Joyas Mestizas: Preserving Mexican culture through folklorico dance

SEATTLE — This Hispanic Heritage Month KIRO7 has highlighted people and places who are proud to share their rich culture.

KIRO7′s Briseida Holguin recently went down to Burien to meet with Joyas Mestizas, the first folklorico youth group in the Seattle area.

The colors, the dresses, the music; folklorico will make you stop and watch.

It’s a traditional Mexican dance, but it represents so much more.

“It combines all of the cultures that have created Mexico, so you have indigenous cultures, Afro cultures, you have Spanish cultures, you have European cultures, you have South American cultures that have all come into this place and created what you see on stage,” said co-director of Joyas Mestizas Luna Garcia.

In 1988 parents who danced folklorico wanted their kids to learn the traditional dance, and Joyas was born.

“We were the first youth folklorico group in I believe the state of Washington, and yeah, that’s what we serve. Right now our group is from seven to 18,” said Garcia.

For 30 years Joyas practiced in the South Park Community Center, but when COVID hit and shut everything down, practice was paused for about a year.

Garcia says they were able to find a studio in Burien where they could offer more.

“When we got this space, this space in Burien, we were able to open up and expand our programming, and so we’re able to create classes for 4- to 6-year-olds,” said Garcia.

Josefina Gonzalez has been dancing since she was 7 years old.

“I went with my best friend to Mexico, and we saw dancing. We were like, that’s us. We know how to do that, like that’s crazy,” said Gonzalez.

Both Gonzales and Garcia remember being mesmerized for the first time.

“Honestly, it’s a lot more than dancing. It’s not just like your cultural connection. It’s also like your friendship connection and the fact that … everyone has like a huge family,” said Gonzalez.

KIRO7′s Holguin says she could relate because she also danced folklorico as a kid.

They were kind enough to let her put on a dress and go over some steps with her.

“My culture, Mexican culture, is incredibly diverse and beautiful, and in a world that tells you that it’s not. That maybe you don’t belong, maybe you’re different. In times that you feel othered, what folklorico did for me was ground me so well that I could not be lied to. I knew who I was and (that) my culture was beautiful, and it deserved the attention and the love,” said Garcia.

“It’s kind of crazy how many people know about it, like in retrospect to like 10 years ago,” said Gonzalez.

It’s because of people like Garcia that the popularity of folklorico continues to grow.

“It is my hope that any youth, any person that comes into the studio feels welcome, feels that they belong,” said Garcia.

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