Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 07th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Viva Los Mejicas

ae danceMexican folkloric dance group celebrates its 40th anniversary at UCSC

once a Mejica, Always a Mejica,” reads the motto for Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas; it’s a tagline that holds both literal and symbolic meaning, one that represents more than the simple association of having once participated in the group. It indicates something deeper, an acknowledgement of where one has come from, and the promise to take that knowledge into the future. And now at the impressively ripe age of 40, the group has certainly accumulated a substantial amount of members who will always consider themselves as such.

Los Mejicas, a Mexican folkloric dance group at UC Santa Cruz, strives to celebrate and preserve the beauty of the Mexican heritage and culture through dance. The group, which is one of the oldest student-run organizations on campus, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with “Mejicas, Hoy y Siempre,” their spring concert that takes place on June 8 and 9 at UCSC’s Mainstage Theater.

According to Professor Olga Najera-Ramirez, a former member of Los Mejicas and the group’s current faculty advisor, the group was initiated by and for people who wanted to know more about Mexican culture during an era when ethnic studies were just beginning to take shape. “At the time—this is in the early ’70s—many of us had grown up in environments where you were taught that your mission in life was to assimilate and integrate fully into mainstream American culture, and that meant that you were not allowed to speak Spanish in public schools, and there was very little opportunity to learn about Chicano history or Mexican culture outside of your own home or your community,” explains Najera-Ramirez, who teaches in the anthropology department at UCSC. “So folklórico was very attractive as a place where people who had the same interest could get together and share what they knew, and also get connected to people who knew even more.”

Originally founded as an opportunity to get students together to engage in and learn about Mexican culture and history, as well as speak Spanish with one another, the group developed its mission to promote knowledge of Mexican culture, in the spirit of uniting a community. “For me the goal of the group is to represent and spread Mexican culture through dance, and in doing so people come together, and they build friendships and long-lasting relationships that go outside of the dancing space,” says Edgar Ontiveros, who has been a member of Los Mejicas for four years. Ontiveros also sees the group as playing an important role in making Mexican culture visible. “Mejicas opens up and provides opportunities for members of marginalized communities to really find a voice, and to be proud of who they are, and to explore their roots and empower themselves,” he says.

Growing up in Tijuana, Mexico, Ontiveros says he was always surrounded by folklórico. “It was just something that I took for granted, but when I came here to university and I realized that I was kind of far away from home, I started getting in touch with folklórico as a way to feel connected with Mexico,” he says. And the group continues to be an avenue that connects that culture with campus life. “The group provides a space where you can feel welcome at this university,” he says.

ae dance2UCSC students celebrate their Mexican heritage onstage.While Ontiveros is preparing to graduate, Lydia Enriquez is in her first year at UCSC, and has been a member of Los Mejicas for the past three quarters. “It’s a really great opportunity to learn about my culture, and learn the dances, and learn more about my history,” she says.

Enriquez was not familiar with the group or its history at the beginning of the school year, but has been impressed with what she has learned. “It’s amazing how much time they’ve spent here and how it started, and how big this group has grown, from a group of just 10 girls making their own costumes,” she says. “Now we’re over 60 members about to perform Mainstage—it’s really amazing to know how much time has passed and how much everything has grown.”

Speaking of the upcoming 40th anniversary concert, Enriquez promises a memorable show, to which Ontiveros adds, “It’s going to be one big celebration of something that started a long time ago and is still strong and alive here on campus.”

The concert will offer eight dances from eight regions in Mexico—one of which is a four-song set choreographed by Ontiveros—to articulate the diversity between different regions. “The idea is not just to reproduce dances, but to stage them in such a way that you try to sort of capture the regional flavor,” says Najera-Ramirez, who explains by making an analogy to the United States. “If you go to Texas, it’s a very different feeling than if you go to New Orleans, or if you go to New York—it’s all the U.S., but they all have sort of regional inflections, and so that’s what you get from the performance, that’s what you’ll experience.”

Enriquez adds, “People might think there’s one specific costume and one specific song that describes everything, but there are so many kinds of dance, and it represents a story that we plan to tell.” With that in mind, the regions included in the program are Sonora Bronco, Sinaloa, Yucatán, Baja Norte, Guerrero, Aguascalientes, Chiapas, and Jalisco.

Participating alums and a local dance group will give the anniversary program the feeling of a cultural reunion. And it’s a sentiment that Ontiveros expresses when reflecting on his experience with Los Mejicas. “I’ve had many great experiences—within the group and also outside of the group—with the relationships I’ve built,” he says. “Within the group, I’ve found a sort of family and a space where—even though it’s linked to a university—I feel that it’s a space where I can build relationships, and be able to connect with other Latinos and non-Latinos that are interested in Mexican culture. It’s just been great. I feel like I’ve grown a lot through the group, and with the group, because it’s not just dance—it’s the opportunity to be able to wear and present your culture with pride.”

Los Mejicas’ 40th Anniversary Spring Show, “Mejicas, Hoy y Siempre,” takes place from 7-10 p.m. Friday, June 8 and from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9 at UCSC’s Theater Arts Mainstage, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12/adults, $10/students and seniors, $8/children, age 6-12, No cover/children 5 and under. Tickets available online at, or by phone, 459-2159. For more info, visit

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by a guest, June 06, 2012
My tia says that her and Juan Rios started the group.
written by a guest, June 05, 2012
Its the little facinating bits of culture like folk dancing that make learning other languages fun.Learning languages is always a good thing. It increases memory and other brain functions, looks great on a job résumé, and most importantly allows you to connect with a different culture and make new friends. Some of my favorite sights are for Spanish specifically and for general information about language learning as well as a great forum with helpful members.

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Making a Scene

As it celebrates its 30th year, Santa Cruz County’s Open Studios is one of the most successful in the country—and a make-or-break event for many local artists


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


At Clothes Range

FashionART’s 10th anniversary show introduces a new generation of designers on the edge


A Ritual & Initiation

The Pope has come and gone, but his loving presence ignited new hope and goodness in many. While he was in NYC, China’s ruler arrived in Washington D.C. East (China) and West (Rome), meeting in the middle, under Libra, balancing sign of Right Relations. The Pope arrived at Fall Equinox. Things initiated at Fall Equinox are birthed at Winter Solstice. The Pope’s presence was a ritual, an initiation rite—like the Dalai Lama’s visits—offering prayers, teachings and blessings. Rituals anchor God’s plan into the world, initiating us to new realities, new rules. The Pope’s presence brings forth the Soul of the United States, its light piercing the veils of materialism. The Pope’s visit changed things. New questions arise, new reasons for living. A new wave of emerging life fills the air. Like a cocoon shifting, wings becoming visible. The winds are different now. Calling us to higher vision, moral values, virtues that reaffirm and offer hope for humanity. A changing of the guard has occurred. Appropriately, this is the week of the Jewish Festival of Sukkoth (’til Oct. 4), when we build temporary homes (little huts in nature), entering into a harvest of prayer and thanksgiving, understanding our fragile and impermanent existences. We are summoned to reflect upon our lives, our humanity, our nature, our spirit and each other. Offering gratitude, becoming a magnet for others. We observe. We see the needs. We love more.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist


Downhill Cellars

An easy-drinking Chardonnay from Downhill Cellars


If whales have a message for humans, what might it be?

“Do not come in the water and join us.” Howard Hall, Santa Cruz, Retired


Wargin Wines

The wine world is buzzing about this Pinot Gris