Borderland Treasure: Matachines of Cristo Rey honor Catholic tradition celebrating the Virgin Mary

Local Treasure
Tuesday, December 25, 2012 - 5:26pm

Faithful Catholics around the world celebrated the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe earlier this month.

Many at one Lower Valley church celebrated the event with dance.

Dancers at a Lower Valley church marching to the beat of a different drum. Every year on Dec.12, they celebrate the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The Virgin's feast day commemorates a Dec. 12 more than 400 years ago when Mary, the mother of Jesus, is believed to have appeared to an Aztec man named Juan Diego, on Tepeyac Hill. The site later became home to a Catholic church.

Parishioners at the Cristo Rey Catholic church in the Lower Valley came out with loved ones for this special day. The colorful processions began and ended with a dance by the "Matachines," who represent Juan Diego. They show their gratitude to the Virgin Mary by dancing and shaking their rattles.

Crystal Carillo is the chief of Cristo Rey's Matachines group. She said the dancers are members of her family, who practice the dance with her every Sunday. It's their way of paying homage to the Virgin Mary.

"It helps you spiritual wise as well,” Carillo said. “Coming here and then going home, you know you did something good for our Virgin Mary and for our Lord."

Carillo said the Matachines costume symbolizes that historic day. The feathers and designs on the head piece represent the Virgin Mary's flowers and the skirt personifies the Indians. The Matachines costumes are all hand-made. Her grandmother sewed pieces of fabric onto her costume, and she has made additions.

For the Carillo family, the night wasn't just about celebrating but also passing the heritage down to younger generations.

"I've been dancing for 15 years already,” she said. “I've learned from my grandma and her dad and his dad and so on and so forth."

She hopes her son will continue this family tradition..

"I hope that he appreciates the Catholic religion and I hope to pass him my hat someday to be chief of the Matachines."


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