Celebrate a border-cultural Christmas with ‘Feliz Navidad!’
By Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Bulletin
This weekend, celebrate a border-centric Christmas with “Feliz Navidad – Christmas in Song and Dance,” a collaborative holiday program between the Doña Ana Arts Council and the newly formed Bellas Artes Sin Fronteras – Fine Artists without Borders – focused on the cultural Christmas traditions of the region.
With two performances – 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13 – on the stage of the historic Rio Grande Theatre, itself a cultural icon of blossoming Downtown Las Cruces, “Feliz Navidad” brings together a program rich in traditional music and dancing central to the culture of the Borderlands.
The event also marks the birth of a new group – Bellas Artes Sin Fronteras – and its exciting, out-of-the-gate collaboration with one of Las Cruces’ longest-standing arts and cultural organizations, the Doña Ana Arts Council.
Before each daily performance, all ticketed guests are invited to a meet-and-greet featuring refreshments and traditional appetizers, snacks and sweets including tamales, biscochitos, buñuelos, and champurrado, called “antojitos” or “little cravings.” The meetand- greets are set for 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Following the receptions, the two-part “Feliz Navidad” begins with a tribute to the honored patron saint of Mexico, La Virgen de Guadalupe, the Virgin Mary, featuring traditional songs from Mariachi Aguilas and a rendition of “Amor Eterno” joined by the colorful folkloric dancers of Ballet Folklorico Tierra del Encanto.
The first act concludes with folk reenactments of Las Posadas – “the lodgings” – and Los Pastores – the “pastorela,” pastoral drama of the Nativity.
Las Posadas, celebrated in Mexico and parts of Latin America and the Borderlands from early to late December, commemorates the cold and arduous trek of Mary and Joseph from Bethlehem to Nazareth in search of shelter – lodging.
Los Pastores recreate the biblical passage in which the shepherds are led to the Christ Child by following the Star of Bethlehem, along the way facing tribulations culminating with a faceto- face confrontation with the Devil himself, bent on preventing them from reaching the boy. Along the way, they’re aided by the Archangel Michael, who intervenes on the shepherds’ behalf and sends them to their complete their travel.
The program’s second act begins with children breaking the traditional seven-point piñata – gluttony, lust, greed, pride, wrath, envy and sloth – a symbolic rejection of sin and the reaping of heavenly reward – in this case, candy – in exchange.
Mariachi Los Arrieros from west Texas will take the stage following the children’s drama for an invitation to the Christmas Fiesta and a program of traditional songs interspersed with traditional dances from the diverse states of Mexico by Ballet Folklorico Tierra del Encanto. The group will close the program with a potpourri selection of Christmastime favorites in Spanish before inviting the whole crowd for a rousing singalong of José Feliciano’s holiday classic “Feliz Navidad.”
“Feliz Navidad” serves as a fitting inaugural event for the new Bellas Artes Sin Fronteras –“Fine Artists without Borders” – designed to promote multicultural arts in the region. Made up of business-owners, a marketing executive, a banker, a lawyer, a community organizer and community leaders, BASF includes Isidoro Vaquera, president; Erlinda Portillo, vice president; John Vasquez, treasurer; Christina Chavez Kelley, secretary; Mercedes Colato; Dr. Diana Bustamante; and ex-oficio members J. Paul Taylor, Roberto Estrada and Gloria Vaquera.
Bellas Artes Sin Fronteras’ mission – finding communitywide support for multicultural education through arts programs and activities –is a natural fit with that of the Doña Ana Arts Council, which since 1972 has ensured the performing, literary and visual arts are included in education, economic growth and community growth in southern New Mexico through events and programs, support to artists, community advocacy and beyond.
After meeting with DAAC Executive Director Kathleen Albers, BASF’s Gloria Vasquez said she and Albers felt the event was “a perfect fit for the arts council’s current 2015-16 New Mexico Heritage Series,” and the Rio Grande Theatre provides a perfect venue for future collaborative events.
Moving forward, Vasquez said BASF hope to “continue to bring other multicultural activities and performances to Las Cruces in order to create an awareness of the importance of arts in education and to develop and interest for a cultural center in Southern New Mexico.
“We are excited with the support of the community, sponsors and volunteers that have come forth and have embraced the idea, the concept and the future vision of BASF.”
The Rio Grande Theatre is located at 211 N. Main St. Tickets to “Feliz Navidad – Christmas in Song and Dance” are $32 per person, which includes all fees and admission to the pre-show meet and greet. Tickets are available online at www. riograndetheatre.com, by phone at 523-6403, or in-person from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Rio Grande Theatre box office, located on the second floor of the theatre.
For more information call 523-6403 or visit www. riograndetheatre. com or www.daarts.org.
Zak Hansen can be reached at zak@lascrucesbulletin. com.