The Texas State Historical Association’s website describes the Matachines as a traditional religious dance and the dancers, musicians, and elders who participate in it. The dance originated as a medieval sword dance called a Morisca. According to the same website, Spaniards brought this dance tradition to the new world where overtime incorporated Mexican, Indian, and American religious and social symbols.
In the Rio Grande Valley, the best opportunity of witnessing this ancient dance is during the festivity of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated every December 12th, and also during Catholic Christmas celebrations.
Harlingen, Texas is home to a group of ladies who perform the Matachines dance. The leader of the group is Dolores Jaimez who has been keeping this tradition alive since the late 1980s. Matachines are not exclusive to women, for both men and women participate. It is only in this case that it is a group of women, which makes it even more interesting.
Dolores and her group perform the Matachines dance in different Catholic churches of Harlingen during the festivities mentioned above. One of the things I admire the most about Dolores and her group is their willingness to volunteer and support local events throughout the year. This month, they were part of the ceremony for Dia de los Muertos hosted by the Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum where they delighted the crowd with their ancient ritual dance to the beat of the drum. Young and old marveled as some ladies said “they are older just like me! how fun, I wish I could do that!”
“Yes,” said Dolores. “We have women of all ages; we even have a new group of young girls.”
During the event, I asked a couple of members of the Matachines what they enjoyed the most about being part of this group. Claudia said she loved the opportunity of promoting the culture and traditions of Mexico, and Carmen said she enjoyed it because she loves to dance. Both said they practice every week and even three times a week when preparing for the December holidays.
Dolores works full time at the housing authority of Harlingen. Her passion is teaching the traditional folkloric dances of Mexico which she then shares with her community through several events. It is not hard to see how much her students admire and respect her.
One of the things spectators admire the most is their costumes. The vibrant colors, the feathers and the images of the Virgin of Guadalupe that embellish them. Dolores and her group have also performed folkloric dances of Mexico for different audiences. Dolores teaches her students at no cost, it is something she loves doing, and it is something that is worth writing about.