Colorful skirts swirl in the air, dancing shoes brazenly hit the wooden floor, and focused eyes light up with joy as the others let out gritos in support. Traditional Mexican music fills the room as the members of Grupo Folkórico Los Mejicas rehearse.
For half a century, Los Mejicas has been a celebration of Latine and Chicanx heritage, expression, and performance. Los Mejicas’ 50th Annual Spring Show: Con Amor, Para Mis Mejicas, premiering on May 27th at Mainstage, showcases the importance of community and perseverance while honoring the legacy of previous generations of Los Mejicas members.
The story’s performance follows Mija, an incoming UC Santa Cruz freshman, and her Abuela, a Mejicas alum. Mija is nervous about being alienated as a Latine student at university, but Abuela consoles her by reminiscing on her own experiences with Los Mejicas. Through traditional Folklórico dance and song, the show follows the story of Mija and Abuela. Six regions in Mexico are showcased — Sinaloa, Sonora Bronco, Campeche, Baja California, Nayarit, and Jalisco.
To reduce Folklórico to merely a dance is incorrect, and members like third-year Daisy Brambila can attest to that.
“Folklórico is an act of love to the culture physically seen through the performance of dance. [It] tells us stories of our ancestors before pre-Hispanic times during colonization,” Brambila said. “It’s very important to who we are today. I think it has to be highly respected because this tells us stories of the people that came before us.”
Los Mejicas has persevered in cultivating a space for the expression of Latine heritage. Fatima Villegas is a fourth-year student who has immersed herself in the culture of Los Mejicas since her first year at UCSC and recognizes the group’s cultural significance.
“[I’m] really proud of the culture that we’re bringing to these spaces. We’re dancing in spaces that were not intentionally made for us,” Villegas said. “We’re able to do what our founders were able to create when they had the courage to create the space.”
Villegas also notes that Los Mejicas is not simply a Folklórico group, but a family.
Fourth-year Chelsea Contreras found an environment of students to support her despite feeling hesitant about joining due to concern about her capability to keep up.
“The thing about Los Mejicas is that they’re open. We pride ourselves on taking people who have no experience and teach them all of the basics,” Contreras said. “It’s more than just like, ‘Oh, who can do it?’ It’s not like, ‘Who can do it better?’ It’s more of, ‘Who’s there to support you, who’s there to support each other?’”
When practice comes to an end, the students huddle together, flinging their hands into the center of the circle they form. Despite their exhaustion from a three-hour dance rehearsal, the end cheer of “Los Mejicas!” booms through the multipurpose room.
Although the work is grueling, the community knows it is worth it, because on May 27, that work will shine on the stage.
“We’re here to take up space, we’re here to be loud with our shoes, we’re here to be loud with our music,” said Villegas. “And to present our culture in ways that have not been seen much in higher education.”
Grupo Folkórico Los Mejicas’s 50th Annual Spring Show: Con Amor, Para Mis Mejicas will be performed at 7:30pm on Friday, May 27, 2022 and Saturday, May 28. Tickets are available here.