The Story of ANGF

I first attended Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos conference in the summer of 2000 in San Antonio, Texas. The teachers, participants, and dances that I learned inspired me so much that I continued to be involved with this organization for many years. After having been elected to serve on the ANGF board as the Membership Chair (2003-2005) and as Vice President (2005-2007), I decided to return to graduate school to earn a doctoral degree. Six years later with my degree in hand, I returned to ANGF in the summer of 2014 eager to be a part of this organization once more. At this time, the President Rey Cuestas asked me to write the history of ANGF. I soon met Ismael Valenzuela, founder of ANGF, who showed me a copy of the Festival VI Syllabus published in 1979. As I poured through this document, I discovered that the founders of ANGF had documented its history. So, my next step was to speak with Ismael Valenzuela, Herman Martínez, and contributor Patricia Martínez to gain their perspectives on the manner in which ANGF was first created. In so doing, I comment on the historical and political influences of the 1960s and 1970s United States which propelled the formation of ANGF. I argue that the creation of ANGF was influenced by the Chicano Movement in which participants sought to re-affirm their Mexican cultural identity through folkloric dance. I weave through narratives which describe how ANGF came about and the key players involved in this process. I document the details surrounding the First National Ballet Folklorico Festival that was held on March 19-24, 1974 at the University of New Mexico. Then, I describe the first ANGF Statewide Festival at Stanford University on February 14-17, 1975. The second ANGF festival was held in San Jose State University on August 24-29, 1975 was an ambitious project of which I write of its successes and pitfalls. The achievements of ANGF inspires the formation of other state-wide and national organizations of which I note. Finally, I conclude with a few visionary words by the founders.
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Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia, Ph.D.

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Creation, Growth, and Inspiration:
The Beginnings of the Asociación Nacional
de Grupos Folklóricos (1974-1976)
By Gabriela Mendoza-Garcia, Ph.D.

The Search for Cultural Identity—ANGF and the Chicano Movement
As I write this account, I note that it has been forty-one years since the Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos or ANGF first began as a non-profit organization. The purpose of ANGF is “to serve as a voice for the promotion and preservation of Mexican folklore traditions...” 1 This is accomplished by organizing an annual conference whereby participants meet to learn regional dances, music, and traditions of Mexico and Latin America countries by renown teachers. A great many folkloric dance participants attend ANGF so that they can have new material to perform as part of their dance groups.2 Conferences which change location annually are held throughout the United States and Mexico. This organization is comprised of a Board of Directors that are elected by the general membership to oversee its administration. Albuquerque, New Mexico is the home base for this organization.3 Throughout this time, ANGF has done more than merely fulfill its mission, ANGF has and continues to inspire a countless number of folkloristas.4 Many of which continue the tradition of passing down Mexican folkloric music and dance customs from teacher to student. Others begin their own organizations, companies, and academies in solidarity with the mission of ANGF.

The Creation of ANGF-- An Extraordinary Idea
Olga Nájera-Ramírez in “Staging Authenticity: Theorizing the Development of Mexican Folklórico Dance” (2009) argues that folkloric dance became widespread in the United States in the 1960s alongside the Chicano Movement.5 Here, Chicano/as were protesting discriminatory United States governmental policies that were designed to facilitate assimilation. 6 This brought about a form of cultural renewal whereby Chicano/as sought to re-claim their Mexican identity through poetry, theatre, music, and dance.7 Set against this background, I argue that the creation of ANGF was a part of this idea of cultural re-affirmation that was influenced by the Chicano movement in the 1960s and 1970s United States. Herman Martínez, founder of ANGF describes the formation of ANGF in this manner:

You can say that the conditions were right. Many of our communities had seen the inception of Mexican folk dance and music groups as a result of heightened cultural awareness during the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. A renaissance in our art, literature and theatre was occurring. We were exposed face to face with the missing links to our history, our pride, our mestizaje and our cultural roots. 8 At this time our appetite for danzas, jarabes y sones sounded out for more...much more – more connection with our colleagues and maestros de música y danza from Mexico.9 ANGF was born from the vision that we as directors of grupos, consult and learn from Maestros y Maestras, the most representative interpretations of these re- created forms of dance expressions and necessary choreographies, and costumes representative of these traditions, evolved from the blending of cultures; Indio, African, European and Asian. 10

Thus, as Chicano/as during the 1960s and 1970s taught and performed Mexican folkloric dances, the creation of ANGF paralleled the socio-political climate of the era.

Right at the helm of the Chicano movement, the idea for ANGF was born. At that time, Valenzuela who had taken a few folkloric dance classes and performed when working in California, had moved to his home state of New Mexico. While working at the University of New Mexico, he founded the Ballet Folklorico of the University of New Mexico. Afterwards, he founded a community group known as the Ballet Folklorico de Albuquerque. “After I taught them everything that I knew, I said hey why don’t we bring in some people from Mexico.”11 Valenzuela invited a number of instructors from the cities of Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and the state of Chihuahua, Mexico to teach the members of his folkloric dance group.12

Meanwhile, Herman Martínez who was born and raised Colorado in the Valley of San Luis, first learned folkloric dance as part of a student organization at Adams State College called El Parnaso.13 He performed with his then girlfriend Patricia Valdez. Patricia had grown up in a family that appreciated music. However, she received her first opportunity to dance in college. After they graduated from college Herman and Patricia were married. They lived in Pueblo, Colorado for three years where they started the Guadalupe Dancers in 1970 and promoted the arts in a variety of capacities. Upon returning to Alamosa, Colorado they began Semillas de la Tierra Grupo Folklorico at Adams State College in 1972. Patricia Martínez taught folkloric dances so that students could earn college credit with a performing group component.14

As Ismael Valenzuela tells it the birth of ANGF began 1974 in Alamosa, Colorado when he met with his friends Herman Martínez, Patricia Martínez, and Arnold Chávez. They met to discuss the possibility of co-sponsoring more teachers from Mexico.15 Their initial idea was to organize a festival for folkloric dance groups residing in New Mexico and Colorado. 16 According to Valenzuela, at this meeting, “someone said why not have a national conference? And I said, well that’s a good idea.”17 Martínez recounts, “little did we know that we were forming this significant international, cultural exchange program in music and dance within the genre of Mexican folk music and dance.” 18
  1. Benjamin Hernandez teaching a danza at the ANGF Statewide Conference at Stanford University in 1975.
  2. Susan Cashion and Ramon Morones performing with Mariachi Tenampa at ANGF Festival One.
  3. Maestro Ernesto Rojero teaching dances from the Northern region of Mexico during Festival One.
  4. Rafael Zamarripa teaching at the ANGF Festival 2 held at San Jose State University in 1975.
  5. Performance by Ciudadanos Mayores de Alburquerque at theANGF Festival One. According to Valenzuela, this was dance group comprised of senior citizens.
  6. Susan Cashion of Los Lupeňos de San Jose and Stanford University at ANGF Festival One teaching participants.
  7. members of Los Lupeňos de San Jose as they perform the dances from the state of Yucatan, Mexico at the ANGF Statewide Conference at Stanford University in 1975.
  8. (Left to Right) Frank Lucero (New Mexico), Milton Ortega (California), Herman Martínez (Colorado), Lorenzo Montoya (New Mexico), Ismael Valenzuela (New Mexico) From Left to right at the bottom are: Aleta Ulibaria (Colorado), Margie Hernandez (California), and Gloria Falcon (Colorado). Not pictured are Kathy Gutierrez and Virginia Munoz of Texas. Margie Hernández and Susan Cashion were selected as hostesses (conference directors) of Festival Two.