By John Chalmers the June 2019 Edition
At the small town of El Naranjo, population 1,500, in the municipality of Manzanillo, and not far from the city center, school kids in the town are keeping alive the culture, tradition, heritage and dances of México.
On March 19, at the open-air casino, the pavilion beside Highway 200 at El Naranjo, the students of Griselda Álvarez Ponce de León Secondaria Pública school put on a fine performance in a special fund raising event. The escuela is named for Griselda Álvarez (1913-2009), the first female governor in México who, from 1979-1985, served as governor of Colima, the state in which Manzanillo is located. Her father had served as governor of Colima from 1919-1923. When Colima became a state in 1857, Griselda’s great grandfather became its first governor.
There was more than just a dance performance for the evening! It began with a true Mexican buffet dinner with all dishes made by women in the town. It was as authentic a traditional feast as folks could find anywhere! Diners had the opportunity to enjoy pozole, tamales, guacamole, chiles rellenos, flautas, enchiladas and other home-cooked specialities. Of course, in addition to soft drinks, the bar offered cervezas, magaritas and piña coladas just as one would expect in México! For dessert, a giant cake decorated like the flag of the county provided a fine finish to the dinner.
Entertainment followed in a lively dance and music program presented by the students. Some 200 folks attended the sellout gala and comprised an appreciative audience. Many attending the event were snowbirds from the area, who not only enjoy the charms and climate of México while they escape winter at home in Canada and the United States, but are also are very supportive of local charitable activities and events.
School director, Yamil Torres, spoke to the audience in thanking them for their attendance and explaining the need to replace equipment that had been stolen. He explained that the festive occasion was staged for the benefit of the school, which has been vandalized five times in two years, with theft of computers, television sets, cooking equipment and electrical cable.
The escuela is located across the road from the pavilion and the adjacent rodeo ring, two important local facilities used for special occasions. Two buildings and a covered basketball court, also used for school assemblies, comprise the school. It has 70 students from 12 to 16 years old in levels corresponding to grades seven to nine.
Staff includes six teachers, a secretary, an attendant and Yamil Torres, the director. He and other teachers, along with help from some of the students who were experienced with the dances, did the choreography and put the program together.
All who attended the fiesta left with admiration for the skill and dedication of the young performers. As well as being well fed and well entertained, those who came and also made donations made during the evening, had the satisfaction of knowing they had supported a worthy cause for the hard-working students of a local school. In the escuela with a connection by name to Mexican history, the students themselves have been keeping alive the traditions of their country.