Portrait of a Folklife Festival Magic Moment
Imagine that you grew up in a small village in Peru and that you are very proud of your culture. You are overjoyed when the Smithsonian Folklife Festival invites you to dance and share your traditions with an American audience at the Perú: Pachamama program. You think it can’t get any better than this…
Then you visit the National Museum of the American Indian and stumble across a picture of someone wearing your village’s typical clothing. Wait! It’s not just anyone—it’s you eight years ago!
This is what happened to Andrea Ochoa, who came from Cabanaconde, Arequipa, to perform the wititi dance during the Festival Community Days.
“I was happy and surprised to see myself there!” she said. “I remember the very moment in which this photo was taken. My mom took the picture in the main street of my village.
“I felt very proud to see that my village and my culture are present here in the United States, so far from where I come from. I like that people are interested in my village and seeing our traditions and costumes.”
I consider Andrea to be an ambassador of her culture. She thought more people from her village would come to the Festival to perform with her, but she was the only one. She decided to dance alone in front of a huge audience.
Always with a smile in her face, Andrea invited visitors to join her on the stage. It didn’t take much time to have everyone clapping along and sharing her great energy. It took a lot of courage to do this by herself, but Andrea’s light and heart permeated through the audience, and many other participants decided to dance with her.
“The wititi is a dance of love,” she explained. “The legend is that a man wore skirts and a hat covering his eyes because the father of the woman he loved opposed the relationship. Through this dance, he was able to get closer to the woman he loved, since he was dressed as a woman as well. This is how the dance was created.”
And why is it so important to share this dance?
“Some people travel and forget their roots,” she said. “I believe we should not only share our traditions, but feel proud of what we are and where we come from, because we are all part of these beautiful things presented in this Festival.”
At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, these kinds of magic moments happen all the time—you just have to pay attention.
We can all be magic moment-catchers. Share your favorites on social media with #FestivalMoments.
Kyra Hamann is a social media intern with the 2015 Folklife Festival.