pulled from the track by spectators before being trampled and toward the end of the day the leading rider (or at least the drunkest) held a dead chicken, swinging madly from his hands, as he rode. The winner is the last man remaining on his horse.
It was one of the strangest festivals I have ever witnessed as a travel photographer and the number of grown men lying passed out on the street was astonishing. Aside from the madness of the festival it was a wonderful place to visit and I absolutely fell in love with the culture and all the amazing people. Guatemalans are probably the friendliest people I have ever encountered. They laugh, smile and adore their families despite having so little material things.
It was also the first year women were able take a turn riding alongside the crazy men and I couldn’t resist. It was the best $3 I have ever spent!