The Dance of the Mule Drivers


In Capulhuac, in the center of the State of Mexico, it was adopted in the XVII century an office that was extended as a tradition to its surroundings: the muleteer.

When the railroad did not yet exist, the arrieros traveled by shortcuts, roads and places transporting merchandise to the ports and markets of that time. From the Pacific coasts, the muleteers walked with their mules to Mexico City, Toluca, Puebla and Querétaro, in loaded caravans that the merchants of the whole route waited anxiously.

Everything went through Capulhuac. That's why its inhabitants found in the trade, a way of life that spread through generations. But when the railroad arrived, it was extinguished until it became a festive and festive tradition, in which the inhabitants of some zones of the State of Mexico find the vestiges and the pride of their identity and their culture.

There is not a specific muleteer dance, but many. This is how the group of songs that are danced during the patron saint festivities of some towns such as Ocoyoacac, Malinalco, Capulhuac, Ameyalco and Almoloya del Río, among others, is actually named. In the region, there is no party that is respected without arrieros.

The dancers arrive dressed as the characters of yesteryear, with their white suits embroidered on the sides, with his hat, his bandana, his huaraches and even his mule decorated with crates full of fruit and colored papers. They say that to be a muleteer you had to be brave to face the dangers of the road, and hard to withstand the hardships of trotting, cold, heat, bugs and diseases. He ate badly but he traveled, he suffered but he enjoyed himself.

The representation includes all the charges of the gangs: the boss, who was the principal; the butler, who transmitted the orders; the skimmer who was the one who paid; the porters, who were in charge of distributing the transported in all the animals, and the xocoyotes that were the children who learned the trade.

During the party, a band plays sones and syrups to which are interspersed songs and praises to the cuadrilla or to San Bartolomé, patron of the arrieros. The gifts that the mules carry are danced among the people and offered to everyone to enjoy the celebration, then they sing, dance and sing again ...

The butler of the party is in charge of buying food for all attendees. For the Mexiquenses of the region, it is an honor to be the steward. They register up to 10 years before they can be elected by the community. During this time a piggy bank is filled up for the occasion, and the sheep that will be sacrificed for the banquet are raised.

The celebration concludes with the "Danza del Negrito", which represents the dangers of the road. The negrito, usually a boy with a face covered in coal, dances freely among the people. Despite being the bad guy in the story, he is a spoiled character, perhaps because at the end of the two days of dance he is chased and taken to a tree where he utters his last words: "I'm leaving, my children, they're going chickens, these coins are going to them ... ", and immediately afterwards, it throws to the public everything that stole the muleteers. Then the bells ring.

The tradition states that the end of the party, the negrito and the arrieros return to the tree to say goodbye to him and sing the last song. This is how the past and the ritual become a link that unites the present and the future of the Mexican people with strength.

Danza de los arrieros

Learn more about the Dance of the Mule Drivers history in here


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