NJ Hosts Exhibit on Traditional Pueblan Fiesta

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

The rich heritage of the native culture of Puebla, Mexico, is on display at Passaic’s Mi Casa es Puebla in an exhibit featuring images taken by photographers who captured the most emblematic dances in the Festival of San Miguel Tzinacapan.

Kevin Cáceres, born in the United States of Pueblan parents, was quite amazed by the colorful display in the traditional dances of his parents’ country.

“I have seen them a number of times, in fact, and the first thing that caught my eye was the color and what the dances represent,” he said.

Beyond the color, the festival is a celebration of the indigenous culture, a worship of its ancestral customs, which were skillfully exploited by the Spanish colonists but have lasted to the present day thanks to generations of Pueblans.

“The native celebrations are more than that. They establish the sacred cycles that define everyday life and provide spaces to strengthen social cohesion. The festivity is also the way in which culture, worldview and tradition are passed along, making it the foundation of collective identity,” read the exhibit’s introduction.

There are 30 photographs on display, which belong to the Nacho López photo library of Mexico’s National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples. They were taken by Lorenzo Armendáriz, Silvia Gómez, Anastasio Aguilar, Guillermo Aldana and Sergio Abbud.

The party starts on Sept. 29 and is a tradition of the town of Cuetzalan, in the mountains of the Mexican state of Puebla.

The photographs show images of the dancers and choreographies from each one of the culture’s five most emblematic dances.

One of them is the Dance of the Migueles, which honors St. Michael (Miguel) the Archangel as he fights the demon that he finally defeats with his sword (…) A dramatization of the battle of good versus evil is played by a group of mostly young dancers dressed as ancient Romans, wearing breastplates and wings and holding shields and swords.

Another dance is that of The Santiagos, which also blends indigenous imagery with the Spanish worship style. Dedicated to St. James, “Moors” and “Pilates” face those loyal to the saint, who wear helmets and ride wooden horses. The worship of the thunder as a deified natural phenomenon is added here to the fight between good and evil.

Los Negritos – the Blacks – represent African culture, which played a significant role in the sugar cane-based economy. Here, the snake god, called “La Maringuilla,” comes into the scene. Although it kills the foreman, it is in turn attacked and killed by the Negritos to bring the foreman back to life.

Before the latter, there are the Quetzales, a pre-Hispanic ritual worshipping the sun and fire. The macaw feathers in the dancers’ headpieces distinguish it from the other dances and turn it into a colorful spectacle. Its name comes from the Nahuatl word “cuezalin,” the feathers in the tail of the quetzal bird.

Finally, Los Voladores – the Flyers – is a dance associated with the worship of the sun and with the native calendar. Its uniqueness comes from the way the dancers jump from the top of a pole, coming down to the sound of a flute whose 52-tone oscillations represent the years a Mesoamerican century lasted. This ritual was recognized by UNESCO in 2009 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The dance also represents the fertilization of the earth by the sky.

The exhibit is being shown at Mi Casa es Puebla Passaic, located at 77 Third St., Passaic, NJ.

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