Dance and devotion: ‘Matachines’ centuries-old tradition

In Little Rock, the Danza de San Eduardo (Saint Edward Dance) a group of 'matachines' prepares for months for the elaborate dance to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast is on December 12th.

While other families may be spending their Tuesday and Thursday recuperating from work or school, Little Rock resident Yanet Martínez, her husband Nino Mendoza, her son Eduardo Mendoza and several friends sit at the dining room table and work on costumes that are part of a centuries-old tradition honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Virgen de Guadalupe is also known as the Patroness of the Americas, though she holds a special place in Mexicans' hearts.

Hola! 448 MATACHINES 10With needle in hand and numerous containers in front of them filled with colorful glass beads, sequins, pieces of fabric and thread, each one of them is focused on their task. The sounds of the electric sewing machine and laughter fill the house. They are adorning their "nagüillas" the clothes that, as matachines, they will wear in several performances in the days to come.

"I get excited every year, but I think my excitement has to do more with the new dancers that want to join." Yanet refers to the new dancers who will perform for the first time with the matachines to the Danza de San Eduardo, a dance troupe named after the parish they belong to in central Arkansas. For the last seven years, the young woman has been one of the group's coordinator.

"We are in the front or in the back, marking the steps of the other dancers. We have to keep in mind that they are following us," said a group Captain Eduardo Mendoza.

Hola! 448 MATACHINES 3The tradition of the matachines goes back many centuries. It is believed that the Spaniards brought the dance to the New World during colonial times as part of their worship. In 1531, according to Catholic teachings, the Virgin Mary appeared on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City to a poor Aztec Indian named Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in Mexico, and she told him to call her Our Lady of Guadalupe. After that, the matachines became an integral part of this celebration.

"Basically, I am the one that is in charge of telling the people to start dancing," says Gerardo Miranda Drummer, who started dancing years ago as part of a promise to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Many of the performances take place at the homes of parishioners request for the matachines to join them in praying the rosary. After the prayer ends, the atmosphere explodes with the sounds of drums, sleigh bells and an occasional cheer in honor of "La Guadalupana." Each event culminates with a meal offered by the hosts to the matachines.

Hola! 448 MATACHINES 6The festivities culminate on December 12, when countless Catholics around the United States, predominantly in large Mexican-American populations, unite to celebrate La Guadalupana, La Morenita, the Patroness of Mexico and the Americas.

Much like the matachines who came before them, the Matachines of the Danza de San Eduardo will perform the elaborate dance in her honor on her feast day. And coordinators like Yanet and Nino will not only continue to pass along the tradition through the elaborate dance steps, but also their devotion in Our Lady of Guadalupe through their strong faith.

¡Hola! Media Group is proud to share the rich culture of the Matachines of the Danza de San Eduardo with the Arkansas public by inviting the Matachines to perform at some of it’s twenty community events. In 2015 the Matachines graced Hola! Arkansas Hispanic Heritage Day at Magic Springs Timberwood Amphitheater, BOO at the Zoo at the ¡Hola! Arkansas Dia de los Muertos and the UALR Stephens Center Basketball half-time the ¡Hola! Arkansas Day with the Trojans.

Hola! 448 MATACHINES 11For additional pictures and videos visit, Hola-Arkansas.com and Facebook.com/HolaARKANSAS
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