Saturday, June 7, 2008

"noches árabes al pastor" in tepoztlán

during the summer of 2006 the folks gathered at the annual meeting of the tepoztlán institute for the transnational history of the americas were treated, for one night, to a political cabaret performance piece by jesusa rodríguez and company. noches árabes al pastor is, according to la jornada newspaper, a theatrical-musical spectacle about the "awkward" [my word] relationship between mexicans and their body, as well as discussing HIV prevention. inspired by the one thousand and one nights collection of stories, rodríguez et. al. spin the story of how princess reshazada tells stories to sultan charriar and aids him in feeling comfortable with his own body and finding sexual identity. this is all done in the form of political satirical sketches, interspersed with musical and dance numbers. check out the parody of the 'dance of the seven veils' below:

while most of the public appreciated and applauded jesusa rodríguez and co. for coming to tepoztlán in the middle of a busy week, they also caused a bit of apprehension among us-based and trained scholars too aware of racism against african americans in their context. [an aside: jesusa had been working unrelentlessly in mexico city, organizing politico-theatrical protests and aiding the efforts in trying to get the votes recounted during the presidential elections of 2006.] however, among this crowd, who was delighted at sexuality being deconstructed before their ("our") eyes, 'discomfort' did occur. one such moment occured when jesusa rodriguez pulled out a memín pinguín doll out of a box and made him dance while regina orozco sang a francisco gabilondo soler (aka cri-cri) children's classic, "negrito bailarín." see video below:

in the following days of conversations among the scholars present at that summer's institute, minstrelsy and blackface were words often used to describe what they saw. while some knew who memín pinguín was, because they had grown up reading his historietas ("comic books") or because of the "stamp controversy" a year before, some were unfamiliar with his 'stamp' in mexican cultural production. still one of the operative words to describe what had happened was "stereotype." this entry is but a signal to a much-needed intervention and is but a work in progress. and here i'd want to join the ranks of dr. nericcio, and would like to attempt to unpack the intricacies of doing transnational academic work on cultural and racial stereotypes. it's one of my tasks at hand for the upcoming months, if not years.

posdata: i should have said something about smugudrú's dance...

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