Lesson 309: Cuetzalan: The Celebration of San Francisco

Five hundred years ago Franciscan priests journeyed to the remote city of Cuetzalan in Puebla State. The region was fertile for evangelizing, an urban area of Aztecs and Totonacans who supported a vibrant culture. Although less remote now, the traditions and languages continue in a town that venerates its fiestas and the ancient rituals they perpetuate, especially the acrobatic, airborne voladores.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about Cuetzalan, Mexico, where the Aztecs and Totonacans celebrate traditions, languages and ancient rituals.

Social Studies Standards

Culture A, B, E

Discussion Prompts

  • How might patriotic and religious festivals support people’s identity and culture? What are some festivals in your region that you are aware of? Are the festivals religious or patriotic?
  • David Yetman mentioned that Spaniards’ colonizers were motivated by three Gs: Glory, Gold and God. How might that motivation influence the lives of the native people in and outside of Cuetzalan?
  • The town historian, Jaime M. Castillo, explained that the city was able to maintain traditions due to lack of access to the town until 1962. What do you find worrisome and/or encouraging about his statement?
  • Corn, chili, bean, and squash are pre-Columbian foods and vanilla, and cinnamon are pre-Columbian spices. What food and spices are native to your geographical region? How do they compare with the pre-Columbian ones?

Lesson Activities

  • Create a new traditional festival, patriotic or religious, in your region to increase you town’s tourism. Name the festival, objective of it, and list at least three regional Social Studies Standard elements that represent it. Pick a special date and explain why this is the best day for that celebration.
  • The Empire State building has a roof height of 1250 feet and 102-stories. The voladores climb 110 feet to do their acrobatics. If the pole was a building, how many stories high would it be? Show evidence of work.
  • There is a lot of symbolism, good and evil, cardinal points, faith, and culture, in the voladores acrobatic dance. Create an art work (drawing, painting, picture, etc.) that represents the voladores and the symbolism that is part of the acrobatic art.
  • If you were from Cuetzalan, where would you include yourself as participant of this festival? Why?


  • acculturate
  • accommodate
  • adapt
  • airborne
  • fertile
  • mestizo
  • perpetuate
  • refuge
  • venerates
  • vibrant


Lesson Plan S03E09