MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s Mixteca region is trying to hold onto its traditional roots amid the growing threat of globalization and pervasive American culture.
The region, consisting of the Puebla, Guerrero and Oaxaca states, is a multicultural melting pot with a wealth of cultural and gastronomic traditions.
Languages such as Nahuatl, Mixteco, Zapoteco, Tlapaneco, Chinanteco, Mixe, Otomi and Mazahua are all spoken in the area but are at risk of being lost amid high migration to the United States.
As its residents have been forced to move away due to poverty and insecurity, the region has been losing its identity, traditions and customs dating back to the first peoples of the land.
Chef Bryan Ramirez Ramos is among those trying to reverse the trend by dedicating a gastronomic project to promote Mixtec food and revive forgotten dishes that have been replaced by fast food.
His work focuses on preserving ancient recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
The dance of the Huehues (old men) is another tradition involving colorful feathered masks and hats.
Some of the costumes are used in ritual dances accompanied by percussion, flutes and wind bands on festive days.
Many of those who have left the area continue to take part in traditional celebrations to ensure the customs are passed on to their children.
Michael Calixto, the son of Mexican migrants in New York, said he comes to the annual celebrations dedicated to the patron saint of Chinantla village in Puebla.
“We do the same traditions, here and there, to remind ourselves that we have to return and not lose the habit of being a Chinanteco,” he added.
Passing traditions down the generations is essential to preserving the identity of the original people.
One project, the Nahuales Collective, aims to do this through dance and art exhibitions.
Its first schemes were carried out in Piaxtla and Chinantla and has also spread to metropolitan areas, with projects in Puebla Capital, San Pedro Cholula and other states such as Jalisco and Playa del Carmen.
Founder Ulises Angel Machuca is a self-taught artist and has been Chinantla cultural manager for more than 15 years.
“When a child gets involved, he involves his father, his mother, uncle, aunt, the same family and with that a cultural project is enlarged,” he explained.
The wide range of traditions include various cultural dances combined with gastronomy.
Machuca said strengthening and sharing traditions is important as it inspires others to take part or create artworks.
The transmutation of traditions is a fact that is observed throughout the world by globalization, and Mexico is trying to strengthen its connection with the past with music, drink, food and dance.