Arts & Theatre

Baile folklórico reminds me of mi cultura, my culture

The dance form native to Mexico brought me closer to my Mexican identity

If you listen closely and know the language, you’ll hear it: A story. Sometimes it’s a love story, sometimes it’s a tragedy and sometimes it’s one of loss, love and hate. If you listen, you’ll hear the song of folklórico dance. You’ll see the swirling skirts, exquisitely detailed as a highly emblematic regional dress worn by the women performing, bright red lips that shimmer in the lights and floral embroidered jackets and hats worn by the men. You’ll hear the bright sounds of the mariachi and the rhythmic accentuation of feet that make your heart beat quicker and demand undivided attention.

The song “La Culebra,” or “The Snake,” plays in the background, and I recall my earliest memory of folklórico. I think of the Mexican flag. The red, white and green flag waves around me and reminds me of the sacate or grass in my parent’s Mexican home as my mom held my hand and walked us to the town square of their hometown in Michoacán, Mexico.

I grew up in South Central and although my parents instilled in me an appreciation for our Mexican culture, I still felt distanced from it. I have only visited Mexico four times in my whole life, and they have been really beautiful lived moments. But they are also slowly disappearing from my memory.

Delving deeper into the history and tradition that is folklorico dance has allowed me to discover the significance of the cultural dance to my Mexican culture.

Folklórico can be traced all the way back to the ceremonial and social dances of indigenous people living in Mexico. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they brought their own music and dances with them. And folklórico has been able to find its way to the U.S., and to USC as well.

Gloria Mendoza is part of USC’s own folklórico group and has been able to reconnect with her culture in ways she didn’t expect, but deeply appreciates. She is currently the public relations chair for the club and has been able to perform in numerous performances at USC.

“It makes me feel so connected to my Mexican culture,” Mendoza said. “At USC, I had a hard time finding my community, finding my niche but I was able to do so with folklórico. It inspires me to represent my Mexican heritage and roots in all aspects of my life.”

Like Mendoza, many who have been able to perform folklórico describe it as being able to reconnect with their roots.

Through this project, I was able to reconnect with my roots as well. I followed along to a YouTube video by Maestra Kareli, teaching me to dance her version of “Remember Me” from the Disney movie “Coco.” The song already had a special place in my heart because “Coco” is one of my favorite movies ever. The lesson was also entirely in Spanish but with English translations, which felt even more empowering. Language and dance are so similar in that they transcend barriers and frontiers.

I was surprised by the fluidity; the way one movement leads to the next. The 10-minute clip flew by and I was no longer intimidated by the fact I had two left feet. It made me recall another distant memory of when I was younger and I would watch my cousins in Mexico dance. I remember watching them flow in beautiful movements as they danced in my uncle’s ranch. They didn’t have a dance floor, nor did they need one. The scenery around the ranch was equally mesmerizing. The sky was so blue it seemed that night and darkness would not come. The Grass was so green, I could tell it was watered every day. It was truly a sight that called to be admired.

Now I feel more inspired to really retrace who I am because That is what culture is really about. It is about being proud of where you come from and who you are. I would never want to forget the ways my ancestors connected and found happiness through folklórico, a dance style that allows you to be present and move from the heart.