Dancers and musicians gathered at the Minnesota History Center on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the history and culture of the Twin Cities’ diverse Hispanic community.
The three-hour program, which filled the history center’s Capitol Concourse with hundreds of spectators, featured locally based Aztec and flamenco dancing, as well as a Twin Cities Latin band.
Tammy Brown, public programs associate of the Minnesota Historical Society’s education department and coordinator of the event, said each group represented different Hispanic cultures prevalent in Minnesota.
She added this was the first exclusively Hispanic program offered by the historical society.
“The Latino community is huge and vibrant in this city, and it was important to us to have an event that reflected that,” Brown said, adding the crowd was even larger than anticipated.
The program started with the Cuauhtemoc Mexica Dancers, a troupe using traditional Aztec symbolic movements to show respect for the environment as well as their elders.
“We’re not a performance group, and this is not a performance,” said Susana Cuauhtemoc, a University graduate and member of the Cuauhtemoc Mexica Dancers. “This is part of our way of life.”
Cuauhtemoc said the opportunity to dance in front of such a diverse crowd promotes acceptance.
“Our mission and objective is to learn and teach,” she said. “This is a way to make bridges within the community.”
Reluctance to understand and accept other cultures is the biggest obstacle to bringing the community together, she added.
“Some people don’t have an understanding or an open heart,” Cuauhtemoc explained. She said having the opportunity to demonstrate her culture promotes respect from other ethnic backgrounds.
Heidi Jernstedt, a University social worker and graduate student, attended the event. She said the Aztec dance’s ties to history and heritage made it especially powerful.
“It’s nice to hear people of native cultures eloquently say — and passionately say — ‘Here’s where we come from,'” Jernstedt said.
Two other groups performed throughout the rest of the afternoon.
The Zorongo Flamenco performed a traditional and contemporary flamenco dance and music from southern Spain. Flamenco is a folk tradition originating in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, influenced by the Arab, Jewish, Gypsy and Christian cultures of early Spain.
The afternoon finished with the music of Orchestra Sabor Tropical in the history center’s 3M Auditorium. Sabor Tropical is a 13-piece orchestra whose repertoire includes salsa, merengue, rancheras, bandas and cumbias.
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