Thursday, January 29, 2009


Another day, another chase. My wife and I are interested in the traditional dances of Mexico so are constantly on the watch for information about dances. I recently saw that there was a dance to be performed in Ajuno but not knowing just what time of day it might occur it is always a gamble. We headed out around 2:00 pm and upon arrival determined that something was up: a small midway for children (mostly consisting of trampolines and a couple of traditional rides) was in operation, a basketball tournament was in progress and lots of people were around. However, there was already lots of garbage and confetti on the ground – maybe we had missed it. We learned that it was to happen shortly. Almost two hours later the dancers appeared and watched the basketball game until there was much church bell ringing and cujetes (these are a noisy firework that is shot high into the air where it explodes). Sure enough a small procession was forming: four women in front with church banners, four people carrying the local image of the Virgin ( small, beautiful image with what looked like long human hair - this probably is human hair as women will offer their hair to the virgin as a type of exvoto), a band, 20 dancers, a small number of pilgrims and then another band for good luck. The processions went to the first corner where the Virgin was set down at a dusty and rocky intersection and the dancers gathered in front of her and the priest.

This is a small town so the costumes were not elaborate but clearly it was the dance of the Moors (Moros): They wore hats covered with flowers which rose to a soft peak, large red capes adorned with crosses, the name of the virgin and mirrors. Their leggings were pinned to jeans and they had cowboy boots with spurs attached. There was also the traditional veil that almost entirely covered the face. These veils had images of Guadalupe on them or images of Juan Diego kneeling before Guadalupe. Two young men accompanying the Virgin carried large torches and many of the audience held long candles. The men in the audience had hats in hand.

The Virgin leaves the church and begins the procession through town.

The dance steps looked familiar but I could see no pattern and am not aware of the significance of the steps. The dance of the Moors is traditionally performed for the patron saint of the town, as was the case today, or it may be done to mark the defeat of the Moors by the Christians in which case the dancers tend to wear masks and there are clearly Moors to be defeated. The dance for the patron saint is probably built on a very old dance with religious elements attached after the Spanish conquest. I believe this dance is a depiction of the conversion of the Moors to Christianity and by implication, the indigenous peoples of Mexico as well. After about ten minutes of the dancers stepping systematically and clicking their heels, they all bowed before the Virgin. According to tradition, after the procession they group must at least go into the church, but not necessarily attend a mass.

Here we can see the Virgin watching the dance of the Moors.

The group then raised the Virgin and walked through the streets were more people were waiting and the dance was repeated.
Here we are on the other side of town and the procession stops to watch the dance of the Viejitos.

No comments:

Post a Comment