One of the true treasures of our California Mexican dance community is Benjamín Hernández, who has been an advocate and promoter in the development of the folklórico movement in the Los Angeles area since 1968. His teaching ritual and regional folklorico dances focused on traditional interpretations. This last spring he retired from the PE/Dance program of East Los Angeles Community College after forty years of teaching. Part of his legacy is turning a part-time appointment in Mexican Dance into a full-time, tenured track position. To accomplish this feat, Mr. Hernández received an MA degree from the UCLA World Arts and Culture Department in 1999.
Mr. Hernández was born and raised in Guadalajara Jalisco. From 1962-67 he was a member of University of Guadalajara’s Grupo Folklórico de Artes Plásticas, where he worked under the tutelage of Rafaél Zamarripa. From 1970 to 1995, he taught folklórico, Art History of Mexico, and Chicano Art at the Claremont Colleges in Pomona, California. In 1974 he founded and directed Ballet Folklórico Mexicapan, a dance company that set the benchmark for folklóricos in Southern California. From 1980-81, Mr. Hernández was elected chair of the board for the Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos (ANGF) in the USA.
When asked what his best moments in a career of Mexican dance were, he replied, “To see people from the community coming to learn the dances of Mexico and then going back to their communities and their own high schools and elementary schools to teach the same material to their children. That for me is the greatest gratification”.