By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – Elena Agustin learned all about La Guelaguetza when she was a little girl. After all, it was where the annual, indigenous cultural event native to her father’s hometown originated and celebrated all that is special about Mexico.
Now, that Agustin has three children of her own, she wants to continue that tradition of preserving her beautiful culture by exposing them to events like Sunday’s La Guelaguetza, held at Poughkeepsie’s Waryas Park.
“I’m here today to have them learn about their culture in Mexico, something I don’t want to see forgotten,” explained City of Poughkeepsie resident, Augustin. “It’s our first year here, and we all love it, especially the performances.” She added, “It is very important for us as Mexicans to keep traditions alive because sometimes when families come here from Mexico they lose that.”
It’s that very mission that is paramount to Grupo Foclorico de Poughkeepsie (GFP) who has been staging the popular event for the past 10 years. Using the tools of authentic Mexican dance, music and other native cultural flair, GFP, aims to keep alive the passion for Mexican culture while connecting it to the lives of those here in the Hudson Valley and beyond.
The results of their efforts could be spotted everywhere Sunday. Drawing 100 spectators at the event’s inception back in 2009, this year’s La Guelaguetza far exceeded that number, with people jam packed into the Park, enjoying the afternoon and early evening’s offerings. In addition to a front stage, featuring an ongoing cast of dancers dressed in vibrant, colorful attire, performing an assortment of traditional Mexican dances accompanied by equally catchy music, the day included an eclectic assortment of native food and drink, vendors selling crafts, clothes and other items purchased in Mexico, children’s entertainment, and community services, such as Planned Parenthood and MVP Healthcare.
One of those many vendors on hand was “Artesians Manos Magicas.” Their tent was buzzing with activity, as everything under it came straight from Mexico. Whether it was hand-woven clothing or intricately designed jewelry, there was a special, personal “signature” on each item.
“Everything we sell is right from Mexico; we buy directly from the families who make everything handmade,” said Marisol Cruz, who was returning to the Poughkeepsie event for her second year, and like many others, came a distance (from Staten Island) to not miss out on all it had to offer.
“We like how we have the opportunity to show our culture to different countries and people,” continued Cruz, who was accompanied in the booth by Rodrigo Salgado. “We really enjoy seeing the presentations, singing, dancing and of course food.”
That culinary cuisine appeared to be a hit with most all that attended. Whether it was a homemade taco, chock full with tender steak and cilantro, a Tlayuda- huge flat tortilla, topped with an assortment of steak, chicken, pork, cheese and other tantalizing ingredients, specially seasoned corn on the cob, or a Chocomil- Mexican rum drink, visitors were treated to a wide variety of Mexican smells and tastes, able to satisfy most any palate.
Fernando Lopez of Highland was one of many enjoying that cuisine with his fiancee and children.
“The food is the best,” said a smiling Lopez, who looked down at his content two year old son Joshua in his stroller. “Just the overall environment and experience of being in and around the culture is great, especially for him.”