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Presidio Picnic series highlights City’s diverse cultural history

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To be Mexican in the United States means observing tradition and passing on as much of it as possible. And with every loud stomp and every colorful turn, the Hayward-based group Ballet Folklorico Mexico Danza (BFMD) does exactly that.

In hopes of creating cultural awareness and celebrating their heritage, BFMD will be performing on May 27 at this year’s Presidio Picnic, a picnic series that takes place every Sunday through Oct. 21 in the Presidio. As part of their diversity initiative, the Presidio picnic has scheduled multicultural dance performances every last Sunday of the month.

BFMD was created by Rene Gonzalez in collaboration with Martín Romero in 1991 to keep the dance and traditions alive. The group’s original purpose was to keep kids off drugs and out of gangs.

Gonzalez said the mission of BFMD is to demonstrate “a commitment to excellence, hard work, and dedication to all dancers in Mexico Danza” and to share the culture with the public.

Gonzalez, who studied in Mexico, came to Hayward, California, to share the traditional dances with local children. He was then approached by the city of Hayward to create a company for children.

After 27 years of having a strong presence in the community, the group has expanded to include 106 members. BFMD has three subgroups: for children, teenagers and adults. Gonzalez said that Folklorico dance was created to celebrate religious and festive events, such as weddings and to commemorate harvest.

Margaret Casey, cultural and community programs manager from the Presidio Trust, the organization that manages most of The Presidio, said it’s the first year the picnic is hosting traditional dances and hopes to add diverse elements to celebrate culture.

“The Ballet Folklorico Mexico Danza performance at Presidio Picnics will delight and engage everyone through sharing the unique, warm, expansive, colorful and creative characteristics of the Mexican folk dance tradition,” said Casey.

Gonzalez said a major component of Folklorico is the colorful garments. He said they have extensively studied the traditional clothing to its roots.

Showing excellence through dance is not only important to BFMD, but to the Presidio Trust, as it hopes to draw a diverse audience to the picnic.

Casey says the Presidio is open to everyone, but locals rarely visit or know about it. The Presidio Trust emphasizes the welcoming sensation the park gives when visiting. She hopes for residents to maximize the parks events and nature.

For the Presidio Trust, heritage and roots are extremely important. On June 29-30, the Visitor Center and Officers Club will present the story of the Bay Area’s Ohlone indigenous communities at the event, Pasados del Presidio.

Visitors will also be able to learn about the Anza Expedition, the switch from Spanish to Mexican sovereignty, and the history of San Francisco. The festivities will include an afternoon for kids, a Pasados del Presidio dance party, and an event commemorating the journey of the ancestors of the Los Californianos, all happening next month.

“Urban life can be challenging for families looking to engage in healthy, safe activities … Here, families can relax together and share the lush lawn and world-class views while enjoying delicious food,” said Casey.

Ballet Folklorico Mexico Danza will give two performances on May 27, one at noon and one at 2 p.m. The Presidio Picnic also has partnered with Off the Grid to provide a variety of food trucks. For more information visit Presidio.gov

Story by: Vitta Oliveri