Monday, August 3, 2009

Last post from Mexico

This summer, Rivers teachers are embarking on a variety of activities through the school’s faculty enrichment grants, which aim to promote the intellectual growth of Rivers teachers through research, education, and other independent projects. Today, we hear from Ben Leeming, who is traveling to Zacatecas, Mexico to study the Uto-Aztecan language of Nahuatl.

A week ago Sunday saw the kick-off of perhaps the biggest annual cultural event in Zacatecas (next to the Féria, of course): the International Folk Dance Festival, in it's 16th year (?), and a source of huge pride for Zacatecanos. Dance groups from literally all over the world (as well as tourists) descend on the city for a of week of folk dance. The entire city has been transformed: every plaza has stages and bleachers set up in them, and there is dance and music coming from every corner of the city. It's wonderful! Last Sunday afternoon we watched the opening parade down in the center.

From our vantage point we watched probably thirty dance groups from places as far-flung as Russia, Slovakia, and France parade by. Each group had its own band or musical group, and they stopped right in front of us to perform for the viewing stand of dignitaries. What a show!

At first only my three year old Rinny could see (she was on my shoulders for two hours!) The other kids were mad and made all kinds of noise until finally they shoved their way through the crowd and sat down right in the street, front and center, and had an ABSOLUTE blast! It seemed like in every other group there was some performer who stopped to shake the hand or tossle the hair of the white kids. Many of the Mexican groups (which were BY FAR the best of the show!) had people dressed in fantastic costumes - devils, witches, saints, skeletons, etc. - and many of them took an interest in my kids. It was such a fantastic experience for them. I can't begin to describe the colors, the swirling dancers, the costumes and masks and music...

The different groups will be performing every day all over the city and even the state. They perform in pairs: one group from Mexico with one group from abroad. (Again, in my opinion, the Mexican groups are by far the best! Such amazing colors and vivid mix of Indian and Mexican and European.)

See video highlights of the street parade here.

On Tuesday the dance festival looked like it was going to be rained out, but the sun eventually returned and the shows went on. I left my evening class early to join Susi and the kids to see a local music and dance group from Zacatecas perform. They were all teenagers. The music was so fantastic and the dancing wonderful. Earlier that day I made an audio recording of the rehearsal for this performance which you can listen to here.

My last day of classes was Friday and since then we have been relaxing, resting, and trying to enjoy our final days in Zacatecas. Currently everyone is healthy – thank God! – although Saturday I thought I was coming down with the flu. I think my body was just crashing after a very intense six weeks: 210 hours of class, 38 hours of walking to and from class, and a year’s worth of language instruction! It has been an incredible experience, though. Looking forward to sharing pictures and stories this fall. See you all in September!


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This is going to be an exciting and fun event to attend. It would be full of colours and interesting activities throughout the city. Do share your pictures of the event.

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