Photo by Matt Hembree
By Grace Garbee
On Thursday, April 13, the Nashville-based Aztec dance team, Illhuicamina Flechador del Cielo, performed an Aztec ceremonial dance on Spencer Quad. Sewanee’s Hispanic Organization for Latino Awareness (HOLA) brought the team to campus to demonstrate the traditions and culture of the aztecatl, or Mexica people.
The Aztec dance team replaced the usual silence outside of the library with reverberating drum beats and a circle of dancers bearing traditional Aztec clothing. HOLA presented the event in order to illustrate the history and traditions of the Aztec culture.
Ashley Malpica (C’17), a driving force behind the event, spoke for about five minutes about the Mexica people during the event. She “didn’t want to just present a dance that in itself is ceremonial.” Malpica explained the traditional legends and stories of her ancestors and “most importantly, the significance of the dance and the traditional attire.”
Maplica explained to the attendees that her Aztec attire symbolized Tlatoc, the Aztec God of lightning, rain, and fertility, and further explained that the dance presented on Thursday night was once an act of prayer towards the gods for “goods and good health.”
“I went to a 96% Latino high school so every year for Hispanic Heritage month my school would always bring Aztec dancers,” remarked Francisco Diaz (C’18), an HOLA member at Sewanee who attended the event.
Despite his familiarity with Aztec culture, Diaz said, “this time around it was different. Instead of learning about them this year, I felt very proud to have such an amazing group come to Sewanee and perform. I was very happy to have helped bring Latino culture to Sewanee!”
Malpica offered some insight to her motivation and inspiration to bring the Aztec dancers to Sewanee’s campus. “Since I was a child both sides of my family have always emphasized the importance of knowing my roots, and by that they meant my indigenous roots,” Malpica explained.
She recalled that her father would always invite Aztec dancers to his events, “especially for Mexican posadas, which is basically a week long of Christmas in December,” she said. “Since I was a child I always admired my dad for teaching me, exposing me to the native culture of our people. And so, I wanted to do the same at Sewanee.”
“I wanted to build a bridge that could potentially connect Sewanee with Ilhuicamina Flechador del Cielo. I wanted to present to the community the vibrant ancient culture that I am proud of and that runs through my veins. I wanted to proudly present part of Mexico’s indigenous culture, which perhaps many did not know of, and provide a voice for my ancestors and the people who are silenced by society and frowned upon for being the natives of the land we inhabit today.”