Every May of every year, farmers from La Esperanza – a Nahua village in the state of Guerrero, Mexico – prepare their land for seeding. The fields are ploughed and the seeds germinated, but it's common local knowledge that the heavy rains the crops need to grow won't arrive without a little extra seduction. So, while the farmers ready their land, the rest of the villagers begin preparing a ceremony to ask for rain.
The basis of this quaint little ceremony involves women from a few of the local communities beating the living shit out of each other so that they can collect the spilt blood in buckets and use it to plough and water the land. Real gentle, spiritual stuff.
Before fighting, the women of this Nahua community prepare a banquet at the house of the Municipal Commissioner.
On the opening day of the ceremony, women from the village got up early to make large quantities of food – turkey, chicken, pozole, mole, rice, boiled eggs and tortillas – that they took along to the site to share with the village officials and their families. The table was also open to anyone taking part in the ceremony – you just take along your pot and the women fill it with food.
At midday, I set out for Cruzco, a sacred spring where the people from the village meet every year to make offerings to their deities. Once they'd laid down their flowers, food, resin or wax, or recited a prayer or a song, they all begin to line up for the fight.
The villagers quickly began arriving in their dozens, forming a human perimeter while they waited for their out-of-town adversaries to reach the makeshift battlefield. Once the neighbouring communities began to show up, women immediately started seeking out opponents and challenging them to a fight. The mothers and grandmothers, many of whom had been warriors in the past, got busy urging the younger generation of girls to get out in the ring, to split some skulls and spill some blood.
Once they were set on an opponent, the women faced each other, tying their hair up and removing rings or anything else that might get in their way. Then, often with their eyes closed, they threw the first punch. Occasionally they'd grab a handful of dirt to dry the sweat on their hands, or ask for a time-out to clean their bloodied noses, but they'd always carry on relentlessly tearing into each other, with cries of support resounding from all sides of the fight pit.
It didn't seem to be about winning or losing, and there was never any question of anyone taking revenge on anyone else like at the Friday night fight club outside your local 'Spoons.
After a number of fights, I started to notice the smell of all the blood spilt during the battles, but it didn't seem to faze anyone other than me. Even as the sun began to set and every child's mobile phone memory was full with video footage of their older sisters beating the living hell out of each other, the women, bare-handed, wouldn't stop fighting.
Once night had fallen, we all walked back to the village, where it was impossible not to notice all the female combatants returning home with blood streaming down their faces, proud of being warrior women and certain that their blood would help keep everyone fed for another year.