A Visit with the Mixteco Community in Fresno, California
In the agricultural heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, stretching 250 miles from Stockton in the north to Bakersfield in the south, two groups of artists uphold the performance traditions of their Mixteco communities. Most of the members of Grupo Nuu Yuku/Danzantes de los Diablos and Banda Brillo de San Miguel Cuevas share family ties to the town of San Miguel Cuevas in Oaxaca, Mexico. Some have come to Fresno, California, more recently; many were born and raised there.
Although they are independent groups, they often perform together, which you can see this summer at the 2016 Folklife Festival. They will share stories about how they are preserving cultural heritage in their California communities and a variety of musical styles. Through dance traditions and dramas, they will honor their patron saint and commemorate the battles between Moors (Muslims) and Christians during the Reconquista (from the eighth century through the fifteenth century) in Spain.
Sounds of California curator Sojin Kim and I traveled to Fresno in April to help the artists prepare for the Festival. We met in the home of Grupo Nuu Yuku co-director Diego Solano, joined by Amy Kitchener, executive director of our partner group Alliance for California Traditional Arts. Diego’s house was filled with members of the dance group, the band, their families, and homemade Oaxacan mole.
Click on images to enlarge and view captions.
These community connections extend beyond the immediate area. During our visit, artists and family members took photos and videos of our presentations and the post-dinner performance. Immediately, they were already posting reports on Facebook—reaching not only other Mixtecos in the San Joaquin Valley, but, more importantly, Mixteco communities back home. By the next day, a video of me describing the Folklife Festival had over 400 views.
Olivia Cadaval is a curator at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and part of the curatorial team for the Sounds of California program at the 2016 Folklife Festival.