Dance in Mexican culture: salsa and more
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
Patrick O’Heffernan (Ajijic).- Late last year The Mint, the oldest rock club in Los Angeles, took a chance on a Latino band. After all, LA is half Latino and is the second largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, so a Latino band might draw a crowd, even if the club’s usual audience was gringo. However, the promoters hedged their bets – the band they brought in was a salsasoul band, Cecelia Nöel and The Wild Clams, which happens to include her husband, Colin Hay, lead guitarist for Men at Work.
The club was packed, about half and half Mexican/Latinos here for Cecelia’s high energy salsa and half gringos for a the legendary Colin Hayes. The Latinos cleared the floor in front of the stage – usually filled with head bobbing rock fans – and danced. When Cecelia and her band appeared again a month later, the room was double packed with salsa clubs and Mexican couples who seem to never stop dancing. It is in the blood.
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
Dancing is also in the Mexican culture. Dancing predates the Spanish with the pre-Columbian civilizations that developed ceremonial dances. The Concheros dance was developed after the sacking of Tenochtitlan in 1522. Since then dance has developed into many regional varieties, each reflecting the nature of its area, but all embodying the fierce, independent and joyous culture of Mexico. Mexicans dance because it is prideful and it is fun.
The diversity of dance in Mexico is astonishing. sometimes blending Catholicism and history, and sometimes celebrating the aboriginal peoples of Mexico. In Ajijic and Chapala we see many of the regional styles, but one stand outs, the Jarabe Tapatio – The Mexican Hat Dance. It originated in Jalisco and named the national dance of Mexico in 1924, as part of a national push to unite the regions and culture of the country. It is basically a seduction set to mariachi music with the couple flirting closer and closer and ending with a kiss hidden behind a sombrero.
Another symbolic dance of Mexico is the Jarana Yucateca in which couples dance complex tap steps while keeping their upper bodies so still and straight that they can and do balance trays of drinks or bottles of water on their heads without spilling a drop. Originating from the state of Yucatan around the 17th and 18th centuries it shows strong Spanish influence, but like all things Mexico, was transformed into native Mexican style.
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
Other regional dances include to the Danza del Venado of Sonora performed by the Yaqui people telling the story of the deer hunt and honoring the deer – represented by a dancer with antlers. The Danza de los Comales is a woman’s dance from Tabasco that represents fertility, especially beans and corn. The dancers hold comales – the griddles used to cook tortillas – as they sway and step in white dresses with embroidered moons, elotes, and cacao seeds. Music is provided with flutes and drums – far more stripped down than the mariachi of the Jalisco dances.
In the parades in Ajijic and Chapala we also see the Danza de los Tlacololeros, which comes from Guerro. An all-male pre-Columbian dance that has endured because it is considered a part of ensuring crop fertility. Ironically, having originated long before the Catholic domination of Mexico, it is most often danced on Catholic holy days. The costumes represent farmers and often utilize masks and props for harvesting tools or even hunting rifles.
The list goes on – Son Jarocho from Veracruz, Ballet Folklorico, many Bailes Regionales, Mestizo, El Baile de Los Viejitos, parachicos and others. But the king of them all -as far of having fun is concerned- is salsa. As The Mint discovered, most Mexicans can and do dance salsa whenever they can, so much so that it is the most danced music in the Mexico, followed by cumbia and bachata
Ironically, salsa is not an indigenous dance and neither is cumbia or bachata. Salsa arose in New York City during the 1960s, blending Cuban musical genres like Afro-Cuban son montuno, guaracha, cha cha chá, mambo, bolero and the Puerto Rican Plena and Bomba. But, as with many other things, when the Mexicans encountered Salsa and adopted it, they made it their own. Now salsa night clubs abound in major cities in the country, salsa organizations compete, and every band knows they can get a Mexican audience on its feet with salsa.
Mexican salsa is more than just fun. Salsa dancers, especially if they are in salsa organizations, wear stylized formal clothes that exhibit the pride in their country. There is also great pride in the dance. It has been thoroughly “Mexicanized” and as such is an outward representation of the country. Further proof that Mexico is highly adept at taking pieces of culture from around the world and making them not only Mexican, but fun.
Meet Maureen Clark, a photographer based in Ajijic
Patrick O´Heffernan. – Maureen Clark is a multi-faceted photographer based in Ajijic since 2016 whose work ranges from art to portraiture to sports to fashion, to shooting antiquities for a New York museum. Her photographs adorn the walls of private homes and museums including the New York and the Santé Fe Art Museums as well the pages and covers of numerous publications including the cover of El Ojo de Lago.
Her clients include TV shows including “The Office», “Modern Family”, and “Parenthood” and she recently recently completed bluesman John Mayall’s «A Special Life» album cover.
One of her specialties is to paint on her photographs with water colors or acrylics and she is now experimenting with water color painting. Maureen displays her work in restaurants and galleries in Lakeside and her photographs are currently hanging at the Pale Restaurant in Ajijic, the Mediterranean Restaurant in Riberies, the new Dharma Restaurant on the Malecón in Ajijic. She works in both color and black and white and her photographs range in scale from 5×7 to 20×24 . Maureen’s photographs are available for showing by appointment and she can also be scheduled for portraits. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lip Sync 12 rocks the Auditorio De La Ribera for three days
(Patrick O’Heffernan, Ajijic). Lola Beltrán, Luis Fonsi, Mick Jagger, the Supremes, ballerinas from the Hernández School of Ballet in Guadalajara and even President Trump rocked the Auditorio De La Ribera for three days this past weekend with music and dance during Lip Sync12, the 42nd annual production of what is the largest and longest running lip sync review in the world.
Produced and directed by former comedian/actor/model Michael McLaughlin, now in his 12th year of directing the show, Lip Sync is the year’s major fundraiser to improve the Auditorio. This year the program and the cast were more diverse than ever, a goal of McLaughlin’s in an effort not only to raise funds for the Auditorio and local charities, but to bring the Mexican and Ex-pat cultures together. The program consisted of 25 acts, some with multiple singers and dancers. Audiences thrilled to “Despacito”, “You Don’t Own Me”, “All That Jazz”, and “Spoonful of Sugar. They also sang along, dodged golf balls, laughed at a search for car keys, and got up close and personal with dancers who came off the stage in a Billy Porter number.
Whether the songs were in Spanish, English or German, they resonated with the crowd. All of this was moved along smartly by McLaughlin while he joked about the performance of Canadian hockey teams, got down on his knees to talk with a tiny dancer from the Hernandez School of Ballet and gave the women in the audience advanced warning of when they could run to the men’s room and avoid the line in a woman’s room at intermission.
Lip Sync12 ran like a well-oiled machine but Michael says looks can be deceiving. Getting the more than 50 people it takes to produce the show syncing together onstage and backstage took three months of work, but not necessarily a tight organization. “I thrive in chaos”, he says. I enjoy chaos more than a structured program myself and the show is actually kind of loose. I don’t really direct, I just try to get the actors on and off stage at the right times.”
They did hit their cues, right down to Donald Trump lip synching “Senorita”, coming in exactly on time (it was an edited video, no waiting for Air Force 1), in line with McLaughlin’s belief that “The art of directing can be described as ‘Keep’em moving onstage”.
And that is one of the secrets of Lip Sync’s popularity. “I try to keep the acts short,” he says, “and short introductions for the songs, which are an average of three minutes long.” He has also added dancers and dance numbers in recent years and throws in a few surprises, like the golf balls hit into the crowd during “Thanks for the Memory” and flying in Mary Poppins for “Spoonful of Sugar.”
Despite the short 3-month production preparation time, many of the actors — all of whom were local this year except the Hernández Dancers – start working on their acts and costumes much earlier. Liddy Townsend who lip synched Lola Beltrán’s “Por Un Amore” said she starts about six weeks before production begins and sings the song about 30 times a night – driving her neighbors crazy.
Over the 12 years Michaels has produced Lip Sync, it has paid for improvements in sound and lighting and the acoustics of the hall. This year he wants to help pay for a new floor in the dance studio – about $7000US – because the existing one has holes in it. And of course, the expansion of the woman’s room on the priority list. The Jalisco Secretary of Culture has announced plans for upgrades to the facility and the funds raised by Lip Sync will be spent in coordination and with the permission of the Secretary
Michael claims that the hardest part of this is the creativity part – selecting songs and acts and surprises. “After 11 years of shows, I have to up the ante entertainment-wise for the paying public,” he says. That should be no problem based on this year’s performance and because the great record he has to build on.
The Ajijic Delegado sits down for a conversation on streets and traffic lights.
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan.
Patrick O’Heffernan. Ajijic, JAL. The Delegado of Ajijic, Juan Ramón Flores, sat down with Semanario Laguna Tuesday morning for a frank discussion of the state of streets and streetlights in Ajijic, a continuing topic of controversy. As any resident, Ex-pat or Mexican can attest, potholes abound, stop lights are hard to see and often have burned out bulbs, and progress is slow on fixing them. Last year, the City and the Municipality of Chapala embarked on a comprehensive street upgrade, which included a sidewalk on the Carretera in downtown Ajijic, improved bicycle paths, repainting the facades of private buildings on the Carretera, and installation of some underground utilities. Supporting this effort, this past summer the Ex-Pat King, Queen Steve Cross, and Catherine Claire Blythe embarked on an $88,000mx volunteer program to repair potholes, beginning with the north end of street Revolución.
Delegado Flores pulled out maps of planned improvements and pictures and budgets of ongoing projects, but he was clear that funding projects was complex because of overlapping jurisdictions.
On top of determining who would pay for what, projects had to be selected by the taxpayers and that controversy over use the use of cement, the street appearance, and other local disputes held up work even when money was available. The controversy over the use of concrete for crosswalks at the intersection of Ocampo and Aquiles Serdán is one example, but not the only one or the last one he said. He pointed out that the need for local buy-in and agreement means that street repairs proceed with many small projects one project at a time.
Complicating the situation is that the SIMAPA agency in Chapala is responsible for potholes and the Federal government is responsible for repairing the Carretera. Flores has often taken matters into his own hands by personally filling potholes on the Carretera with materials and skilled workers from Chapala when the Federal government does not.
“The streets are for everyone, even if they are not our responsibility. That is why I and my family and friends go out ourselves and fill in the potholes on the Carretera,” he said.
As for costs, he pulled out the construction plans and photos of a recent project involving replacing cobblestones on streets of Ocampo, Constitución, Flores Magón, Aldama and surrounding streets, with a budget of $417,720mx from the Municipality of Chapala. Other projects will be budgeted as they are reviewed and selected, and the neighborhoods reach agreement on them.
The other topic involving traffic that he talked about was traffic lights – why are there so few of them on corners, why are they so hard to see, and why are so many bulbs burned out. The subject animated him and he was adamant that this needed fixing.
““I don’t know who put in the traffic lights in Ajijic, but I lived in the US for some years and you could see the lights from everywhere at the corners. Here, it is not good. We need to change that,” he said.
He mentioned several intersections on the Carretera that were not safe and had seen accidents as locations that needed better traffic control, plus the roundabout at the entrance to La Floresta. When asked about burned out light bulbs in traffic lights on the Carretera, he did not have the information at his fingertips, but he called the town’s engineering staff and asked them to forward information on replacing burned out traffic light bulbs, adding more traffic lights at unsafe corners, and pinpointing corners that need priority work. He promised to forward the information to us as soon as it is available. Unfortunately, residents -and even the Delegado- can’t take matters into their hands and replace stoplight bulbs and add more lights to intersections by themselves. Traffic control has to be arranged, parts and skilled workers need to lined up as well as money (watch this space).
President Moises Anaya of Chapala reports on 140 million pesos in municipal expenditures, while minimizing security problems in his Informe.
Photo: Semanario Laguna.
Skipping the formal lectern at the Auditorium of La Ribera, a relaxed and self-confident, Moisés Anaya Aguilar, President of Chapala, issued his First Government Report, or Informe, spending two hours detailing the municipality’s expenditure of up to 140 million pesos in public works and social programs. The event was not full, as it competed with the Ajijic Balloon Regatta and a two-day biker party in the Parque de la Cristianía. However, a substantial and very attentive audience was on hand, bringing up complaints and asking for more information. Aguilar reported the following departmental expenditures:
Ecology programs $5.5 million
Health programs $ 6 million
Education programs $8 million
Government operations and enforcement $40 million
He played up the area of Ecology although it received the least resources, only five and a half million pesos. He also reported on expenditures by the municipality for drilling a drinking water well for Santa Cruz de la Soledad, street repair in Chapala and Atotonilquillo, the bicycle path in the Chapala-Ajijic station and the auto bridge in San Nicolás de Ibarra. However, he did not go into crime and the much anticipated public security statistics despite the September armed attack on the Chapala Regional Base by a van with armed men, and the February report that the municipality was 7th in Jalisco in execution style killings.
Aguilar promised additional expenditures of 80 million pesos for all municipalities by the end of the 2020 fiscal cycle, and the transfer this year of six million pesos for the local campus of the University of Guadalajara (UdeG), of which three million are planned in the fiscal year of 2019. Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo streets in the municipal capital will also receive funding next year.
Aguilar boasted the conclusion of the path around the statue of Jesús Pescador on the boardwalk of Chapala, work initiated by the former mayor and current councilor Gerardo Degollado (2007-2009). He also reported on projects managed by the former mayor and current councilor Javier Degollado González (2015-2018), specifically, Lázaro Cárdenas street in the Chapala and the pedestrian crossings in San Antonio Tlayacapan and Ajijic and the opening of the Center for Technological Studies in Continental Waters (CETAC).
He also reported on obtaining the space for the community museum in San Antonio Tlayacapan, but said what he is most «proud of» is the creation of the Community Dining Room for senior citizens in the municipal seat. This project was state supported but is maintained with half of his salary as mayor of Chapala. A down note in the presentation was a video in which he described cuts from the Federal government.
Other state-supported projects were detailed in the Report, including a canopy placed in the San Antonio Tlayacapan school, which had appeared in an earlier social media post by Governor Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, as well as DARE Program progress and over a 100 cultural events. Notably absent were funds for tourist promotion, although five million pesos was included for the rehabilitation of the Municipal Market.
Lake Chapala Society Fiesta celebrates Ajijic’s Mexican Heart
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
Patrick O’Heffernan (Ajijic,Jal). Mistress of Ceremony Paola de Watlerlot presided over the Traditional Fiesta Mexicana at Ajijic’s Lake Chapala Society Friday, September 6, featuring Mariachi Los Cardenales, a children’s Ballet Folklórico from the La Escuela Marcos Castellanos, charro lasso tricks, and a stick horse escaramuza. The contestants for this year’s Queen of Ajijic were introduced and chatted with people and posed for selfies.
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
Every chair and table was filled long before the event began at 2:30 pm with a main stage welcome by Paola, who serves on the Lake Chapala Society Recycling Committee – a sponsor and the theme of the event. Expats joined friends and family of the many Mexican performers for homemade tacos and beer during the four-hour program that showed off some of Ajijic’s best Mexican performers.
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
At one point the audience moved from the mainstage area to the great lawn for the performance by the stick horse riders from the Escaramuza Pedagógica Caballitos de Palo Las Pohanquitos de Axixic, led by Erika Navarro Robledo, demonstrating the skirmishing and dancing skills that have qualified them for the Circuito National de Caballitos de Palo later this year. A demonstration of precision Charro riding skills with two horses followed to the delight of the crowd and a forest of cellphones and cameras.
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
The sold-out event is part of the Annual Giving Season which runs through December 31 to raise funds for its over 100 programs that assist expats in Lakeside, as well as support activities with the Lakeside Mexican community. The Lake Chapala Society is located at 16 de septiembre #16-A Ajijic, Jalisco.
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
Singer Yanin Saavedra previews her debut album at her Ajijic home
Photo: Patrick O’Heffernan
Patrick O’Heffernan (Ajijic, Jal.) A full house of friends, family and music industry representatives occupied Ajijic singer-songwriter Yanin Saavedra’s home last week for the preview of her debut album, Busqeda. Yanin and her partner, bass player Gilberto Rios, turned their house in West Ajijic into an welcoming venue with a bar on the lawn, a buffet of delicious meats, cheeses, fruits and breads, and a living room packed with chairs for the crowd. Several photographers and a cameraman were on hand to record the event.
The living room glittered with candles and a projection of the album cover on one wall as the crowd mingled in clusters around the pool, sipping wine and mescal. Yanin moved from group to group, hugging friends, enchanting visitors with her 1000-watt smile, and trying her best to contain her excitement.
Saavedra is well-known in Lakeside where she teaches music in local schools and plays in local venues, so the whole community was looking forward to the party and to the album. She has toured Mexico and Europe, playing festivals and clubs and even streets across the Continent. She has been influenced by traditional music from around the world and contemporary Latin music. This gives her original songs an up-to-the-minute Latin flavor with a global mixture of traditional rhythms and sensibilities. She blends the many influences from her travel with her glorious voice and impressive guitar skills to create a unique style often tagged in the «world music» genre, but which is actually much broader.
Despite her extensive touring and live performances, Busqueda is her first album. She has released singles on Bandcamp and a live video on YouTube, but this will be her first foray into a global audience. As careful and precise as she is creative, Yanin decided to preview the album, rather than release it — part of a strategy to introduce herself to the world and to insure that her rights are protected – a step many musicians skip in their rush to market.
The band was set up in a corner of the spacious living room, backed by a sunlit window into the garden. Yanin stood in the center surrounded by the musicians – Gilberto Rios on bass, Vinent Houdré on accordion , Angel Madrigal on drums and Luis Almaguer on guitar – and thanked her many supporters before launching into the first songs on the album. About halfway through, she took a break so the audience could refresh their drinks, graze at the buffet table. The second half of the concert ramped up the tempo earning clapping and dancing from the audience. Altogether a good start for what is sure to be a huge success.
Yanin has not yet set a arelease date for Busqeda but singles can be heard on Yanin’s Bandcamp page. Follow her on Facebook for an announcement of the album release.
Niñas star at the Gran Fiesta Charra in Ajijic Sunday.
Patrick O’Heffernan (Ajijic) The central stands of las Instalaciones de Lienzo Charro Ajijic (Ajijic bullring) were populated with entranced Mexicans and ex-pats enjoying the Gran Fiesta Charra Sept. 1, a benefit for “Escuela Pedagógica Caballito de Palo, Las Potranquitas de Axixic” – girls and women training to be Escaramuzas, members of professional teams riding horses in choreographed synchronized maneuvers to music.
Escaramuza charra is the only female equestrian event in the Mexican charrería competitions and is the most difficult because the women must ride precisely while in sidesaddle wearing heavy petticoats. The events included a dancing horse, the smallest girls from Escuela Infantil de Charreria de San Jose de Potrerillos riding stick horses, several Ballet Folklóricos and children’s folklóricos, and children’s trick roping – one boy jumped his spinning lariat 48 times! Highlights of the day were the presentation of sombreros to very young girls (and one very young boy) and the dances of the Ballet Folklorico Infantil de Axixic.
Las Potranquitas de Axixic still needs to raise $29,000mx to send 12 girls and one boy to Morelos to compete in “Circuito Nacional Caballitos de Palo” (a Escaramuza competition with stick horses). Donations can be made by calling: 33 11 57 9549 with Amparo Robledo.