Swirling, colorful dresses, live musical performances and cheers filled Royce Hall on May 22, where UCLA’s Grupo Folklórico held its first in-person Fiesta Mexicana since 2019.
The Fiesta Mexicana featured student dancers from UCLA’s Grupo Folklórico, a student-run organization that showcases Mexican artistic and musical traditions, as well as young dancers the group has mentored from Palms Middle School. The dancers were accompanied by groups such as Grupo Zep7imo, Tambora Los Parientes and Mariachi de Uclatlán. The event started at 5 p.m.
Preparations for this year’s Fiesta Mexicana began at the end of the fall term, said Rene Calzadilla, a fourth-year history student and one of the artistic directors of UCLA’s Grupo Folklórico. With 60 members to manage and different dance styles to perform, preparing for Fiesta Mexicana was stressful at times, Calzadilla said. The feat would not have been possible without planning and fundraising by the organization’s 13-member cabinet team, he added.
The group performed dances in styles from various regions of Mexico, including those of Campeche, Sinaloa, Baja California, Colima, Tamaulipas, Jalisco and Zacatecas.
The dances also showcased the traditional dress and musical styles of each region. For example, in Jalisco, the upper part of the faldeo, or skirt worn during folklórico dances, almost covers the face, said Xitlali Gomez-Williams, secretary of UCLA’s Grupo Folklórico who performed in Jalisco’s regional dance.
Some members of Grupo Folklórico said they saw the show as a chance to represent their heritage for the first time.
Sophia Torres Pomares, a first-year English student, said her first dance training was with Grupo Folklórico, adding that she enjoyed being able to represent her culture at university.
Participant Consuelo Martinez, a UCLA alumnus and former member of Grupo Folklórico de UCLA, said she had no plans to join a student group when she arrived at UCLA, but was grateful to have been part of the group.
“Being in this group was the first time I was able to learn more about my culture, but (I) feel like it’s now or never to try something that I was kind of put off. or embarrassed when I was younger,” she says.
At one point during the performance, some audience members danced during the tamborazo – a type of high-percussion, regional Mexican music played during the show by Tambora Los Parientes.
Those spirited moments of audience participation made the show a heartwarming representation of Mexican culture, said Maria Linares, a third-year sociology student.
“It’s a great feeling to be represented in such a beautiful place like Royce,” Linares added.
As a Mexican parent, said Alejandro Salas-Villa, one of the event’s hosts, he enjoyed the culture on display.
Salas-Villa, a fourth-year Education and Social Transformation and Public Affairs student, said he grew up in a predominantly Latino community surrounded by diverse styles of Mexican music and dance. He was encouraged to see them on display at UCLA, Salas-Villa added.
During their performance, Grupo Zep7imo discussed the importance for new generations to return to and carry on old Mexican traditions, said Yesenia Apreza, participant and third-year biochemistry student.
“That’s what these different dances show,” Apreza said. “It shows the past and the present, and shows how we are not going to forget where we come from or our roots, and we are going to use them in this institution.”
Martinez said she was nostalgic to see this year’s production take place at Royce Hall.
“Most of the people we recognize were freshmen when we were seniors, and we haven’t seen them since,” Martinez said. “So it was like (a) really nice, you know, kind of a full circle moment.”
Being in his senior year at UCLA, Calzadilla said putting on the show was bittersweet. However, he said he has confidence in the group’s leadership for next year, adding that they are well equipped to carry on the tradition.
“My last memory of this band will be that performance and everything everyone did for the show,” Calzadilla said. “It was a great start.”