Border: Papel Picado and Poinsettia leaves
Hola/ Hello in Spanish/Mexican
Dance: Folklorico is a word used collectively to describe Mexican folk dances, and there are many which reflect traditions, customs and costumes from different regions. One of the most recognizable is the Jalisco folk dance dress, with wide sweeping skirt made with yards of material and colorful ribbons. It is sometimes called an Escaramuza dress.
When the women dancers move and swirl the skirts, they create great circles of color and rows of lines. One Song/Dance called The Son of La Negra (which is suppose the resemble the sound of a locomotive in the opening chords) is often danced to Mariachi music* and features these swirling skirts. The image below is of a group of young dancers performing a Folklorico dance in Jalisco folk dance dresses at El Mercado, the Mexican Market Plaza in San Antonio, Texas. The swirls of color and motion (too swift for the camera to capture) create a fabulous sense of energy and drama. If you look closely, you will also see papel picado in the background.
Check out one or more of the video links below to see performances.
(Also, see Blog on Mariachi music/ “6 strings a playing”, when it is posted.)
Border: Papel Picada refers to the banners of cut paper “flags” that hang above Mexican towns and villages for celebrations and festivals. When I visited the Mexican Market in San Antonio, Texas (The largest Mexican Market in the U.S) the streets were lined with lattice-like papel picada. I fell in love with the bright colors and festive spirit they generated. These tissue paper flags are used as decorations on the Day of the Dead, Christmas, Independence Day, some religious holidays, festivals and other celebration. Papel picada literally means ‘punched’ or ‘perforated’ paper. While they may appear to be cut with fine scissor, they are traditionally made by craftsmen who score through multiple layers with a hammer and a chisel. As many of 30 to 50 sheets of tissue paper may be pieced at one time. So, rather than being cut out, the design is actually chiseled through a piece of stencil paper or Manila paper onto which the pattern is drawn and stacked atop layers of tissue paper. The perforated papers are then clued to a string and hung throughout the city. On September 22, 1998, the governor of Puebla State proclaimed the artisanal papel picado from San Salvador Huixcolotla, a part of the State's cultural heritage.
The tradition of hanging such banners probably dates back to Aztec times, where a form of bark paper, decorated with melted rubber was used. The thin paper versions on papel de china or tissue paper was adapted later under Christian influence. Images often have religious or traditional meaning, such as angels and nativity scenes for Christmas and skulls for Day of the Dead. Colors, too, may have symbolic and religious significance, such as purple for Easter and vibrant pinks and oranges for Day of the Dead. (Check the sites below for images.)
Poinsettia "leaves/petals" at the sides.
The Poinsettia plant are named for the first US ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, who fell in love with these “flowers” and brought them to the US (So. Carolina) in the 1820s. At first, in the 19th century the plant wasn’t that popular in the US, but by the 20th century it had gained in popularity and became associated with the Christmas holiday because of its green and red color combination. Dec. 12 is Poinsettia Day (It is the day Joel Poinsett died in 1851.) Actually, this plant does not have red flowers. The red portion is the bracts or modified leaf growth. The tiny yellow flowers (Cyanthia) in the center are rather inconspicuous next to those vibrant red leaves. After the flowers spread their pollen, the bracts and leaves fall off. While not exactly poisonous, eating parts of the plant can make you sick. However, one would have to eat many, many bad-tasting leaves (more than 500) to be harmfully affected. The Aztec used the leaves medicinally to control fevers. They also made a reddish fabric dye from the bracts. Today, 70% of all commercial Poinsettias are grown on the Paul Ecke Ranch in California. In Mexico and Guatemala, the plant is called La Flor de la Nochebuena, ( Flower of the Holy Night/ Christmas Eve.) The image at the bottom is a tinted dry point etching I created of Poinsettia.
References and Links: ( Note: I do not endorse or mean to promote any of these sites.)
- Agur, Dinah. Folk Art Guide: Papel Picado. https://www.mexican-folk-art-guide.com/papel-picado.html#.YCgg8hNKggG
- nationalclothing.org/ Beautiful Mexican Jalisco folk dance costume 10/9/2018
- nationalclothing.org/ Traditional Mexican costume. Typical pieces of clothing in Mexico 8/12/2014
- Palfrey, Dale Hoyt. Mexican traditional papel picado: Classic art for a Mexican fiesta. Mex Connect. 1/1/1999. https://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1567-mexico-s-traditional-papel-picado-classic-art-for-a-mexican-fiesta/
- History of Mexican Papel Picado Cut Paper Banners https://mexicansugarskull.com/pages/history-of-mexican-papel-picado-cut-paper-banners
- Seltzer, Erica D and MaryAnnSpinner, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners. Poinsettia Facts. 2021. https://web.extension.illinois.edu/poinsettia/facts.cfm#:~:text=10%20Interesting%20Facts%20about%20Poinsettias.%201%20No%20flower,500%20leaves%20to%20have%20any%20...%20More%20items
Folklorico dance costumes throughout Mexico.
- Folklorica videos: