In early-twentieth-century urban Peru, few cultural traditions remained that were considered Afro-Peruvian. Race was perceived as changeable, whiteness was equated with social mobility, and, as Raúl Romero explains (1994), Peruvians of African descent typically were not viewed as a separate ethnic group because they identified culturally, along with the descendants of Europeans, as criollos, a term that originally described the children of Africans born into slavery and later included European descendants born in Peru. After independence, the word criollo came to describe a set of cultural practices that were believed to be of European origin, including música criolla, or Creole music. At Lima’s jaranas (multi-day, invitation-only social gatherings involving the communal affirmation of shared criollo culture through food, drink, humor, music, and dance), ethnically diverse criollos performed música criolla, especially the marinera, on the guitar, cajón (box drum), and other instruments. Those who did not play an instrument sang, danced, or performed the special rhythmic handclap patterns unique to each musical genre, affirming the participatory character of creating and maintaining a shared culture. Although the performers were of mixed ethnic backgrounds, by the middle of the century this music was considered to be of strictly European origin (Romero 1994).
Before the Afro-Peruvian revival, many blacks in Peru identified with criollo culture, yet they were denied the social benefits afforded white criollos. In the 1960s, while African independence movements and the U.S. civil rights movement sought to overturn colonialism and racism, respectively, in Peru, music and dance were the first successful arenas for the politics of black resistance. Whereas for some critics, staged music and dance might seem an unlikely format for collective protest, the first step for Afro-descendants in the isolated black Pacific was to make themselves visible as a group by organizing around a newly embraced collective, ethnic, and diasporic identity before they could unite in a political struggle for civil rights. In the Afro-Peruvian revival, black Peruvians began by mounting staged performances that reinscribed forgotten and ignored black culture in Peruvian official history, starting with times of slavery (plantation settings, slave dances, and so on). The leaders of the Afro-Peruvian revival reconstructed lost black Peruvian music and dances for theatrical performances and recordings, musically promoting racial difference to challenge the prevailing ideology of criollo unity without racial equality.
Many Peruvian musicians date the beginning of the revival to 1956, when Peruvian scholar José Durand (a white criollo) founded the Pancho Fierro company, which presented the first major staged performance of reconstructed Afro-Peruvian music and dance at Lima’s Municipal Theater. Several black Peruvians who participated in Durand’s company formed their own groups in the 1960s, including the charismatic siblings Nicomedes and Victoria Santa Cruz. Perú Negro, the only group from the revival still existing in the twenty-first century, was founded in 1969 by former protégés of Victoria Santa Cruz…
Like her brother, Victoria Santa Cruz looked toward the black Atlantic to forge a transnational diasporic identity for black Peruvians, transplanting musical instruments and cultural expressions in revival productions. But Victoria Santa Cruz’s most celebrated legacy in Peru is her idiosyncratic deployment of “ancestral memory” as the cornerstone of a choreographic technique that enabled her to “return” to Africa by looking deep within her own body for the residue of organic ancestral rhythms…
Explaining what she means by “ancestral memory,” Victoria Santa Cruz writes: “What is ancestry? Is it a memory? And if so, what is it trying to make us remember? … The popular and cultural manifestations, rooted in Africa, which I inherited and later accepted as ancestral vocation, created a certain disposition toward rhythm, which over the years has turned itself into a new technique, ‘the discovery and development of rhythmic sense’ … I reached my climax … when I went deep into that magical world that bears the name of rhythm” (Santa Cruz 1978, 18). Elsewhere, she said: “Having discovered, first ancestrally and later through study and practice, that every gesture, word, and movement is a consequence of a state of being, and that this state of being is tied to connections and disconnections of fixed centers or plexus … allowed me to rediscover profound messages in dance and traditional music that could be recovered and communicated. … The black man knows through ancestry, even when he is not conscious of it, that what is outwardly elaborated has its origin or foundation in the interior of those who generate it” (V. Santa Cruz 1988, 85).
Heidi Carolyn Feldman,
“Strategies of the Black Pacific: Music and Diasporic Identity in Peru,”
Comparative Perspectives on Afro-Latin America (2012)
One of the most beautiful dances of Peru. Too bad I won’t get a chance to see it live, if I go to Trujillo later on in the summer. Most of the time, the dancers perform in the springtime around September and October.
Stylish Costume: Concurso Nacional de Caballos de Paso
Ayer domingo se llevó a cabo el Concurso Nacional de Caballos de Paso y desde hace ya unos años se ha incorporado en él el concurso de marinera a caballo, mujer a pie hombre a caballo, y hombre a caballo mujer a pie, un digno espectáculo de la costa peruana. Detrás del concurso, los trajes típicos de las bailarinas, que son una obra de arte y una inspiración para los amantes de la moda. Aquí comparto algunos de los trajes que más me gustaron.
Perú tiene belleza por donde se le mire, a lo largo de las 3 regiones geográficas.