La Reliquia

What we are about to visit is called a Reliquia.  These events are unique to Laguna; you will not find them in other parts of México.  A reliquia consists of three main features:  the dance, the serving of food to the neighbors, and a prayer service.  These events celebrate two church holidays.  St Jude's Day on 28 October and The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 12 December.  For the St Jude's Day celebrations, the food service is usually on a smaller scale than for celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe which is the main event of the season.

We begin with some background on the dance which is the most visible part of a reliquia.

There are about 50 neighborhood danzas in Lerdo and hundreds more in Gómez Palacio and Torreón.  Some have been in existence for many generations.  Chico is the first of his generation of the Valdepeñas family to join. His father, four of his uncles have been members of their neighborhood danza, Espíritu Santo, Holy Ghost Dancers.  Some danzas, like Espíritu Santo, have members ranging in age from first graders to early 30's.  Others limit membership to youth only or adults only. Coco is part of the repair squad.

Practice begins the first week in October for an hour and a half five nights per week and continues until December.

Each dancer is responsible for his/her own costume -- either to make it or to buy/inherit it from a retired dancer.  Each group has it's own costume style, although they are all somewhat similar.  Red is the most common color.

The skirts are a heavy felt that is decorated with sequins and plastic tubes which rattle as the dancer moves.  Much work goes into making a costume, and it is treated as a family treasure.

Each dancer carries two noise makers:  a rattle called a huaje and a bow and arrow called an arco.  The string in the arco is a rubber band.  When the arrow is pulled back and released, the rubber band drives the arrow against the bow making a loud snap.

The huaje is a hollowed out gourd with a handful of hard corn kernels inside. 

The dancers move to the beat of a bass drum.  With the arco, huaje, and foot stomping with wooden sandals, it's a loud show.

13-year old Chico Valdepeñas

  Front                   Back

A major feature of the dance is a rhythmic foot-stomping which puts a lot of stress on the leather straps of the home-made wooden sandals.   So they often need repairs in mid-performance.  Some of the older guys move to the sidewalk to repair their own.  Others keep on dancing sans sandals while the support crew makes quick repairs.  Coco is reparing a shoe along with one of the dancers.

Continue to St Jude's Day

Continue to Our Lady of Guadalupe

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