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Procession of the Matachines in Monterrey, Mexico Matlachines.jpg
Procession of the Matachines in Monterrey, Mexico
Matachines dancers in Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico, 2012 Los Matachines de Ohkay Owingeh.jpg
Matachines dancers in Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico, 2012

Matachines (Spanish singular- matachín; sword dancers dressed in ritual attire called bouffon) are a society of North and South American-Indian dancers who perform ritual dances. They are found from Peru up to northern New Mexico, USA where the Spanish first influenced the New World and introduced Christianity to the native peoples. In Bernalillo New Mexico, the matachienes de San Lorenzo have been performing for more than 300 years.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

New World Collectively, the Americas and Oceania

The New World is one of the names used for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas, and Oceania.

Christianity is an Abrahamic Universal religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament.


The Matachina dance, or "Danza de Matachines" (Spanish) is explained by oral tradition among most Indian Tribes as "The Dance of the Moors and Christians" and is the first masked dance introduced by the Spaniards. The Moors were driven out of Spain in 1492 and the missionaries introduced the dance to show the superiority of the Christians. The dance was adopted by the people, and today many forms of this dance still exist, though the dance steps vary among tribes the dance formations are all similar. Masks continue to be used, but the style changes from village to village, or tribe.

Oral tradition form of human communication wherein knowledge, art, ideas and cultural material is received, preserved and transmitted orally from one generation to another

Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication wherein knowledge, art, ideas and cultural material is received, preserved and transmitted orally from one generation to another. The transmission is through speech or song and may include folktales, ballads, chants, prose or verses. In this way, it is possible for a society to transmit oral history, oral literature, oral law and other knowledge across generations without a writing system, or in parallel to a writing system. Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, for example, have used an oral tradition, in parallel to a writing system, to transmit their canonical scriptures, secular knowledge such as Sushruta Samhita, hymns and mythologies from one generation to the next.

Moors medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta

The term "Moors" refers primarily to the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors initially were the indigenous Maghrebine Berbers. The name was later also applied to Arabs.

The introduction of the Dance of the Moors and Christians gave rise to a further range of masked dances, one of them recounting the Spanish victory over the Indians and their eventual conversion to Christianity. These dances are called conquest dances (also a Matachín tradition), and Hernán Cortés and La Malinche (his Indian mistress and translator) often appear in them. It's interesting to note that in many versions of this dance, the Indians wear lavish costumes while the Christians are played by children.

Hernán Cortés Spanish conquistador

Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of what is now mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

La Malinche Nahua woman who was the interpreter, advisor, and intermediary to Hernan Cortez

La Malinche, known also as Malinalli[maliˈnalːi], Malintzin[maˈlintsin] or Doña Marina[ˈdoɲa maˈɾina] or Malintze, was a Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast, who played a key role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, acting as an interpreter, advisor, and intermediary for the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés. She was one of 20 women slaves given to the Spaniards by the natives of Tabasco in 1519. Later, she gave birth to Cortés's first son, Martín, who is considered one of the first Mestizos.

The Matachines dance for a deeper religious purpose, since most of them join to venerate either Mother Mary (Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Immaculate conception, etc.), a saint (the group usually chooses the saint that pertains to the church they belong to), or simply to worship Christ or God the Holy Trinity, demonstrated by the three forked item symbolized as a "Sword of the Holy Trinity".

Our Lady of Guadalupe title of the Virgin Mary associated with a celebrated pictorial image housed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in México City

Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a Marian apparition and a venerated image enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, and the world's third most-visited sacred site. Pope Leo XIII granted the venerated image a Canonical Coronation on 12 October 1895.

Our Lady of Lourdes Title of Mary, mother of Jesus, related to her alleged apparitions in Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in honour of the Marian apparitions that reportedly occurred in 1858 in the vicinity of Lourdes in France. The first of these is the apparition of 11 February 1858, when 14-year old Bernadette Soubirous told her mother that a "lady" spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle while she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Similar apparitions of the "Lady" were reported on seventeen occasions that year, until the climax revelation of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception took place.

Dressed in traditional ceremonial dress and clothing, the chief characters are El Monarca the monarch (Moctezuma), the captains (usually consist of 2-4 and are Montezuma's main generals), La Malinche, or Malintzín, the Indian mistress of Hernán Cortés; El Toro, the bull, the malevolent comic man of the play (also symbolizes Satan, or the Devil, according to Roman Catholic religious interpretations), dressed with the skins of the buffalo and wearing the horns of this sacred ancestor; Abuelo, the grandfather, and Abuela, grandmother. With the help of a chorus of dancers they portray the desertion of his people by Moctezuma, the luring of him back by the wiles and smiles of La Malinche, the final reunion of king and people and the killing of "El Toro", who is supposed to have made all the mischief. Much symbolism is seen in these groups. The most basic symbol of the dance is good vs. evil, with good prevailing.

Moctezuma II 9th tlatoani of Tenochtitlan and ruler of the Aztec Triple Alliance

Moctezuma II, variant spellings include Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma, Motēuczōmah, Muteczuma, and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, was the ninth tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlán, reigning from 1502 to 1520. The first contact between indigenous civilizations of Mesoamerica and Europeans took place during his reign, and he was killed during the initial stages of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, when conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men fought to escape from the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan.

All of the cultural artifacts associated with the dance are blessed by a priest.

See also

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Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Matachines"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 875.

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