Los Matachines dance in front of the cross on Anna Street in Laredo, c. 1996 Photo: Marlene Richardson
Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz
This traditional dance group, also known as the Ladrillera group from the barrio in which most
members of the group lived, has been active continuously for over a
century. One of five groups active in Laredo, Los Matachines de
la Santa Cruz was the earliest to arrive in Las Minas with
their families, up the Rio Grande, around the turn of the century.
They moved to Laredo in the late 1940s when the mines of Las Minas,
which had provided employment for their families, were closed.
Consisting of a group of about fifty dancers led by a
monarca or elder, the current
Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz is composed of members most of whom are descendants
of former dancers. Along with an extraordinary devotion to the holy
cross (Santa Cruz ), they also honor the Virgin of
Guadalupe, performing on two occasions: in the May feast of the
Holy Cross, and in December at the feast of the Virgin of
Guadalupe. Both feasts are marked by processions, dancing and
prayer. The dance ceremony is initiated by removing the cross from
its chapel and placing it on a four-wheeled pedestal outside the
chapel. Dancers, summoned by the sound of a drum and an accordion,
perform in front of the cross wearing naguillas , bright
red velvet skirts decorated with beads, carrizos (six-inch
sections of bamboo reed cane), strips of leather, and sometimes
small pompoms and sequins spelling out the dancer's name. During
the dance, the carrizo segments make a distinct musical
sound. The dance is part of a traditional fiesta that includes food
ways, textiles, and folk literary arts. Its importance to the
community is both cultural and religious, having roots in medieval
Spain and pre-Columbian Mexico, and forming a unique cultural
expression of the United States-Mexican borderland.
Project documentation comprises a six-page report,
thirty 8 x 10 photographs with accompanying descriptions, and a
Originally submitted by: Henry Bonilla, Representative (23rd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.