Saturday, Sept. 16, marks Independence Day in Mexico, commemorating the Cry of Dolores and the anniversary of the start of the Mexican War of Independence. To help celebrate the holiday, the Carroll County Arts Council has invited the Mexican folk dance group Bailes de Mi Tierra for a performance celebrating the country's music, dance and culture.
Bailes de Mi Tierra, or Dances of my Land, was formed in 2008 by director Jose Reyes, and serves its mission of preserving, promoting and presenting Mexican and Latin American traditions through music, dance and folklore throughout Baltimore. Reyes said that's a mission that's becoming more and more important in recent years.
"Especially now with the political climate we're in, it's important to share the beauty that Latinos and immigrants as a whole bring to the community," Reyes said. "The country was founded by immigrants, and they've all brought their culture with them and work to have that culture represented."
According to Reyes, the group has performed throughout the region, with shows at the Smithsonian, Port Discovery, National Aquarium, and at a variety of cultural festivals.
The performance on Saturday will feature dances from throughout Mexican and Latin American culture, spanning from tropical-inspired numbers, to pieces with a Mambo flavor to modern work performed by younger members of the troupe.
He said there's a diversity both to the dances they do as well as to the culture as a whole that people may not be familiar with.
"In Mexico, there are a lot of European influences, with some of the major ones coming from Spain, obviously," Reyes said. "We also have polkas that were brought over, and some dances have footwork that is very similar to flamenco."
During the performance, Reyes said they will bring a very colorful representation of Mexican traditions through vivid dance and song. Though it is his passion now, Reyes said, it took him a while to embrace this history of dance.
"It was something hidden. I didn't start dancing Latin rhythms until I was about 30," said Reyes, now 47. "It accidentally became something I became passionate about."
The group began with six dancers practicing out of a garage, and in the intervening nine years has grown to include about 35, performing dances from six regions of Mexico, including Sinaloa, Jalisco, Veracruz, Norte, Chiapas and tropical dances. Though few of the original six remain in the group, Reyes said he is excited that it keeps being passed down from generation to generation.
"A lot of the kids in the group were either born in the U.S. or were brought over very young from Mexico," Reyes said. "This is a way for us to teach kids where their parents come from."
Reyes said he hopes people walk away from the concert with a sense of joy and enjoyment of the performance, but he said he also hopes that people come away from it talking and thinking about Mexican culture.
"From what I understand, the Latino community in Westminster is growing, and I think this culture should be highlighted," Reyes said. "It's very important that people see what we offer, from hard-working dedication to tradition to culture. We've been a part of the American fabric from the beginning."