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 9780292784772

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Afro-Mexico

AfroPhotographs by George O. Jackson and José Manuel Pellicer Foreword by Ben Vinson III

Mexico Dancing between Myth and Reality

Anita González

University of Texas Press Austin

Copyright © 2010 by the University of Texas Press All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America First edition, 2010 Requests for permission to reproduce material from this work should be sent to: Permissions University of Texas Press P.O. Box 7819 Austin, TX 78713-7819 www.utexas.edu/utpress/about/bpermission.html ∞ The paper used in this book meets the minimum requirements of ansi/niso z39.48-1992 (r1997) (Permanence of Paper).

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data González, Anita.    Afro-Mexico : dancing between myth and reality / Anita González ; photographs by George O. Jackson and José Manuel Pellicer ; foreword by Ben Vinson III. — 1st ed.    p.   cm.    Includes bibliographical references and index.    isbn 978-0-292-72324-5 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Dance—Mexico—African influences. 2. Mexico— Civilization—African influences. 3. Blacks—Mexico. 4. National characteristics, Mexican. I. Title.    gv1627.g64 2010    792.80972—dc22 2010015368



Contents



Foreword by Ben Vinson iii | vii

Preface | ix

Introduction | 1

1 Framing African Performance in Mexico | 18 2 Masked Dances Devils and Beasts of the Costa Chica | 40 3 Archetypes of Race Performance Responses to Afro-Mexican Presence | 85 4 Becoming National Chilena, Artesa, and Jarocho as Folkloric Dances | 111

Conclusion | 137



Notes | 141

Glossary | 151 Bibliography | 155 Index | 161

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Foreword

Ben Vinson iii, Johns Hopkins University

The publication of Afro-Mexico: Dancing between Myth and Reality comes at an especially important historical moment in the study of peoples of African descent in Latin America, in particular, Mexico. The hemispheric-wide mobilization of social movements for Afro-Latin rights has fostered a political milieu that has created new stakes for scholarship while also opening new angles for study and research. These forces have been admittedly less prominent in Mexico, but still the nation’s conversation on inclusion, antidiscrimination, citizenship, and mestizaje (racial mixture) has been influential in recent years in generating a broader space for the discussion of national blackness. Combined with increased interest in the topic by foreigners, the past fifteen years have witnessed an efflorescence of seminal publications on the Afro-Mexican experience, with key works being produced both in Mexico and in the United States. As never before, we have come to know the experience of Mexico’s black colonial past more intimately, with a deeper appreciation of the influence of slavery, freedom, and the colonial caste system. Research on the nineteenth century remains sparse; however, our knowledge of more modern Afro-Mexican lifeways has improved. Building on the pioneering historico-anthropological work of Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, whose imprint on generations of Afro-Mexicanists is indelible, several key studies have now appeared on Mexican cuisine, literary production, folklore, music, and traditions. In light of the flurry of scholarly activity that has recently taken place, the corpus of scholarship on Mexico’s black past is fast forming what might be called the field of Afro-Mexican studies. Within this emerging field, Anita González’s rich and insightful contribution is as pivotal as it is informative. Afro-Mexico is a wonderful study of braided, interethnic activity, transcending the usual European/African dichotomy often seen in African Diaspora studies to include meaningful and deep interrelationships with Amerindians. By using methodological approaches drawn from the dis|   vii  |

ciplines of theater and dance studies, the book weaves a powerful interpretive framework by which to understand the influence of mythmaking and its relationship to nationhood and lived experiences. By the book’s end, we begin to comprehend the subtleties of how an Afro-Mexican subtext can be found in the “national” dance tradition of Mexico. The book also helps us understand the complexities of race while centrally acknowledging that those whom we might identify as Afro-Mexicans may not actually subscribe to such an identity themselves. Photography is used strategically throughout the book to illuminate dance steps and performance audiences and to restage (as much as possible) performance events. This is among the best works published in English on the impact and meaning of Afro-Mexican dance in Mexico. In this regard, it is a pioneering work. Along with books such as National Rhythms, African Roots by John Chasteen and Nationalizing Blackness and Music and Revolution by Robin Moore, Dancing between Myth and Reality stands as part of a canon of texts designed to reinterpret the cultural legacy of people of African descent in the broader Diaspora.

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Preface I am an African American born in the United States, yet my family bears the name González, the legacy of a Cuban grandfather. As a child, I thought of my surname and wondered, where did my family name come from? Are there blacks in Latin America? Later I learned that indeed there are: millions of them. One summer in the 1970s, seeking to know more about African Diaspora people, I traveled with my father on the eastern coast of Mexico. We disembarked in Mata Clara, a small pueblo outside the maroon settlement of Yanga, a site known for its black citizens. There, we excitedly posed for photographs with as many of the residents who would agree to pose with the foreign guests. At the time my father and I exulted and marveled over the skin color that we shared with members of this faraway community. We felt a sense of solidarity with families that we never knew, ­couldn’t possibly know. Did it matter to the Mexican community members that we, like they, were morenos? When, with the support of the University of Texas, I decided to record and describe this work, I was most surprised to learn that there were two influential Mexican photographers, George O. Jackson and José Manuel Pellicer, who were also interested in this topic. Their contributions to the project have been exceptional. Photographs continue to be the form of documentation most commonly used to “prove” black presence in Mexico, yet they are deceptive. The visual does not always translate into the political or the historical, and people who “look” dark-skinned to North American eyes may feel neither “black” nor a part of the African Diaspora. Nevertheless, photographs from Mexico attest to the ongoing presence of African-descended people in the country. I am grateful to the photographers for providing them. I also acknowledge the support of the State University of New York at New Paltz Research and Creative Projects Award Program, which provided travel funding for collaborative work with José Manuel Pellicer.

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Special thanks for this project go to many individuals: first of all, to my husband, John Diehl Jr., for his encouragement, continuing support, and meticulous eye; to my children, Xochina and Jonathan, for understanding about writing; to Ben Vinson for recommending me for the University of Texas residency without really knowing me. Many people at the University of Texas especially supported this work: Theresa May at the University of Texas Press nurtured the project from beginning to end, Edmund T. Gordon and Joni (Omi) Jones at the Center for African and African American Studies graciously provided me with a research fellowship, Jin Lee assisted with photographic and computer expertise, and Christen Smith suggested that I “go ahead and really write it.” The project required the efforts of many. Gwendolyn Gout Grautoff carefully reviewed the manuscript; Carrie Sandahl read and gave advice; Antonio García accompanied me on my field trips; Kamal Kalra, Jack Wade, and Jeff Lesperance assisted with photographs; and Andrea Valeria continually brought me back to Mexico. All of them helped me to realize this book. Most important, I would like to thank artist-scholars who live and work in Mexico: Georgina Saldaña, Alex Stewart, Argelia Bautista Torres, Professor Hernández Palomo, Oscar Jiménez Terrazas, Andres Antonio Reyes Pérez, Guardarrama Olivera, and the members of Grupo Raíces—Gonzalo Pérez, Argelia Bautista, Octavio Pérez Bautista, Viviana Pérez Bautista, Argelia Pérez Bautista, Roberto Javier Santos—who took the time to talk to me about the dances, invite me to rehearsals and classes, and in general share information about the communities. Oscar and Elena Moreno and Shirley Sweet deserve my gratitude for introducing me to a world of traditional dance that is largely inaccessible to mainstream populations. To them I owe my understandings about how chiefs and dance leaders maintain traditional ceremonies in the contemporary world. I would especially like to thank Padre Glynn Jermott for his hospitality and ongoing commitment to the Afro-Mexico project—to establishing a community of Mexican citizens who self-identify as Afro-Mexican. I hope that you, the reader, will enjoy sharing the artistry of Afro-Mexicans who dance.

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Afro-Mexico

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Introduction Afro-Mexico: Dancing between Myth and Reality, as the title suggests, is a book about dancing. But more important, it is a book about how dance reflects on social histories and relationships. The photographs and text document how residents of some sectors of Mexico construct their histories through performance. The idea of Afro-Mexico is, in some ways, an enigma. While Africans and their descendants have lived in Mexico for centuries, many AfroMexicans do not consider themselves either black or African. Instead, members of this ethnic population blend into the national imagination of Mexico as a mixed-race country. For almost a century, Mexico has promoted an ideal of its citizens as a combination of indigenous and European ancestry. This construct obscures the presence of African, Asian, and other populations that have contributed to the growth of the nation. However, performance studies—dance, music, and theatrical events—reveal that African people and their cultural productions have consistently influenced Mexican society. Festival dances and sometimes professional staged dances point to a continuing negotiation of ethnic identities between Native American, Spanish, African, and other constituencies within the evolving nation of Mexico. These performances embody the mobile histories of ethnic encounters because each dance includes a spectrum of characters based on local situations and historical memories. The photographs in this book illustrate dance events that are performed by Afro-Mexicans or are about Afro-Mexicans but performed by other ethnic Mexican groups. Most of the dances are part of festivals where artists imaginatively re-create myths and realities of Afro-Mexican lifestyles. In a society where ethnic heritage is not reconciled, myths encapsulate hidden histories. Afro-Mexicans dance between myth and reality because neither is finite. There are no unchanging myths and no fixed realities. Instead, performers find myths in the realities of everyday life and realities that circumscribe the practice of cultural mythologies. |  1  |

Afro-Mexicans, like most of us, locate themselves somewhere along this spectrum each time that they express a cultural idea.

Race in the Americas The concept of race is continually being redefined. “Race” troubles academic theorists and affects popular social conceptions about origins and nationality. Political events like the rise of Barack Obama challenge existing myths about race and bring to questions the realities of racial mixtures in the Americas. In both local and global communities public understandings about blackness greatly influence who African Diaspora people think they are. Clearly, those who reside in Mexico are Mexican. However, selfperceptions influence both self-esteem and the sense of belonging. Recently, I was traveling by airplane to Costa Chica and picked up a copy of the magazine Intro*, which services the Oaxacan coast. Inside was a story about a surfer named Angel Salinas, an AfroMexican from Mancuernas, Pinotepa Nacional. Salinas is a surfing star who has won national and international tournaments. But he wears a wrestler’s mask to cover his face when he appears in public. The article states that the surfer wears the mask as “a result of some advice that his mother gave him when he ­d idn’t appear in magazines because of his dark skin; he decided to do something that would make him different and that would show a Mexican cultural icon. Now he is known as ‘the masked surfer.’”1 Angel Salinas feels the need to cover his face in order to feel Mexican. Although Mexico is a country where, at first glance, the races have mixed to become a “cosmic race,” there are still urgent social discrepancies that manifest as internalized or blatant racism. This discrepancy between public policy and daily practices influences the kinds of lives that contemporary Afro-Mexicans lead. Both North and South America have provided unique opportunities for racial mixing between Native Americans, Africans, Europeans, and Asians that did not occur on other continents. The vibrant and sometimes violent merging of phenotypes (physical racial traits) and cultural ideas has created novel societies within this hemisphere. Americans continuously struggle to define and articulate the shifting grounds of these racial relationships. In the 2006 anthology Globalization and Race, the editors write, “Blackness is being reconceptualized, a reconceptualization that requires new forms of interdependence and autonomy and that is grounded in new ideologies, practices, and modes of communication.”2

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Any study of Afro-Mexican performance involves rethinking the meanings of race and the impact of race on communities who are discovering new identity associations. Performance, with its dialogical communicative tools, is one way to examine burgeoning racial constructions in the Americas. Since the advent of scientific rationalism, race has always been an invention, albeit one with extreme social and economic consequences. Stephen Mullaney writes about “wonder cabinets” created by Renaissance merchants that captured all the marvels of the world within single rooms.3 The hodgepodge of skulls, skins, trinkets, and plants were without a hierarchical order. In this early age of discovery, all races were equally scattered throughout the cabinet of wonders. Later, with the advent of scientific rationalism (spurred in part by the creative experiments of Francis Bacon), plant and animal species became codified. In the nineteenth century human racial orders were created through a layered system of “scientific” anthropology.4 Theories of social Darwinism placed European races at the top of the pyramid, with other races below them. The designations Caucasian, Negro, and Oriental that were developed in this system persisted well into the twentieth century.5 These artificial definitions were used to justify social systems such as slavery, apartheid, and Jim Crow segregation. The growth of the Americas as an interracial society challenges these finite categories. Through the process of ethnic mixing new racial categories continue to emerge.6 It is when societies think within “gray” areas of social relationships that new performance forms materialize. Performance— music, dance, and theatre—is one method of expressing shifting perceptions of Afro-Mexican identity. Performance allows humans to clarify and articulate their history through embodied expression. By “becoming”—through either masked impersonation or crafted improvisation—the dancer is able to physically experiment with self-definitions. When Afro-Mexicans dance as devils, for example, they momentarily embrace their association with evil acts; they redefine themselves in opposition to mainstream ideals of “goodness.” At the same time, the same individuals may then negate their image as renegades by singing corridos that justify their rebellious history. Experimentations with identities assist in the negotiation of social status, and these negotiations help to define Diaspora as a process. Rather than consider Diaspora as a formation that tends to “rely upon the idea of an initial dispersal

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or migration from an originary homeland,”7 this volume considers multiple diasporic imaginations that contribute to communities’ perceptions of themselves.

Academic Precedents for This Study Published research about Afro-Mexico is a fairly recent phenomenon. Most scholars attribute early interest in the field to the writings of Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, who published the first edition of his ethnographic study of Africans in Mexico, La población negra de México: Estudio etnohistórico, in 1946.8 Beltrán’s volume recognized Afro-Mexicans as a distinct cultural community within the nation. Mexican scholars such as Barabas, Chávez-Hita, Cruz Carretero, Eugenio Campos, Guevara Sanginés, Gutiérrez Avila, Jiménez Román, Martínez Montiel, and Moedano Navarro, working with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) and the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, produced several studies of Afro-Mexican populations in the 1980s and 1990s.9 These publications laid the groundwork for serious historical studies of the impact of African descendants on Mexico. Later, in 1991, Patrick Carroll published his English-language historical analysis, Blacks in Colonial Veracuz.10 U.S. authors have built on the work of Carroll and established a vibrant and emerging field of Afro-Mexican studies. The historians Ben Vinson III, Herman Bennett, Joan Bristol, and Nicole Von Germeten examine the colonial period,11 and social scientists such as Laura Lewis and Bobby Vaughn focus on the contemporary status of Afro-Mexicans.12 My own work incorporates the historical work of these scholars; however, my research is grounded in cultural studies and performance studies methodologies as well. My interest is in how contemporary cultural communities interact within social constructs that have been partially determined by histories. Dialogic exchanges between local communities lie at the core of my research.

Re-creating the Ephemeral Art: Performance Research Methodologies The fields of dance and theatre studies have established precedents for this kind of study. These two fields have developed methodologies for “reading” the ephemeral art of gesture. The theatre historian Joseph Roach has shown that theatre and dance performances can uniquely capture histories and memories—providing an alternative way of filling the “vacancies . . . in the network of relationships that constitutes the social fabric.”13 Performance has the |  4  |

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capacity to “stand in for an elusive entity that it is not, but that it must vainly aspire both to embody and to replace.”14 Performance scholarship incorporates analysis of archival documents, with the goal of comprehending broad historical trends. It may also involve practical field experiences: attending productions, interviewing artists, or collaborating on live performances. Language, both physical and verbal, becomes an important component of the research. Theatre scholars study text as an allographic blueprint for performances. Dance scholars study the nuances of human gesture that communicate. By using methodologies from both of these fields, I am able to interpret performance in Mexico. Because this involves decoding the expressive work of diverse ethnic communities, I draw from the methodological approaches of scholars who write about ethnic performing arts. Some anthropologists have focused on the study of Latin American dance and performance in cultural context. In 2000 Zoila Mendoza completed Shaping Society through Dance: Mestizo Ritual Performance in the Peruvian Andes, one of the most thorough studies of festival performance.15 Her book uses anthropological methodologies to examine identity formation through performance. In a similar way, Olga Nájera-Ramírez writes extensively about Mexican festival performance. Her book, Dancing across Borders, coedited with Norma E. Cantú and Brenda Romero, builds on her earlier research in Jocotán (Fiesta de los Tastoanes).16 The more recent edited volume provides descriptive analyses and ethnographic testimony from authors representing a broad cross section of the field. Anthropological studies are helpful because of their “thick description” of community interactions; however, ethnic theatre studies resources trace cultural events across much broader landscapes. Jill Lane and Harry Elam have written about Cuban and African American performance histories using close readings of texts and performances.17 Their theoretical analyses of how black performance migrates across national boundaries are especially relevant to this study of Afro-Mexican performance. Theoretical writings of dance scholars, in particular, those who evaluate African Diaspora performance, have had the greatest influence on this study. Dance studies scholars dedicate themselves to reading gesture and its communicative potential. For example, Brenda Dixon Gottschild’s book Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance traces “Africanist” elements in the choreography of mainstream U.S. dance artists such as George Balanchine, Deborah Hay, Bebe Miller, and Doug Elkins.18 She identifies spein t rodu c t ion

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cific elements of African aesthetics: displacement and articulation of the hips, improvisation, energy, attack, off-centeredness, polycentrism, ephebism,19 and juxtaposition. What is important about Gottschild’s work is the clarity with which she describes the African performance qualities visible in dancing of the Americas. Other dance scholars have also described U.S. African American performance styles. Steppin’ on the Blues, by Jackie Malone, is one of several books that document popular performance styles. Emphasizing the vernacular, she locates the origins of steps and songs within specific regional communities. Malone’s book captures the routines of marching bands and college step dance teams.20 She considers the rhythmic spectacles an important part of the cultural expressions of African Americans. Her work is valuable to this study of Afro-Mexican performance because it demonstrates how public, nontheatrical presentations contribute to the ongoing maintenance of cultural identities. Finally, my book is supported by academic studies of Native American communities and their dances. Native American cultures coexist with African and European cultures throughout the Americas. Some performance genres are cross-fertilizations between the two racial groups. Historical events in the Americas forged especially close alliances between African descendants and Native American residents. In the United States, southern slave systems encouraged Africans to survive by intermarrying and uniting with the Seminole, Muscogee, and other nations. Policies of racial segregation and discrimination ensured that “Native Americans” and “blacks” would sometimes share impoverished communities and educational systems. In Mexico, Spanish governing practices relegated Native American and African residents to servile positions as slaves or servants. Colonial households in urban settings used whatever labor was available. As a result, ranches, plantations, and mines were multiracial settings that encouraged controversies and alliances across ethnic boundaries. Because Native American dances in Mexico comment on African presence, academic studies of Native American dance are important to this study. The Smithsonian Institution publication Native American Dance: Ceremonies and Social Traditions, edited by Charlotte Heth, provides an excellent overview of styles of dance across North America.21 Tara Browner and Jacqueline Shea Murphy outline more specific analyses of Native North American performance practices in Heartbeat of the People and The People Have Never Stopped Dancing.22 Browner illuminates the history of the powwow and explains |  6  |

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contemporary practices. Shea Murphy is more concerned with Native American presence in concert dance performances. Her book considers the complex negotiation of authenticity with identity on professional stages. Studies of the Maya are also relevant to understanding indigenous dance commentary in Mexico. Maya communities adjoin and often blend with Native American communities that live within Mexican national boundaries. Performance practices of the various ethnic communities intermingle. Renewing the Maya World by Garrett Cook is useful in its interpretation of Maya ritual symbols in festival performance.23 The spatial modalities of festival performance in highland Maya communities replicate aspects of Mexican festival performance. Some of the phenomena that Cook describes—cofradías, Corpus Christi celebrations, and the use of liminal time frames—are especially relevant to my investigations. Collectively, the fields of anthropology, theatre studies, dance studies, African American studies, and Native American studies have helped to formulate the investigation that follows. Through performance analysis I hope to add to the burgeoning scholarship that considers how performances encapsulate local understandings about black identity within a global “call and response” of images.

On Approaches to Field Research: Collaborations and Investigations Academic research is not my only tool for investigating Afro-Mexican dance. I am also a practicing artist. Mexico is an old stomping ground for me. I was sixteen years old when I first began living with Mexican families and traveling to village festivals and cultural sites. I have consistently returned to my foreign homeland over the past thirty-five years—for socializing, for directing and choreography work, for research and teaching, for two Fulbright grants, for Native American ceremonial activities, for soul searching, and for the weather. Each time I return a different part of the cultural landscape presents itself. Most of my friends born in Mexico are artists or scholars with interests in both local and international folklore and culture. In Mexico City I frequent performances at the national theatre complexes. When I travel to the provinces, urban friends connect me with local artists who connect me with local teachers who transfer the knowledge of cultural traditions to students through community centers (Casas de la Cultura), schools, and local dance groups. At all levels, there is an exchange of culture, artistry, and technique. in t rodu c t ion

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My first research travel to Mexico was a Fulbright grant in 1989. My project was to document dance video archive collections and encourage artists to collect and store media records of dances. The project gave me an opportunity to travel throughout many regions of Mexico meeting and exchanging ideas with artists. In 1992 I returned specifically to work with professional Veracruz dancers and actors on a binational project. African American and Jalapa artists collaborated on a musical version of the Greek myth Hymn to Demeter using our respective folklore. The final production was staged in New York City in 1993. More recently, I have focused on the western regions of Mexico, traveling to Oaxaca and the Costa Chica to meet with music and dance artists who work in the region. A fellowship and research grant from the University of Texas at Austin facilitated this 2007 research. The Oaxaca investigations typify my field methodology. First, I use a network of contacts to identify working artists in the area. Next, I travel to the area to meet with dancers and musicians and to discuss their approaches to making art. The artistic dialogues are multilayered. We talk about whether there is such a thing as Afro-Mexican dance and if so, what the artists perceive those forms to be. This involves comparing and contrasting ideas about dance and culture in Mexico with ideas about dance and culture in the United States. Almost always, a discussion of actual dances and styles involves demonstrations. “I’ll show you a buck dance step if you show me an artesa step.” Or, “How do you play that bote instrument? Is it like the Brazilian cuica?” These discussions are the most fruitful and exciting for me because we are participating in collaborative exchanges of artistry. The back-andforth generates questions and ideas about motivations and aesthetics. How do you maintain a tradition while modifying it for hotel performances? What do you leave out and what do you keep in? Dialogues about performance are among my primary research tools. Usually dancers and musicians have videotapes or DVDs about the work that they do. These archival documents are reference points for theoretical discussion about practice. During my last visit to Rio Grande on the Costa Chica, for instance, the dance teacher Oscar Jiménez showed me several recordings of Devil dances that he keeps in his personal archive. Even though he teaches regional folkloric dances like the Chilena, he collects inside information about local festival dances. Jiménez was willing to share these personal tapes with me because I had participated in

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an earlier physical dance conversation. I had watched his students perform some folkloric dances, and in exchange, I had taught them some Horton modern dance phrases. Through this collaborative swap, my dance expertise had been certified. As we watched the tapes we could, as fellow artists, speculate about interpretations of the recorded dance. My ethnicity, Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean, influences the way that I conduct my research. Because I wear dreadlocks, Mexicans of all ethnicities recognize me as an outsider. Darkerskinned Mexicans, whether Native American, mestizo, or African, either equate my personal style, speech, and mannerism with the United States or reference my Cuban grandfather as an explanation for my skin tones. As this volume demonstrates, race is largely in the eye of the beholder. How others reconcile my phenotype with my nationality depends on their previous experiences with African Diaspora cultural communities. Lately there has been much more interest in Afro-Latin America. Things are changing. Within academic circles there is evolving discourse about African Diaspora identity across national borders. Artists working in the field are also somewhat aware of the impact of African Diaspora dance styles on popular and folk culture. When I travel to Mexican sites local artists may want to see me dance hip-hop, an African dance, or a Cuban rhumba. I have found that Mexican artists are generally interested in learning more about African and/or African American cultural performance styles in part because of the popularity of black art styles within the mainstream media. My status as a foreign researcher is also mediated by my gender. Mexico is a country where males dominate in business activities, including the arts. Women artists are active within urban theatrical sites, where female actors, directors, and theatre managers earn their living. However, the regional areas of Mexico are more provincial and conservative in their approach to gender relations. As a woman, it is sometimes difficult to gain access to official organizations or to maintain authority in public settings. The gender equality that typifies urban communities such as Mexico City or Guadalajara is not expressed in the same way in rural, conservative areas of the country. This means, for example, that a woman traveling alone in remote parts of Mexico may be viewed as vulnerable. If she is also an outsider, the community may want to protect her or, conversely, think she is “asking for trouble.” I have found it beneficial to travel in Mexico accompanied by at least one male research-

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er or artist. Working with someone of the opposite gender allows me to bridge the gap and learn about the nuances of both male and female performance styles. The reasons that Mexican gender roles are more restrictive than those in North America are culturally specific and, of course, not the same throughout the continent. In historical context, gender relationships are influenced by Catholic religious inculcation, Native American hierarchical systems, and Spanish perceptions about proper social deportment for women. In Mexico women are generally expected to maintain respeto while males hold decision-making and organizational positions. Finally, field investigations are based on seeing performances. I see performances in all types of venues and circumstances: concert stages, patron saint festivals, dancers’ living rooms, indigenous ceremonies, or on videotape and DVD. Dance research involves “reading” performance in multiple venues. Concert dance performances that specifically reference Afro-Mexican traditions are rare. In 1997 I collaborated with a Mexican modern dancer named Serafín Aponte on a concert dance performance called Yanga based on historical events surrounding the first escaped slave community in the state of Veracruz. Aponte was interested in drawing from African Diaspora dance to express Afro-Mexican sensibilities. I know of no other concert performances that reference a distinct Afro-Mexican cultural tradition. There are, however, concert performances of folkloric dances. Currently, a commercial production called Jarocho that is similar to the Irish dance spectacle Riverdance is touring internationally (2007–2008). Audiences who view this dance spectacular would not equate it with African-descendant performance for reasons that I discuss in chapter 4. On the other hand, patron saint festivals are a primary way of viewing community dances. During patron saint days, the dates of which vary from town to town, local dance groups present their choreographies and their dancers to the public. Afro-Mexican dances and dance about Afro-Mexicans flourish in this environment. Ceremonial dances are usually more closed, yet many are attended and documented by individual artists. For the past four years I have attended a traditional Spirit Dance in Mexico where I have learned about how dance leaders maintain ritual performances that are based on annual rites. Some of the dances that are illustrated in the photographs in this volume are ceremonial dances. Seeing and participating in performances are important components of performance research.

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About the Meaning of the Photograph This book uses the work of two photographers, George O. Jackson and José Manuel Pellicer, to illustrate the dances that I describe. Photographs are deceptive: they can capture a staged event and make it appear truthful, or they can distort the truth so that it appears to be an impossible myth. Here the photographs are of events staged in rural villages and town festivals. Some of them were taken during patron saint day processions, some of them were staged for the photographers, and some of them were dances re-created for local encuentros, or meetings, to share information. The photographs are not designed to document events exactly as they occurred. Many of them are stunning artworks, but I do not intend to “read” them for their artistic value. Rather, I use them as a way to illustrate steps, characters, and relationships that are common in Afro-Mexican and indigenous dance performances. Jackson and Pellicer have spent many years working in Mexico to record the photographs that accompany this project. The three of us met in Texas in spring 2007 and immediately recognized our mutual passion for similar topics. While in residence at the Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, I was looking for photographs to document dance festival performances. George Jackson had deposited much of his extensive photographic work in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. As I searched through the archives, I discovered that twenty of the photographs that I needed to document Costa Chica Afro-Mexican dance were missing. The librarian urged me to give George a call. He enthusiastically welcomed me and referred me to his photographic collaborator, José Manuel Pellicer, who lives in Houston. I visited with Pellicer, who immediately opened his collection and his home. The three of us met regularly over coffee, computer screens, and Vietnamese food to discuss the dynamics of cultural expressions in Mexico. The result is this collaborative volume. Jackson has spent the better part of twenty years traveling through some of the most remote regions of Mexico photographing the spectacles surrounding Mexican village performances. Like Edward Curtis, he sees himself as documenting a disappearing set of lifestyles and performances. For Jackson, traveling to a remote village is as simple as saying “Let’s go” and hiring a car to take him directly to the site. His enthusiasm and winning personality belie the years of meticulous effort that he has devoted to creating in t rodu c t ion

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one of the most extensive photographic records of indigenous and mestizo lifestyles in the late twentieth century. Jackson initiated his “Essence of Mexico” project in 1990. For eleven years he photographed the dance, costume, music, ceremony, folk art, ephemera, and architecture of sixty indigenous Mexican cultural groups. His stunning photographs have been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,24 the Tyler Museum of Art,25 and the San Antonio Museum of Art.26 Pellicer comes from a prominent Mexican family of artists with roots in poetry, cinematography, music, art, and politics. Early on, he lived between the countryside of Tabasco and the urban reality of Mexico City. Although university studies and professional practice propelled him into the commercial world, his conscience directed him to participate in the arts. In 1968 he decided to work with Purepecha communities in the state of Michoacán. He became a part of revolutionary movements in Mexico, Europe, and the United States. Pellicer worked within the penal system of the Costa Chica and inspired Veronique Flanet to write the book Vivire si Dios quiere, about Mixtecan Native Americans and black mestizos from that region. As a photographer, he began to explore the contradictory presence of black Native Americans in Mexico. Pellicer now uses documentary photography and photographic manipulation to explore the spectrum of the “Atlantic” culture of the Americas: the rich music, dance, artistry, and politics of Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans. The photographs by Jackson and Pellicer illustrate dance events that are similar to those I have witnessed over the past three decades of dance research in Mexico. Because performance is ephemeral, it cannot be captured in its entirety with a camera lens. Each audience views the dance from a different perspective and imbues the event with unique knowledge. The photographs illustrate performance elements that are common to the dance forms that they represent. Details of audience relationships, mask design, physical gestures, or motion are made visible through the artists’ lenses. Each shot cannot provide a complete picture, but it is hoped that collectively the photographs will provide a better understanding of the intricate complexities of Afro-Mexican dance performance.

Defining Terms and Concepts Some of the terms and conceptual ideas of the project need defining. I use the term Afro-Mexicans to describe people of African descent living in Mexico. To some extent this term is externally |  12  |

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imposed, because the Mexican government does not recognize Afro-Mexicans as a national indigenous group. I prefer to use the term Afro-Mexican because it simplifies the grammatical structures of the writing. Because I am discussing multiple types of African identities, I believe that it would become cumbersome and confusing to use the terms African, African Mexican, African American, African indigenous, African North American, and so on. Also, the use of the hyphenated term more closely represents the use of the Spanish terms afromestizo, afroamericano, and afroindígena. Indigenous is a word that means “originating in” or “native to.” I would like to use this term broadly to refer to communities that originate from specific regions or geographic areas. I use the term Native American to refer to people who occupied the Americas prior to colonization. There are times when I may use the term Indian to refer to Native Americans because of specific local references or histories. Local communities use language—for example, the terms negro, indio, or moreno—to make racial distinctions based on phenotypes. During colonial times a casta system imposed by the Spanish viceroyalties clearly defined racial mixture. Today racial categories are slippery and relative. This book identifies communities where African presence is recognized through history, language, or self-identity. The boundaries are mutable, not fixed. Another term that is sometimes used in books and publications is Afro-mestizo or Afro-indio. These generally indicate subtler mixtures of ancestries, mixtures that I feel are impossible to isolate and identify in the twenty-first century. Afro-Mexicans are a subcategory of what I call African Americans—people in the western hemisphere whose descendants came from Africa. Africans have been traveling to the Americas since at least the fifteenth century—as sailors, merchants, soldiers, workers, and slaves. Migrations from Africa continue to enhance the cultural landscape of the Americas. Collectively African Diaspora people may be called “African Americans,” even though the English term most frequently refers to African Diaspora residents of the United States. The related term Afro-Latino describes African descendants who live within the geographic area of Latin America. This vast area includes several language groups, among them, Spanish, French, English, Creole, Garifuna, and Pidgin. In this work I presume to examine dancing, yet I define this term broadly. Euro-American elite art traditions tend to separate the disciplines of music, dance, and storytelling, whereas Native American, traditional African, and Spanish folk forms like flamenin t rodu c t ion

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co unite the disciplines. Consequently, I consider dance to include multiple performance forms. Dancing emphasizes the communicative power of human gesture, yet it is created in response to music, characters, stories, and visual symbols. The unique combination of various performance elements is what creates distinct cultural dances. This book primarily documents festival dances. Festivals, as meeting grounds for human beings, become stages for enacting multiple cultural identities. Each human being is a conglomerate of identities, both public and personal. Personal identities are developed within the nurturing cocoon of friends and families, but public identities are formed and negotiated in public spaces. Street performance and outdoor gatherings provide unique opportunities for groups of people to come together to share a temporary identity space through performance. Parades, for example, bring U.S. citizens together to celebrate collective identities such as war veterans or Puerto Rican immigrant status. In a similar way, patron feast day celebrations in Latin America bring townspeople together to celebrate identities that are important to the Mexican collective consciousness. Public celebrations in Mexico commonly honor identities such as ranch worker, farmer, or Mexican patriot. Often performances incorporate mythical or archetypal characters. Archetype is a troubled word. I use it here to mean a prototypical image that serves as a symbolic representation of an idea. An archetypical bull, for example, might represent valor; an archetypical devil represents evil. The symbolic meanings of archetypes change according to the society that generates and uses them. This project explores the resonance of archetypes in specific local contexts. Generally, societies use myths and archetypes to separate communities—to distinguish “us” from “them.” However, when boundaries between communities blur, or racial definitions become indistinct, new cultural paradigms are developed to explain the discrepancies. Expressive culture—words, gestures, visual art, masks, and movement—communicate these cultural ideas. When maintained across time, these representations of ideas become myths that permeate local communities. I would describe most of the dances that appear in this work as community dances. Their purpose is not to entertain or to make money but rather to unite communities around a common event that allows them to celebrate an experience that is unique to their location. Community-based theatres around the world “depend upon ongoing dialog between artists and spectators and explore |  14  |

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ways of maximizing the agency of a local audience.”27 The festival dances in particular grow out of a commitment to a local community or social group. Some of the dances presented here have arisen within Afro-Mexican communities; others originated in Native American or mestizo pueblos and include Afro-Mexican or black characters. Because blacks and Native Americans live and work together in close proximity, dance becomes an ideal way to reconcile differences and resolve community fears about shifting relationships between neighbors. Afro-Mexican performances are truly multidisciplinary. Music, visual artistry, text, and gesture combine to create theatrical space for expression. Unlike concert art, where audiences focus on a single artistic discipline, popular festival performances integrate multiple art forms. The mask maker works with the local seamstress to create the theatrical outfits; the musicians inaugurate the performance space with song before the dancers participate and then continue to play while dancers execute steps; and characters cavort with bystanders. This aspect of festival performance can seem messy and disorganized. In situ, at the site of its origin, dance does not organize itself into choreographed lines of dancers moving through space in mechanized and recognizable figures. Rather, the disorderly chaos of life informs the forms and structures of the dances. Some events may look monotonous to the outsider and continue for hours or perhaps days. The climactic moment may be muffled or hidden from the spectator’s eye. Ultimately, the dances that occur at festivals or in public spaces are designed to affirm community. As Beezley writes, “Mexican local celebrations traditionally served simultaneously to reaffirm rights in communal lands and neighborhood structures, reinforce community solidarity, and redistribute wealth by requiring sponsors to underwrite their costs.”28 The dances are collective celebrations of important events that establish the relationship of the community to collective, universal, and seasonal time. Life cycles are emphasized through a theatrical mirror that reflects histories and social relationships accumulated within the community.

The Chapters Chapter 1 provides a framework for the study by introducing a general history about Mexico. In this overview I emphasize broad theatrical movements that have contributed to the development of dance, drama, and festival performance. I also locate African presence within the broader panorama of Mexican cultural histories. in t rodu c t ion

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The next three chapters discuss the way in which African presence in Mexico is represented through dance. The work is presented as a dialogic call and response of dance imagery. Afro-Mexican communities from the western coastal area of Mexico dance their own identities in masked performances that feature violent and aggressive archetypal characters. Mestizo and Native American communities respond to African presence with their own masked dances that re-present stereotypical and sometimes archetypal notions about African identities. Complementing these two responses to African presence are folkloric dances that originate within AfroMexican communities and are performed across Mexico by multiple ethnicities as representations of Mexico’s mixed-race heritage. Elements of African presence are traceable even within these homogenized styles of dancing. Afro-Mexican dances, as described in the book’s four chapters, are dialogic tools that illustrate myths and realities of African presence in Mexico. Mexican populations, both African and non-African, use dance to respond to ongoing processes of migration and cultural mixing in the Americas. Chapter 2 discusses Afro-Mexican masked performances at festivals. In these dances performers break societal moral codes while hidden behind the faces of animals or supernatural creatures. This type of performance allows Afro-Mexican community members to break the rules and release hidden frustrations with social systems. At the same time, it unites Costa Chica communities in dance practices that are local and specific to each village. In chapter 3, I discuss festival performances in three communities: Huamelula, Ahuacoutzingo, and Coaxtlahuacan. Like reflective mirrors, these dance events provide images of blackness through the eyes of communities that lie alongside Afro-Mexican areas. Performances in these villages demonstrate the importance of local responses to the African Diaspora. The dance commentaries attest to an ongoing and active interaction between blacks and Native Americans at local sites; they underscore the fluidity of Native American interpretations of the African Diaspora in Mexico. Too often, Diaspora studies are framed as dialogues between European and African constituencies. Performance, as described in this chapter, provides an alternative analytical frame for rethinking the impact of Africans in the Americas. Chapter 4 considers mainstream folkloric performance, dances that originated within Afro-Mexican communities and were later assimilated into international productions and/or national Mexican culture. Although these dances are similar to other Mexican |  16  |

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national folkloric dance styles, they retain some elements that link them to the communities of their origin. Distinctive rhythms, rebellious lyrics, and improvisatory exchanges capture the histories of specific Afro-Mexican regions where Chilenas, Artesas, and Jarochos are most popular. Each of the discussions of the dances, their practice, and their histories has been brought to life through photographs that illustrate artists in action. The dancer is a human being who creates a living art form. The image of the body in motion is what invigorates audiences and allows the dance to resonate as a performed history. Dancing between myth and reality is an active practice and an effective strategy for unsettling images of ethnic identity.

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1

Framing African Performance in Mexico Histories of Mexico document complex social negotiations across vast geographic terrains. Nineteenth-century Mexico, for example, included all of the current country as well as wide swaths of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Negotiating human relations within this vast area has challenged governing officials since before the time of the Aztecs. Colonial Spanish viceroyalties managed even larger territories as they attempted to regulate the lifestyles of a population that extended into present-day Central America. This chapter provides a general overview of historical events that affected cultural and social changes within Mexico. The arrival of Hernando Cortés in 1519 initiated a series of encounters between Europeans, Africans, Native Americans, and others that continue to confound governments and regulatory authorities. Mexico has always been a country with strong local politics that are loosely coordinated through governing agencies. The regionalism that defines the country greatly influences the social conditions and moral codes of Mexico’s residents. Despite this challenge, governing bodies (especially during the colonial period and again after the Mexican Revolution) have repeatedly tried to centralize the country’s politics. Mexico differs from the United States in that the first European arrivals in Mexico were individual Spanish explorers seeking glory and wealth. While British outcasts sought asylum and settled with their families in North America, bold Spanish adventurers built fortunes through the conquest of powerful, organized Native American nations in Mesoamerica. The conquest of Mexico was a process of building alliances between local Native American communities, the vast empire of the Aztecs, and the trained bands of Spanish militia that claimed territory in the name of Spain. The portal for the Spanish invasion of Mexico was the eastern coast, in particular, the port of Veracruz. At the time of the conquest, the

Aztecs controlled the central mountains and plateaus. They maintained their empire through an organized system of cultural and economic tributes that came from smaller Native American communities. Cortés collaborated with local Native American nations to form loyalties that would ultimately lead to the overthrow of the Aztec empire. Technologies that supported the conquest included metal weaponry and horses. Cortés, in particular, was a master of military strategy. He boldly used the spectacles of firepower and horsemanship to awe and subdue opposing forces. He also nurtured human relationships. One of the explorer’s most potent tools was the translations of La Malinche, later known as Doña Marina, a Native American woman from the Coatzacoalcos region who was traded to Tabascan leaders. Cortés received La Malinche as a gift from the Tabascans, and he made use of her knowledge of multiple Aztec and Nahuatl languages as he negotiated with individual indigenous communities.

Ciruelo, Oaxaca. This Oaxacan man rides a horse and typifies the Afro-Mexican vaquero culture. African descendants have been in Mexico since the arrival of the Spaniards. They are known for their skills as fishermen, cattle herders, and agricultural workers. Many dance representations of Afro-Mexicans feature vaquero characters. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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The Theatrics of Conquest and Colonization Theatre and performance were an important part of the drama of the conquest. Many aspects of festival performance discussed in this book originated in early-sixteenth-century dramatic practices. Native American theatrical traditions were already in full force when Spanish settlers came to Mexico around 1521.1 We know about these traditions from the journals of the Spanish conquistadors but also from material evidence left at architectural sites throughout Mesoamerica. The dances and dramas were varied. Most were performed at the town centers that brought travelers into transport hubs. Outdoor pageants that combined public rituals of conquest with military war parades entertained both Aztec nobles and the agricultural commoners.2 Musicians played flutes and drums for the spectacles. Choral recitations accompanied the musical interludes. Some presentations included acrobatic tricks performed by trained street artists. These same contortionists would perform in marketplaces and other public squares. Perhaps the most dramatic displays were the sacrificial offerings at the great pyramid sites. Dramatically, priests would sever hearts or behead warriors. Sometimes captives were the sacrificial victims, yet in the more sacred religious ceremonies, male and female citizens would honor themselves by offering their bodies to the spirits. On a smaller scale, Aztec, Nahuatl, and Maya entertainments included poetry readings and oratorical recitations. Miguel León-Portilla has published texts from many of these indigenous performances in his book In the Language of Kings.3 Spanish explorers who arrived in Mexico were primarily male and were intent on finding gold for Spain. When they disembarked in the New World, they were most familiar with country folk dance and the formalized spectacles that were popular in the French and Italian courts of the sixteenth century. The nobility at these events proudly displayed their rich clothing and attire by dancing across great halls in lines or squares.4 Courtiers used dance to demonstrate models of decorum, grace, and elegance. Manuals published by dancing masters—for example, Fabritio Caroso’s “Rules and Directions for Dancing the ‘Passo e Mezo’”—demonstrated how to execute steps,5 so that guests would know how to dance appropriately for the aristocracy. Court dances were therefore a way to express social relationships and hierarchies within the formalized settings of elite homes.6 Courtly styles of dancing in Spain led to Creole dance events in Mexico where couples partnered with one |  20  |

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another. Vestiges of the partner dances remain in Mexican dance styles such as the Danzón and Jarocho in which men and women process and promenade together. In contrast, street pageants were popular among the Spanish lower classes. Europe was just emerging from the Middle Ages when Cortés arrived in Mexico. Both the church and royalty used the streets as a site for dramas and dances. Outdoor dances and parades included dramatic skits, masking, troubadours, fireworks displays, and acrobatics. Religious displays were especially noisy and chaotic. One popular scenic element, for example, was the Hell’s Mouth, a fiery wooden mouth constructed to represent the devil’s lair. The device spit flames and sometimes opened and closed with mechanical winches. Medieval audiences held a fearful respect for the apparatus, which graphically illustrated the terrible consequences of sin. Another theatrical event in Europe was the conquest enactment, in which a battle, such as the taking of the Castle of Rhodes or the conquest of the Moors, would be re-created. These spectacles also made use of mechanical devices such as wooden towers and catapults that threw fiery balls to simulate the terror of conquest. These types of theatrics could mesmerize plebian crowds.7 Spanish missionaries who came to the New World adapted these fantastic contraptions to help convert the “heathen” Native Americans. Ironically, many of the more spectacular effects resembled the war displays of Aztec and Mayan America. Today festival performances still include fireworks towers and can feature dancers suspended from high poles or public burnings of human effigies (e.g., the Easter Judas effigy). Another type of European performance that transferred easily to Latin America was the processional. Maya and Aztec lords used parades to lead captured warriors through victor territories, but in Spain and other Catholic countries elaborate processionals were associated primarily with church-organized pageants. The church, in completing its mission to Christianize the Indians, made extensive use of religious marches through town squares. The pageant of Corpus Christi, or the host that represents the body of Jesus Christ, is still one of the most popular processionals in Mesoamerica. Mexican villages celebrate this occasion with extensive public fiestas. Several of the Afro-Mexican dances described in the following pages take place on or around the time of Corpus Christi. Processionals tended to mark both religious and civic conquest of the village by the Spaniards.8 David Wiles writes, “Processional theater was a practical mode that allowed a huge cast to perform fr a m in g

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before a huge audience in a city of confined spaces.”9 When the village parades were attached to public signs of political sovereignty, the audience knew that they had been conquered and contained. Franciscan priests in Mexico perfected performances of religious dramas that were designed to convert Native Americans to Christianity. As early as 1533 they presented the spectacle of the Last Judgment in Tlatelolco. It incorporated many of the elements described above: processionals, stage machinery, flute music, choral responses, devil characters, and a conversion rite that allowed audiences to commit themselves to Christ.10 Public rituals in “New Spain” began the process of identity formation that would lead to future performance opportunities for various ethnic groups. One performance form, the Moors-and-Christians dances, was especially effective for articulating identity. Priests would regularly sponsor reenactments of battles between the Turks and the Christians to underscore the importance of succumbing to Christian rules. In these mock battles, the Native Americans would at first be asked to play the role of the Turks. In later incarnations, characters would shift, and Native Americans, mestizos, and others would play the conquerors. Eventually, as I describe in chapter 3, the dramas of Moors and Christians—conquerors and subjects—evolved into a malleable site for contesting social identities.11 Under the auspices of religion, African and Native American residents would find a space to perform responses to social systems. Spain implemented colonial rule through town settlements that were bolstered by the encomienda, or land tribute, system. Loyal and successful soldiers were given lands with indigenous workers to cultivate or mine. Later, as Native American workers succumbed to diseases and the brutal work conditions, African slaves were imported to support the burgeoning colonial towns. Ilona Katzew writes, “At the beginning of the colonial period the Spanish elite had no idea where to place the different groups that formed colonial society.”12 Creole and Spanish authorities initiated the casta system to establish fixed boundaries between residents. This system at first assured that social divisions could be maintained. As the Spanish viceroyalty evolved into a colonial outpost, the rigidity of the caste system loosened somewhat. Entertainments and public gatherings helped the burgeoning populace to define social boundaries. Priests were the leaders in the dramatic entertainments of the late sixteenth century. In addition to producing the conversion spectacles, they wrote plays. Often these were pastorelas (shep|  22  |

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herd’s plays) or other illustrations of religious events. However, many included comic characters or commented on local politics. Inventive priests, such as the Franciscan friar Juan Bautista, at the College of Tlatelolco (1599), would write religious comedies. Dramatic scenes took place in outdoor capillas, or covered platforms. Some, like the Exconvento de San Francisco in Huaquechula Puebla, still stand as testimony to the outdoor play tradition. Eventually Mexico developed its own dramatists, actors, and theatre buildings. The author Juan Pérez Ramírez (of Creole and mestizo parentage) is recognized as the first Mexican dramatist (b. 1545?). The earliest known professional actor in New Spain performed in an entremés (interlude) presented in 1574. The actor was an unnamed mulatto who played the role of a clown at the consecration of Archbishop Pedro Moya de Contreras.13 There are references that indicate that the first comedy houses, called La Pacheca (1568) and de la Cruz (1569), were constructed in Pueblos de los Angeles from two existing bullrings. Certainly, buildings dedicated to theatre were present in several settlements after 1600. As colonial citizens settled in Mexico City, they expected to be able to attend entertainment houses (casa de oficiales del contento).14 As the population intermarried and the number of Creole citizens increased, a solid audience base for indoor theatrical presentations was assured.15 But class divisions based on casta classifications remained. Whiter citizens—Creole and Spanish elite—attended interludes, monologues (loas), and comedies (comedias) staged in coliseums or public halls. Darker citizens formed cofradías, or brotherhood societies, to support their social gatherings or entertainments. The cofradías were mutual aid societies formed on the basis of common interests such as employment or neighborhood or skin color. They were extremely important to social interactions, because they allowed people of similar castes to meet, plan, and exchange ideas. Their presence served as a litmus test for shifting race relationships. Nicole Von Germeten argues that the cofradías permitted social mobility among Afro-Mexican laborers because through these institutions individuals could support one another economically and spiritually.16 By the seventeenth century, servile citizens could effectively navigate “the cultural terrain of their rights and obligations as Christian subjects.”17 The public face of the cofradías was expressed in festival events, in particular, those associated with Corpus Christi. This great feast day included all sectors of colonial society. For instance, Mexico City parades of fr a m in g

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1697 and 1701 featured giant figures with oversized heads and little devil characters. Dancers representing the city’s diverse ethnic groups performed the roles of pirates, gypsies, and Turks. Urban cofradías carried banners adorned with flowers and candles as they processed through the city streets. And biblical tableaus were presented in front of the cathedral.18 Through the auspices of cofradías, Mexicans of the lower classes were able to participate in collective entertainments.

Independence and Revolution Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Several governmental upheavals occurred during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Bourbon monarchs ascended to the Spanish throne and began a series of reforms to ensure the supremacy of the state. They suppressed and then expelled the Jesuit order from Mexico while reorganizing the governing structure into twelve intendencias, or subregions. Protesters rioted against the new regulations as the country attempted to adjust to the imposed changes. Bourbon reform, especially under Charles III (1759–1788), had some positive outcomes. Creole identity was normalized as the caste system became less stringent. New Spain residents were able to challenge previously restrictive social groupings. One by-product of the Bourbon reforms was that mulattoes and mestizos were covertly allowed to serve in the military. On the other hand, cruelties against Africans and Native Americans continued at mines in Guanajuato and other states, where revenues were used to finance roads and the military surge. Eventually, enlightened middle-class reformists led the call for Mexico’s independence from Spain. The priest Miguel Hidalgo, army general Ignacio Allende, the Oaxacan mestizo priest José Morelos, and the wealthy landowner Augustín Iturbide successfully overthrew the Spanish military regime in a series of military victories.19 Theatrical entertainments after independence continued to be as they were during the colonial period. Small-scale imitations of Spanish forms predominated. After the war a series of unstable regimes ruled the country. Between 1840 and 1870 foreign armies twice occupied Mexico—the United States in 1848 and the French led by Napoleon III in 1863. Nevertheless, by the mid-nineteenth century the country had established several permanent theatrical houses. The Teatro de Santa Ana and the Teatro Prinicipal were both constructed and/or renovated by the mid-1800s as premier viewing spaces for popular comedies and nationalist dramas. These |  24  |

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theatrical spaces allowed for free expression of Mexican themes of liberation, loyalty, or country life. Africans were an imaginary part of this emerging national arts culture. Reyes de la Maza, in the index to his book El teatro en Mexico durante la independencia (1810–1839), lists several productions that reference blacks. Some of these, like El Negro más prodigioso (a tragedy in three acts) and El Negro sensible (a comedy in one act) were probably bufos similar to the Cuban minstrel acts. However, his index also lists a performance of a Negrillos (little black men) dance.20 Already, Mexican artists had established the practice of performing African presence without including African artists. The year 1876 marks the beginning of the Porfiriato, the thirtyyear reign of the dictator Porfirio Díaz. Díaz stabilized Mexico by opening up the country’s economy to foreign interests. His motto, “Order and Progress,” coupled with his active encouragement of foreign investment in Mexico, resulted in an artistic and cultural boom that was based on the aesthetic of imported culture. Díaz’s interest in public space and infrastructure led to the construction of monumental buildings and boulevards, for example, Paseo de la Reforma or the Palacio de Bellas Artes. While architecture and intellectual thought embraced French and Italian models, the theatre moved toward novelty entertainments. The Spanish zarzuela, or small comic opera, arrived in the mid-1860s and paved the way for homegrown musical revues. Music and dance extravaganzas featuring women and character actors attracted audiences from a wide cross section of social classes. The late nineteenth century must be viewed as an especially fertile time for the intermingling of popular theatre forms. Light comic operas and zarzuelas helped to make Mexico City a cosmopolitan arts destination; and Cuban bufos promoted mulatto and black character types that were uniquely American. Díaz distinctively patronized can cans and tandas (variety acts similar to vaudeville revues) with female players. As a result, darker-skinned female stars made their appearance. Once popularized, the musical variety genre would continue well into the 1930s. The character type of the sensuous mulata (mixed-race woman) who dances the rhumba evolved from this revue tradition. By the end of the 1930s two renowned zarzuelas, María la O and Cecilia Valdés, were imported from Cuba and marketed in Mexico. Collectively, they established the mulata “as a symbol of sexual desire and as an icon for the danger of racial contamination through miscegenation.”21 In 1932 the composer Agustín Lara would promote Toña la Negra fr a m in g

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(María Antonia del Carmen Leregrino de Cházaro). This mulata singer from the state of Veracruz became one of the most celebrated vocalists in the “tropical” musical revue genre.22 Díaz’s fascination with female stars and European forms led to the expansion of the performing arts. Lavish spending during his dictatorship created a wealthy minority of cosmopolitan citizens who supported theatrical entertainments.23 The Porfiriato ended with the Mexican Revolution. This bloody conflict was not a single uprising but rather a multiyear struggle, with dozens of factions warring over various regions of the country. The revolution on behalf of the peasants was led by the liberal educated middle class and fueled by a coalition of diverse factions—radical anarchists, conservative businessmen, monied clergy, and peasant farmers. All Mexicans participated in one way or another. Soldaderas, or female soldiers, accompanied their lovers to the battlefield, while charismatic leaders headed struggles in isolated mountain areas. Ambush and sabotage destroyed much of the infrastructure that Díaz had so painstakingly built. By the time the war was over (1920), the country was fatigued, many had died, and the land was ravaged. The corrido song form developed during the Mexican revolutionary period as a way to narrate the adventures of the soldiers and generals who fought in the war. This storytelling ballad style was used to represent the rebellious spirit of the populace. Later, the corrido became an expressive mechanism for narrating the history of the Afro-Mexican residents of the Costa Chica. Afro-Mexican corridos romanticize the beauty of the coast and its women or describe the heroic and violent deeds of Afro-Mexican fighters. Ironically, today corridos are also associated with the exploits of the drug bandits who terrorize the northern and western borders of Mexico.

Socialist Ideals After the Mexican Revolution, Mexico sought to heal its political divisions by adopting a more populist approach to national identity. Regional factionalism, which had divided the country throughout its history, was embraced as government institutions adopted new policies to recognize the cultural distinctiveness of the provinces. At the same time, a group of philosophers that included José Vasconcelos began to visualize Mexico as a nation composed of multiple racial groups. The revolution was the catalyst that spurred a reexamination of the national character as potentially divisive social classes unified under the umbrella of mestizaje. In many ways, postrevolu|  26  |

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tionary Mexico was attempting to define itself as a nation against its northern neighbor, the United States, and against the colonial powers that had dominated it throughout the previous century. Socialist policies influenced the postrevolutionary Mexican leaders. President Álvaro Obregón (r. 1920–1924) established programs that redistributed land to Native American peasant communities while legalizing and reorganizing the labor unions. Vasconcelos, secretary of public education, used his position to make rural community centers and worker’s union halls loci for the diffusion of socialist educational programs. Vasconcelos’s decentralization of the educational system altered the way that Mexican art was produced and received. The average man could view a play or hear a folkloric band. Cultural missions, or misiones culturales, sprouted up in every province. At the same time, Vasconcelos advocated for a social philosophy that romanticized and emphasized Mexico’s Native American (“indigenous”) heritage. The philosopher hoped to transcend the limitations of each of the races by celebrating the creation of a new bronze race in the Americas. His “cosmic race” of beings was to embrace all ethnicities; however, in his writings he characterizes each of the races stereotypically. For example, about Africans he writes, “Quietude is stirred with the drop put in our blood by the Black, eager for sensual joy, intoxicated with dances and unbridled lust.”24 Vasconcelos’s writings and policies promoted selective, idealized images of cultures that later came to predominate in Mexico’s cultural imagination. The country’s sense of nationalism, inculcated around 1921, ultimately obfuscated African identities.25 As nationalism became institutionalized during the 1930s and 1940s, theatre and dance groups presented new works based on core ideals of Mexican identity: Native American ancestry, Mexican history, socialism, and workers’ rights. As Gilbert Joseph and Timothy Henderson write, “Between 1940 and 1970 Mexico was transformed from a predominantly agricultural country to one where industry accounted for more than a third of total production.”26 Consequently, a newly forged middle class began to attend performances and participate in the burgeoning art scene. The “golden age” of Mexican dance, theatre, and music occurred during this time period. University theatre programs trained dramatists, and new playwrights formed guilds to nurture the growth of master theatre artists. At the same time, economic development was unequal. Agricultural and rural workers remained impoverished. Their art was labeled “folklore” and was primarily supported by fr a m in g

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). A woman poses in front of a mural that represents faces from her local community. Participants at the Primer Encuentro de Danzantes de los Pueblos Negros in Santiago Llano Grande (First Gathering of Dancers from the Afro-Mexican Communities) painted this mural. The event brought together dancers and dance leaders from the surrounding area. The intent was to self-identify, through performance, as black communities. Each face on the mural represents a person from, or important to, the local Costa Chica villages. The photograph places her as a part of a wider population of African-descent people in Mexico. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

“indigenous” or socialist agencies as the nation’s major cities embraced industrial, modernist ideals and practices. Afro-Mexican populations were generally part of the rural social sectors, yet they were not officially “indigenous.” Isolated from specific ethnic communities, people of African descent either intermarried in Native American villages or found employment in Spanish Creole settle|  28  |

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ments. Some Afro-Mexicans separated themselves from urban centers, moving into remote mountain regions where they formed self-sufficient agricultural communities.

Locating Afro-Mexicans The twenty-first-century map of Mexico shows a wide border that stretches across the north, adjoining the United States. From there, the landmass narrows like a cornucopia down to the point where Mexico connects with Guatemala. This southernmost point intersects with the Yucatán in the east and borders Oaxaca in the west. Afro-Mexicans are distributed throughout twenty of the thirty-two Mexican states. These regions include the Costa Chica of Guerrero, the Tierra Caliente of Michoacán, the Costa Grande region of Oaxaca, and parts of Los Altos in the isthmus of the coast. There are also communities in Chiapas, Quintana Roo, and the Gulf region of the state of Veracruz.27 Today the largest visible communities of Afro-Mexicans are concentrated on the eastern coast abutting the southwestern edge of the Gulf of Mexico and on the lowest part of the cornucopia-shaped isthmus near the border of Oaxaca and Guerrero. It is within these two regions that dances and songs most typical of Afro-mestizaje emerge. The historical events described above help to explain the types of myths that circulate within Mexico about Afro-Mexicans. Violent encounters between slaves and masters and between blacks and indigenous communities have occurred throughout Mexico’s history. The eastern shores of Mexico experienced the first maroon community of the New World when Nyanga Yanga founded a settlement near Córdoba Veracruz in 1580. The African settlement maintained its independence for thirty years by raiding trade caravans and intermarrying with local Native Americans. Spaniards overtook the town in 1609. However, after Yanga made an impassioned plea in which he defended his raids as compensation for what had been denied him as a slave, he was eventually allowed to maintain the community under the name San Lorenzo de los Negros. Today the town, renamed Yanga in 1932, is one of the few Mexican sites that celebrate Afro-Mexican heritage.28 Similar maroon communities were established in parts of the states of Guerrero, Colima, and Oaxaca, to which slaves were imported to work in the mines and in the fishing industry. There were also relatively isolated communities of black workers in the central Mexican states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Nuevo León, Tabasco, and Tamaulipas. fr a m in g

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Because Mexico’s topography is so diverse, historical encounters across cultures have been local, specific, and varied. Each indigenous community within Mexico interacted with “blacks” in different ways. Some Afro-Mexicans formed renegade settlements that competed with Native American nations for resources, but most Afro-Mexicans formed communities that coexisted with Spanish or Native American groups. Archival documents indicate, for example, that in sixteenth-century Guanajuato Afro-Mexicans were employed as cattle ranchers, muleteers, and domestic servants, as well as overseers and foremen of Native American and African mine workers. Black servants in this region labored on small ranches, in agriculture, and occasionally as house servants in the newly formed colonial villages. Colonial residents who could afford domestic slaves gained prestige and social status thereby and frequently willed their human property to their descendants.29 The two types of social arrangements for blacks, as domestic ranch hands and as escaped renegades, explains in part the types of characters that appear and reappear in dances about blacks. Francisco Camero Rodríguez writes that from the moment they set foot in New Spain, blacks began to struggle for their freedom. They wrote their actions in brilliant pages of bravery, audacity, sacrifice, and organization.30 Afro-Mexican responses, which went against existing societal laws, were often construed as violent and immoral. When blacks successfully established and maintained separate settlements, they used warfare to maintain their strongholds. This is especially true of the Costa Chica, where maroon communities interacted with Native American communities. In the twentieth century the isolated mountains of Guerrero and Oaxaca became asylums for rebels, insurgents, military or police defectors, and drug lords. Paulette Ramsay describes “bands of soldiers” that were formed to combat the violence of the guachos (army) and la motorizada (the military police).31 Music and dance performances memorialize the valor, violence, and resistance of the coast. Characters like the active devil or the cantankerous bull that appear in Afro-Mexican masked dances express a continuing stance of rebellion on the coast. Corridos in particular describe the exploits and fighting abilities of coastal figures. Both historical, storytelling songs like “De la Entrada de Juárez” or “Corrido de los Zapatistas de San Nicolás” and contemporary emotive songs like “Cuando Yo Haya Muerto” glorify the fiery, valiant personality of the renegade warrior.32 Contrasting with and complementing the coastal rebel is the image of the domesticated black. During the colonial period, |  30  |

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Afro-Mexicans, both free and enslaved, who remained within Spanish settlements were often used as personal servants. There were black coachmen, black footmen, and black personal attendants. In addition, dark-skinned workers, known as gente de color quebrada (burnt-skinned people), frequently served as cowherds, or vaqueros, overseers on sugar and cacao plantations, or textile workers in obrajes (workshops). In general, the Spaniards’ complex system of castes and racial categorizations kept domestic black workers confined to laboring categories.33 In particular, Spaniards used blacks to control the natives. When the Spaniards arrived in the New World they were already familiar with using African labor. The wars against the Moors had brought many African people into Spanish territories. Some of these Africans were familiar with horses and knew the Spanish language. It was natural for them to be assigned the task of overseeing indigenous workers. Stern writes that “they [blacks and Indians] were either neutral towards each other or they joined together in mutual opposition against European control. Where blacks were placed over Native Americans, relationships were usually antagonistic.”34 Interestingly, Afro-Mexicans also served in the militia of the Spanish viceroyalty. Ben Vinson III, in Bearing Arms for His Majesty, provides extensive historical documentation of the activities of the free colored militia during the late eighteenth century. By 1793 Mexico’s free colored people constituted almost 10 percent of the colony’s population.35 Colored militias, concentrated along the coastal rim of New Spain, maintained positions of authority and privilege within the emerging colony. Vinson explains that “service in the pardo militia did not offer a means to escape the confines of race; rather, it better allowed them the ability to negotiate race’s meaning.”36 The black military leader was a unique combination of Spanish values and African physicality. Native American and mestizo communities viewed the black militia with trepidation and sometimes enacted legislation to contain them. One by-product of the historical presence of the colored regiments is that images of blacks as authority figures are common in both Afro-Mexican dances and Native American and mestizo dances about blacks.

Perceptions of Afro-Mexican Identities Historical truths regarding an ethnic group are sometimes not as real as myths that circulate about them. Even as communities create myths, they negotiate them with the realities of their daily lived experiences. If a village merchant has never seen an African Amerifr a m in g

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Corralero, Morelos. This picture shows the diversity of Mexican skin tones. Although Mexico is a multiracial society, African descendants are not recognized by the Mexican government as a distinct ethnic community. Nevertheless, enclaves of AfroMexicans exist throughout the country, with higher concentrations on the east and west coasts. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

can but only television images of hip-hop youth, his understanding shifts when he encounters a real-life African American tourist. Life mediates both art and myth. The next time the merchant participates in a Negritos dance he might have a different understanding of blackness.37 Mythical ideas about darker-skinned people have existed for centuries. In the Americas in particular, myths about blackness and black identity circulate because of the historical reality of disempowerment and enslavement of African peoples under colonialism. One result has been polarized conceptions of the cultural ideologies of Afro-Latino people—for example, the devil/ god dichotomies that permeate religious practice. Mexico is no exception. Ideas about black identities have circumscribed and contained the actual lived experiences of Afro-Mexicans. Even as the national ideal of mestizaje convinces dark-skinned Mexicans that they are members of a homogeneous, hegemonic, Spanish-Indian culture, social practices refute that idea. The history of ethnic encounters across Mexican regions is quite complex. For example, the Totonac of Papantla live in an area where there were once sugarcane plantations. Their large numbers on these plantations made it possible for black slaves to maintain their traditional healing practices. Consequently, Totonacs who observed the blacks considered them healers who had special cures for snakebites and other ailments. The |  32  |

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Totonacs perform a Negritos dance in which they imitate a black woman curing her child of snakebite. In contrast, in other areas of Mexico like the Costa Chica, Afro-Mexicans have a history of fishing and seafaring. The Negritos dance on the Costa Chica differs from the Totonac Negritos dance in that Afro-Mexicans are presented as fishermen who hunt and chase alligators. For mainstream mestizo populations, geographic and economic landscapes determine what is perceived as black. These landscapes are affected by history, social interactions, modern technology, and industrial enterprises. Mexico is similar to other Latin American countries in that assessments of blackness are based in part on each individual’s understanding of his or her own social status. By this I mean that an individual might perceive himself or herself as white but only in reference to someone who is darker. Because national perceptions about skin color shift with social circumstances, blackness is relative and changeable. An African American from the United States who travels to Senegal, for example, might easily be perceived as white in comparison to others born in that country. The same applies to Mexico. Presumptions about black people in eastern Mexico (the provinces of Veracruz, Tabasco, Mérida, etc.), where Cuban influences prevail, are different from understandings about black identity on the western coast of Mexico near Oaxaca and Guerrero. For example, Veracruz, on the eastern coast, exists in the shadow of Cuba, with its Santería, rhumba, and other cultural products. AfroMexican identities there are often conflated with Cuban customs

San Nicolás, Oaxaca. This gentleman points at the camera, acknowledging the photographer. Photographs are frequently used to document African presence in Mexico because they identify phenotypes such as skin color, hair, and facial features. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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and practices. Although east coast Afro-Mexican communities have produced unique cultural innovations such as Jarocho or the Veracruz Danzón, these practices are assumed to be extensions of Cuban art forms. This is because Cuba has always maintained and promoted its African cultural traditions. The notion of locating black identity in Cuba has persisted in Mexico since the arrival of the Spaniards and Moors in the fifteenth century. Although eastern Mexico had plantations and a large population of black fieldworkers, Afro-Mexican cultural innovations—guayabera shirts, marimba music, dominoes, and café con leche—are considered Cuban. For many Mexicans, blacks are Cubans, eternally a part of Mexican culture but never quite Mexican. In contrast, the Costa Chica is a more remote region, where Afro-Mexican guerrilla and renegade communities have flourished. Cultural practices that originate from this region are considered by Mexican cultural agencies more uniquely Afro-Mexican. Nevertheless, there is still a tendency to imagine that regional practices—mask making and Artesa and Devil Dances—originated outside of Mexico. Informants have told me in field interviews that Costa Chica blacks arrived in Mexico by boat from the coast of South America. In fact, Afro-Mexicans have participated in the social and political cultures of Guerrero and Oaxaca since the time of the Spanish viceroyalty. Statements that locate Afro-Mexican origins outside of Mexico deny Afro-Mexican legitimacy and perpetuate the myth that Afro-Mexicans are from “somewhere else.” Historical records indicate that both Africans and Native Americans escaped the cruelties of Spanish slavery by fleeing to the inhospitable mountains that border the hot coastal plains.38 During and after the Mexican Revolution, indigenous and Afro-Mexican communities worked side by side in pursuit of social welfare aims. Consequently, local understandings of black identity acknowledge rebellion and violence. Indian and black dances in this region tend toward performance expressions that evoke racial myths. Many performances appear contentious and involve personal confrontations between archetypal figures. In actuality, the performance of confrontation helps to alleviate seething tensions between communities. Layered across all these local Mexican understandings about black presence and identity are global media representations of African Diaspora peoples that come from television broadcasts. Images of North American sports, African poverty, Caribbean music, island tourism, and hip-hop modernism all permeate the country. |  34  |

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Las Tablas, Guerrero. This man was photographed during a field excursion to the Costa Chica to interview residents about the Devil Dance. Afro-Mexican communities perform several types of masked dances in which characters dress as a devil, bull, or turtle. The dances reference the renegade nature of the Costa Chica character. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Studying and writing about Afro-Mexico forces complexity into binational discussions about racial expressions because of the overlapping sensibilities and histories that specifically circumscribe the Mexican culture. A perfect example is the Memín Pinguín stamp. The Mexican government released and circulated this commemorative stamp as a part of its “History of Mexican Comics” series in 2005 to honor a popular national comic book character. Alberto Cabrera created the caricature “Memín” in 1943. Memín is a poor Cuban Mexican boy who performs badly in school and cannot pay fr a m in g

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attention. He works in the street shining shoes and selling newspapers. Most disturbingly, he has exaggerated thick lips, dark skin, and kinky hair. The release of the stamp prompted an international outcry. Its stereotypical portrayal touched a nerve among African American advocates in the United States. Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders greeted the stamp’s issue with a chorus of disapproval. Jackson protested, “Comedy masks tragedy. . . . [I]n this instance, it’s comedy with a demeaning punch line, and we hope that President Fox will take it off the market.”39 Despite North American objections, the Mexican government, and indeed most Mexicans, continued to support the stamp. Mexicans believed that the uneducated, thick-lipped Cuban boy Memín was an important part of their cultural repository. Children had grown up believing in the humor of the character, much as North Americans adored the Frito Bandito. In fact the stamp built on a tradition that originated in the bufos cubanos of the nineteenth century: Cuban minstrel shows that developed as a variation of the Spanish sainete, or short one-act play, which, in the Americas, began to incorporate local characters. The genre continued well into the twentieth century and featured stock characters based on unflattering depictions of Afro-Cubans. The typical negrito was poor, uneducated, subservient, and criminally suspect; however, there were variations on this character type. The negro catedrático was a pretentious pretender, and the negro bozal was wild and uncivilized.40 Bufos were one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Cuba for almost a century. The performance genre quickly migrated to Mesoamerica and throughout the Caribbean. Just as the negrito, or little Cuban boy, was a cultural icon of colonial Cuba, so too did the negrito Memín Pinguín become ingrained in the Mexican psyche. In Mexico Native American as well as mestizo communities developed local interpretations of negrito culture. Artistic creations like Memín replicated popular beliefs about “real” black attributes. By the time the controversial stamp was released, the negrito was so familiar that most Mexicans could not understand the offense that North Americans felt. Mexicans pointed to similar racist images in the United States (Speedy González or Aunt Jemima) to justify their own cultural blindness. For Mexicans, the black Cuban Memín Pinguín was both naturalized and nationalized. The controversy surrounding the Memín Pinguín stamp underscores how important performance and representation is in constructing |  36  |

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Afro-Mexican identities. My agenda is to use this investigation of Afro-Mexican performance to identify how tropes of blackness circulate in Mexico. Performance involves iterations and responses; the artist circulates a representative image and observers respond. Audience response becomes a mirror that helps the artist to situate himself within a social arena. Black identity is a part of this social construction. Most Afro-Mexicans are unaware of the historical circumstances that explain their presence in Mexico. Generally, Afro-Mexicans recognize themselves as Mexican first. They may see themselves as “moreno” (or relatively browner than their citizen neighbors), or they may acknowledge their hair is more chino (curly) than those that surround them. However, they tend to identify themselves by their geographic locale (as in de la costa, “from the coast”) or their occupation rather than their phenotypes. Afro-Mexicans are “indigenous” to Mexico—from the nation—yet the government does not officially recognize them as an indigenous ethnicity. This matters in a country like Mexico where the administration distributes financial resources to recognized ethnic groups. Native American ethnic groups receive economic subsidies, land rights, political recognition, cultural resources, and discrimination protections that are not available to Afro-Mexicans. Consequently, it is advantageous to Afro-Mexicans to align themselves with indigenous or mestizo communities in order to advance socially and economically.

Lagoon Chacahua, Oaxaca. Most Afro-Mexican villages, especially on the Costa Chica, are impoverished. This photograph was taken at a town near Jamiltepec, where there were confrontations between Afro-Mexicans and Native Americans over land and cattle. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer. fr a m in g

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La Boquilla, Oaxaca. Pellicer calls this photograph “Madre Zapatista” because it illustrates the disconnect between Mexican national history and the reality of Afro-Mexican lifestyles. Emiliano Zapata Salazar, the man depicted in the painting, is a Mexican national hero; the woman who stands below is an anonymous part of Mexico’s national landscape. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Any study of Afro-Mexican culture cannot romanticize the poverty and disenfranchisement faced by the citizens who perform the dances that I discuss in what follows. Some communities, like Santa Ana Chiauhtempan and Tlacotalpan on the east coast, are located near crossroads of commerce and industry. Consequently, their citizens participate in the mainstream economics of the country. |  38  |

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Other communities, like Collantes, Ciruelo, Ahuacuotzingo, and Coaxtlahuacan, survive off the beaten path, where water is scarce, housing is substandard, and food choices are limited. Resources have moved away from Afro-Mexican communities and into urban social centers. Even though distinctive aspects of African culture—food, religion, language, music, and dance traditions—exist in Mexico, they are usually labeled as indigenous Mexican (rather than African) expressions.

✷ ✷ ✷ ✷

This chapter highlights some of the historical and contemporary circumstances that locate Afro-Mexicans within the cultural landscape of Mexico. Spanish conquerors used theatrical technique to subdue a Native American population that already had strong theatrical traditions. Africans participated as laborers, ranchers, servants, and soldiers in early colonial society. However, as a Creole society evolved, colonialists used caste systems to separate Mesoamerican ethnic groups. Ultimately, diverse regional factions collaborated to form the nation of Mexico. Theatre and dance performance supported colonial and/or national agendas. Official culture began as religious spectacles and later emphasized European and Cuban genres. After the Mexican Revolution, Afro-Mexicans moved toward invisibility when the country embraced a mestizaje grounded in socialism. Today, African descendants in Mexico live in relative poverty among their Native American and mestizo neighbors. Their culture is defined in response to local and specific representations of negrito types.

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2 Masked Dances

Devils and Beasts of the Costa Chica

This chapter describes and illustrates three dances commonly performed in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero: the Devil Dance, the Turtle Dance, and the Toro de Petate, or Straw Bull Dance. Each of these dances is closely linked to Afro-Mexican communities. There are other Afro-Mexican dances that deserve further study: the Tiger Dance and the Tejorones, for example. My selections are based in part on the photographic and research documentation that was available. Dance practitioners most often describe the three dances listed above, and both Jackson and Pellicer have photographed them. Most important, the Devil Dance, the Turtle Dance, and the Toro de Petate each contain discrete, valiant character types that appear only in Afro-Mexican communities. As performance documents they exhibit characteristics that are valued by the communities that stage them. Performers present these dances on public streets and represent mythical beings or animals, performing the roles of angry devils, cantankerous bulls, or brooding turtles. The mythical creatures dance side by side with humans, who subdue or challenge them. Interplay between humans and beings lie at the center of dramas that unfold on the street and progress through public space. By “dancing in the streets” the actor-dancers call attention to their perspective on the lives that surround them. In the previous chapter I described how society has viewed the Afro-Mexican populations. This chapter provides a response. Dance description and photographs demonstrate ways in which Afro-Mexicans represent themselves and their perspectives through languages of gesture.

The “Dis” behind the Mask Aggression, containment, violence, and sexuality are narrative themes that emerge in Costa Chica masked dances. Devil, bull, or turtle disguises allow dancers to act out theatrical scenarios that include attacks, public whippings, sexual overtures, and other dis-

Rio Viejo, Oaxaca (1994). Masked dances represent the hidden face of the Afro-Mexican Costa Chica. Here a Straw Bull Dance Pancho wears wide spats and a cowherd’s hat. The costume is an elaborate version of ranchers’ clothing. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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Collantes, Oaxaca (1994). The “Devil” captures associations with evil and wrongdoing. Historical records indicate that under colonial rule some Afro-Mexicans renounced the Christian god because of the unfair conditions under which they lived. The Devil Dance is a physical embodiment of this renunciation. Most Devil Dance masks are horned and have a long beard. All dancers except the Minga wear this mask. Photo by George O. Jackson.

reputable acts. In all three dances the Afro-Mexican performers wear masks; they impersonate supernatural beings and emerge in public to frighten bystanders. Masking creates a sense of anonymity for the performers while metaphysically transporting both performers and audience members into the realm of archetypal myth. Masked dances subvert societal norms by allowing performers to portray outrageous acts under the guise of characters. The mask can serve multiple purposes. On the one hand, the mask hides the person underneath so that he or she may not be recognized. On the other hand, the human being underneath ani|  42  |

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mates the mask. The mask does not necessarily eradicate the human identity. Rather the persona of the performer melds with the character to create a composite moving force capable of performing actions. John Picton writes about the concept of the mask in his article on masking in Africa. He insists that wearing a mask does not necessarily mean that a metaphysical transformation has taken place. It may mean nothing more than that the performer is wearing a mask. Nevertheless, the mask may be used in a ceremonial way to evoke a metaphysical force. If this is the case, then the transformation may happen before the mask is even placed on the face.1 Usually in a ceremonial context, the performer enacting the character moves through a series of preparatory rituals or blessings before donning the outward representation of the “being.” The transformation is thus gradual. In theatrical staging, wearing a mask implies the adoption of a fictional or imaginary character. I believe that the performance “transformation” process for Afro-Mexican dances depends entirely on context. For paid performances or spontaneous demonstrations, the process may be theatrical. The performer is capable of reenacting the motions and actions of the dance without metaphysical transformation. However, in a ceremonial setting the performer may be required to undergo hardships of extreme heat or long dance hours. Devil dance ceremonies, for instance, can extend for several days, with dancers performing on hot dirt or cobblestones. The performer may need to transform his state of being to overcome the adversities of the dance ceremony settings. Metaphysical transformation, with its spiritual components, may ease the physical demands of rigorous dance performance. Outrageous actions are a hallmark of masked dancing. When a mask is worn the character usually performs larger-than-life and sometimes controversial actions. Carnival processions and Halloween parades are examples of performance events that invite participants to break the rules. On these special days, average individuals, who normally conform to social constraints, are invited to take to the streets, to wreak havoc, or to flaunt their sexuality. Often, they hide behind a mask or an assumed character, knowing that their temporary rupture from their daily lives will remain unrecognized. Afro-Mexican dance, in a similar way, uses moments of masking to provide an opportunity for rebellion. Resisting restraints is one of the defining characteristics of the Afro-Mexican dance. However, the manner in which Costa Chica dancers rebel, their corporeal use of the body and the dramatic characters that m a sk ed

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emerge, are linked to historical patterns of violent resistance. At community performance sites, dances are most likely to demonstrate a lack of respeto, or respectful restraint. Disrespect (in the context of contemporary community dance) may be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to demonstrate rebellion against mainstream norms or mores. Indeed, as the dances become domesticated and move into folkloric or concert dance venues, they become more restrained and controlled. Steve Stern writes about the concept of respeto and its importance in Spanish colonial society: “The contested meaning of ‘respeto’ condenses the conflictual dynamics of culture. . . . [A]t the core of the term was not only an idea of restraint, deep and varied in its cultural and historical roots. . . . [A]t the core, too, was culture as a language of argument in the exercise of power.”2 Whereas Native American and Spanish colonial dances gave deference to a sense of order, place, and legitimacy, Afro-Mexican populations, like African Diaspora people at many different locations, value a sense of imbalance, disorder, and/or rebellion. But the lack of respeto is also related to core qualities of African performance that cannot be disregarded. African aesthetics valorize the articulation of the torso and the movement of fertility zones (as well as the arms, legs, and head) to communicate. Colonial systems in both Africa and the Americas have repeatedly interpreted the polycentric movements of the torso in African Diaspora dance forms as lascivious or immoral. Sterling Stuckey writes, “A repulsive yet desirable object to many whites, the black body posed problems of a psychological nature for them. This was unavoidable for those who associated blackness with din and lasciviousness and evil as did many white Americans.”3 African descendants, dancing within their own cultural aesthetics—using the hips, buttocks, torso, and breasts as communicative instruments—would repeatedly be judged as amoral. Yet in moments of disruptive performance, the movements are embraced and flaunted. Both violence and sexuality can be mobilized to assert presences in an otherwise restrained society. This “dis-ing” of the restraint distinguishes Afro-Mexican dance from the Native American and Euro-American dance that surrounds it. Rodríguez graciously describes this artistic proclivity as el arte de la rebeldía, or the art of rebellion.4 Each of the masked dances described below in some way expresses a corporeal conversation about aggression, containment, violence, and sexuality.

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Dance in Community Context The dances described in this book are for the most part performed in a community context. By this I mean that the dances are staged and presented at local sites for local audiences. This is in contrast to commercial or professional productions, which are meant to reach the broadest audience possible. Community dances have meanings that have special relevance to the community in which they originate. It can be argued that history emerges from the small events

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Afro-Mexican dance characters are local and specific. Representations of the characters change within each community. The Pancho character of this Straw Bull Dance wears nicer clothing than does the Pancho of the Devil Dance. His attire establishes him as the head rancher of the area. This association of Afro-Mexicans with ranching began in colonial times when it was common for Spaniards to appoint blacks to oversee Native American workers. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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of political alliances. In the same way, limited, local responses to social codes collectively contribute to broad social understandings about identity. Community artists dance a multiplicity of identities. Some of these identities are mythical; some are interpretations of the realities that each individual experiences. Identity is not static. Human beings, in their daily lives, regularly perform more than one identity in any given day. A schoolteacher in the classroom may be a mother, a patriot, a daughter, a wife, a Catholic, a union worker, and a governmental elected official. She can choose to represent herself in any of these roles through dance, pageantry, or community activism. Each time a dancer performs a gesture within a musically driven phrase, he or she participates in personal or communal storytelling. When, for example, a chilena dancer punctuates a dance phrase with strong head throw, her gesture may reflect a way of performing that is unique to her village. Or it may be a personal response to her relationship with her partner. In a similar way, when a folkloric dancer performs a mythical character under a mask, he inserts a present-day sensibility into what may be an old and tested ritual for interpreting the world. Dance allows the performer to communicate a personal perspective about the mythical or the epic. Through gesture the dancer momentarily intervenes in “the official story.” Gesture is used to articulate a personal perspective that redefines the performer’s place in the microcosmic world of the dance. The process is immediate, temporal, and available only to those who attend the performance. In Mexico dance also expresses social outlooks. It is a public action with social implications. For example, in a politically turbulent area, a campesino might put on the folkloric devil mask, then make a social statement by wearing the military clothing of the corrupt federales (federal police) along with the mask. Because the federales represent the state military forces that threaten his community, the dancer is communicating, through symbol and gesture, the dire state of local politics. This is not a primitive dance but rather a modern commentary on the most urgent political issues in the dancer’s world. Urban dances, rural dances, popular dances, and concert dances all manipulate symbols and gestures in an attempt to make meaning of the dancer’s world. The social nature of dance helps to explain how different styles of dance developed within Mexico. Dance in Mexico is a synthesis of several different cultural traditions: traditions brought by the Spanish colonists, music styles spread by North American me|  46  |

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dia, celebration and ceremonial dances transported from Africa by Moorish Spaniards and enslaved Africans, and Native American performance rituals. Each community of settlers contributed its own, unique approach to the creation of dance dramas. I find it difficult, after thirty years of studying and writing about dance, to generalize about the different qualities that distinct national or ethnic communities have brought to the Americas. However, I do find it useful to think about the types of cultural traditions that were active in the sixteenth century when European and American civilizations first began to mingle in Mexico. Understanding these older traditions makes it easier to understand cultural notions that have become naturalized and are now thought of as uniquely Mexican. Art forms outside of Mexico also influence Mexican dance. The impulse for modernity and cosmopolitanism affects most dance practitioners. Salsa, merengue, and hip-hop, as well as contemporary modern dance, ballet, rock, and the acrobatic arts, all have become part of Mexican performance aesthetics. For example, traveling in the village of Rio Grande in spring 2007, I went searching for dance forms that were being nurtured within the community. The village is located two hours south of Pinotepa, just off of the main highway that cuts through the Costa Chica. When I asked about local dance events, townspeople were most anxious to introduce me to two of their instructors: Professor Hernández Palomo, who teaches salsa, mambo, and merengue, and Professor Oscar Jiménez Terrazas, who teaches folklore and traditional regional dances. The two instructors work with students to maintain a dance tradition within their municipality. Both the local and the global are valued. Salsa, mambo, and merengue connect the community to internationally popular dance, while study of local folkloric dances like the Toro de Petate and the Devil Dance give students a sense of local space and place. By dancing more urban styles, students are able to articulate a modern and cosmopolitan identity. They can express this identity side by side with expressions of regional solidarity. Consequently, artists who want to dance can draw from multiple aesthetic styles to express their talents. Folkloric dance is popular and well supported in Mexico, and the inclusion of a local dance in the canon of national folklore is a signal of its assimilation and acceptance. Provinces regularly fund regional dance companies and local dance classes through the Casa de la Cultura system in each major town or village. When a dance and music form like Jarocho (which originated as a competim a sk ed

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tion dance between black sugarcane workers) becomes an international phenomenon,5 the local communities that originated the dance move to artistic prominence. Artists who perform assimilated dance styles have a better opportunity to pursue their craft if their dance “style” becomes popular and funded. On the other hand, village dances like the Devil Dance and Toro de Petate are not supported at a national level. Local mask makers, dance leaders, cabildos,6 and mayordomos7 generally sponsor performances. Public festivals provide a pretext for communities to express traditions or alliances that are not a part of the activities of daily life. In a town like Ciruelo or Collantes, Oaxaca, where the daily routine is fishing or agriculture or manual labor, the community celebrations are a welcome opportunity to articulate artistry. A major festivity, like a Day of the Dead celebration, involves coordinating multiple agencies and individuals. A sponsor or patron must be identified. It is generally the municipality, but it could also be the church or a wealthy politician. The sponsor pays for all games, food, banners, processionals, and musical entertainments. He may or may not decide to include dance. If there were to be a ceremonial community dance, then a dance leader would have to agree to “bring out” the dance for that occasion.8 The dance leader is generally responsible for a specific dance, and he is familiar with its steps, patterns, and symbolic hierarchies. To create the outfits and accoutrements for the performance, the dance leader may work with a mask maker, or he may create them in his own studio. Musicians work separately. If they know the songs and rhythms that accompany a certain dance, they will be asked to play once the dance leader agrees to bring out the dance. “Knowing the music” is an essential part of community hierarchies; musicians have social status because they are fundamental to the successful staging of a festival event. Some dances, like the Devil Dance, include spoken text that is recited to the audience. If this additional element is necessary, then the dance leader is the person who teaches the text to the performers. There is a generational component to festival dance. Communities want to ensure that specific, local dances will continue. Consequently, they make certain that younger dancers are included each time that a dance is brought out. Sometimes, to accomplish this, each character will have a young apprentice following along. At other times an entire troupe of young performers will learn the patterns and sequences of the dance. A single artist may participate in several different genres of dance. For example, a local dance |  48  |

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Las Tablas, Guerrero. Festi-

teacher may participate as a masked dancer in the village ceremony, teach the same dance as folklore to schoolchildren as a parttime job, and then use selective patterns or sequences to compete as a professional on national stages. The village dances in general are local, ceremonial, and associated with patron saint feast days or Catholic holidays. Another aspect of dance artistry to consider is the outfits or regalia worn by the performers. Outfits are often referred to as “costumes,” a term that implies a role or pretense of character. In some performances the outfit is indeed a masquerade. The actor or dancer is pretending to be something other than himself or herself. In ceremonial dances, however, the performer may be acting as a human representative, outside of pretense. The performers’ outfits, in these cases, are a set of symbols that speak to the dancers’ relationship to broad universal or metaphysical schemata. The regalia evokes a connection with a spiritual force. A simple example is m a sk ed

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val dance performance is an important way to acknowledge cultural traditions and establish identities. Dance leaders, in order to pass on traditions, encourage younger performers to learn characters and roles. These children follow a Devil dancer and learn the basic steps and gestures of the community’s Devil Dance. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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the mirrors on dancers’ outfits in many Native American Mexican dances. The mirrors are meant to reflect the sun—the life-force— back to the earth. In many types of Native American– and Africanbased dances the outfits (or costumes) and objects (or props) carry multiple meanings. The multiple facets of dance are as complex as the multiple facets of identity. Expressive gestures, revealed in communal settings, articulate continuously changing social ideas about human relationships. Las Tablas, Guerrero. Community dance involves spatial patterns as well as dance gestures. This photograph illustrates the spatial formation of the Devil Dance. Two files of dancers process with a stomping movement while the Minga dances between the two lines. Photo by José Manuel

Places and Spaces for Dance Dance can take place at any time. People dance in their living rooms, at parties, on the streets if they are inspired, or perhaps on request for a fee. In short, people dance whenever an opportunity presents itself. Public functions are ideal times to gather for dancing. In the United States, the Puritan Christian traditions subdued public theatre and dance activities. Early British settlers in North

Pellicer.

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America were interested in leading austere, pious lives with limited public appearances. In contrast, Spanish colonizers enjoyed flamboyant religious displays that provided numerous opportunities for dancing. Spanish public exhibitions were generally associated with important dates on the Catholic calendar: Lent, Corpus Christi, Easter, Three Kings Day, and Christmas. In addition, the Catholic calendar has fixed dates that are dedicated to patron saints important to the church; for example, January 20 is dedicated to Saint Sebastian. Almost every calendar day is associated with one saint or another. As a result, villages and towns throughout the Americas often ally themselves with a certain patron saint. The towns, in an effort to honor their religious roots, usually recognize the local saints’ days as days of celebration. Patron saints’ days and Catholic Church religious holidays are times when the authorities, the municipal councils, and church officials encourage public festivals. For community groups, these are ideal times to bring out dances. Neighborhood organizations take to the streets with a spirit of pageantry. When the festival events are competitive, they draw local neighborhood groups into public rivalry. When they are processionals, they allow local organizations to “market” their services or ideals to a wider audience. Afro-Mexicans, historically and in contemporary context, use feast days to perform. On the other hand, local organizations can arrange their own dance events. Some of the photographs in this chapter were taken at the Primer Encuentro de Danzantes de los Pueblos Negros (First Dance Conference of the Black Communities) in Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca. This was a gathering, held in May 2007, of local artists who wanted to exchange knowledge about dance forms and practices in Afro-Mexican villages. Dance leaders arrived with their groups, and each showed its version of the most typical Afro-Mexican dances. The opportunity to share their work with others who were knowledgeable about their traditions brought out the best in the artists. The Afro-Mexican community center established by Padre Glenn Jermott supported the event, and the townspeople organized and coordinated the project. Dance performances can also be staged for outsiders. For theatre artists, anyone who pays to create a performance event can be a producer or patron. The reality is that systems of patronage have supported artistry across millennia. I have traveled to small towns where choreographers, enthusiastic about my visit, have offered to stage examples of their folkloric dances simply to show the patm a sk ed

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La Boquilla, Oaxaca (2005). In the Devil Dance performers engage the community by chasing observers and by reciting chants to the god Rua. In this photograph one of the Devils presents himself to the photographer with a woman who came to watch the performance. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

terns and movements to an outsider, one who might be connected to international arts exchange. This is one way to learn and document dance practices. The photographers have had similar experiences. Some of their photographs are a result of impromptu dance exhibitions in small rural villages. Research and exchange, especially research performed by wealthier North American outsiders, are inextricably linked to wider issues of global finance and international access.

Pancho/Francisco and La Minga Two characters in particular, Pancho and La Minga—the devil and his wife—appear in almost every masked dance from the Costa Chica. They engage in relentless counterattacks as they accom|  52  |

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modate themselves to the dramatic worlds outlined in the dances. Pancho, sometimes called Francisco, is a fearsome character who dresses at times as a vaquero and at other times as a poor fisherman or farmer. His wife, La Minga, is lascivious and rambunctious. Her mask appears human but is often pink or unnaturally white. “She” is always a man dressed as a woman. Often she dances sensually, using seduction as a weapon against all who come within her purview. As male and female power figures, Pancho/Francisco and his mate, La Minga, appear again and again in the dances described in this chapter, as if they were maniacally playing out an ongoing battle between life and death, or containment and freedom. Their

La Boquilla, Oaxaca (2005). Two characters, Pancho and the Minga, appear together in many dances performed on Mexico’s west coast. The Devil Dance Pancho aims to keep his wife, La Minga, contained. A man dressed like a woman always performs the female role of La Minga. This Minga’s costume presents her as a well-endowed woman, and her mask is a frightening representation of disobedience. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer. m a sk ed

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Collantes, Oaxaca (1994). In the Devil Dance the Pancho character uses a whip to manage the dancers who follow behind him. When the dance is performed in villages, a procession of dancers moves through the streets, stopping at intervals to challenge those who have come to watch the spectacle. Photo by George O. Jackson.

aggression toward each other and the audience is countered by the foes that they either encounter or replicate: the devil, the turtle, or the bull. The opposing forces of male and female are the most dominant figures in the dances described below.

Pancho Pancho generally encapsulates one of three metaphors that are linked to the history of Afro-Mexican presence: the valiant resister, the vicious overseer, or the skilled rancher. Each of these characters is associated with historical types, but the types are |  54  |

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not self-contained. By this, I mean that the resister may also be the overseer, or the skilled rancher may perform resistant actions. The repetition of the character types across dances means that the originators value the qualities of resistance and valor, though their individual characters may perform a range of actions. An illustration of this is the manner in which Pancho appears in the Straw Bull Dance. First, there are several Pancho types that perform different roles. The lead Pancho is a wealthy rancher who searches for his bull. He is “valiant” as an “overseer” and as a “rancher.” The other dancers might also be considered Panchos because they help to chase the bull, but they do so “valiantly” without being considered “overseers.” In the dance, they appear to simply follow and capture the bull. Although they perform the role of the rancher and are somewhat valiant in their pursuit of the bull, they are not resisters and certainly not overseers. Qualities valued in the Pancho character appear again and again, but they move across a variety of character types in the various dances. The concept of the black resister may have originated in historical events connected to slave escape and insurrection. Yet they also support regional ideals of revolutionary action that have developed in Guerrero and Oaxaca. These two Mexican states have always been separated from the governing bodies in central Mexico by a series of high mountains. These mountains make travel and communication between the capital and the coastal areas difficult. As a result, the coastal region has always been considered a remote and dangerous place populated by renegades. It is viewed as an escape zone for rebels. In both the War of Independence and the Mexican Revolution, Oaxaca and Guerrero were strategically used to initiate military actions. Indeed, “Guerrero” means “warrior” in Spanish. Pancho the resister underscores the region’s ideal of rebellion. Overseer and rancher dance images are also connected to actual labor that Afro-Mexicans fulfilled. I have already mentioned how African descendants served as cowherds or overseers on sugar and cacao plantations. Because they had knowledge of horsemanship they moved easily into positions as ranchers, either in charge of their own estates or working on the haciendas of others. When a dance character dons chaps, or carries a whip, it alludes to occupations associated with farmwork and animals. Even today agricultural trade is a prime activity for Afro-Mexican laborers on the Costa Chica. The construction of the overseer character is also grounded in the historical reality of African cruelties against Native American and mestizo workers. Peter Stern describes specific m a sk ed

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instances of gangs of blacks pilfering villages (1573) or forcing Native Americans into day labor (1663).9 When blacks were placed over local laborers, relationships were antagonistic. On the other hand, at locales where Africans labored alongside Afro-Mexicans, the Pancho figure could be regarded as a partner.

La Minga La Minga is a highly sexualized woman who flirts and cavorts with the audiences at street processionals. There are a wide range of Minga types in Afro-Mexican villages, and a man always plays this

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). The Minga, Pancho’s wife, travels with him as he moves through the streets and challenges dancers and audience members with her sexual antics. This photograph was taken at a dance gathering of Afro-Mexican communities that was held in Santiago Llano Grande. Each community presented variations on the Minga character at the event. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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colorful character. Each of the masked dances, the Devil Dance, the Bull Dance, and the Turtle Dance, presents a slight variation on her character. Dancers consider the Minga one of the most difficult roles to perform because of the extreme, expressive physicality that is required to complete her actions. She must roll, chase, flirt, shake, flaunt, and improvise throughout the dance.10 Sometimes she is childlike and seductive; at other times, aggressive and confrontational. Her outfits are outlandish. She may wear a tight pink dress with overstuffed breasts and buttocks or, perhaps, a revealing miniskirt. Some Mingas present themselves seductively, with white porcelain masks and subdued layers of fabric. The intertextual play of male body performing female sexuality adds a complex layer of innuendo to each gesture that the character makes. For example, when the male Minga walks with mincing steps and then waggles his buttocks, he plays the female, but he is also parodying feminine wiles. When, however, the Minga chases and attacks the male Pancho character, the physical threat of the male dancer dressed as female is dangerous. His strength and size are a formidable challenge to the dancing Pancho. Mingas do not hesitate to invite sexual behavior from their “husbands,” men on the street, or even animals. They display their infidelity publicly by carousing in the streets. In the Devil Dance they might betray their husbands by flirting with devils and audience members. In the Turtle Dance they might chase and seduce their own partners, as well as the libidinous turtle. When refused, the more ferocious Mingas become confrontational or warriorlike. They attack the audience with sexual movements or fight off the husband when he tries to restrain them. Most Mingas carry a child—a white baby that is evidence of La Minga’s inappropriate copulation. This facet of the character uniquely speaks to social fears about miscegenation and its products. Sometimes the child is cared for like a baby, although it can also be a weapon. I have seen dance performances where the “baby” is worn at the waist and waggled as if it were a penis. More often, the child is “shared” with the audience as a way to demonstrate the mother’s compassionate presence. The origins of the Minga are highly contested. Some representations depict her as a mulata. When she appears like this her mask is red, black, or brown. In this representation her features denote anger and are chiseled and sharp. The mulata Minga may demonstrate male fears about female impropriety. She is clearly out of control, and her personage usually reflects this. The white-faced m a sk ed

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Santa María Huazolotitlan, Oaxaca. This is another version of the Pancho and Minga characters. The photograph was taken at a performance of a Turtle Dance that was staged close to mestizo mountain communities. Here Pancho and the Minga wear clothing that looks quite elegant, and the masks’ features are sharper and the hats more elaborate. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Minga is her counterpoint. Her mask is very white or very pink and has a porcelain veneer. The frailty of the mask contrasts with the voluptuous physical frame of the body beneath the mask. I have seen only one interpretation of the Minga in which the dancer’s body is petite. The white-faced Minga represents a paradox—two culturally distinct bodies merged into a single archetypal character. The impossibility of the combination is perhaps the social commentary. Two seemingly incompatible cultural types thrust into the same corpus. La Minga’s flaunting of the white baby can be interpreted in several ways. She could be representing the indigenous translator Malinche, who slept with Cortés. Malinche, like La Minga, has betrayed her alliances to sleep with the enemy. Jean Franco, in her book about gender and representation in Mexico, argues that “orally transmitted narratives, such as folktale and romance, have their roots in a community where treachery means threatening the very existence of the community to which storyteller and listener belong.”11 Both Malinche and La Minga touch on cultural anxieties about interracial mixing in Mexico. Literary works, for example, by Octavio Paz, have investigated the cultural enigma of La Malinche.12 Conversely, La Minga could be a performed counterpart to the traitorous character. Reenactment of social fears (through performance) is thought to allow communities to release collec|  58  |

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tive cultural anxieties. If this is the case, then the repeated appearances of La Minga indicate a collective reimagining of African and Creole identities. Some scholars maintain that the Malinche character is a direct reenactment of Cortés’s mistress. Max Harris and Nancy Saldaña offer another interpretation of the Malinche character. They argue that the figure represents an earth goddess who, for Aztec, Maya, and Hopi populations, was a wifely partner to the sun god Huitzilopochtli. According to Harris and Saldaña, the Mexican Malinche is also called La Maraguilla and is an extension of the sexualized pre-Columbian deities. They see continuities of this belief system in Maranguilla figures depicted in the Matachines and Moriscas dances of central Mexico. There are instances in these dances when the iconography references the sun god; however, symbolic images of the rain god Tlaloc, like the snake, are also included in Tontonac dances.13 In both instances the wife/mother character would represent fertility. Of course, the fertile and sexual earth mother figure surfaces in the theologies of many world cultures. Yemaya from the Yoruba culture, for example, embodies ideals of fertility and sensuality. The Afro-Mexican Minga could, and probably does, originate from several sources. Once again, New World mixtures of religious and metaphysical belief systems have resulted in unique, local expressions of cultural mythologies. La Minga is but one of the cultural amalgams that have developed from complex histories of social interactions. At the same time, there are clear historical referents in Mexico to the mulata who carries an illegitimate child. Nicole Von Germeten has written about seventeenth-century provincial towns whose church baptismal records show the presence of Afro-Mexican women. She refers to records that demonstrate that between 1597 and 1670 roughly 75 percent of the babies baptized had padres desconocidos (unknown fathers).14 These babies were born in slave masters’ households, and “the majority of these children were the illegitimate result of sexual relationships between women and their masters, or with their peers.”15 Over the course of two hundred years, an increasing number of Afro-Mexican babies were baptized; however, during this same period, it became increasingly common for their fathers to accept them as legitimate offspring. These statistics, while inconclusive, provide a historical case study that helps to explain popular cultural associations of Afro-Mexican women with illegitimate babies. La Minga’s dance with her half-breed child reflects a past reality of Afro-Mexican illicit sexual m a sk ed

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activity with padres desconocidos. Clearly, evidence on the origins of the Malinche character is somewhat contradictory. What we do know is that her danced public performances defy categorization. La Minga shape-shifts into nightmarish representations of the black Mexican woman. Like La Malinche, she is the inevitable, unpredictable result of racial mixing in the Americas. Collectively the masked dances use performance to investigate the status of the Afro-Mexican communities within the wider social constructs of Mexican society. I argue that the dance spectacles recirculate and question notions of valor, aggression, and sexuality that have been part of the social histories of the Costa Chica. Through the mechanism of dance, coastal residents push mythologies about African Diaspora people to their limits. Dancers, under various guises, embrace the stereotypes of violent sexualized blackness and in so doing invert them. The public, in-yourface performances of black stereotypes seem to both reify and contradict expectations about who and what blacks are. Now let us turn to descriptions of the dances themselves.

Danza del Diablo—Devil Dance The Devil Dance is the most widely publicized dance of the AfroMexican Costa Chica. The hairy, masked character that dominates the dance fascinates tourists. Behind the mask of the Devil, AfroMexicans are able to restructure—albeit briefly—the social hierarchies that circumscribe their daily lives. In the dance, the lead figure, Pancho, cavorts with his wife and a team of “subdevils,” breaking the strictures of everyday life by going against rules of common decency and propriety. The Devil beats his wife; he encourages her seductions; he rages at community members in an uncontrollable fashion. In short, the Devil acts the insubordinate, defying containment by means of violence. In myth and legend devils are the antithesis of virtue. In the Catholic tradition, the Devil represents evil in its purest form. He is a fallen angel who encourages men to defy God through immoral, sinful behavior. Traditional African societies do not honor this polarized conception of good and evil forces at work on human souls. African deities are multiple; they manifest in a variety of forms and perform a range of good and bad actions. The Christian Devil, viewed from an Africanist perspective, may be considered a mischievous force that persuades humans to act badly. Devilish qualities are turned on end in the Afro-Mexican Devil Dance; the power of badness is venerated. The dance is said to have originated |  60  |

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Collantes, Oaxaca (1994). The Devil Dance step involves a clog-

as a ritual to honor the god Rua, who represents “the bad.” Tenangos, or runaway day laborers, prayed to the god Rua to empower them and to liberate them from hard labor.16 In historical context it is easy to see how Afro-Mexicans, after enduring the injustices of the Spanish slavery system, might choose to embrace the Devil—the figure that symbolically represents the opposite of Spanish “charity.” If the god of the Catholic conquistadores caused pain and suffering for the Afro-Mexicans, then it is natural that underdogs would invert Spanish metaphysical ideals and call to the opposite power, to the Devil, for sustenance (46).17 The cultural theorist Mikhail Bahktin has written about this type of performance inversion. Festivities that allowed for public indiscretions were common during the feast days of medieval Europe. The carnival and festival dances of the Middle Ages liberated townspeople “from the prevailing truth[s] and from the established order; it marked the suspension of all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms, and prohibitions.”18 Similarly, the AfroMexican Devil Dance creates a kind of freedom that is achieved m a sk ed

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like beating of the foot on the ground. Dancers deliver a first foot beat on the earth and then follow with four quick walking foot stomps. The line slowly progresses forward with the step as the dancers move through the village. Note that the Minga in this photograph is a childlike figure, yet she still carries her white child under her arm. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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through each dancer’s impersonation of an antithetical Christian being, a being more powerful than the human dancer. The inversion was even more strategic for the descendants of African slaves, who under colonization strove to establish themselves in Spanish colonial society. Clergy and officials of the Inquisition labeled African religion barbaric; the Church reviled pagan practices and penalized Afro-Mexican citizens who insisted on maintaining African cultural beliefs. Regardless of an individual’s socioeconomic achievements, practicing African religion led to social exclusion. Stern writes, “Racial-ethnic ideology . . . tainted the honor of the colored descendants of ‘pagan’ and ‘barbarian’ bloodline, even for social climbers whose wealth and acquired culture lifted them to an otherwise honorable status.”19 Enslaved Africans who practiced healing or traditional rituals were subject to being denounced as witches. Joan Bristol describes how the Inquisition proceedings often led Afro-Mexicans to renounce God in an attempt to comply with church laws against blasphemy. When accused of religious crimes, a servant could plead his cause to church authorities instead of to a local government court. According to Bristol, “Renunciations were probably done deliberately so that the person being beaten might get a hearing in court.”20 Some enslaved people would attempt to evade their accusing owners by appealing to Inquisition authorities. By appearing in a civil rather than a church court, these individuals might be able to get redress for plantation or household injustices. Beatings and emotionally charged situations could also lead servants to even deny the colonial gods. In such a situation, with the offending servant under pressure, the Devil could be called on as an equally powerful entity. Bristol describes the 1614 case of an eighteen-year-old mulatto named Diego de Cervantes who “gave his soul to the devil in exchange for aid.” Ideas for the Devil Dance traditions may have been initiated by cofradía or religious groups subscribing to this trade-for-aid schema. Traditional African religions are grounded in recognition of ancestral connections through ceremony and dance rites. Another perspective on the emergence of Devil Dances might reference the ceremonial traditions of West Africa. The Garifuna of Central America and the Caribbean traditions of Vodou and Santería are based on recognition of African Yoruba deities. Adherents honor the dead, as well as the living, through dance and drum events. Transformation of being and spiritual possession are important components of these religious ceremonies. Because the Devil |  62  |

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Dance processions often coincide with Native American Day of the Dead celebrations, it is tempting to draw parallels between African ancestral celebrations and the Devil Dance. After Native American and Afro-Mexican populations were subdued in the coastal provinces of Mexico, honoring the dead may have become a substitute for honoring African deities. Most Afro-Mexican villages now perform the Devil Dance during the November Day of the Dead ceremonies or just before the Christmas holidays.21 The relationship with the dead is established by means of a trip to the cemetery before the dance begins. In some communities dancers choose a particular ancestor to guide them on their journey through the Devil Dance. The spirit inhabits the body of the dancer and through them communicates with the observing public.

Characters In the Devil Dance Pancho appears as a man in ragged clothing and with the furry face of an animal. He wears chaparreras, or leather chaps, and carries a whip that he uses to skillfully manage the masked dancers who are arranged double file—usually numbering between sixteen and twenty—and move through the streets following him. Pancho’s attire in this dance is that of the lower of the castes—in other words, he is the worker rather than the rancher. Even as a poor man, however, he is cruel. He chastises the men underneath him and forces them to keep dancing. His character crosses the boundaries of containment and aggression. While the men underneath him must remain subdued and orderly, Pancho is free to engage with others and act in a disorderly manner. His role—his intention—is to keep others in line. He does this even though he himself is not a man of power. When he dances as the lead Devil he gains a small amount of control over the others who surround him, even though they also represent the disempowered. Pancho’s biggest challenge is his wife. She enters the performance area walking by his side, but she is never in sync with him and is usually out of control. While all the dancers wear horned masks covered with animal fur, La Minga’s face is covered with a human mask. She can attack the audience or her Pancho and force her victims to roll around with her on the ground. Whether she is seductive or aggressive depends on the performer’s interpretation of her character. A seductive Minga will approach audience members, show them her child, and encourage them to dance with her or to touch her body. When she acts out in this manner the m a sk ed

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Devil must discipline her and “teach” her to control her sexuality. He must also maintain his machismo status as her male partner. He protects her, claims her, and brings her under control. This aspect of their relationship reinforces mainstream social standards of correct comportment. La Minga’s sexualized approaches—touching her breasts, hugging strangers—unmask her uncontrolled libido. The Pancho must learn to manage her. In contrast, an aggressive Minga will chase and attack both the Pancho and the crowd. In this instance, her character remains sexual but is much more threatening. Rather than depend on feminine wiles to draw her object of desire to her, the aggressive Minga attacks, forcing compliance to her will. The Minga mask, like the character, varies according to the type of Minga being depicted. A fine-featured mask emphasizes the European aspects of the character, indicating that Pancho has truly crossed racial lines in his marriage choice. More often in the Devil Dance the mask has broad brown features, and the breasts and buttocks are heavily endowed, depicting a sexualized mulata. This interpretation of the Minga implies that Pancho has married a woman who herself is a product of unsanctioned mestizaje. Her dangerous behavior could be considered an offensive by-product of the volatile racial mixing. Performers’ innovations and imaginations create the most interesting Minga characters. Tight dresses, aprons, miniskirts, or wigs are the kinds of variations that add interest to the character. Each individual artist attaches new imagery to the costume or mask that he wears while performing the Minga. Indeed, the creative variances added by the artists help to deliver the social messages to audiences. The political associations between the mask/costume and the local crowd are what keep the social-political commentary fresh.

Space and Relationships Devil Dances begin after the performance group has assembled. In some settings they travel to the cemetery for a predance ritual. On other occasions they may simply begin by leaving from the dance leader’s or sponsor’s home. The company of dancers parade through the streets and at intervals stop to perform a cloglike step, with their boots pounding the earth. When they dance by beating the ground with their feet, it reminds the audience of their ferocity. At certain locations, devil dancers lay down on the ground, rolling and growling until the lead Pancho forces them to move on. He raises his whip, and he may beat them to demonstrate his power. |  64  |

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). At intervals in the Devil

The use of the whip directly evokes images of ranchers collecting cattle to move them toward a ranch or a field. It also alludes to slavery: “The gun and whip, prominent features of the apparatus of control in rounding up Africans, were used during the Atlantic voyages.”22 Pancho literally “rounds up” his dancers and forces them to move through the town’s public areas. Even though the dancers are wild beings seemingly out of control, they allow themselves to be contained and managed by the lead Pancho figure. They lie down before him on the roadway and respond to his command to chant to the crowds. Once released from the ground, the dancers continue their journey through the performance square. With the Pancho urging them on, the dancers demand payment or tribute from bystanders as they roam through the streets. There is an element of the performance that is similar to trick-or-treating during Halloween in the United States. After threatening other dancers or street observers, they repeat a chant about Rua that asks the audience to give money, drinks, or treats on behalf of the god.23 If the audience refuses, they are chased or m a sk ed

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Dance, the performers lie down on the ground and roll. The lead Devil, Pancho, may stand over the performing chorus with his whip and demand that they stand and continue with the dance. Here both the dancers and Pancho wear the tattered clothing of fieldworkers. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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threatened. To avoid this punishment, the crowd passes token gifts to the performers. The performances last all day and into the night. Dancers stop to drink alcohol, either on the streets or in supporters’ homes. The drinks refresh the dancers and ease the pain of constantly moving and dancing. Festival dance performance is not easy. The costumes are heavy, scratchy, and hot. The streets are hard and uneven and may be full of garbage or glass. Audiences keep a respectful distance, but they also sometimes taunt the dancers and throw things. The will of the dancers keeps them moving through the streets, while the Pancho with his whip and the Minga with her antics add variety to the long dance day. Of course, the Devil Dance is never the same each time it is performed. Not only are there differences in the way the dance is done based on patronage or performance dates, but there are great variations across Afro-Mexican villages. Some leaders emphasize costumes; others, mask work; and still others, the uniformity and synchronization of the dance steps. An especially active Minga, for example, can overwhelm the artistry of the other characters. The photographs illustrate some of the many variations of Devil Dance performances.

Steps and Music The steps of the Devil Dance involve a cloglike beating of the feet on the ground. After a heavy rhythmic first hit of the foot on the earth, there is a pause, then a rapid succession of four quick foot beats. Dancers hold their bodies loose and limber, raising their knees and letting their arms swing from side to side as they amble forward in time with the rhythm. Each performer carries his weight heavily in the lower body, usually bending slightly forward from the waist. The dance is performed in parallel lines that progress and regress through the streets. During selected moments, usually before or after the chant, the dancers lie down on the street and roll around ferociously. The Pancho calms their tempers with his whip before he urges them to continue with the dance. When the Minga appears, there may be more heated interactions. The open sexuality of the devil dancers is not typical of Native American dances of the region. Neither is the intense audience interaction. The musicologist Alex Stewart describes these components of the Devil Dance as uniquely Afro-Mexican. I contend that the bent body posture and the looseness of the upper body also point to the African aesthetics of the dance.

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The music that accompanies the Devil Dance is quite impressive. Its strident lilting tempo acts as a counterpoint to the percussion of the dancer’s feet. Three instruments, the bote (friction drum), the harmonica, and the jawbone of a cow, create the sound. The friction drum holds the cadence and sets the tempo for the dancers. It consists of a wooden dowel placed inside a piece of rawhide that is wrapped to cover a large gourd. Tar is placed on the stick to create friction, and the tar must be warmed with the hand before the drum will emit a sound. It creates a deep, intermittent, rasping sound, which, when played rhythmically, sounds like the deep call of an animal. The harmonica plays a simple melody line that replicates the rhythm of the dancer’s feet. Finally, the jawbone is scraped with a wooden stick so that the teeth chatter. The collective sound of the musical accompaniment is eerie, rhythmic, and guttural. Images evoked by the instruments of the dance are of death, subversion, and rebellious rage.

Las Tablas, Guerrero. The friction drum, or bote, used in the Devil Dance is difficult to play because the stick is covered with tar to create friction. The musician must warm the tar with his hand and then pull it along the stick until the drum makes a sound. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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Las Tablas, Guerrero. Another instrument that accompanies the Devil Dance is the jawbone of a cow. When the musician hits the instrument, it makes a twanging sound as the teeth clatter within the bone. The jawbone is percussive and rhythmic; it helps to keep the dancers in sync and frightens audiences. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.



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The Devil Dance of the Costa Chica in many ways exemplifies the exotic and violent archetype of the Afro-Mexican. The chorus of dancers collectively represents a rebellious spirit that needs to be tamed. They demonstrate rebellion as they step out of line to cavort with the masses, subservience when they lay down in the street to allow the Pancho to whip them. When Afro-Mexicans impersonate devils, they temporarily escape into a world of corporeal expression where they can take charge of their physical and social surroundings. Citizens use the dances to create fantastical order and to reenact a sense of power. Isolated from the mainstream of Mexican colonialism, African peoples have been able to reclaim |  68  |

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traditional religions and incorporate them into communal lifestyles. The beauty of this artful subversion lies in its infinite variety.

Toro de Petate—Straw Bull Dance A bull made of palm leaves is the terror of the village in the Toro de Petate. Dance characters, usually young boys, chase and capture a make-believe bull. At the end of the dance, food is served to those who attend the festivity to symbolize the eating of the bull. The dance is a kind of embodied storytelling about the history of a landowner and his cattle. Because the strength of the bull is legendary, Bull Dances are done throughout Latin America. The Spanish brought the tradition of bullfights with them from Spain, and it became a popular entertainment in the colony. Corrales, built for containing animal and circus entertainments, were among the first commercial theatrical spaces in Mexico. The enclosures were later covered and turned into spaces to house comedies. Some of these early theatres, such as the Corral de Comedias Juan Ruiz de Alarcón in Guerrero, are still used for performances.24 Spanish toreros created elaborate

Rio Viejo, Oaxaca (1994). The Toro de Petate, or Straw Bull Dance, is based on a legend about a man named Francisco Ancho who loses all his cattle, with the exception of his prize bull. In the dance twenty-four Foremen must capture the animal. This photograph shows the Foremen with their machetes. The men standing, without the sash, are the musicians. This dance also includes Pancho and La Minga, who stand at the end of the line. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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rituals around the killing of the animal, and these rituals have become embedded in Latin American societies. Stern explains: The bulls who constituted symbols of virility and Spanish power, yet succumbed to the Indians who rode, taunted, or killed them, served as symbolic vehicles of masculine empowerment. The men who mounted or challenged a bull risked their manhood and took on a position that brought them closer to symbolic femininity. Whatever their initial swagger or the desired outcome, the men were vulnerable to danger and humiliation by a virile bull.25

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). The Bull chases the other dancers as well as the audience members in the Straw Bull Dance. His special target is Pancho and the Minga, who seek to capture him. To portray the Bull, the performer stands underneath the frame and carries it

Communities have created Bull dances in response to the mythical valor of the captured bull that struggles to regain his freedom. The bull represents bravery and virility. Ranchers throughout Mexico admired the strength of the animal. Its broad back and sturdy countenance made it a formidable foe for those who chose to challenge the beast. Many ethnic communities in Mexico perform Bull dances, but the Afro-Mexican Straw Bull Dance is distinguished by the presence of the sexualized Pancho and La Minga and by the rhythmic steps of the performers. At the same time, Bull dances, with their inherent ferocity, continue themes of violence and aggression that are apparent in the Devil Dance.

on his shoulders. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). The Bull attacks Pancho and the Minga as they roll across the stage in the Straw Bull Dance. Confrontations between the husband and wife are part of all the masked dances of the Costa Chica. In this dance they tussle in the chase. In other dances they flirt and roll amorously. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

The symbol of the bull resonates especially in Afro-Mexican regions, where captivity has been a historical reality. Contained within its corral, the captured bull can neither flex its muscles nor release its pent-up energy. Once released, however, the bull is free to express its anger and virility as it runs across its feeding grounds. Francisco Rodríguez claims that all of the dances of the Costa Chica show a clear hostility to what is called good behavior, religion, and brotherly love.26 The Straw Bull Dance is no exception. There are two types of disruptive rages expressed in the dance: the rage of Francisco Acho, who has lost his prize bull, and the rage of the bull, who must resist twenty-four caporales in order to maintain its freedom.

Characters The Straw Bull Dance is based on a legend about a man named Francisco Acho who lived on the coast with his wife, María Domínguez. He owned twenty-four ranches each of which was run by a Spanish caporal. The caporals are said to have been named for the qualities of the ranches that they lived on: “the joyful ranch’s head man” or m a sk ed

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“the Rio Grande’s head man.”27 One day there was a rebellion, and the cattle began to disappear from the ranches. When Don Pancho (Francisco Acho) heard this, he was furious. He went to his main corral and found a single bull with a group of stock herders standing around it. Each had tried to brand the bull, making a claim for the animal as his own. Angrily, the Spaniard gathered together his twenty-four foremen and with great difficulty brought the bull to the courthouse to accuse other stock herders of theft.28 The dance recaptures a history of community memory through symbolic gesture. Pancho of the Toro de Petate dance differs from Pancho of the Devil Dance: he dresses as a more sophisticated ranch hand, wearing chaps, a hat, a vest, and a whip. Traditionally his mask—a long blond beard and aquiline, arrogant nose—represents the Spanish ranch owner. The photographs taken at the recent encuentro in Santiago Llano Grande show a pitch-black character mask with a wisp of blond hair in his beard. Don Pancho/ Francisco Acho wears a dark mask with broad-nosed features and angry red eyes. In this case, the Spanish-looking rancher has been replaced with an African overseer. This kind of substitution creates a sense of ownership for the Afro-Mexican performer who creates the revised character, whose symbolic power is increased by a simple change in the representative mask. Paradoxically, in the Straw Bull Dance La Minga/María Domínguez is white. She is still an immoral infidel, yet she maintains her role as a representation of whiteness. One could argue that Pancho and La Minga of the Bull dance, because they are linked to a narrative story, are more closely connected to actual historical figures. They appear to have more human qualities, and their masks have some indication of whiteness. They almost have social status—their characters are named. However, in Afro-Mexican communities Pancho and La Minga still misbehave. The Straw Bull Dance shows the devolution of the characters, from “fitting” Spanish citizens to subversive devilish personages. When the dance is performed, elements of valor still predominate. The Bull is able to thrash and fight against his captors, and the Foremen are able to pursue the Bull with authority and bravery. Though their status is lower than that of Pancho, they maintain their control over the animal. Earlier I wrote about the bull as a symbol of valor. The best Bull dances are the ones in which the animal acts ferociously so that he is a formidable foe. Theoretically, when the Bull is strong, the Foremen who must capture him must also be brave. In a lively version

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Rio Viejo, Oaxaca (1994). In the Straw Bull Dance Afro-Mexican

of the dance, the Bull parades back and forth, running away from its pursuers. Often, a child, who may have more stamina than an older performer, plays the Bull. The Bull is constructed of straw. Underneath is a dancer who depicts the character by wearing a simple wooden frame with palm leaves woven through it to create a bull “body.” Above the body of the dancer rides the head, which is also built of straw. Often real horns are attached to give the character the sense of the real animal. Each of the additional characters represents one of the twentyfour Foremen. They wear bands or sashes across their chests in different colors to symbolize their associations with different ranches. They wear wide-brimmed hats and carry machetes that they can use to subdue the Bull. The Foremen characters that I have seen have usually been young boys, who use the opportunity to display their valor, while Pancho and La Minga are older, more seasoned performers.

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communities act out the capture and slaying of a symbolic bull. The Bull represents valor, and the men who capture the beast impersonate valiant ranch foremen. Once the animal is subdued, he is symbolically butchered and served to the community members. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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Space and Relationships

Rio Viejo, Oaxaca (1994). At the end of the Straw Bull Dance, the Bull is captured by the Foremen. The animal is shared with the community members with the chant, “a heart for you, a foot for you . . . ,” and so on, until all the “parts” have been distributed.

The sequence of the dance is that the participants—Pancho, the Minga, and the Foremen—capture the Bull, symbolically roast him, and then serve his remains. The aim of the dance is to unite the community around the capture of the animal. The idea is to keep the dance going as long as possible so that the creature tires before the Foremen. When the presentation ends, each of the Foremen is able to take a piece of the bull with him. Symbolically, this indicates that they have both conquered and shared in the valor of the animal. The Toro de Petate begins with the entrance of the Foremen, usually between fourteen and twenty dancers. The dancers enter the space to the music with a rapid step in which their hips sway quickly from side to side. Next, Pancho and the Minga enter as a couple with a series of foot stomps performed at a slower pace. There are breaks in the musical accompaniment in which only the dancers’ feet are heard. The Bull enters, and the Minga may

Photo by George O. Jackson.

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). The Foremen dance in

jump away from the animal in fear. The Bull chases Pancho and the Minga, and in response the Foremen pursue the Bull. Pancho and the Minga work as a unit at a distance from the Foremen, pursuing each other, running from the Bull, and entertaining the audience with their antics. They may jump on each other or roll together on the floor in violent pursuit of each other. The Foremen, on the other hand, are more synchronized with the Bull character. Occasionally the Bull escapes from the organized line of caporales and runs out into the crowds, toppling things and frightening people. Once exhausted, the animal returns to the line. When the animal slows down, the Foremen slow down as well. When he speeds up, they advance to follow him. Eventually, they capture the Bull and “kill” it by removing the straw frame from the performer.

a linear formation. There are breaks in the music during which only the sound of the dancers’ feet on the floor can be heard. While the Foremen work in unison, Pancho and the Minga chase the Bull in their own space. This performance of the Bull dance took place at the Encuentro in Santiago Llano Grande. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Steps and Music A drum or wooden box (cajón) and wind instruments (saxophone or trumpets) accompany the Straw Bull Dance. The sound of the dance is that of a simple melodic line punctuated with rhythm. Sometimes the percussion patterns break when the Foremen approach the Bull, creating moments of suspense. The actual dance m a sk ed

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steps of the Foremen are in 4/4 time. As choral dancers, they maintain linear formations, turning and marching together. The Bull, Pancho, and the Minga are more free-flowing and improvisational. When they do complete actual dance steps, they tend to move in 6/8 rather than 4/4 patterns and to use more grounded, stomping movements. This replicates movements performed by the Devil in the Devil Dance. The Straw Bull Dance differs from the Devil Dance in that the characters represent more civilized, more contained personalities. Ideals of rebellion and impropriety are primarily expressed through the Pancho and the Minga characters. The Foremen and the Bull demonstrate valor as they challenge one another, and the Bull demonstrates his aggression against Pancho and the Minga. He also attacks the crowd to demonstrate his ferocity. Because the dance is built around a fixed legend, there are fewer opportunities for the kind of improvisation that exists in the Devil Dance. Nevertheless, Pancho and the Minga are still able to invent new approaches to their marital relationship and to the way in which they express their unconventional sexuality.

La Tortuga—The Turtle Dance The Turtle Dance is the most overtly sexual of the three dances presented here. The interplay between the Minga and Pancho continues in this dance, but now it is expanded to include multiple Panchos and Mingas who follow the two main characters. The Turtle circles the dancers portraying Pancho and the Minga, who confront each other again and again. At the end of the dance, the Turtle lays two eggs in the middle of the performance arena. Pancho recovers the eggs and offers them to the bystanders. What is interesting about this dance is that men play all the roles—the Panchos, the Mingas, and the Turtle. Male/female sexuality is enacted through cross-gender performance. Fertility is clearly one of the underlying messages of the Turtle Dance. Among some Afro-Latino communities such as the Garifuna (Garinagu), the turtle is a symbol of fertility and longevity. When, in 1992, I visited Garifuna villages off the coast of Honduras, families offered boiled turtles to me to wish me prosperity and abundant life. The longevity of the turtle contributes to its association with successful life ventures. The Garinagu use turtle shells for instruments, and these instruments are played both during traditional fertility ceremonies and as a part of contemporary punta rock music.29 |  76  |

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Santa María Huazolotitlan, Oaxaca. The Turtle’s colors are vibrant in this rendition of the Turtle Dance. The skirt the character wears points to the feminine nature of the creature. The Turtle has a puppet mask head, under which the dancer stands to manipulate the costume. The Turtle head is a wooden stick that can be manipulated and moved like a phallus. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). The Turtle Dance has two versions: a tame version in which the Turtle sits and observes pairs of Mingas and Panchos move in organized lines and a wild version in which the Turtle chases dancers with his oversized phallus. Here the Turtle walks across the stage and then spends most of his time either sitting or slowly circling the dancers. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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On the Costa Chica, the Turtle in the Turtle Dance has a long, hard, wooden snakelike appendage that he uses to poke and molest people. The snake extends and retracts once the Turtle makes his entrance and begins to pursue the Minga. In many cultures reptiles are associated with fertility, eroticism, and sexuality. Dance play between the snake, the turtle, and human beings points to the importance of sexuality in sustaining human life. Both African and Native American cultures tend to celebrate the fertility of women through ceremonies connected with reptiles that travel between water and earth. Rebellion in the Turtle Dance is expressed by means of overt sexuality. There are two versions of the dance, one more suitable for the public. The raunchier version is called the erotic Turtle Dance. In this rendition, the Turtle waves a long wooden phallus, which he uses to impregnate all the Mingas. In the tamer version, the Turtle sits and watches as numerous Panchos and Mingas dance around him. A particularly obstreperous Minga might ride the Turtle, but in general the women run away from the sexual threat. Once again there is an improvisational interplay of containment, aggression, and resistance. The Minga is contained when she enters; then she resists when she runs away. Or perhaps she rebels and aggressively mounts the Turtle. The Turtle, on the other hand, is contained throughout most of the dance. The character sits and watches while the “male” and “female” dancers work as couples, crisscrossing the space with their choreographed steps. There is no one way to interpret the interplay of the metaphoric actions. Rather, each presentation has the characters playing with the emotional content in different ways. Generally, the lead Pancho rules over all the dancers, as if orchestrating their mating play. He has the freedom to mount the Turtle or the Minga. As in the Devil and Bull Dances he contains the other dancers without being contained himself. Aggressive behavior is much more subdued in this dance. Instead, the performers disrupt societal norms in their unconcealed lustful behavior.

Characters Once again, the primary characters are Pancho and the Minga. Other dancers, subtler versions of these archetypal male and female figures, follow the lead dancers into the performance space. This dance in particular provides an opportunity for younger performers to experiment with developing new versions of the Pancho and Minga roles. As they follow behind the more experienced |  78  |

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Pancho and the Minga frantically chase one another in many Costa Chica dances. In this presentation of the Turtle Dance, both dancers wear the whiter mask that represents the rancher version of the Pancho and Minga characters. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

dancers, they have an opportunity to test new moves with one another. Their leader, Don Pancho, wears spats, but all the other Panchos and Mingas wear contemporary male and female street clothing. As a group of men, they are representing a contemporary space and place of heterosexual relationships. At the same time, because they are all men, it is as if half of the dancers are experimenting m a sk ed

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Once again Pancho and the Minga tussle, this time on the stage floor. The Turtle Dance is unique in that it has multiple Panchos and Mingas, all played by men. The male dancers are able to experiment with alternative gender roles in such dances that celebrate procreation. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

with an alternative gender. The “female” dancers perform gestures and sexual moves within the sanctioned space of the dance arena. The masks that the Pancho and Minga dancers wear are distinctively white. The dancers’ faces are completely covered with bandanas, and smaller white masks with chiseled features are placed over the bandanas. The emphasis seems to be on keeping the face completely hidden. The bandana also reinforces the connection of the dance to the ranch hand tradition. The Turtle character is made of paper drawn across a turtleshaped frame. The dancer who plays the Turtle carries the frame on his back, while a turtle head protrudes from one end of the dome-shaped turtle back. The head is not completely attached to the frame, so that it is free to wobble in space. George Jackson has documented a Turtle Dance in which a man’s head with a poncho shawl is attached to the top of the Turtle. Two male legs are also partially attached to the frame. Each time the Turtle moves, the man’s legs are flung from side to side. The overall impression is that a puppet man is trying to mount the Turtle. This particular Turtle character also has a ruffled skirt attached to the bottom of his shell. The skirt underscores the Turtle’s association with feminine traits. In effect, the ranchero is riding the back of the Turtle, which will eventually lay its eggs. Other Turtles are simpler: a rounded shell of brown or green forming the bulk of the dance mask. |  80  |

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The erotic Turtle Dance photographed by Manuel Pellicer at the 2007 Encuentro is a frightening creature. In this version of the dance, a human head protrudes from the top of the Turtle’s shell so that the Turtle actually has two heads. The head is covered with a pasty gray mask that looks like a devil: the mask has horns, the eyes glow, and the teeth look like fangs. There is also a third stick attached to the character—a long wooden phallus that the Turtle uses to poke and prod the various Mingas. The eroticism of the dance comes from the Turtle’s antics as the animal manipulates its slithery phallus again and again between the various Mingas’ legs.

Space and Relationships The Turtle walks into the space and starts crouched on the ground in a position that hides the body and legs. Once the Turtle is in place, the main Pancho and Minga enter, followed by the subordinate Panchos and Mingas. In the tamer version of the dance, the Turtle simply sits still or slowly circles around the dancers while

Santa María Huazolotitlan, Oaxaca. Turtle Dances conclude when the Turtle deposits its eggs on the ground. The Turtle dancer in this rendition uses a puppet head and stuffed legs to depict Pancho as if he were riding on the back of the fertile creature. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). The Turtle in this version of the erotic Turtle Dance is a frightening creature. He wears a devil-like mask with eyes that glow. The stick that protrudes from underneath the shell is clearly a phallus, which the character uses to impale the women in the dance. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Turtle Dance musicians play the harmonica and the drum. Dancers’ steps shift from high knee-stomping movements to hopping movements. There are also directional changes and lines that cross one another. The musicians, especially the drummer, keep the dancers coordinated with one another. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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the other characters perform active dance steps in files and lines. There are turns, and the lines of dancers cross repeatedly as they circulate within the central performance area. The lead Pancho and Minga parade between the lines of dancers, showing off moves such as salsa steps while embracing or demonstrating through gesture their enduring partnership. Either or both may move their hips to emphasize their sexuality and their availability. The Minga in this dance at first appears feminine and seductive rather than aggressive. Later in the dance, the chorus of Mingas and Panchos sit down on the stage. The music accelerates, and the Minga and Pancho begin to first chase and then mount each other. They tussle and fight, knocking each other to the ground in an attack that ends with them rolling on the floor in a sexual embrace. When the Minga is subdued, the chorus of Mingas and Panchos rise and exit the stage. Meanwhile, the Turtle has been circling or sitting throughout most of the dance. When the dancers exit the stage the Turtle leaves eggs to symbolize the creation of new life. In the erotic Turtle Dance the characters are the same, but instead of organized dance lines and steps, there is raucous sexual play between the Turtle with its phallus and the Minga dancers. Most artists describe it as a free-for-all of shocking chases and sexual play.

Steps and Music The Turtle Dance steps are rhythmic variations on linear patterns. The opening consists of two slow steps followed by four quick steps. The dancers move in a double-line partner formation. Later, as the lines intermingle, the dancers crisscross the space. Then the step becomes a one-two-three step followed by a hop, a movement that allows for more turning and direction changes. When the chorus dances with the Minga they use a sideways slide step coupled with a ball change step while she slithers in between them. Before the dancers sit, there is a moment when they dance with the Pancho. The step that they use involves higher knee gestures and stomping movements. These steps are quite similar to those used by the Devils in the Devil Dance when the dancers move through the streets. The percussive music may stop for a while. This allows the percussive pattern of the dancers’ feet to be appreciated. After the dancers rise, their exit step is a two-foot hopping movement. If the Minga is present, she may urge them along, by twirling her child and/or dancing between them. Of the three dances discussed here, the Turtle Dance, with its erotic enactment of human fertility, is the most overt depiction of m a sk ed

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human sexuality and its ultimate fruit of new life. The Turtle, who seems more pacific in the tamer, staged dance version, represents the force of fertility. His function is more vibrantly demonstrated in the erotic Turtle dance. In both dances the Turtle circles around Panchos and Mingas who have multiplied across several dance bodies, perhaps attesting to his potency as a fertility symbol.

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Themes of aggression, containment, and sexuality permeate the dances described in this chapter. The Devil Dance contains the most aggressive imagery. Fearsome-looking Panchos and Mingas terrorize dancers and audience members during a lengthy street pageant that unites dance beings with dead beings. The subordinate Devils, contained by the dance formations and the powerful Pancho, assist with wreaking havoc on the town. The Straw Bull Dance explores the valor and ferociousness of the Bull and the Foremen who help to capture him. In the Straw Bull Dance Pancho and the Minga act as genteel ranchers who support the capture of the animal. The Turtle Dance promotes sexuality abstracted through the vehicle of the Turtle. The passive but fertile animal encourages the unity of couples. In this dance the lead Pancho and the lead Minga publicly procreate, allowing the Turtle to leave his fertile eggs behind. The supporting dancers replicate the malefemale pairings that lead to new life. At the same time, through cross-dressing, half of the dancers explore alternative gender roles. Devil dancing, Bull dancing, and Turtle dancing provide opportunities for Afro-Mexican communities to explore roles of slaver/ enslaved, victim/victimizer, even potency/impotency through embodiment. There is no finite position that performers achieve within these dichotomies. Rather, within each performance they experiment with ways of representing personal experiences through prototypical characters. One result of this “play” process is that individual Afro-Mexican performers are able to investigate new identity roles.

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Ciruelo, Oaxaca. This Oaxacan man rides a horse and typifies the Afro-Mexican vaquero culture. African descendants have been in Mexico since the arrival of the Spaniards. They are known for their skills as fishermen, cattle herders, and agricultural workers. Many dance representations of Afro-Mexicans feature vaquero characters. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Corralero, Morelos. This picture shows the diversity of Mexican skin tones. Although Mexico is a multiracial society, African descendants are not recognized by the Mexican government as a distinct ethnic community. Nevertheless, enclaves of AfroMexicans exist throughout the country, with higher concentrations on the east and west coasts. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Rio Viejo, Oaxaca (1994). Masked dances represent the hidden face of the Afro-Mexican Costa Chica. Here a Straw Bull Dance Pancho wears wide spats and a cowherd’s hat. The costume is an elaborate version of ranchers’ clothing. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Las Tablas, Guerrero. Community dance involves spatial patterns as well as dance gestures. This photograph illustrates the spatial formation of the Devil Dance. Two files of dancers process with a stomping movement while the Minga dances between the two lines. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

La Boquilla, Oaxaca (2005). Two characters, Pancho and the Minga, appear together in many dances performed on Mexico’s west coast. The Devil Dance Pancho aims to keep his wife, La Minga, contained. A man dressed like a woman always performs the female role of La Minga. This Minga’s costume presents her as a well-endowed woman, and her mask is a frightening representation of disobedience. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Collantes, Oaxaca (1994). In the Devil Dance the Pancho character uses a whip to manage the dancers who follow behind him. When the dance is performed in villages, a procession of dancers moves through the streets, stopping at intervals to challenge those who have come to watch the spectacle. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Rio Viejo, Oaxaca (1994). In the Straw Bull Dance Afro-Mexican communities act out the capture and slaying of a symbolic bull. The Bull represents valor, and the men who capture the beast impersonate valiant ranch foremen. Once the animal is subdued, he is symbolically butchered and served to the community members. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). The Minga, Pancho’s wife, travels with him as he moves through the streets and challenges dancers and audience members with her sexual antics. This photograph was taken at a dance gathering of Afro-Mexican communities that was held in Santiago Llano Grande. Each community presented variations on the Minga character at the event. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Santa María Huazolotitlan, Oaxaca. The Turtle’s colors are vibrant in this rendition of the Turtle Dance. The skirt the character wears points to the feminine nature of the creature. The Turtle has a puppet mask head, under which the dancer stands to manipulate the costume. The Turtle head is a wooden stick that can be manipulated and moved like a phallus. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Coaxtlahuacan, Guerrero. Negritos dances take place throughout Mexico. This photograph shows a Native American response to Afro-Mexican presence on the Costa Chica. The dancers are characters in a Costeños dance that depicts Afro-Mexicans as brave alligator hunters. In the photograph two men embrace as if they were Pancho and the Minga of the Afro-Mexican dances. The Nahua of Guerrero live in close proximity to coastal communities and replicate their neighbors’ dance behaviors in their own Costeños dance. The pink circles denote the cheeks of the Minga and the cigarette marks the masculinity of Pancho. But there is a double layering here as well, because the red lines on the male mask are symbols sometimes associated with the Native American rain god Tlaloc. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). Photo by George O. Jackson. The two photographs on this page point to discrepancies between real and imagined ideas about Afro-Mexicans. The first shows a group of men posing as they joke and demonstrate their camaraderie. All wear sunglasses and baseball caps, and one person sports a colorful bandana. Their relaxed grouping and playful gestures express the casual attitudes of contemporary urban youth. The second photo documents a group of Chontal men performing the Negrito roles at the Fiesta de San Pedro in Huamelula. Here, as in the previous photo, the men pose as a group. They wear hats and bandanas, but their stances and gestures are threatening and confrontational. These two photographs demonstrate divergent, sometimes stereotypical perspectives on Afro-Mexican lifestyles, perspectives that are played out in performances.

Santa Ana Chiauhtempan, Tlaxcala (1991). The Jarocho originated as an Afro-Mexican field dance and later became a mainstream Mexican folkloric style. Today the Jarocho is danced internationally as a way to evoke Mexican heritage. Jarocho singing groups have sprung up in the United States, especially in the Southwest. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Afro-Mexican communities also perform folkloric dances like the Chilena. In this photograph a community member dances on an artesa, or raised wooden platform. The artesa originally represented the feeding trough associated with ranch settlements on the Costa Chica. In contemporary practice dancers improvise with percussive foot patterns on the artesa. The faces on the mural behind the performers represent individuals who are influential in the local Afro-Mexican community. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Archetypes of Race

3

Performance Responses to Afro-Mexican Presence This chapter looks at racial “types”—blackface characters—that are performed by nonblacks. My discussion is closely linked to representations. Representations, whether they are photographic, theatrical, or multimedia, are never realities but emphasize selected features and storyboard information in selective ways. They merge the creator’s perspective with the subject in ways that are not meant to be real but to reflect the author’s perspective on the subject. The study of representations is always fraught, of course, because the interpretation is also siphoned through the interpreter. Gerald Davis writes about the importance of imagistic representation in the edited volume, Public Folklore. He argues that in the United States, African expressive genius has influenced cultural life far in excess of the percentage of African Americans in the population. Most U.S. citizens, however, have a functional stereotypical image of African Americans. The danger of stereotypes is that large numbers of African Americans “accept those fictionalized images as legitimate representations of African American contemporary social patterns and customs.”1 In other words, African Americans tend to believe that imagistic representations of African identities are true. Distinguishing the representation from the reality becomes problematic as mirrored distortions of racial images multiply. The following discussion examines dialogues of imagistic representations. Societies usually define African “types” by discernible features or phenotypes that can be archetypal or stereotypical. Phenotypes, when related to black identities, are used to differentiate— to separate one group from another. I want to first clarify these three ideas—phenotypes, archetypes, and stereotypes—and then examine how they are used in Mexican performances in which people who are not of African descent represent Africans. My discussion of the dances is based on the assumption that the performances are both dialogic and interpretive. Dialogic, because I as-

Ahuacoutzingo, Guerrero (1994). The three characters here, depicting Negritos, are Nahua dancers at the Costeños festival. In this dance Native Americans impersonate Afro-Mexicans from the coastal areas. These acts of impersonation are ongoing dialogues between the Native Americans and their AfroMexican neighbors about local politics and practices. Photo by George O. Jackson.

sume that neighboring ethnic groups are in conversation with one another and reflect on their experiences together; interpretive, because I interpret the gestures and relationships within the dances as reflective of ongoing and changeable social relationships. These interpretations are based on my familiarity with Mexican culture, as well as watching and participating in festival or ceremonial dance. |  86  |

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Phenotypes, Stereotypes, and Archetypes A phenotype is a physical characteristic. Broad noses, curly hair, flat feet, skin color, thick bones, curving buttocks—all are examples of phenotypes. Ethnic groups are sometimes associated with certain phenotypes. For example, local residents in a particular geographic area might be able to distinguish specific ethnic phenotypes because of their familiarity with those ethnic groups. A resident of Yugoslavia might recognize phenotype differences that distinguish a Croatian from a Slav. A Guatemalan might distinguish a Totonac from a Quiche, or a Kenyan a Masai from a Kikuyu, all based on phenotype. This is because they have an intimate knowledge and understanding of variations in local ethnic looks. Phenotypes can be measured, calculated, and categorized. In the nineteenth century they were used to develop categories of race that have since been shown to have no scientific basis.2 Phenotypes, when interpreted by outsiders—people who are not familiar with a particular ethnic group—can develop into notions of “types,” either stereotypes or archetypes. I distinguish archetypes from stereotypes in the following way. Stereotypes are often politically and historically determined and used to typify a particular group within a particular historical period. They are usually, although not always, negative. In general, stereotypes exist to define the self (us) against the other (them). For example, during World War II, the U.S. media circulated a series of negative stereotypes about Japanese people.Phrases such as “the yellow threat” were promulgated to describe Japanese people, and these representations led to animosity against Japanese in the United States. In a similar way, the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy in New York City led to the circulation of stereotypes about Arab and Muslim citizens. Stereotypes, because they are broad, general social categories, are often negative and interchangeable across ethnic groups. In the examples cited above, both the Japanese and the Muslims are viewed as dangerous or “terrorists.” Other stereotypes—Italians as mobsters, blacks as gangsters, Irish as drunkards—capture similar ideas about the threat of outsiders. Often these ideas develop because the subject groups exist in poverty or live in enclaves isolated from mainstream society. Stereotypes can lead to social policies that discriminate against select groups. Archetypes are images and associations that connect certain epic or mythical qualities to a person. I use the word archetype to a rc he t y pe s

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mean a prototypical image that serves as symbolic representation of an idea. An example would be the archetype of “mother.” Images of the mother in Euro-American society generally imply a caring and nurturing female being. This image can, of course, shift when it is applied to a mother like La Llorona or a wind goddess like Yansa. What is fascinating about an archetype is that the same archetype can be interpreted differently at local sites. For example, earlier I mentioned that an archetypal bull might represent valor and an archetypical devil evil. The Devil Dance demonstrates that an archetypal image can be reenvisioned at a local site to represent something different. In this instance, the Devil represents a kind of valor, a representation that is different in mainstream society. The symbolic meanings of archetypes change according to the society that generates and uses them. Both stereotypes and archetypes involve exaggeration. A single attribute or characteristic is used to describe an entire group of people. In the case of stereotypes, a single characteristic may be observed by an outsider unfamiliar with the group and then applied to the entire group. An example might be someone observing a Mexican person sleeping in a hammock in the middle of the day and then assuming that Mexicans are lazy. This individual observation has little impact, unless it is disseminated to a wide cross section of people. Usually stereotypes are passed along through the media. If this occurs, then the exaggeration of a single attribute like laziness begins to represent an entire group of people. Archetypes also involve exaggeration of a single quality; however, the quality is equated with a symbolic representation. The concept of mother, for example, is often associated with the Virgin Mary, who is associated with the image of a woman holding a child in arms. With time, and with media support, it is easy for an exaggerated The two photographs on the facing page point to discrepancies between real and imagined ideas about Afro-Mexicans. The first shows a group of men posing as they joke and demonstrate their camaraderie. All wear sunglasses and baseball caps, and one person sports a colorful bandana. Their relaxed grouping and playful gestures express the casual attitudes of contemporary urban youth. The second photo documents a group of Chontal men performing the Negrito roles at the Fiesta de San Pedro in Huamelula. Here, as in the previous photo, the men pose as a group. They wear hats and bandanas, but their stances and gestures are threatening and confrontational. These two photographs demonstrate divergent, sometimes stereotypical perspectives on Afro-Mexican lifestyles, perspectives that are played out in performances.

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). Photo by George O. Jackson.

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stereotype to become an archetype. An example would be the association of Native Americans in North America with the feathered headdress. Over two hundred years ago Native Americans in a specific region of the United States wore this ceremonial attire on special occasions. Through media dissemination and cultural ethnocentrism, this image has become an archetype. It has come to represent all Native American people in the United States. The play between stereotypes and archetypes is shifting and evolving. Typically, a stereotype is based on a lack of familiarity with an ethnic group, whereas an archetype seeks to represent an entire group or type with a single image.

Archetypes of Blackness Like Native Americans, Africans in the Americas have been subject to external exaggerations of racial qualities. Phenotypes have evolved into stereotypes, which in turn have evolved into archetypes. In the United States, I would identify the Uncle Tom figure as an example of this evolution. Under systems of slavery in the United States, African workers were infantilized and assumed to be less-than-human beings. African men in particular were expected to take on servile roles and to acknowledge the superiority of the white slaveholders. Often, fearing punishment, the African men would perform tasks with heads bowed or take action without question in compliance with their masters’ wishes. Nineteenthcentury texts such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe popularized images of the Southern servile Negro. With time, this stereotypical image of the compliant, servile black man became a cultural icon—an archetypal representation of black identity. Today the remnants of this iconography are visible on commercial products such as Uncle Ben’s rice. In a similar way, Latin American countries have developed iconic images of black identities. These images are reflected in media representations such as the cartoon character Memín Pinguín but also in the performance spectacles of Negritos dances. Theatrical dances that feature black-faced characters have been common throughout the Americas. North American minstrelsy, or blackface performances, were introduced by the Virginia Minstrels in 1842 and elaborated by dozens of other performance companies throughout the nineteenth century.3 Minstrel shows in the United States were variety revues that included comic skits, political stump speeches, sentimental songs glorifying life on the plantation, and dance numbers. The art form was a predecessor to |  90  |

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Coaxtlahuacan, Guerrero. Negritos dances take place throughout Mexico. This photograph shows a Native American response to Afro-Mexican presence on the Costa Chica. The dancers are characters in a Costeños dance that depicts AfroMexicans as brave alligator hunters. In the photograph two men embrace as if they were Pancho and the Minga of the Afro-Mexican dances. The Nahua of Guerrero live in close proximity to coastal communities and replicate their neighbors’ dance behaviors in their own Costeños dance. The pink circles denote the cheeks of the Minga and the cigarette marks the masculinity of Pancho. But there is a double layering here as well, because the red lines on the male mask are symbols sometimes associated with the Native American rain god Tlaloc. Photo by George O. Jackson.

vaudeville. Cuba also developed blackface theater during the nineteenth century, when the popular bufos cubanos melded the Spanish sainete with Cuban vernacular performance. Cuban blackface performances presented a variety of African “types” as the island sought to reconcile its shifting ideas of racial construction. The result was topical political entertainments that allowed new Creole populations to define their position in the New World.4 These culminated in the evolution of the bufo, a performance genre that popularized stereotypical images of African men and women. At the same time, it defined various “types” of blacks and attempted to establish a place for African identities on New World stages. To some extent, Mexicans imitated Cuban and North American blackface spectacles. However, indigenous Mexicans, both Native American and mestizo, developed their unique versions of blacka rc he t y pe s

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face. Instead of using face paint and black cork to create their imaginary black characters, they used masks. The performance tradition of masking was already deeply ingrained in festival performance models. Rural Mexican peasant communities used masks to comment on African presence in their local areas. Unlike blackface makeup, which was primarily used in commercial, urban theatres, the wooden or cloth mask completely covered the face. Hidden behind the masks, the dancers were able to represent African characters. Unlike in Cuba, where caricatures of black people by white actors “came to stand for a national sentiment whose primary attribute was a celebrated racial diversity,”5 Mexican Indians and mestizos replaced their human faces with false exterior masks instead of melding their humanity into more malleable paint or cork. By creating actual masks, communities were able to exaggerate facial features and characteristics, distancing themselves from blackness even as they improvised around its symbolic iconography. Completely hidden behind the mask, Mexican dancers use impersonation to act out their own understandings about AfroMexican culture. In contrast to minstrelsy, where characters are fixed, the Mexican performances do not re-create a static imaginary about who blacks are. The Uncle Tom or urban dandy figure,6 which repeatedly appears in North American and Cuban performances, is not common in festival performance. Rather, each masked character that appears in community dance is quite different. For example, Totonac Negritos dances in Papantla feature a black woman who cures her son of snakebite while a line of dancers helps her to complete the ritual. Chontal Negritos dances present violent, gansterlike blacks who invade the town and demand a fair share of community recognition. In Michoacán the Negritos dancers are tall, stately figures that wear ribbons and appear to have power and stature.7 The reasons for dancing the black are as varied as the historical circumstances that have brought Afro-Mexicans into close proximity to indigenous and mestizo communities.

Dance Conversations Theatrical performances involve two points of view: the perspectives of the people who create and perform and the perceptions of audiences (local and global) who interpret the artistic expressions. The product—the dance—unites the two, but the intentions—the agendas—of the two parties may be completely unrelated. Dances by Afro-Mexicans reflect the spiritual beliefs of the community, coupled with expressions that spring from the reality of living in |  92  |

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isolated communities where the daily pursuit of food, clothing, and shelter is difficult. Audiences who come to see these dances, especially those who may be unfamiliar with Afro-Mexican history and/or culture, form an opinion about the dances based on their own cultural beliefs. As a result, archetypal myths and stereotypes about both the dances and the communities can proliferate. On the other hand, dances about Afro-Mexicans performed by neighboring communities reflect their understandings about black identities. Perceptions about blacks may come from media images but also from lived experiences or encounters. If a Chontal person travels to the coast and sees a rude fisherman, then that experience becomes a part of the repertory of exchange that the performer can draw from. Another individual might have a completely different experience when she travels to the coast. Or someone may never travel and instead develop his perspectives about black identity from MTV videos or news footage. Recognizing the diversity of perspectives about blackness lies at the core of this project. What is most important is that the dances are recognized as ongoing dialogic conversations between communities residing in Mexico. I examine two dances performed by residents of the Costa Chica who are not Afro-Mexican. Each appearance of the Negrito in Mexican community dances marks a history of relationships between neighboring populations. In some cases the dancers wear jet black wooden masks with exaggerated features: red lips, wild wooly hair, chiseled features. Representations like these capture archetypal beliefs about black personalities. These features contrast with the contemporary outfits— suits and T-shirts—that the dancers use as costumes. The costumes reflect contemporary encounters that the residents have had with Afro-Mexican people. All the dances described here fall under the umbrella of Negritos—little black men—dances. Yet the Negrito character danced in Native American and mixed-race communities in Mexico appears in various guises. Sometimes the character is a tall and distinguished cowboy, sometimes a skilled fisherman, and sometimes a violent and angry gangster who invades the village. Always the character captures an archetypal presence that represents the not-from-here. Communities dance impersonations of their Afro-Mexican neighbors for a variety of reasons—to ridicule, to clarify relationships, perhaps to honor. The impersonators are in some way captivated by the attitudes and lifestyles of the people they imitate. At the same time, dancing relieves tensions that may develop between a rc he t y pe s

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neighbors. In a collective act of drama therapy, the communities work out responses to historical and economic alliances. While there are many types of Negritos dances performed throughout Mexico, only two types are profiled in this chapter: the Negritos dance of Haumelula and the Nahua Costeños, or fisherman dances, of Guerrero. The Huamelula Negritos dance is a small part of an extensive pageant about community needs and histories that is staged in a small village near the southwestern border of Oaxaca. Annually, Chontal people play multiple characters in an ethnic drama about power, conquest, and spiritual symbolism. The process of “acting out” Chontal relationships with Afro-Mexican communities is just one component of a much larger scenario in which the community reimagines group encounters and alliances. In contrast, the Nahua people who live in the mountains just inland from the coastal areas have created a festival dance called Los Costeños in which Afro-Mexican Negritos dance as fishermen. The Negritos first challenge, then stalk and kill an alligator. The capture of the Alligator, like the stalking of the Bull, represents an act of valor. In this case, however, Nahua people wear the mask of blackness in order to enact the valor. In effect, the dancers are evoking the valor of their neighboring Afro-Mexican communities in order to be successful in their pursuit of the dangerous reptile. The Nahua dances present somewhat positive images of AfroMexicans. However, the dances from Huamelula capitalize on global stereotypes about African identities. The Negrito characters are urban, and they maraud and plunder the community. Most societies create stereotypes about their poorer or more marginal residents, and in Mexico, preconceptions about Afro-Mexicans abound. Castillo Gómez, in a study of language and perceptions on the Costa Chica, found that mestizo and indigenous residents consistently described blacks as lazy, unreligious, violent, argumentative, and heavy drinkers.8 These assessments are reflected in the language the people use when referring to Afro-Mexicans. Dances also reveal these types of negative attitudes—especially dances in which performers impersonate blacks in an unflattering way—as criminals or thieves. In part, these character descriptions are designed to differentiate “us” from “them,” to distinguish between ethnic and social communities. By associating blacks, the Other, with negative traits, the communities are able to attest to their own “goodness.” Again, the Castillo Gómez study indicates that Mixtecs, for example, describe blacks as the opposite of themselves. Mixtecs work hard, but blacks are lazy. Mixtecs are very religious, |  94  |

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but blacks are not religious. There are black-Mixtec marriages, but they are looked at with disdain.9 In effect, Mixtecans describe Afro-Mexicans as “not–us,” a social designation that has an impact on the self-esteem of Afro-Mexicans who reside in the area. In the dances discussed below, blacks are depicted as both outsiders and insiders. Their relationship, as defined through the dialogic performances, is negotiable. Because Afro-Mexicans view themselves as Mexican first, other ethnic communities must resolve their responses to African presence in their performance narratives. Collectively, Negritos dances, popular throughout both interior and coastal Mexico, capture fears and alliances between blacks and indigenous people in surprising ways. What follows is a description of these performed dialogic negotiations.

The Negritos of Huamelula The Negrito dance of Huamelula is performed by the Chontal Indians in the village of Huamelula, Oaxaca, during the Fiesta de San Pedro.10 The festival usually lasts for several days and includes feasting, processionals, dances, and religious ceremonies. Each year, the village stages a version of the Moors and Christians festival pageant that captures indigenous belief systems about the history and religious importance of their locale. Moors-andChristians dances, as I mentioned earlier, reenact the Spanish conquest of the Moors. Historically, Spanish priests introduced the pageant to the Americas to demonstrate the inevitable victory of Christianity over pagan religions. In the Americas the pageant has developed into an open-ended drama of confrontation that represents local politics at discrete sites. Anthropological studies such as La Fiesta de los Tostaones or the Rabinal Achi describe conquest dances as important sites for identity formation in the Americas.11 The Feast of San Pedro in Huamelula has interested anthropologists because it is a complete and lengthy drama that enacts multiple cultural histories.12 Masked and costumed townspeople play the roles of Spanish grandees, English pirates, and African slaves. All were outsiders who contributed to the region’s cultural fabric. During the pageant, mock battles are enacted, some of them referring to ethnic disputes over land and property. At the heart of the celebration is a gesture of communal solidarity. The various constituencies represented by the characters learn to work together. Each year there are slight variations in the way that the drama is presented, as relationships between a community and its neighboring towns shift. Afro-Mexicans are not the only ones reprea rc he t y pe s

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Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). In Huamelula the Negrito characters signify disruption. When the characters arrive, it is with the intent to cause trouble. They represent the barrio bajo (lowerclass residents) of the town. They use their sticks as weapons to block the streets and to prevent others from passing. Their outfits are a mixture of urban and contemporary dress. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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sented at this patron saint day festival; blacks are considered part of a larger panorama of inside and outside influences that affect the Chontales. In this context, performances of black identity become even more telling. The Negritos dances are a part of a funhouse of representations of insiders and outsiders. The masked faces of the various characters reflect a kaleidoscope of historical events. The theatrical reenactment begins with the arrival of wealthy foreign visitors known as the Turks, who enter the town square in a rolling float decorated to look like a boat. Their pompous entrance speaks to their high status. The entrance of the Turks represents the first inversion of the festival. When the Spanish first introduced Moors and Christians festivals, the Moors were the losers and the Spanish the invaders. In the Chontal version of the spectacle, the Turks or the Moors are the elite outsiders who come to take over the town. They wear long-faced yellow masks with painted beards and perform pretentiously, speaking with a Spanish accent that would be similar to the sound of a British accent to American ears. Whether they are Spaniards, Turks, or mestizos, the Turk characters represent outsiders who have a position of power and control a fro

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over the community. In Spanish, the Turks are also referred to as the barrio alto, or high-class community, whereas the blacks are referred to as the barrio bajo, or low-class community. Representatives of the lower- and higher-class communities of the town may actually play the parts.13 Once the Turks have established their characters, they parade through the town and enjoy the amenities of the village. At times they meet to discuss “important” affairs. In effect, they are the outside governing officials who attempt to establish policies for the community. Once the Turks are ensconced within the landscape of the town, the black men, or Negritos, arrive. The Chontales view Negritos as impoverished but respected members of the town. These characters arrive in a disruptive way, wearing red bandanas wrapped around their heads, bandanas that punctuate and contrast with the pitch black masks. While the bandanas capture the idea that the invaders are workers or gang members, the characters also wear suit jackets and casual street attire that give them an air of relaxed urbanity. In this version of the dance, in the year in which the photographs were taken, the black invaders represented a cross between urban ghetto youth and coastal laborers. The composite archetype is represented in the outfits that they wear while performing their roles. The costume communicates a series of preconceptions about their nature; then their behavior confirms that they are in town to cause trouble. The Negritos disturb the peace of the community as soon as they arrive. They block the village streets with sticks, claiming their territory as they prevent others from entering the town. They startle people by displaying pornographic pictures, and they shock people by showing their testicles. These are homemade props that are stuffed bags made to look like eggs. The characters encapsulate the qualities of dangerous sexual predators. Not only do they occupy the town in a way that prevents others from entering or leaving the space; they also bring their sexual preoccupations with them. The arrival of the Negritos replicates and perpetuates social ideas about African descendants as sexualized, aggressive beings. This stereotypical idea—blacks as sexual predators—is symbolically represented through the pornographic images that they carry. At the same time, the use of eggs to represent sexuality evokes images of the Turtle Dance (see chapter 2). Potency, fertility, and sexuality are linked. However, the Chontales interpret this potency as dangerous. The Chontal festival enactment continues. The Turks are the elite antithesis of the blacks, so the Negritos rob the Turks of their a rc he t y pe s

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wealth using guns to “hold up” the Turk characters. Though the Turks are forced to give their money to the Negritos, they also respond by appealing to the authorities. After seeing the disorder that the Negritos have brought to the village, the Turks, the elite outsiders, go to the Mayor and ask him to allow them to punish the Negritos for their conduct. The Chontal Mayor character is at first reluctant to punish the Negritos. He asks the Turks to bring them forward to explain their side of the matter. The Negritos, led by a character named José Lachineer, appear before the Mayor. The Mayor listens to the complaints and asks the Negritos to compromise. In a moment of insolence, Lachineer offers his hand to the Mayor, as if in agreement, and then rapidly pulls his hand back— refusing to acquiesce. The Negritos leave. The Mayor reluctantly gives his consent for the Turks to discipline the Negritos. The actions of the Negritos and the Turks in this dramatic enactment underscore the idea that the Chontal regard the former as part of their community. Although they do not approve of their disruptive behavior, they consider the Negrito side of the story before agreeing to have them punished for their actions. With the consent of the Mayor, the Turks gather up the Negritos and bring them, with ropes, to the town square, where they suspend them, individually, upside down from a tall pole. Symbolically, they are being murdered—hung upside down like the Antichrist. The killing begins with the leader, José Lachineer, who protests vigorously. The nature of his protest changes from year to year. Sometimes he runs away; sometimes he approaches the gallows with pride. George Jackson reports that the performer, José Sosa, is known for the way in which he enacts this moment of the drama. Once the killings begin, a group of Negritos goes to the Mayor and complains about the executions taking place on the town square. The Mayor is surprised. He says that the Turks were to punish the Negritos, not kill them. He gives the Negritos permission to punish the Turks. Now vindicated, the Negritos gather up the Turks and throw them into the town jail to punish them for their inhumanity. By affirming the right of the Negritos to punish the Turks, the Chontal acknowledge blacks, the barrio bajo, as a part of their world. Thus the rebellious black outsiders are integrated into the landscape of Native American Mexico. The Mayor, the Chontal leader, has decided that even though the Negritos have been disruptive, the Turks treated them in an abusive manner. Consequently, the Chontal Mayor allows the Negritos to

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avenge themselves and bring balance to the community. Because the Turks are elite outsiders—they are the ones who arrive on the boat—they cannot mistreat the local, presumably violent, residents of the area. After the dramatic spectacle of the Turks and the Negritos, the Chontal festival continues with other events that honor the

Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). This photograph shows the symbolic boat that brings the Turks, the outsiders, to town during the Huamelula festival. The carriage is drawn into town with the Turks onboard. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). In the language of myth and archetype, Negritos are promiscuous characters. Not only are they violent and insubordinate, but they also insist on flaunting their virility. Here the performer, imitating an Afro-Mexican, dangles a set of prop bags that represent huevos—eggs or testicles. Photo by George O. Jackson. Facing page (Top) Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). The Turks represent the elite of the community, the barrio alto. It may be that representatives of the higher-class communities in the town actually play the parts. The Turks speak in a Spanish accent that would be similar to the sound of a British accent to North American ears. Photo by George O. Jackson. (Bottom) Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). The Negritos represent the insubordination of the lower classes. In this photograph they are robbing the Turks. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). The lead Negrito in the Huamelula festival is named José Lachineer. Here Lachineer is being forced to appear before the Mayor to explain why the Negritos have been misbehaving. He seems to acquiesce, but in the moment of the handshake, he quickly pulls back his hand and refuses to comply with the Mayor’s request for cooperation. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). After the Negritos leave the Mayor’s office, he grants the Turks permission to punish them. The Turks take to the streets and beat the Negritos into submission. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). Once the Negritos are subdued, the Turks lead them to the town square, where they will be publicly punished for their misbehavior. Photo by George O. Jackson.

alligator, a symbol of continuance and longevity for the Chontals. In the second drama, the Negritos help the villagers to secure their land from the Turks so that the residents can continue to live in harmony with the land. At the end of the festival event, the Mayor is symbolically married off to the alligator to ensure that life cycles will continue. The Huamelula ritual is a performance that allows a rc he t y pe s

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Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). The Turks hang the Negritos upside down from a pole constructed in the center of the square. The moment of the hanging varies from year to year. Sometimes the leader, José Lachineer, goes willingly to the gallows. In other years he runs away and has to be recaptured. The nature of the drama depends on the performer and the circumstances. Photo by George O. Jackson.

the community to reinvestigate its relationship with external and internal histories. The performance captures the ideals and fears rather than the realities of contemporary life. Through masked play and reenactment, the actors renegotiate their position in the material and metaphysical worlds. The dramas enacted in Huamelula speak to a community working out its relationships with |  104  |

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Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). The Negritos who escape the hanging appeal to the Mayor to stop the killings that are taking place in the town square. The Mayor says that he authorized the Turks to punish the Negritos but not to kill them. He allows the Negritos to take revenge on the Turks, so they capture the Turks and carry them off. Photo by George O. Jackson.

Huamelula, Oaxaca (1991). At the end of the enactment, the Turks are jailed for the way they have treated the Negritos—the underclass. This portion of the drama restores order in the town. The Negritos spectacle is just one component of a multiday event that the Chontal people use to establish their presence in the town. At the conclusion of the festival, the Mayor marries an alligator (a symbol of fertility) to ensure the continuance of the communities. Photo by George O. Jackson.

outsiders. Because the Chontal village sits in close proximity to Afro-Mexican coastal people, blacks are included in the community’s imagination of itself. The performed commentary combines historical experiences, global stereotypes, and metaphysical understandings of blackness.

Costeños or Pescaditos Dances The Costeños or Pescaditos Dances of Guerrero are another example of indigenous performances in which Mexican performers enact black identity. Black “coastal” or “fishermen” characters attempt to tame and capture an alligator in this dance.14 The enactors are residents of Nahua villages in the province of Guerrero. Once again, in the context of the dramatic enactment, the alligator represents the fertility of the earth. The primary occupations of Mexicans who live in the highland mountain communities of Guerrero and Oaxaca are ranching and farming. Afro-Mexicans from neighboring coastal communities also farm, but they depend on the Pacific Ocean as a major source of food and livelihood. Fishing and boating are central to coastal lifestyles. Consequently, highland communities primarily regard Afro-Mexicans as sailors and fishermen. As archetypes, the Negritos characters depicted in the Costeños or Pescaditos Dances are strong and skilled alligator hunters. This differs from the dangerous and violent community invaders that they represented in the Huamelula pageant. In part, this is because the Nahua live close to Afro-Mexican coastal villages and are regular observers of their neighbors’ seafaring skills. The Guerrero Nahua are more familiar with their neighboring Afro-Mexican communities. Consequently, in this dance, the Nahua choose to depict the valor and skill of the fishermen as they subdue the supernatural alligator creature. The physical expertise of the Negritos in overcoming the alligator is symbolically conflated with the powers of the rain deity Tlaloc, who represents the power of violent rainstorms. Their collective efforts to pursue and capture the fertile alligator also helps to ensure the continuance of abundance and rain.15 The Costeños or Pescaditos dance is a propitiate dance,16 that is, one in which spiritual strength is measured by the potential sacrifice the performer is willing to make in service to the deity. In the dance black-faced beings represent fishermen who have the life-force of the divine being. When they pursue the alligator, the masked fishermen can be lanced by the creature’s barbed-wire tail, |  106  |

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Coaxtlahuacan, Guerrero (1994). These two figures represent Afro-Mexican fishermen, but they are called Costeños, or coastal residents. In the village of Coaxtlahuacan they chase a symbolic alligator in a more remote area on top of a hill. The black-faced Costeños have swinging paper tassels attached to their outfits that will test their bravery. Photo by George O. Jackson.

which whips around and is capable of slicing their legs or shredding their outfits. As they approach the task of containing the alligator, each dancer must challenge himself to risk bodily harm. One set of photographs presented here is from the Fiesta de la Santa Cruz (Festival of the Holy Cross) in Ahuacuotzingo. Celebrations of the holy cross occur throughout Mexico and the Caribbean in early May. According to legend, the Fiesta de la Cruz ceremony originates from the time of Constantine. The emperor, a rc he t y pe s

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Ahuacoutzingo, Guerrero (1994). This photograph illustrates how in the Costeños dance the alligator resists capture by flinging its tail in an attempt to injure the hunters (dressed as Negritos characters) who gather around it. The hunters valiantly pursue the chase as they close in on the alligator. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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when encountering barbarians on the banks of the Danube, had a vision of a cross in the sky with the words, “You will conquer.” Constantine led his troops into battle carrying the cross and quickly won. In Spain the Festival of the Holy Cross became popular in the eighteenth century. People would gather in the central square of Spanish towns to construct and decorate a giant cross. After its construction, they would feast, dance, and perform local festivities around it.17 The Fiesta de la Cruz was brought to Mexico with the Catholic Spanish colonizers and became an important celebration in the Americas. At the Mexican festival local families or community organizations also gather to create elaborate cross sculptures on central town squares. The 1994 Fiesta de la Cruz in Ahuacuotzingo included a performance of the fisherman dance. Although other dances were presented during the celebration, the photographs document the Costeño Dance. Two alligators run from men who wear palm leaf hats and full blackface masks. The other Negritos are around the corner, ready to continue the chase. The alligator defends itself by swinging its tail as the fishermen sur-

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round it. Finally, the beast is subdued, and the Negritos begin to slice it apart with their machetes. Another set of photographs documents a variation of the same dance in Coaxtlahuacan, Guerrero, where the celebration is held in the crater of an extinct volcano. In this remote location the dance becomes more dangerous. The tail of the alligator in the previous dance was a rubber hose that caused little harm when it brushed against the legs of the dancers. At this location, the alligator’s tail is made of barbed wire. When the animal swings around, the barbed wire slices close to the bodies of the Negritos who hunt it. The men wear paper streamers that shred when the alligator’s tail rips across them. Consequently, the more valiant men have shorter streamers. The masks of the men at this location vary slightly from the allblack Negritos face. They include symbols and touches of red that refer to the rain deity. In Coaxtlahuacan, the occasion for bringing out the Negritos dance was not the Fiesta de la Cruz. Jackson documented a dance performance that occurred during the Fiesta de la Aparición de San Miguel Arcangel, a festival in honor of the

Coaxtlahuacan, Guerrero (1994). The alligator in this version of the dance has a tail made of wire. If the hunters come too close, their legs are slashed by the wire. The tassels on the dancer’s outfits are meant to be cut off in the challenge. The man with the shortest tassels is the one who is the bravest because he has come closest to the alligator. Jackson calls this a propitiary dance because the performers are expected to suffer and make an offering of flesh to the alligator. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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patron saint of the town.18 Saint Michael the Archangel was one of the principal angels. His name was the war cry of the good angels who fought in the heavenly battle against Lucifer and his followers. The Costeños and Pescaditos Dances, as the names suggest, imitate the behaviors of the Afro-Mexican coastal fishermen. However, the indigenous performers appropriate the action of hunting and fishing a dangerous creature and use it to respond to their unique cosmological beliefs. The dance stands in for ritual events that celebrate the Fiesta de la Cruz, the rain god Tlaloc, and the Fiesta de la Aparición de San Miguel Arcangel. As such, the “coastal fisherman” dances are palettes for painting local practices through black-masked performance.

✷ ✷ ✷ ✷

The dances of Huamelula and the Costeños Dances of Ahuacuotzingo and Coaxtlahuacan demonstrate the way in which Mexicans that are not of African descent “type” their neighboring communities. Using archetypal and sometime stereotypical imagery, the communities act out dramas of encounters between Afro-Mexicans and their foes. In one case, the festival of Haumelula, the drama aims to reconcile inclusion of dangerous Afro-Mexicans in the local community. In the case of the Costeños Dances, the artists draw on the presumed valor of the Afro-Mexicans to strengthen their own community beliefs. The realities of Afro-Mexican existence are filtered through the eyes of nearby observers to become mythical assessments of black lifestyles.

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Becoming National

4

Chilena, Artesa, and Jarocho as Folkloric Dances This chapter looks at folkloric dance forms that emerged from Afro-Mexican communities and then were absorbed into mainstream ideas about regional performance styles. Even as these folkloric dances become nationalized, elements of their performances reference African identities, either through lyrics or aesthetic styles. Two dance styles, the Jarocho of the eastern coast and the Chilena of the western coast, are the focus of my investigation. Both dances at times use a raised wooden platform to capture intricate rhythmic exchanges. The Jarocho and the Chilena represent a sanitized Afro-Mexico. Gone are the frightening masks and the overt sexuality that characterize the Devil and Turtle Dances of the coast. Violence and hunting are not referenced. Rather, these two dance styles feature domestic partners who flirt and chase each other while maintaining complex foot patterns. They demonstrate an effort to assimilate: people who dance these genres are not breaking away from mainstream concepts about ethnicity but identifying themselves with the notion of mestizaje captured in dance.

Folkloric Nationalism in Mexico Throughout Mexico folkloric dance is associated with the movement toward cultural nationalism that began after the Mexican Revolution. Folkloric art forms galvanized the tattered threads of nationalist sentiment into a popular statement of “Mexicanness.” The Mexican government sought to centralize popular culture after 1921 through institutional recognition of regional art forms. Folklore drawn from different regions of the country unified the nation in its belief that Mexico was an amalgam of indigenous and Spanish identities. Regional dance companies were established, and ethnic music and dance from each region were preserved by government-funded research teams and brought to urban stages. Mexico City became a primary site for viewing the cultural products of the provinces, making it possible for the postrevolutionary,

Santa Ana Chiauhtempan, Tlaxcala (1991). The Jarocho originated as an Afro-Mexican field dance and later became a mainstream Mexican folkloric style. Today the Jarocho is danced internationally as a way to evoke Mexican heritage. Jarocho singing groups have sprung up in the United States, especially in the Southwest. Photo by George O. Jackson.

newly instated middle class to participate vicariously in the cultural forging of the “cosmic” nation through national cultural performances.1 Artists working after the Mexican Revolution fused international, indigenous, and socialist forms to create their work. Mestizaje became the ideology that was actively promoted by the Mexican government. Several exemplary artists created master works on the ethnic origins of Mexico. The compositions of Manuel Ponce; the murals of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco; the dramatic writings of Celestino Gorostiza; and the folkloric ballets of Amalia Hernández are all vibrant manifestations of mestizaje and nationalism in art. The Mexican provinces were perceived as hinterlands available to urban artists for |  112  |

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cultural recuperation and the rejuvenation of folk culture. For regional populations, performing folklore in officially recognized dance companies was a move toward modernity and acceptance by mainstream art markets. Some artists, like Miguel Velez of the Universidad Veracruzana, were able to use public funds to establish companies that included regional performers. Regional artists took dances like the Jarocho that were once local expressions of marginalized communities and retooled them into dance spectacles that could be incorporated into national dance revues.2 Ironically, the stunning mask dances of the west coast were not readily absorbed into mainstream Mexican dance culture. Rather, the masks were collected as examples of the visual folk culture of Mexico. Perhaps this is because the physical object of the mask was more transportable. Certainly, the inaccessibility of Guerrero and Oaxaca made movement of performing artists difficult.3 In any event, it was the percussive couple dances that included vocal music and storytelling songs that were most quickly absorbed by the folklore movement in Mexico. The Jarocho, with its sones, and the Chilena, with its corridos, were readily brought into the national folk consciousness. I use the term folkloric dance to describe dances popularized by the official institutional culture of Mexico. Throughout most of the twentieth century, this set of dances primarily included “dress dances”—interactive dances with fixed gender roles in which women and men perform as couples, the men wearing colorful regional attire and women wearing long, flowing dresses. More recently, the concept of folklore has begun to embrace the diverse dance styles of marginal or urban cultures—Danzón, salsa, and even Devil Dances. Migrations and shifting patterns of New World Diaspora communities have created hybrid art forms through which people express and perform their cultural perspectives. New and varied styles of folkloric dance have added to the canon of dances promoted within Mexico and indeed throughout the Americas. Concepts of folklore change to reflect the increasingly complex identities of the dance artists.

Tracing African Elements in Folkloric Dance In contrast to the evocation of archetypes of blackness through masks, folkloric dances respond to African presence by following precedents established by nationalist movements. These dances assimilate marginal communities into a more mainstream aesthetic and in the process help to define a nation. An example of becom in g

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Corrido music is an important component of Chilena dance. Corridos tell stories or celebrate the exploits of valiant characters. Costa Chica corridos often allude to the character of Afro-Mexican people or the beauty of the coastal landscape.

this from the United States would be blues. The blues originated as a marginal folk expression of African Americans in the South. Blues, which began with backcountry dance bands, expressed the thoughts and feelings of disenfranchised individuals with few life choices. Eventually the blues were popularized by artists such as Ma Rainey, Charlie Patton, and Bessie Smith. The blues moved into urban centers as African Americans migrated north to cities like Chicago and New York. Artists such as W. C. Handy adopted the form and recorded blues songs in sheet music or on wax recordings. The sound soon reached other sectors of the North American population, and eventually the music was recorded and disseminated as folkloric popular culture throughout the world. Ultimately it came to represent a U.S. approach to cultural music.4 Today it is regarded as a national North American music style. In a similar way, Jarocho and Chilena music and dance began in marginal Afro-Mexican communities and today represent a Mexican national consciousness through a regional perspective. Once an art form becomes nationalized, it is challenging to identify its specific cultural roots. However, dance studies provide

Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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some useful ways to locate African Diaspora elements in folkloric dance. One of the most identifiable elements is a complex rhythmic interplay that characterizes African percussive orchestras. The use of 6/8 or 3/4 cadences is easily recognizable. Spanish dance forms such as Flamenco, with its African or Moorish influences, sometimes also include these 6/8 rhythm patterns. This pattern differs considerably from the 4/4 beat that is evident in Native American dance styles. Another traceable African element is the use of the torso and hips to communicate—the polycentric use of the body that I described earlier. Throughout the Americas, religious officials have viewed the public movement of the torso and/or the hips as immoral because these areas are connected with procreation. African dance forms emphasize and celebrate the movement of these areas for the same reasons.5 I find it useful to contrast this type of polycentric, torso movement with the extended lines and stretched limbs characteristic of ballet, concert modern dance, and staged folkloric dance. The space, line, shape, and dynamics of these two dance aesthetics are quite different; however, when put together as oppositional forms they create a distinctive beauty. As African-based dance forms become assimilated into national folklore canons, the movement of the torso and hips usually becomes more restrained. I have seen dancers trained in smaller, more provincial communities perform Jarocho dance with broad expressive shoulder shudders and circular hip movements that are uncharacteristic of staged Jarocho folklore. The dance, as it is refined for folkloric staged performances, loses some of its African elements. The torso extends, and the arms work farther from the body. In staged concert Jarocho or Chilena performance, female dancers maintain upright torsos and emphasize the use of their skirts and heads, while the male dancers emphasize foot stomps and rhythmic walking patterns. Another recognizable characteristic of African-based dance is the forward-bending rather than upright torso. European aristocratic dancers, restricted by garments that emphasized an upright posture, seldom stooped or bent forward while dancing. One way to identify African innovations in dance forms of the Americas is to note the change in posture. French Quadrilles, for example, when adapted to African communities in Haiti and Martinique, use forward-bending postures that enable the hips and pelvis to freely flow with the dance movements. In a similar way, when Spanish dance styles were adapted by the African bodies of coastal workers, Jarocho and Chilena dancers bent from the waist in orbecom in g

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Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero (1992). Here the dancer leans forward, accentuating the strength of her heel beats on the floor. The use of the skirt in staged folkloric dances is carefully choreographed so that the dancers work as a single unit. This dancer is clearly improvising within the movements of the Chilena. Photo by George O. Jackson.

der to incorporate a greater range of torso movements. As rural performance styles are interpreted and restaged for concert performance, the body becomes upright once again. Deemphasizing the hips and maintaining an upright posture also assure that the chorus of dancers has a more uniform look—one of the qualities of folkloric dance that allows multiple communities to assimilate its aesthetic.6 A final element of African-based performance that is evident in Jarocho and Chilena dances is improvisation. African dances, in community context, usually involve moments in which the performers challenge the musicians with a call and response of sound |  116  |

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and rhythm. These exchanges provide moments for individual interpretations of the social codes that are communicated through gesture. The improvisation has at least two components: rhythmic play and establishment of human relationships by means of gesture. Jarocho dancers at community gatherings (fandangos) and Chilena dancers at artesa events make extensive use of rhythmic play. After the lyrics of the corridos or sones are completed, there is a musical interlude during which dancers are invited to mount the tarima or the artesa (raised wooden platforms) and respond, through rhythmic sound, to the musicians, to one another, and to the audience. This is an improvisational moment that challenges dancers to demonstrate their best work. This is the time for the young man to approach the attractive young woman and indicate his intentions. The older performer may use this moment to demonstrate his or her mastery of timing, working the crowd through expressive movement dialogue. In short, the improvisatory moments are an opportunity for community members to dance with one another and respond to one another’s performance expertise. Call and response between performers is evident in the music as

Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero (1992). The folkloric Jarocho and Chilena dance styles contain elements common in African and Flamenco performance, for example, improvisation and the use of complex 6/8 rhythms played with the feet. Here two dancers engage each other with improvisatory glances. Photo by George O. Jackson.

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well as the dance play. Improvisation that occurs at the local, community level is not generally included in staged folkloric performances. Because folklore intends to present a uniform, staged presentation, it deemphasizes the improvisatory, Africanist elements of the dance styles.

Folklore and Authenticity Folkloric dances aim to represent regional customs in an authentic way, yet the folk dance genre conforms to codes of staging that resist authenticity. Most Mexican folkloric dances that are staged for the public have a fairly uniform aesthetic. Women wear long, full dresses with ruffles and adornments, and men wear variations on peasant attire: long pants and simple cotton shirts. Dancers generally move through the space in intertwining lines or circle one another as couples. In folkloric dancing, the face is usually smiling, and couples relate to one another with heterosexual gentility. Sometimes dancers move to the front and center to compete by demonstrating complex footsteps or patterns. When dancers move through space, females use complicated movements that emphasize the folds and flow of the skirts. Formulas for staging folklore remain the same regardless of the nationality of the dancers. What distinguishes one folkloric dance from another is usually the costume or outfit. Regional styles are represented through regional costumes. The prototypical outfit for the female Jarocho dancer is a ruffled white dress with black apron, red flowers in the hair, and a red sash around the waist. Chilena dancers wear a white top with an embroidered yoke, and a brightly colored (usually red or orange) full skirt. Men in both dances wear white peasant shirts and pants. The authenticity of folklore is relative. Mexico has made great efforts to preserve national regional culture, and the process for staging folk forms is quite complex. Most of the states—Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz, Tabasco—have regional dance companies supported by the state. Within each region, dance specialists consult with dance leaders and local practitioners to codify and perfect steps. Companies spend a large amount of their budgets to purchase or build costumes that reflect regional styles. Each choreographer adapts the form somewhat to suit his or her company’s dance style. Folkloric dance teachers meet regularly at national and local conferences to exchange knowledge about steps and practices. As a result, notions about authenticity vary. What is authentic to a regional practitioner may be more nuanced than that which is |  118  |

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perceived to be authentic by a Mexico City dancer. Performances developed for international visitors are most likely to present a generalized interpretation of regional dance. I view authenticity as a series of interlocking circles in which interpretations of (and expectations for) authenticity depend on how far the observer is from the perceived “roots” of the art form. The international dance spectacle “Jarocho” that I mentioned earlier would certainly be perceived as inauthentic by a Veracruz folkloric dancer. However, the local dance teacher from Tlacotalpan might perceive the concert folkloric dancer’s interpretation as inauthentic. Because folklore is a generalized interpretation of a region’s dance forms, it tends to absorb dances that conform to its existing aesthetics. The folkloric dances that are the most culturally palatable within Mexican national consciousness are those that can be reproduced, staged, and easily choreographed to fit existing models of regional folk dance. Although folklore assimilates traditions and homogenizes regional forms into national culture, the community roots that contribute to folklore remain strong. Under the rubric of folklore, traditions in Mexico are still able to manifest uniquely at each location. Argelia Bautista Torres, a dance teacher who works with folkloric forms at the Fine Arts Institute school in Oaxaca,7 describes each community dance as specific, different, and tied to cosmological understandings that precede the Spanish and that have only minimally been merged with Catholic codes. A dance group working in Alvarado (a village on the east coast near the Gulf of Mexico) might mix Spanish dress fabrics with flamenco hand gestures while dancing to African rhythms played on indigenous and Cuban instruments. In a similar way, a Michoacán dancer may adopt vaquero attire to perform circular couple dances to northern corrido songs. Each folkloric rendition is a local response to the ethnicities and histories of its specific locale. Mexico, because it recognizes folklore as a national asset, is able to support a wide variety of interpretations of folkloric forms. Of the Afro-Mexican dances, the Chilena and the Jarocho are the two that conform most closely to national ideals of folklore. Dancers performing in these styles are able to integrate into mainstream forms of folkloric dance, so that their work is acknowledged at national festivals and commercial venues. With the successful performance of official folklore comes recognition and perhaps money. On the west coast of Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, the Gueleguetza is one of the most widely recognized forums for viewing folkloric dance. The Oaxacan tourist agencies promote the becom in g

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Gueleguetza as an opportunity to view “wonderful native dances in all their varieties of costume.8” The festival draws thousands of visitors from around the world who are interested in seeing regional dance styles onstage. The festival emphasizes dances from the Costa Chica, yet masked dances such as the Devil and Straw Bull Dances receive little exposure. Instead, the festival promotes the Chilena as the representative form of the region.9 Each year the Gueleguetza brings dance companies from throughout the Costa Chica to Oaxaca to perform. Most of the groups are mestizo or Native American, and many of them perform Chilenas. The Afro-Mexican Chilenas are usually grouped as expressions of Pinotepa Nacional. Their dances differ little from the other Chilenas that are performed at the festival. On this stage, as on other commercial stages in Mexico, the “authentic” dances of Afro-Mexico are staged to conform to preconceived notions of homogenized folkloric forms.

The Artesa and the Tarima Heel beats and counterpoint rhythms that reverberate through wooden sound boards characterize Afro-Mexican folkloric dances. Both the Chilena Artesa couple dances and the Jarocho dances, with their accompanying sones, or musical poetry, are danced on a raised wooden dance platform that amplifies sound. This platform is called the artesa on the west coast and the tarima on the east coast. Whether the dancers are barefoot or wear shoes, the platform creates a hollow echoing sound that can be used for rhythmic interplay. The sound patterns created on the box can emphasize solo bravado or accompany instrumental music that is played with the dance. The style is reminiscent of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century “buck dance” performed by blacks in the United States. These dances were occasions when individuals would challenge one another to competitions on top of a raised box. In North America, this style of percussive dancing evolved into tap dance. In Mexico, however, the dance is more complex and flowing. Couples dance side by side and throw one another flirtatious looks and glances as they exchange artistry based on intricate foot sounds punctuated against the music. Musicians play jaranas (a small guitarlike instrument), harps, panderos (hand-held frame drums), quiladas (the jawbone that appears in the Devil Dance and other coastal dances), and cajones (a wooden sound box) to counterpoint the dancers’ foot patterns. On the west coast of Mexico, in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, the wooden box that the dancers perform on is called an |  120  |

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). Afro-Mexican com-

“artesa.” Consequently, couple’s dances performed on this platform are called Artesas. The appearance of the contemporary artesa acknowledges its earliest form—an overturned canoe. The box is relatively high, at least a foot off the ground, and often has the head of an animal sculpted into one end. It is elongated and usually constructed from a single piece of wood. In Afro-Mexican communities like Ciruelo and San Nicolás, artesas are named and marked to honor the local community. Dance competitions are held between villages on top of their artesas, and the style and construct of each box uniquely marks the community’s ownership of both the artesa and the dance style. Dance play on top of the artesa is its own unique dance style. However, the use of the artesa can also be incorporated into a more formal dance, such as the Chilena. Artesa dancing involves competitive play between couples on top of the box. If a dancer mounts the artesa, he expects someone else to join in, and then the two dancers challenge each other with percussive play. This type of rhythmic exchange is very common in African-based dance cultures. The challenge of the rhythms, both instrumental and danced, drives the performers to experiment becom in g

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munities also perform folkloric dances like the Chilena. In this photograph community members dance on an artesa, or raised wooden platform. The artesa originally represented the feeding trough associated with ranch settlements on the Costa Chica. In contemporary practice dancers improvise with percussive foot patterns on the artesa. The faces on the mural behind the performers represent individuals who are influential in the local Afro-Mexican community. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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with new percussive forms. Flamenco dance also involves this kind of rhythmic interplay. In contrast, the tarima for the Jarocho is usually quite large, at least four feet by eight feet, sometimes an entire stage. The platform is only slightly raised, about three to six inches above the ground, so that it feels like a more communal space than the artesa. Access is easy for improvisers or those who would like to share in the Jarocho exchange. Groups of people can compete on the tarima, whereas the artesa is generally for individual couples to express their relationship.

The Chilena Often, dancing on the artesa is done while performing the Chilena, which is said to have arrived on the Costa Chica in 1822 with Chilean sailors who landed in Acapulco. Most of the information that we have about the Chilena comes from a 1987 monograph by Moisés Ochoa Campos.10 As with many dance forms, the meaning and impact of the dance have changed substantially since its introduction in Mexico. Afro-Mexicans living on the Mexican coast adopted the Chilena music and dance styles and transformed them into cultural products representative of the region. Ochoa Campos quotes the historian Epigmenio López Barroso, who describes blacks dancing Chilenas in Cuajuinicuilapa, Guerrero. His account of the dance is somewhat biased: he depicts the dancing blacks as disorganized, violent, obscene, and lazy. His essay describes a Chilena musical group that includes a harp, a violin, and performers who beat a box with the palms of their hands while singing regional sones. The dancers mark the rhythm of the Chilena on the ground or the pavement or sometimes on the artesa, which looks like a canoe with the head of a bull.11 He writes: Los negros son de carácter indolente y pendenciero; les gusta bailar en los fandangos chilenas y sones regionales, el ritmo de un conjunto musical que se compone de un arpa, a veces de un violín, y de un bajo de cuerda; de dos o tres individuos, que cantan la letra de la chilena y golpean un cajón con unos palitos y la palma de los manos, marcando el ritmo de la chilena en el suelo o pavimiento, y a veces, sobre la tarima o artesa, que tiene la forma de una canoa (madera ahuecada) con cabeza de toro. [The blacks have an indolent and lazy character; they like to dance Chilena fandangos and regional sones, the rhythm of the musical band is made up of a harp, at times a violin and a low pitched string; with two or three people who sing Chilena lyrics and hit a wooden |  122  |

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Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero (1992). This vibrant Chilena dancer executes a back arch. The use of the torso and the hips in a folkloric dance style often indicates its rural origins. When folkloric dances are staged, dancers and dance companies are encouraged to maintain upright torsos so that the movements look uniform. Photo by George O. Jackson.

box with sticks and the palms of their hands, marking the rhythm of the Chilena in the earth or the floor and at times, on the wooden platform that is shaped like a canoe with head of a bull attached to one end.]

This description accurately analyzes Chilena performance even as it stereotypes the Afro-Mexican dancers. Barroso’s stereotypes indicate that he views the blacks as representative of a culture outside of his own. What is important in this historical account is that the dance is associated specifically with the black communities of western Mexico. In contemporary practice, the dance style is viewed as representative of the entire coastal area. Both mestizo and Native American dancers perform Chilenas at festivals and becom in g

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folkloric encuentros. In these settings, the passes of the Chilena are mixed with the rhythmic foot patterns of the Artesa to create an amalgam of the two styles distinctive of the Oaxaca/Guerrero coast. There are several components of the Chilena Artesa that distinguish it from other mestizo dance styles: the complex percussion of the barefoot dancers; female dancers’ dress style; and, perhaps most interesting, the content of the corridos. Artesa dancers use their bare feet to hop, strike, and push off from the platform of the box. The upper body remains upright while the heel, knee, and foot movements accompany the music. The focus of the dance is really the upper body and the handkerchiefs that the male and female dancers use to gesture toward one another. The dancers face forward and play with communicative arm movements, glances, head movements, and torso shifts. Men wear white shirts, white pants, and a hat; women wear ankle-length billowy print dresses made from yards of fabric. Flower patterns appear on most of the skirts that I have seen. The women’s shirt is a short-sleeved yoke top with embroidered or beaded patterns. As with most folkloric outfits, creating this attire is labor-intensive and expensive. Historical outfits are highly valued and become a part of a family’s legacy. Even though Chilena dances have been appropriated to some extent by the wider, official folkloric dance institutions, they are interpreted differently in distinct local communities. A community can be identified by the style of Chilena that it performs. The African aspects of the Chilena are reinforced by the rebellious lyrics that musicians sing in conjunction with the dance.

Corridos Researchers and scholars have been most interested in the corridos that accompany Chilena dancing because they firmly establish, through lyrics, the rebellious nature of the west coast. Some of these corridos, like “De la entrada de Juárez” or “Filadelfo Robles,” recount histories of Afro-Mexican revolutionaries and their actions; others, like “La Sanmarqueña” or “Pinotepa,” idealize women and locations on the Costa Chica. Musical groups sometimes perform corridos separately from the dance, but the songs are generally used to accompany improvised dance phrases at community events. The lyrics capture Afro-Mexican historical perspectives more specifically than does the gestured language of dance.12 “Pinotepa,” by Álvaro Carillo, for example, celebrates a town in Oaxaca known for its high concentration of Afro-Mexicans. The lyrics |  124  |

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Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). These young dancers are dressed in outfits that typify the Chilena. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

speak of his love for the little brown town where he was born. He likes the women, the provincial soul, and the green palm leaves of the city. Carillo speaks romantically of leaving the Chilena to the brown-skinned woman he loves (“ahí dejo la Chilena a la morena que estoy amando”). 13 He views the city, through song, with a distant nostalgia. Songs like “Pinotepa” acknowledge the dark phenotypes of the coastal region without considering the social or political implications. In contrast, the corrido “Yo no mato por matar” justifies the anger of the coastal bandit and explicitly talks about the politics behind the use of violence. In this song the protagonist becom in g

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says that they call him a bandit, but the law cheats him because the rich make the laws. That’s why he breaks the law. He ­doesn’t kill to kill, because he’s not a murderer. He seeks vengeance for injustices and eliminates the arbitrator.14 “Yo no mato por matar” is an excellent example of the rebellious tone of the west coast corridos that accompany Chilena and Artesa dances. The Chilena represents a distinctive regional approach to folkloric dance performance. Its historical association with sailors marks it as a coastal practice. When combined with the intricate foot rhythms of the Artesa and the emotional lyrics of the corridos, Chilena emerges as a performance genre that distinguishes western Afro-Mexican coastal communities through expressive

Santiago Llano Grande, Oaxaca (2007). This musician from the corrido ensemble plays the cajón. The box can be played with a stick or the hands. Musicians play rhythms on the cajón that either counterpoint or accentuate the rhythms that the dancers create with their feet. Photo by José Manuel Pellicer.

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culture. The folkloric nature of the dance allows Chilena artists to use their expertise to assimilate into mainstream models of professional dance performance.

The Jarocho The Jarocho is arguably the most renowned dance form of eastern Mexico. Always a subcultural form in Mexico, Jarocho developed from unique, hybrid performance styles that were common to field-workers of indigenous Indian and African ancestry. In present-day use, the term Jarocho can be used to refer to working-class people from the coast of Veracruz, but evidence suggests that early usage of the term connoted Mexicans of African ancestry. Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán writes: Jarocho fue el término aplicado en la región veracruzana a la mezcla del negro y el indio. El vocablo deriva, según parece, del epíteto jaro que en la España musulmana se aplicaba al puerco montés, añadido de la terminación despectiva cho. Los españoles al llamar jarochos a los mulatos pardo veracruzanos querían simplemente decirles puercos.15 [Jarocho was the term used in the Veracruz region to indicate the mixture of Blacks and Indians. The word is apparently derived from the epithet jaro, a term used in Muslim Spain to refer to the mountain pig, augmented with the pejorative ending cho. By referring to Veracruz people of mixed Indian and African ancestry as Jarochos, the Spaniards intended to call them pigs.]

The association of the term Jarocho with an undesirable class of people was evidenced by the very terminology used to describe the subculture. That this term was later applied to a regionally specific dance style points to the origins of the regional dance in the disenfranchised underclass. Jarocho dancing, especially during the colonial period, was an expressive forum for the articulation of African cultural consciousness. Jarocho, when performed spontaneously, at a fandango or a public festival, is a competitive courtship event. The male dancer challenges the woman by creating heel beats on the raised tarima platform. With his hands behind his back, he gazes at the woman, who mounts the tarima and begins her own stomping rhythmic pattern to accompany his. Couples circle one another like hens and roosters, turning their heads to look over and around their own shoulders. If the woman wears pants rather than a skirt, she holds her arms stiffly at her sides, while the man keeps his hands crossed becom in g

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Santa Ana Chiauhtempan, Tlaxcala (1991). Organized rows of dancers perform the Jarocho on a tarima. The Jarocho originated in marginalized Afro-Mexican communities on the eastern coast of Mexico as a percussive, improvised music and dance style. Later the performance genre was assimilated into the Mexican national folkloric repertoire. Photo by George O. Jackson.

behind his back. The dance is a sexual play of head, torso, and facial gestures, coupled, of course, with the continuing rhythmic interplay of the stamping feet. Musicians, usually male, play the jarana, pandero, and arpa (harp) to accompany the dance. The jarana and arpa carry the melody, which drives the music, while the rhythmic heel beats of the dancers, resonating through the hollow chamber underneath the platform, punctuate the strummed melodies of the songs. Other musicians strike the pandero, which is played with |  128  |

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the hands along the edges so that the principal sound emitted is the chatter of the cymbals. From time to time the player augments the rhythm with a hand slap. The harp resembles the one used in symphonic orchestras but is smaller, lighter, and supported by a single peg that conforms to the ground surface of the various settings where it may be played. One element of African dance that is present in Jarocho dancing is what Gottschild has called the “aesthetic of cool.” Fandango dance in particular allows for this type of dance exchange. It is an attitude (in the sense that African Americans use the word) that combines composure with vitality. Its prime elements are aesthetic visibility and lucidity (dancing the movements with clarity, presenting the movements with clarity) and luminosity or brilliance. The picture is completed by facial composure, the actualized “mask of the cool.”16

In expert performance of the aesthetic of cool, the facade of composed gestures and attitude counterpoints intricate and explosive use of rhythmic body soundings. An individual viewing the performance in a communal setting notices the competitive response to the driving rhythms, a response that is tempered by controlled execution of the intricate foot patterns and the gestured give-andtake between the male and female performers.17 Improvisation, as I mentioned earlier, is an essential element of the art form. Musicians sing and play according to a set song structure, adding solo riffs, or improvisations, to composed melodies. They change the words of the décima verses to adjust to specific performance circumstances. Improvisation in instrumental music and in song has historically typified Jarocho. The style descends from the son musical tradition, first officially mentioned in 1766, “when Inquisition authorities condemned a son named the chuchumbé on immoral and anticlerical grounds.”18 The music was associated with those of the lower socioeconomic classes, specifically, a boatload of mostly “negro” and “mulatto” seamen from the coast of Cuba. A Querétaro church authority describes the chuchumbé as follows: [T]odos lascivos, torpes e impuros; el canto del “chuchumbé,” a decir del comisario del Santo Oficio, se bailaba con ademanes, zarandeos, manoseos y abrazos hasta dar barriga con barriga; los bailarines se visten “a la diabla,” con trajes prendidos de listas amarillas, negras, coloradas y se adornan con “rosarios diablescos,” formados por una cuenta rosa y otra negra.19

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[Everything is lascivious, torpid, and dirty about Chuchumbé music according to the Inquisition authority. They dance to it with gestures, shakes, and embraces, even belly to belly; they dress like the devil wearing outfits covered with yellow, black, and red stripes, and they adorn themselves with devil’s prayer beads made of one red chain and one black one.]

The description of the dances as gestured, expressive, and hip oriented—even the incorporation of pelvic shaking and circling—is typical of central African dance styles. The open physical communication of the dancers combined with the articulated torso movements and the open sensuality of the Jarocho lyrics offended Catholic sensibilities. Jarocho songs frequently seduce and comment on women’s presence with love lyrics that covertly refer to sexuality or the sexual act. Spanish colonial officials found the son verses “scandalous.” Lyrics often allude to sexual acts, expressing them in metaphor and innuendo. For example, the roofer character who is the protagonist of the Jarocho song “María Chuchena” sees the woman María bathing in the river and asks her to throw herself in the water and “look at the prow of my boat.”20 Even contemporary Jarocho songs idolize women who tease and walk away. A song like “La mujer inconforme” (The Nonconforming Woman), recorded in 2006 by Los Folkloristas, continues the tradition of building song lyrics around the inconstant, seductive female.21 Contemporary Jarocho dress is a mixture of styles and cultural influences. In the fandango setting, people dance Jarocho in whatever they are wearing. The historical outfit, however, is quite specific. The dance researcher Lawrence Trujillo describes Jarocho dress as “a duplicate of the traditional costume of the woman of Sevilla, Spain.”22 He later writes that the Native American rebozo, or shawl, is substituted for the Spanish mantilla, or lace adornment, in the costume. Alberto de la Rosa Sánchez, a well-known musician of Jalapa, points out that the Jarocho dress is a party dress, designed for weddings, festivals, and other special occasions.23 The traditional woman’s dress is an expensive item, the result of hours of tedious handiwork. Dancers wear their dresses with pride, protecting them as if they were heirlooms or symbols of family honor. Towns in the state of Veracruz compete for and argue about the authenticity of their Jarocho outfits. Although the white dress and pants are popularly touted as the consumer symbol of Jarocho dancing, village outfits are often sewn in pink, blue, or other colors.

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Performance styles vary within a generalized perception of what constitutes Jarocho. Rural Jarocho performance, like other folkloric styles, tends to accentuate African characteristics, whereas urban and staged versions adopt the more upright posture and articulated hand/skirt movements of Spanish social dance forms. This difference in performance styles was made clear to me when two dancers from different regions of Veracruz province demonstrated their versions of the Jarocho song “La Bruja.”24 Elsa, a performer who learned to dance Jarocho in Jalapa, performed the movements in choreographed circles with defined head gestures and carefully placed hand and arm gestures. She moved through the patterns of the dance with an upright torso and used multiple heel beats to create the foot rhythms without incorporating toe slaps or flat-footed sounding on the floor. Victor, the other, darker-skinned dancer, learned to dance Jarocho at rural fandangos. He explained that he danced country style, maintaining a bent-body posture throughout his presentation and concentrating on creating rhythmic sounds with the entire foot. His dance steps were more flatfooted and incorporated fewer heel beats. In addition, he included several improvised sections in which he deliberately used the choreographic base to interact with the onlookers. Many of his body postures included improvised leg movements that were similar to the gliding and sliding movements of Cuban rumbero dancers, with their sharp and sudden changes of hip orientation. Both dancers were clearly performing Jarocho but with idiosyncrasies emblematic of region and class. While shifting social patterns that dictate body movement etiquette may account for some of the variance in performance style, the gender of the dancers probably also influenced the vigor, freedom, and range of movement with which each dancer executed the phrases. As in most social dances, conventions of class and race and gender nuance the presentation and style so that the dancing body becomes both a repository of cultural memory and an experiment in individuality.

African Aspects of Jarocho Lyrics Jarocho sones, like Chilena corridos, reference African attributes in their lyrics. Whereas the west coast lyrics emphasize violence and rebellion, Jarocho lyrics tend to emphasize sexuality or laziness. Both historical and contemporary lyrics reference these qual-

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Tlacotalpan, Veracruz. Jarocho musicians play guitars, harmonicas, jaranas, tambourines, and the cajón, but the most unusual instrument is the folk harp, a distinguishing feature of the style. Jarocho songs such as “La Bamba” and “La Bruja” have become international hits. Photo by George O. Jackson.

ities. Scandalous verses were only one of several negative attributes that were associated with the term Jarocho in an 1844 document. José María Esteva, a Creole chronicler, characterizes Jarocho men as belonging to a “raza,” or race, that is different from the general public. Jarocho performers live at the margins of Mexican society, he claims: The true Jarochos are not inclined to work in the country: the occupation of a farmer is arduous and monotonous for a burning and lazy soul, a quarrelsome spirit and a friend of glory; because of this,

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the true Jarocho prefers to dedicate himself to herding, slaughtering cattle, or horse breaking.25

Esteva suggests that Jarochos are lazy and argumentative. His ascription of these qualities to Afro-Mexicans is comparable to the stereotypical language Castillo Gómez describes in his 2003 study of interethnic relationships in the Costa Chica. In both cases AfroMexicans are set apart and viewed as different from mainstream populations. Esteva specifically uses the word Jarocho as a derisive label meant to ostracize the darker-skinned Mexican workers. His writings indicate that Jarocho, now a term applied primarily to performance forms, once alluded to a social caste. Although Jarocho song and dance are performed by Afro-Mexicans and are closely associated with African performance aesthetics and subculture, stereotypical depictions are common in Jarocho lyrics. To some extent this indicates that Afro-Mexicans, like the wider society that surrounds them, accept the negative descriptions of themselves. Several contemporary songs make questionable references to darker-skinned Mexican people. One of these is the son “Los Negritos,”26 which patronizes black men and depicts them as fearsome creatures. Not only are the Negrito protagonists ostracized in this version, but they are also ridiculed. Their behavior, eating tortillas with fried meat, apparently challenges the norms of social behavior. The lyrics of the song are as follows: La mañana de San Juan que hace el agua gorgoritas cuando se van a bailar. Salen los cinco negritos y Jesús y María que me espanta como hacen los negros pa’trabajá comiendo tortillas con carne asá. Ja ja ja ja ja ja ja ja.27 [When they are dancing on the morning of Saint John’s day it makes the water bubble. Five blacks come out with Jesus and Mary, which startles me! To see how the blacks work while eating tortillas with roasted meat. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.]

“Los Negritos” makes direct references to African presence, even though it delivers its strange message about black men in a folkloric art form. Like the masked Negritos dances described in chapter 2, the song represents an outside perception about Afro-Mexican experiences. The song is similar to the masked dances of Huamelula, Ahuacuotzingo, and Coaxtlahuacan in that it portrays darkerskinned people as alien. Jarocho women, on the other hand, are usually depicted in quite positive ways. Their gentility conforms with a gendered social

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notion that women should be soft and compliant. Daniel Sheehy writes: The jarochita is normally gracious, kind with strangers, and tender and condescending in the extreme with her husband. Industrious and laborious, she spends most of the day in house chores, forming a singular contrast with individuals of her class of the other sex, who are generally lazy and apathetic.28

The Jarocho woman, unlike the aggressive male, was envisioned as refined and genteel. The reasons for this differing construction of the Afro-Mexican woman may go back to slave society relationships. Twice as many African men as women were brought into New Spain. African women intermarried with indigenous people or were raped by their slave masters. As I mentioned earlier, these women, whose children had padres desconocidos, were common figures in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Mexico. As generations of African descendants became assimilated into the mestizo society and bleached of their African somatic features, the distinctions between mestizas of African descent and other mestizas were less obvious. Eventually former slave women, some of whom married Creoles and Spaniards, were viewed by the general society in the same light as white women.29 One of the most popular traditional Jarochos, “La morena,” celebrates Afro-Mexican women. The second and third stanzas of this version of the song lyrics are as follows: Una morena me dijo que la llevara a Jamapa y yo le dije morena mejor te llevo a Jalapa. Allá te compro cadenas y tus aretes de plata. Yo enamoré a una morena que era todo mi querer. Se me sentaba en las piernas y me empezaba a morder. Todavía traigo las señas si quieren vengan a ver.30 [A dark woman told me that I should take her to Jamapa and I told her, morena,31 better I’ll take you to Jalapa. There I will buy you chains and silver earrings. I fell in love with this dark woman who was all my love. She would sit down on my legs and would bite me. I still have the marks, if you all want to see.]

The text implies that the protagonist is in love with the darkskinned woman, even though she has an air of danger. Within the action described by the song, the woman bites the singer, demonstrating that she is aggressive and out of control. La morena is everything the speaker desires, yet she cannot be tamed. There is an implication here that the woman’s “uncivilized” qualities—her “dark” heritage—might make her even more sensual and sexually |  134  |

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attractive. This perception of the black coastal woman supports contemporary associations of mulatas with the sexualized dances of cabaret performances or musical revues. Generally, men view “tropical” revue dancers, like Toña la Negra, as exotic and dangerous conquests. Once again the archetype of the mulata alludes to her aggressive nature. The Jarocha differs considerably from the Minga of the Costa Chica. She is a genuine woman with softer qualities—a woman who can be trained and coerced into complying with mainstream norms and morals. Nevertheless, as a darkerskinned woman, she retains some of the aggressive behavior that is evident in the out-of-control Minga who disrupts public places in Oaxaca and Guerrero.

Jarocho in Diaspora Jarocho song and dance continues to be a viable and changeable art form. With its complicated music and dance structures, Jarocho is a challenging subject for the concentrated study of Mexican folk traditions. Its rhythmic musicality, which developed from its association with African Diaspora populations, makes its sound contemporary and accessible. Spanish lyrics and song structures allow for unique interpretations of Mexican folk life and customs. Jarocho, like Cuba’s mambo and the Dominican Republic’s merengue, is evolving from a nationalistic expression to an international music phenomenon. New audiences for Jarocho performance are springing up in California and the southwestern United States; there artists are using Jarocho music and dance to assert their Chicano identity. One of the most popular contemporary groups, Son de Madera, describes itself as a part of a “Son Jarocho movement.” The company tours internationally and has produced several albums.32 The “Son Jarocho movement” that they refer to is a contemporary use of Jarocho to assert Mexican identity in an increasingly diverse America. This reuse of Mexican dance and Mexican dance symbolism is a response to the cultural politics of migration. As Mexicans in Diaspora lose their connections with “homeland” culture, they turn to Jarocho song to reestablish them. The AfroMexican music of Veracruz stands in for what may have been lost in cultural diversity. Even in Mexico, musicians are asserting their regional identities by playing and dancing Jarocho. The Oaxacan Jarocho ensemble Grupo Raíces is a good example of this kind of intracountry regional exchange.33 This group of Oaxaca artists has adopted the east coast musical style as a way to express their cultural identity. becom in g

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Folkloric dances like the Chilena and the Jarocho are assimilated expressions of Afro-Mexican dance traditions. Dancers working within these traditions wear European-style clothing and conform to expectations about the homogenized look and feel of national folkloric dance. Interestingly, the lyrics of the songs that accompany both dances allude to somewhat violent and sexualized coastal character types. In Chilena corridos, men are depicted as valiant and sometimes violent. In contrast, Jarocho décimas describe women as sexual but also dangerous. The two styles of folkloric dance collectively transform Afro-Mexican lifestyles into palatable additions to the menu of mestizaje dance expressions. They reinterpret African folklore as Mexican folklore while rendering Afro-Mexican identities nearly invisible. At the same time, the resurgence of Jarocho as a marker of Mexican identity adds an international twist to the art form. Jarocho has migrated from Veracruz and restructured itself to represent a connection to Mexican “traditional” homelands. The meaning of the dance has shifted. In contrast, Chilena dance is still somewhat contained within its Costa Chica origins. Its performance represents the dance traditions of the communities who live on the western coast. The two dance styles, which originated as expressions of Afro-Mexican communities, restructure identities of their performers in the shifting landscape of cultural performance.

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Conclusion Afro-Mexico documents African presence in Mexico through performance. I have considered performance as a dialogic, changeable way to express and negotiate black identities. The first chapter highlighted histories that locate Afro-Mexicans within the cultural landscape of Mexico. Afro-Mexicans participated in the process of nation building, and consequently theatre and dance performance supported colonial and/or national activities. Official culture began as religious spectacles and later emphasized European and Cuban genres. After the Mexican Revolution, Afro-Mexicans moved toward invisibility when the country embraced a mestizaje that grounded itself in socialism. Today African descendants in Mexico live in relative poverty among their Native American and mestizo neighbors. Their culture is defined in response to local and global representations of the Negrito. Masked dances, as described in chapter 2, provide opportunities for Afro-Mexican communities to explore aspects of their social personae—aggression, containment, and sexuality—in ways that challenge mainstream perceptions of moral and immoral behavior. Dances allow the dancers to present their responses to the social attitudes that typify their existence in Mexico. Visual and performance representations allow artists to articulate their perceptions of the society that surrounds them. The Devil Dance, Straw Bull Dance, and Turtle Dance present aspects of the Afro-Mexican social character that acknowledge histories of violent protest in the Costa Chica. Artists’ responses in these dances reveal a nuanced self-perception, as well as a heightened social consciousness. With each performance of Afro-Mexican masked dances, artists experiment with ways to represent personal experiences through archetypal characters. They growl, chase, flirt; they destabilize ideals about “proper” actions. As individuals, masked dancers use gesture to perform their personalities. When they dance as public figures behind the mask, they present fearful animal and supernatural characters that stand as symbolic images of strength or valor. |  137  |

Coastal masked performances indicate that representations— public perceptions of roles and identities—are merely symbolic codes that can be reorganized for social commentary. Native American and mestizo masked dances counterpoint the performances of Afro-Mexican communities. The enactment of Huamelula and the Costeños Dances of Ahuacuotzingo and Coaxtlahuacan indicate that communities near Afro-Mexican enclaves regularly use performance to engage in imagistic dialogues about power and identity. Chapter 3 discusses how Chontal and other ethnic communities manipulate representational images to act out dramas of encounters between Afro-Mexicans and their foes. The festival of Haumelula intends to reconcile inclusion of “dangerous” Afro-Mexicans within the local community. In contrast, the Costeños Dances illustrate the presumed valor of the Afro-Mexicans. In all these dances Native American and mestizo communities use representative imagery to strengthen community beliefs and to negotiate local politics. The folkloric Chilena and Jarocho are assimilated expressions of Afro-Mexican dance traditions. These dances are performed examples of a genre that is “a dynamic transnational expressive medium through which Mexican communities on both sides of the U.S.–Mexico border create and pass along a strong sense of group aesthetics and identity.”1 This identity reflects Mexican nationalist aims of unified cultural systems. However, in both dances elements of African presence are traceable in both dance origins and performance practices. The two forms are associated with regional enclaves that have historically contained large African populations. At the same time dancers, while wearing prototypical folkloric outfits, incorporate postures, lyrics, and rhythms indicative of African-descendant culture. Jarocho music and dancing, discussed in chapter 4, is rapidly emerging as a way for U.S.-born artists to connect with Mexican heritage. Revivalist ensembles, nurtured by passionate artists, are dancing Jarocho to connect with new urban identities. Now, when I travel to Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, or San Diego, a Jarocho ensemble may be reinventing the percussive patterns and song lyrics of Jarocho, not as folklore, but as a contemporary dance or club act—an act that remixes past imagery into a new expressive canvas. Whereas the Jarocho has transcended national borders, the Chilena remains ensconced in the regional practices of western coastal communities. Chilena and its accompanying corridos continue to express local rather than international sensibilities. |  138  |

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The dances described in this book illustrate a Mexican dance or festival event that in some way references African descendants. Mexico, like all of the Americas, is a mixed-race territory. What is gained by identifying the “Africanness” of the country, especially if the subjects, the Afro-Mexicans, view themselves as Mexicans first? In the introduction I wrote about Angel Salinas, the Afro-Mexican surfer who dons a mask for his magazine appearances. His intent is to “show a real Mexican cultural icon,”2 yet this icon cannot be dark-skinned. Salinas’s desire to hide his African heritage in order to gain social acceptance is real. Until Afro-Mexicans can lay claim to their own identity locations, they will continue to dance their cultural possibilities without finding a place in society. Ideas about black identities have circumscribed and contained the actual lived experiences of Afro-Mexicans for centuries, even as governmental institutions seldom recognize their presence as a subculture. Dancing, in Mexico as elsewhere, reflects a process of cultural transformation that is not assimilation but rather a renegotiation of shifting identities. As societies change, performances adjust. Soap operas, textbooks, administrative offices, folklore shows, advertisements—all affirm that dark skin equals outsider. And outsiders have limited access to the better things that life has to offer. When a culture acknowledges the contributions of all its diverse ethnicities, there are more possibilities for each ethnic group to advance—to climb the social ladder. In the same magazine in which the Salinas article appears, there is an article about an Afro-Mexican music artist. His name is Kalimba, and his second album is titled NegroKlaro. NegroKlaro can be translated in two ways: “clearly black” but also “pale black.” In his interview Kalimba states: Primero quiero consolidarme en México, mi país, como una artista que es un verdadero símbolo de calidad y de buena música, y ya después buscaré la internacionalización.3 [First I want to base myself in Mexico, my country, as an artist who is a true symbol of quality and good music, and then I will seek a global reputation.]

Kalimba, who was born in Mexico City, seeks to establish himself as a Mexican artist of African descent who can feel as good about his ethnic heritage as he does about his commercial music. He wears an Afro hairdo and is making an impression in the music world by creating compositions based on African Diaspora con c lusion

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forms—soul, blues, and R&B. His artistry promotes the idea that Mexico is a society with a strong African presence, one in which Afro-Mexicans are making a local and global impact. Performing African presence in Mexico challenges current notions of racial identity because it invites the country to reconsider its social attitudes. The creation of a black mask or the performance of an African gesture rewrites presumed knowledge about Mexico’s ethnic constituencies. Analyzing performance is one way to envision how performers, as artists, respond to myths that encapsulate hidden histories. Performance spaces are forums for imagined realities—alternate worlds—where relationships can be renegotiated. Within this landscape there are no fixed realities. Instead, performers find truth in the experiences of the everyday and create new realities in their imaginations, realities that contribute to the development of new cultural beliefs. Afro-Mexicans, like most of us, relocate themselves each time that they “dance” their ethnicity within the confines of their local cultural economies. This book project investigates performance to make a space for African ethnicity and artistry within the broader panorama of Mexican culture.

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notes

Introduction 1 “Angel Salinas,” Intro*, March–April 2007, 30–31. 2 Kamari Maxine Clark and Deborah Thomas, eds., Globalization and Race: Transformation in the Cultural Production of Blackness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 4. 3 Steven Mullaney, “Strange Things, Gross Terms, Curious Customs: The Rehearsal of Cultures in the Late Renaissance,” Representations, no. 3 (Summer 1983): 40–67. 4 Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). 5 Jan Nederveen Pieterse, White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 45–51, “The Science of Race.” 6 Elisa Larkin Nascimiento, The Sorcery of Color: Identity, Race, and Gender in Brazil (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007), 1–2; Chalmer E. Thompson and Robert T. Carter, eds., Racial Identity Theory: Applications to Individual, Group, and Organizational Interventions (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997), 3–6. 7 Clark and Thomas, Globalization and Race, 12. 8 Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, La población negra de México: Estudio etnohistórico, 3rd ed. (Veracruz: Universidad Veracruzana Instituto Nacional Indigenista Gobierno del Estado de Veracruz Fondo de Cultura Económico, 1989). 9 Alicia M. Barabas and Miguel A. Bartolomé, eds., Configuraciones étnicas en Oaxaca: Perspectivas etnográficas para las autonomías, vol. 2: Mesoetnias (México, DF: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia/ Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1999); Adriana Naveda Chávez-Hita, Esclavos negros en las haciendas azucareras de Córdoba, Veracruz, 1690– 1830 (Xalapa, Veracruz: Universidad Veracruzana, 1987); Sagrario Cruz Carretero, Alfredo Martínez Maranto, and Angélica Santiago Silva, El carnaval en Yanga: Notas y comentarios sobre una fiesta de la negritud (México, DF: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1990); Luis Eugenio Campos, “Negros y morenos: La población afromexicana de la Costa Chica de Oaxaca,” in Barabas and Bartolomé, Configuraciones étnicas en Oaxaca, 147–183; Maria Guevara Sanginés, “Guanajuato colonial y los afroguanajuatenses,” in Memoria del II Encuentro Nacional de Afromexicanistas, ed. Luz Maria Martínez Montiel and Juan Carlos |  141  |

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Reyes G. (Colima: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1993), 152–166; Miguel Angel Guitiérrez Avila, “Los pueblos afromestizos de México: Su tradición oral,” Plural 14, no. 165 (1985): 43–48; Gabriel Moedano Navarro, “El estudio de las tradiciones orales y musicales de los Afromestizos de México,” Antropología e Historia, no. 31, época 3 (1980): 19–29. Patrick J. Carroll, Blacks in Colonial Veracruz: Race, Ethnicity and Regional Development (Austin: University of Texas, 1991). Ben Vinson III, Bearing Arms for His Majesty: The Free-Colored Militia in Colonial Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001); Herman L. Bennett, Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570 to 1640 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003); Joan Cameron Bristol, Christians, Blasphemers, and Witches: Afro-Mexican Ritual Practice in the Seventeenth Century (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); Nicole Von Germeten, Black Blood Brothers: Confraternities and Social Mobility for Afro-Mexicans, History of African American Religions, ed. Stephen W. Angell and Anthony B. Pinn (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006). Bobby Vaughn, “Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Mexico in the Context of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” Black Electorate.com (2005), www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=1373; Ben Vinson III and Bobby Vaughn, Afroméxico: El pulso de la población negra en México: Una historia recordada, olvidada, y vuelta a recordar (México, DF: Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas/Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2004); Laura A. Lewis, “Negros, Negros-Indios, Afromexicanos: Raza, nación e identidad en una comunidad mexicana morena (Guerrero),” Guaraguao 9, no. 20 (2005): 49–73. Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 2. Ibid., 3. Zoila Mendoza, Shaping Society through Dance: Mestizo Ritual Performance in the Peruvian Andes, Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). Nájera Ramírez, La Fiesta de los Tastoanes: Critical Encounters in Mexican Festival Performance (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997); Olga Nájera Ramírez, Norma E. Cantú, and Brenda Romero, Dancing across Borders: Danzas y Bailes Mexicanos (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009). Harry Elam, “The Device of Race: An Introduction,” in African American Performance and Theater History, ed. Harry Elam and David Krasner (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 1–16; Harry Elam and Kennell Jackson, eds., Black Cultural Traffic (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005); Jill Lane, Blackface Cuba, 1840–1895 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005). Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996), 11–19. Gottschild describes ephebism as “kinesthetic intensity that recognizes feeling as sensation rather than emotion.” Ibid., 15. n o t e s

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20 Jaqui Malone, Steppin on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996). 21 Charlotte Heth, ed., Native American Dance: Ceremonies and Social Traditions (Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 1992). 22 Tara Browner, Heartbeat of the People: Music and Dance of the North American Powwow (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002); Jacqueline Shea Murphy, The People Have Never Stopped Dancing: Native American Modern Dance Histories (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007). 23 Garrett Cook, Renewing the Maya World: Expressive Culture in a Highland Town (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000). 24 Mexican Cycles: Festival Images by George O. Jackson de Llano, September 26, 2007–April 20, 2008. 25 Encanto Mexicano: The Photography of George O. Jackson, Jr., September 15–November 5, 2006. 26 El Cuerpo Adornado: Exploring the Aesthetic Spirit of Mexico, March 15–May 25, 2008. 27 Phillip B Zarilli et al., eds., Theatre Histories: An Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2006), 437. 28 William H. Beezley, Cheryl English Martin, and William E. French, eds., Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1994), 20.

Chapter 1 1 Miguel León-Portilla, Pre-Columbian Literatures of Mexico, trans. Grace and Miguel León-Portilla Lobanov (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969); Yolanda Argudín, Historia del teatro en Mexico desde los rituales prehispánicos hasta el arte dramatico de nuestros dias (México, DF: Panorama Editorial, 1985); José Cid-Pérez and Dolores Martí de Cid, Teatro indio precolumbino (San Juan: Cultural Puertorriqueña, 1982). 2 León-Portilla, Pre-Columbian Literatures of Mexico. 3 Miguel León-Portilla and Earl Shorris, In the Language of Kings (New York: Norton, 2001). 4 Ferdinando Reyna, A Concise History of Ballet (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1964), 34–51. 5 Selma Jean Cohen, ed., Dance as a Theatre Art: Source Readings in Dance History from 1581 to the Present (Princeton: Dance Horizons, 1992). 6 Lincoln Kirstein, Dance: A Short History of Classic Theatrical Dancing (Princeton: Dance Horizons, 1987), pp. 10–18. 7 Oscar Brockett and Franklin Hildy, History of the Theatre, 9th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2003), 88–94. 8 Mary Kay Vaughan, “The Construction of Patriotic Festivals in Tecamachalco, Puebla, 1900–1946,” in Beezley, Martin, and French, Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance, 213–245. 9 David Wiles, A Short History of Western Performance Space (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 76. n o t e s

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10 Armando Partida, Teatro mexicano historia y dramaturgia: II teatro de evangelización en Náhuatl (México, DF: Consejo Nacional Para La Cultura y Las Artes, 1992), 50–67. 11 Max Harris, Aztecs, Moors, and Christians: Festivals of Reconquest in Mexico and Spain (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000); Louise M. Burkhart, Holy Wednesday: A Nahua Drama from Early Colonial Mexico (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996). 12 Ilona Katzew, Casta Painting (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 201. 13 Felicia Hardison Londré and Daniel J. Watermeier, History of the North American Theater: The United States, Canada, and Mexico from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present (New York: Continuum, 2000), 46–48; Armando Díaz de León de Alba and Héctor Azar, Teatros de México (México, DF: Banamex, 1992), 23–33. 14 Antonio Magaña Esquivel, Breve historia del teatro mexicano (México, DF: Ediciones de Andrea, 1958), 24; Hardison Londré and Watermeier, History of the North American Theater, 53. 15 Hardison Londré and Watermeier, History of the North American Theater, 50. 16 Von Germeten, Black Blood Brothers. 17 Bennett, Africans in Colonial Mexico, 10. 18 Linda Curcio-Nagy, “Giants and Gypsies: Corpus Christi in Colonial Mexico City,” in Beezley, Martin, and French, Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance, 5–6. 19 Alicia Hernández Chávez, Mexico: A Brief History, trans. Andy Klatt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006); Robert Ryal Miller, Mexico: A History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985). 20 Luis Reyes de la Maza, El teatro en México durante la independencia (1810–1839) (México, DF: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1969), 414–415. 21 Susan Thomas, Cuban Zarzuela: Performing Race and Gender on Havana’s Lyric Stage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 42. 22 Pável Granados, “Todo lo que cante se llenará de sol: Toña La Negra y las diosas tropicales de la radio,” Tierra Adentro, no. 143–144 (2007): 21–29. 23 Janet L. Sturman, Zarzuela: Spanish Operetta, American Stage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000); Thomas, Cuban Zarzuela. 24 Gilbert Joseph and Timothy Henderson, eds., The Mexico Reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 19. 25 Colin M. Maclachlan and Jaime Rodríguez, The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). 26 Joseph and Henderson, The Mexico Reader, 461. 27 Benigno Jarquin Javier, “¿Continuidad o ruptura cultural africano en el México actual?” in Congrés Internacional d’Estudis Africans del Món Ibériic (Barcelona: 2004). 28 Carroll, Blacks in Colonial Veracruz, 90–92; Miriam Jiménez Román, “What Is a Mexican,” in Africa’s Legacy in Mexico: Photographs by Tony Gleaton (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, |  144  |

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1993), 8–15; Colin Palmer, Slaves of the White God: Blacks in Mexico, 1570–1650 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 128–130; Cruz Carretero, Martínez Maranto, and Santiago Silva, El carnaval en Yanga, 11–41. Luz María Martínez Montiel, “Mexico’s Third Root,” in Africa’s Legacy in Mexico: Photographs by Tony Gleaton (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993); Luz María Martínez Montiel, Presencia africana en México (México, DF: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994); Rosa Margarita Nettl Ross, “La población parda en la provincia de Colima a fines del siglo XVIII, in Memoria del II Encuentro National de Afromexicanistas, ed. Luz María Martínez Montiel and Juan Carlos Reyes (Colima: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1993), 116–121; Guevara Sanginés, “Guanajuato colonial,” 156– 157; José Antonio MacGregor and Carlos Enrique García Martínez, “La negritud en Queretaro,” in Memoria del II Encuentro National de Afromexicanistas, ed. Luz María Martínez Montiel and Juan Carlos Reyes (Colima: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1993), 172–175. “En cuanto a su proyección social, desde que puso los pies en la Nueva España, el negro inició su lucha para liberarse, escribiendo con sus acciones, páginas resplandecientes de valor, audacia, sacrificio, y organización [In terms of his social advancement, the Negro’s landing in New Spain began a struggle for liberation that has written across the pages of history resplendent acts of valor, bravery, sacrifice, and organization].” Francisco Camero Rodríguez, Canto a la Costa Chica (Chapingo: Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, 2006). Paulette Ramsay, “History, Violence, and Self-Glorification in AfroMexican Corridos from Costa Chica de Guerrero,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 23, no. 4 (2004): 446–464. The lyrics of these corridos are printed in Rodríguez, Canto a la Costa Chica; and Ramsay, “History, Violence, and Self-Glorification.” Peter Stern, “Gente de color quebrado: Africans and Afromestizos in Colonial Mexico,” Colonial Latin American Historical Review 3, no. 2 (1994): 185–205. Ibid., 189. Vinson, Bearing Arms for His Majesty. Ibid., 225. Negritos dances are literally “little black men” dances. They are popular throughout Mexico. Each region has a different kind of Negritos dance that represents its own, local experiences with African descendants in that region. Stern, “Gente de color quebrado”; Eugenio Campos, “Negros y morenos.” James C. McKinley Jr., “Mexican Stamp Sets off a New Racial Fracas,” New York Times, June 30, 2005. Lane, Blackface Cuba; Robin D. Moore, Nationalizing Blackness: Afrocubanismo and Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920–1940 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997).

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Chapter 2 1 John Picton, “What’s in a Mask,” in The Performance Arts in Africa: A Reader, ed. Frances Harding (London: Routledge, 2002). 2 Steve Stern, The Secret History of Gender: Women, Men, and Power in Late Colonial Mexico (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 212–213. 3 P. Sterling Stuckey, “Christian Conversion and the Challenge of Dance,” in Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance, ed. Thomas DeFrantz (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002), 39. 4 Rodríguez, Canto a la Costa Chica, 37. 5 Anita González, Jarocho’s Soul: Cultural Identity and Afro-Mexican Dance (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2004). 6 A cabildo is a brotherhood or mutual aid society. It also refers to the local governments established by the Spanish authorities during the colonial period. In certain communities the cabildo is a local resource for funding public festivities. 7 The mayordomo is the local magistrate, mayor, or dignitary of a village. 8 “Bringing out a dance” is my translation of the concept of sacar la danza. 9 Stern, “Gente de color quebrado.” 10 Information about the challenges of performing the steps and the music comes from interviews with the Bautista and Pérez Bautista family of Oaxaca (Argelia, Octavio, and Viviana), who represent three generations of Devil dancers. 11 Jean Franco, Plotting Women: Gender and Representation in Mexico (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 132. 12 Octavio Paz, “The Sons of La Malinche,” in Joseph and Henderson, The Mexico Reader, 20–27. 13 Max Harris, “Moctezuma’s Daughter: The Role of La Malinche in Mesoamerican Dance,” Journal of American Folklore 109, no. 432 (1996), http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021-8715%28199621%29109%3A432 %3C149%3AMDTROL%3E2.0.CO%3B2-T; Nancy H. Saldaña, “La Malinche: Her Representation in Dances of Mexico and the United States,” Ethnomusicology 10, no. 3 (1966), http://links.jstor.org/ sici?sici=0014-1836%28196609%2910%3A3%3C298%3ALMHRID%3E2 .0.CO%3B2-X. 14 The records are specifically from Valladolid in Morelia, central Mexico. 15 Von Germeten, Black Blood Brothers, 128. 16 “Noveno festival costeños de la danza en Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Noviembre 2002,” www.ptoescondido.com.mx/Noticias/fiestas2002/ puebls.htm. 17 Rodríguez, Canto a la Costa Chica. 18 Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (Bloomington: Indian University Press, 1984). 19 Stern, The Secret History of Gender, 16. 20 Bristol, Christians, Blasphemers, and Witches, 117. |  146  |

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21 David Rojas, “Danzas y bailes de la costa oaxaqueña,” Oaxaca News/ Instituto Cultural “Raices Mexicanas” (1996), www.folklorico.com/ folk-dances/oaxaca/oax-cost.html. 22 Stuckey, “Christian Conversion and the Challenge of Dance,” 39. 23 The musicologist Alex Stewart of the University of Vermont describes the chant as saying, “Give me a tribute or I will hurt you.” The Oaxaca dance teacher Argelia Bautista Torres says that there are multiple versions of the chant, and the lyrics generally say, “Somos los diablos. Vienen a bailar” (We are the devils. Come and dance). After the chant, the Devils call out the god’s name, Ruha. Field interview, Oaxaca, April 2007. 24 Díaz de León de Alba and Azar, Teatros de México, 155. 25 Stern, The Secret History of Gender, 172. 26 Rodríguez, Canto a la Costa Chica, 37. 27 Ibid., 41. 28 Ibid., 49–51; Luciano Mendoza Cruz, Segunda Festival Costeño de la Danza: Danzas y bailes de la costa oaxaqueña (Oaxaca: Instituto Oaxaqueño de las Culturas, 1994), 41–43. 29 Oliver N. Greene Jr., “Ethnicity, Modernity, and Retention in Garifuna Punta,” Black Music Research Journal 22, no. 2 (2002), http:// links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0276-3605%28200223%2922%3A2%3C189%3A EMARIT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-9.

Chapter 3 1 Gerald L. Davis, “‘So Correct for the Photograph’: Fixing the Ineffable, Ineluctable African American,” in Public Folklore, ed. Robert Baron and Nicholas R. Spitzer (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), 107–109. 2 Pieterse, White on Black, 45–51. 3 Annemarie Bean, James V. Hatch, and Brooks McNamara, Inside the Minstrel Mask: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1996); Errol G. Hill and James Hatch, A History of African American Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Marshall Stearns and Jean Stearns, Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance (New York: Schirmer, 1968); Allen Woll, Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls (New York: Da Capo Press, 1989). 4 Lane, Blackface Cuba; Moore, Nationalizing Blackness. 5 Lane, Blackface Cuba, 3. 6 “Sambo” and “Urban Dandy” were stock character types that appeared in minstrelsy and other popular entertainments in the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Sambo was an uncultured and simple-minded docile black man, and the Urban Dandy was a a ridiculous blusterer, a foolish black pretender who lived in the city. Eric Lott, “Blackface and Blackness: The Minstrel Show in American Culture,” in Bean, Hatch, and McNamara, Inside the Minstrel Mask, 3–32. 7 Frances Toor, A Treasury of Mexican Folkways (New York: Crown, 1947). A photograph of the Negritos dancers taken by Donald Cordry n o t e s

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is in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas–Austin. Amranta Arcadia Castillo Gómez, “Los estereotipos y las relaciones interétnicas en la Costa Chica oaxaqueña,” Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales 46, no. 188–189 (2003): 285–286. Ibid., 277. Held on or around June 24. Nájera Ramírez, La Fiesta de los Tastoanes; Dennis Tedlock, Rabinal Achi: A Mayan Drama of War and Sacrifice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). Two recent publications describe all aspects of the Chontal Huamelela festival: Alicia M. González, The Edge of Enchantment: Sovereignty and Ceremony in Huatulco, Mexico, photos by Roberto Ysáis (Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 2002); and Huamelula: Música y danzas de los Chontales de Oaxaca, CD (Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas), http://cdi.gob.mx/index-php?id _seccion=1458. Many of the details about the Huamelula performance come from an interview with George O. Jackson, June 4, 2007, Austin, Texas. Jackson photographed the Huamelula feast in 1990 and 1991. His explanations of the festival are included in my descriptions of the festival events. “Coastal men” or “fishermen” is a direct translation of the name of the dance. Information about the conflation of Negritos performance with rituals that honor the deity Tlaloc comes from George O. Jackson and is described in the article by Max Harris, “Moctezuma’s Daughter: The Role of La Malinche in Mesoamerican Dance,” Journal of American Folklore 109, no. 432 (1996), http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=00218715%28199621%29109%3A432%3C149%3AMDTROL%3E2.0.CO% 3B2-T. Max Harris discusses the association of the rain deity Tlaloc with the Malinche character in “Moctezuma’s Daughter,” 168. www.webgranada.com/DiaDeLaCruz.asp. The festival took place May 8 through 10, 1994, just after the Fiesta de la Cruz. Chapter 4

1 Colin Maclachlan writes extensively about the process of creating a Mexican national “cosmic” race that uniquely represents the Americas. See, e.g., Maclachlan and Rodríguez, The Forging of the Cosmic Race. 2 See the discussion of Velez and Mexican nationalism in González, Jarocho’s Soul. 3 Donald Cordry’s Mexican Masks: Their Uses and Their Symbolism (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980) is typical of the kind of work on anthropological folklore that popularized the mask dance traditions of Oaxaca and Guerrero.

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4 Julia Rolf, ed., The Definitive, Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues (London: Star Fire Books, 2007), 12–21. 5 Traditional ethnic groups from the African continent publicly honor procreation and conduct ceremonial events with dances that foreground mating and copulation. 6 Barbara Kirshenblatt Gimblett, “Objects of Ethnography,” in Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Stephen D. Lavine (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 420–435. 7 Centro de Educación Artística, “Miguel Cabrera” Bachillerato de Artes y Humanidades (INBA-SEP). 8 www.oaxacainfo.com/calendar.htm 9 Guelaguetza Didáctica: Primer DVD Interactivo (Clase 10, 2005). 10 Moisés Ochoa Campos, La Chilena guerrerense (Chilpancingo de los Bravos Guerrero: Gobierno del Estado de Guerrero, 1987). 11 Epigmenio López Barroso, Diccionario del Distrito de Abasolo del Estado de Guerrero, quoted in Ochoa Campos, La Chilena guerrerense, 78. 12 Rodríguez, Canto a la Costa Chica. 13 Ibid., 98–100. 14 Ibid., 62–63. Me llaman él bandolero/porque la ley quebranté;/pero la ley es del rico/y por eso la violé. . . . Yo no mato por matar/porque no soy asesino;/para injusticias vengar/al arbitrario elimino. 15 Beltrán, La población negra de México, 179. 16 Gottschild, 16. 17 Many of these characteristics are also important components of Flamenco, an improvisational art form that was influenced by Andalusian, Romanian, and Mediterranean cultures. While there are similarities among Flamenco, Jarocho, and other forms of Mexican zapateado dancing, Jarocho is identified by its association with African field-workers and the musical structure of the décima sones that accompany the dance. 18 Daniel Edward Sheehy, “The Son Jarocho: The History, Style, and Repertory of a Changing Mexican Musical Tradition” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1979) 17. 19 Pablo González Casanova, La literatura perseguida en la crisis de la colonia, Colección Cien de México (México, DF: Secretaria de Educación Pública, 1986). 20 Sheehy, “The Son Jarocho,” 355. 21 Los Folkloristas: México, “La mujer inconforme (Décimas–Veracruz).” 22 Lawrence Allen Trujillo, “The Spanish Influence on the Mestizo Folk Dances of Yucatán, Veracruz, and Jalisco” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Colorado, 1974), 74. 23 Alberto de la Rosa Sánchez, “Entrevista al Professor Alberto de la Rosa Sánchez, Veracruz: Su danza, su música y sus tradiciones” (paper presented at the XVII Convención Internacional de Grupos Folklóricos, Jalapa, Veracruz, 1991), 62–63.

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24 The performers were Elsa Malpica Muñoz and Víctor Valdez Méndez, who were rehearsing the dance in preparation for a teaching session with Ballet Hispánico in 1992. 25 Quoted in Sheehy, “The Son Jarocho,” 57. 26 As with most Jarochos, there are several versions of the song. Sheehy presents only one example of a Los Negritos text. 27 Sheehy, “The Son Jarocho,” 13. 28 Quoted in Sheehy, “The Son Jarocho,” 57. 29 Carroll, Blacks in Colonial Veracruz, 31–39, 91. 30 Sheehy, “The Son Jarocho,” 356. 31 The term morena means dark-skinned woman. It is not necessarily pejorative and can even be considered a compliment, depending on who says it and how. 32 “Eye for Talent,” www.eyefortalent.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/artist. detail/artist_id/90. 33 I heard Grupo Raíces during a 2007 visit to Oaxaca. They were rehearsing for the release of their new album of sones. The group members are Gonzalo Pérez, Argelia Bautista, Octavio Pérez Bautista, Viviana Pérez Bautista, Argelia Pérez Bautista, and Roberto Javier Santos. Some of them are also Devil dancers.

Conclusion 1 Olga Nájera-Ramírez, “Staging Authenticity: Theorizing the Development of Mexican Folklórico Dance,” in Dancing across Borders, ed. Olga Nájera Ramírez, Norma E. Cantú, and Brenda Romero (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009). 2 “Angel Salinas.” 3 “Kalimba,” Intro*, March–April 2007, 50.

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glossary

Afroamericano  Resident of the Americas who is of African descent; African American. Afroindígena  Person of African and indigenous ancestry. Afromestizo  Person of African and mixed-race ancestry. Afro-Mexican  Resident of Mexico who is of African descent. arpa  Portable harp used in Jarocho music. artesa  Long, narrow, raised wooden platform used for performing the rhythmic dance Artesa. It is usually nine to twelve inches high and can accommodate about four dancers. barrio alto  Literally, “higher neighborhood”; here referring to the upper-class residents of a village. barrio bajo  Literally, “lower neighborhood”; here referring to the lowerclass residents of a village. bufo  Variety show featuring comic and political sketches, as well musical and dance acts. The bufos that became popular in Cuba during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries included a range of black-faced characters; the bufo cubano has been compared to North American and British minstrel shows. cajón  Hollow wooden box used as a percussion instrument in musical ensembles. The word literally means “box,” but the cajón is used for making music throughout the Americas, especially in African-descendant communities. caporal  Spanish ranch foreman. The Caporal is one of the characters in the Straw Bull Dance. Casa de la Cultura  Community cultural center established by the government to promote cultural activities and encourage public displays of regional art. Casas de la Cultura have been established in most major towns in Mexico. casta  Social class system based on racial mixtures. The Spanish introduced the casta system in the New World to establish social boundaries between the various ethnic communities. chaparrera  Chaps, or protective leather leggings, worn by ranchers. Chilena  Dance style of the Costa Chica said to have originated when Chilean fishermen landed in Acapulco in 1882. In the Chilena performers wear classic folklore outfits of ruffled skirts and peasant pants. cofradía  Brotherhood society. In African-descendant communities in the Americas, brotherhood societies were used to maintain ethnic, |  151  |

religious, and social traditions and were sometimes cauldrons of political activism. Often members of brotherhood societies would pool resources for community events or services. Corpus Christi  Catholic holiday that occurs in mid-June and celebrates the body of Christ. In Latin American countries Corpus Christi festivities provide an opportunity for local celebrations that merge Catholic traditions with local community practices. corrales  Corrals; enclosed areas originally used for containing animals that later became performance spaces. Some open-air corrales were eventually enclosed to become theatres in the round. corrido  Storytelling or ballad song from the west coast of Mexico. Corridos generally tell stories of heroism, love, valor, and regional lifestyles. Costa Chica  West coast of Mexico; includes the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca. Costeños  Literally, “coastal people.” The Costeños dance features fishermen or alligator-hunting characters who wear black masks and represent the Afro-Mexican people of the coast. Danzón  Couples dance performed in Cuba and on the east coast of Mexico that resembles a ballroom dance in that couples face one another and perform stepping patterns while holding their partners. diablo  Literally, “devil.” The Devil Dance features masked dancers who perform devilish acts while moving through community streets. encomienda  Spanish colonial system of dividing conquered territories into subdivisions that were placed under the tutelage of a Spanish citizen. An encomienda included both the land and the people on the land. The Spanish verb encomendar means “to entrust.” encuentro  Meeting or conference to exchange knowledge or ideas. gente de color quebrada  Literally, “burnt-skinned people.” The term referred to dark-skinned field-workers. Gueleguetza  Annual folkloric dance festival held in the state of Oaxaca that commemorates and celebrates the region’s local customs and culture. jarana  Small eight-string, guitarlike instrument used in Jarocho music. Jarocho  A music and dance form that originated on the east coast of Mexico. In Jarocho dance the performers wear classic folklore outfits of ruffled skirts and peasant pants. La Llorona  Mythical Mexican mother figure who drowns her children and then cries forever over their loss. La Minga  Female character performed by a male dancer who appears in many Afro-Mexican dances of the Costa Chica. Malinche  Native American woman who translated for Hernando Cortés in his conquest of Mexico and gave birth to his children. She is also known as Malintzín, Malinali, or Doña Marina. Some consider her a Mexican traitor; others embrace her as a model of feminine independence. Memín Pinguín  Black-faced cartoon character created by Alberto Cabrera in 1943.

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mestizaje  Process of racial mixing. In Mexico, José Vasconcelos promulgated mestizaje as a national racial ideal. mestizo  In Mexico, usually denoting a person of Spanish–Native American descent but also referring to any racially mixed person. moreno  Brown-skinned person; in Mexico, usually referring to a person of African descent. mulata  A mixed-race woman of African descent. negritos  Literally, “little black men.” Negritos dancers wear masks to depict black-faced characters. negros  Black people; people of African descent. Sometimes derogatory. padre desconocido  Literally, “unknown father”; used to describe the status of newborn children of African descent in Catholic church registries between 1597 and 1670. Pancho  Rancher or field-worker character who appears in many of the Afro-Mexican masked dances of Mexico’s Costa Chica. pandero  Tambourine-like percussive instrument that is played with the hands. It is usually larger than a tambourine and can be tuned to a pitch. pescaditos  Literally, “little fisherman.” Pescaditos dances feature fishermen or alligator-hunting characters who wear black masks and represent the Afro-Mexican people of the coast. poncho  Woolen cape worn by field-workers. pueblo  Town or village; the phrase el pueblo means “the people.” Rabinal Achí  Mayan play pageant that is considered one of the first documented Native American plays in the Americas. Rabinal is a town in Guatemala; the Rabinal Achí was a lord or warrior. rhumba  Dance and music style from Cuba performed to a drum orchestra. sainete  One-act Spanish comic play. soldaderas  Female soldiers who fought in the Mexican Revolution. The women were idolized in songs and legends of the era. son  Storytelling song with lyrics that is a fusion of indigenous, African, and Spanish music traditions. Sones generally speak of women, love, passion, and regional customs. There are many variations on the son tradition, such as son huasteca, son jarocho. tarima  Raised wooden platform used in Jarocho dancing. It is generally only about three inches high and intended for communal dancing. Tlaloc  An Aztec/Nahuatl deity that represents rain, water, and fertility. Toro de Petate  Literallly, “straw bull.” The Toro de Petate is the central character of the Straw Bull Dance. tortuga  Turtle or tortoise. The Turtle is the central character of the Turtle Dance. Yanga  African who escaped from Spanish colonialists and founded a free settlement in the state of Veracruz in 1580. Yansa  African deity of the wind and storms who is associated in Santería with Santa Bárbara. Yemaya  Yoruba deity celebrated in Orisha religions of Brazil who is a mother goddess associated with the oceans. zarzuela  Short Spanish comic opera. g lo s s a ry

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index

Page numbers in italics refer to images. African aesthetics, 115–118, 124–127, 129–130, 131–135 African American(s), 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 32, 33, 36, 85 Afro-Mexican communities, 29–31, 39 Afro-Mexican identities, 31–36, 90–92 Ahuacuotzingo, 16, 39, 86, 107, 108, 110, 133, 138 alligators, 91, 94, 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109 Aponte, Serafín, 10 archetypes, 14, 85, 87, 88, 90, 103, 106, 113 arpa, 122, 128 artesa, 8, 117, 120, 121, 122, 125 audiences, 10, 66, 93 Aztecs, 18, 19 barrio alto, 97, 100, 101 barrio bajo, 96, 97, 98 Bautista Torres, Argelia, 119 Beezley, William, 15 Beltrán, Gonzalo Aguirre, 4, 127 Bennett, Herman, 4 Bristol, Joan, 4, 62 Browner, Tara, 6 bufos cubanos, 25, 36, 91 Bull, 55, 57, 69, 70–71, 72, 73–74, 75–76, 78, 84, 94, 120, 137 Bull Dance. See Straw Bull Dance Cabrera, Alberto, 35 cajon, 120 capillas, 23 Carillo, Alvaro, 124, 125 Carroll, Patrick, 4 Casas de la Cultura, 7, 47 caste system, 22, 24, 39 Catholic Church, 51

Catholics, 10, 21, 46, 49, 51, 60, 61, 108, 119, 130 Chilena, 8, 46, 111, 113–121, 125–127, 131, 136, 138 Chilena Dance, 116–117, 121, 123, 122–124, 125 Chontal, 88, 92–99, 105–106, 138 choreography, 15, 48, 64–67, 72–76, 81–84, 118–119 chuchumbé, 129 Ciruelo, 19, 39, 48, 121 Coaxtlahuacan, 16, 39, 91, 107, 109, 110, 133, 138 cofradías, 7, 23, 24 Collantes, 39, 42, 48, 54, 61 colonial theatre, 22–24 comedy houses, 23 community dance, 14–15, 45–47 conquest theatre, 20–22 Cook, Garrett, 7 Corpus Christi, 7, 21, 23, 51 corridos, 3, 26, 113, 114, 117, 119, 124–126, 131, 136, 138 Cortés, Hernando, 18, 19, 21, 58–59 Costa Chica, 2, 8, 11, 12, 16, 26, 28, 29–30, 33–34, 35, 37, 40–41, 43, 47, 52, 55, 60, 68, 71, 78–79, 91, 93, 94, 114, 120–122, 124, 133, 135–137 Costeños, 86, 106, 108, 110 Costeños Dances, 110, 138 Cuba, 25, 33–34, 36, 91–92, 129, 135 Darwinism, 3 Davis, Gerald, 85 Devil Dance, 35, 40, 42, 45, 47–48, 49, 50, 52–53, 54, 57, 60–69, 70, 72, 76, 83–84, 88, 120, 137 Díaz, Porfirio, 25 Dixon-Gottschild, Brenda, 5, 6, 129 |  161  |

Doña Marina. See La Malinche Don Pancho, 72 Elam, Harry, 5 entremés, 23 erotic Turtle Dance, 78, 81, 82 festival dances, 8, 14–15, 61 Fiesta de la Cruz, 108–110 fishermen, 19, 33, 94, 106, 107–109, 110 Flamenco, 115, 117, 122 folklore, 7, 8, 27, 47, 49, 113, 115, 118–119, 136, 138–139 folkloric dance, 47–50, 111–113, 118–120 Garifuna, 13, 62, 76 gente de color quebrada, 31 Grupo Raíces, 135 Gueleguetza, 119, 120 Guerrero, 29–30, 33, 34, 35, 40, 49, 50, 55, 67–68, 69, 86, 91, 94, 106, 107–109, 113, 116, 117–118, 120, 122, 123, 124, 135 Harris, Max, 59 Henderson, Timothy, 27 Hernandez, Amalia, 47, 112 Heth, Charlotte, 6 Huamelula, 16, 88, 89, 94–95, 96, 99–106, 110, 133, 138 Huamelula Festival, 95–106 independence theatre, 24–26 Inquisition, 62, 129–130 Jackson, George O., 11, 12, 80, 98 Jackson, Jessie, 36 jarana, 120, 132 Jarocho, 10, 21, 34, 47, 108, 111, 112, 113–120, 122, 128, 132, 136, 138 Jarocho Dance, 127–135 Jermott, Padre Glenn, 51 Jimenez Terrazas, Oscar, 4, 8, 47 Joseph, Gilbert, 4, 27 Kalimba, 139 Katzew, Ilona, 22 Lachineer, José, 98, 102, 104 La Llorona, 88 La Malinche, 19, 58, 60 La Minga, 50, 52, 53, 56–60, 61, 63, 64, 69, 70–73, 79, 82, 91 |  162  |

Lane, Jill, 5 León-Portilla, Miguel, 20 Lewis, Laura, 4 Malone, Jackie, 6 Malpica Muñoz, Elsa, 131 Mambo, 47, 135 masked dances, 40–43, 41, 137 masks, 14, 36, 42, 45, 49, 50, 52–54, 56–58, 61, 63, 65, 72, 80, 86, 89, 91, 92–93, 96–97, 108–109, 111, 113 Memín Pinguín, 35, 36, 90 Mendez, Victor, 131 Mendoza, Zoila, 5 merengue, 47, 135 mestizaje, 26–29, 32, 39, 64, 111–112, 136–137 methodologies, 4–5 Mexican Revolution, 18, 26, 34, 39, 55, 111–112, 137 Mexico City, 7, 9, 12, 23, 25, 111, 119, 139 Minga. See La Minga minstrel shows, 90 misiones culturales, 27 Mixtecs, 94 Moors and Christians, 22, 95–96 mulatas, 25, 26, 57, 59, 64, 135 Mullaney, Stephen, 3 music, 67–68, 82, 113, 114, 116–118, 120, 122–126, 129–130, 132, 133–134, 135–136, 139–140 myths, 1, 2, 14, 16, 29, 31–32, 34, 93, 140 Nahuatl, 19–20 Nájera-Ramírez, Olga, 5 nationalism, and mestizaje, 26–29, 111, 114 Native Americans, 2, 6, 12–13, 15–16, 18, 20–22, 24, 29, 31, 34, 37, 56, 86, 90 Negritos, 86, 89, 91, 93, 108, 133 Negritos dances, 32–33, 90–92, 94–107, 109–110 Negritos song, 133 Oaxaca, 2, 8, 19, 24, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 37–38, 40, 41–42, 45, 48, 51, 52–54, 55, 56, 58, 61, 65, 69–71, 73–75, 77, 79–82, 89, 94, 95, 96, 99, 101–105, 106, 113, 114, 118–120, 121, 124, 125–126, 135 Obama, Barack, 2 Ochoa Campos, Moises, 122 padres desconocidos, 59, 60, 134 a fro

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Palomo, Hernandez, 47 Pancho, 41, 45, 52, 53–54, 55–57, 58, 60, 63–64, 65, 66, 68, 69, 70–78, 79–81, 83–84, 91 pandero, 120 Papantla, 32, 92 pastorelas, 22 Paz, Octavio, 58 Pellicer, Jose Manuel, 11, 12, 19, 28, 32–33, 35, 37–38, 40, 45, 49–50, 52–53, 56, 65, 67–68, 70–71, 75, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 89, 114, 121, 125–126 Pescaditos. See Costeños Dances Pescaditos Dances. See Costeños Dances phenotypes, 2, 13, 33, 37, 85, 87, 125 photographers, 11–12, 52 photographs, 1, 10–12, 17, 40, 51, 52, 66, 72, 88, 97, 107–109 Porfiriato, 25, 26 Primer Encuentro de Danzantes de los Pueblos Negros, 28, 45, 51, 56, 70, 71, 75, 77, 79, 80, 82 quilada, 120 Rabinal Achi, 95 race theory, 2–3 Ramsay, Paulette, 30 regalia, 49 renunciations, 62 research, field, 7–10 respeto, 10, 44 Reyes de la Maza, Luis, 25 Rodriguez, Francisco Camero, 30 Rua, 52, 61, 65 sainete, 36, 91 Saldaña, Nancy, 59 Salinas, Angel, 2, 139 San Nicolás, 30 Santa Ana Chiauhtempan, 38, 112, 128 shawls, 80, 130

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Shea Murphy, Jacqueline, 6, 7 social histories, 1, 60 Soldaderas, 26 Son de Madera, 135 space and relationships, 64, 74, 81 steps and music, 66, 75, 83 stereotypes, 87 Stern, Steve, 31, 44, 55, 62, 70 Straw Bull Dance, 40, 41, 45, 55, 69–76, 84, 137 Stuckey, Sterling, 44 tarima, 117, 120, 122, 127, 128 Tenangos, 61 terminology, 12–13, 87–90 Tlacotalpan, 38, 119, 132 Toña la Negra, 25, 135 Toro de Petate, 40, 47, 48, 69, 72, 74. See Straw Bull Dance Totonac, 32, 33, 87, 92 Trujillo, Lawrence, 130 Turtle Dance, 40, 57, 58, 76–84, 97, 137 Uncle Tom, 90, 92 Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 90 University of Texas at Austin, 8, 11 Vasconcelos, José, 26, 27 Vaughn, Bobby, 4 Velez, Miguel, 113 Veracruz, 8, 10, 18, 26, 29, 33, 34, 118–119, 127, 130, 131, 132, 135, 136 Vinson, Ben, 4, 31 Von Germeten, Nicole, 4, 23, 59 whippings, 40 Wiles, David, 21 Yanga, 10, 29 Yansa, 88 zarzuelas, 25

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