Academic journal article American Studies

AFRO-MEXICO: Dancing between Myth and Reality

Academic journal article American Studies

AFRO-MEXICO: Dancing between Myth and Reality

Article excerpt

AFRO-MEXICO: Dancing between Myth and Reality. By Anita González. Austin: University of Texas Press. 2010.

Afro-Mexico: Dancing between Myth and Reality explores the ways in which African cultural production and dance have influenced Mexican social history and ethnic relations. The beautifully published book contains over 60 black and white photographs, mostly of masked Afro-Mexican dancers. Fourteen photographs are reprinted in color and consolidated in the book's center. The rich visual display complements the book's high level of scholarly achievement.

The introduction begins with a discussion of race theory in the Americas and the author's performance-based research methodology. An elegant summary follows of Mexican socio-racial identities, including the terms indio, mestizo, negro, and mulato. Chapter 1, "Framing African Performance in Mexico," examines the theatrics of Mexican history through the eras of colonialism, independence, and revolution before turning to modern-day circulations of "negrito" types, such as the Memín Pinguín cartoon character. This chapter also addresses the location of blacks in Mexico and the historical ties between dance in Vera Cruz and Cuba.

Chapter 2, "Masked Dances," presents González's detailed research on the Devil, Turtle, and Straw Bull (Toro de Petate) dances. Although performed elsewhere in Mexico, the author argues that these dances are performed distinctly by Costa Chica (Guerrero and Oaxaca) blacks. Costa Chica black dancers use forward-bending, polycentric body posture (use of hips and torso), 6/8 or 3/4 rhythm patterns, frightening masks, and more sexual antics. The author contends that the Devil, Turtle, and Straw Bull dances symbolically portray inter-ethnic relations, rebellion, and resistance to the Spanish and slavery. She also asserts that Costa Chica dances portray the devil character, Pancho/Francisco, and his wife, La Minga, because Christian gods were seen as unjust and hateful for supporting slavery. …

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