A Mexican Revolutionary in Australia

A Mexican Revolutionary in Australia

By David Bucio-Lueza

The first notes of the Mexican tune “La bruja” (“The witch”) spread over the red, small and circus-like Empyrean theatre on a wonderful Saturday afternoon in summer. As well as the other Mexican dancers, Patricia Filidor Whitelaw jumps onto stage with her hands outstretched holding a lit candle. The traditional outfit for the tune consists of a white sleeveless dress, an embroidered black apron and a laced shawl covering the shoulders. Red flower detail embellishes the outfit on the braided hairstyles and aprons. As the dance unfolds, the performers put the candles on top of their heads and their hands gracefully widen or shrink their fan-shaped skirts according to the music; the attendants applaud and sway their heads along with every move. It’s the show Nomad, Sounds of the Planet within the 2017 Adelaide Fringe, and the Mexican Revolution number finishes with a standing ovation. Since 2015, the group has performed their traditional dances in mainstream festivals and have received awards in South Australia.

But what’s in a name?

The Mexican Revolution was a bloody armed struggle that started in November 1910 when the Mexican president Porfirio Díaz—who had been in power for almost 35 years—was overthrown. The revolution lasted a decade, cost more than one million lives and arguably set the foundations of modern Mexico with the 1917 Constitution and the emergence of a more democratic regime.

“Usually revolution has this connotation of fighting … but our revolution is more cultural and more about integration,” Patricia said.

“What we wanted to do was to show the people in Adelaide that Mexico is more than drug dealers, is more than bad news, is more than a president or a government that is corrupt.

“Mexico is also about culture, our beautiful dances, the costumes, and the happiness that the dances bring to the people.

“We are more than tacos.”

A Mexican Revolution in South Australia

Although Mexican Revolution has performed in the best artistic venues in the state, Patricia said the highlight of the group was their presentation in the majestic Government House within the Governor’s Multicultural Awards 2016.

“It was not only to showcase (their dances) to the public but also to showcase to the authorities that are in charge of integrating … different communities in Adelaide,” Patricia said.

“Most of the dancers are mums. We all have jobs and studies and everything and we find the time to do what we love, and we do it in the best possible way.”

In 2017, Mexican Revolution won the second prize of the Traditional Dance Groups category at the Australian Street Dance Competition. The event was organised by La Bomba Productions– an Adelaide-based organisation that promotes Latin music and dance.

Individually, Patricia was recognised as a Community Quiet Achiever by Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) in March of this year.

“I was really happy because migrating to another country is not easy,” Patricia said.

“I think I have been very fortunate that I have found people willing to help me… to take me as a whole, as a friend, as a wife, as a worker, as a leader, for everything I am.

“Being recognised in a foreign country for the contribution to your ethnic community. I was absolutely over the moon.”

Life outside of dance

In her professional life, Patricia works as a nurse at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre, where she helps patients with a disability become self-sufficient again.

“When they are ready for discharge, they can eat, they can talk, they start to move, or they have completely regained their mobility … (they) might be able to achieve employment again …this is just fantastic.” Patricia said.

Patricia is also taking further rehabilitation studies at Flinders University to become an occupational therapist.

Regarding her personal life, Patricia describes her marriage to Aussie Simon as “very funny”.

“I think deep down the individual values are very similar,” Patricia said.

Her husband Simon said Patricia is an intelligent, persistent person with an “ability to confront any obstacle head on.”

“She is still wonderful and crazy and still makes me laugh,” Simon said.

“I could not find anyone better to spend my life with.”

Coming from a rushed place like Mexico City, Patricia said Simon has taught her to be more patient, as the way Australians are.

“In here, you have to wait, you have to plan, it’s very hard to do something like ‘in the moment’,” she said.

“His way of life has brushed on to me,” Patricia said.

Mexican at heart

Patricia defines herself as an ambitious person and regards her life in Australia as “blessed and very fortunate” for finding people—namely friends, community leaders—who have supported her projects.

Although Patricia knows her heart “will always have Mexico first” because it is her homeland, she loves Australia and is very happy to live here.

“I have embraced Australia and Australia has embraced me.”

Yes, Patricia has embraced Australia and she has done so without losing her Mexican identity.

“My accent … still sometimes at work some people look at me and I am like ‘Yes, I know I have an accent, but, you know, you’ll get used to me’.”

For further information about the next Mexican Revolution performance, visit their Facebook page.


Image Courtesy: Mexican Revolution Dance Group Facebook

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