December 29, 2000
Fresno The Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) has awarded grants of $2,500 each to 15 pairs of master traditional artists and dedicated apprentices representing some of the wealth of California's cultural landscape. These grants of the California Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program support a period of intensive learning for individuals who have shown a commitment to, and talent for, a specific artistic tradition. The program is a pilot project of ACTA and is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. It is managed by the Fresno Arts Council.
Master artist Mary Lou Valencia is the recipient of a California Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant to teach Aztec Dance regalia making to her apprentice, Eva Sandoval. Both are residents of San Diego.
Aztec Dance has had a major impact on the Chicano/Mexicano population of the United States by emphasizing its roots in the indigenous history and culture of Mexico. In San Diego, Aztec dancers have been regular participants in cultural events since the early 1970s. Individuals who dedicate their lives to Danza Aztca embrace a life philosophy, as well as art, music, and dance forms, by developing pride in and respect for families and Mexican cultural traditions.
Valencia, who is of Yoreme and Jicarilla Apache descent, has participated in Azteca dance, drumming and singing since 1971, when she began her studies with Maestro Florenico Yescas. She also studied with Capitán Mario Aguilar, developing her skills and learning to play the concha (mandolin) for use in traditional ceremonial activities. In 1992, as founder of Danza Mixcoatl, she was acknowledged as a "Capitana de la Danza" and became the first US-born female leader of the traditional discipline in San Diego. A well-rounded Azteca dancer also designs and constructs regalia for dance. Valencia has demonstrated expertise in this important aspect of the tradition. She is a seamstress and has acquired special knowledge of the symbols and motifs appropriate for regalia. She learned from the masters, Yescas and Rosita Amaya, Azteca regalia maker in Mexico for over 35 years. Valencia has performed, taught and conducted workshops on all aspects of the Danza Azteca tradition throughout the San Diego Area.
After many years of being intrigued by the Danza Azteca, Eva Sandoval began to participate in cultural and art activities in 1990 at the Centro Cultural de la Raza, San Diego. In 1995, she was finally able to commit time to this cultural activity and she joined the group Danza Mixcoatl. Although she has already made several of her own regalia for the performances and ceremonies of the danza and is already an accomplished seamstress, Sandoval looks forward to learning new techniques, styles, and intricacies of regalia making with Valencia.
Other masters chosen in this program include a western saddle maker from Dorris, Siskiyou county, a Hmong Qeej (musical instrument) maker from Fresno, and a Chukchansi basketweaver from Porterville.
This is the second consecutive year that such grants to perpetuate traditional arts in California have been awarded through the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, which resumed the state arts council's program that had terminated in 1992. ACTA, in partnership with the California Arts Council, intends to secure funding so that the California Folk & Traditional Arts Apprenticeships will be funded annually.