Sisters dance together to honor Mexican heritage

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Many students may simply know Yazmin Martinez (11) as a sweet girl from CMA. But what many don’t know is that she has been performing traditional Mexican dances since she was just eight years old, just a year after moving away from her home in Jalisco, Mexico. Today, Yazmin is using her dancing to keep her culture and her family’s traditions alive.

On Saturday, September 17, Yazmin, along with her sister Alma Martinez (9), a VA student who has been dancing since the sixth grade, participated in a Spanish Festival called the “Gran Celebración del Día de la Raza,” or “The Grand Celebration of Columbus Day,” at the Iglesia de Most Blessed Sacrament. La Día de la Raza celebrates the day that Columbus arrived in the Americas, a day many South American countries celebrate.

The festival was created by the Archdiocese of Louisville, a Catholic organization whose Office of Multicultural Ministries was directly responsible for the day’s events. According to Charmein Weathers, an Office of Multicultural Ministries employee, the Archdiocese works with many different cultural communities in and around Jefferson County. “We work to create cultural and religious programs for different minority communities around the area, including Louisville’s Haitian and French-speaking African communities,” Weathers said.

To celebrate the holiday, the organization showcased many different traditional dances and musical perforrmances. One such dance was an Aztec tribal hunting dance, which used props like bows and arrows to tell a story. Many of the children who were in attendance performed a South American drum dance, in which the children danced in circles around a woman beating a rhythm on a drum. The dancers performed in traditional costumes, ranging from brightly colored dresses to feathered headbands to body paint.

The Martinez sisters performed a dance called “Los Sones Antiguos de Michoacan” with three other girls. The dance required the girls to wear traditional Mexican clothing, which consisted mainly of long, flowing skirts in bright colors, with their hair made into long braids, which were made even longer by yarn extensions. Both Martinez sisters wore these outfits proudly, because, as Yazmin said simply, “It’s important to keep Mexican tradition.”

Hispanic culture was portrayed at the event not just through dance and music, but through Mexican food, and different booths showcasing different cultures, including Mexican as well as Peruvian and others. One of the most ceremonial moments of the festival was the raising of cultural flags. For this part of the festival, participants held flags from numerous different Spanish-speaking countries side by side in a move to represent cultural unity. 

All of the money made from the $6 admissions price will go towards funding more events like these, so that the Archdiocese can create events for Hispanic and other multicultural groups. As for Yazmin and Alma, they are looking forward to dancing again soon in the Virgin of Guadalupe Festival on December 12.

Eliza Coleman is a 16 year old Junior at duPont Manual High School, studying in the HSU magnet. She is a staff writer for ManualRedeye.com.