Life in Tecalitlan

May 22, 2009 at 12:31 am (Uncategorized)

It looks like everyone is out on the street. Children, adults, elders, and even dogs line the sidewalks of Tecalitlan, Jalisco. Abuelo starts his travel to the front door with his old rusty chair, and bright pink plastic holding it together. The chair is not very sturdy; an imprint of his butt is quickly turning into a dangerous tear. You know he is going to fall right through it any day, but it is his favorite chair and today there is no time to think of it. Today is special. This is the day of The Virgin de Guadalupe and the procession of danzas is about to pass by.

A child runs by yelling, “Ay vienen!” Here they come! In the distance an array of bright feathers peek out of a cloud of dust. Unfortunately, the town does not have paved roads, except for the two mile stretch of main road bringing visitors in, and quickly getting them out. This made a cloud of dust hover over the dance processional as they stomped their feet on the dry dirt with fervor. The sight of the dancers also brings a melodic thumping of drums as well as the rattling of bells, which gave me, a five year old child, chills. It is an amazing sight to see the whole town involved in such a beautiful display of honor of our culture, of our heritage and of our ancestors.

The first group is a male group with the most elegant costumes. Three or four men usually led setting the melody with drums. What a sight! I remember standing in amazement as each group went by. Our house is at one end of town so by the time the procession arrived, the sweat and exhaustion is visible on their faces, but this is not enough to keep them from presenting the dance at full emotion.

My Abuelo (he was actually my great-grandfather, but I would call him “Abuelo”) would give me the play-by-play on each group. “Mira,” he would start, “Those feathers symbolize the Aztec warriors.” Then a few minutes later again, “Mira…” I did not grasp the importance of these days, but at that time I was mesmerized with the colors, music and fanfare of the day.

I remember wanting to be a dancer. I enjoyed the performance so much from my front door, but unfortunately I went back to Los Angeles to start school and did not have this first hand exposure to the Danzas Aztecas anymore. When I returned to live in Tecalitlan I was 13 years old, and I could only help the danzas by walking the processional and carrying water for the girls in my friend’s group. This gave me a sense of belonging even though I was a visitor from the United States, but I get a feeling of pride talking about this experience because I know how remarkable it is in my life.

I was able to find a video of a danza from Tecalitlan on youtube.com. The group in the video is not one I remember, but I like that it is an all female group and even though the steps and use of instruments are very simplistic, the procession is amazing. Please take a look:

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3 Comments

  1. elizgara said,

    I find it so interesting that the Aztec dance is being celebrated on the Day of the Virgen de Guadalupe. It makes me wonder if this was encouraged after the conquest or practiced in secret to be passed down through the generations. I really like how you relay the information from the perspective of a child. I can only imagine the magnificence of this performance in the height of the Aztec empire. Watching your video gave me the chills. I would be just as proud to have this in my heritage. :o)

  2. garroyo said,

    Regarding danza, a few days ago I saw an interview with a scientist, I did not take down the name etc. but thought it was very intersting to learn that music and language are closely related. He said that a human will first learn rhythm, then speech… that humans will lose the capability of speech before they loose their sense of rhythm and that only humans can dance and keep rhythm.. it is so deeply engrained in our psyche. thought it was a beautiful thought and related to your subject.

    • fabiolahuerta said,

      This is so interesting to hear. Thank you for sharing it with me. I can see this with my 2 year-old son. When he was pretty young, I want to say not even a year yet, but I took him to a “Mommy and me” class and he grabbed the drum sticks and started banging. The teacher started the CD she was going to play for background music and she turned to look at my son because he changed his banging to match the rhythm of the music. It was pretty amazing, and not just because he is my kid…lol!

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