Popular at festivals across the state of Veracruz, the frenetic Baile de los Negritos is a Totonac dance dating back to colonial times, when African slaves were imported to work on local plantations, often living and labouring alongside indígenas. Stories abound as to the origin of the dance: the most popular version has it that a female slave and her child escaped from a plantation near Papantla and lived in the dense jungle with local indigenous groups. After her child was poisoned by a snake bite, the mother, using African folk medicine, danced herself into a trance. The Totonacs around her found the spectacle highly amusing and, it is said, began to copy her in a spirit of mockery.

Good opportunities to see the dance are Corpus Christi (late May–June) in Papantla, or in Tlapacoyan at the Feast of Santiago (July 25) or the Day of the Assumption (Aug 15); it’s frequently performed on a smaller scale at other village festivals in the area.

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