A 10-year-old girl beats on a wooden drum under the blazing, yellow sun: One, two, one, two, one-two-three-four.
In the beginning I did not find any importance in Aztec dancing. I did not know how much it would change my life.
Powerful lungs sound the white and orange seashells. I line up among the Aztec dancers in my regalia: a turquoise dress with colorful beads hanging from it and a headdress made of feathers that mimic the colors of a Scarlet Macaw. With “El es Dios,” our feet start gliding from one side to the other.
I had been dancing for 10 years, pretty much my whole life. In the beginning I did not find any importance in Aztec dancing. I did not know how much it would change my life.
I started Aztec dance at the age of 8. I used to cry every time I went to practice. I just thought it was a boring waste of time. Why wouldn’t my parents let me live my life?
But as time went on, I showed more interest. I started to understand even more about the dances and their meaning. I learned why indigenous Aztecs still have traditions and perform the ceremonies. Every time we practice or perform, we open by honoring the water, air, sand and fire, the four elements that are essential to Aztec life.
In Aztec dance, we are divided into two circles. The inner circle surrounds the drums and sacraments, and is itself surrounded by a larger outer circle. This outer circle is where the new, inexperienced dancers are placed. The inner circle holds the powerful dancers. These dancers will never give up, no matter how long the dance lasts.
Aztec dancing has taught me not to give up.
Over time I gained experience and showed improvement, and I was placed in the inner circle. Being there challenged me more and more every time I performed. It meant not giving up and doing the steps and dances right and trying my best at all times. I learned that the best way to be challenged is not by the things that are hard, but by the thoughts that I had in my mind of giving up. That was the real challenge. I learned to ignore them and to believe in myself and in the words “I can do it.”
I have learned how to present myself and practice public speaking in front of large audiences. There are times when I accepted the role of being the spokesperson and articulating with the microphone about our regalia, dances and the tradition. By taking these roles I have gained leadership skills.
The wooden drum that beats, the seashells that sound, the regalia that I wear and every dance step that I take are all very meaningful parts of my life. I know that I want to go into college, and have a successful future. I know that I want to continue to be a leader. I know that one day I will break the barrier in becoming a mechanical engineer. I will accomplish this because of Aztec dancing and the confidence, leadership and respect it gave me.
These are things that no one will be able to take from me.