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Folklorico leader grows ‘extended family’ for 25 years

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Frank Herrera leads a rehearsal session for Folklorico. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

When people ask Frank Herrera how he manages to look so young, he answers it’s because he’s not married and doesn’t have kids.

“I’m in my 60s,” said Herrera.

And while Herrera doesn’t have any children of his own, he probably has the largest extended family of anyone within a 50-mile radius of Roswell — the Roswell Folklorico Group. Herrera has been the leader of the colorful folk dance group since he started it 25 years ago.

The retired teacher is originally from the Hondo Valley and moved to Roswell in 1982. It was in Hondo Valley where his interest in folk dances of Mexico was sparked by his parents.

“My parents danced in the Hondo Fiesta Dancers, which was started in 1948,” said Herrera as he was careful not to confuse 1948 with 1947, the most significant year in the history of Roswell that has something to do with a spaceship or weather balloon — depending on who you ask.

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Herrera said he started helping his parents teach the dance classes in the 1970s.

Then, as a student at Eastern New Mexico University-Portales, Herrera decided to start a dance group of his own in cooperation with the university’s school of music.

“We were able to get a grant for costumes, training and transportation,” he said.

Herrera taught general business classes at University High School for 18 years. After that, he was a medical assistant for five years.

He is a now a substitute teacher for the Roswell Independent School District, working mostly with grades with K through 3.

“I like working with the little ones,” he said.

And he’s got lots of “little ones” in the Roswell Folklorico Group.

The small children certainly add a big “cuteness factor” to the group, but many of the dancers are teenagers, young adults and even seniors in their 70s. Though the numbers fluctuate, Herrera said at present there are 55 dancers in the group.

Herrera teaches six folkorica classes a week for different age groups at the Roswell Adult and Recreation Center. There also is a class for couples.

The group performs all over Roswell and has participated in statewide competitions. Herrera said the group is a great activity for young people because it is something fun to do that keeps them out of trouble.

“If I know they are with me, they are not getting into trouble. In Spanish, ‘males (mal-less)’ means bad or getting into trouble,” he said.

Most of the dancers are female, but Herrera said he has more boys than ever this year. He said some of the boys who have joined the dance group have been teased by other boys. He said there was one little guy, 5 years old, who was teased after posters for an upcoming performance were put up in his school with him in the picture.

But there’s nothing sissy about being a dancer. Herrera said that young man is now a championship bodybuilder. And the gracefulness one acquires through dancing carries over to rough-and-tough sports like tackle football. Herrera said one of his teenaged dancers plays football for Roswell High School, and the boy’s coach tells him he is a great player.

Herrera said there are around 32 or 33 states in Mexico, and the group tries to perform dances from as many different states as they can.

“They all have unique costumes and music,” he said. “That way we don’t get bored doing the same thing.”

On June 1 and 2, Roswell Folklorico Group will be presenting its 25th annual dance recital “Festival Folklorico.” The performance will begin at 7 p.m. each night at the Performing Arts Center at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, 64 University Blvd. The recital will feature performances representing New Mexico and various Mexican regions including Sinaloa, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Michoacan, Tamaulipas-Huasteca and the popular region of Jalisco.

Asked how long he plans to lead the dance group, Herrera said, “As long as God gives me the help and the want.”

For information about Roswell Folkorico Group, call Herrera at 575-624-2724.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.