CARSON CITY — Las Vegas traditional artist Ofelia Perez, 81, is the recipient of the 2014 Nevada Heritage Award presented by Folklife Program of the Nevada Arts Council. She is recognized as the driving force behind Danza Del Carrizo, a Matachin dance group of more than 50 family members, and for her steadfast and generous support of her local Mexican community and the larger multi-cultural community of Las Vegas.
Perez was nominated by Nevada folklorists Christina Barr and Rachel Hopkin, both of Nevada Humanities, for her lifelong dedication to the preservation and teaching of the Matachin dance traditions and for maintaining the cultural identity and values of the group in the face of great social and cultural change.
The Matachin dance or Danza de Matachines is a masked and costumed ritual dance found from Peru to northern New Mexico. Originating with Spanish contact and the Dance of the Moors and Christians, the ritual dances gave rise to a range of masked dances, also called conquest dances. Dancers wear lavish cultural costumes.
A video sample of Danza del Carrizo and the Matachin tradition can be seen in “The Life in Death Festival ” on the Nevada Arts Council website under Nevada Stories.
The Nevada Heritage Awards honor and recognize Nevada master folk and traditional artists who, at the highest level of excellence and authenticity, carry forward the folk traditions of their families and communities through practice and teaching. The award carries a $3,500 stipend. The Nevada Arts Council presents the awards to individuals whose achievements have had a positive impact on the excellence, vitality, and public appreciation of folk and traditional arts in Nevada.
The Nevada Arts Council, a division of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, is the agency charged with ensuring that state and national funds support cultural activity and encourage participation in the arts throughout Nevada. In addition to providing hundreds of grants to arts and community-based organizations, schools, artists and local municipalities throughout the state, the Arts Council coordinates a variety of statewide programs and activities such as the annual Poetry Out Loud recitation competition for high-school aged students, traveling exhibits, artist residencies, workshops and cultural assessments. For more information, please visit the department’s website at nac.nevadaculture.org/.