Yucatan's Dancing Pig's Head ( Cuch ): Icon, Carnival, and Commodity

As a central feature of the annual fiesta, the Maya cuch ceremony and its various transformations have been a staple of ethnographic description for more than fifty years. Through this investiture ceremony, responsibility for organizing the fiesta is passed from one religious confraternity to another. Although descriptions of the cuch abound, the ethnography of performance remains fragmented. Ethnographies tend to privilege or essentialize particular performances and ignore variants that violate the ethnographer's notion of authenticity. Indeed, the multiplicity of labels in Spanish and Maya used to describe the cuch and its transformations—cuch, k'ub pol, okostah pol, baile del cochino, etc.—leaves the impression that different enactments or performances bear little or no relation to one another. In contrast, the present article demonstrates the dialogical relations between various transformations of the cuch—pious, satirical, and folkloric—as an aid to interpreting more heterodox performances. In particular, following Bakhtin, the author argues that the rich parody which permeates the k'ub pol—a transformation of the cuch performed on some former henequén plantations—is invariably lost, or reduced to an innocent burlesque, if one fails to recognize its relationship to more sober, "Catholic" interpretations of the cuch.