Danza de los Machetes or El Jarabe Nayarita.
In this episode of Arriba! Folklorico Music and Dance of Mexico, Nayarit is a state that is rather small in size, when compared to its neighbors (like Jalisco), which stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the footsteps of the Central Plateau (el altiplanicie). The people of the region are vibrant, dynamic, resourceful, hard-working and respectful of the women in their towns and villages – and it shows in their dances.
In Nayarit, the natural surroundings of the agricultural region are part of the daily life. The farmers grow corn, beans, and sugar. The cattle and the oxen that pull the yokes and plow the fields and are used for almost all the heavy work for the farmers are key animals—all part of everyone’s life and livelihood.
Thus, as is common with the campesinos, or farmers, the simplest things in life are the topics that are used when creating dances and songs—the eagles, the birds, the horses, and the bovine—both cattle, and in this case, the oxen.
A clip is played from the other traditional dance from Nayarit called El Buey (the Ox).
However, in this episode, we focus mainly on the Jarabe Nayarita, the more popular dance of this region, otherwise known locally as the “Danza de los Machetes.”
The men wear black boots and calzones de manta (that is, the beige colored trousers), with a brightly colored shirt (in some groups, a camisa de manta, or shirt of the same fabric, is worn). The men use scarves or headbands around their temples. They wear a sash of brightly colored fabric, and they would use this sash for holding in place their machetes.
Why would they carry machetes?
Because even though the livelihood of this region is mainly agricultural—farming and cattle-- the products from the ground are of prime importance – especially the sugar cane.
The men carry 2 machetes, and when they dance, one machete is held with the right hand by the handle, and the dull side of the blade rests on the right shoulder. The other machete is held with the left hand, which is wrapped behind the man’s back, resting slightly above his waist.
Now, as masters of wielding their instruments during the ZAFRA (i.e., the harvest of the sugar cane), the men would incorporate the machetes into their dances, thus not only showing off their mastery in the way they handled these blades, but also in competition with other men who may be rivals for the affection of the pretty senoritas.
During the Jarabe Nayarita, the men not only clang the blades together to the tempo and beat of the musical melodies of fast movements, but they then toss the machete to the man facing him, and they EXCHANGE the blades in mid-air, and even later on have them cover their eyes and keep clanging the machetes together to the music, sometimes with sparks flying from the grind of metal against metal.
We are hoping that we can get an interview with a musical group for the next episode, as we would like to present a summary of the corridos of the Revolucion Mexicana of 1910. And we would love to have our musicians actually play these ballads and songs that are still very much alive in the hearts of Mexicans today. We will still try for that special bonus of los corridos y las polkas (o polcas) de la Revolucion.