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May 17, 2022

Mexican tiger fight ritual draws blood to bring rain

Seeking to appease the god of storms and end a drought, men and women in tiger costumes whip each other mercilessly into submission in an ancient ritual in southern Mexico.

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“They say it’s a drop of blood for a drop of rain,” Karina Vicente says as she prepares to take part in the annual tradition for the first time.

“I’m very excited but nervous,” the 22-year-old psychology student tells AFP in the town of Zitlala in Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorest and most violent states.

In the past, the 300-year-old indigenous ceremony to bring rain and plentiful harvests was only for men.

But these days, women also want to help keep the three-century-old tradition alive, even if the lashes do hurt, Vicente says.

Before the fight begins, the residents of Zitlala split into two groups and dance under the intense sun along steep streets, to the rhythm of banda, a type of Mexican music.

First, the male contestants enter the battleground — the town’s basketball court — to fight for about five minutes at a time, watched by crowds of spectators.

“Come on! Come on!” a burly, bare-chested man says, challenging his opponent.

Three hours later, it is the women’s turn. They greet and hug each other before and after the fight, unlike the men.

Within minutes, Vicente’s opponent removes her mask in defeat after some well-aimed lashes.

“I felt good, proud!” Vicente declares, savoring her victory.

The ritual ensures the rainy season begins punctually — a lifeline for a community that relies on corn and other crops, says resident Cleofas Cojito, 60.

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