Los Abuelitos: A time for senior citizens to feel young, dance, reminisce

Helena Rodriguez: PNT Staff Writer

It’s Sunday afternoon, a time when most people rest from the weekend and prepare for another work week. For Liz Sena though, it’s time to kick up her heels and head to the Los Abuelitos Senior Citizens’ Center dance.

An average of 60 people — including Sena and her male companion, Joe Ovalle — put on their dancing shoes and waltz on over to the Los Abuelitos dances which are held every-other Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The next Los Abuelitos dance will be held today behind the La Casa Family Health Center on West Fir St.

Comprised mostly of people in the age 40 and up crowd, they come as singles, couples or in groups, to twirl and waltz to the upbeat Mexican cumbias, rancheras and soft ballads which are pumped out by an accordion band, classical sounds which make many of them feel young again.

Sena, who considers herself “young at heart,” said she goes dancing an average of three times a week, saying, “I feel I have more energy now than when I was young. If I was younger, I’d be spending all of my time at the office and that would be my energy. But now I have all the time in the world and my kids think that is just beautiful.”

“My kids call me and say ‘Mama, are you getting ready to go to the dance? Can we make an appointment to go see you?’” Sena said with a laugh.

Sena and Ovalle have been together almost four years and are regulars at Los Abuelitos. They also go dancing in Clovis at the La Casa Family Healthcare Center as well as at Friendship Center, the American Legion and the Eagle’s Lodge.

Mary Lucero, director of the Los Abuelitos Senior Citizens’ Center, said that many senior citizens look forward to the twice-a-month dances because they don’t have anything else to do.

Besides providing entertainment, fellowship and exercise, senior citizens also enjoy a meal which is served during intermission at the dances. Lucero said that an added bonus is that the $3 admission fee goes to help pay for trips that Los Abuelitos take to places such as Chimayo and events like the Senior Olympics.

Linda and Octavio Nuñez of Clovis began attending the Los Abuelitos dances in August after hearing about the dances from a friend. Every other Sunday, Octavio pulls on his yellow-orange dance boots, Linda puts on her Sunday best, and they drive to Los Abuelitos.

“To tell you the truth, I feel kind of old coming here because I’m 50, but I know I’m getting up there,” Linda said as she looked around at a room full of people mostly older than her.
She quickly pointed out, however, that she likes the laid-back atmosphere. “This is better than going dancing at a bar because I don’t like all the smoke. I haven’t been to a bar in a long time.”

The laid-back atmosphere at the Los Abuelitos dances makes Lucero’s job easier too. “I don’t have to worry about this crowd getting rowdy,” Lucero said.

E.J. Rodriguez is a bass player and singer for Grupo Sorpresa, the conjunto band from Clovis which recently played for the Los Abuelitos dance. He said he likes to watch the elderly people enjoy themselves.

“I hope I have this much energy when I get their age,” Rodriguez said.

“This is a place where they can come to socialize. These used to be known as ‘tareadas,’ which were afternoons of dance and music. This is like a mini tareada,” Rodriguez said.

According to Rodriguez, many of the senior citizens can relate to the old music Grupo Sorpresa plays, more so than the younger crowds they get when they play at weddings and quinceañeras.

“You can tell they’re having a good time when they’re tapping their feet. That gets their gases going and they get up to dance,” Rodriguez said. “I enjoy watching them get up and go because they’ve been there and done that. They also reminisce about the old days, especially when we play the old ballads.”

Speaking in Spanish, 62-year-old Guadalupe Arco Amarillo, who serves as secretary of the Los Abuelitos senior organization, said, “Este es un buen lugar,” meaning “this is a good place.”

“We can come here, enjoy ourselves for awhile and feel young again. We all know each other and we can come together and forget about our depressions,” Amarillo said.

Amarillo and her friend, Raul Acosta, said they will dance to anything that the band of the day plays, whether it be rancheras, cumbias or boleros.

“Yes, we do get tired,” Amarillo confessed. “But we enjoy ourselves.”