If you had asked me a year and a half ago if I ever saw myself dancing Folklorico, I’d probably ask “Folk-whoda-wada?” I didn’t discover folklorico, it discovered me and I haven’t been the same since. The summer before I transferred to UCSB, I started taking lessons at the same dance company as one of my best friends. It was the most challenging and amazing experience. I became addicted. From the moment I started I knew folklorico is something I want to do until it become physically impossible for me to. It just so happened that a couple of the company’s dancers were Raices alumni and encouraged me to join. So from the second I stepped onto campus, I knew I had to join Raices and it’s a decision I’ve never regretted for even a second. There were definitely a fair amount of ups and downs but that’s just what happens with family and Raices is, in every sense of the word, my family. In Raices I’ve met the most amazing and beautiful people. I know I’ve found life long friends. In Raices I’ve learned more than just how to dance; I’ve leaned life lessons. Some of the lessons were extremely hard to learn but they’ve only made me stronger. In Raices the little Asian girl found her home. Even though my time with Raices is much shorter than I would have liked it to be, the group will always hold a special place in my heart. As a senior reflecting back on my college experience, I just know that Raices will be what I remember the most. I poured my heart and soul into the group and have gotten so much back in return. To the members I’m leaving: I love you guys and you are honestly the most amazing people I’ve ever met. We couldn’t be leaving Raices in better hands. To the future members I leave this advice: You get out of Raices what you put in, so jump in head first. Push your body to its limits, run for an officer position your first year, and just enjoy every second of being there because time flies. I promise it will be worth it.
Raices de mi tierra provided me with a safe family environment my entire college life. I had come from a small high school, so seeing thousands of people was very scary. I had heard that there were sororities and dance groups, but nothing seemed to catch my attention. I remember walking to class and passing by their booth. I was unsure of what to do. It was the only folklorico group that I had seen. It looked so appealing and the members were very cheerful and welcoming, but I did not have the guts to go up and write down my name. For a whole week I passed their table and finally I got took a deep breathe and walked over. All the members at the table turned, smiled at me and said a big, welcoming, “Hi”. I suddenly felt a bit more at ease and responded “hi” back. They introduced themselves and told me about the group. I was so excited; I had danced folklorico before and knowing I had a place to continue to do so, just made my day. For the first couple weeks I was extremely shy. I was not a beginner, but I was naturally shy among people I did not know well. Once comfortable, I came out of my shell and no longer just saw Raices as a dance group I was part of but a family that I could trust and go to when I needed them. Having that strong connection as a family made it even more fun when performing together. From my second year on I became an officer and by my senior year I became the director. For me it was a shocker; I loved dancing and was good at it but never in a million years did I think I could direct the group. Sometimes I remember that first day I saw the group and wonder how that girl grew into a director. Having the position helped me leave my imprint in the group like every director before me, which made it even harder to leave once it was time for graduation. I went through my ups and downs all four years and Raices seemed to always make me feel better. Looking back now, I would not change one thing. Well, actually, I would change one thing: I would not wait a week to sign up. I would go the minute I saw the table! However, everything else, like the friendships I made and lost, the lessons I learned as a dancer and as a teacher and the tears I shed of happiness and sorrow…that I would not change for the world. I am glad I had the privilege of dancing with Raices and I hope that it continues to grow and change like it has done for many years.
My name is Jose Mejia. I was an active Raices member from 2000 to 2004. Even though I was never a student of UCSB I considered myself and felt part of the school by being part of Raices. I originally didn’t want to join the group since I was only going to UCSB to visit my then girlfriend, who is now my wife, Ana Mejia. I had danced in high school and loved it, of course, but didn’t feel the need to continue in another group. I would keep my wife company when she joined the group and when she started going for practices and I was asked my the group director if I had ever danced. I was hesitant on answering but finally got the courage to say yes and I joined the group along with my wife.
Within the four years that I was in the group I went through almost the same college life that my wife was going through since I was going every weekend to visit her and also practice with the group. I would actually look forward to the weekend since I knew that I would be able to see my wife and also continue being a part of the group. Through so much pain, tears and sweat of learning new regions (more than I had ever imagined), the trips ( Dansantes Unidos) we would take, and the performances we would do kept my love for folklorico growing and make it stronger. Everything would pay off at the end when we would actually put all those hours of practice into the yearly Cinco de Mayo show. All those emotional roller coasters, bruises and sore feet would go away when you would hear the big applause at the end of each dance.
It is very different now, we don’t dance folkorico anymore but hope to pick it up once again, I have a wife and a son and another wonderful son on the way. My wife and I would and will show our sons the best that our culture has. We have been going to see the Raices Cinco de Mayo show almost every year since we left and we enjoy every minute of it, not only because we get to see new regions and dances but also to see the new members and reminisce on our past years in the group and imagine what the new members are going through. We also go to visit my wife’s old college and show our sons that one day they will end up in college, maybe even in UCSB. We want to show them beautiful Santa Barbara and show them what their mother and I did when we were there, hoping that they will either continue dancing in folklorico or at least recognize what beautiful culture we have and what good memories we went through.
I hope Raices de mi Tierra keeps growing bigger and stronger and keeps showing not only Hispanic students but all kinds of cultures how beautiful our culture really is. To all the dancers: keep practicing and don’t give up. It might be tiring getting up early in the morning to practice but every ounce of energy and every drop of sweat pays off big time when you hear and see the big crowds applauding for you and for the group after every performance. It fills your heart with love and strength to do what you love the most, which is dancing. Enjoy every day that you are there, keep those memories in a good place and you will be able to show your kids and family what you accomplished beside the college education, mainly the good friends. Actually, I consider our years in the group as our second family. Some of us still keep in touch via email or facebook. Good luck.
Raíces de mi Tierra is UC Santa Barbara’s folklόrico group. Established in 1990, we are a completely student run organization consisting of UCSB students and community members. With our passion, dedication, and positive role-modeling we spread knowledge of this beautiful Mexican folk dancing through teaching, performing, and community service. The group is usually around 40 members strong and we work hard throughout the year to learn dances from all different regions of Mexico and every spring we put on a big show in Campbell Hall. Aside from that we also have our outreach group, Semillas de mi Tierra. This is a youth program we offer to children and young adults, aged 5-17, where they can come and learn folklόrico from Raíces members. Semillias also performs in our spring showcase.