Places of memory and living traditions of the Otomí-Chichimecas people of Tolimán: the Peña de Bernal, guardian of a sacred territory


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Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2008 by Government of the state of Querétaro

Living in the semi-desert zone of the state of Querétaro in central Mexico, the Otomí-Chichimeca people have developed a range of traditions that express a unique relationship with their local topography and ecology. Their cultural environment is dominated by a symbolic triangle formed by the Zamorano and Frontón hills and the Bernal rock. It is to these sacred hills that people make annual pilgrimages bearing miraculous crosses to pray for water and divine protection, venerate their ancestors and celebrate their communal identity and continuity. Other community festivities throughout the year make up a calendar of rituals centred on water, a dangerously scarce element in this climate, and dedicated to the endurance of the Otomí-Chichimeca people. The rituals often occur in intimate family chapels dedicated to ancestors or in chimales, temporary but impressive reed structures with leaf roofs built as an offering, an emblem of endurance and a symbol of vitality and belonging. The relationship between spiritual culture and physical space is influential on the art of the region – including religious images, murals, dance and music – and the traditions that embody it are central components of the cultural identity of the community.