Dresses swirl and swell while young men in cowboy hats quickly move their feet to the beat of the regional musics of Mexico. The lively buzzing room fills with the kaleidoscopic colors of the performers’ outfits.
And this is just practice.
Los Mejicas, UC Santa Cruz’s student-run Mexican folklorico dance team, will celebrate their 40th anniversary with their latest show: “Mejicas, Hoy y Siempre” — Mejicas, now and always.
The title exemplifies the group’s ethos.
“Once a Mejica, always a Mejica,” said Nidia Bautista, a fourth-year Latin American and Latino studies major and politics minor from Merrill. “I attribute everything to Mejicas.”
Over 60 students and alumni will be performing for an audience that is already booked to top 400. Bautista said what makes this year’s show special is the increased participation of the program’s alumni.
“Mejicas from 20 years ago are going to come and participate,” Bautista said. “It reinforces the notion that once you’re a Mejica, you continue to be a Mejica.”
UCSC anthropology professor and Los Mejicas faculty advisor Olga Nájera-Ramírez said the influence of Los Mejicas reaches across generations.
“There’s a lot of connection between family members,” Ramírez said, whose own niece is dancing this year. “There’s a very strong ongoing connection with people who have danced with Mejicas.”
The performance is broken up into dances hailing from various regions in Mexico. Nine groups of students and alumni will be performing dances from Mexican states like Yucatán, Veracruz and Baja California. Centeotl, the Santa Cruz community folkloric dance group, will also be performing.
Blanca Alfaro, a fourth-year anthropology major and co-director of Los Mejicas, said the group tries to reach out to the campus and city communities. Still, she said she wished the group had more recognition, especially from the student population.
“This campus is so big, and there are so many other things going on that a lot of the time it seems like we’re in a little corner,” Alfaro said.
But that little corner may be growing. Ramírez said their Saturday performance has already sold out. She emphasized, however, there are still lots of tickets available for the Friday show.
Despite the group’s enduring success, Los Mejicas’ future is uncertain. David Cuthbert, head of the theater arts department, said the department’s production manager, John Anderson, spent half of his time managing productions for the theater arts department. The other half of his time was spent managing the department’s facilities for productions by the arts division, like Los Mejicas.
But when the Arts and Lectures series, one of the most frequent arts division users, stopped, the division could not afford to continue paying Anderson for those duties, and funds for that portion of his job were cut.
Alfaro said the cost of Anderson’s services was then split between three student groups: the Pilipino Cultural Celebration (PCC), the Indian Student Organization (ISO) and Los Mejicas. The three groups joined together in their need for the theater departments facilities and to pay for the cost of performing them. Together, they formed the umbrella group Productions of Color (POC).
For the last year, POC has been funded by the Dean of Students Office, said assistant dean of students Lucy Rojas. Funding has also been secured for another four years by executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway.
But Alfaro worries that POC — and Los Mejicas — might be threatened if a permanent solution cannot be found by then.
“Those four years really buy us time to come up with permanent solutions, because that’s what we want — we don’t want a band aid,” Alfaro said. “[The funding] is good, but at the end of the day all of us just want a permanent solution.”
What: Los Mejicas show “Mejicas, Hoy y Siempre”
When: June 8 at 7 p.m. and June 9 at 5:30 p.m.
How Much: $12 general; $10 seniors, students, faculty; $6 children. Free for children five and under.