By Helena Rodriguez
It’s almost Cinco de Mayo time and that reminded me recently of the old fiestas de Lindsey School. If you’re from north Portales and you were around during the 1970s, you know what I’m talking about.
The old W.E. Lindsey School on West Ivy Street, now in a new building and under a different name, Lindsey-Steiner Elementary, held irreplaceable memories. At this time of year, the gym would be bouncing with Mexican ballet folklorico tunes, like “Jarabe Tapatio,” “The Mexican Hat Dance” and “La Raspa” as mamas, abuelitas and tias busily sewed bright, full and colorful dance dresses for the little señoritas. All through grade school, I couldn’t wait to be in fifth grade because only fifth and sixth graders danced the ballet folklorico dances in the gym which would be transformed into a mini Mexican plaza.
My son-in-law, Nino, was also a ballet folklorico dancer. Only Nino danced with the Somos Unidos group at Portales High School, under the direction of then Spanish teacher Eva Armijo, in the earlier 2000s. Prior to that, my daughter, Laura, while in elementary school, was also a ballet folklorico dancer with Star Dance Academy in Hobbs, and they performed for Edward James Olmos when he spoke at the Lea County Event Center in the late 1990s.
Back to Las Fiestas de Lindsey now. I only got to dance in the fiestas one year, in 1977, because fifth grade was the last year that Lindsey held its fiestas. The following year, Portales Schools were desegregated. Although we were resistant at first, in the long-run, it was for the best. Prior to the desegregation, Lindsey was about 97 percent Hispanic. We loved our fiestas and we loved living in our own little world. But every fall, when students hit junior high, there were huge fights between Hispanics and non-Hispanics. Also, when schools were desegregated, grades of Hispanic students went significantly up.
Las fiestas de Lindsey are now a memory, but one I cherish. And I hope someday soon, my own grandchildren will have opportunities to become Mexican ballet folklorico dancers too. It is part of their heritage.
Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at Helena-Rodriguez@hotmail.com