Matachin Espiri Velázquez never thought he would participate in the Immaculate Heart of Mary church dance troupe, but 17 years ago, he became deeply involved in his faith.

Velázquez joined the matachines, or dance troupe, after his family suggested.

“Never in my life did I think I would be doing this,” Velazquez said in Spanish. “In fact, I am exhausted right now, but once I hear the drums, I feel it in my heart and it gives me the strength to keep going.”

La Gran Plaza hosted its celebration of the conclusion of the Our Lady of Guadalupe novenario, or nine-day prayer to the Virgin Mary, tradition — a tradition that is deeply rooted in Mexican culture.

Dec. 12 marks the day the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a Chichimec peasant and now-saint San Juan Diego in 1531. The nine-day tradition commenced on Dec. 4 and the final day is celebrated with food, music, dancing and prayer.

Velázquez danced for nine days at his church, Immaculate Heart of Mary, which hosts the novenario, or nine-day prayer tradition. The church also hosted its celebration at 4 a.m. Dec. 12 and performed Las Mañanitas, a Spanish song about loved ones on their birthday or their name day or saints’ day.

“Singing and the sound of the drum makes your heart pump,” Velázquez said in Spanish. “After nine days, we’re all exhausted, but every individual’s faith births fervor.”

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSotoCommunity Engagement Journalist

Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...