PHOTO COURTESY OF CESAR GUZMAN Senior Cesar Guzman dresses up, ready to dance the night away with his friends and family.

Guzman grapples culture through dance, family

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As he sees big, brown boots shuffling back and forth to the rhythm of the music, he finds his foot tapping to the beat. He was never truly interested in dancing, but after spending a summer in México watching his family dance until sunrise, he decided to join in tonight.

But it would not be his last time.

Senior Cesar Guzman began dancing the zapateado, a traditional Mexican dance, when he was eight with his sister. The dance originated from Spain, having the Spanish root word “zapato,” meaning “shoe,” since the dancer would tap their shoe throughout the dance. Guzman’s family would typically go to rodeos and watch bull-riding shows on the weekends. After the show, they would go dancing together, bringing along other family members and friends to join in. To Guzman, the dance allows him to be closer to his family and culture.

“I feel like I can connect to my culture well because my community focuses a lot on dancing,” Guzman said. “They basically do it every day. Everyone is having fun, enjoying the culture you don’t typically see around here. When I dance, all I feel is happiness knowing it’s what I love to do.”

Although he was not fond of dancing from the start, he slowly learned to love it with the help of his grandfather. Because his grandfather would give out his bulls to bull riders, Guzman grew up seeing people dance after the rodeos. This allowed him to appreciate zapateado more, resulting in it becoming one of his favorite hobbies.

“Without my grandpa, I would have never liked dancing,” Guzman said. “He is the reason I got connected to this part of my culture in dancing since we would always go to events.”

After the death of Guzman’s grandfather last December, it has made it hard for him to feel comfortable dancing again. Going to the dancing events reminded him of his grandfather’s death, so it was painful seeing people be joyful as they partake in his old hobby. Guzman knows he will dance again in the future, but he wants to focus on healing first.

“My grandpa and I had a strong connection,” Guzman said. “It doesn’t feel right anymore. I am not comfortable as before when we would go together. Just looking at everyone else having fun doesn’t feel the same way anymore.”

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