Have you heard about The Game of the Pochó? If you love cultural tourism, it is worth traveling next January to Tenosique, Tabasco, in the southeast of Mexico, bordering the Lacandon Jungle.
Tenosique is a rural town where ancient Mayan tradition is still alive. One of the most important events in Tenosique is The Game -or the dance- of the Pochó. It’s a sort of carnival that people in town have celebrated since Prehispanic times, and it is a must-see for lovers of the Mayan culture.
The current Game of the Pochó was adapted for the Catholic festivities, so the carnival begins on Saint Sebastian’s day (January 19), and it ends the previous Tuesday to Ash Wednesday. The main carnival rituals happen every Sunday, when men and women in town disguise wearing wooden masks, to go out to the streets to dance and fight against evil (pochó in Mayan language).
The sound of the drums and flutes is a mystical background for the Game of the Pochó. It is supposed that evil spirits catch dancers who walk through the streets, so they start to play mischievous jokes to those crossing their path.
In early times, dancers threw flour at people watching them dance, but now they throw spray strings. There’s also a peculiar battle between the people with the wooden masks and others dressed like a jaguar. In some moment of the dance, the participants perform ritual offerings to the ancient gods.
According to Mexican Tourism sources, the Game of the Pochó is a unique experience among traditional annual carnivals because visitors can learn about ancestral Mayan traditions carefully preserved by the local community.
There are many cheap, good hotels in Tenosique. You can review the local government’s website (in Spanish) to get info, to book a room or a complete tour.