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"La negreada" a wild dance in Naolinco, Veracruz

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Mexico is a country with strong folklore based on millenary tradition, also, as a result of the mix between Spanish catholic religion and the native culture's cosmovision. As a testimony of this mix, we can see the ancient celebration on the fall solstice, which used to have the pre-Hispanic cultures to thanks given to the Gods for the good labors and fruits of the land. They gave offerings to the spirits of the rain and Mother Earth, such as Tlaloc and Coatlicue/Tonantzin Nahua’s deities, or Chaac and Ixchel in the Mayan culture, Tajin/Aktsini and Centeotl for the Totonacs.

This mystic celebration had rituals, music, and dances where the Shaman, as a priest, presided over the sacrifice/offerings to the Gods. When the Spanish people initiated the conversion of Christianize to the native people, the Spanish made a substitution of the deities for Saints, and the prayers for the sacrifices, but the natives were transferring part of their rituals to catholic religious festivities, getting as a result, an explosion of color, passion, and faith.

Nowadays, you can see one of those festivities, in Naolinco, a small city in Veracruz State. This place has a special tradition around the fall solstice linked to Saint Mathew Patron of the city, that join Spanish church celebration, with a peculiar dance called “La Negreada” This dance, is a singular representation of catholic stories of the “Arabs and Christians” demonstrating the fight between the good and evil, that it shows how “Pilatos” the Arab King, is combated by Saint James (Santiago in Spanish), this dance is present in many festivities a long to Veracruz, but “La Negreada” in Naolinco, is particularly special, due to the many extra ingredients such as the rhythm war music, “Los Negros” (the blacks) dressed with an extravagant and wearing terrify masks to cover they faces, that all combine, make looks like a carnival fight outfit.

This dance starts with the drums and flutes sounds, inciting the battle, “Pilatos” and the “Santiagos” dancing between them, while the “Negros” are waiting until the music changed the rhythm, then, they dance around to the Santiago’s as a provocation to the fight, then, the “Santiagos” are beating them with swords, the public around (locals and the friends or family visitors, make a big human circle around the dancers and the soundtrack getting up the mood.

That show is an amazing representation, most of the time, too much real: You will see the beating that happens to each “Negro”, and the atmosphere that you can see will be transported you to the scenery of a true battle. So, “La Negreada” to many visitors, even to the national tourism, sometimes looks like a very strong wild dance, but definitely is an amazing tradition very rooted, with extraordinary color and passion that is worth seeing. This festivity takes place in the month of September, in addition to enjoying folklore, the city is known for its artisanal elaboration of the masks used in the dance, handmade leather shoes, and delicius Creole food. I recommend being careful with the peculiar and winding road that leads to this town from the capital of the state of Veracruz and with the dense fog that usually bathes their mountains but definitely, you will be enjoying the trip!

Credits: By Bearosec

Picture credits: By Jesús Hernández Chacón and José Luis Aguila.

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