Queretaro Indigenous Community Marks Ancient Otomí Festival

Photo: Héctor Montano/INAH


The residents of Mexico’s Santa Cruz de La Peña de Bernal, an indigenous Otomí-Chichimeca community in the semi-desert municipality of Toliman, Queretaro, will celebrate an ancient pre-Columbian ritual on Wednesday, May 4, in much the same way that it did before the Spanish Conquest.

Photo: Héctor Montano/INAH

The millennial celebration, which was eventually adapted and assimilated into Christian tradition by local missionaries, is observed every May 4 with a procession to the top of a nearby hill, almost 300 meters high, carrying a wooden Christian cross. Only local men — not women or children — are allowed to climb the last 45 meters of the steep slope, where the Christian cross is placed next to a pre-Hispanic cross. The pilgrimage up to the Peña de Bernal, now incorporating Catholic elements, is the climax of an four-day indigenous festival and pilgrimage.

During the festivities, hundreds of pilgrims from various communities in the central Mexican state of Queretaro, especially from the Tolimán Valley, dance, sing, pray and launch rockets commemorating the union the old and new religions.

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