Dance of the Viejitos


The older men of the town danced with their sticks as an offering to the Sun God or Old God, which in the region of Michoacán is called Tata Jurhiata. Just from the sun that burned their faces, the old people received the vigor required to continue with their earthly activities.

There were four dancers. Four, like the directions of the universe, the sides of a house and the extremities of the human being. Four as the elements of the earth and the colors of corn: red, blue, white and yellow. Four as the stations that celebrate the Purépecha.

This sacred dance, now called Dance of the Old Men, was carried out every change of season; it was also dedicated to the Old God, the Fire God and the God of the Year. Only the shamans, called petámutis, the wisest and therefore the oldest, could perform the dance. One wore a child's mask, representing the nascent season, and the other three, masks of old people, to remember the seasons already past.

When the Spaniards arrived in the region in 1530, the original dance of the viejitos (little old men) was banned. The shamans taught it secretly to young people who could hold the rhythm, marked with the drum and the flute. The dance of the old people lost its mystical and ritual sense, and it was transformed little by little into something different thanks to the contact of the instruments and culture of the Old World.

With time, the dance of the viejitos, that takes the name of T'arche Uarakua, became a caricature of the Spanish colon, that aged faster than the native one and showed more aches and pains in its gait. The dance ended by mixing with the dominant culture.

The clothing consists of a mask made of wood or cane paste that represents the face of smiling old people; a fake hair made with grass fiber, a hat adorned with multicolored ribbons, and a cane. The suit is made up of a trousers and a white blanket shirt covered by a colorful sarape or jorongo. Finally, huaraches with wooden soles, which allow better accentuate the zapateado to the rhythm of music.

The dance is accompanied by traditional Purepecha music; mainly pirekuas such as El Huarache, El Gustito, La Competencia, El Saludo del Amigo and El Trenecito. String instruments: guitar, violin and double bass, give the rhythm to this dance, which illustrates how to deal with aging courageously, laugh and accept the passage of years without hesitation. The dance of the old people teaches us to enjoy the fact of being alive through movement, music and dance.

¿Qué Visitar?

What to visit?

  • Main square "Vasco de Quiroga"Only central plaza in all Mexico where there is no church in sight. In addition to colonial mansions and beautiful gardens, in the middle you will see the sculpture of the first Bishop of Michoacán and founder of Patzcuaro: Don Vasco de Quiroga.
  • House of the Eleven PatiosBuilding of 1742 where the Dominican Nuns were established.
  • Basilica of the Virgin of HealthThis temple, founded in 1538 by Don Vasco de Quiroga, is the most important in Patzcuaro.
  • Public Library Gertrudis BocanegraIts interior is decorated with a monumental mural by Juan O'Gorman that captures the history of Michoacán.
¿Qué Saber?

What to know?

  • It is said that one of the meanings of this dance is a mockery of the Spanish colonizers and their lack of grace when dancing.
  • The dance is so ingrained in the lacustrine zone of the state of Michoacán that the dancers are usually initiated as children, in a tradition passed down from generation to generation.
  • As with the Voladores de Papantla, folkloric ballet companies have taken this dance to international stages.
Galería - Danza de los viejitos

Visit Dance of the Viejitos with our photographs

La Danza de Los Viejitos

We tell you more about this traditional dance of Michoacán.


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