Snow on peaks

Snow on peaks

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mate chines at Night


It is Christmas Eve 2008 and I find myself on the high mesa above Nararachi watching the Mate chine dance. We are gathered in front of Claus Deimel’s stone hut and this night, clear, crisp without wind, is a perfect moment in time. We are here to celebrate in the face of winter’s chill with feasting and dancing. 

The area around the dancing floor is dotted with small fires to warm the on lookers and light the dance.  Satiated with food and drink I am easily lulled into a trance by hypnotic music – repetitive refrains of violins punctuated by rhythmic stomping of booted feet on hard packed dirt and rock.

The Mate chine dancers, their faces masked by darkness, are imposing larger than life figures with their flowing robes and mirrored crowns trailing long, colorful ribbons. They, spin, circle and march weaving this ‘Old World’ Round taken from Conquistadores into a dazzling tapestry of sound and movement. For centuries this ritual act has stood as testament to the glorious, ephemeral triumph of the indigenous spirit.

Above the heavens are filled with stars beyond number, points of light, that seem in the high, thin air to send silvery strands to earth inviting the gathered company to climb towards unknown galaxies. Below men dance with mirrored crowns catching and reflecting light sending flashes out into the night inviting ‘the people’ to rise and complete their earthly journey.  

Here on the high mesa and on this night sparks from the human spirit light the night and seem to say, “Dance under heaven. Dance through darkness. Dance through fear.”

 Kitty Alice Snead

I wish to acknowledge Clause Deimel’s efforts in the Tarahumara community around Nararachi and his years of sponsorship of the dance. And I wish to thank my guide Santiago James Barnaby for taking me there.

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