Folklore, Nation, and Gender in a Colonial Encounter: Coros Y Danzas of the Sección Femenina of the Falange in Equatorial Guinea

By Stehrenberger, Cécile Stephanie | Afro - Hispanic Review, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Folklore, Nation, and Gender in a Colonial Encounter: Coros Y Danzas of the Sección Femenina of the Falange in Equatorial Guinea


Stehrenberger, Cécile Stephanie, Afro - Hispanic Review


During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Sección Femmina of the Falange - led by Pilar Primo de Rivera from its creation in 1934 until Franco's death in 1975 - played a pivotal role in organizing the Francoist home front, with responsibility for nursing wounded soldiers and for the distribution of clothing and food among civilians. In 1938, its role expanded to encompass a culture department, whose appointed tasks were to include the conservation of "authentic Spanish folklore." Coros y Danzas groups, formed in all provinces, were to rescue - through field work - dances that were supposedly near-forgotten, and to revitalize them through performance in front of gradually growing authences. The Catalan Sardana and the Basque Txistu, important symbols of regional independence movements, were reinvented as national traditions. The declared aim was to fight the presumed contamination of Spanish folklore by "pseudo-flamenco" and by "modern music." From 1942 onwards, Coros y Danzas groups began to perform outside Spain as well, and between 1948 and 1955 several large-scale tours took them to Europe, Latin America, the United States, and Morocco.

Within and beyond the Iberian peninsula, the Coros y Danzas groups served a political and gender mission in line with Francoist nation building. "¿No os habéis fijado [. . .] que las iniciales de Coros y Danzas y las del Cuerpo Diplomático son las mismas?," wrote the Falangist author Rafael Garcia Serrano, who in 1948 accompanied the Coros y Danzas on their tour in Latin America, in his Badando hasta L· Cruz del Sur (134). There he also referred to them as "lo mejor de los planes de Marshall" (147). Their dancers were staged, through performative material and semiotic processes, as female bodies with characteristics that made them suitable instruments of the nation-building process. In Western Europe and in the United States, during the years of Spain's international isolation, the groups attempted to represent their country as a friendly state. At the same time, they were expected to contribute to the formation and government of a disciplined and productive population both in Spain and its colonies.

In 1954, following an invitation by Faustino Ruiz, the Gobernador General de las Provincias de Guinea Ecuatorial (1949-1962), Coros y Danzas groups from Cádiz and Murcia went on stage in Equatorial Guinea, dancing in Bata, Santa Isabel (today Malabo), Niefang, and Mikomenseng. In what follows, drawing particularly on internal documents of the Sección Femenina archived in the Archivo General de Administración in Alcalá de Henares - as well as personal recollections, representations in film, and articles from periodicals and newspapers - I will analyse the performances of the folklore groups as part of a broader political project.

"Hemos estado atendidísimas siempre, tanto por el elemento oficial como por los particulares e indígenas," writes Catalina Enrich Auliach in her reports of the 1954 Coros y Danzas tour in Equatorial Guinea.1 Through a demanding schedule of performances, the Sección Femenina's folklore groups self-consciously aimed to charm officials of the colonial administration, colonizers, and colonial subjects alike. In Santa Isabel, they performed in the Estadio - their authence consisting mainly of indígenas, but also a few colonizers - in a cena de gada in the Gobierno General, the casino, the Club Fernandino, the Misión de Santa Teresita, and on the local radio ("solo canto"). In Bata, shows were held at the Cine Okangon, in the airport ("solo para europeos"), the Misión de Niñas, and on Radio Bata. Other locations across the country included La Explanada de la Administración Territorial in Sevilla de Niefang, the tennis club in Mikomenseng, La Plaza del Consejo de Vecinos in San Carlos (today Luba), and the forestry holding Aseni in Concepción (today Riaba) .

The Coros y Danzas had not arrived in Equatorial Guinea on their own; rather, they were accompanied by another ship on which they also danced. …

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