World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival



Dance Origin: Nayarit, Mexico
Indigenous - Cora
Artistic Directors:
Fabio Álvarez, Miriam Gonzalez, Ramon Silva 
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2010

Tonatiuh is the Mexican folk dance group from the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts in Salinas, California. It was founded in 1992 by Artistic Director Ramón Silva Ruelas to develop and promote Mexican folk culture. Mr. Silva has an M.F.A. degree in dance and he is devoted to the research, teaching, and performance of authentic Mexican folk dance. Tonatiuh performers come from diverse backgrounds.


Title: Danza de las Pachitas

Jaime Buentello Bazan
Fabio Álvarez, Eduardo Arellano, Junior García, Lizbeth García, Jesús Gómez, Miriam Gonzalez, Ernesto Hernández, Juan Carlos Herrera, Araceli Jacinto, Karina López, Mariza Maldonado, Mario Morfin, José Muñoz, Gildardo Ochoa, Ana Orozco, Cynthia Peña, Elizabeth Ramírez, Mayra Ramirez, Adriana Rodriguez, Karina Rosas, Karina Salcedo, Alejandra Saldaña, Maritza  Sánchez, Isabel Serrano, Ramón Silva, Gabriela Toro, Carolina Vásquez

Danza de las Pachitas shows elements of a religious ceremony from the indigenous Cora of Nayarit, Mexico. Spiritual leaders search from house to house for a young girl to become the malinche, the leader of the dance. This girl, who represents the sun goddess, is dressed in blessed clothing before an icon of the Catholic Virgin. Then, as repetitive music slows the pace to a trance-like tranquility, the girl dances with a long white flag, guiding the dancers in simple patterns: the circle to honor the sun god and the cross to honor Jesus Christ. Cora communities perform this devotional dance every day in the weeks before Catholic Lent.  

The Cora live in Western Central Mexico in the Sierra de Nayarit mountains, and they call themselves náayarite. They were displaced from most of their territory by the conquistadors, and later converted to Christianity by the indigenous Tlaxcalteca, who helped Cortez conquer the Aztecs. The ceremony and dance of the Pachitas was created in the mid-seventeenth century and taught to the Coras by the Tlaxcaltecas. Many Cora believe this dance symbolizes the baptism of the community, as their ancestors were converted by the ritual solemnity of this dance and the beauty of the Spanish guitar and violin.

The Cora have harmonized their Catholicism with their pre-Conquest beliefs and rituals, which are related to Mesoamerican and Huichol. Shamans, tobacco, and peyote are part of religious ceremony. Along with the Christian Madonna and the saints, the Cora venerate a supreme sun god, his wife—an underworld goddess associated with the moon and rain, and their son—associated with life-giving maize and with Jesus Christ.

Tonatiuh's Miriam Gonzalez, Fabio Alvarez, and Ramon Silva learned Danza de las Pachitas from Ballet Mexcaltitan in Nayarit, Mexico in 2009. Seven of Tonatiuh's dancers performed the piece with Ballet Mexcaltitan in Los Angeles. This version was choreographed and staged in the 1960s by the late Jaime Buentello Bazan, one of Mexico's top traditional choreographers, and it was restaged for this performance.

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