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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> Indigenous Dance during Navidad in Michoacán, Mexico tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Indigenous Dance during Navidad in Michoacán, Mexico

Shortly after Christmas 2018, I returned to Pátzcuaro, Michoacán to photograph the dances that take place after Christmas day. This was my first time to experience the holiday season in Michoacán. It was incredibly beautiful! My goal was to photograph seven dances, but I ended up only photographing five of the seven. One of the dances was on the island of Janitzio. After speaking to various individuals and receiving completely different answers, I left after spending three hours trying to locate the dance. The other dance in Nurio took place a day before I arrived in the village to speak to the mayordomo. Actually, this is quite common in Mexico to receive incorrect information. For some strange reason people in Mexico would rather make up a time and date whether than saying “I don’t know”. Es la vida!

Many of these dances that take place during this time of year are called “Pastorela” dances. Most of these dances start on December 24th. There are four young girls and boys who represent the shepherds. They carry these sparkly staffs called bacul, which are decorated with tinsel, Christmas ornaments, crepe paper, paper flowers and papier-mache fruit. They are dressed all in white and they wear straw hats that are full of tinsel and paper flowers. A young boy depicts San Miguel (Saint Michael) who is the guardian of the Christ child. There are three diablos Luzbel (Lucifer), Pecado (Sin) and Astucia (Cunning). The three diablos try to stop the shepherds from seeing the Christ child. Another character is in the dance is the ermitaño (the hermit). He pledges his allegiance to San Miguel. In the particular village where I witnessed the dance this year there was also a viejito and negrito dancer. The diablos aggressively approach San Miguel. A sword fight then commences with Luzbel and San Miguel. He slays Luzbel. The shepherds are then free to continue their journey to visit the Christ child.

Two of the five dances that I photographed took place in the Meseta (Plateau) Purépecha. These villages are located northwest of Uruapan. They are a little over two hours from Pátzcuaro. On January first I went to San Lorenzo to photograph the dance of the Cúrpites (male masked dancers) the Maringuillas (male masked dancers dressed in the clothing of women) and the Negrito dancers (masked male dancers). During my last days in Pátzcuaro, I went to Angahuan to photograph the dance of the Cúrpite and Maringuilla dancers. The Purépecha word “Cúrpite” translates to those who come together. There is really no tourism here. The indigenous Purépecha language is spoken in these villages. The people do speak Spanish as a second language.

The New Year’s Day event in San Lorenzo celebrated the birth and the Christ Child and honored the Virgin Mary. Before the late afternoon procession started, women helped the young men who portray the Maringuilla dancers by assisting them in getting dressed. This took between two to two and half hours. The young men stood on a straw mat and held onto a rope overhead to sturdy themselves as all the clothing was added to their body step by step. The first piece of clothing was two blouses, then a white underskirt, belts to secure this skirt, next a black wool pleated overskirt, multiple cotton belts were added to secure it as well, about three aprons, a brightly colored chrome beaded necklace, a small rebozo, a white head wrap to cover the head, the pink mask, earrings were then put into the ears of the mask, a straw hat with paper tulips attached and finally a long stream of ribbons that was attached to the back of the dancer’s hat. It was a fascinating experience to watch these men getting dressed. The procession in San Lorenzo was made up of the Cúrpite, Maringuilla and Negrito dancers. Four young women in the village carried the anda (procession float) with the Virgin Mary in the procession. The Mayordomo was a part of the procession along with musicians and the dancers.
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Church in Angahuan
Church in Angahuan
Cúrpite and Negrito dancers
Cúrpite and Negrito dancers
Cúrpite dancer
Cúrpite dancer
Nacimiento
Nacimiento
The Capilla in San Lorenzo
The Capilla in San Lorenzo
Portrait of San Miguel
Portrait of San Miguel
Preparing the clothing
Preparing the clothing
Nativity in San Lorenzo
Nativity in San Lorenzo
Negrito dancer
Negrito dancer
The andas
The andas
Girls in the Pastorela dance
Girls in the Pastorela dance
The church in Ihuatzio
The church in Ihuatzio
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