The challenging preservation of Mexico's ancient cultures
Concheros, a lost tradition?
The arrival of the spanish to Mexico in 1492 changed the local traditions: some of them were erased, others changed and just a few were respected just as they were. The concheros dance, the ancient way to claim and workship in ceremonies, was one of those who has been changed, it used the mask of the Christianity to survive.
The ancient traditions were based around the mysticism of the aztec temples. The Spanish used this to their advantage and built their temples just over the Aztec ones. In that way the people that used to go there will feel familiar to come back even if it was a new religion.The dance was only performed outside the temples, as the Spanish forbade for it to take place inside.
Ulises, one dancer, explains about the typical clothes: "The spanish banned the loincloth, so we use skirts. They banned the drums, so now we use the 'conchas'" (seeds that make a noise to become a percussion instrument). The basis of their dance is the four elements water, fire, earth and air; the elements worshiped by the Aztecs. "The elements give us the life", says one of the participants of the group called 'Nahuyollotl' (meaning four hearts or four cardinal points). He says that he makes this dance because "it fills his spiritual, mental, and energetic spirits." All of these dances have a ceremonial aspect to them. But the youth don’t seem to see the religious element, as José, one mexican spectator of the dance, states: “The young people just see it as a show, they don’t notice the religious or spiritual part of it. We are losing our tradition as time goes on.”
As well as the religious view, the government is interested mostly in the cultural view. The dancers finance themselves, their own staff give the resources to keep going with the activities, and the government helps mostly in giving venues and permission to present the dances. There are also spaces for this kind of dances in the youth institutes, with the government support it as an activity to perpetuate this tradition. Mario, leader of a company of young actors, say “I don’t think that the Mexican traditions need to disappear, I think that they need to develop so they will be more interesting for the youth again.”
Nowadays there are forums and meetings with NGOs and group of dancers to see how to develop the dances, how to promote the ancient culture and how to regain the interest of the youth in these kind of traditions. If the youth don’t understand the importance of theirculture, this will become nothing but a nice memory for generations to come.