The dances of independence

Sandra Lopez, 19, was born in Mexico but came to the United States at a young age; her sister Teresa, 13, only knows life here.

However, the sisters and their friends can be seen all around Sequim twirling their skirts as they perform dances from their motherland.

It is just what the girls' mother intended when, to help her Sequim-raised daughters learn more about their heritage, she encouraged them to join the Mexican Folk Dancers of Sequim as the group was starting up and looking for interested members.

"She thought it would be a good way for us to get to know our culture," Sandra explained.

Group organizer Narciso Marcial said that is precisely the reason he and a few others decided to start the group around 2004.

"The community was a lot smaller and we thought, 'Why not start something new to give some entertainment to the kids?'" Marcial said. "This way they can be entertained and stay out of trouble."

Marcial gathered together children of his friends, as well as adults, who began meeting and practicing a couple times a week. Four years later, the dancers have performed all over Sequim, including at the Irrigation Festival parade, as well as in Seattle.

Right now, eight members are preparing for their first show at Peninsula College - a celebration to commemorate Mexican Independence Day.

Sandra explained that they teach themselves dances through videos or dances they've seen before.

"We've had teachers come and go, people who are dancers themselves," Sandra said. "Recently, we've been trying our own stuff."

She added that they work solely on traditional dances from the different states in Mexico, including Jalisco, Nuevo Leon and Sinaloa. The dancers have costumes and outfits made in Mexico and brought to Sequim.

"By doing this, we're showing (the youth) their Mexican culture and we're also showing it to the public," Marcial explained. "We want it to be authentic."

According to Peninsula College educational planner and outreach coordinator Marisol White, this is the first time the college has hosted the Mexican Independence Day celebration. The college hopes to increase its outreach in the Hispanic community.

"We're trying at P.C. to do more outreach to the community, especially Latino outreach," White said. "By having this celebration ... it's letting the community know we are here for them."

The Lopez sisters know all the reasons for starting the group and the show but while they are dancing, they say that's all they are thinking of.

"We didn't know a lot of the others before we joined, so we've made new friends," Sandra said. "For us, it is just a lot of fun."

Who: The Mexican Folk Dancers of Sequim. Sponsors include Peninsula College, Puerto de Angeles restaurant and DJ Guerrero Sound

What: Mexican Independence Day celebration, which includes a dinner and music followed by a dance performance

When: Saturday, Sept. 13; doors open at 4:30 p.m., dinner is served from 5-6 p.m. and the performance begins at 6 p.m.

Where: Peninsula College's Pirate Union Building (PUB)

Admission: $12 general admission, $20 for couples, $10 for seniors and military and $8 for students; children under 10 are free. Cost of admission does not include dinner, which can be purchased separately

Contact: Marisol White at 417-6486.

The road to independence

The Mexican War of Independence began Sept. 16, 1810, and lasted 11 years. The movement was led by Mexican-born Spaniards, mestizos, zambos and Amerindians who sought independence from the Spanish colonial government. Even though the war ended on Sept. 27, 1821, Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on Sept. 16, the day the grito de Dolores - the cry of Dolores, a battle cry of the war - was uttered by a Roman Catholic priest from the Mexican town of Dolores. After the bloody war that resulted in 15,000 deaths and 450,000 injured on the Mexican side and 8,000 deaths on the Spanish side - the Treaty of Cordoba was signed and the North American country gained independence.

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