Los Matachines de la Sierra Danzantes…Nurturing the Next Generation

The Danzante tradition continues, as we experienced during the recent dance practice held at the Canon de Carnue Land Grant Hall, in July.  Cosponsored by the Canon de Carnue Land Grant and the UNM Land Grant Studies Program, the event succeeded in giving 16 new potential Danzante youth an exposure to the steps of the dance, the music and the meaning of the head-dress, the palma and the guache (rattle). 

Attending the performances at the Fiestas is a well-established way for young potential Danzantes become familiarized with this special aspect of their cultural heritage.  At their first Fiesta in 2018 in Carnuel at the Santo Nino Mission Church, my young granddaughters who were then (4 & 5 years old) reacted immediately to El Toro (the bull, who let them touch his horns and then snorted at them to their delight!), El Abuelo (the grandfather, with his whip and lasso), La Perejundia (the comic and provocative old lady, with the bag of candy) and La Malinche (the young girl wearing the coveted MOST beautiful dress!).  The antics of the afternoon performance resonated with them, and since then we have attended more Fiestas.  When we watch videos of the processions and performances, they are captivated and respond rhythmically by nodding their heads.

Little did I know until their first Fiesta in 2018 that my granddaughters’ paternal Grandfather, Lee Arnold Griego had been a long-standing Danzante until his tragic passing in 2014.  I do have a wonderful recollection of the impressive and meaningful procession of the Matachine Danzantes at his rosary in the Holy Child Church in Tijeras, however I didn’t realize that it was a special honor performed for Danzantes who have passed away.

The dance practice my granddaughters attended in the Land Grant Hall was well organized, with the little future Malinches (cousins, by the way!) sitting together on the side, watching and taking turns as the dancing was rehearsed.  I was so surprised to see my youngest granddaughter wearing the head-dress of El Toro, and then later playing with the lasso and then the whip!  What good-natured mentors the leading Danzantes are to tolerate such antics!

The chance to make and decorate their own palma, and guache (a plastic maraca) was a further enhancement to the whole experience.  The little future Malinches were completely engrossed in gluing, painting and selecting flowers, feathers & hearts for their palmas, thanks to Venessa Chaves Gutierrez (UNM Land Grant Program), who co-organized the event with Moises Gonzales, the Canon de Carnue Land Grant President (who is a Danzante). The children’s snacks provided were very popular as well, helping recharge the teens in between the dance sessions.

Nurturing this tradition is meaningful to the Danzantes, as well as to families who enjoy the Church and Fiesta performances throughout the year.  Even those of us (like myself) who were not raised with this traditional experience, can recognize and appreciate the important feelings of belonging, reverence and community these experiences provide to our children and grandchildren.

1928 Matachine Danzantes de la Sierra at San Antonio Fiesta

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