Nuestras Raíces Returns to Rio for Master Class in Folklórico

Megan De Lara, Arts and Entertainment Editor

For the third time this semester, Dr. Argelia Andrade and Professor Xocoyotzin Herrera visited campus to bring Mexican culture to students through music and dance.

The event took place in the Lower Quad Wednesday morning and was one in a series of performances and master classes Rio Hondo has hosted since September.

Andrade is the founder and director of Nuestras Raíces, a non-profit organization based in Gardena that offers Mexican music and dance classes to 250 members. Herrera is a singer and multi-instrumentalist for Conjunto Hueyapan, a music group founded by his father, Fermin Herrera.

The stage in the Lower Quad where Dr. Argelia Andrade (far right) taught students folklórico dance. Members of music group Conjunto Hueyapan played songs such as “El Carretero” and “La Bruja” to accompany the choreography.

During the first master class, students were introduced to various forms of Mexican music. With help from Herrera and world-renowned musical group Trío Chicontepec, attendees played along with the musicians and learned distinct rhythms used to create Mexican folk music.

For the second master class, students had the opportunity to learn the traditional Mexican folk dance folklórico.

From 11am to 1pm, a portion of the Lower Quad was a makeshift dance floor. Brave souls took to the stage. Much like strumming styles of Mexican folk music, each dance had a specific rhythmic pattern that correlated with the songs played. Members of Conjunto Hueyapan performed three songs originating from Veracruz, Jalisco and Guerrero. Andrade pieced together small portions of choreography at a time, which allowed all – including non-dancers – a chance at success.

Word of the event caught more than just the attention from students. Residents from neighboring cities also attended the class. Elizabeth Barrera, who works with the North Ranchito Elementary folklórico group in Pico Rivera, saw a flier for the Nuestras Raíces class online. Barrera, in addition to other parents from the group, attended in order to participate and help out with the dance.

An understanding of one’s self and others

For Andrade and Nuestras Raíces, bringing folklórico to college campuses not only highlights Mexican culture, but spreads knowledge of its history as well.

“In Mexico, culturally, there’s no religious or social celebration without music and dance. It’s part of who we are,” Andrade said. “It goes back to Native Americans…throughout the entire continent, not just Mexico. They celebrate either secular things, like everyday things, or religious things always with music and dance.”

An understanding of all cultures, Andrade believes, is vital not only for self-awareness, but also for attaining compassion and respect for others.

“I think that a student who doesn’t know his or her culture is a student who’s lost. It doesn’t matter where you come from. If you’re a 10th generation American, you still have a culture,” Andrade said. “There’s a lot of, in my opinion, …alienation that happens when we don’t know who we are. And to be able to love other people and respect other cultures, and to be patient with each other, you need to know where you come from.”

For those interested in learning folklórico or mariachi music, Andrade suggests researching groups and outlets within the community.