MODESTO, Calif. — 'Water, Wealth, Contentment and Health' is the motto written on the archway as you enter Modesto, but there’s one word the city might want to consider adding -- “color.”
Modesto has a colorful history, a colorful downtown, and a colorful mix of culture. A good example is the dance group Ballet Folklórico Los Falcones.
For 25 years the group has been sharing the colorful Mexican culture with the people of Modesto. Dance teachers Mayra Martinez and Natalie Agular pride themselves on keeping the tradition alive and explaining the origins behind their dancers' colorful clothing.
“Each of the dresses is telling a story,” said Agular. “Every region or every state of Mexico has their own traditional dance,” said Martinez.
The word Folklórico is a Mexican term loosely translated to “dances of the people.” It can be traced back to the ceremonial dances of indigenous people living in Mexico. The dance was influenced by Spanish conquistadors during the 1500s and immigrants from Germany, France, and Asia in the 1700s and 1800s. They all brought their own music and dance to different regions of Mexico during the colonial period.
Here in Modesto, Folklórico is a shout-out to Mexican family origins and a step forward to an American future.
“Some of our parents are immigrants from Mexico and these are either their first or second-generation kids,” said Martinez.
Founder Laura Malagon started the group in the late 1990s more out of necessity than want.
“It’s more than keeping them out of trouble, it keeps them on track to go to university,” said Malagon. “In south Modesto, there is a need for programs like this.”
While teaching English and Spanish at Fairview Elementary, Malagon recognized a lack of culturally-based afterschool activities. Some of her students' parents showed interest in Folklórico, so she started a group.
“We do it for free. We want to teach the kids to learn to give their time without expecting any money,” said Malagon.
Malagon has always acted as a facilitator. First, she got her parents to teach the dance. As time went on, former students like Natalie Agular and Fairview teacher Mayra Martinez took over.
“At the time, when I was younger, I didn't value it or understand the meaning of it at all, but now that I am older I understand what my parents went through to be here. I appreciate it a lot,” said Agular.
Unlike other dance groups, Ballet Folklórico Los Falcones is free to join, free to perform, and free for the community to enjoy. Folklórico in Modesto not only teaches kids to be excited about their cultural roots but also teaches them to be confident about themselves.
Ballet Folklórico Los Falcones regularly dances for the community. Their performance schedule is regularly posted on their Facebook page.