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La Matachines dance in front of the cross
Los Matachines dance in front of the cross on Anna Street in Laredo, c. 1996 Photo: Marlene Richardson

Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz

This traditional dance group, also known as the Ladrillera  group from the barrio  in which most members of the group lived, has been active continuously for over a century. One of five groups active in Laredo, Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz  was the earliest to arrive in Las Minas with their families, up the Rio Grande, around the turn of the century. They moved to Laredo in the late 1940s when the mines of Las Minas, which had provided employment for their families, were closed.

Consisting of a group of about fifty dancers led by a monarca or elder, the current Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz is composed of members most of whom are descendants of former dancers. Along with an extraordinary devotion to the holy cross (Santa Cruz  ), they also honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, performing on two occasions: in the May feast of the Holy Cross, and in December at the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Both feasts are marked by processions, dancing and prayer. The dance ceremony is initiated by removing the cross from its chapel and placing it on a four-wheeled pedestal outside the chapel. Dancers, summoned by the sound of a drum and an accordion, perform in front of the cross wearing naguillas  , bright red velvet skirts decorated with beads, carrizos  (six-inch sections of bamboo reed cane), strips of leather, and sometimes small pompoms and sequins spelling out the dancer's name. During the dance, the carrizo  segments make a distinct musical sound. The dance is part of a traditional fiesta that includes food ways, textiles, and folk literary arts. Its importance to the community is both cultural and religious, having roots in medieval Spain and pre-Columbian Mexico, and forming a unique cultural expression of the United States-Mexican borderland.

Project documentation comprises a six-page report, thirty 8 x 10 photographs with accompanying descriptions, and a videotape.

Originally submitted by: Henry Bonilla, Representative (23rd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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