Dancing on Cinco De Mayo

Happy belated cinco de Mayo– day of celebrating Mexican pride and heritage and defeating French forces in some epic battle! Or as I like to call it, ‘the one day of the year that it’s acceptable to eat taco bell’.

I have never been to Mexico. All I ever hear about is the wonder of Cabo, the grossness of Cancun, and the ever famous quote ‘don’t drink the water’.

The closest experience I have with Mexico is chain restaurants and the Laura Esquivel novel, ‘Like Water for Chocolate’. I love this book for many reasons; interesting female characters (the men are quite secondary players), the use of magic surrealism, and the recipes in the beginning of every chapter and incorporated as essential elements to the plot of the story. The title has a dual meaning; in Mexico, hot chocolate is made by melting chocolate over a pot of boiling water (so there’s the cooking element). It also works as a metaphor for strong feelings, both sexual and anger, being ‘boiling mad’. The book is basically a love story told through food. Delicious. On both counts.

Knowing this gives me new insight to why people say don’t drink the water. Don’t drink it, boil it- and then drink hot chocolate instead. Maybe I will try doing that next year for cinco de mayo, especially since I don’t really know what dance-form they use to celebrate their heritage.

Apparently, the ‘Mexican hat dance’ is a real thing. I don’t know why, but I thought it was an invention of Walt Disney or something. Nope. This popular folk dance is actually the national dance of Mexico and a symbol of pride and honor for its people, even more than the burrito.

The Jarabe Tapatio as it’s called, is a dance of love and courtship. The hat comes into play when the man throws it to the ground and the woman stoops to pick it up- and the dance ends when they feign a kiss behind the hat- or really go for it, depending on how ‘into their characters’ they are.

The dance became even more popular when famous Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, created a version done in pointe shoes. (This little sketch is from a portrait of her seen in the Kirov School Museum in St. Petersburg, again from my journal kept while I was studying in Russia).  Apparently, she was showered with hats at the curtain call by her adoring

3rd grade ‘razzmatazz’ talent show at my elementary school- I did a dance to the ‘cuban pete’ song from the jim carrey movie, ‘the mask’. that’s me on the left with the bangs

Mexican audiences. Personally, I think I’d prefer roses, but I obviously don’t look so great in a sombrero.

In 1924 the secretary of Education decided that the dance should be taught in the public school system as a form of Mexican identity, designed to supersede any local dance traditions and bind together the ethnically diverse population. That is something that I love so much about  many art forms, whether it be dance, music, literature, or culinary arts; it has the power to help define a culture and manage to equalize it and bring it together.

The arts are often the catalyst  for empowerment, self-expression, education, and unity. Like water for chocolate, dance can turn the whole world into one big melting pot. Even if I’ve never been to Mexico, I think I can celebrate that.

3 thoughts on “Dancing on Cinco De Mayo

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