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Teaching an Indigenous Tribe the Macarena

Teaching an Indigenous Tribe the Macarena

Asia, Taiwan

My summer work has consisted of working with the Siraya people of Taiwan to expand their international base. Little did I know that I would also become an expert on the popular dance: the macarena.

Hopefully, you are familiar with this cheesy dance. But if you’re a bit rusty, check out the YouTube video here. (Also worth checking out if 90s music videos amuse you!)

How did it come about that I taught this particular dance to the Siraya? 

Two weekends ago, we packed up our bags to stay on Houtoupi (literally, tiger head lake) for the first Siraya International Youth Workshop where the Siraya youth met to discuss issue their tribe faces with national recognition and cultural revitalization.

Houtoupi, the beautiful location of the Siraya International Youth Workshop

The weekend went well featuring thoughtful discussions on what direction the Siraya movement was heading towards and focusing on fixing internal issues.

Youth discussion on tribal issues
Youth discussion on tribal issues

After following up presenters including a Sirayan Ph. D. student who studied with the Maori in New Zealand, a chief from the local Paiwan tribe, and a representative of the Tiano tribe in Puerto Rico, I thought that the worst of my nerves was over. (I spoke on indigenous movements and the mechanisms they used to attract international attention).

That is, of course, until we were asked to do an American performance on the spot.

A prominent leader of the Paiwan tribe in Taiwan giving a presentation on the current Paiwan movement in Taiwan to gain autonomy.
A prominent leader of the Paiwan tribe in Taiwan giving a presentation on the current Paiwan movement in Taiwan to gain autonomy.

So, the macarena? 

Luckily, Tabatha, my fellow volunteer, thought up this particular dance. Although they were expecting a song, I felt more confident in these repetitive, easy dance movements.

So, in one of the most fun and bizarre moments of my life I stood in the front of the room teaching the Siraya youth the steps to the macarena.

They loved it.

The whole room erupted in laughter every time we got to the last dance movement of heyyyy macarena where you twirl your hips and jump to face another direction. They even added their own finger twist.

By the end of the dance I was breathless from cracking up as mushi (pastor) implored us to do it just one more time. 

Two weeks later, our Siraya friends have notified us that they can not get the song out of their head.

Edgar explained: “The macarena is always there, in the back of my mind!”



Look out for Taiwanese aboriginals introducing their new favorite dance to the Taiwanese dance floor!


About the author

Vegetarian foodie and tree hugger over here. I've got all the blog tips on traveling sustainably. So follow along for epic hikes, savory food, and all around ethical travel.


  1. Uncle Bob
    August 15, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Great, now I’ll have that song stuck in my head for the rest of the day!
    Hey macarena!

      August 17, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Tell me about it! The past two weeks have been filled with the tribe singing the macarena to me.

    • Aneisha
      March 31, 2015 at 1:52 am

      This site is like a clsoarsom, except I don’t hate it. lol

    • Phyllis @phyllisonthemap
      April 5, 2015 at 2:35 am


  2. Liz M
    October 4, 2016 at 7:07 am

    How did you get involved in this project? I am also interested in doing this. Was it a particular organization you went with or did you independently organize this work? Do you know how I could get involved?

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Phyllis
      October 7, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      I set up this volunteer project through my school! One of my professors connected me with the tribe and then I applied for a grant to complete the volunteer project. If you’re interested in learning more about the Siraya look them up on Facebook and drop them a comment! (Don’t be intimidated that their Facebook page is mainly in Chinese-they all speak English) 🙂

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