La Danza a la Santa Cruz

Every year, around late April or early May, my family both those in Mexico and the ones here in the U.S. host a dance celebration. It’s purpose it to commemorate the Holy Cross (as we are Catholic) and do so by dancing. Many members of my family dress up in red skirts and white shirts decorated with sequins and layers of thin, hollow wooden tubes to make sound as they dance. They also wear huaraches and hats adorned with ribbons and paper flowers. The ceremony begins during daytime mass in which dancers march into the church and then we hear mass. Later on we gather at a ranch nearby where the dancing continues, now with food all around and the place decorated with papel picado. The dance is led by the music of a single violin and the metal sonajas that follow the violin’s rhythm. the dancers are formed from tallest to shortest. The dancing lasts all evening until dawn with small breaks in between. During the breaks, “morenos” (people in costumes and masks who also dance) put on silly productions. Also during the breaks, other dances are put on until the main one resumes. Those who aren’t dancing typically sit around the dancers to talk and gossip, eat food, or simply observe the dancers. At the front of the dancing area, there is an make-shift alter. Here, candles are lit and images of saints and holy figures are on display along with the most important aspect: a human-sized cross decorated with flowers. People take turns holding up the cross all night.

This celebration has been a part of my family for over 120 years where it was originally held only in Mexico. Family here in the U.S. often make a visit to Mexico in order to celebrate over there. It’s roots are based in religious devotion and especially in Latin America, devotion is done in a variety of ways and often to different people/things. In this case, it’s the holy cross, a highly revered symbol in Christianity.

These celebrations are more personal to my family than they are a widespread national or even local thing like many other religious celebrations. I’ve only ever heard of another group of people doing something similar to this and they usual wear blue instead of red and come from another town in Mexico near where my family comes from. Having spent every year, especially my childhood years seeing this family tradition, I’ve felt so in touch with my Mexican roots as it means getting to be a part of something so unique and personal although I myself never got the hang of the dancing part. People like my dad and uncles show extreme pride and devotion towards this celebration as I’ve noticed that it not only signifies their pride within national or religious identity, but also within their family itself.