Mexican culture is expressive and deeply connected to its past. One of the richest ways to interpret this feeling –– an entrenched emotion driven through art –– is dance, and Tòmas Tello, member of the Fiesta Mexicana Planning Committee will be the first to tell you that the experience can be transformative.
Considered the largest celebration of Latin culture outside of Detroit and Grand Rapids, the 62nd Annual Fiesta Mexicana will take place on Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 starting at 10 a.m. Festivities will run until 10 p.m. on Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Returning this year, the El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, a youth-arts program focused on preserving Mexican culture, provides a platform for “enriching children’s lives through dance, music, and education,” which promises to be a crowd favorite worthy of its cultural –– and historical ––tradition.
These young dancers and seasoned performers alike practice for months to prepare for the Fiesta and appreciative family members, friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners, who enthusiastically applaud their skill and the obvious mastery of cultural traditions that date back centuries.
The El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil’s instrumental and vocal performers showcase a wide-range of classical and Mariachi style presentations at the event, and often bring the crowd to their feet, according to Danen Williams, a professional photographer and frequent Fiesta participant.
“It’s an emotional and uplifting experience to many, particularly grandparents, who have great pride in and hope for their grandchildren,” he says.
For Tello, this gets to the heart of why these performances have such weight and significance, especially in light of the current political –– and social –– context.
“This kind of stuff is a peaceful way of going against all of that,” Tello says. “It’s giving an understanding.”
Tello, who also works as a DJ, is committed to getting across the cultural significance inherent in drawing from the past to shake off the dust of the present.
“We’re a rhythmic people and a celebratory people,” he says, noting that the folkloric elements run very deep, so deep that it’s personal for him. “You can’t continue and face the future if you don’t know the past and embrace the past, the teachings of our ancestors.”
Tello believes that dance is not only for entertainment and enjoyment, but it’s also a way to give thanks and celebrate.
“That’s why it’s all in the middle of the festival,” he says. “The fiesta hangs its hat on giving you the experience of Mexican food, Mexican music, Mexican culture, crafts and arts, and giving someone an enlightened experience.”
This “enlightened experience,” has the potential, according to Tello, to have a larger impact on how Mexican culture connects with the global landscape.
Attendees can also expect authentic food, musical acts, cultural exhibitions and vendors. Musical acts will be coming from Grand Rapids, Adrian and Chesaning, including La Furia Del Ritmo from Grand Rapids; Los Hermanos Escamilla from Chesaning; Los Estrellas De Oro from Grand Rapids; and Gabriel Burciaga & The Bad Boyz from Adrian.
“When you accept and embrace other cultures … when you come in with an open mind … everybody can get along –– you get a different perspective and you see through other people’s eyes,” Tello adds. “The Fiesta is the embodiment of family, caring, love and artistry. Who wouldn’t like that?”
Fiesta Mexicana will take place at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church located at 2136 W. Coldwater Road, Flint, 48505. For more information, visit the festival page on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s website.