PUEBLA, Mexico – The Nahuatls of Cuetzalan, a city in the southern Mexican state of Puebla, have crowned a new Huipil queen, celebrating the traditional female garment worn by Indian women, at their annual festival this week.
Seven women from Cuetzalan del Progreso, which is home to 168 Indian communities, competed for the title, parading before the judges wearing large and intricate wool headgear, carrying a tassel in their hands, sporting regional dresses and barefoot.
The 2017 Huipil queen is Hilda Fernanda Marcito Mora from Santiago Yancuitlalpan, a town where 78.9 percent of the population is indigenous and 47.3 percent speak Nahuatl.
The crowning of the queen was the climax of the 54th Cuetzalan Huipil Fair, a celebration rooted in pre-Columbian traditions that was revived in 1963 to revitalize indigenous customs in the region.
Colorful displays and traditional music spilled into the streets of the town on Puebla’s Sierra Norte ridge, an area famous for its coffee plantations.
“This is one of the events which enhance our fair by exhibiting all our culture, customs, tradition, language, attire, lifestyle and pride that come from the feeling of belonging,” Cuetzalan Mayor Oscar Paula Cruz said.
To participate in the Huipil contest, women must be 15 to 20 years old, proficient in both Nahuatl and Spanish, and demonstrate a passion for tradition with a speech in both languages about their communities before the judges and public in Cuetzalan’s main square.
The panel, made up of authority figures, or “Tatiaxkas,” from the indigenous communities and individuals with knowledge about the city’s culture, vote by dropping a tassel in a box of the same color as the one their candidate carries.
After all the judges have voted, the box is opened, the sashes are tossed into the air and the colors are tallied.
“The queen is born to highlight our people’s identity,” Alfonso Mateo Guerra Aroyo, director of the Cuetzalan Cultural Center, told EFE.
Although celebrated during a festival in honor of St. Francis, a Catholic saint, the Huipil Fair has its roots in the pre-colonial festival of Xochitlquetzal, the Nahuatl goddess of love.