Jan. 8, 2009
In this episode, we explore the Eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in the lively culture of the Jarocho people in Veracruz and those around the River Papaloapan. Besides el Tilingo Lingo. la Bruja and El Aguanieve (El Zapateado), the focus is on the wedding dance, el son de La Bamba. In addition, the costumes are vividly described, along with the romantic Mexican custom of the serenata (the serenade), but this time, Mananitas con jarana.
Notice that the gentleman Jarocho dancer and his lady companion would sometimes compete to the vibrant, rhythmic steps of the very fast heel-and-toe movements and steps called zapateados and taconeados (as is depicted in the photo of the dance, el son del tilingo lingo).
On other occasions, the women would imitate the movements with their skirts of such animals such as palomas (doves) and mariposas (butterflies). One such dance is El Palomo y la Paloma, where the man's chivalry shines through. In some folklorico groups, the gentlemen bring in chairs to the stage so that the ladies may be seated. During the dance, the men tip their hats, remove them and bow, while genuflecting in front of their damsel, to show the high respect that Mexican men had for the women that they were courting.
On other occasions, the loveliness of the mestiza came through in a sensual dance called La Bruja (the witch). The serious look of the women pervade the evening as they dance with lit candles on their heads. As these women solo in their purely feminine dance, the theme of woman being the enchantress is dominant in this tropical region.
The music is lively, with songs famous as the Canto a Veracruz, El Balaju and El Siquirisi, as well as El Cascabel. The musicians play with the Veracruz harp, which is smaller and much more vibrant than the classical harp. A very similar harp is played in neighboring Venezuela, whose coastal peoples have a lively culture very similar to that of the jarochos. In addition to the melody lead of the harp, the jarana and requinto add accompaniment and rhythm, as well as the Spanish guitarra.
The competition for groups and families is seen in El Aguanieve (also known today as El Zapateado), where improvisations and contests reign on the tarima (the wooden platform), and the finale ends with the entire ensemble participating together in the last verses.
The couples perform their dynamic steps in their white costumes, reflecting the heat of this subtropical climate.
The jarocho region of Veracruz is considered to be one of the liveliest and happiest areas of Mexican folklorico dance. For some people, it is incredible to imagine that these songs, like the wedding song of La Bamba, were being danced in the 18th century (during the time of the American War for Independence, also known as the Revolutionary War).
Today, La Bamba is still the favorite of wedding couples, as they tie the knot (literally) by dancing steps while tying a bow with their feet, signifying their union and unity in marriage. It is the audio of La Bamba that is featured in this podcast episode 003.