Ivan Acevedo for the Rivard Report
Hundreds of matachines dancers from San Antonio and South Texas will gather at Mission Concepción to praise God with their colorful dance and music on Dec. 7, starting at 2 p.m.
Fr. David Garcia, director of the Spanish Missions, invites all to join in the celebration of joy and faith. He blesses the dancers who process to the San Antonio River in the Concepción Park area and dance back into the Mission. Each group will dance into the mission church itself expressing its devotion. This incarnated prayer emerges from the deep faith of the indigenous people.
“These cultural events celebrate who we are as a people and who we are as a city, and over the 39 years I have been a priest, I have always supported and encouraged the preservation of these traditions,” Fr. Garcia said in an interview with the Rivard Report in 2013. He recalled his years as rector of San Fernando Cathedral, when dancers would often show up on the night of Dec. 11 to dance outside the cathedral in advance of the Dec. 12 feast day.
When the Spaniards brought Christianity to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, many missionaries – especially the Franciscans and the Jesuits – recognized that music, dance, and arts could help in evangelizing. In Mexico City on Dec. 12, a few million people will gather at the shrine with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where Mother Mary appeared as a Nahuatl woman and invited the people to come to follow Christ. Lady of the Guadalupe is now one of the most recognizable images in religious art in the New World. The music, costumes, and movement of the matachines dancers come from indigenous traditions and were transformed to focus on the Christian message.
In San Antonio, many families have three generations dancing together as matachines. Read of the 2013 celebration at Mission Concepción: 600 ‘Matachines’ to Dance Sunday Morning at Mission Concepción and Praising God With Drums, Dancing, and the ‘Woman Clothed with the Sun.’
For more examples of the rich tradition of religious dance and drama in San Antonio, including the Passion Play, Posadas, and Pastorelas, visit the University of the Incarnate Word’s Religious Arts page. This resource was developed at UIW, an Hispanic-serving institution, which has students from all over the world and tries to affirm the beauty of different cultures through its dance, drama, music, and other arts.
Be part of the festivities this year on Sunday, just before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, patron of Mission Concepción.
*Featured/top image: “La Danza de Matachines” at Mission Concepción in December 2013. Photo by Peter Ray.