Sunday, December 1, 2013

Aguascalientes, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Sonora & Zacatecas - Week 48

Hello & Welcome!  Puerto Rico and Vietnam joined the blog this week, a very special welcome to all of you! This week we are going to explore five states of Mexico and highlight some of the regional dancing and specific dances that accompany them.  But before we get started, I want to thank Jarritos Soda for their generous donation to Herencia Mexicana.  On Thursday, I had the pleasure of driving into the city of Los Angeles to pick up the donation of soda for an upcoming event to promote the group. Jarritos anyone?  Here are some pictures of my trip:

You just never know where a folklorico journey may lead you!  I never anticipated all that I have gotten to experience because of folklorico!  Wow!  Here is another experience I got to have, after a practice with his daughter, this proud father took me on a ride on his Harley!  Go biker Wedo! The trip put the fear of God in me let me tell you!  It's something I'll never forget!  Hold Up!  Is that Richard too?  Yes folks, believe it!  Even Richard let his hair down and went for a ride.  Next up, roller coasters!

This week Herencia received this certificate of recognition from the Riverside Dia de Los Muertos celebration event.  Over 12,000 people attended the event this year!  That's awesome! Check it out:

You can see us again in Riverside on December 14th downtown at The Festival of Lights at 7:00 pm on the main stage.  If you missed us last time, this is a good opportunity to come see us!

Something I learned this week about folklorico is, in addition to regional dances and dance forms from the various states, you also have period dances and dance forms.  One such period is the Revolutionary period.  These dances may be performed by several different regions/states as they are not specific to any one state and they come with their own special costume.  So, that adds to the complexity of understanding and classifying folklorico dances.  The deeper you investigate this art, the more you find out.  Oh my, it never ends! I've barely scratched the surface! Gotta love it!

So let's get going, first up is Aguascalientes!  Here is what Wikipedia states about the state of Aguascalientes:

"Aguascalientes, officially Free and Sovereign State of Aguascalientes (literally: Hot Waters), is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.  It is divided in 11 municipalities and its capital city is Aguascalientes. 

It is in North-Central Mexico.  It is bordered by the states of Zacatecas to the north and Jalisco to the south.  Its name means "hot waters" in Spanish and  originated from the abundance of hot springs in the area, the corresponding demonym for the state and its inhabitants is hidrocalido.

The state is located about 480 km (300 miles) from Mexico City.  It covers 5,471 square kilometers (2,112 sq miles) and has a little more than one million inhabitants. Most of its inhabitants live in the densely populated metropolitan area of its capital city.

The state as it is now was created on October 27, 1857 when it was separated from Zacatecas after the tale says that the wife of the governor of the state promised to give a kiss to the President of the time, in exchange for the separation of Aguascalientes from Zacatecas, which explains the shape of a kiss the state has.  It bears the name Aguascalientes taken from its largest city and capital also called Aguascalientes."

As far as the regional dancing is concerned, perhaps the most famous and recognized dance from this region is called "Pelea de Gallos".  The state of Aguascalientes is known for its cockfighting, hence the battle between the roosters during the dance.  Roosters are often embroidered on the costuming for both the men and women. Serapes are used to give the effect of wings flapping during the dance. The winning rooster wins the hen and boasts in his victory.

Other than this common information, I found very little written in English about the regional dancing. A perfect opportunity for a maestra or maestro of dance to write and detail the region.  Wikipedia has an interesting article called "Folk Dance of Mexico" that highlights some of the tribal folk dance forms as well as folklorico dances.  For Aguascalientes, however, it only shared the tribal dances. When I searched the web, most information was written in Spanish and there were several dance videos from the region that came up.  You should watch some of them sometime.

Next we will visit Nayarit!  Here's what our friends at Wikipedia have to say about Nayarit:

"Nayarit, officially Free and Sovereign State of Nayayrit, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, make up the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.  It is divided in 20 municipalities and its capital city is Tepic.

It is located in Western Mexico.  It is bordered by the states of Sinaloa to the northwest, Durango to the north, Zacatecas to the northeast and Jalisco to the south.  To the west, Nayarit has a significant share of coastline on the Pacific Ocean.

Besides the mainland, the islands Marias, Isabel, Tres Marietas and Farallon La Pena in the Pacific Ocean are part of its territory.

Nayarit contains hundreds of miles of rain forest in the sierra.  Its wildlife includes jaguars, mountain lions, wild bears, deer, caymans, armadillos, small wild cats and many more species.  Unfortunately most of the rain forest has been exploited, especially around the region of Santa Maria Del Oro.  The conservation and protection of the rain forest and wildlife of Nayarit is an issue of crucial importance."

The Houston Institute for Culture states this about Nayarit folklorico:

"Nayarit:  This is a small southwestern state which was once part of Jalisco.  The men wear the traditional white shirt under a colored shirt that is tied in the front and white pants with bandannas on their head.  The women dress in a small flower print ranchera style outfit and use a Huichol fan instead of a rebozo or shawl like the Jalisco women wear.  Interesting to this state is the dance of the machetes, where men dance clanging and tossing their machetes to the point of making sparks.  This is done while women dance through an arch of clanging machetes.  This dance is originally of Moorish influence, originating when Spain was conquered by the Moors.  The Moors influenced not only the music (compare Spanish falsetto to Arab falsetto) but also the appearance of Spaniards as they introduced the olive skin and dark hair and eyes into the European bloodlines.   The women dance in the flamenco style with their arms held high, arched upper back, low side bends and twists, coy shoulder shrugs and saucy head tilts.  There is also a Mexican folk dance honoring St. James that is in reference to a battle with Moors."

Next up, Oaxaca!  Here is the Wikipedia information:

"Oaxaca, officially Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca, is one of the 31 states which, along with the Federal District, make up the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.  It is divided into 571 municipalities; of which 418 (almost three quarters) are governed by the system of Unos y Costumbres (customs and traditions) with recognized local forms of self governance.  Its capital city is Oaxaca de Juarez.

It is located in Southwestern Mexico.  It is bordered by the states of Guerrero to the west, Puebla to the northwest, Veracruz to the north, Chiapas to the east.  To the south, Oaxaca has a significant coastline on the Pacific Ocean.

The state is best known for its indigenous people's and cultures.  The most numerous and best known are the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs, but there are sixteen that are officially recognized.  These cultures have survived better than most others in Mexico due to the state's rugged and isolating terrain.  Most live in the Central Valleys region, which is also an important area for tourism, attracting people for its archaeological sites such as Monte Alban, native culture and crafts.  Another important tourist area is the coast, which has the major resort of Huatulco.  Oaxaca is also one of the most biologically diverse states in Mexico, ranking in the top three, along with Chiapas and Veracruz, for a number of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and plants.

The name of the state comes from the name of its capital city, Oaxaca.  The name comes from the Nahuatl word "Huaxyacac", which refers to a tree called a "guaje" found around the capital city.  The name was originally applied to the Valley of Oaxaca by Nahuatl speaking  Aztecs and passed on to the Spanish during the conquest of the Oaxaca region.  The modern state was created in 1824, and the state seal was designed by Alfredo Canseco Feraud and approved by the government of Eduardo Vasconcelos."

One interesting article I read online was from archives and written by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz.  The article is called "Oaxaca" and was originally published in December 1977.  In the article she shares her trip to Oaxaca and a little bit about the culture she encountered and the food. Worth the read, check it out.  Another article I recommend can be found on under the articles for Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast. The article is called "Nuptials and baptism in rural Oaxaca:  The mandate of tradition".  This article was an interesting read and detailed the account of one event in a style similar to how I blog about my experiences.  Take a look!

The Mexican Folkloric Dance Company Of Chicago states "Oaxaca is the home of the Zapoteca and Mixteca indigenous people.  It is also where some of the finest expressions of mestizo culture can be found.  The most important display of dancing, that celebrates the seven regions of Oaxaca, takes place on the last two Mondays of July near the city of Oaxaca in a festival called La Guelaguetza (Zapotec: offering)."

Recently I was asked why I spend so much time sharing geography and state history in my blog about dancing.  Well, by understanding the geography and the characteristics of the landscape that are attached to it, you begin to gain understanding and the correlation between the regional dances and the state.  Plus many of the regional dances cross state boundaries and therefore it's good to know where the states are in relation to each other.  I'm hoping that readers understand now why a dance like La Iguana is danced in Veracruz, and so on. The more familiar you are with the surroundings, the deeper your understanding. I imagine that folklorico dancers who have had the privilege and opportunity to explore and visit the various states of Mexico have a much deeper rooted foundation and understanding to build their dance experience on. 

The article called "Folk Dance of Mexico" by Wikipedia shares a lot of good information about specific dances under the heading of "Important Dances".  Here is what it says about Oaxaca:

"A large number of dances are performed in Oaxaca, especially along the coast.  These include the Chareos, Danza de la Pluma (the Zapotec version of La Conquista), Danza de las Mascaritas, Tejoneros, Danza del Tigre, Toro de Petate and Danza de Tortuga.

The three most common dances of the coast of Oaxaca and Guerrero are the Devil Dance, the Turtle Dance and the Toro de Petate (Straw Bull Dance), all of which are tied to the area's Afro-Mexican communities. The first three contains characteristics which are found only in this region and nowhere else in Mexico and include violence and even sexual overtures.  The main characters, devils, turtles and bulls represented by those in masks, are mythical creatures which dance in the streets alongside humans who either challenge or subdue them.  Other important Afro-Mexican dances include the Tiger Dance and the Tejorones." 

In addition the popular "Turtle Dance" which as known for being somewhat provocative in depicting the mating rituals of turtles, another dance from Oaxaca is about the folk legend and mythical belief of "La Llorona".  Although it may not be as popular of a dance as others, I mention it because of the folk tale that so many have been fascinated with.  Here is what Wikipedia shares about La Llorona:

"La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) [a.k.a. The Cry]:

Although several variations exist, the basic story tells of a beautiful woman by the name of Maria who drowns her children in order to be with the man she loved.  The man would not have her, which devastated her.  She would not take no for an answer, so she drowned herself in a river in Mexico City.  Challenged at the gates of heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all of eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name "La Llorona."  She is trapped in between the living world and the spirit world.

In some versions of this tale and legend, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who resemble her missing children, or children who disobey their parents.  People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or in the late evenings from rivers or lakes in Mexico.  Some believe that those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death, similar to the Gaelic banshee legend.  She is said to cry, "Ay, mis hijos!" which translates to, "Oh, my children!"" 

In some Aztec variations of the story, the story is linked to the fall of the Aztec empire as the discovery of the New Spain came into being and consequent demise of indigenous culture.  Other variations of the story also say La Llorona seduces men and them drowns them out of vengeance for her lost love.  Many image depictions of her are in a white wedding dress and veil.  To some, the drownings are a symbolic metaphor for baptism, which is a sacred ritual to Mexicans.

Although there are many costuming options, I want to look at one that has been spoken of in many of the articles I've read.  Perhaps because some find it a bit unusual or dramatic and eccentric.  People love things that are over the top!  Here is how the U.S. National Park Service and the Chamizal National Memorial in Texas describe this Oaxacan wardrobe:

"The sleeveless flowered huipil (tunic) covers a skirt with a broad heavily starched white eyelet flounce around the hem.  Another perfectly matched, pleated flounce frames the face.  The distinctive headdress - called a huipil grande, resplandor or bidaniro - was actually a child's baptismal gown and is worn by the Istmenas, women from the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec."

One of the myths I heard behind how the women came about wearing these grand garments on their heads is that the woman of Oaxaca discovered a ship wreck and part of its contents was children's baptismal gowns which were used for head coverings.  Further research of huipil grandes led me to a Wikipedia article on huipils in general with no mention of the baptism gowns.  Nonetheless, the article was interesting and I encourage readers to take a look at it.  

Next up, Sonora!  Let's see what Wikipedia says about this one!  

"Sonora, officially Free and Sovereign State of Sonora, is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.  It is divided into 72 municipalities; the capital city is Hermosillo.  Sonora is located in Northwest Mexico, bordered by the states of Chihuahua to the east, Baja California to the northwest and Sinaloa to the south.  To the north, it shares the U.S.-Mexico border with the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and on the west has a significant share on the coastline of the Gulf of California.

Sonora's natural geography is divided into three parts:  the Sierra Madre Occidental in the east of the state; plains and rolling hills in the center; and the coast on the Gulf of California.  It is primarily arid or semi-arid deserts and grasslands, with only the highest elevations having sufficient rainfall to support other types of vegetation.

Sonora is home to eight indigenous peoples, including the Mayo, the Yaqui and the Seri.  It has been economically important for its agriculture, livestock (especially beef) and mining since the colonial period, and for its status as a border state since the Mexican-American War.  After the Gadsden Purchase, Sonora lost more than a quarter of its territory.  From the 20th century to the present, industry, tourism and agribusiness have dominated the economy, attracting migration from other parts of Mexico."

As far as regional dancing from Sonora, I want to focus on just one dance that has gained popularity called Danza del Venado or Deer Dance.  Here is what Wikipedia's Folk Dance of Mexico article states:

"Danza del Venado (Deer Dance) is performed in Sonora and Sinaloa and in the very far south of Arizona by the Yaquis and Mayos.  This dance is most associated with these peoples' Lent and Easter celebrations, when indigenous beliefs mixed with the Catholicism introduced in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The dance is part of ceremonies aimed at the renewal of the world in spring.  Originally the dance was performed at night before hunting to ensure success, but today it is a means to communicate with other worlds.  The deer dancer wears a shawl wrapped as a skirt with a belt traditionally made of deer hooves.  He carries a gourd in each hand and ties rattles to his ankles.  A real or imitation deer head is fastened to his head.  Red ribbons wind around the horns to represent flowers."

Lastly, lets take a look at Zacatecas!  Here is what Wikipedia says about it:

"Zacatecas, officially Free and Sovereign State of Zacatecas, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico.  It is divided in 58 municipalities and its capital city is Zacatecas.

It is located in North-Central Mexico.  It is bordered by the states of Durango to the northwest, Coahuila to the north, Nayarit to the west, San Luis Potosi and Nuevo Leon to the east, and Jalisco, Guanajuato and Aguascalientes to the south.

The state of Zacatecas is best known for its rich deposits of silver and other minerals, its colonial architecture and its importance during the Mexican Revolution.  Its main economic activities are mining, agriculture and tourism."

Although information about Zacatecas folklorico dancing is limited, I found this description from The Mexican Folk Dance Company of Chicago:

"The company's version of Zacatecas is based on the state's incredible and peculiar musical style: Tamborazo Zacatecano (The Zacatecas Big Drum band). This Wind and percussion instruments band, is reminiscent of European ensembles left behind by the revolutionary movement of 1910. Local authorities in Central and Northern Mexico decided to use these musicians as Sunday entertainment in local town square gazebos.

The repertoire, composed initially of selected classical and semi-classical pieces, gave way to more traditional music, appealing to the taste of the locals. Thus jarabes, sones, polkas and other danceable rhythms became the selections of choice. Soon after, the bands left the gazebos and were booked to play at dances and other social affairs, or to follow a drinking party down the hillside streets of the city.

The gorgeous city of Zacatecas is one of the most treasured reliquaries of Mexico and has been declared Human Cultural Patrimony by UNESCO.

Costumes:  Female costuming for the dance varies from region to region within the state. The women wear the traditional full ruffled calico skirt topped with a matching solid color blouse based on turn of the 20th century French couture. The men wear a pair of cowboy (Charro) pants, a white shirt covered with a dark jacket, tie a bandanna on their heads and a white sash on the waist. All dancing is done by couples and include lots of foot stomping.

La Marcha de Zacatecas - Mexico's Second National Anthem:  In 1891, Genaro Codina composed "La Marcha Aréchiga" in honor of the governor (who then changed the name to Marcha de Zacatecas) and won a bet he had made against his brother in law. However, after the revolution the "Zacatecas March" has become a forced identifier of any civic or commemorative heroic event. It is used in remote villages and large cities to announce the beginning of every activity from a civic assembly to the curtain raiser of a circus function, a starter for a movie theatre show or a school event; and it is recognized by every single Mexican national, as the second national anthem."

We made it!  Five states of Mexico!  There's so much to discover.  Come back next week.  In the mean time, the wedo is out!

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Note: Looking for your own adventure or journey? Herencia is a great place to find one!  Folklorico lessons and performances are both available. Herencia Mexicana performs for private & public events of all kinds. Book your event today! Herencia Mexicana welcomes new students. No previous folklorico or dance experience required.  All are welcome.

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