This article originally appeared on VICE Mexico.
Standing on loose soil among merchants of sweets and beer, hundreds of people in the town of El Jazmin, in the state of Queretaro, Mexico, wait for the Shitases to reach a makeshift arena where they will fight heifers. The Shitases are the stars of the evening—a group of dancers who dress in costumes every February to scare the animals, as part of a local festival celebrating the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe. This year, I went along to enjoy the spectacle.
At around 4 PM, a brass band called Los Rehenes (the Hostages) began to play, and everybody immediately stopped talking. The music is meant to signal the arrival of the Shitases.
The music also helps the Shitases get in the mood: "It is not easy to stand in front of a horned animal that weighs twice as much as you do," one of them told me. No matter how impressive your costume, a heifer can bring you back to reality with one single blow—it makes you remember you're only human.
The Shitases dance alone or with a partner, but the bravest ones will fight the animal that is confused by the colors, the textures, the smells, and the sounds surrounding it. This year, while some danced, others got to chasing some guy who fondled a local woman thinking he would get away with it in the anonymity of the costumes and the crowd. "The Shitases are going to beat the shit out of him," ordered a voice coming from a megaphone, and that's exactly what happened.