By Sarah Rivero
Aztec dancers and community members gathered at Belvedere Park on Saturday to commemorate “La Despedida de las Animas.” It was a ceremony that has been celebrated throughout the years to farewell souls of the departed who arrive at the altars on “The Day of the Dead.”
Aztec dancers came from far and near to be part of this important celebration that dancers from Mexico D.F., Puebla, San Bernardino and Van Nuys hosted. Aztec dance groups like Ketzalitzli, Tlaltecuhtli and Xipe Totec initiated the ceremony by dancing around the park and cleansing themselves with copal, an incense essential in Aztec ceremonies as a ritual offering to the Gods.
Jose Luis Francia, one of the coordinators, said that the dancers were to be individually blessed and cleansed with copal before entering the circle of energy. The circle of energy was created with marigold flowers and is supposed to keep good and positive vibes for all the dancers. In the center of the circle, an altar was placed specifically to face the cardinal directions that represented the children, the elderly, the males and the females, each facing a corresponding direction.
The catchy sound of drums, sonajas and cascabeles, which are little bells or rattles, aroused the interest of curious passersby who stopped to admire and photograph the Aztec dancers. Captian of the dance group Kalpulli Tlaltekutltli Erica Huerta said, “I always liked our culture and enjoy doing this, so the children and youth won’t forget it and keep this tradition alive.”
Colorful stands sold many hand-crafted artifacts like jewelry, typical Aztec dance attire, instruments, precious stones and even animal fur. A small food stand sold tamales and champurrado to the spectators that savored the aroma.
The money from this stand also helped fund the event and made the stay much more accommodating and inviting. By the end of the day, the excited dancers where exhausted from the hours of non-stop dancing.