Women in brightly colored dresses twirl to the beat of a lively uptempo rhythm filled with the sound of trumpets accompanied by the guitar. With hands placed near the hem of their skirts, they bring motion and life to the vibrant pinks, yellows and reds of the fabric they wear as they fluidly twist and turn.
But this is far more than a mere dance for New Braunfels’ Compañía de Danza Folklórica — it is representative of the rich traditions and heritages of their Mexican ancestors, which they strive to keep alive through the practice of movement.
“It’s a beautiful culture, it’s a beautiful tradition — something to carry on for generations, regardless of locations, regardless of ethnicities — it’s a way to unify people,” said Eva Paniagua Valdez, the dance group’s choreographer.
The folklorico dancers were one of many groups of entertainers performing in downtown New Braunfels Thursday evening in celebration of the 160th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo — the day that does not commemorate Mexican independence.
Cinco de Mayo, or fifth of May, is a day that commemorates Mexico’s triumph at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 against the Second French Empire. By the time of the battle, the Mexican military force was grossly outnumbered and were outgunned by the French army . Their victory helped bring a strong boost to the morale of the Mexican army when there was none to be found.
However, in more recent years Cinco de Mayo has developed into a day of spirited celebration of Mexican culture, traditions, heritage and cultural pride — but more importantly it is a day that allows those outside the culture to experience it and learn about it.
“When it comes to Cinco de Mayo, a lot of people love seeing these dances, they love seeing the culture and they want to be a part of it.” Valdez said.
As one of the only existing ballet folklorico groups in Comal County, they use dance as way to communicate different meanings using traditional dances from different regions in Mexico. Even the colors of the dresses depict different aspects of the culture such as white representing coming into womanhood ..
Cinco de Mayo also provides an opportunity for the community to wrap itself up in everything the Mexican culture is known for, like its food and dress, while visiting Mexican businesses and restaurants.
“(It’s about) the foods and the different bright colors of our clothing and our costumes, because everybody puts on their little crowns with flowers and people wear the bright colors and Mexican dresses,” said Mary Ann Labowski, the vice chair of the New Braunfels Hispanic Business Alliance. “That’s what it’s about — it’s just the brightness of the traditions and the cultures.”
New Braunfels, with its deeply rooted German history and culture, has a Mexican origin as well because at one time it was owned by Mexico. The land purchased was bought from prominent Mexican families — the Garza family and the Veramendi family.
The blended cultures that built New Braunfels still prosper today with subtle nods to their connection found in the sounds of their music, according to Labowski.
“That’s one thing that I do love about New Braunfels is that it not only celebrates Wurstfest because of the just German tradition, it also celebrates the Irish traditions and celebrates the Mexican traditions,” Labowski said. ) How beautiful New Braunfels has diversified. ”