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Azteca/Mexica at Guadalupe Center for Día de Los Muertos
(Day of the Dead)
Presented by Calpulli Tonalehqueh - http://www.MySpace.com/CalpulliTonalehqueh
Calpulli Tonalehqueh, in Nauhtl means "Warriors Accompanying the Sun"
1 Noviembre 2008
At Guadalupe Centers Inc., 1015 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez, Kansas City, Missouri 64108
(816) 421-1015 Fax (816) 421-1001
(The National Hispanic University) http://www.nhu.edu
View Slide Show: 1 Noviembre 2008
Tekolpoktlí Madrid - Opening the second part of the program, dancing, here pictured at the front of the house.
Saturday night and so many events in KC, even Savion Glover, at JCCC. Great as he is, even with comps, we wanted to catch the Azteca/Mexica dancers of Calpulli Tonalehqueh at Guadalupe for Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Calpulli Tonalehqueh is an Azteca Mexica Community (in the San José, California area). Besides, Calpulli Tonalehqueh has way better visuals, as you can see here.
Besides our own interest in Mexico in general and in indigenous cultures, the feathered dancers and their costumes are flat out spectacular to see. These pictures give you an idea, though never quite the same as being there. Those feathers cost some 10 to 25 dollars or more, each. The costumes, with many dozens of feathers and intricate assembly can run into the thousands of dollars for one outfit. You can't get these at a costume shop. The dancers put the outfits together themselves. The prices are not chicken feed but it is within the range of ballroom competition gowns which can also run into the thousands, though seldom as impressive.
Then too, this was not just a dance concert. This was a sacred ceremony, a funeral, really, and a connection with cultural history. A time to remember and celebrate those who have gone before us. At the end of the performance/ceremony everyone stood, faced each of the four directions in turn, and called out the names of those they remembered.
The program was divided into two parts starting with (CE) Yei Tecpatl, women drummers and singers. Temaquizcuini Quinonez, Nauhxayacaltl Chavira and Rio Salcedo began in the house on either side of the stage, walking to the stage front to sit around a large drum to sing songs and burn incense.
In the second part of the program (OME), the women were joined by the male dancers and musicians who came from the back of the house to the front, performing at the front and burning more incense until stepping on stage for the dancing ceremonies.
The six performers from the group are not merely dancers, singers and musicians, they are messengers, bringing Mexica culture and sensibilities to the world at large. (Quick stop here for a note: Mexica - say (short e on me) me-SHEE-kuh.) Mexica is the name of the tribe we commonly call Aztec and from which we derive the name Mexico. The Calpulli Tonalehqueh use ceremony (such as this performance/ceremony) with dance, music and art as well as straight-ahead education to keep alive and enrich the ancient ways. Some of these traditions have their origins as far back as the Olmecs.
They sell various art objects at tables before and after the main event. After the ceremony on stage they were available for pictures and conversation with the audience. Out come the cameras and cell phones. Little glowing screens are held high as the dancers are framed either by themselves or with members of the audience. Everybody smiles.
The names of the dancers under the pictures are their Mexica names. They receive their name in a special naming ceremony. Their name is descriptive of who they are as a being. They do have other names and, of course, day jobs.
Day of the Dead altar with remembrances upstairs in the Guadalupe Center
Nauhxayacatl Chavira (top) and Tekolpoktlí Madrid
Tekolpoktlí Madrid - http://www.myspace.com/tepeyolotl
Drumming and singing: Temaquizcuíní Quínonez, Nauhxayacatl Chavira, ZiuahyaocuicatlI (Rio Salcedo)
The first section of the program.
Atezcazollí Perez, Tekolpoktlí Madrid, Nauhxayacatl Chavira
Nauhxayacatl Chavira and a shadowy Tekolpoktlí Madrid
Tekolpoktlí Madrid and Atezcazollí Perez
Nauhxayactl and Tekolpoktlí Madrid
Remembrances to take home: Atezcazollí Perez, Temaquizcuíní Quínonez, Nauhxayacatl Chavira
Santos receives a blessing in healing ceremony. Left-Right: XochíTecpatl, Tekolpoktlí Madrid, Gabrielle, Santos, Temaquizcíuní Quínonez , Atezcazollí Perez, Nauhxayacatl Chavira
Tekolpoktlí Madrid, Atezcazollí Perez, Temaquizcuíní Quínonez, Nauhxayacatl Chavira
Temaquizcuíní Quínonez - http://www.myspace.com/temaquizcuini
XochíTecpatl - http://www.yaocuauhtli.net
Nauhxayacatl Chavira - http://www.myspace.com/nauhxa
Dancer, Singer & Director
Day of the Dead
Calpulli Tonalehqueh Azteca Dancers
by Nicole English
Guadalupe Center was transformed into a wonderfully mysterious place, on Saturday, November 1st, for "el Dia de los Muertos". The Center was filled with the smell of incense, the vibrant sounds of native drums, the athletic leaps of dancers, and the exquisitely beautiful indigenous costumes, festooned with colorful feathers and bright beadwork. Playing traditional instruments, the native performers presented ancient songs, music, and dance to an appreciative audience.
The audience filled the small Guadalupe Center auditorium to capacity, spilling out into the lobby, and filling the balcony in order to take part in the Mexica ceremony to celebrate the Day of the Dead ("el Dia de los Muertos"). The dance performance by the Calpulli Tonalehqueh Aztec Dancers, (brought in from the National Hispanic University in San Jose, California for the event), was part of an annual memorial service to the dearly departed performed at the Center to honor those who have passed on.
The performance was given in an informal setting, very typical of small communities and folkloric events. The event did not follow a strict timetable, and local community leaders spoke in both Spanish and English, acknowledging those who helped the event come to fruition. Once the ceremonial music and dancing began, however, the audience was held in rapt attention.
Although the Day of the Dead is often considered a Mexican version of Halloween, and has been long associated with the Catholic All Saints’ Day holiday, its history is actually much older with roots reaching back into antiquity. The original holiday has origins even older than the Aztecs (or "Mexica", the actual tribal name for the Aztecs), stretching as far back as the earliest known Mesoamerican civilization, the Olmec culture. In ancient times, the holiday was celebrated as a festival for several weeks. Different days were devoted to honoring different groups of people who had passed on. For example, one day would be devoted to honoring children and infants who had died, another day would honor the elderly, another day would honor those who had fallen in battle, and another day would honor women who had died in childbirth (and considered as female fallen warriors who would ascend to a place of honor in the heavens).
This lively and colorful presentation was a smaller representation of a much larger tradition, but one that would work for a community event. The dances were modified so as to be shorter and choreographically more aesthetic for modern audiences, but lacked none of the devotion or enthusiasm on the part of the dancers.
After the performance, there was a semi-private healing ceremony that was also preformed for a young boy, Santos, who is struggling with cancer. The family had made a request for a special ceremony just for their child.
Members of the group circulated after the performance, and the ceremony, to interact with audience members to allow photos, answer questions, and share information about ancient indigenous traditions and their participation in these traditions. They were very open with how they came to be involved with the Mexica dance and culture. The dancers all admit to having indigenous blood, although the actual genealogy may be somewhat murky.
"Many details of indigenous lineage are lost to history.... and people forget.... It is our hope to share our customs [by means of performance] with those who might not know that much about our culture, and to help us remember our own heritage" said singer, Temaquizcuini ("She Who Offers Songs"). "My own journey started when I saw a performance eight years ago... and it seemed like the drum called out to me to join the circle."
"Joining the circle is about reaching back to your roots," said dancer, Atezcazolli ("Ancient Wise Crystaline Stone"), dressed in white and red feathers. "But it is also a commitment... a commitment to yourself, to your group, to the ancient ways, and to the teachings you receive... each performance, each ceremony, each rehearsal is an opportunity to learn these ancient traditions."
The commitment of the dancers is apparent in their words and actions, as they describe the dances and explain the details of the costuming. The costumes are very expensive, costing thousands of dollars to assemble, not counting the labor of love required to create the costumes in minute detail. The feathers are very large, long and fragile. Each kind of feather used for the headdresses can range in cost from $10 to $25 for a single feather, and there are countless feathers contained in each costume.
"Each feather is very expensive, and the feathers come from a variety of bird species" said local folkloric dance teacher, Jaime Reyes. "I cannot imagine how much these costumes must cost."
Each dancer has been bestowed with a name during a ritual naming ceremony, a name that has been chosen for them by tribal leaders as appropriate for their character, destiny, and their place in the cosmos as related to the four elements. These tribal names are how the dancers introduce themselves to the public, complete with an explanation of the meaning of the words and the significance of the name.
"For example, my name means 'Four Faces' and refers to the directions of the four winds," said Nauhxayacatl. "We have each been given names that have been chosen for us as appropriate for our characters and where we are in the world."
Although more exposition during the performance would have been welcomed and appropriate, the dancers did not want to interrupt the ceremonial aspects of the presentation, and thus, preferred to explain the details of the dance after the event. The dancers were very approachable and patiently explained their experiences and devotion to the ancient customs, while also posing for numerous photos to anyone who asked.
All the dancers who were interviewed explained that their journey as a Mexica/Azteca dancer was as much about re-discovering themselves, as it was about connecting with their cultural roots. For most of the participants, joining the "circle" of Mexica dancers was correlated with searching for ethnic identity, and passing along ancient wisdom and traditions. It was about sharing cultural traditions with others, educating people as to the vast array of customs and folklore, and for demanding respect for indigenous culture. By learning more about their own indigenous roots, the dancers feel that they learn respect for themselves, their cultural heritage, the culture of others, as well as respect for the environment, the planet, and our place in the cosmos.
Nauhxayacatl, the designated leader of the dance group, has been involved the longest with the dance, having grown up with the Mexica culture all around her. Her family has been involved with the Mexica movement for the last 20 years, and after several years of encouragement, she became active in the movement herself and has been involved for the last 15 years. In addition to teaching, lecturing, and performing, she also creates indigenous style artifacts, jewelry, and clothing.
"At first, the motivation for joining the circle is to learn about yourself, finding out who you are, and awakening genetic memory," said Nauhxayacatl. "Then it is about learning the culture, traditions, and customs, including the dance and the music.... Later, it is about taking the initiative to pass along that wisdom to the children, and finally, to share the traditions with everyone else around you."
The entire event was a colorful, magnificent display that was as inspiring as it was fascinating. The earnest sincerity of the group to share their culture was heart-warming and engaging. Their idealistic motives for sharing their culture in order to promote understanding, communication, and connection in order to advance humanity cannot help but inspire hope for the future.
"Ultimately, our traditions are about the future of humanity.... not just one culture or another, or about blood per se, but about eliminating boundaries that divide us as a people... as humans... how to learn to get along with each other... and with the environment... the earth... we have to find our way... it is about saving humanity and the planet," said Nauhxayacatl sincerely.
Bios (in alpha order) and Program Outline
The items below are copied directly from Tonalequeh's event outline.
This is their release material. I start with their description of the group itself.
Calpulli Tonalehqueh - http://www.MySpace.com/CalpulliTonalehqueh
Calpulli Tonalehqueh, in Nauhtl means "Warriors Accompanying the Sun"
Wisdom, Harmony & Culture
Calpulli Tonalehqueh is a Indigenous Arts group based out of San Jose CA. Our members have been working together for almost 15 years and founded the group in 2004. We are part of the Mexicayotl, which is an international movement to learn, educate and diffuse the Native cultures of Mexico and this continent to the world.
We work together practicing and living our traditional ways from Mexico. Through the education and preservation of not only things like Danza & Music, but also, artistry, history, philosophy, spirituality, language, Medicine and Ceremony. Together working as a collective, we are able to not only learn, but help teach the community, through regular work shops, exhibitions, Community Events and public school courses.
Together as Indigenous People of this land, we can regain what is rightfully ours, Our Pride, strength, knowledge, dances, philosophies, language, music, customs and beliefs. All in the education, understanding and acceptance of our Native Culture.
Atezcazolli Perez - http://www.myspace.com/atezcazolli
Atezcazolli in Nahuatl translates to "old crystalline stone". Much like that clear ancient stone, Atezcazolli remains firm and stable and has been that role model and a strong and vital part of Calpulli Tonalehqueh since 2006.
Born and raised in Houston, Texas fluent in both Spanish and English and currently resides in the Bay Area. Atezcazolli holds a Bachelor degree in Art and uses her drive and talents to create and inspire community not only within the Calpulli, but also through her every day work with Univision.
The ability to inspire and empower others is a talent that allows her to lead in her community. According to Atezcazolli, dancing with Tonalehqueh allows her to connect with her traditions, culture and majestic teachings from the past into the present.
Nauhxayacatl Chavira - http://www.myspace.com/nauhxa
"Nauhxa" Dancer, Singer & Director
Nauhxayacatl Chavira, in the Nahuatl language her name translates to " The one with the Four Faces", the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Born in Mexico of Huitchol parents, Nauhxa migrated to California at a earyly age. It is there where her passion & love for her culture first flourished as she searched to fill the void that only her traditions seemed to fill.
Now, more than 15 years later, she has become not only a skilled dancer, but also a Jewelry designer, writer, artist, singer, musician and Cultural instructor, establishing a afterschool/ in school Cultural program that has been offered with in and around bay area schools since 2004. She is a true role model for all those who seek to search knowledge, strength and pride with in our Native Mexican culture.
Nauhxa is one of the core founders of Calpulli Tonalehqueh and is known as the fire keeper of the group. In ceremonies and prayer, she carries the medicine and keeps the energy in the group clean and the people in and around it protected. Allowing for a successful exchange of energies between our world, and all the energies that surround us.
Tekolpoktli Madrid - http://www.myspace.com/tepeyolotl
In Nahuatl language his name means "Owl Tattooed color of Smoke." Tekolpoktli is very much like the Owl, quiet, observant and wise. The tattoos of smoke represent the thought that is permanently covering his spirit and entire essence with the emotions, strengths and perseverance of our Grandmothers & our Grandfathers.
As a conscious Chicano he first encountered the Mexicayotl over 15 years ago. It was then and there where he knew this was his life’s calling and would remain with him permanently. Now a core member of the Calpulli, he is a example for every young man. Teaching danza extensively and leading study groups and traditional regalia workshops.
Temaquizcuini Quinonez - http://www.myspace.com/temaquizcuini
Singer, flute player, musician
Temaquizcuini translates to "the one who offers songs". She has offered songs and much more as a core member of Calpulli Tonalehqueh for the last 6 years. She is a example of a mother with two beautiful children who also sing and dance in their mothers foot steps. She is role model in a variety of aspects including community organizing, social justice activisism and a Gang intervention Counselor for the City of San Jose.
Tema’s beautiful songs, skilled flute playing and light dance steps are only a reflection of the beauty she carries inside her and the strength that these traditions offer to allow her to continue to give so much to her family and her community.
Victor Juarez, Drummer
Born and raised in Mexico City, Victor has learned these traditions since he was a young boy. Victor came to the United States a few years later and earned his place as the Bay Areas strongest most talented Azteca "huehuetlzonzonque" or drummer.
Besides drumming and dancing, Victor is a skilled artisan and known well for his elaborate leather & feather work. He has been working along side Calpulli Tonalehqueh for over 10 years and has recently founded his own group in California.
Rio Salcedo, Musician & Singer
Ziuahyaocuicatl in nahuatl means River Song Woman. Another strong woman in the group, Rio both drummer and singer has been on this traditional path for over 10 years. A musician of over 30 years, Rio plays guitar, bass and the native drums used in our traditional dances, songs and ceremonies. She has been invited represented the Mexica people in many ceremonies throughout the Southwest and Mexico.
Along with her work with in the Calpulli, Rio is also a dedicated Family Health provider & counselor. She provides extensive case management and supportive counseling to families looking to improve their lives. "It is an honor to be part of Calpulli Tonalequeh my experience here has further cemented my belief that CUTURA CURA.... Ometeotl"
Scene One, CE
Yei Tecpatl women drummers & singers
- 3 Songs/Cantos
- 4 Directions Song
- Nimitz Tlazotl Tlalli
Scene Two, OME
Calpulli Tonaleqhue Danza Mexica Guerrera
Nauhxayacatl, female dancer, Fire & smoke carrier
Tekolpoktli, male dancer doing both couple dances
Atezcazolli, female dancer, in white Muslin outfit
Flute Player, Tema Quinonez
Teponaxtli & wind, Rio Salcedo
Drummer, Victor Juarez
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