Smithsonian Folklife Festival to Celebrate the Culture of Mexico

June 4, 2010
News Release
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This summer, visitors to the 44th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will have the opportunity to experience the many cultures of Mexico, one of the most diverse countries in the world. “México,” which will feature more than 100 participants from across the country, highlights the bicentennial celebrations of the country’s independence and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution. The program is the result of a two-year collaboration between the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., cultural institutions in Mexico and the Smithsonian.

The Festival will be held Thursday, June 24, through Monday, June 28, and Thursday, July 1, through Monday, July 5, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

Mexico and the United States share a special relationship that is defined by history, proximity and culture. The program will work to strengthen these ties by fostering cultural understanding between the two countries. 

“Visitors to this program will experience firsthand the deep-rooted traditional knowledge and creativity that has shaped contemporary Mexico,” said Olivia Cadaval, program co-curator.

Four thematic areas will structure the program: La Plaza, El Mercado (The Market), Maguey and Corn. In La Plaza, visitors can watch Wixárika (Huichol) ceremonies, participate in Comcáac (Seri) games and can join Los Chinelos de Atlatlahucan, a carnivalesque dance troupe from the state of Morelos, accompanied by the Banda de Morelos, in a parade and learn their dance steps. They also can try on their elaborate velvet gowns and headdresses that mock the Spanish settlers from the 16th and 17th centuries.  

In El Mercado, visitors will meet the Vicente family, weavers from Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, who will demonstrate the process of carding, spinning, dyeing and weaving traditional rugs inspired by Zapotec designs and contemporary paintings. Alfredo Ortega will prepare the traditional candied fruit and vegetables, which he learned to make from his father. Amalia Salas, also from Xochimilco, will demonstrate how she makes exquisite dolls using all parts of the corn plant. Celsa Iuit, from the Mayan Yucatan peninsula, will show visitors how to make crafts with henequen fiber.

The program also will highlight the country’s agricultural heritage. Visitors can learn how maguey (agave) is processed for making mescal from Oaxaca and tequila from Guadalajara. The program also will feature a chinampa, which is based on a pre-Columbian agricultural system, still practiced on the outskirts of Mexico City. The chinampas are formed from silt dredged up from the bottom of the Lake Xochimilco to form raised fields separated by water canals.

In La Cocina, the program’s foodways area, cooks will demonstrate how to make a variety of traditional Mexican food, including tortillas, tamales and mole.

A central feature of the program is the Téenek community’s cosmic aerial ceremony of the palo volantín. Four men “fly” from the top of pole in the four directions of the world and spiral down to earth. Through this ceremony, they pray for rain and fertile land and give thanks for what they will receive.

The program also will feature a variety of different musical traditions from Mexico, including the Mariachi Tradicional Los Tíos, a group that plays a song repertoire distinctive to Jalisco; Hamaac Cazíim, a rock band that sings traditional lyrics in the Comcáac language from the Gulf of California in Sonora on the Pacific Coast; Grupo Fandango de Artesa Los Quilamos, which is revitalizing an Afro-Mestizo music and dance tradition from the Oaxacan coastal area of Costa Chica; and Los Cardencheros de Sapioriz, a group that performs in a dramatic a cappella tradition that is distinctive to the Comarca Lagunera region in the states of Coahuila and Durango.


“México” has been produced in partnership with the National Council for Culture and the Arts, the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico, the Embassy of Mexico and the Mexican Cultural Institute, with the collaboration of the Consejo de Promoción Turística, Sagarpa, Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas and the Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas.

About the Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites performers and visitors in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The Festival’s website is

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