Performing Nation: The Jarabe Tapatío of 1920s Mexico

As I was researching for my latest project, I happened to find my article entitled, “The Jarabe Tapatío: Imagining Race, Nation, Class, and Gender in 1920s Mexico” as published in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity available for preview on-line. Please click below.

Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity

I invite you to read through this article and tell me your thoughts. I have decided to give a brief summary of my arguments from this article for this months’ blog.

Folkloric Dance as Representative of the Nation  

The Jarabe Tapatío, is performed by the Charro and the China Poblana. It is most famous for a part in the dance where the Charro throws his hat on the floor and the couple dance around it. According to Alura Flores de Angeles “Godmother of Mexican Dance” the Jarabe Tapatío was designated the national dance of Mexico by the Federal government in 1920. Mexico had just finished fighting the Revolutionary War (1910-1920). The Mexican Government wanted to unite the country culturally. At that time, countries were considered nations if they shared a common language, culture, religion, race, etc. Mexico was very diverse country boasting thousands of different indigenous languages and influences from Europe, Asia, and Africa. How do we unite a country that is so diverse?

Folkloric Dance as a Way of Uniting the Country

Jose Vasconcelos was the Secretary of Education from 1920-1924. He decided that public school teachers should teach the Jarabe Tapatío to their students. What better way to teach children what it is to be Mexican than through dance. The Jarabe Tapatío was perfectly suited for this task.  Here is a dance that is considered a mestizo dance. This dance came from the peasant people and eventually versions of it were danced in the balls of the aristocracy in the late 1800s and worldwide on pointe shoes by the Russian ballerina, Ana Pavlova at the turn of the century. This is also a dance that is bodily performed by a male and female couple who meet, flirt, break-up, make-up, and end with a proposal of marriage.

The “True” Mexican

Sanjuanita Martinez-Hunter in her 1984 doctoral dissertation paraphrases Alura Flores de Angeles from a lecture presented in 1979 at the University of Texas at Austin. “The adoption of the Jarabe Tapatío as Mexico’s national dance was significant for it symbolized the acceptance of the blend of the Spanish and Indian, and the acceptance of the true Mexican, the mestizo.” I argue that the teaching of the Jarabe Tapatío in public schools sought to unite the country culturally, So that the people would think of themselves as Mexican and part of a homogenous, heteronormative, mestizo nation. Thus, a great effort was made by the government to encourage the performance of the Jarabe Tapatío by public school children for Mexican patriotic celebrations, Mother’s Day programs, and civic events. In my writings, I continue talking about three important events where the Jarabe Tapatío was performed by public school children in the 1920s. Also, I talk about the efforts made by the Mexican government to encourage public school teachers to collect transmit, and pass on the dances of the indigenous and peasant people within the Cultural Missions.

The Jarabe Tapatío in the 21st Century

Today, many folklorico groups in the United States perform the Jarabe Tapatío as part of our repertoire of dances. We perform this dance at many events throughout the United States celebrating Mexico’s patriotic holidays, as well as, community events. What kinds of bodily messages do you think our performances of the Jarabe Tapatío in the 21st century United States tell?

Please read this article for all the citations used to write this blog post.

The material was originally published in The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity Edited by Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young For permission to reuse this material, please visit

All photos courtesy of Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia

Copyright, 2/18/2018, Mendoza-Garcia

Gabriela Mendoza-García Ph.D. is an Artist and Scholar. She has her own dance school and company called the Gabriela Mendoza-García Ballet Folklórico in Laredo, Texas.  Dr. Mendoza-Garcia founded this group in 2013 and teaches children and adults of all ages. Her company consists of seasoned folklórico dancers with years of experience performing this art form. She teaches traditional Mexican folklórico dance pieces, as well as, works that are inspired by her scholarly research. Her scholarship includes: Dancing throughout Mexican History (1325-1910), History & Folklore booklet with an accompanying documentary sponsored by the Webb County Heritage Foundation, The Jarabe Tapatío: Imagining Race, Nation, Class and Gender in 1920s Mexico published by Oxford University Press, an on-line blog, writings for Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos, and others.

4 thoughts on “Performing Nation: The Jarabe Tapatío of 1920s Mexico

  1. GRACIELA Rogerio

    Beautiful. And a fascinating history. Little do we realize that dance is politically important. Wish we had one now to unify our country. Bravo, Dra Gabriela!


  2. Thanks for your kind words. It seems that in the United States we could not agree on one dance to represent the entire nation. Should it be an indigenous dance,square dance, jazz, tap? So, we don’t have a national dance. Different states have designated a dance to represent them. I know for example Texas has square dance as the state dance. Tells a lot about us doesn’t it?


  3. Pingback: The Love Story behind the Jarabe Tapatío | Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ballet Folklorico

  4. Pingback: Nationalization of Folklórico Dance | Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia Ballet Folklorico

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