BAILá CON LOS MEJICAS

Celebrating 46 years of Mexican dance and culture

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Flowing skirts, bright colors and the sound of live Mariachi players are only a few sights and sounds attendees of the 46th annual Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas Spring Show will experience.

Formed in 1972, seven years after the founding of UC Santa Cruz, Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas is one of the oldest organizations on campus. Los Mejicas is an award winning Mexican folkloric dance group dedicated to teaching and performing the regional music, dances and traditions of Mexico. On June 8 and 9, they will have their 46th annual spring showcase, themed “Celebrando Resistencia, Unión y Movimiento.”

The Spring Show is a culmination of all the work and dances the group has learned throughout the year. Los Mejicas will be showcasing dances from eight of 31 Mexican states, not including Mexico DF, in order to include a diverse range of performances and represent the numerous different aspects of Mexican culture.

Director of Los Mejicas and third-year Fabiola Perez-Cataño said she hopes people attending see the amount of dedication students put in to preserving Mexican culture.

“It’s little things that we learn throughout just based off our culture and how it used to be,” Cataño said. “Obviously all these dances have evolved over the years depending on society and everything, so everything does change and it gets more modernized, but it’s all based off traditional unit it began with.”

Los Mejicas was created by a group of six students at Merrill College as a social club for Latinx students to learn traditional dances and create a space for themselves on campus.

“It started out as a group of students who would gather together to informally do some dancing, folklorico dancing, based on what some of the students had learned in their hometowns,” said Olga Najera-Ramirez, current faculty advisor of Los Mejicas and alumni member of the group.

During this time, Najera-Ramirez said, there were very few Chicanx students admitted to UCSC. Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas was a way for these students to establish a community by and for themselves in a predominantly white institution.

Today, the organization performs regularly on campus and for community events, such as for elementary and high school students, festivals and special events. The group has a certificate of recognition from the California State Assembly and received the Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity for their contribution to diversity at UC Santa Cruz. With up to 50 members, the organization continues to focus on the goal of providing a space for students to learn and appreciate the cultural diversity of the Mexican heritage, Najera-Ramirez said.

Planning of the showcase event begins before the school year starts. Every summer, members who are elected into leadership roles plan in the summer which regions they want to do in the show. From there, instructors who are usually alumni from the group will teach the dances, Cantaño said.

Members of Mejicas dedicate up to eight or more hours a week practicing and perfecting their dances for the Spring Show. Students learn four regions during the fall and winter quarter and hold practices three times a week. During spring quarter, dancers practice an additional two hours for each region they are performing as well as having two all-day recitals before the show to receive feedback from alumni of the group, Cataño said.

This year’s performance includes seven regional dances that have never been performed by the group in order to avoid regions previously done. The only region repeating this year is the seniors-only Jalisco dance. Other areas that will be performed in the show are San Luis Potosi, Chihuahua, Tierra Caliente de Michoacán, Guerrero, Baja California, Tamaulipas and Sinaloa.

All students are welcome to the group regardless of race, background or skill level. However, many of the students in Los Mejicas were born or have family from the regions they are representing, said second-year dancer Lleymi Martinez. Dancers in the group, such as Martinez, devote time and effort to Los Mejicas because it is more than just a club, but a community support system.

“I’m doing something I really love and I’m doing it with people I’ve grown to consider as family,” Martinez said. “[They] support me not only in Mejicas to become a better dancer, but to become a better scholar, a better student, a better representative of our community and our culture and really taking that to heart and showing it to others and expressing it and being proud of it.”

Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas will be performing a showcase on Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9 at 7 p.m. on the Mainstage Theater. Entrance is $15 for adults and $12 for UCSC students with ID.