Arts & Entertainment

Park City family brings traditional Mexican celebration to their backyard

PARK CITY, Utah — An otherwise unassuming Park City backyard was transformed, once again, into a vibrant touchstone to the Mexican motherland, if just for a few days.

Every 24 and 25 of July in Shelly Gatica’s hometown Guerrero, Mexico they celebrate Sr. Santiago Apostol. It is a huge celebration that takes place for a couple of weeks.

“As our parents, family, and friends migrated from Mexico they wanted to bring some of our traditions from Mexico to the United States, one of them being the celebration of Sr. Santiago,” Gatica told TownLift.

Their Park City family has celebrated Sr. Santiago for approximately six years now but there are family friends that have celebrated Sr. Santiago here in the U.S. for about 14 years now.

The day of the celebration, people come to their home and bring flowers and candles to Sr. Santiago.

“We pray and sing to him. The 24 of July we start early morning and serve coffee and homemade bread that our grandma makes,” Gatica said.

The traditional dances, or danzas as they call them, take our Sr. Santiago from inside the home to his altar that they make for him outside in their backyard.

The traditional danzas that come are called Los Capoteros, Los Pezcados, Las Chinelas, Las Chivas, y Las Cueras.

“The clothing and masks that the danzas use are handmade in Mexico. They dance for all the Sr. Santiagos that we have here in Utah. The Danzas go to four different homes here in Utah. Every year we have many people come from different states. We have people come from Colorado, California, Nevada, and Idaho,” Gatica said. “We have enjoyed hosting the celebration of Sr. Santiago in our home and hope to continue to do so for many more years. We hope to someday host it in a bigger place so we can have our locals celebrate with us. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share one of our biggest celebrations in Mexico. Throughout the day many people come to our home to see our Sr. Santiago. We serve many of our traditional Mexican dishes like Pozole, Mole, Barbacoa, and our Spanish rice. The food and beverages that we give out is usually donated to us by family and friends.”

“The night of the 24 we pray and sing for our saint.” This night is also for people to stay up all night with Sr. Santiago. These people usually ask of something to Sr. Santiago and in return stay up all night.

Early morning on the 25, they give more coffee and more bread. The traditional danzas come again and dance for Sr. Santiago. “We continue to give food to everyone who comes to see our saint.”  After a week the celebration continues, this year they continued the celebration on the 29 and 30. On the 29 they start early morning again and serve their traditional dishes.”The danzas come again and we pray and sing.”

Whoever wants to stay overnight does so again.

On the 30, they close with the final dance of ‘El Ocoxuchitl.’ They start early morning again and this day in the morning they gather all of the flowers that everyone brought to our saint and make them into small bouquets with cut up fabric which was used to make Sr. Santiagos clothes. These bouquets are used to dance the traditional dance of El Ocoxuchitl.

“The bouquets people carry are brushed up against Sr. Santiago while we dance around him,” Gatica said. “The dance song is usually sung by women. Once this over the traditional Danzas dance for one last time.”

Neighbors are invited and are glad to get to learn about new international traditions they may not necessarily have known much about. After everything is cleaned up, the rental tent is taken down no time to rest because they then celebrated their four year old daughter’s birthday a day later as their and nine-year-old son prepares for back-to-school at Trailside Elementary.

Gatica, her sister and her brother take time away from their local construction company to create this annual sense of community. Shelly and Miguel have K and R Tile, LLC. Family members Ashley and Memo own and operate T and P Construction company, Artist Ernesto Jr. has his Park City company, Ski City Painting, LLC, And Gatica’s mom has had a cleaning business in Park City for 25 years, HK Services, LLC.

All photos courtesy of the Gatica family.

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