- An Interview with Elisa Milani Dasa and Marta Palma Milani*
Tell us about the pallitas dance troupe.
I liked pallita, and when I was young I would dance with my sister, who has since died.
How old were you when you danced?
Since about eight or ten years old. I liked dancing a lot, so much so I did it until I got married. When I got married, I didn't dance anymore. Later, there was Mrs. Duna Villalobos, who was my aunt. Then she died and her daughter took over the palla troupe. She led the community's troupe. Mr. Julio Ruben was the guitarist when I danced. He, too, has died. His daughter was left in charge, but she has died as well. A lady named Nicolasa Guadalupe took over the atajo. The guitarist who played was a driver. He had his brothers in Lima, who got him a job and took him. The atajo was lost. About twelve years went by when there wasn't one. An atajo that they called Palla Chola would come. But people complained. They would say, "What a shape that the tradition here has been lost."
I worked in the fields in Viña Vieja. I was widowed and went to work. They sent us to work, and there were a lot of lilies because of the papaya. People started to say, "Look how many lilies! What a shame that that tradition of atajo has been lost." I told them, "Don't worry anymore because this year, I'm putting on the atajo." And they were satisfied. They would tell me they were going to give me everything needed to put together the atajo. When the month to begin rehearsals was approaching, I started to look for a guitar. My dad had had one. I spoke with the guitarist who had played when I danced. I asked him if he remembered the tunes of the palla songs. And he said, "Yes, ma'am. I do remember." So I told him, "We're putting together the atajo this year. "Well," he said, "but get yourself a guitar because I don't have one." So I got my dad's guitar and we started to put together the atajo. I've been putting it together for thirty-two years.
What are the main characteristics of the atajo? How many people are there? What clothing do they use? What do they sing? [End Page 380]
The dress is white and pink. On December 24, they use white dresses, white shoes, white socks, a veil, a crown—everything is white. Only the lilies are a different color.
They are blue, right?
When we started to put together the atajo a lot of girls came out. Girls before weren't like the ones today. Now they have to be forced into participating.
How long, as far as you know, has this tradition been in practice?
I was born in 1936, and when I was growing up I encountered that tradition already, because here at home my dad would dance negritos. They weren't pallitas, but rather negritos that they danced because my dad was the caporal leader. They were the caporales of negrito, and one of them would play the violin. So they raised me with this love for it because they had this baby Jesus as big as the one I have and they worshiped it. I was raised with that tradition, and I liked it. We started to dance palla. The atajo must be about 300 years old. I would ask guitarists who were older than me, and they would say that it's been more than 300 years since this tradition started. People in the past used to say that slaves brought the zapateo tap dance.
Tell us about the lilies.
They are set on fire on January 6th. That's when the year of tradition ends and the king is taken down from his throne. Everyone who comes from other places likes the atajo. It...