Though we missed the world famous annual drunken horse racing in Todos Santos, local guide Rigoberto Pablo Cruz ([email protected] (dot) com, good English) knew that locals in a nearby town were putting on a smaller race so we jumped in the truck and drove about an hour out of Todos Santos to the town of Chiabal II, climbing up to more than 11,000 feet (3,352 meters) into the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains.
Drunken horse racing in Guatemala
A soft dirt straight-away, about an eighth of a mile long, had been cleared through the center of the tiny, dusty town where, weirdly, there was a porta-potty in front of nearly every house.
The “track” was then lined with a wooden fence meant to keep the racers in and the spectators out. About eight relatively healthy-looking horses were gathered at the makeshift starting line as less healthy-looking riders staggered around being fitted with a special hat with a very long colorful sash tied to it.
Two or three horses raced at a time, set off by a loud whistle. Some riders were so drunk they had to have their hands tied to the horn of their saddles. Some screamed obscenities in both Spanish and English as they flew by. Some were still holding cans of Mexican Tecate beer as they raced.
Some riders flew out of the saddle. Others slowly slumped to the side before hitting the ground. The majority somehow made it to the finish line, except for one guy who was ominously carried off by locals.
Though we watched the madness for a couple of hours we never did figure out who “won.” Maybe winning wasn’t the point.
See the madness of drunken horse racing for yourself in our video, below.
See more of this spectacle in our story about drunken horse racing for Atlas Obscura.
Read more about travel in Guatemala
The pictures are very nice. It’s looking like a professional photographer has taken these photos. The participants are full of enthusiasm. These photographs shows the clear aim of the participants to win. Loved watching the video!
Like this a lot with the photos – makes me ‘homesick’ for South and Central America.
Have you met the Guambiano Indians in the south of Colombia? Extremely interesting.
the riders are drunk, that is something i have to see. its really funny
I was in hysterics reading this. Picture 6 is hilarious. The only thing I want to do when drunk is sleep so how they did it, I don’t know!
Great photos. It looks like such a crazy event! I hadn’t even heard of drunk horse racing!
Hilarious! They come up with the best combinations of festival and farm animals in Central America. I just recently went to a Mule Festival – highlight was definitely the mule – donkey – horse race. Like your drunken race, the winner was not very clear. I think the point was to have fun and not to finish first. I mean seriously, the horse would obviously win every time if that were the case haha!
Whoa, this is insane. How the hell do you drink a beer when your horse is in full stride???
What an experience to be able to watch and photograph. I love the shot of the horse which lost its rider. Glad that you got to experience a smaller more intimate race.
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