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American communities celebrate the cultures from which their ancestors originated. During the month-long National Hispanic American Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15, the country honors the history, culture, and contributions of people whose ancestors came from Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. In Chicago, Little Village is home to a large Latino population where the Xochitl-Quetzal Danza Azteca originated in 2015.
The dance group’s sights and sounds originated over five centuries ago in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Mexican civilization, now the historic center of Mexico City. It is those same traditions and rituals that the Little Village group Xochitl-Quetzal Danza Azteca shares across Chicago’s communities.
Henry Cervantes, the group’s founder, explains that their performances are not choreographed but are handed down over the centuries. Instead, every dance and song tells a story that “will tell you a little bit about who we are and where we come from.” He added:
In the Aztec language Nahuatl, Xochitl means flower, quetzal means beautiful, so our group literally means beautiful flower. Our culture is all based on expressing appreciation for nature. All of our regalia, you will see flowers on our traditional regalia because that’s our symbol.
Xochitl-Quetzal Danza Azteca was established out of Our Lady of Tepeyac Elementary School in Little Village. In 2017, the group expanded to The Back of The Yards community. The group comprises adults and children from various Mexican-immigrant communities in Chicagoland who dance and sing the indigenous music of the Aztec and Mexica people of Mexico.
Their costumes include Aztec symbols — headdresses with feathers called copilis, ayoyote seeds around their ankles, and carry sonajas. Xochitl-Quetzal Danza Azteca performs for the Chicago Park District, schools, churches, festivals, and cultural exhibitions throughout the Midwest.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
ABC News: Chicago’s Little Village group Xochitl-Quetzal Aztec Dance carries on more than 500-year tradition; by Bianca Rios
Xochitl-Quetzal Danza Azteca: About
National Today: Hispanic Heritage Month September 2021
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jorge Gonzalez’ Flickr Page – Creative Common License
Inset Image Courtesy of Mauro Medina Susarrey’s Flickr Page Creative Commons License