The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

81-year-old dances for charity

The spring sun glistens off of the fedora hat of Margaret Arriaga as she twirls to Selena.

Arriaga, an 81-year-old street performer from San Antonio, uses her fancy footwork to raise money for numerous charities in the city. Everyone knows her as Ms. Margaret.

What makes her happy?

“Seeing people enjoying my dancing and making them happy with my dancing,” she said.

Ms. Margaret can be found every weekend dancing downtown at Historic Market Square. Her colorful costumes and her dance moves keep the audience entertained. She often takes a dancing partner during her set — the challenge is keeping up with her.  Ms. Margaret will also take photos after her set, in return for a small donation to her cause.

Ms. Margaret has been dancing at Market Square for three years and usually makes an average of about $100 during her two sets which averages to approximately $14,400 in donations for the past three years. The money is donated to various charities: Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, Robert B Green Campus University Health System, and St. Jude Children’s Hospital, a few of the numerous charities she supports.

Married for 49 years and widowed for the last 17 years, Ms. Margaret has nine children and too many grand, great and great-great grand children to name. Ms. Margaret still has lots of energy to help out children and senior citizens in need.  

Joshua Reyes, Special Activities Coordinator City of San Antonio Historic Market Square, said Ms. Margaret approached him three years ago asking if she could be a dancer.  He told her that people dance freely at Market Square and asked why she wanted to dance?  She told him she wanted to do something for kids; she wanted to donate the money to the ones in need.

Not only does Ms. Margaret help out children at local hospitals, she also donates her time at Palacio del Sol Senior Apartment Living where she uses some of  her donation money to purchase groceries for senior citizens who can’t afford the little extras.  

Ms. Margaret doesn’t drive, relying on VIAtrans, a system for disabled patrons to ride public transportation for free, to get her to the hospitals and the senior apartments to complete her volunteer duties.

When asked about her volunteering Ms. Margaret said, “I tell them stories, we sing, we pray and play loteria (Mexican bingo).”

Ms. Margaret also volunteers at the annual Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Day Dinner by dressing up as a Native American for attendees and at the Feast for Sharing sponsored by H-E-B  where she dresses up as Mrs. Claus.

“The kids get a kick out of it,” she said.

In early April, she volunteered at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure during their competitive runner awards ceremony.

Daniel Patino, independent producer for Symmetric Sound Productions, said Ms. Margaret loves to dance to any kind of Cumbias.  He is amazed with the energy level she always brings.

“She is an inspiration for all of us,” he said. “She reminds us to do more for the less fortunate and to enjoy life.”

Ms. Margaret’s near future plans are to travel to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee where she wants to visit with young cancer patients and entertain them with her many engaging stories.

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