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Posts Tagged ‘Danzón’

Last Sunday, Oaxaca bid adiós to the 10º Nacional Festival de Danzón, the stately dance from Cuba that has captivated Oaxaca.  Alas, I only managed to catch the very end.  But, as always, I was charmed by the formality and style and intensity and joy — a tradition kept alive by those in their latter years…

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… and by the young.

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Several well-known danzones were composed Amador Pérez Dimas from Villa de Zaachila, ten miles southwest of Oaxaca city.

For a taste of danzón, here is brief snippet from the close of the festival.  By the way, the band is Banda Santa Cecilia from Teotitlán del Valle, a band we will be hearing several times next week during the the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

If you are in Oaxaca, you can experience Danzón for yourself on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM, either under the laurels on the Zócalo or on the Alcalá near Santo Domingo, depending on the state of the Zócalo — occupied or not occupied.

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Not only is the previously mentioned Oaxaca FilmFest4 opening tomorrow night, but last night a calenda up Morelos heralded the arrival of the 8th Congreso Nacional de Danzón.  Alas, it was raining, I’m a wimp, and so stayed home.  However, the music coming from the Plaza de la Danza sounded wonderful.  Sigh….

If you are walking around Oaxaca during the next few days, be on the lookout for the guapas y guapos (the guys are all duded up, too) of Danzón.  They are adding a lot of glitz and glamour to the streets of the city.

3 women dressed in glittery dresses

For the uninitiated, Danzón is a very stately dance that originated in Cuba.  However, it seems to be most beloved in Puerto Rico and Mexico.  It has especially flourished in Oaxaca, where one can find dancers young and old dancing under the laurel trees in the Zócalo every Wednesday evening at 6:30.  And, no wonder it has retained its popularity here, according to Wikipedia, “many famous danzones were composed by Oaxacan musicians such as the famous Nereidas and Teléfono de larga distancia, both works of Amador Pérez Dimas, from the town of Zaachila, near Oaxaca city.”

If you aren’t anywhere where Danzón is performed, you can check out the 1991 movie, Danzón:

Julia (Rojo) is a phone operator in Mexico City who divides her time between her job, her daughter and the danzon: a cuban dance very popular in Mexico and Central America. Every wednesday Julia does the danzon with Carmelo (Rergis) in the old “Salon Colonia”. They’ve danced for years but barely know each other. One night Carmelo disappears without a trace. Feeling lonely and sad, Julia takes a train to Veracruz, where she knows Carmelo has a brother. That sudden trip will change Julia’s life forever. IMDB

I haven’t seen the movie, but according to one reviewer, the soundtrack is worth the rental price.  I’m going to try to find it!

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After a delightful but whirlwind (6 days is too short) visit, my stepson and his wife have come and gone; this year’s Guelaguetza festivities are over; life at Casita Colibrí is gradually resuming a more leisurely rhythm; and our current historic rain has gone on hiatus.  A quiet solo Sunday morning walk beckoned, as did the APPO banners, strung along the arches of the Palacio de Gobierno, that I wanted to photograph.

Oaxaca se levanta

The banners are a work of art, but ephemeral — here today, gone tomorrow — and I never seem to have my camera with me when I come across them.

"Respeto a la autonomia de San Juan Copala"

And, more importantly, they are a graphic reminder that behind the vitality, beauty, and quaint cosmetics of “new” cobblestone streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site facade, class warfare lurks in the shadows.

Oaxaca’s contradictions are mine.  I turn the corner and walk over to puesto 80 at Mercado Juárez to see if they’ve gotten in the chocolate covered coffee beans.  No, maybe tomorrow…  I stop by the temporary pocket market in front of the Jesuit church on the corner and satisfy my sweet tooth by buying a bag of melt-in-your-mouth Merengue Sabor Cafe, instead.

The Zócalo has awakened during my 45 minutes of shopping; young and old strolling arm-in-arm, vendors selling their wares, shoes being shined, outside tables occupied with diners chatting or simple watching the scene before them.

People strolling; vendors selling

And, there is music — always, there is music — today an orchestra has set up under the laurels for the final day of the Festival Nacional de Danzón.  The dance, with its origins in Cuba, is stately and prescribed, with inexplicable pauses where dancers turn to face the orchestra, women move to the right side of their partners, fan themselves, and then several measures later dancing resumes.

Dancers in traditional Oaxacan dress

I’m captivated by the dancers who are at once, serious and joyful, and by their varied attire — once a costumer, always a costumer!

Dancers - woman in slacks

Most dancers are in the latter third of their life, though there are a few earnest young people.

Young dancers

It’s a prosperous crowd — a dance of the elite — but mesmerizing to watch.

dancers

After an hour of observing this very “civilized” scene under an intense sun, I headed to Independencia, the shady side of the street, and home, only to stop, reel around, and follow the sounds of a calenda coming into the Alameda; band, dancers, fireworks — celebrating Día del Comerciante!

Calinda

I leave feeling conflicted about my three hours on a sunny Sunday.  The lines from the song inspired by the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike come to mind…

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

Lunch eaten, clouds gather, sky darkens, and Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge.

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