Matachines Opata

Matachines Opata
Matachines de Sahuaripa 2019

As a historical fact, it is important to mention that the Spanish conquest in the region that is known today as Sonora was attempted by arms in the first expeditions, but failed, that is why the following expeditions were carried out with the help of the Jesuits who applied with success another technique, religion.

This dance was introduced among the Indians of central Mexico in the 16th century as part of semi-religious theatrical performances, whereby the Franciscans gradually replaced the dances considered by Christians as idolaters. In addition, the dance of the Matachines is one of the vehicles that contributed to popularize the name of Moctezuma in these regions.

Before the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries, the Matachines were just a dance of the Opatas towards their beliefs. The current dance of the Matachines includes steps mainly from Spanish dances.

With the arrival of the missionaries, they set up a conflict of wanting to establish a belief which the Opatas refused to carry out and since they could not refuse, they made an exchange. In which the Opatas would not stop dancing their dance, but would include the Catholic Cross. These missionaries called the Mission Cross to the place assigned by the dancers to worship God.


Matachines de Matape 2019

Previously the inhabitants of the Opata people used to decorate their legs with beautiful pieces of ribbon and red cloth, as a sign of the blood shed by Christ on the Cross, the pieces of sheet were so that together with the Guajes they will sound to the sound of the dance.

The gourds were decorated first from their approach, according to the women, they said they had to take care of the plant from its birth so that the large and perfect gourd could be formed. After it was mature, the women used to cut it to dry, once it was dry they broke the upper part to fill it with small pebbles and decorate it with china paper in the shape of a flower.

Many years have passed since the creation of the festivals have been changing. The women no longer wear their special costumes, they decided to change to make their costumes very colorful and dance to the music now with musical instruments.

Currently the festival of the Holy Cross is celebrated in the town of Jecori, located in the Municipality of Cumpas, has 581 inhabitants, and is 800 meters above sea level. Its name comes from the word jecota, the structure of the town consists of a single street from north to south, and it is located on the right side of the Moctezuma river, its festivities are on May 3. In 1989, Father Miguel Vásquez Velásquez arrived at the Cumpas parish and decided to implement a Uniform for this tradition, a red blouse and white skirt meaning the Purity of the Blood shed by Christ. And regarding this uniform, in my very particular opinion, it seems too conventional, very simple and ordinary for such a particular dance, I think they should wear more striking and better elaborated clothes, a white skirt and a red blouse, they stay very poor and do not attract attention at all, Jécori is for more color and much more capable. The dance is performed without shoes as a sign of sacrifice and symbolizing respect for the land that Jesus stepped on and with flowers in hand, symbolizing love for nature, making the sign of the cross with his feet. Sometimes it is a command that is offered for favors granted. After the dance, delicious biscuits based on wheat middlings are offered, which in the region are known as “puchas” or coricos, accompanied by a drink based on pineapple or corn that is sweetened with brown sugar, which we commonly know as tesgüino. This festival on May 3, which begins on the hill of the cross, with the celebration of Holy Mass, depending on the will of the parish priest in turn, and which is carried out in different parts of the town, many people attend. I consider it a very intimate moment with our few traditions and nothing like listening to the tacatacas with the tune of the Matachines, which we only hear once a year but all day three and eating with tesgüino.

The color of the red and green crosses, which also makes me think that they should be changed or increased colors because Mexico is very colorful and Cumpas does not have to be left behind. The red and green colors of the crosses are attributed to the tabachin, or matachin, which is a very showy flowering plant that abounds in this region and elegantly decorates our roads. And the number three of the crosses is defined by the great significance of this number in relation to the cross, first it symbolizes the holy trinity, father, son and holy spirit, there were also three crosses that afternoon in which Jesus died in one of them, that of Jesus and that of the two thieves, the party takes place on a day three.

The monarch is the only male dressed in white, marking purity before the three crosses, generally he is a single, reverence to dance happily and call to God through the roar of the Guajes and to the sound of music, mark his happy face giving to the spectators a good taste for this dance.


2 thoughts on “Matachines Opata

  1. Interesting. So is the Matachines of Jecori newly instituted among gente de raises Opata ? Or is this Matacine tradition been part of this Opata pueblo since the times that the Yoris/Gachupines attempted to colonize Opata area of Sonora ?

    1. Good question!

      Matachines is a tradition established by the Spanish but that merged with our traditional dances that the Spanish tried to erase; For multiple reasons, the Opatas were unable to celebrate and exercise many traditions in different periods of the region’s history, especially around the Mexican government’s persecution of any religious person, native-language speaker, or anyone celebrating any tradition between “after of the Mexican Revolution “and 1930 if I’m not mistaken.

      And years after that some Opatas and non-Opatas did attempt to bring back or rescue some of them, like the matachines.


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