As a child, nothing fascinated me more as seeing these individuals covered in colorful feathers and beaded outfits dance around my grandmothers front yard. One of my favorite memories of all time, the first time I saw this I must of been about 3 or 4 years old and my grandmother leaned close and whispered in my ear, "le estan bailando a la morenita."
I think from that moment on hearing those drums from far away and feeling the rhythm in my heart more and more as they get closer, is probably my favorite sound in the whole world. And I can play every note of every melody in my head just by memory and calculate every step as I watch their feet move around in the most rhythmic way. This has always been my most favorite tradition of our culture till this day.
Matachines are dancers that wear beautiful outfits with beads, sequences and feathers that, as a group, dance to the rhythm of drums. One of them ususally carries a flag similar to their outfit which has an image of an entity beautifully embroidered in the center, which they may be wearing in their backs or their chests as well. This image is the reason why they are dancing. They are devotees and offer this dance to their dainty. A common group of Matachines are Los Guadalupanos, and they are devoted to La Virgen de Guadalupe, "la morenita," and offer their dance to her on December 12. But there exist others who may be dancing for other reasons. El Día de los Muertos is another day where Matachines dance paying their respect to the dead, in my community this group is called Los Aztecas.
Churches often have Matachines performan during their annual bazars, whenever each church celebrates their patron saint on their day. And people may ask for Matachines to pay a visit to their house in order to fulfil a manda.
To me, a manda is like a promise you make to your special saint which you promise to accomplish if they in return do something for you. My aunt made a manda when my cousin left to Iraq some years ago asking La Virgen for his safe return home and till this day every Friday after Thanksgiving we gather at my aunts house, my cousin joining us, to watch the Matachines my aunt promised to bring every year, dance to her altar of La Virgencita.
It really doesn't matter what the reason for their visit is, feeling those drums in my heart brings so much happiness to me and so much pride. At the end, when the Matachines finish their beautiful dance, my grandmother welcomes them inside our home to enjoy some champurrado and buñuelos with us, like one big family and one big group of friends, all united for the same reason, our culture and out faith.