Latinos honor Day of Resistance with cultural dances

By By Michael McFall

By Michael McFall

Although many Americans will kick back and enjoy Monday, being federally exempt from work, a group of Utahns wants to remind them that there is a forgotten dark side to Columbus Day.

More than 25 Latino and American Indian children and adults from the local community gathered on the Union Patio to preserve an ancient ritual8212; dances that honor ancestors and the elements8212;that almost didn’t survive the European colonization. The dances, performed by the local Latino dance troupe Ichantzinco Tlaloc, was the main event for the Day of Resistance, organized by the U’s Latino activist student group, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan.

“It’s our way of making a space for all indigenous tribes of America, not only Central America, but the Native American tribes as well, including the Utes,” said Lola Reyes, co-chair of MEChA.

The Day of Resistance is meant to remind the world that the arrival of explorers on North American shores might have meant wealth and prosperity for Europeans, but it was the beginning of the end for indigenous people.

“The (dances are) one of the few traditions that survived,” said dancer Mara Carrasco, as her fellow performers suited up in Aztec costumes8212;a collection of feathers, armor, cloth, beads and shells8212;that they crafted themselves. “We don’t do it just because it looks pretty; it’s deeply spiritual.”

The ancient dances, originating in the Toltec era, came under fire during the colonization of Central America, Carrasco said. During the colonization, the Catholic Church persecuted indigenous tribes that tried to preserve their culture.

“They would hunt down and kill the dancers,” Carrasco said. They only survived by striking a deal with the church8212;if the indigenous people danced for them as well, they could live.
The tradition has made it this far, but Utah’s community should not forget the genocide it barely survived, Reyes said.

The attendees8212;including Ruby Chacon, a local artist who joined MEChA for social activism8212;braved a chilly Tuesday evening, applauding the performance.

MEChA has been working closely with Chacon and other community members to bridge the gap between activism and social awareness at the U and its neighbors, Reyes said. She said she hopes that relationship stays strong, allowing MEChA to not only repeat the Day of Resistance each year, but also to see it annually bring greater awareness to a sometimes forgotten genocide.

“Sort of what Holocaust Remembrance Day is,” but for North America’s dead, she said.

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