Tututepec has its celebration for the anniversary of the foundation of the town in mid-April, a large event that combines the regions cultural highlights – basically dancing and livestock. During the day there was an animal show, a guess-the-calf’s-weight raffle, singers, free food and a horse dancing show. The kids were most impressed when one of the dancing horses shat in the middle of the arena, but that’s kids for you.
At night there was a demonstration of traditional dances. These events are quite common — anyone who has traveled to a Mexican city has likely seen a show like this, with groups from around Mexico dancing on stage. The main difference here is that all the groups were from individual towns within the municipality, demonstrating the traditional dances of that particular town. This is why Mexico is described as having a mega-diverse culture… it’s not just the country or the states that have different customs and traditions, it’s each town, and quite often each suburb or diocese. It’s possible these traditions will ebb away as highways are built across the land and TV and the internet become more common, but it’s equally possible they’ll be maintained, even if it’s only a in retro or anachronistic way.
I was most impressed by the dance from Jamiltepec. It’s the Mexican think I’ve ever seen — and the dancers from Juquila included an El Torrito. The Jamiltepec dance was a little bit cantina, and a lot wedding-of-the-year. The women wore colourful dresses with intricate designs and the men wore the traditional white outfit of rural Mexico. The dancers moved frenetically, had a lot of fun, and shouted a lot. They had a cry of excitement and warning, like a mix between a baying dog and a cock crowing, which they’d let off at random intervals and which reverberated around the square. At one point they formed a circle, and one woman put her fingers on her head like horns, pretending to be a bull, and charged at a man dancing like a matador and waving his paleacate (bandana) like a bullfighter. At the end the man fell over.
The most Mexican part was when the dancing was paused for insults. Everyone would stop and a couple would go up to the microphone, and the man would make vulgar comments about what they wanted to do to the woman sexually. The woman would then give a scathing reply that the man was too pathetic to even jerk off to the woman and it would be a pleasant day in Santa Rosa before she slept with him, and then people would laugh and give the baying crow in appreciation.
The dances from Juquila were very similar to those from Jamiltepec, except that the men wore colourful shirts and the movements were a tad more constrained. However, at the end they pulled out an El Torrito, which is a paper-maché bull in a wooden frame covered in fireworks. They light the fireworks and then charge at people with it, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. This one was different from those in Cuernavaca in that they concentrated on fireworks that made painfully loud noises rather than ones that spat out dangerous amounts of sparks.
The dances from other towns varied more (and they may have been from other towns in Oaxaca, rather than just the municipality). The most indigenous style had people dressed with colourful semi-circles on their heads that were maybe a metre across, and other garb and decorations that showed prehispanic roots. It’s the first dance I’ve seen that actually included people leaping and gamboling, with a graceful movement where the dancers seemed to follow a curved path in the air. The trick probably involved swinging the legs, and it’s damn impressive.
Another group reminded me of Chinelos on stilts. The dancers were on stilts, dressed in a crude mockery of old-style Spain, and danced to music that jitters and twirls like latino jazz. The dance itself was a weird shuffle, but the movements were precisely defined. I’m sure it was developed in the same way the Chinelos of Morelos were — too mock the Spaniards.
There was a very Spanish dance with just two people, in which they moved energetically and the woman lifted her dress a lot. The final dance was from the municipal capital, Tututepec itself, and was far more sedate. The women wore a white sheet wrapped around them leaving them backless, and the dancers moved slowly and elegantly through the moves.
At the end of each group’s demonstration the dancers through things into the crowded, various bread products in brightly coloured wrapping. The kids passed out long before the end, though, it finished pretty late.