A group of dancers with colorful headdresses make their way down the street outside of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Bernalillo. A procession follows behind them, with some carrying statues of San Lorenzo. As they make their way down the street, one of the men leads the entire group in singing Hail Marys in Spanish.
The dancers who were outside of our Lady of Sorrows on Thursday are known as Los Matachines and were performing as part of Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo, which takes place Aug. 9-11 each year.
The fiestas were started to commemorate the return of the Spanish to Bernalillo 12 years after they were forced to leave the area by the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. The Spanish were warned of the revolt beforehand and were able to escape before it began on Aug. 10, which is also San Lorenzo’s feast day. The dances performed were meant to be a form of thanksgiving for surviving the revolt and a safe return.
“San Lorenzo is the patron saint of Bernalillo,” Carrie Romero, one of the event’s officials, said on Thursday. “And on the 10th of August every year, regardless of what day it falls on, we celebrate his day.”
The event has been occurring for 324 years and many of its current participants have been involved for decades.
Ben Madrid Jr., an event official, has participated for 35 years and says his father has done so for 57. Other participants boast similar numbers.
“I danced about 55 years ago!” said Richard Lopez, one of this year’s mayordomos.
Mayordomos are members of a family that is chosen to host an image of San Lorenzo from the end of one year’s fiestas until the next year’s begins. This year’s family includes Richard, his wife, Ruth Lopez, and their daughter, Erica Cordova.
When the image is transported during the fiestas, it is accompanied by a procession that includes Los Matachines, said Gerardo Carrillo, whose daughter was participating in the event as a malinche, a young girl dressed in white who symbolizes Christianity and purity. On Thursday, Los Matachines and the church procession transported the image from Our Lady of Sorrows, where it had been brought for Mass, back to the Lopez home.
The procession to the Lopez home included several individuals, each with a particular title. For example, the highest ranking members of Los Matachines are called monarcas. They held onto the hands of the malinches during the procession.
The attire of Los Matachines carries a significance, according to Tim Lucero, who has been dancing with Los Matachines for 22 years. The headdresses that the dancers wear, called cupiles, contain the image of a saint that each one picks. They also carry “wooden tridents” called palmas and rattle shakers called guajes.
“(The palma) represents the Trinity,” said Lucero, who was at the event with his wife and two children. “And it also serves as a symbol of a shield. The whole dance concept is a battle between good and evil, really. So we serve as soldiers and this would be our shield and (the guaje) would be our sword.”
In addition to its religious aspects, which took place Wednesday through Friday, this year’s fiestas also include food vendors and entertainment at the Rotary Park Pavilion, said Mike Kloeppel, Bernalillo’s director of economic and community development.
Entertainment by various acts will continue today from noon to 11 p.m.