Reflection Paper #2




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Let’s recap what we have explored thus far in this class. You have been learning that ballet folklórico cannot really be defined as one style of dance, instead it is more like an amalgamation that reflects the diversity of México’s regions and people. In other words, folklórico dance encompasses all the various traditional regional dances of Mexico.

In Module 2, we began with looking at the connections between folklórico dance and nationalism. The big idea that we discussed was the ways that folklórico dance has shaped a Mexican national identity in México and abroad. We also learned “El Jarabe Tapatío” to explore this theme. After the 1910 Mexican Revolution, this dance became a way to evoke feelings of patriotism and came to represent the nation. Indeed, the Revolution was an impetus behind the evolution of Mexican folklórico dance. We also looked at how the U.S. Chicano Movement of the 60’s and 70’s was the reason for the rise in U.S. folklórico groups, aka the folklórico phenomenon which likens to the Revolution.      

Now, we will begin to think of the connections between folklórico and ritual. More specifically, I am referring to the ways that folklórico dance engages with and presents spiritual and ritual ceremonial dances.

Let’s go!


Thinking through the connection between folklorico dance and ritual

In order to conceptualize the connection between folklorico dance and ritual, it is important to contextualize the topic. The continued presence and evolution of ballet folklórico into the 21st century is largely the result of mestizaje and indigenismo – two ideologies that are connected to México’s colonial history.

Mestizaje has largely been thought of and discussed as the mix of Spanish, Indigenous, and African biology and culture which give México its unique identity. Mestizaje as an ideology usually revolves around symbolically unifying under the notion of racial harmony. It was used by the Mexican government in the years after the 1910 Revolution to promote national unification. In Mexico, mestizaje was largely promoted through visual artists, like painters such as “the big three” (Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros) under the direction of Jose Vasconcelos, then secretary of public education. Visual arts were promoted because they were thought to be the best at providing accessibility to larger volumes of the population. Mestizaje is often recognized as the driving force behind cultural change in México but we should note that this change occurred as a result of forced cultural mixing that changed many Indigenous traditions.

Many folklórico dances are the products of the mixing of African, Indigenous and European dance characteristics. The African influence on Mexican folklórico dance is less recognized and discussed, but extremely important to identify. For example, the Afro and Caribbean traditions of México have produced specific dances such as Los Negritos, and types of dance such as the huapango and the son. Afro Cuban rhythms in particular have shaped music and dance in the eastern states of Mexico, like Veracruz and Puebla.  

Indigenismo as an ideology, championed Indigenous people’s rights by promoting a romanticized image of México’s Indigenous people that also served as a basis for a national identity in the years after the 1910 Mexican Revolution. This sparked a governmental study of the Indigenous population with the ultimate goal of integrating them into the idea of the nation. However, many scholars argue that while indigenismo claimed to bring Indigenous people back into the picture, it was still erasing Indigenous cultures and reproducing racist beliefs about so-called biological differences between “Indians” and “Europeans.” Indigenismo imposed a gaze upon Indigenous people from the outside by whites or mestizo intellectuals.

Indigenismo was taken up by many kinds of artists too. For example, romantic images of Indigenous people as “noble savages” were integrated in painting, music, literature, and poetry. (A noble savage is a literary stock character who embodies the concept of the indigene, outsider, wild human, an ” other ” who has not been “corrupted” by civilization, and therefore symbolizes humanity’s innate goodness).

In Mexican folklórico dance we can see indigenismo occur through the incorporation of many Native dances, such as Los Voladores, Los Vieijitos, and El Venado. These dances have a connection to religious and ceremonial dances too. Keep in mind that during colonization, the primary goal was to convert Indigenous people to Christianity. So, missionaries tried their best to eliminate ritual and dances done by Indigenous people. The dances that remained were labeled as “pagan” by missionaries. Some Indigenous people did what they could to disassociate their dances from their religious elements, while many others adapted their dances to Christian themes.

With this in mind, let’s move into the module and explore how folklórico dance has become central to celebrating rituals such as día de los Muertos or day of the dead. We will also learn more about the La Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Old Men).


Watch the Video:   (You need to find another way to watch it, please watch up until 18:19. )

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