The costumes are bright and colorful, the dance is fast-paced and the origins lie deep in Mexico, dating back more than two centuries to the Mexican state of Morelos. Known as Chinelos Morelenses, the traditional dancers were the highlight of the Second Annual Hispanic Heritage Day on Saturday at the George Washington Carver National Monument. The group performed at both 12:15 and 2:15 p.m.
A group based in Springdale, Arkansas, Chinelos Morelenses Unidos en Arkansas, performed twice during the event. "Chinelo" comes from a word meaning shoulder and hip movement, both of which were evident during the dancing. The troupe invited members of the audience to join them, ranging from kids to senior citizens. The exaggerated movements and costumes originally mocked the Spanish conquerers.
The dance began after Spain's colonization of Mexico. The indigenous people wanted to participate in Christian festivals so one year during Carnival - a celebration held four days before the season of Lent begins, they dressed in old clothing and concealed their faces. Carnival is a time of fun and celebration before Ash Wednesday and the penitential season of Lent, which lasts for 40 days until Easter.
Their antics became more popular each year and in time, the Chinelos dancers began performing at other events, such as birthdays, weddings, funerals, baptisms and other celebrations.
Today, the custom continues in the United States. The group that performed on Saturday is based in Springdale, Arkansas. They perform at a wide variety of events.
Each year, since 1968, National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 through October 15.
Other events at the park included demonstrating the preparation of tamales, which were steamed and then served so participants could taste the final result. Crafts including making sugar skulls, paper marigold and worry dolls also took place. In Hispanic tradition, each sugar skull represents a departed soul. Sometimes the name of the deceased is written on the forehead, then placed in the home or on the cemetery marker of the individual. Marigolds represent the fragility of life and are often used during the Dia de los Muertos on November 1, known as the Day of the Dead. The date corresponds in the Catholic calendar with All Saints Day, an annual observance in which the dead are remembered.
Soccer demonstrations were also held outside at the park.
Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority in the United States today, making up 18% of the population or 58.9 million people.
Hispanic Heritage Day was held on October 12 this year since that date is the annual observance of Indigenous People or Columbus Day. The legal observance of the holiday was on Monday. Since 1971, the anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World on October 12, 1492 has been observed on the second Monday in October.
Numerous programs and events are held at the park each week.
The next large event will be the Annual Holiday Open House, scheduled for Sunday, December 7 from 1-3 p.m. The Holiday Open House features seasonal music, crafts, food and fun for all ages.
For details about the park or upcoming events, visit the website or Facebook page.
The George Washington Carver National Monument is located at 5646 Carver Road, Diamond, Missouri.