“We go where we have friends,” says NCFJ President Sergio Suárez
by Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. – (September 1, 2018) Crowds surged through the doors of TF South High School’s auditorium Saturday as Mexico en el Corazón took to the stage to entertain about 800 area residents with mariachi music and traditional Mexican dances.
Featuring the dance group Ballet Folclórico Guadalajara and the band Mariachi Juvenil Colotlán, the Mexico en el Corazón (“Mexico in the heart”) performance included two hours of nearly non-stop music and dancing from talented professionals dedicated to preserving the cultural traditions of Mexico, particularly those of Guadalajara.
This is the second year the group has visited Lansing as part of its tour through the United States, which comprises 16 shows in cities across the country including Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Dallas.
Last year, Memorial Junior High School hosted 700 guests who viewed the show in the school’s gym on bleachers and folding chairs. This year, the 800 viewers were treated to comfortable chairs, a bigger stage, and better lighting in TF South’s auditorium, a space capable of seating around 750 while allowing room for some standing guests.
After a brief introduction and some acknowledgements by the group’s emcee, Lansing resident Martha Vargas took the stage, thanking guests, her team, TF South, and the Village of Lansing for their roles in making the event possible. Vargas is one of the directors of the Federation of Jalisco in the Midwest, and played a large role in bringing Mexico en el Corazón to Lansing.
“We go where we have friends, and here we have Martha Vargas…and she said, ‘We need to have this event in Lansing,’ and that’s what brought us here,” said Sergio Suárez, president of the National Council of Federations of Jalisco in the United States.
Following Vargas’ remarks, Mayor Patty Eidam read the declaration of Jalisco Week that was signed as a proclamation at the August 21 Village Board meeting. The declaration recognizes the Mexican state of Jalisco’s important cultural contributions to the Chicago area. Eidam ended her comments by thanking the public for attending the event.
The performance included dances originating from states all across Mexico, including Veracruz, Campeche, and Jalisco, the state where the group was founded 34 years ago. According to their Facebook page, Ballet Folclórico Guadalajara was founded “with the aim of preserving, rescuing and disseminating the customs and traditions of the region.”
To achieve this goal, performers wore various traditional outfits based on what area of Mexico they were representing. Roughly a dozen musicians accompanied the dance numbers with trumpets, violins, clarinets, baritones, trombones, drums, guitars, a tuba, and a harp.
Although similar to last year’s event, local resident Elizabeth Cervantes noticed a few changes in Saturday’s performance: “The way they dressed was different—especially the males.”
Elizabeth’s father Juan Cervantes enjoyed singing along with some of the songs, which the Ballet Folclórico encouraged attenders to do. When thinking of his favorite song of the afternoon, he paused with a smile and said, “I think I liked every song.”
Lansing resident Francisco Alvarez, who grew up in Mexico close to Guadalajara, was grateful to experience a taste of home.
“When you live far away from your [home]town, and you can see these kinds of events, it’s fantastic,” he said.
The taste of home was not limited to the auditorium. In the lobby of TF South, vendors were selling traditional Mexican jewelry, clothes, dolls, and artwork as well.
Surely not all attenders could share in Alvarez’s nostalgia, but the entirety of the crowd—consisting mostly of Latinos, but also Caucasians and African Americans—rose to its feet in applause following the final number.
“I see many people here,” said Alvarez, “not only Mexicans. It’s nice that all [different] families are here. I love those things.”
There are no official plans in place for Mexico en el Corazón to return to Lansing next year, but President Suárez is optimistic: “We are more than willing [to come back]. We go where we have friends, and as long as we can share and celebrate our culture, that’s what it’s all about.”