Caribe 2000


Material Information

Caribe 2000 definiciones, identidades y culturas regionales y o nacionales = Caribbean 2000 : regional and or national definitions, identities and cultures
Parallel title:
Caribbean 2000
Cover title:
Cuarto Simposio de Caribe 2000, (Con)fusión cultural? performance y performeros transcaribeños
Cultural (con)fusion? transcaribbean performance and performers
Portion of title:
Confusión cultural? performance y performeros
Physical Description:
123 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Caribe 2000 (Organization) -- Simposio, 2001
Fiet, Lowell
Becerra, Janette
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Faculty of Humanities
Caribe 2000, Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras
Place of Publication:
San Juan, P.R
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Popular culture -- Congresses -- West Indies   ( lcsh )
Identity (Psychology) -- Congresses -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Ethnicity -- Congresses -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Language and culture -- Congresses -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Nationalism -- Congresses -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Civilization -- Congresses -- Caribbean Area -- 20th century   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
conference publication   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Puerto Rico


Includes bibliographical references.
English and Spanish.
Statement of Responsibility:
editores, Lowell Fiet, Janette Becerra..

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 48862523
System ID:

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Clarifications and acknowledgments
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
        Page xvi
        Page xvii
        Page xviii
    Part I: Performance and culture
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    Part II: Performance and performing arts
        Page 65
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    Back Matter
        Page 125
        Page 126
    Back Cover
        Page 127
        Page 128
Full Text



Cultural (con)Fusion?: TransCaribbean
Performance and Performers




L(con)Fusi6n cultural?:
'Performance' y performers transcaribeffos

Cultural (con)Fusion?
TransCaribbean Performance and Performers




Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships in the Humanities
College of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus

Jorge S~nchez
George V. Hillyer
JosC Luis Vega
Lowell Fiet

Asistente Editorial:

President Interino, Universidad de Puerto Rico
Rector, Recinto de Rio Piedras
Decano, Facultad de Humanidlades
Director Caribe 2000 / Caribbean 2000

Lowell Fiet, Janette Becerra
David Lizardi

Colaboradores de la edici6n y el simposio: Rafe Dalleo, Sally Everson,
Aileene Alvarez, Salinda Lewis, Javier Enrique Avila

Portada: "Sin titulo" de Daniel Lind Ramos

Caribe 2000 no se responsabiliza por las expresiones vertidas por los autores
en esta publicaci6n. / Caribbean 2000 disclaims responsibility for statements
of either fact or opinion expressed by contributing authors.

ISSN 1060-5533

Publicado por Sargasso/Caribe 2000 Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad
de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Rio Piedras, P.O. Box 23356 UPR Station, San Juan,
PR 00931-3356. Tel. (787) 764-0000 exts. 3828, 3800 Fax: (787) 763-5899.

Copies of Culturall (con)Fusion?: TransCaribbean Performance and Performers,
as well as all previous Caribbean 2000 publications, are on deposit in the Li-
brary of Congress. Filed July 2001.

Clarifications and Acknowledgments

Cultural (con)Fusion: TransCaribbean Performance and Perform-
ers appears nearly a year and a half after its intended publication
date. That delay resulted from a severe and politically-motivated
cut of the University of Puerto Rico's budget for the 1999-2000
fiscal year. Rockefeller Foundation support for Caribbean 2000
ended in August 1999, and the budget cut meant the loss of gradu-
ate research assistants to aid in the edition and publication of
this volume and Sargasso and to participate in the organization of
the fifth annual symposium "Women, Performance, Poetry: Con-
cerning Lorna Goodison" in February 2000.
Cultural (con)Fusion is the fourth and last volume of the Carib-
bean 2000 series that includes re-Definitions -GClobal/National/
Cultural/Personal-- of Caribbean Space (1997), Speaking, Naming,
Belonging: The Interplay of Language and Identity in Caribbean
Cultures (1998), and A Gathering of Players and Poets: Voice and
Performance in Caribbean Cultures (1999). Copies of each are avail-
able through the Caribbean 2000 mailing address. Beginning with
Sargasso 2000: Concerning Lorna Goodison, the Caribbean 2000
series and the journal Sargasso will merge as a twice-yearly publi-
cation supported by the Ph.D. program in Caribbean Literature
and Linguistics (in English) at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio
From the outset, Dr. Norman Maldonado of the University of
Puerto Rico and Dr. Tom~s Ybarra Frausto of the Rockefeller Foun-
dation supported my request for the extra year of funding for
Caribbean 2000 that made the Cultural (con Fusion symposium


possible. I am also grateful for th-e support of Drs. George V. Hillyer,
Chancellor, and Josit Luis Vega, Dean of Humanities, of the UPR-
Rio Piedras Campus, and of Ms. Lynn Szwaja of the Rockefeller
Foundation. My most immediate and invaluable collaborators
were Caribbean 2000 staff members Janette Becerra and Salinda
Lewis. Javier Enrique Avila assisted them during the symposium.
Organizing the event would have been impossible without their
Please accept my apologies if someone has been forgotten in
the list of those to thank: Maria Cristina Rodriguez, Brenda
Alejandro, Daniel Lind Ramos, Mario Dennis Rivera, Awilda Ster-
ling, Rafael Trelles, Gradissa Ferndndez, Josi, Alicea, Tony
Gonz~lez, the Agua, Sol y Sereno Theater Collective, the cast of
La leyenda del cemi, Nelson Rivera, Lola Aponte, Rafael Acevedo,
Loretta Collins, Maria Soledad Rodriguez, Reinhard Sander,
Alfonso Rubiano, the Taller de Im~genes cast members, and
Guillermo G6mez-Peha, Roberto Sifuentes, and Sara Shelton Mann.
And especially thank you to the contributors to this volume: Sally
and Richard Price, Felipe Smith, Hal Barton, Ivette Romero, Larry
La Fountain, Vivian Martinez, Rawle Gibbons, Susan Homar, and
Rosa Luisa Marquez. I hope your patience has paid off. The work
of editorial assistants and proofreaders David Lizardi, Rafe Dalleo,
and Sally Everson has been truly appreciated.

Table of Contents

Low~ell Fiet,
"Cultural (con)Fusion?: What does it mean?'" ..................... iii

Part One: Performance and culture

Sally Price &~ Richard Price,
"Beyond the Rainforest" .................... .................. 3

Felipe Smith,
"The Economics of Enchantment: Two Montego Bay,
Jamaica Great House Tours" .................... ................... 21

Holbert Barton,
"A Thousand Soberoos: CICRE and
the Bombazo Movement" ................... ................... 35

Ivette Romero-Cesareo,
El drama del silencio: renacimiento ritual
en la literature caribeha" .................... ..................... 49


Part Two: performance and performing arts

Lawrence La Fountain,
"Creaci6n colectiva y vanguardia
performativa en Puerto Rico: tres casos notables" ........... 67
V/ivian Martinez Tabares,
"Tradici6n, fusion, transgresi6n:
miradas a Danza Abierta" ....................... ........................ 85

Rawle Gibbons,
"'Band Meet Band': Carnival and Text in a
Production of Walcott's Drums and Colours". ...................... 95

Susan Homar,
"Para Leer La Danza Experimental...
iCon-Fusi6n Criolla!" .................................................... 107

Rosa Luisa Mdirquez,
"UPR los 80: Big Brother is Guatchin" .................................. 117

List of Contributors ....................................................... 12 2

Cultural (con)Fusion?: What does it mean?

Lowell Fiet*


Mexican performance artist Guillermo G6mez-Peila was the
principal invited guest artist-lecturer of the fourth annual Carib-
bean 2000 Symposium "Cultural (con)Fusion?: TransCaribbean
Performance and Performers," celebrated in late March 1999.
Along with collaborators Roberto Sifuentes and Sara Shelton
Mann, G6mez-Pefia's presence permeated virtually every aspect
of the gathering. Assisted by Sifuentes, he gave a brilliant key-
note reading to a combined audience of Caribbean 2000 Sympo-
sium/West Indian Literature Conference participants and mem-
bers of the University of Puerto Rico community. The more spec-
tacular The Mexterminator, a performance/installation that united
audience and performers on the stage floor of the University The-
ater, turned out to be the best attended (and most controversial)
event of the five-year history of the Caribbean 2000 proj ect (more
on that later). Impressive local performances contributed to the
symposium as well: work by dancer-performance artist Awilda
Sterling, a comparsa by the Agua, Sol y Sereno theater collective,
and the theater-story La leyenda del cemi directed by Rosa Luisa
Mikrquez are treated in-depth by Lawrence La Fountain's article
later in this volume.

*University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras


"Cultural (con)Fusion?: TransCaribbean Performance and Per-
formers" also featured a remarkable gallery exhibit configured as
a performance and later conference space. Organized by Brenda
Alejandro, it featured works by Daniel Lind Ramos, Dennis Mario
Rivera, Jos6 Alicea, Rafael Trelles, Gradissa Fern~ndez, Tony
Gonz~lez-Walker, and Brenda herself. Awilda Sterling danced her
"Vejigante decritpito" in front of the large format Afro-Puerto Rican
paintings of Daniel Lind and Dennis Mario Rivera, and Rivera,
costumed as a vejigante-trickster-diablo, accompanied her on
congas. A group of student performers used Lind's mytho-mysti-
cal paintings and the political lithographs of Josi6 Alicea as back-
grounds for a staged bilingual reading of poems by Barbadian
Kamau Brathwaite and Puerto Rican Rafael Acevedo. The papers
that followed in the next two days, many of which are included
here, reinforced themes already represented in performance,
which brought a special sense of intensity to the use of "perfor-
mance" as a critical and analytical term in literary and cultural
studies. Richard and Sally Price participated as guest speakers.
Two new books by them --Sally and Richard, Maroon Arts: Cul-
tural Vitality in the African Diaspora and Richard, The Colonel and
the Convict: A Story of Colonialism and Resistance in the Carib-
bean- had appeared just months prior to the symposium, which
gave even more immediacy and depth to the proceedings. They
graciously suggested that as their contribution "Souvenirs," Chap-
ter 1 from Maroon Arts, be revised and reprinted here as "Beyond
the Rain Forest." Special thanks to them and Beacon Press. A panel
of papers devoted to the work of Awilda Sterling does not appear.
The authors decided not to submit the work for publication. How-
ever, the La Fountain article does deal extensively with Awilda's
much appreciated contribution to the symposium.
The essay that follows' attempts to provide a context for the
(not uncontested) position of Performance in relation to the Car-
ibbean 2000 Project and Caribbean Cultural Studies in general.

Other versions of portions of this essay have appeared elsewhere in Span-
ish. See "Actuaci6n 'on the line': cuerpos textuales/sexuales", Conjunto, Revista
de teatro latinoamericano 117 (abril-junio 2000): 83-88, and Susan Homar, et al,
"Transformaci6n del espacio cultural de las humanidades: oralidad, instalaci6n y
performance", Actas del simlposio Las Humanidades Hoy, Juan Gelpi, ed. (Facultad
de Humanidades, Universidad de Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, 2000): 209-30.


Over the last few years issues concerning the goals and limits of
performance and performance art have surfaced with increased
frequency at the University of Puerto Rico and within the larger
Puerto Rican artistic-intellectual community. Rather than address
theoretical aspects of this debate, I want to relate four recent in-
stances of body-mediated performance. Three are directly relat-
ed to Caribbean 2000: the first surfaced in April 1996 in the con-
text of an "alternative" theater festival on the UPR-Rio Piedras
Campus sponsored by Caribbean 2000, G6mez-Pefia's The Mex-
terminator (March 1999) is the second, and Deborah Hunt's "I don't
know what this means" was performed at the fifth Caribbean 2000/
Doctoral Studies Symposium "Women, Performance, Poetry: Con-
cerning Lorna Goodison" in February 2000. The fourth instance
reflects Puerto Rico's day-to-day political reality as the World's
oldest colony.

Forgotten bodies

The first instance took place in April 1996 in an open-air band
stand on the University of Puerto Rico campus during an event
titled "S610 Performance," a night of "open space" for young per-
formers that closed a festival of "alternative" Puerto Rican the-
ater -what the Cuban critic Vivian Martinez Tabares would later
name "The 'Other'? Puerto Rican Theater" in issue #106 of the
Latin American theater journal Conjunto.
Shortly after the activity began, two students, a woman and a
man, entered the space where various other performance acts
were already taking place. After standing for a moment, the young
man began to methodically, piece by piece, completely undress
the woman. Finished, and without touching her, he proceeded to
smell her entire body. He then dressed her in the same methodi-
cal fashion. Remember that there are night classes at the Univer-
sity as well as pedestrian and vehicle traffic and the action was in
full and unrestricted view. Now the young woman methodically
and completely undressed the man and smelled his entire body
before dressing him again.
By this time the spectacle, in addition to the regular audience,
had drawn the attention of the university police. For that reason,
everyone present, and me especially as the sponsor of the event,
breathed a little easier when she finished dressing him. Two totally


nude bodies in full view in the middle of the campus. It's art, it's
justifiable, and now it was over. But no. For the next hour or more
they undressed and dressed each other at least eight times, each
marked by a different signifying gesture to frame the action --smell-
ing, gazing, drawing, writing, tracing the nude body of the other.
I couldn't observe all of their actions because I was negotiating
with the now several university policemen who were anxious to
intervene. Public nudity is illegal in Puerto Rico. I managed to con-
vince them to not shut the performance down, but when the event
finally ended, I spent much of the rest of the evening in the campus
police station explaining to the lieutenant in charge why what they
saw was art and why it was important that they not intervene.
The next morning I expected a call from the chancellor asking
for an explanation. No call came. No comment was ever made. In
fact, the episode erased itself from university memory. As far as I
know, there are no photographs or videos of the event and no
reactions by religious or moral groups. Until now, no one has writ-
ten about the act of two students repeatedly undressing and dress-
ing each other in an open space and fully visible not only to their
immediate audience but also to passersby on foot or in cars. Maybe
the incident is apocryphal. It's easier to forget what one doesn't
want to see in the first place. In this case two nude bodies disap-
peared from memory. I think I saw them, if only for an instant.

Transgressive bodies

The bodies of Mexican performance artist Guillermo G6mez-
Peila and his collaborators Roberto Sifuentes and Sara Shelton
Mann are harder to erase from memory. G6mez-Peila's perfor-
mances have received international recognition to the point that
nearly every recent text on performance makes obligatory refer-
ence to his work. He presented the installation/performance The
Mexterminatorin the University Theater at the University of Puerto
Rico on 30 March 1999 to an audience that far surpassed the or-
ganizers' expectations (approximately 1,000 spectators saw the
single performance of Thle Mexterminator).
In very general terms, G6mez-Peila's work establishes a trans-
gressive space that permits the audience member a degree of
participation and freedom of expression not usually possible in
the traditional theater. In this case, the audience moves inside


the space -as if it were in a museum or a gallery-- and the ac-
tors remain in fixed stations -as if they were the paintings or live
sculptures of an installation. The interaction between the per-
former and the spectator occurs as the result of a double provo-
cation that invites the audience to experience possible anxieties
and fantasies about their sexual, ethnic, racial, and/or cultural
identities. The performance's characters are constructed of im-
pacted and sometimes contradictory stereotyped images that
tend to, if not erase, confuse clear and defined gender, genetic,
linguistic, and national differences. Furthermore, violence cuts
transversally through the performance much as it penetrates
nearly every aspect of our everyday life.
The characters play with firearms, suck on the barrels, and in-
vite members of the audience to pull the triggers. From their sta-
tions ---one on the throne of a barber's chair, another on a toilet
stool, and the other crucified-- they invite/provoke abuse, invite/
provoke the interchange of words, positions, articles of clothing,
sexual roles, and ethnic prejudices. For their part, the audience
responds to the opportunity to transgress the normal limits of
daily experience, to pull the trigger, to spit, to hit, to try to se-
duce, to climb on the cross, and to invert gender as if it were a
change of clothing. This all takes place inside an environment
charged, like the characters, by stereotyped cultural images: the
continuous large-screen video projection of images of Mexicans
and Chicanos edited from mass media and Hollywood films, com-
puterized "Power Point" projections, internet hookup, dead chick-
ens hung by their throats dangling over the audience's heads,
and the characters' semi-nudity.
This performance did not disappear entirely. Even though no
theater or art critics arrived from the local newspapers --it seems
that there was little interest on the part of the commercial press
in such goings on-- a general article appeared in Didilogo, the
monthly paper published by the University of Puerto Rico. How-
ever, that article focused on a young woman who supposedly
unbuttoned her blouse to reveal a breast which she then offered
-an act of seduction perhaps- to G6mez-Pefia. I didn't see that
or anything similar -perhaps it is merely another apocryphal
anecdote. Of the many available images, the one that I do most
remember is of another young woman who constructed her own
fantasy environment by donning a red fright wig, strapping on an


artificial penis, and tying herself to the cross. That act of self-
reconstruction, which took place during Holy Week in Catholic
Puerto Rico, strikes me as the kind of transgression/inversion that
the performance was most interested in provoking.

Bodies at risk

In early February 2000 a group of young adults -the painted
faces- created a huge traffic jam during early morning rush hour
on the Las Am~ricas Expressway entering San Juan by climbing a
giant scaffold that sat atop the municipal land fill (i.e. garbage
dump) and just one month earlier had announced the arrival of
the new millennium. Their message, written on large banners stat-
ing "VIEQUES NO SE VENDE" (Vieques is not for sale) and flyers
distributed to the drivers and passengers of cars suspended in
the always flexible time zone of San Juan freeways, was "iNi un
tiro mis! iNi un minute mis! iFuera la marina de guerra de Estados
Unidos de Vieques!" (Not one more bomb, not one more minute,
US Navy out of Vieques.)
Following the tradition of the "Situationists" of the generation
of '68, the environmental and political performer most associated
with this type of social act or gest is Alberto de Jests, better known
in Puerto Rico as "Tito Kayak" because he has challenged war-
ships in his elusive kayak and thereby forced the cancellation of
naval exercises. Tito also scaled the face of a cliff marked for de-
struction, filling the holes drilled to dynamite it, staged a hunger
strike on a painters' platform outside the fourteen or fifteenth
story of a large office building to protest the passage of ships
carrying nuclear waste through the Caribbean, and was one of
the first protesters to invade and occupy the US Navy bombing
range in Vieques after the death of David Sanes, a civil guard killed
by a stray bomb on April 19, 1999.
Every one of Tito's acts requires a superior degree of
athleticism, and every act puts the bodies of Tito and his collabo-
rators in risk of arrest and imprisonment, physical injury, illness,
and death. For example, his companions had to remove him by
force from Monte David on the Vieques bombing range because
his body was covered with sores caused by the high level of ra-
diation that has resulted from the Navy's use of depleted-uranium-
tipped bombs. (Sometimes being a performer means assuming
special responsibilities and their consequences.)


Since May 4, 2000, the date that federal agents arrested and
removed pacific protesters from camps and communities estab-
lished on and near the range, Tito has been arrested on several
occasions. He has chained himself inside a junked tank on the
range, shepherded groups of protesters on Navy-held lands,
climbed on the face of the Stature of Liberty, borne physical abuse
at the hands of federal marshals and Navy personnel, and now
(June 2001) fasts in the "hole" of a federal jail -every movement
observed, registered, and supervised by the voyeuristic gaze of
official spectators-- performing on and for principle. He has yet
to be sentenced for flying the Puerto Rican and Vieques flags from
the spikes of the crown that sits atop the Statue of Liberty. Tito
Kayak's performances have not been sponsored by the Rockefeller
Foundation or, at least not directly, by Caribbean 2000. Yet his
"giving up" his body to represent a belief, a text, serves as a meta-
phor for all performance art, whether politically, culturally, or
aesthetically motivated.

Masked bodies

Deborah Hunt is a mask-maker and performer. Originally from
New Zealand, her masks reflect the aboriginal art of her birth-
place as well as tendencies as varied as the masks or Swaihwd' of
the Salish tribe of Vancouver Island of the Northwest coast of
Canada, Mexican death masks, and the mammoth puppet masks
of Peter Schumann and his Bread and Puppet Theater. On 10 Feb-
ruary 2000, Deborah adapted her street performance "I don't know
what this means" of five distinct androgynous/feminine masks for
a lecture hall presentation that seemed, almost by telepathy, to
represent the themes of the lecture by Canadian critic 3. Edward
Chamberlin that preceded it. That lecture was precisely about
transcultural forms of representation and the arbitrary nature of
distinctions between alphabetic culture and other systems of rep-
resenting cultural meaning and memory. However, Deborah added
a new dimension by introducing a sixth mask: an Afghani burka
that covered her entire body including her eyes -a black shroud
that marks a person -an Afghani woman- as prohibited, socially
absent, and therefore dead as a human being. From under the
burka, the performer revealed two giant hands that, as a punish-
ment for revealing them uncovered, are then amputated and left


with their trails of red blood on the stage. To finish, Deborah raised
a sign that declared "I AM NOT A BODY," which means "I am more
than a body," which means "I am a human being."

Caribbean bodies

All of these performances took place in Puerto Rico, which in
spite of its first-world patina of expressways, skyscrapers, shop-
ping malls, and US-styled, middle-class, car-centered consumer
culture, remains a Caribbean space with a collective sociocultural
personality distinct from those of Europe or North, South, or Cen-
tral America. To the principal features of that personality --colo-
nialism, slavery, racial and cultural hybridity, and diasporic mi-
gration- I want to add the contested terrain of resistance. I refer
particularly to the art of celebrating and performing symbolic acts
of social reintegration even under conditions as oppressive as
the plantation system, sexual domination, and the loss of a sense
of nation-space and identity, native language and culture. I refer
to the attitude of "que no me quiten lo bailao' (they can never
stop me from dancing) or "A~in si me matan, bailo" (I'll keep danc-
ing even if they kill me) that informs creative eruptions of dra-
matic expression that include the incredibly wide variety of syn-
cretic forms derived from indigenous, African, Asian, and Euro-
pean traditions. This might be what Antonio Benitez-Rojo means
when he describes the Caribbean as "performance," as the always
different repetition of repetitions, repeating themselves in the fluid,
non-apocalyptic, chaotic, supersyncretic, polylinguistic "manner"
and specificity of a meta-archipelago that "shares the ideological
projects articulated in Europe only in declamatory terms" (La isla
que se repite 1989: xiii-xxix).
Being human is the notion of being more than just carney hueso,
flesh, blood, bones, and physical needs, more than mere exist-
ence, survival, and procreation. That "more than" is understood
as intellect, speech, feelings, spirit --all uniquely human gifts, until
now at least, and all constituted as texts that can be ---oral or
scribal, plastic or performed- symbolically represented, re-
ceived, and interpreted. However, that exclusive human terrain
of being "more than" mere bodies, also tends to make us forget
that we continue being flesh, bones, and blood -that sack of
physical needs we usually try to hide behind a web of symbolic


representations that begins with the clothes we wear and extends
to our faith in "virtual" experiences and disembodied meanings.
However, as the history of the Caribbean proves, that sense of
textuality has also been too often implicated in determinations
not only of who is "more than" body but also who is less than
human. In that context, it is not difficult to understand post-hu-
manistic visions such as Walter Benjamin's, when he says that
every cultural accomplishment is equally a record of barbarity
and supposed human progress has in reality been a storm of de-
In general, textuality in the sense of "high" culture has not been
a significant factor in the life a region than has already lost too
many lives to the genocide of the indigenous population, to the
Middle Passage, to passbooks and indenture, to hurricanes, the
fight against colonialism, poverty, unemployment, the "migra,"
crime, AIDS, drugs, and domestic violence. Maintaining the body
alive and relatively unscarred through the crisis has always been
more than half the battle. For that reason, perhaps, theoretical
issues do not usually arise inside Caribbean theater discourse.
The urgency of life overwhelms theory as such, and the lack of
confidence in the theoretical -the ideological projects articulated
in Europe and North America-- reflects a stronger belief in the
body, in physical survival, since it is nearly the only thing that
has not been denied and is the history of the majority of the Car-
ibbean population.
Performance, different from formal theater and drama, does
not share the anthropocentrism of textuality, as described by
Benjamin and others. It is "post-humanist" -both sub- and su-
pra-textual- precisely because it makes us think and feel as and
in relation to other bodies. As such, it constitutes a means of re-
organizing human knowledge that is, like the popular syncretic
plays, ceremonies, and rituals of Caribbean societies, pre- and
postmodern at the same time. Characterized by movement, im-
provisation, and process instead of scripted action, by rituals and
ceremonies instead of sequential or chronological events, and by
ludic images instead of logical discourse, performance is a kind of
"retribalization," a rediscovery of local specificities that both in-
corporates and subverts the global market, a collective form of re-
imagining the future through shared physical memories and needs.
Carney hueso, flesh and bone: the living body, which also means


a potentially dying or suffering body, a body at risk, is the first
universal of performance. The second is the line, space, or sepa-
ration between the engaged body of the performer and the
spectatorss. While the performer's body exists inside a space or
environment for a framed period of time, her movements, cer-
emonies, and images remain open to multiple interpretations. If
"putting the body on the line" defines much of the nature of per-
formance, the third universal is the liminal --real or virtual, life
or art?-- or ludic quality of that engagement. These qualities ap-
ply as readily to the four examples above as they do to popular
enactments such the Feast of Santiago in Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico,
raras in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Carnival in Trinidad,
or to many formal acts of theater.
The fourth element --textuality-- tends to elide the body and
its purpose for expression, making the human body a text and
the text or purpose a human body. Performance rediscovers the
body and with it a renewed text of cultural commitment, and it is
on that line that I would situate the acts of "performance art"
created by two students who repeatedly undressed and dressed
each other in an open public space, the polyvalent, transgres-
sive, and carnivalesque space created by Guillermo G6mez-Pefia,
the "Situationist" gests of environmentalist "Tito Kayak" and his
collaborators, and the burka worn by Deborah Hunt that reminds
us how easy it is to treat other human beings as nothing more
than bodies. Each celebrates human physicality and textuality.
Within a global discourse dominated by the construction of "vir-
tual" meanings and "distance" technology and learning, the speci-
ficity, locality, and transgressive character of the human body
assumes new shape and dimension. As the expression of corpo-
reality, "performance" and "performance art" seem to hold the
potential for radical and dynamic encounters which, as antidotes
to an electronic media-dominated global market of cultural com-
modities, use virtual technologies as lexifying agents at the same
time that they subvert the syntax of hegemonic technocracy.
Themes such as these are embraced by the volume Cultural
(con)Fusion?: TransCaribbean Performance and Performers drawn
from the 1999 Caribbean 2000 Symposium.

Part One
Performance and Culture

I. Armadillo in purpleheart, carved 1997 in French Guiana for the tourist
trade by Djam (Elefina), one of the first Saramaka women to practice this
quintessentially men's art.

Beyond the Rainforest *

Sally Price & Richard Price**

On the wall of an upscale boutique in Cayenne hangs a hand-
some blond-wood paddle. "Quality reproduction--2500 francs" says
the tag. Next to it, wired to the wall for security, hangs the darkwood
original, an antique studded with brass tacks. The French shop-
keeper declares he wouldn't sell it for all the tea in China.
Several thousand miles to the north, in a dusty museum store-
room on 79th Street and Central Park West, lies another carving of
identical design. It has been there since the late 1920s. The shop-
keeper obligingly detaches both paddles from the wall so the
Saramaka woodcarver who has come in with us can pose for our
camera with one in each hand. (The artist has told us that he's
the one who carved the "original," following a drawing provided
by a schoolteacher from France. That Frenchman, we've realized,
must have copied it from a photograph of the New York museum
paddle that was published in a 1970 art book.) The Saramaka
carver whispers that the blond-wood reproduction was made
by one of his nephews, a young man who provides objects for
the boutique on a regular basis. The shopkeeper looks on, un-
able to understand the language being spoken, but clearly

*This essay is a lightly revised version of Chapter One ("Souvenirs") of
Maroon Arts: Cultural V/itality in the African Diaspora (Boston: Beacon Press,
1999). It is published here with the kind permission of Beacon Press. The pho-
tos, except for those of the authors, were taken by Martha Cooper.
** College of William & Mary and Anses d'Arlet, Martinique


pleased that we seem to be admiring his paddles. And then he
turns to his next customer, a German rocket scientist employed
at the European Space Center, an hour's drive away in the
rainforest, who's interested in purchasing a framed butterfly.
Thirty years ago, when we began writing about Saramaka Ma-
roons, such a scene would have been unimaginable. Then, Maroons'
lives and concerns were securely anchored in the Suriname
rainforest where, a full century before Emancipation in that Dutch
colony, their ancestors had wrested their freedom from their mas-
ters after a long guerrilla war and had forged vibrant, new Afro-
American cultures. In the 1960s, the six Maroon peoples were still
being referred to by anthropologists as "tribes" and being described
as "states within a state." Running their own political and judicial
affairs, they were known for such exotic practices as polygyny,
oracular divination, spirit possession, body scarification, and an-
cestor worship, as well as distinctive styles of music, dance, and
plastic arts, and countless other aspects of daily life that served as
reminders of their uncompromised heritage of independence. Ma-
roons' dealings with the outside world remained largely limited to
the men's wage-labor trips, aimed at accumulating enough cash to
buy soap, salt, tools, cloth, kerosene, kitchenware, and other ne-
cessities for life back in the villages of the rainforest. Maroons felt
tremendous pride in the accomplishments of their heroic ances-
tors and, on the whole, remained masters of their forest realm.
Over the past three decades, the world of Saramakas and other
Maroon peoples has experienced enormous transformations and
their arts have traveled well beyond the rain forest. While wood-
carvings, textiles, and other products of Maroon artistic creativ-
ity are still part of everyday life in villages strung along the rivers
of the rainforest, they now also appear in souvenir shops with
European clienteles, at crafts fairs in the United States, on festi-
val stages in Amsterdam, Berlin and Washington, in commercial
videos, in museum gift shops, and in living room decors of made-
for-TV movies. Recently, we helped a Saramaka carver set up a
homepage on the Internet.'
During the same period, the discipline of anthropology, includ-
ing the questions its practitioners ask about art and aesthetics,



has also changed dramatically. Gone are the days of describing
discrete, authentic traditions. Welcome, instead, to the explora-
tion of change, movement, hybridization, creolization, negotiated
identities, borderlands, and unstable authenticities. Nor, needless
to say, are the present authors quite the same as the two adven-
turesome anthropologists, then in their early twenties, who ca-
noed up the Suriname River in I966, deep into the heart of the
rainforest, seeking ethnographic knowledge of these proud de-
scendants of rebel slaves.

2. The two adventuresome
anthropologists, 1968

In retrospect, it is not difficult to see how our I960s fieldwork
and the writings based on it reflected the conventions of the day.
Our professional training, which encouraged a panoptical, ency-
clopedic mode of fieldwork in the Malinowskian vein, may have
had its merits. But the preferred modes of analysis (which tended
to see small-scale societies as cultural isolates living outside his-
tory) and reportage (which systematically erased ethnographers
and their relations with the people they studied) also led us to
underplay what we now consider some of the more significant
aspects of life in the rainforest--the nature of individual varia-
tion (in knowledge, skills, beliefs), the extent of Maroons' im-


brication in the global economy, the depth of their historical
consciousness, and other cultural phenomena that today seem
central to an understanding of those societies."
In this retrospective context, our 1980 book, Afro-American Arts
of the Suriname Rain Forest, might be seen as an endpoint. Pro-
duced as an exhibition catalogue, it was our last real attempt to
commit the impossible act of writing encyclopedic ethnography,
trying to represent Maroon culture in the voice of omniscient (and,
for the most part, textually absent) observers. By the time it was
published, we--along with classmates who seem to have been
experiencing similar tensions between the regnant anthropologi-
cal models and what they had encountered "in the field ""-had

SNot that we failed to notice the kinds of things that have, since that time,
taken on a privileged status, both in our own work and that of the discipline
more generally. During our second week in Saramaka territory, more than thirty
years ago, R. P. penned into his notebook,
One of the most striking things about Saramakas is their use of gadgets,
machines, and manufactured items in general. They draw on the whole
world: lots of stuff from West Germany (hunting equipment, fishing line,
lanterns), England (cutlasses), USA (tools, guns, outboards), France (gun-
powder, food), Holland (food, taperecordlers, radios, magazines), Spain
(gunpowder), Red China (cloth, flashlights, batteries), etc. etc. From their
attitude toward such things, I can almost imagine that Saramakas have
always bought, traded, stolen such goods--in no way do I feel that
superduper taperecorders are "spoiling" Saramaka. .. One guy, Abateli,
showed me an electric lightbulb he'd bought. He saidl now he just needed a
car battery and he'd have electric light. Cuys here don't just have ordinary
flashlights--they have ones that blink on and off with flashing red lights.
Yet when, in the late 1970s, we sat down to write a book about Maroon
art, we were still not very far removed from academic concerns of the 1960s,
formed through graduate courses centered on Raymond Firth and A. R.
Radcliffe-Brown, summer fieldwork designed to put Malinowski's theory of
magic to the empirical test, structuralist seminars run by Claude L~vi-
Strauss at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, and classes on ethno-
science in Harvard's Department of Social Relations. And we were only a
few years past our first book-length description of Suriname Maroon society
(R. Price 1975, actually finished in 1969), with its kinship> charts, bar graphs,
and use of capital letters to represent individuals and kin groups. Abateli's
lightbulb, which in a later era would have made a fitting rhetorical com-
panion to the New Guinea flashbulbs that were deconstructed first by Jim
Clifford (1985:173) and then by Marianna Torgovnick (1990:79), was left as
an aside in our notebook along with other untapped first impressions.
SSee, for example, Dening 1980 and Rosaido 1980.


already begun serious engagement with the notion of "partial
truths" (Clifford 1986:7-8). And we had begun writing ethnogra-
phy in which individual, historicized Saramaka voices took cen-
ter stage--people who had traditionally been viewed by scholars
as mythic heroes or as objects of study began to take their places
as teachers, collaborators, and historians in their own right.4
1980 also marked an endpoint for Suriname. In February, the
army seized power in a coup d'6tat, and the country, just five
years into its independence from the Netherlands, began a down-
ward spiral from which it has not yet emerged. Crime, drugs, civil
war, a plummeting economy, and massive deforestation have torn
at the physical, social, and moral landscape. And thousands of
Maroons have taken refuge, most clandestinely, in neighboring
French Guiana, where they attempt to reconstitute the life they
knew along the rivers of the Suriname rainforest. For many of these
Maroon "illegals," the quality of life rises and falls with immigra-
tion policy decisions made in Paris--at the time of our 1997 visit,
a number of men had sent their women back to Suriname because
they couldn't run fast enough when teams of gendarmes raided
their woodcarving stalls and set fire to their houses.
Writing today, even on the subject of the arts, we must bear
special witness to the devastating effects of the fighting that raged
from 1986 to 1992, pitting Maroons against the national army of
Suriname, and bringing back to life many of the horrors of the
eighteenth-century colonial struggles. African medicine
bundles that had lain buried for two hundred years were un-
earthed and carried into battle (along with, apparently, copies
of R. Price 1983, which recounts the eighteenth-century
Saramaka fight for freedom). Ndyuka and Saramaka warriors,
often armed with shotguns, confronted the army's automatic
weapons, tanks, and helicopter gunships dropping napalm.
Whole villages, particularly among the Cottica Ndyuka, were
razed, as soldiers killed hundreds of women and children with
machetes and bullets (see Polim6 and Thoden van Velzen 1988,
R. Price 1995). Some 10,000 Ndyuka refugees were forced to
flee their devastated territory for refugee camps in French Guiana,
where many remained for years.

SSee, for example, R. Price 1983, 1990, S. Price 1993[1984].


On the home front, Ndyuka and Saramaka life has been changed,
perhaps irreparably, with rampant poverty and malnutrition, se-
vere degradation of educational and medical resources, and the
arrival of AIDS and prostitution. The restoration of peace in 1992
came at a price, as the Maroons were pushed into signing a treaty
largely focused on rights to land, minerals, and other natural re-
sources--all of which are now claimed unambiguously by the
Suriname state. That document leaves no doubt that the govern-
ment has embarked on a rigorous program aimed at the legal uni-
fication, uniformization, and ultimately appropriation of its Ma-
roon and Amerindian minorities. Much of the forest for which the
ancestors of the Saramakas and Ndyukas spilled their blood two
hundred years ago is being auctioned off by the national govern-
ment to Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese, Australian, and Brazil-
lan timber corporations (Colchester 1995). We can only hope that
international cooperation and pressure may goad the desperately
poor government of Suriname into finding ways to safeguard the
rights of the Maroons, to preserve their irreplaceable forest re-
sources, and to encourage Maroon economic development (par-
ticularly in terms of much-needed hospitals and schools) while still
respecting the Maroons' autonomy and their right to a separate
identity. But the latest news is grim. Representatives of Chinese
logging companies and Canadian mining enterprises are being flown
by Suriname military helicopters into Saramaka and Ndyuka vil-
lages and telling inhabitants that if they venture into the newly-
granted concessions--which cover most of traditional Saramaka
and Ndyuka territory--they will be shot on sight (see, for example,
Forest Peoples Programme 1998a, 1998b; R. Price 1998).
Meanwhile, those Maroons who, by virtue of having been born
east of the Marowyne and Lawa Rivers, are officially French citi-
zens have been adapting to a pervasive program of francisation,
which disseminates the language and culture of the Hexagon, pro-
vides generous welfare benefits, redefines the nature of Maroon
political leadership and land ownership, encourages consumerism
both in the stores of French Guiana and through European mail
order catalogues, and promotes Maroon visual and performative
arts as part of the cultural patrimony of Overseas France.
During the past dozen years, we have had opportunities to
become acquainted first-hand with Maroons living in eastern
Suriname and in French Guiana. Beginning in 1986, when military


police subjected us to a midnight expulsion from Suriname in the
initial stages of the civil war, our trips to the area have been
through Cayenne rather than Paramaribo, our travel to the inte-
rior has been along the Marowyne River rather than up the
Suriname, and our continuing research on Maroon culture in cen-
tral Suriname has depended on the reports of Saramakas resettled
in French Guiana. Thanks in part to the Bureau du Patrimoine
Ethnologique in Cayenne (which has now become the Mus~e des
Cultures Guyanaises), we have made several "expeditions" to
Aluku, Ndyuka, and Paramaka villages (R. and S. Price 1992), bring-
ing up to date the understandings of eastern Maroon art we had
earlier constructed on the basis of the literature. And the adapta-
tions that Saramaka workers have long made during periods spent
away from their home villages are now something we've seen at
first hand rather than through post-facto reports from afar.
Exposure to Maroons along the Marowyne and in French Guiana
has, however, been meager consolation for the break in our trips
to Suriname. Although the U.S. Embassy was officially informed
that our 1986 expulsion was "an administrative error" and that
we were welcome to return to Suriname whenever we wished,
acquaintances in Paramaribo have counseled caution--initially
for reasons tied to our close association with the populations who
opposed the military government during the civil war, and subse-
quently because of our participation in the prosecution of human
rights abuses committed by the Suriname military, particularly
R. P.'s testimony at a 1992 trial before the Inter-American Court of
Human Rights, in San Jose, Costa Rica. Charged with assessing
reparations to the dependents of seven Saramakas tortured and
murdered by soldiers on New Year's Eve 1987, the international
panel of judges (before whom Suriname had already acknowledged
guilt for the massacre) awarded damages totaling US$ 453,102 to
the victims' families (R. Price 1995).
Our sense of loss at not being able to return to the villages of
the Suriname interior came to a head ten years ago, when
Saramakas honored the memory of their long-time leader, Agbago
Aboikoni. Paramount Chief between 1951 and his death in 1989,
Agbago was the person who first granted us permission to con-
duct research in Saramaka, suggesting that we have a house built
in his natal village a few yards from that of his older sister Naal,
then in her nineties, and within shouting distance of his younger


3. Chief Agbago's coffin on the final journey from village to cemetery.
Gravediggers returning to the village, 1989.

brother, Kala, a formidable presence who held one of the eigh-
teenth-century headman's staffs dating from the original peace
treaties. Our 1980 art book was dedicated to these three siblings,
each of whom was a central figure in our life in Suriname.


Agbago was a revered, deeply knowledgeable elder and leader,
balancing an insistence on respect for the traditional values of his
predecessors with the need for diplomacy during a period of in-
creasing contact between Saramakas and coastal society. Tena-
ciously holding onto life during the civil war, asserting that it was
his duty not to die while arms were still being carried, he finally
relinquished his grip at the age of 102. His exceptional stature was
celebrated by an exceptional funeral, which lasted for many months
and was attended by thousands of mourners. The events were cov-
ered by print and television journalists, and documented in books.s
The next year we viewed selected scenes on a VCR in a ramshackle
house in the Saramaka workers' quarters of Kourou, in the shadow
of the Ariane launch pad.
Our most recent book, Maroon Arts (S. and R. Price 1999) is
intended to introduce a new generation of readers to the arts of
the Maroons, one of the richest, most creative bodies of cultural
expression evolved by the descendants of Africans in the Ameri-
cas. Building on our research of the past thirty-three years, it at-
tempts to convey the artistic spirit that remains alive among
Maroons, despite the hardships they have been experiencing, as
individuals and as communities.
Our presentation of these arts is colored not only by changes
in the world of the Maroons and general developments in our
own academic milieus, but also by specific shifts in anthropologi-
cal approaches to the study of art and history."
A diminished focus on cultural isolates has reoriented under-
standings about the arts of non-Western societies over the past

s The best books are Aboikoni 1997 andi Scholtens et al. 1992. This latter
work, written in Dutch with an extended summary in English, contains over
120 illustrations, many in color. The senior author, anthropologist Ben
Scholtens, was murdered in Paramaribo on the eve of his flight to the Nether-
lands to defend his Ph.D. dissertation.
6 On the whole, these shifts in the academic landlscap~e have been salutary.
At the same time, as Donna Haraway has cautioned, some of the most "per-
suasive and enabling" ideological stances carry serious risks of introducing
"false harmonies" into the stories we tell, precisely because they are so com-
pelling; see Haraway 1989:6 and, for an application of this line of reasoning to
interpretations of Maroon life, S. Price 1994.


two decades. Where scholars once strained to discern the stylis-
tic essences of particular arts in particular cultures, they are
now directing their gaze more frequently toward the doorways
where artistic and aesthetic ideas jostle each other in their pas-
sage from one cultural setting to the next. Where the emphasis
was once on abstracting back from an overlay of modernity to
discover uncorrupted artistic traditions, modernization now lies
at the heart of the enterprise, providing a springboard for ex-
plorations of cultural creativity and self-affirmation. Where the
site of artistic production was once located in lineages of con-
vention within bounded communities, it now spreads into the
global arena, pulling in players from every corner of the world,
from every kind of society, and from every chamber of the
artworld's vast honeycomb. The hierarchies that assigned dis-
tinct roles (and value) to fine and folk, art and craft, primitive
and modern, high and low are giving way to investigations of
these categories' interpenetrations and an insistent
deconstruction of the categories themselves. And sacred terri-
tories of art historical scholarship, where original works framed
by erudite connoisseurship once held pride of place, are being
quietly invaded by a growing interest in copies, fakes, appro-
priations, and derivative forms.
These shifts are being accompanied by a marked, if gradual,
rapprochement between anthropologists and art historians. In
the museum world, the most visible evidence has been an ex-
plosion, over the past decade or two, of exhibitions integrat-
ing anthropological and art historical issues and scholarship,
juxtaposing arts from previously segregated categories, and call-
ing attention to the defining (and redefining) power of display
context. Concern with the ethics of cultural ownership is also
moving center-stage, thanks largely to the rising volume of voices
coming from third- and fourth-world populations, cultural stud-
ies programs, and spectators of the postmodern scene from the
fields of literature, history, philosophy, economics, and politi-
cal science. Rights of interpretation are under lively discussion;
cultural authority is being renegotiated; the privileged status of
long established canons is under attack; and museum acquisi-
tion policies designed to maximize the preservation of data and
the growth of scientific knowledge are being contested by more


ethically-focused debates aimed at responsible de-accessioning
and repatriation.7
Our current perspectives on Maroon art follow in the footsteps
of Primitive Art in Civilized Places (S. Price 1989). Setting Western
ideas concerning "primitive art" in the broader context of art col-
lecting, cultural politics, the legacies of colonialism, and the ide-
ology of connoisseurship, that book argued for the critical reas-
sessment of assumed across-the-board commonalities in the ar-
tistic and aesthetic lives of non-Western peoples. In terms of Ma-
roon arts, this has meant that received wisdom about the sexual
symbolism of Maroon motifs, the view of woodcarving as a tradi-
tion-bound art, the collapsing of individuals into a generic Ma-
roon artist, and even the definition of Maroon art as a primarily
male domain need to be replaced, one by one, with insights and

SContributions to these changes are too myriad to enumerate here, but a
few markers from the past decade and a half may serve to evoke the general
trend. In 1984, prestigious art museums of New York City hosted simultaneous
celebrations of "tribal and modern affinities" in art, Maori art (organized by Maori
curators and inaugurated with ceremonies that included nose-rubbing greetings
between the mayor and Maori elders flown in from New Zealand), Ashanti arti-
facts crafted from gold (for which the mayor returned as ceremonial host, this
time in a massive parade through Central Park), Indian art from the Pacific North-
west, and arts of African adornment. The Center for African Art opened its doors
for the first time, Sotheby's and Christie's both held large, mediatized auctions
of "primitive" art, and the College Art Association decided to add sessions on
anthropological themes to its annual meeting. In 1988 and 1989, the Smithsonian
sponsored major symposia exploring the role of museums in a rapidly evolving
social and cultural environment, and National Public Radio formed the care-
fully multicultural "Working Group on a New American Sensibility" to discuss
the same range of issues for radio. Paris mounted its global-art extravaganza,
"Magiciens de la Terre," so ambitious that it took both the Pompidou Center
and the vast La Villette complex to hold it. Community museums, with vigorous
local participation, sprang up in unprecedented numbers, providing active loci
for grassroots cultural creativity. And a wave of publications, seconding the
collective message of traveling exhibitions, pulled into the mainstream a whole
range of political, economic, and ethical issues that had previously sat at the
margins of art historical concerns--see, for example, Clifford 1988, Cole 1985,
Coombes 1994, Greenfield 1989, Hall and Metcalf 1994, Henderson and Kaeppler
1996, Hiller 1991, Krech 1989, Lippard 1990, Marcus and Myers 1995, Messenger
1989, Michaels 1993, Myers n.d., O'Hanlon 1995, Pearce 1993 and 1995, Phillips
and Steiner 1999, Plattner 1996, Rhodes 1994, Root 1996, Schildkrout and Keim
1990, Steiner 1994, Thomas 1991, Vogel 1988, Ziff and Rao 1997.


observations that emerge from the Maroon case rather than be-
ing built on the backs of truisms about "the primitive artist."
One tired notion we have disputed is the idea that discovering
the "meaning" of art in non-literate societies is a matter of deci-
phering a symbolic code, typically imagined as one in which sex,
fertility, and the supernatural loom large. For many years, the lit-
erature on Maroons was dominated by an obsessive attempt to
unravel the hidden secrets behind artistic motifs (particularly in
woodcarving), each of which was thought to carry a specific
"meaning" which could be "read" by those who learned the sys-
tem. A chapter of our 1980 book called "Iconography and Social
Meaning" attacked this assertion head-on and argued for alterna-
tive understandings of the nature of Maroon art. Citing examples
from the ample supply of cases in which outsiders had cajoled
their Maroon informants into an acceptance of iconographic
interpretations, it attempted to show that the resulting studies
reflected Western stereotypes of "primitive art" more than the
meanings that operated within the artists' communities.
Even today, the vision of Maroon woodcarving as a readable
symbolic system has not completely disappeared from the popu-
lar Western imagination. As recently as 1995, an urban Guyanais
claimed to have unlocked the secrets of "this unknown art" in a
lavishly (if garishly) illustrated coffee-table book which offers (for
$70) "authoritative" readings of woodcarving motifs:

The symmetrical scrolls are the abstract representation of the
body of a pregnant woman, thus symbolizing fertility. (Brunit
The motifs convey the desire to maintain sentimental harmony
within the couple .. and others depict the tongue, a reference
to the importance of communication. (lbid., 32-33)

The 'ants' trail' motif symbolizes agility and pugnacity in the con-
text of work, almost like the [European] fable of the ant. (Ibid., 27)

In short, woodcarving is seen as "the rebus of sexual relations,
which the man gives to the woman to decipher .. a symbolic
language intended to amuse and seduce her" (Brunit 1995:ix).
But serious scholarship on Maroon art has by now shed its
insistence on uncovering meanings of this sort, which frees us to
focus attention more exclusively on the kinds of meaning that the


Maroons themselves consider important. As a result, the tie-ins
between art and social life become central to our task--whether
we're looking at the sentimental associations of woodcarvings
that men present to women as gifts of love, the (often biting) so-
cial commentary implicit in the naming of particular cloth pat-
terns, or the practice of men setting aside a decoratively sewn tex-
tile made by each of their sexual partners as a token of the rela-
tionship to be displayed at their funeral. Maroons also view the
arts as a canvas for the confirmation of gender differences, finding
significance in distinctions between the men's tendency to excel at
rigidly symmetrical geometric designs and the women's to produce
free-form, off-center compositions (see S. Price 1993[1984]).
Our determined pursuit of the art history of the Maroons goes
hand in hand with recent attacks on the popular image of "timeless
primitives" who perpetuate the "age-old traditions" of their an-
cestors. And our insistence on recognizing the individuality of
Maroon artists, which has emerged directly from our understand-
ing of Maroon priorities, is closely bound to the more general
argument that the "anonymity" of "the primitive artist" emerges,
more often than not, in the course of the process by which West-
erners take physical and conceptual possession of the creative
output of identifiable individuals.
A rapprochement between history and anthropology--the flower-
ing of what might be called "ethnographic history"-has also altered
the intellectual landscape. At the time we began our work in Suriname,
most scholars believed that the early history of Maroons (like those
of most nonliterate peoples--"the people without history" in Eric
Wolf's [1982] ironizing phrase) was largely irretrievable and un-
knowable. Since then, it has been shown that oral traditions in these
largely nonliterate societies, when combined with archival resources,
can yield striking pictures of their formative years. Many historical
processes that had hitherto been merely hypothesized could now
be demonstrated. A great deal about the ways enslaved Africans
coming from diverse Old World societies and cultures were able to
form new African American communities has become clear. The de-
velopment in the Americas of new languages, religions, arts, and
social and political institutions, all based in part on complex amal-
gams of diverse African heritages, has begun to become visible.
And in this fashion, maroon studies has helped pioneer the recov-
ery of the ways African American cultures more generally came to be.
A programmatic essay by S. W. Mintz and R. Price, first written in


the early 1970s and published in 1992 as The Birth ofAfrican-Ameri-
can Culture, argued for acknowledgment of the cultural heterogene-
ity of enslaved Africans who arrived in the New World, for the impor-
tance of inter-African cultural exchange as a creative force in the
building of new societies, for an attention to processes of cultural
formation that occurred during the early years of colonization, and
for recognition of the crucial role played by underlying cultural prin-
ciples and assumptions shared by Africans of diverse ethnic ori-
gins. It insisted that Africans and their descendants in the New
World, far from being mere victims, played active and dynamic
roles--despite unspeakably oppressive conditions-in forging
their own destinies. Since that essay first appeared, its proposed
scenarios have been much debated but only infrequently explored
empirically (see Mintz and R. Price 1992[1976]:vii-xiv). Because our
own research over the past three decades has turned Maroon his-
tory and historical consciousness into one of the most fully docu-
mented cases in the literature on non-literate societies, and because
we have cast our ethnographic net over a wide range of cultural
forms (from speech and music to dance and plastic arts), it is now
possible to trace foundational aesthetic undercurrents as they passed
from one site to another, allowing Maroons to produce dynamic, cre-
ative forms of expression on the shoulders of solidly pan-African
aesthetic principles. We have thus been able to demonstrate (in
Maroon Arts) for a specific ethnographic context-Maroon art his-
tory--some of the general suggestions about the study of African
American history first set forth in the Mintz and Price essay.
Encounters with Maroons in a variety of settings over the past
two decades, combined with changing perspectives in the acad-
emy, have put us in a better position to situate the artistic life of
Maroons within processes of globalization (or, perhaps better,
translocality--see Clifford 1997) than when we first began writ-
ing on the subject. And we are now better able to locate the Ma-
roons' remarkable cultural achievements within the broader his-
tory of the Atlantic world.
This combination of fresh perspectives and long-term ethnogra-
phy goes far toward helping us make sense of the often-unpredictable
twists and turns of Maroon cultural history, whether an armadillo
carved for the tourist trade by a Saramaka woman living in French
Guiana (fig. 1) or a Saramaka carver posing with a paddle that is a
copy of a copy of a copy, being sold to European rocket scientists
passing through Cayenne.


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The Economics of Enchantment:
Two Mlontego Bay, Jamaica Great House Tours

Felipe Smith*

It was five years after Ronald Reagan, conqueror of Grenada,
had made the Caribbean safe from Communism that an article
appeared in the Caribbean Travel and Life magazine touting the
restoration of an impressive 18th century mansion in Montego
Bay. The article opens with an anecdote about the night the Ameri-
can owners of the Rose Hall Greathouse were put into something
of a social bind occasioned by an invitation to dine with none
other than Reagan himself at the White House. As it happened,
the owners of the Rose Hall estate, John and Michele Rollins, were
preparing for a huge gala for 200 top executives of the Martin
Marietta Corporation, one of the biggest contractors for the United
States space program. The Rollinses reluctantly turned down the
Reagan invitation, though any such pair of wealthy Republicans,
Washington insiders who had invested 2.5 million dollars in re-
storing the grounds of a former plantation house were precisely
the sort of people who could count on other opportunities to visit
the Reagan White House. Reagan's role in this story, tangential
though it may first appear, underscores the relation between
the late twentieth century ideology of capital and the resur-
rection of plantation homes in recent times as sites of simulta-
neous demystification and remystification of slavery's human and

Tulane University


social costs. Plantation tours intrinsically proclaim that slavery,
the institution that enabled the accumulation of the vast fortunes
by the planter class, can be best appreciated through the preser-
vation of plantation homes as museums, as cultural databanks.
In fact the tours provide rich evidence that the plantations are
not, in fact, defunct social institutions, but have continued a lu-
crative second life as the site for the production of an alternative
cash crop, plantation cultural performance.
Since at least the time of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind,
it has been clear that money is to be made in generating nostalgia
for the slavery past. Mitchell's novel and the subsequent movie
proved that a compelling white female at the center of the planta-
tion drama has a timeless appeal to white audiences. The tours
of the Rose Hall and Greenwood great houses in Montego Bay,
Jamaica, likewise illustrate how both the self-perpetuating "plan-
tation machine" spoken of by Antonio Benitez Rojo and the re-
peating plantation myth generate capital from Jamaican labor
through a variety of official and unofficial performances. Myth is
at the core of the great house mystique, a myth announced by,
but also separable from the design and presentation of the edi-
fice itself.
Situated in the agricultural belt away from the metropolis, the
plantation great house served as a frontier outpost for the colony.
But situated at the top of the colonial economic pyramid, the plan-
tation house must reflect the aristocratic ambitions of the planter
elite. The individual entrusted with the presentation of the plan-
tation house as a repository of metropolitan values in a wilder-
ness location was the plantation mistress. She orchestrated this
mystification of capital--its need to disguise its origins, and its
desire to be recognized as the appropriate reward of virtue and
breeding--by masking the brutality of crop and livestock cultiva-
tion with the exaggerated cultivation of social graces. Her perfor-
mance of this role ensured that she would be venerated in the
plantation belle ideal.
Therefore, although in official presentation the tours of the Rose
Hall and the Greenwood greathouses of Montego Bay cite very
different historical legacies, the appeal of each house fastens ulti-
mately onto the noteworthiness of its 19th century female "mis-
tress." Although Elizabeth Barrett Browning never set foot in
Greenwood and her branch of the Barrett family did not own it,


her reputation as the author of enchanting love poetry invests
the property with the allure of the British landed gentry. The
Barrett family interests, governing vast holdings of over 84,000
acres of land and over 2,000 slaves, entailed many estate houses,
including Cinnamon Hill, a more prepossessing structure than
Greenwood. During the life of Barrett Browning, however, eco-
nomic difficulties, slave uprisings, and finally emancipation in 1833
made the Barrett empire in Jamaica less profitable, and foolish
extravagances by her father, Edward Barrett, caused the family
to lose its own imposing English estate, Hope End in the 1830s.
For Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Jamaica heritage was a pro-
found psychological burden, and she became a fervent abolition-
ist in part to expiate her family's complicity in slavery.
Typically, as Jean Rahier has pointed out, plantation literature
and tours in the American South denigrate the voices and experi-
ences of the descendents of the slaves, making the slave experi-
ence "peripheral if not invisible in the 'official myth of origin"'
(Rahier 3). This marginalization of the slave experience does not
occur in Jamaica, however, due undoubtedly to its overwhelm-
ingly African-descended population. Instead, the Jamaica estates
incorporate black perspectives into the narratives in ways that
do not disturb the core myth. Out of Barrett Browning's record of
abolitionism and the "benevolence" of Greenwood's resident,
Elizabeth's cousin Richard Barrett, has come the Greenwood
estate's narrative of survival intact through the years of violent
assaults on the other great houses of St. James Parish. According
to the official tour narrative, Greenwood endured when other plan-
tations were burned down because the Barretts were such ideal,
caring masters that their slaves would not dream of raising a hand
against them. Thus the verdict by rebellious slaves nearly two
centuries ago that Greenwood should be spared serves now to
validate Greenwood as a site for the preservation of cultural
memory. The Greenwood plantation myth is the myth of slavery
as enlightened institution, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's con-
stant presence in the background of the narrative is a complex
signifier that slavery was an evil institution that, nonetheless,
made possible that particular flowering of Western culture, Love
Sonnets from the Portuguese.
At the other extreme, Rose Hall's appeal lies in the macabre leg-
end of sorcery and murder attributed to its most famous occupant,


Annie Palmer, the so-called "White Witch of Rose Hall." Herbert
de Lisser's fictional version of the Rose Hall legend recounts the
story of how Annie Mary Paterson, a poor Irish girl who grew up
in Haiti in the revolutionary period, swore, like Scarlett O'Hara,
never again to be poor. After her father's death, she became the
prote~gi of a voodoo practitioner, a woman who saved her from
harm in the days of the early black republic of Henri Christophe.
At the age of twenty, Annie left Haiti for Jamaica, where, with her
whiteness in a land of few whites, her beauty in a land of few
white women, and her knowledge of voodoo in a land where only
the Africans had such power, she met and married well above her
station in life to John Palmer, the owner of the Rose Hall estate.
Subsequently, the legend goes, she poisoned John Palmer and
killed two later husbands, each in a different room in the man-
sion, using slaves as accomplices. These accomplices, along with
the slave lovers she was said to have recruited from among her
field hands, were themselves put to death to prevent them from
revealing her secrets. Annie was reputed to have been the cruel-
est slaveowner in Jamaica, and she was said to ride around her
property at night dressed as a man, severely lashing any slaves
whom she caught outside past dark. The basement of Rose Hall
was fitted out as a dungeon, a place where Annie would torture
those who fell afoul of her violent temper. De Lisser's novel tells
how, after winning a contest in black magic against an obeah man,
Annie was strangled on her own bed by the slaves under his con-
trol. Ironically, marauding rebellious slaves did not burn Rose Hall,
either, but for a reason different than the one for which Green-
wood was spared. After the death of the white witch, it was said,
no blacks would go near Rose Hall for over a hundred years, fear-
ing retribution from the roaming spirit of Annie Palmer.
On the surface, then, the narratives performed in these great
house tours could not be more different. If Greenwood narrates
its history as humane slaveholding in the interest of high culture,
Rose Hall promotes itself as the chamber of horrors of slavery in
Jamaica. In keeping with its Enlightenment self-presentation,
Greenwood's tour and promotion emphasize its faithful recreation
of British 18th and 19th century colonial life, complete with arti-
facts of the era that have turned the house into a small museum.
Like plantation tours in the American South, the Greenwood tour
"focuses on objects rather than the social context of plantation


life," referring to slaves only with reference to the objects they
handled (Rahier 4). The tour guides are Jamaicans of African de-
scent, and they wear 18th century plantation attire. As they walk
the property, pausing to identify the styles and periods of all of
the furniture, the Wedgewood china service, and the paintings of
occupants and their contemporaries, they scrupulously point out
which pieces were original to the property and which were added
later. Despite the prominent positioning outside the kitchen of a
number of devices used to capture and torture slaves, the guides
quickly explain that these are generic artifacts of slavery that have
been placed in the Greenwood estate for educational purposes.
Interestingly, the current owners of Greenwood are on the pre-
mises during the tour. They have to be, it seems, because they
live on the property, and may be considered a part of the perfor-
mance. As the guides constantly indicate, the rooms and their
antiques, despite being roped off like a museum to accommodate
the tours, are continuously in use by the live-in owners, Bob and
Ann Betton.
Rose Hall, on the other hand, packages the exotic, the explo-
sively sensational aspects of the plantation experience: bondage,
illicit interracial sex, slave insurrections, obeah. In contrast to
Greenwood's passion for authenticity, the Rose Hall tour is un-
apologetic about the fabricated nature of many aspects of the
exhibit, and where Greenwood emphasizes objects associated
with the house, the Rose Hall tour is very sparse on details about
furniture and the like, emphasizing instead the social relations
typically erased from plantation tours in America. The Rose Hall
dining room, for instance, displays fake plastic food along with
the expensive china, in an awkward attempt to recreate the highly
theatrical lifestyle of the profligate Annie. Current owner Michele
Rollins doesn't deny the shortcuts taken in the restoration pro-
cess, claiming that tourists "cannot distinguish between authen-
tic antiques and Jamaican reproductions" (Jaffe 5). Rollins is right.
She understands that what tourists want from Rose Hall is a Hol-
lywood movie set to enhance the gothic storyline that sells the
tour, not realism. For this reason, the Rose Hall tour uses the de
Lisser novel as the foundation of its narrative, despite other pub-
lished accounts of the Rose Hall history that dispute de Lisser's
details as basic as how many husbands Annie Palmer actually
had. It turns out that Annie was married only once, but you'd


never know this from the Rose Hall tour, because the legend of
her murdered husbands as told in the novel is more marketable
than the facts.
Thus the tour guides do not wear period costumes, but uni-
forms comparable to those used by theater ushers. Authenticity
is for the Barrett estate. Always conscious that they are being
performed for, the tourists fall into the spirit of the production,
ooh-ing and ahh-ing on cue whenever the guides would go into
one of their scripted moments of audience participation. Still, not
a few visitors, especially the children, were sufficiently alarmed
to refuse to enter certain rooms. "Gentlemen, how would YOU
like to spend an evening here in the room where Annie Palmer
killed her second husband?" asked our guide with forced enthusi-
asm waiting for the collective "No way!" of the male contingent
of the tour group. "Some say when they take pictures of the mir-
ror in this room, they can see the ghostly image of a woman re-
flected in the glass," she continued. "Many of our visitors have
sent us pictures of this ghost, which you can see downstairs in
our gift shop. Ladies and gentlemen, if you take a picture and it
shows a ghost of the Rose Hall estate, please send it to us so that
we can display it here for those who do not believe." Unlike the
Greenwood tour's rather blas6 references to its gift shop housed
in a former stable area, the Rose Hall gift shop is in the dungeon
area of the basement, and caters to the exotic appeal of its found-
ing legend with Rose Hall rum and White Witch perfume.
The marketing of Rose Hall is intense, with several books and
products available under the "white witch" logo, many items im-
printed with the photograph of the Rose Hall great house, and an
internet site that contains other promotional data. This commer-
cial development of a folk legend about a plantation house mir-
rors the general trend in Jamaican tourism of modeling vacation
packages on the myth of the plantation lifestyle. The modern,
all-inclusive resort concept derives from the myth of plantation
abundance and displacement of labor onto the "native popula-
tion," as increasingly, what constitutes the ideal getaway for
middle income tourists is the intensification of the leisure mode
heavily promoted by these resorts. As Jessica Adams has noted,
"Plantation tours create the impression that work is not rel-
evant to plantation life; indeed, the point of the plantation's sta-
tus as tourist attraction lies in its ability to enable an escape


from mundane cares." Not surprisingly, the Rollinses, in addition
to Rose Hall, own the Wyndham Rose Hall hotel complex and the
Montego Bay Holiday Inn Resort. The great house tours are heavily
promoted at these resorts, not simply because there is an assump-
tion that guests will be interested in such local attractions for the
sake of novelty, but also, I feel, because the myth of the great
house's leisurely lifestyle recommends and reinforces the mind-set
of mastery promoted by the resorts and vice-versa. The popular-
ity of the all-inclusive concept features unlimited food, drink and
entertainment in the hotel complex, the objective being to fur-
ther distance the consumer from consciousness of his/her own
economic investment in the experience by eliminating the need
to reach constantly for one's wallet. The marketing insight here is
that for a bit extra up front, ordinary people can luxuriate in the
feeling of effortless mastery, bringing them ever closer to the plan-
tation ideal that these resorts deliberately evoke. With an army
of dark attendants scurrying to meet one's every need, one can
forget one's own wage-earner status and become momentarily a
pampered member of the leisure class.
This mystification of the plantation experience as a paradise,
as a worker's holiday, comes with residual bonuses in the capital-
ist development scheme. Owners of such enterprises consider
themselves local heroes for "rescuing" both history and the na-
tional economy from a state of disrepair. Jaffe's article, for instance,
congratulates the Rollinses for "philanthropic efforts [which] have
given hundreds of Jamaicans jobs, homes and education" (2).
"Even now," Michele Rollins explains, "there's almost nowhere
we can go on Jamaica where people don't say, 'Sir John, I worked
for you at that hotel,' or 'You gave my father a job."' Michele Rollins
brags that in the eighties, her husband had built half the hotel
rooms in Montego Bay. Her version of the facts is the perfect ex-
position of "trickle down" voodoo economics in the Reagan eight-
ies, disguising the exploitation of the island's high unemployment
through tourist industry expansion as a form of "philanthropy."
To better gauge Rollins's mystification of the dominant role
that low-wage tourist sector employment plays in contempo-
rary Jamaica, some background data is necessary. As of 1996,
the per capital income in Jamaica in American dollars was $3,660.
The inflation rate, however, was 17%, with 16% unemployment.
Tourism accounted for twice as much of the GNP as did either


industry or agriculture. The recent resurgence in tourism, keyed
by the "Come Back to Jamaica" campaign, has created a base of
1,000,000 tourists per year, which, when compared to Jamaica's
own 2.5 million population means that in any given year, there is
one tourist to each 2.5 Jamaicans. The heavy reliance on tourism
assures that Jamaican youth will have limited employment op-
tions outside of the tourist industry, whatever their level of edu-
cation. This last grim fact was born out over and over on my re-
cent visit to Jamaica. Hundreds of young Jamaicans at the Holi-
day Inn and Wyndham Rose Hall resorts wore the uniforms of
service in capacities of busmen, waiters, desk clerks, tour guides,
bellhops, and drivers, At the Wyndham resort, my wife and I no-
ticed an interesting phenomenon. No one who worked in a ser-
vice capacity seemed to be older than his or her late twenties.
My initial reaction was that this age bias was based in resort aes-
thetics: young, energetic employees simply create a more appeal-
ing ambiance for the chic resort. Consider that in Terry McMillan's
How Stella Got Her Groove Back, the youth culture celebrated in
the Jamaican resort nudges Stella toward a man twenty years
younger than herself.
Upon asking several employees if appearance dictated the age
policy for employees, they did not deny it, but pointed as well to
a more fundamental economic motive. The hotels simply would
not keep any employees around long enough for them to collect
benefits. They indicated that the managers would seize upon the
first hint of dereliction to dismiss a worker with seniority rather
than pay higher wages with benefits, and so the only way to win
the game they had to play was to work overtime while they were
young and accumulate as much as they could for the uncertain
years ahead. Michele Rollins's self-congratulation over her
husband's single-handed revival of Montego Bay's economy must
be examined with this qualification, then: while the plantations
held slaves for life at hard labor, the new plantation-style resorts
maintain their workers only during their most productive and low-
est earning years, only to turn them loose into the unofficial
economy of the new plantation system.
The stories of Shaggy, Aggie, and Miranda illustrate the uses of
enchantment in the Jamaican plantation tours and the "voodoo
economics" governing the resort industries. Shaggy was the tour
company's "No Problem" specialist at the Montego Bay airport.


He dropped off luggage for dozens of passengers to their buses,
negotiated with bus drivers, and ordered other porters here and
there. Then there was Miranda, representing all of the tour guides
we met. College educated, her official investment in her national
history and culture was in packaging it for tourist consumption.
Every bus, every tourist destination had its Mirandas, who di-
rected the less well- educated Shaggies to the most effective means
of pleasing the paying customers.
Finally, there was the compelling figure of Aggie. This is not his
actual name, but there is something significant about the fact that
he wore a baseball cap with the Texas A&M logo, which theoreti-
cally makes him an "Aggie," as in the nickname derived from the
Agricultural & Mechanical curriculum of the college. Although
Aggie was not an agricultural worker, neither was he really out-
side the realm of the plantation and resort economies. He only
appeared to be, in one of many mystifications of the tourist
economy. Unemployed, Aggie labored as an unofficial tour guide,
a pilot, Miranda's uneducated twin, suggesting that one reason
for the large numbers of official tour guides was the discourage-
ment of pilots like Aggie picking up tourists on the open roads.
My wife and I were on our way to the Rose Hall great house, which,
because of its proximity to the Wyndham Resort, we decided we
could walk to, when in the way of the skilled pilots, Aggie simply
began walking in our direction, starting up a general conversa-
tion. "Are you all heading to the Rose Hall great house?" he be-
gan. "Well, I must tell you the story of the White Witch of Rose
Hall." The story that unfolded was more wonderful than any we
could have hoped to hear in the official tour, and it showed that
even if Aggie had some of his facts wrong, he had grasped the
core of the great house appeal, the public's appetite for an identi-
fiable mistress at the center of its mythology. "Let me tell you
about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the White Witch of Rose Hall,"
he said. "She was 4 foot 8 inches tall, and she strangle three hus-
band. How she do that? She was a poet, you know, in England, but
she come to Jamaica and she does strangle three husband. Her
husband John Rollins buy it for her, you know. Let me tell you,
nobody don't go near that house for two hundred year."
Aggie's version of the story was in fact a bit less sensational
than the one we heard later in the great house itself, and in some
ways funnier than the deliberate parody of the Rose Hall tour,


"Dat White Witch Name Henny," performed by writer Joan An-
drea Hutchinson.' But for a much more interesting performance,
Aggie got only a disappointing three dollars from me. "I does usu-
ally get five dollar, you know," he said after eyeing the bills, the
only ones I had. The official tour cost fifteen dollars, by contrast,
making Aggie's unofficial narrative, however improvisational, a
great bargain. For in substituting Elizabeth Barrett Browning for
Annie Palmer, Aggie had touched upon something crucial to the
generic plantation narrative. Jessica Adams has suggested that
"the plantation is always a haunted space" because "tourists al-
ways bring with them an expectation (or at least a desire) that
here they will encounter the benign spirits of plantation owners,
conjured by tour guides who perform the role of medium" (Adams
22- 3). Understanding his role, Aggie instinctively substituted a
putatively benign owner for the actual one, but in the process
revealed that Barrett Browning and Annie Palmer were not as dis-
similar as one would suppose. The crucial detail in Aggie's ver-
sion that goes to the heart of the plantation myth is that the mis-
tress is the one for whom the plantation home is caused to be
built, a fact that the poet Barrett Browning understood very well.
According to her biographer Peter Dally, "she was ashamed that
the Barrett wealth was derived from 'blood of the slave' and felt
... that she was cursed because of it" (Dally 46). This early and
enduring feeling of accursedness was in part responsible for Eliza-
beth Barrett Browning's reclusiveness, agoraphobia, anorexia, and
ultimately, her morphine addiction. The point is that the white
"mistress" of these narratives, she for whom the plantation puta-
tively has been built, does not escape slaveownership unscathed.
The absentee mistress who derives wealth from the estate is no
less accursed than the one who ventures into the tropics and loses
her moral compass. Aggie had understood implicitly that Barrett
Browning and Annie Palmer were joined at the hip by the office of

SHutchinson's parody focuses on the pretentiousness of the tour guide,
with malapropisms and mispronunciations galore. Its tone captures precisely
the tour's theatricality. My thanks to Carolyn Cooper for bringing Hutchinson's
work to my attention. Special thanks to Mary Ann Gosser for finding me a
copy of the tape in Jamaica.


This insight enables a final observation. Aggie's narrative of
Rose Hall makes a further substitution in that John Rollins, the
current owner, fills the role of the patriarch who causes the plan-
tation to be built (or in Rollins's case, resurrected) in order to
house the mistress. Aggie's version thus enfolds Michele Rollins
into a triad of women who perform the role of White Witch. A
quick review of Michele Rollins's background reveals the logic of
Aggie's version of the narrative. Born Michele Metrinko, she won
the title of Miss USA in 1964. Turning her back on an acting ca-
reer, she earned a law degree and a masters degree in taxation.
Rollins brags that she was simply too busy being beautiful and
smart to care if men noticed that she was a woman venturing into
what was, in the sixties, a man's world. She became a lawyer for
the Securities and Exchange Commission under Nixon and a De-
partment of Interior Associate Solicitor under Gerald Ford. When
Republicans lost the White House in 1976, Metrinko went to work
for the Sun Oil Company, and then she married millionaire John
Rollins, thirty years her senior, who had once been lieutenant
governor of Delaware. "When [Michael] Manley was flirting with
Communism and the Cubans," she said, her husband lost inter-
est in the Jamaican properties he had bought. It was her own
hard work, she said, that got the operations "in the black." Since
Rollins's work is the marketing of Rose Hall as a tourist destina-
tion, its internet site gives us a window into her thinking. "Today
the house is open to the public for guided tours, incentive groups,
private functions or lavish white gloved service Galas" it tells us.
A later paragraph announces the availability of the house "for
special functions such as weddings, cocktail parties, incentive
functions, dinners and theme events." Quite unexpectedly for a
mansion with a working dungeon, or maybe, quite appropriately
for one, Rollins maximizes her estimated $1.5 million in yearly
tour revenues by cultivating elite corporate events like the Mar-
tin Marietta bash. Who would have thought that people of wealth
and high social station would identify with the story of a cruel
slaveowner who practiced voodoo and killed those who didn't
work hard enough to suit her? And it isn't just the tourists who
identify with Annie Palmer. According to Jaffe: "The Rollinses own
rights to the Annie Palmer screenplay. The problem, laments
Michele, is finding an actress who could handle a role with so
much blood and guts." But clearly Michele is having too much


fun playing Annie Palmer herself in real life to let anyone else
have such a role. She says, "I keep telling John I have hopes of
getting an 18 inch waist back and having a go at it [myself ]."
Rollins's playacting in the role of Annie gives her something in
common with her neighbors, the owners of the Greenwood
greathouse, who are present during the Greenwood tour for, I
think, a specific reason. Ann Betton is of Anglo origin, a native of
Britain in fact, while Bob is a Jamaican of visible African descent.
This is important, I believe, because having an interracial couple
installed in the old Barrett estate signals that the abolitionist spirit
of Elizabeth Barrett Browning still lives on in Greenwood. Simul-
taneously, Michele Rollins presents herself as a one woman labor
force keeping Rose Hall financially solvent by catering parties,
conducting weddings, and hosting corporate incentive events.
Where once plantations cultivated the earth, the social caretaker
function of the neo-plantation mistress has subsumed the exploi-
tation of the land under a broader project of cultural
commodification centered in the myth of the plantation. The eco-
nomics of enchantment in the neo-plantation Caribbean are the
voodoo child of a Reaganomic trickle down capitalism that re-
fuses to trickle. The new workforce of the neo-plantation machine,
whether formally trained like Miranda, officially employed like
Shaggy, or merely positioning themselves like Aggie to profit from
an underground market for Jamaican culture, be it ganja or his-
torical tourism, are youth who find themselves trapped, like their
ancestors before them, in the centrifuge of the plantation.


Works Consulted

Adams, Jessica. "Local Color: Reading the Southern Plantation in Popu-
lar Culture." Paper, 1998.
Dally, Peter, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Psychological Portrait Lon-
don: MacMillan, 1989.
de Lisser, Herbert George. The White Witch of Rosehall. London: E.
Benn, 1929.
Hutchinson, Joan Andrea. "Dat White Witch Name Henny." Dat Bumpy
Head Gal. Kingston, Jamaica: JAHRRO Productions, 1997. Audio
Jaffe, Sharon "People in Paradise: Michele Rollins." Caribbean Travel
and Life Alexandria, Va: Jan/ Feb 1988.
Marks, Jeanette. The Family of the Barrett: A Colonial Romance. New
York: MacMillan, 1938.
Rahier, Jean Muteba and Michael Hawkins. "Gone with the Wind Ver-
sus the Holocaust Metaphor: Louisiana Plantation Narratives in
Black and White." Plantation Society and Race Relations. The Ori-
gins of Inequality. Thomas J. Durant, Jr. and J. David Knottnerus,
eds. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999. 205-220.
Shore, Joseph. In Old St. James (Jamaica): A Book of Parish Chronicles.
John Stewart, ed. Kingston, Jamaica: Aston W. Gardner and Co.,

A Thousand Soberaos:
CICRE and the Bombazo Movement

Halbert Barton*

I. Bomba Dancing Enters the Disco

In March of 1999, an event took place in one of San Juan's swanki-
est discotheques which is bound to shake up the world of Puerto
Rican music and dance. The event was neither announced nor
reported, and it was snuck in after an evening of techno played
by a DJ, but as meek as its entrance was, it was nevertheless a
momentous event -shades of Cortijo y Maelo playing on televi-
sion for the first time on La Taverna India, or Don Rafael Cepeda
performing in the Hotel Condado during a period in the Island's
history when there had never been a presentation of Puerto Rico's
African heritage in a high society ballroom. The recent and con-
temporary history of racism in Puerto Rico since the abolition
of slavery in 1873 has been about the on-going marginalization
of Puerto Rico's Africania, i.e. the denial of any social and con-
temporary value to the aesthetic principles and sources of
memory, knowledge, validation and theory that spring from this
African heritage. The CICRE (Centro de Investigaciones Cul-
tural Raices Eterna) Bombazo Project, spearheaded by the tour-
ing groups Bombazo de Puerto Rico and the insurgent spinoff,

Long Island University Brooklyn


Son del Batey, accomplished what only a short time ago had been

Un baile de bomba en Egipto! La Mecca de los blanquitos y su
gran temple de baile! [A bomba dance in the Egypt Club! The
Mecca of white snobbery and their great temple ballroom!]

The Egipto club, formerly Peggy Sue's, has since taken on yet
another name, but its prime location in the heart of Santurce, La
Parada 18 neighborhood, has not changed and is not far at all, in
fact, from where there had once been a thriving Afro-Caribbean
presence. This area has been undergoing steady gentrification
since the late 50's and early 60's -once there had been a cel-
ebrated Carnaval here, before it was kicked out along with the
kioskos along what is now El Expreso Baldorioty that runs along
the lagoon of the former leper colony called Condado.
After over three hundred years of relative obscurity and
marginalization, bomba dancing has finally hit the mainstream
dancing public, with a vengeance.
At this venue, the CICRE project, the Bombazo movement and
the fledgling bomba group Son del Batey (anchored by Pablo
Rivera, Felipe "Junito" Febres, Omar "Pipo" Sanchez anld Yvan
Francois, and backed up by bomba's greatest young composer
Geraldo Ferrau) accomplished something that Cortijo and Rafael
Cepeda had sowed countless seeds for much of the past five de-
cades but were unable to do in their lifetimes: bring bomb danc-
ing directly to the youth of Puerto Rico without the mediations,
crutches, props, and machineries of folkloric discourse and com-
mercial salsa.
Whereas Cortijo was the first to bring bomba rhythm into the
ballrooms during the mambo craze of the 1950's, the characteris-
tic dance aspect, el reto, which is an integral and driving force of
the music in its traditional setting, got left behind. So for the past
forty years, people have been using son and merengue steps to
dance to bomba in the context of salsa performances by groups
such as El Gran Combo and Willie Colon. For many latin music
lovers, bomba es salsa, whether or not the dance form, baile de
bomba, is present.
And whereas Rafael Cepeda brought bomba dancing (baile de
bomba) to the world over a long illustrious career spanning over


five decades, the dance was presented in the form of a spectacle,
a folkloric display in which the audience is to sit back and admire
the action passively.
The performance by Son de/ Batey at El Egipto was momentous
for personal reasons as well. Several of these prietos de Carolina
and their cohorts had been denied entrance to this club on more
than one occasion. A common racist tactic used by doormen at
the club had been to let in lighter-skin people while telling the
darker-skin ones that they could not enter because it was a "pri-
vate party". Of course, the gatekeepers were counting on these
two categories of people not knowing each other, counting on
them not being neighbors, friends or even family members. Over
the years, many dark-skin Puerto Ricans have been turned away
with this tactic, but it cost them an expensive lawsuit under the
club's previous name, Peggy Sue, hence the name change to Egipto
(a chique yet superficial Afrocentrism), a new beginning for the
owners but with the same mentality stubbornly in place. Nowa-
days, however, they are a little bit more careful. When this same
tactic was tried last year on Son del Batey members, vocal pro-
test in the waiting line was met by a quick adjustment from the
management, "okay, come on in."
Egipto was targeted for just such an intervention not only be-
cause it's widely recognized to be the most popular discotheque
in San Juan, but even more precisely because of its racist history
which is beginning to come to light as more young people from
Carolina (including Claridad reporter Alexis Aquino who initiated
an expose on the problem) have started to compare notes about
their experiences of racism at the club and in Puerto Rico at large.
The highlight of the evening was from a new bomba song com-
posed by the group. It starts off with a familiar reggae beat played
on the barriles ["me dijeron que la bomba se habia muerto, pero
no es la verdad"], followed by a corte/break [babababa pap], a
change of direction, and a plunge into the sied rhythm with the
coro/refrain ["si no te gusta mi bomba, no te gusta mi pais" ].
As Pablo Rivera sang and the chorus responded, the crowd
began dancing madly, if incoherently, the men jumping up and
down and the women throwing in lots of hip swivels. Recogniz-
ing the rhythm as Puerto Rican, a light-skinned woman with long
blond hair shouted "Cortijo!" (in honor of the late king of ball-
room bomba) and began gyrating furiously. By this late hour,


already after 2:00 am, many of the dancers were extremely intoxi-
cated and kept collapsing the soberao (the bomba dance circle).
As they crowded around the drummers (common in rumba par-
ties but a discourtesy to bomba drummers who need eye contact
with the soloists), the bomba dancers in the group gently but firmly
tried to push back the crowd and reestablish the soberao. The
group members then tried to use body language to convey the
rules and protocols of bomba dancing, but this was clearly not
the time and place for a workshop.
But neither was this event a show or an espectdiculo. There
were no special costumes, no set choreography, nothing that
would cater to those expectations where the audience and the
performers are separated.
Nor was it a community bomba dance (bombazo, see below),
where bomba enthusiasts get together and the majority of the
participants know the protocols.
A bombazo had in fact taken place earlier that same evening in
La Rumba de Carolina where dozens of Puerto Rico's best young
bomba dancers and drummers faced off for sweaty duels of cre-
ativity, musical ingenuity, stamina and dexterity in the arts of
drumming and dancing bomba.
In short, the intervention in Egipto was an event where Afro-
Latin dance enthusiasts were reaching out to each other as peers
in the enjoyment of the music but were comically, and somewhat
tragically, unable to find a common ground, a soberao, that would
be acknowledged, understood, supported and respected. For
myself as a bomba educator, it was yet more proof of the need to
take bomba dancing into wider circles of public participation, on
its own terms, before the dancers at a place like Egipto would
understand how to respond.

II. Bomba en Egipto: On the significance of breaking
color lines in Puerto Rico

Despite the existence of racism in Puerto Rico, it is still diffi-
cult to talk about a color line in Puerto Rico because race and
color relations here have a distinctively subtle quality, what Isar
Godreu and Mayra Santos have called its "slippery"' and "exces-
sive" aspects, respectively. Yet the color liness, actually there
are many of them, have been well-documented by scholarly


critics such as Isabelo Zen6n Cruz, Hi~ctor Berm~dez, Palmira Rios,
Manuel Febres and others. One response to the situation has been
to get the civil rights commission involved, an approach which has
had some success and for which there was a conference in March
of 1999 in the Universidad de Puerto Rico de Carolina.
In the world of Puerto Rican popular culture, a parallel and
complementary intervention has been the CICRE Bombazo Project
which has electrified dancers and drummers throughout the Met-
ropolitan Area for much of the past year.
This project takes aim not only at the color line in Puerto Rican
urban dance music culture but also, in doing so, aims at erasing
the barriers between performers and the audience. In the words
of CICRE co-founder Jos6 Emmanuelli, "the bombazos are breaking
the old pattern of the performance on the stage. The music is on
the ground, with the group. We don't want a passive public. The
public gets into it and that's what it is all about" (De Cuba. 1999).

III. History and Background

From 1990 to 1993, when I did my dissertation research on the
complex social status of bomba dancing in Puerto Rico, the expe-
rience was difficult to say the least --information was scarce and
diffuse, performances were sporadic, performers were mostly
reticent, and the general public was in a state of confusion and
ignorance about what constitutes "bomba" (often referred to as
bomba y plena, which is also used as a euphemism for any kind of
drum music, lumping together Cuban rumba, Puerto Rican plena
and Dominican merengue; also confused with the coplas of jibaro
music, or la music de la montana when the chorus shouts
"bomba" following a verse).
During this period I went everywhere looking for bomba. With
each new step that I picked up at Modesto Cepeda's bomba school
in Villa Palmeras, my anticipation grew greater. Everywhere I went
it was reputed to be just around the Barrio Obrero, in
Alto de Cabro, in Santa Rita, in El Alambique de Loiza ... every-
where was rumba, rumba, and more rumba ("estaba la langosta en
su salsa/estaba tan said, que no me la comi...").
Fortunately, I did not give up at that point and abandon the
project, as I continued learning what I could, when I could, and


with whom I could. Working on the basis of an assumption influ-
enced by the hegemony approach to culture (pioneered by
Gramsci and Raymond Williams) I came to understand that what
had made bomba "merely" folkloric (and politically impotent ap-
parently) is that its popular status as something relevant and cen-
tral to Puerto Rican cultural life and a sense of national identity
had been actively suppressed and marginalized through a vari-
ety of means including a generalized phobia about its association
with a demonic underworld full of criminality and witchcraft
(brujeria, "voodoo", etc.). Not long ago, distinguished pleneros
such as Manuel Pizarro were thrown in jail merely for playing their
national music. In a 1998 interview with CICRE, Pizarro explained
that bomb y plena was considered "chuliput" by the authorities,
i.e. of chulos (pimps) and putas (prostitutes), regardless of who
was actually performing it, it was "low class."
In retrospect, no wonder I had such a hard time getting more
acquainted with this genre. What I was able to learn about bomba
during this period was a product of the two major venues for
bomba newcomers -the annual patron saint celebrations of Loiza
at the end of July (where bomba is danced both on stage in the
central plaza and on the street corners of the Las Carreras sec-
tor) and at the first bomba school on the island directed by Modesto
Cepeda, La Escuela de Bomba y Plena Don Rafael Cepeda in Barrio
La Playita of Santurce, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last
year as the primary source of bomb dance education for the gen-
eral public. Yet outside these venues, bomba dancing has been so
scarce as to be virtually nonexistent apart from the presentations
of professional folkloric groups throughout the year (La Familia
Cepeda, Cimiento Puertorriqueilo, Los Hermanos Ayala, and
Paracumb6 as four of the more active and well-known groups).
As I started my search for bomba dancing outside the es-
tablished folkloric arenas, I compared notes with fellow bomba
enthusiasts (mostly young Puerto Ricans born on the island plus
a few who were born on the U.S. mainland --all of whom grew up
outside the inner circles of bomba education) and found that what
we were being directed to by people supposedly in-the-know were
street performances of guaguancd, son, plena, .... in short, any-
thing but bomba. We had been working under the assumption
that just maybe there was some bomba going on that we didn't
know about, but eventually realized that bomba in the early 90's


was not only in a low period (or a state of declineie" according to
cynics), but also that bomba had been subjected to multiple forms
of neglect related to color/class-based rejection and a large-scale
devaluation of African heritage in Puerto Rico, thereby leaving it
always just out of reach of those who might want to go out of
their way to learn more about it and/or embrace it. This exp~eri-
ence and the recognition of the social and historical
marginalization of bombau resulted in a mnonograph onl the comn-
plex social status of bomba( in Puerto Rico (a forthcoming bo~ok
entitled The Druml-DaLnce QChalleng~e: Puerto Ricanr Bombah ( anld So-
cial Color).

IV. A Bombazo is Born

Since the 1993-1996 period when I wrote the dlissertation, many
important developments have taken place in the world of bombra,
most of which are related to the last years of Don Rafael Cepeda
(1914?-1996) and his highly productive twilight as the "patriarch"
of bomnba. From his historic performance at the Q~uincentennial
in 1992, at the newly inaugurated obelisk moinument overlooking
the Atlantic Ocean in Viejo San Juan, to his death in 199!6 follow-
ing the completion of a documentary on bombha in the Cepeda
tradition (produced by ethnomusicologist Roberta Singer),
Cepeda remained quite active while suffering from diabetes and
surrounded by the awareness of family, friends and supporters
that his days were numbered.
In 1994, members of the Carolina-based group Raictes Erernas
(led by the Emmanuelli brothers: Jorge, Josit y Victor) joined up
with Carolina resident Jesus Cepeda who brought along his fa-
ther, Don Rafael, and his crew of friends and family along for a1
neighborhood bomb dance party -a fairly simple idea, but some-
thing which had not happened in recent memory outside Loiza,
i.e. a community dance which is of, by, and for those who enjoy
dancing, drumming and singing bomba. While the Cepedas had
always played bomba, virtually the only family in Puerto Rico in
which bomba is a cradle-to-grave activity in the full richness of
the tradition, the community aspect of the dance (in which all are
invited to participate) had been lost in the Santurce area for quite
some time. (Not to mention the rest of the Islandl: Dufrasne notes
that the last homba dance in the south of Puerto Riico was in Puerta


de Jobos in 1976, and that the last of the great Loiza bomba dances
was around 1982). Yet, in spite of the odds against it, little by little
the idea of bringing back the old-style bomba dances caught fire
among the close-knit world of bomba performers and soon they
began wondering what to call this special activity --something
very new and contemporary yet based on a tradition that is over
300 years old.
After brainstorming on the idea, and musing over alternatives
to the common word for a drum-dance party, rumbda (a Cuban
import which is very popular among Puerto Rican drummers),
Jestis came up with a similar kind of word (from a "big rumba" to
a "big bomba") in a flash of inspiration: "bombazo!". The
Emmanuelli brothers and the Cepedas agreed, these activities
should hereafter be called bombazos, to bring bomba dancing back
(or "promoted," depending on one's location) into the center of
everyday life in Puerto Rico, in the streets, barrios and homes of
people who cherish their musical traditions, as well as to extend
the richness of bomba beyond the relatively narrow confines of
small groups of people who specialize in folkloric bomba as a fam-
ily business. While the bomba had never truly "died" (it went
through a long convalescent period in the loving hands of the
loicerios as well as in the elegant pageantry of the professional
folkloric groups), this little neighborhood bomba party in Caro-
lina in 1994 was the point of conception for the rebirth of bomba
as a popular dance tradition of contemporary significance for
urban Puerto Ricans. Since this time, the bombazos have become
a fairly regular activity in the world of bomba performers, but
1998 certainly had to be a breakthrough year for the emergence
of the bombazos as a vehicle for the expansion of the circles of
appreciation of bomba dancing in the society at large.
Modesto Cepeda's bomba school in Villa Palmeras has sent a
ripple effect out among the general public, having grown each
year to the point where bombazos at the school and at his house
are lively events, well attended, and provide an arena for young
performers to get a taste of what bomba can be like outside the
class and off the stage.
Traditionally bomba performances were community events in
particular regions or neighborhoods in Puerto Rico, but had never
been completely generalized or accepted by the majority of the
population as a national genre. From the 1950's to the 1990's bomba


became almost exclusively a professionalized folkloric genre
where it almost completely lost its popular street identity as a
working class genre of contemporary significance.
In the era of Cortijo, bomba rhythms began to be used in a Latin
ballroom context with Afro-Cuban orchestration (congas instead
of barriles, the addition of timbales, horn section, etc.), and were
heard around the world through the medium of the emerging
"salsa" genre. Much of what popular music lovers know about
bomba is through salsa, as one of the key ingredients in the "sauce"
that has enabled Puerto Ricans to experience salso as their na-
tional genre.
In the salso context, however, the heart and soul of traditional
bomba performance, which is the reto -the improvised dialogue
between the movements of a solo dancer and the beats of the
lead drummer ("the drum-dance challenge") -was left out. To
some extent, bomba movements and the flavor of bomba dancing
became a tacit, latent aspect of Puerto Rican salso dancing (e.g.
notice by contrast how Cubans dance son): bomba makes a dif-
ference in the world of salsa/son dancing through a body language
shaped by percussive marking, also evident in Ismael Rivera's
"percussive" singing style which is derived more from Puerto
Rican bomba sources rather than Cuban rumba sources even when
he is singing a guaguancd.
With the contemporary bombazo movement, bomba is return-
ing to its roots as an art form in which dancers and drummers
challenge each other to synchronize movement and sound in ways
which are fresh, spontaneous, improvised, unpredictable and in-
In the years that I've been studying bomba I've noticed some
extreme contrasts between how bomba is performed and pre-
sented in various contexts. At one pole is the professional folk-
loric mode in which there exists a drum-dance challenge (reto)
which is so smooth, polished, and synchronous that an uniniti-
ated, outside observer would never know what was actually go-
ing on (yet still enjoy the performance for its musicality and col-
orful displays of elegant movements) -there is a superficial ap-
pearance of conventional choreography but the performers them-
selves are engaged in high levels of improvisation and creative
indeterminacy without necessarily letting the audience in on the
"secret." In high society and tourist contexts, they do not have a


vested interest in doing so, for the basic principles of bomba per-
formance run counter to Eurocentric aesthetics.
At the other extreme are the traditional street performances in
Loiza where the challenge aspect is foregrounded, at the center
of the activities --absolute synchrony between sound and move-
ment is sporadic at best.
These two poles of extreme contrast in the ways inl which bom-
ba is performed as presented to the public but are not necessar-
ily contradictory or mutually exclusive. They are linked in such a
way that they conform somewhat to the realms of formal and infor-
mal address: one is not necessarily more "authentic" than the other,
any more than the "tu" (or informal) form of address is more authen-
tic than the other. The main issue here is not what is the most au-
thentic way of dancing or presenting bomba -the issue rather is
the way that relations of social trust/distrust, intimacy/distance
are negotiated in specific local contexts which are crisscrossed by
multiple forms of power relations: Puerto Rico cultural hierar-
chy, not to mention U.S. colonialism and the legacy of slavery.
From the dancer's point of view, what links these two worlds of
bomba performance is the issue of who is dancing for whom -the
question of audience. In professional folkloric contexts, perform-
ers are dancing to entertain and educate the general public about
the value of Puerto Rico's rich heritage of music and dance. In
the street performances in Loiza, people are dancing for each other
and for themselves in such a way that the general public is not
excluded but is just not the main focus -there is no stage, but
rather a gathering circle of fellow dancers and singers. These
two contrasting worlds of bomba performance find their common
ground, common language, common vision, in the contemporary
bombazos which have taken hold of the San Juan Metropolitan
area, from the "family bombazos" of Modesto Cepeda (such as in
the Spring of '98) to the club bombazos which started in July of
'98 at Mango's Cafe in the Punta Las Marias sector of Isla Verde.
In one sense, these bombazos are an entirely new phenomenon
and Puerto Rico's newest dance craze which highlights Puerto
Rico's earliest home-grown art form, over 300 years old.
In another sense, bombazos are not exactly new. If what one
means by "bombazo" is a performance mode in which any num-
ber of people can participate as drummers, dancers, or singers,
at various skill levels in an informal rotation, then bombazos have


been a part of the Loiza scene for many years. What Loiza has
always championed is the idea that the bomba tradition never
stopped --Loiza is known as the one town in Puerto Rico where
bomba has been played continuously throughout this century.
Where the confusion arises is that the Loiza bomba tradition
- which has a distinctive style in which women mark beats with
their hips and feet instead of skirt movements, in which all danc-
ers-male and female-- prefer to dance barefoot (especially in
folkloric stage shows) or in sneakers (in street performances) -
is relatively new in historical terms, according to Emmanuelli, and
is an offshoot of the centuries' old bomba tradition that has taken
on a contemporary flavor all of its own outside the traditional
bomba establishment.
What is perhaps most encouraging, exciting and extraordinary
about the present tour of Bombazo de Puerto Rico as it enters its
second year is that it is bringing together not only participants
from dozens of different performing groups, but also different
performance styles and regional traditions (Loiza, Santurce,
Ponce), professionals and beginners, young and old, men and
women, from various class backgrounds. Benefitting from the
superb musical leadership and outstanding teaching skills of its
director, Josi6 Emmanuelli, CICRE has managed to build a commu-
nity-based cultural research center where the findings, inspired
in part by the successes of Dufrasne's Paracumb6 and Victor
Lopez's Tacuaf~n, are taken directly to the stakeholding public
ala "action research" (Stringer; Horton & Freire). As the Bombazo
movement follows the motto of "each one teach one", a soberao
is created (akin to what Deleuze and Guattari, following Bateson,
call a "plateau of intensity", or what Fred Newman following
Vygotsky calls a "zone of proximal development") whereby new
bomba enthusiasts are drawn into the circle of performance, and
new virtuosos are being created at a rate which promises won-
drous things for the future of Puerto Rican music and dance.


Works Cited

Barton, Halbert. 1995. The Drum-Dance Challenge... Ph.D. thesis.
.1999. "El Espacio Social Como Tambor...". A Gathering of
Poets and Players. Caribbean 2000 Symposium Ill. Universidad de
Puerto Rico.
Cartagena, Juan. 1999. "El Bombazo de Puerto Rico Hits Brooklyn".
Giiiro y Maraca. 3:2:14-16.
De Cuba, Natalia. 1999. "A New Generation Dances to Bomba y Plena".
San Juan Star. 3/26:p.36.
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. 1989. A Thousand Plateaus. Minne-
Dufrasne, J. Emanuel. 1982. Aspects of Homogeneity and Diversity in
Puerto Rican Music... MA thesis. UCLA.
Dufrasne, J. Emanuel. 1985. La homogeneidad de la mdsica caribella:
sobre la mrisic comercialy popularde Puerto Rico. Ph.D. thesis. UCL~A.
Dufrasne, J. Emanuel. 1994. Puerto Rico Tambid'n Tiene Tambd. Rio
Grande: Paracumb6.
Emmanuelli, Jos6. 1999. "El Bombazo". CICRE document.
Ferrer, Melba. 1999. "Bomba Alive and Well". San Juan Star. 6/24.
Gonz~lez, Carolina. 1999. "History of a People in Dance". NY Daily
News. 5/4.
Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Prison Notebooks. NY: International Publish-
ers. 1985. Selections from Cultural Writings. Harvard.
Horton, Myles and Paolo Freire. 1990. We Make the Road by Walking.
Lewis, Gordon. 1983. Main Currents in Caribbean Thought. J. Hopkins.
Newman, Fred and Lois Holzman. 1997. The End of Knowing: A New
Developmental Way of Learning. Routled ge.
Salazar, Norma. 1994. "Gente Joven Creando Conciencia". Diario. 11/10.
Salazar, Norma. 1995. "Juventud qlue danza con bomba y plena". Nueva
Cultura. 1/21.
Salazar, Norma. 1998. "Bombazo huracanado". Claridad. 10/23-29.
Salazar, Norma. 1999. "Rumbo al 2000 con Bomba y Plena". Claridad.


Stringer, Ernest T. 1996. Action Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Torres-Torres, Jaime. 1998. "iExplota la bomba!". El Nuevo Dia 9/20.
Torres-Torres, Jaime. 1999. "iExplota la bomba!". El Nuevo Dia. 2/5.
Vega-Drouet, H~ctor. 1979. Historical and Ethnological Survey on Prob-
able African Origins of the Puerto Rican Bomba, including a De-
scription of Santiago Apdstol. PhD. thesis. Wesleyan U.

El drama del silencio: Renacimiento
ritual en la literatura caribehia

Ivette Romero-Cesareo*

[Women] transcend the dance of
death with a dance of their own.
Mary Ann Gosser Esquilinl

En la mayor parte de textos caribehos que presentan a la mu-
jer como un personaje angustiado, herido o incomplete qlue va
desarroll~ndose hasta convertirse en una presencia integra, res-
petada y poderosa en su comunidad, su poder se basa en una
relaci6n privilegiada con los elements del mundo natural y/o
spiritual. El personaje femenino redimido logra asi establecer
un dominio sobre su propia vida y la de los dem~s. En estos tex-
tos las mujeres Ilegan a un entendimiento de la naturaleza y de la
estera de los muertos (sus antepasados), que les otorga poderes
sobrenaturales y la fuerza para combatir la opresi6n y afirmar
sus derechos y creencias. Por una parte, la identificaci6n y comu-
nicaci6n con la tierra, y por otra, la continuacibn y fortalecimien-
to de las relaciones matrilineales, les permit sobrevivir a las si-
tuaciones mis dificiles.
Gran parte de la literature caribehia escrita por mujeres repre-
senta a unos personajes femeninos que desarrollan estrategias

Marist College
SEn "Marie Chauvet and Edwidge Danticat:D~ramatic Narratives or Haitian
Dacnses Macabres," (78).


excepcionales de supervivencia--por ejemplo, la transmisi6n
de clerto tipo de conocimiento alternative (la magia, hechice-
ria, el don de sanar por medio de hierbas o rituales) para com-
batir todo tipo de adversidad. Muchos de estos personajes fe-
meninos sufren traumas, emocionales o fisicos, y requieren un
process transformative de auto-curaci6n antes de establecerse
como figures extraordinarias con el poder de sanar los males de
la comunidad.' Pero, el element menos explorado de estos tex-
tos es la etapa de preparaci6n que antecede a la obtenci6n de
poderes. Este estado liminal que separa la vida anterior--carac-
terizada por el dolor, la victimizaci6n, o la enfermedad-de la
etapa de renacimiento o florecimiento spiritual, es un estado
de silencio total que se puede describir como una suspension
temporera de la vida.3
Se establece entonces, un process de curacibn que abarca tres
mementos: el primero es darse cuenta de que existe un proble-
ma (este es el memento en que un trauma o conflict Ilega a su
punto culminante); a 6ste le sigue un period de silencio y aisla-
miento (esta fase se interpreta, casi siempre por los mismos per-
sonajes en titrminos negatives, como locura, enajenaci6n, aban-
dono, o hasta zombificaci6n), tal vez la etapa mis important del
process de curaci6n; y el tercero es el memento de renacimiento
y reincorporaci~n a la sociedad, que se celebra de forma comu-
nal. Esta estructura no represent algo particularmente nuevo, y
no es exclusive del mundo de la literature. En la antropologia,
por ejemplo en los trabajos de Victor Turner, se ha estudiado en
gran detalle la liminalidad en ritos de pasaje de clertas sociedades.
En studios sobre teatro y ritual, investigadores como Herbert Blau
y Richard Schechner tambidtn exponen un esquema donde la etapa
del silencio o pausa es necesaria y antecede a la resoluci6n de

2 Mas informacion sobre creencias religiosas y poder en los personajes
femeninos afrocaribehos se encuentra en Ivette Romero-Cesareo, "Afro-Car-
ibbean Belief Systems and Women's Emp~owerment in Pluie et vent sur Tilumbe
Miracle," Anales del Caribe 13/1993-94: 209-224.
3 Este estado se ha descrito como patologia o colapso mental que
constitute una "metbfora social" en el mundo colonizado. Ver Evelyn
O'Callaghan, "Interior Schisms Dramatized: The Treatment of the 'Mad' Woman
in the Works of Some Female Caribbean Novelists" y Gay Wilentz, Healing
Narratives: Women Writers Curing Cultural Dis-ease.


problemas.4 Desde el punto de vista psicoanalitico, C. G. Jung
destaca este mismo tipo de cidlo que define como la pasii~n, la
muerte, y la resurreceisn. Si se piensa en los ritos de iniciaci6n
de las religiones afrocaribeflas, vemos que esta segunda fase de
silencio o muerte simbblica es una parte central del process de
iniciaci6n que, lejos de representar valores negatives, se consti-
tuye como positividad. En su libro Island Possessed (Isla poseida),
la bailarina y antropbloga Katherine Dunham present su inicia-
ci6n al vudii haitiano con una descripci6n de una fase de silencio
en que los iniciados, vestidos de blanco, tienen que permanecer
acostados en la oscuridad durante tres dias, sin comer, beber, ni
moverse esperando el memento de "la manifestaci6n de la pre-
sencia de algunos de los dioses (60). Despubs de la manifestaci6n
esperada, los iniciados se reintegran a la sociedad simbblicamente
con un gran baile de tambores en honor a su renacimiento o, en
palabras de Dunham, "arising" (levantamiento). Maya Deren, otra
antropbloga que tambii~n decide iniciarse, explica en su libro
Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of~aiti (Jinetes divinos:~ los dio-
ses vivos de Haiti), que esta parte de la iniciaci6n, o segundo naci-
miento, imita al nacimiento original en todos los aspects: "El
novicio queda purificado del pasado y de sus posesiones, se hace
inocente, y se coloca de forma embri6nica en la matriz solitaria
de un cuarto oscuro. [. ..] Su meditacicin solitaria es una gesta-
ci6n" (23). Despu~s de esto, surge la persona como reciitn nacida
celebrindose su integraci6n a la nueva familiar. En la santeria existe
una fase de iniciaci6n parecida--el asentamiento del santo--don-
de la persona, vestida de blanco, permanece siete dias sentada
sobre una piedra, durmiendo sobre una estera, sin poder alimen-
tarse a si misma ni tocar nada. Como a un bebi?, se le da de beber
y comer en la boca.s En ambas tradiciones, este process se con-

SVer By Means of Perfonrmance: Intercultural Studies of Theater and Ritual,
eds. Willa Appel y Richard Schechner, Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 1990. Particularmente interesante para este studio es el articulo
de Herbert Blau, "Universal Performance; or Amortizing Play", que establece
tres etapas en la ritualidad--el memento del descubrimiento de un problema
social, una segunda etapa de pausa que sirve de preparaci6n a la resoluci6n
del problema, y la tercera etapa de resolucibn.
s Mis agradecimientos a Hector Delgado (UNEAC, La Habana, Cuba) por
su resume de diversos rituales de la santeria cubana contemporanea.


sidera igual a un renacimiento--se le da un nuevo nombre y la
edad se registra a partir de ese renacer. No todas las tradiciones
afrocaribefias registran estos rituales como process comunita-
rios. En un documental jamaiquino Hlamado Queenie," por ejem-
plo, se entrevista a una mujer dotada en poderes de obeah.7 En
su testimonio, cuenta que antes de establecerse como "obeah
woman", la curandera/hechicera de su comunidad, pasa por una
etapa de impotencia absolute. Inmovilizada completamente, per-
manece tirada en el patio de su casa durante dias a la intemperie,
bajo la lluvia y el sol. Despubs de unos dias de estar en un silen-
cio total, empieza a escuchar unos tambores lejanos que parecen
retumbar en su cabeza hacii~ndose cada vez mis fuertes, y una
especie de corriente de agua que "llena su ser". Al despertar de
esta especie de largo trance se da cuenta de que ha "renacido"
como una persona cambiada y con poderes espirituales para
transformar su entorno. Aunque su process de silencio e
"incubaci6n" de poderes haya sido marcado por la soledad, su
despertar marca un restablecimiento a la comunidad como agen-
te active de cambio social.
Son numerosos los textos literarios que presentan esta transi-
ci6n tripartita de etapas que se podrian resumir como conflict,
silencio, y renacimiento. Algunos ejemplos son It Begins With Tears
(1997) y "Widow's Walk" (1991) de Opal Palmer Adisa, Jane and
Louisa Will Soon Come Home (1980) y Myal (1988) de Erna Brodber,
Beha Lamb de Zee Edgell, y Pluie et vent sur Telumbe Miracle de
Simone Schwarz-Bart (1972), entire tantos otros. Los ejemplos se
tomar~n mayormente del filtimo para ilustrar este process de
transformacidn ritual. Por otra parte, tambidn existe una gran
cantidad de textos en los que las protagonistas quedan estanlca-
das en la etapa intermedia de ruptura silenciosa sin poder esta-
blecer la reestructuraci6n necesaria para proseguir victoriosas
y renovadas-de este tipo de texto podemos mencionar Wide
Sargasso Sea de Jean Rhys, "Corinne, muchacha amable" de
Mayra Montero, Coldre de Marie Chauvet, y dos textos de Myriam

6 QueenRie se encuentra en los archives de la Caleria Nacional de Arte en
Kingston, Jamaica. No hay mas documentaci6n sobre esta pelicula documental.
7 Obeah es un termino que se le da a uno de los sistemas mikgico-religiosos
del Caribe angl6fono. Otros ejemplos son huminal y mlyalism.


Warner-Vieyra, Juletane y Le quimboiseur I'avait dlit. No es acci-
dental el hecho de que en este tipo de relate donde la etapa de
renacimiento queda suspendida o abortada no se present un
element esencial: la conexit~n y solidaridad entire mujeres. Los
personajes no pueden sobrevivir dentro de la 16gica del esquema
patriarcal, pero tampoco pueden reinterpretarlo o reinventarlo
encontrando un mundo alternative con nuevos significados. En
estos textos los personajes femeninos quedan enterrados literal-
mente o metaf6ricamente en el silencio impotente de la
zombificaci6n, la locura, la enfermedad, o la muerte.
Pluie et vent sur T41umbe Miracle (Lluvia y viento sobre Tdiumde
Miracle), ilustra el ciclo de dolor, deconstrucci6n y reconstruc-
ci6n del mundo. La novela se basa en las vidas de tres generacio-
nes de mujeres de Guadeloupe y sus estrategias de superviviencia
--particularmente la transmisi6n de sus conocimientos tradicio-
nales (la magia, la brujeria, el uso de hierbas, la curaci6n, la
metamorfosis). El hilo articulador del texto es el element magico-
religioso qlue provee la fuerza moral y une a estas mujeres, for-
mando una red de apoyo mutuo. De hecho, el element que une a
los miembros de la comunidad se describe en el texto como un
"hilo invisible" que se extiende de una casa a otra y que solamen-
te puede ser percibido por las ancianas. El itnfasis en este hilo
unificador es important ya que sigue una 16gica dentro del es-
quema del imaginario femenino caribeho; uno de los simbolos
mis potentes en este marco es el cord6n umbilical como el ele-
mento qlue une al individual, no s61o a su madre y a todos sus
antepasados, sino tambi~n a la tierra natal, donde la tradici6n
dicta que se entierre el cord6n umbilical de la persona reci~n
nacida y, a veces, a la placenta para que le sirva de punto de refe-
rencia desde su nacimiento hasta su muerte.
T61umbe se siente atada a la tierra que siempre ha cultivado
con sus propias mans y a todas las mujeres de su circulo inme-
diato -su hija adoptive Sonore, su madre Victoire, su abuela
Toussine Lougandor (Reine Sans Nom), la curandera Man Cia, y
su difunta bisabuela Minerve, qlue a su vez sirve de eslab6n en la
cadena de antepasados africanos esclavizados. De todas estas
mujeres, Man Cia, curandera y hechicera poderosa, es la mis ve-
nerada, ya que represent la memorial hist6rica de la comunidad,
Oinica sobreviviente de la E6poca de esclavitud. La transmision de
esta memorial hist6rica se convierte en el element esencial para


la ruptura de los ciclos de opresi6n y para la salvaci6n de los
personajes femeninos. Man Cia, como portavoz de esa memorial,
con la ayuda de todas las mujeres de la comunidad, provee a
T61umibe importantes lecciones de superviviencia.
Todos los conflicts de los cuales renacen los personajes prin-
cipales de Pluie et vent sur Tlumde Miracle quedan enmarcados
por un conflict mayor en la vida de Man Cia -haber sobrevivi-
do los traumas de la esclavitud. Le sigue Toussine, la abuela de
T61umite, que pierde a su hija. Toussine queda destrozada des-
pui~s de ser testigo durante diecislete dias y noches del sufrimiento
atroz y la agonia lenta de su hija, muerta tras una quemadura gra-
ve con aceite hirviendo. Toussine se convierte en reclusa, pasan-
do tres ailos sin dirigir la palabra a nadie, sin arreglarse, dejando
que todo se derrumbe a su alrededor, hasta que decide enfren-
tarse de nuevo a la vida. El barrio entero celebra su resurrec-
ci6n con banquetes y fiestas. Al comentar la transici6n de
Toussine, los vecinos described a la antigua Toussine silenciosa
como "un n~ant" (la nada, un vacio) y la nueva Toussine
autosuficiente como "un pedazo de mundo, un pais entero, una
tremenda negra, una barca, la vela y el viento, porque no su-
cumbi6 a la desdicha" (26). Su regreso a la vida se manifiesta en
sus intentos de reckclar, reformar, y reconectarse con la tierra a
travi~s de su trabajo reproductor: empieza a reconstruir su casa,
a labrar la tierra, y da a luz a una nitia a quien nombra Victoire
(Victoria) como prueba de su regreso victorioso. A su vez, bau-
tiza simb61icamente a Toussine con un nuevo nombre-Rfeine Sans
Nom, Reina Sin Nombre. Reine, que ya ha pasado por la muerte
vertical y la resurrecei6n, predice el future dolor de T61umbe y su
sobrevivencia eventual:

Hija mia, te sentirds como una difunta, tu carne morirs y no sentirds
mis los golpes de cuchillo, y despubs renacerbs, porque si la vida
no fuera bella en el fondo, la tierra estaria despoblada. (143)

Cuando empieza el calvario matrimonial de T61umite, cuyo es-
poso empieza a emborracharse y a maltratarla, Reine es la Onica
que tiene acceso a ella, provey~ndole todo el alivio possible y d~n-
dole batios curativos. Pero seg~n va empeorando su situaci6n,
Tialumibe atraviesa un period de inmovilidad y silencio parecido
al qlue habia sufrido su abuela:


Una noche cal en la nada. Escuchaba y no escuchaba, veia y no
vela, y el viento que pasaba sobre mi encontraba a otros vientos.
. Yo permanecia sentada,... inexistente y I8nguida, y a veces
me dormia bajo un Arbol en un sueflo de burbuja que Ilenaba mi
carne, levant~ndome hacia el cielo. La gente que pasaba me veia
como un fantasma, una aparicibn. (151)

La gente empieza a pensar que es una zombi y se atemorizan.
"Ellos tomaban precauciones conmigo como las que se toman con
espiritus desencarnados," bajando la voz cuando pasaban por su
lado. Puede verse como un toque ir6nico el hecho de que T61umbe
viva en el barrio Fond-Zombi (Valle de los Zombi). El lector podria
interpreter su estado de zombi en el sentido haitiano, como el de
una muerta en vida, desprovista de todo vestigio de personalidad
o voluntad y bajo el control absolute de un amo, como sucede en
el cuento "Corinne, muchacha amable".s Tambii~n se puede ver en
el context de zombificaci6n en sentido figurative, como una mu-
jer colonizada y enajenada. En las novelas de Erna Brodber, obser-
vamos el mismo fen6meno. En Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come
Home, Nellie entra en un estado psic6tico caracterizado por el mie-
do y el aislamiento total que se convierte en catatonia. El persona-
je principal de Myal, Ella, tambi~n pierde la capacidad de estable-
cer contact humane; su condici6n de aislamiento y enajenaci6n
se represent en la obra como un estado de zombificaci6n y pose-
si6n. En estas obras, los personajes femeninos en estado catat6nico
son temidos por su mismo autoaislamiento. En Healing Narratives:
Women Writers Curing Cultural Dis-ease, Gay Wilentz establece la
conexi6n entire los padecimientos de estos personajes caribehos,
todos de origen africano, y las reacciones a estos estados psicol6gi-
cos en la sociedad africana. Citando de un texto antropol6gico, nos
dice: "In Africa, someone who places himself [sic] outside the
community, in one way or another, loses his quality of human being
and becomes a kind of reincarnation of evil spirits, shunned and feared
by all" (41).9 Este es el miedo que le tienen los demis personajes,
particularmente los hombres, a Ti61umbe.

S"Zombi" surge de la palabra angola para decir fantasma, nzumbi; ver
Dany Bebel-Gisler, Ldonora: CHistoire enfouie de la Guadeloupe, Paris: Edition
Seghers, 1985 (308).
9 La cita es de 1. Sow, Anthropological Structures of Madness in Black Africa,
Trans. Joyce Diamanti, New York: International Universities Press, 1980.


En Pluie et vent, los vecinos empiezan a especular sobre la po-
sibilidad de que T61umbe regrese "a la tierra como una mujer de
carne y hueso" ("en chair et en os"). Mientras tanto, ella sigue
tratando de escapar su condici6n humana, imagin~ndose incor-
p6rea para no sentir mas su dolor:

Entonces, yo me acostaba a ras de la tierra y me esforzaba por
disolver mi care, me Ilenaba de burbujas y de repente me sentia
ligera, una pierna me abandonaba y luego un brazo, mi cabeza y
mi cuerpo entero se disipaban en el aire y yo flotaba, volaba sobre
Fond-Zombi de tan alto que me parecia un grano de polen en el
espacio. (153)

Este intent por dejar, al menos temporeramente, el estado cons-
ciente para escapar a la tortura fisica y/o mental se ha representa-
do de diversas formas en la literature caribena contemporanea. En
Coldre (segunda parte de la trilogia de Marie Chauvet), el persona-
je principal, Rose, se sacrifice y soporta una especie de tortura
sexual a mans de un official a cambio de la restituci6n del terruffo
familiar. Para sobrevivir al sufrimiento fisico y mental, Rose se ima-
gina que esta muerta. Segun Mary Ann Gosser Esquilin, Rose al-
canza ese estado de muerte vertical, evitando asi un sentimiento
de culpabilidad, a trav~s de una especie de desdoblamiento:

By pretending she is dead, she reasons that if there is no pleasure,
she cannot be guilty. The doubling allows her to establish a dis-
tance and detach herself, to a certain extent, from her body. [. .. ]
She looks at her two selves, and sees a half that she cannot recog-
nize or tolerate but nevertheless is still a part of her. (85-86)

Rose, sin embargo, no Ilega a trascender ese estadlo y muere
como resultado de su sacrificio. Gosser Esquilin identifica este
desdoblamiento como una estrategia de supervivencia propia-
mente francocaribena, basada en la deidad double de los Marassa,
gemelos divines de la mitologia africana, figures prominentes en
el vudii haitiano. Este desdoblamiento aparece en Pluie et vent
sur Te'lumbe Miracle a trav~s de la methfora que utiliza Man Cia
para aconsejar a T61umbe, "un vrai tambour A deux faces", un
tambor con dos lads, caras, o cueros: "slt una negrita valiente,
deja que la vida pegue, golpee, pero conserve siempre intacto el


otro lado" (62). Esta metifora se repite varias veces en el texto;
por ejemplo, cuando Te1umbe trabaja como empleada dom~stica
para una patrona despiadada, la idea de tener dos pieles le ayuda
a soportar los maltratos: "Yo me escapaba entire sus palabras
como si nadara en el agua m~s clara que existiese, sintiendo so-
bre mi nuca, mis pantorrillas y mis brazos, el viento del este que
los refrescaba, y, felicitindome a mi misma por ser un verdadero
tambor de dos pieles sobre la tierra, segun la expresi6n de Man
Cia, yo le dejaba a la patrona el lado superior, para que le pegara,
y yo quedaba completamente intacta" (94).1o
Cuando, a fuerza de golpes de la vida, deja de funcionar la es-
trategia del tambor, Ti61um~e prefiere imaginarse incorp6rea y
disuelta en el aire. Permanece en este estado liminal, atada a la
tierra uinicamente por los esfuerzos y las voces de las mujeres del
barrio, que pasan por su casa gritando para que ella escuche:

Es clerto Ismhne, hay algo que impide que esta negrita (petite
n~gresse) aterrice, y puede seguir navegando asi por much
tiempo, .. Sin embargo, yo, Adriana, me pego en el pecho y les
digo: esta mujer llegardi a su orilla.
..-Ti61umeie, pequeflo pais querido, que~date entire la hierba,
no necesitas respondernos abora; pero queria decirte una sola
cosa, tu Ilegaras a tu orilla. (162-63)

El silencio y aparente ausencia de T61umbe se ha interpreta-
do como un estado de shock o locura temporera. En mi opi-
ni6n, este silencio es esencial para la sanacion de T61umbe ya
que la eliminaci6n del lenguaje represent la suspension de
una etapa logoc~ntrica. Esto le permit a la mujer salir de la
16gica cultural dada-en el caso de nuestros personajes, de la
16gica patriarcal--para poder entonces re-significar su vida
interior dentro de otros par~metros. Ni los gritos, amenazas,
ni siquiera los golpes continues de su esposo logran despertar
a T61umbe de su trance. La protagonista responded uinicamente
al lenguaje femenino.

'o Para un discusi6n mits amplia sobre la corporeidad y estrategias de
supervivencia, ver la tesis doctoral Witnessing: Women s: Testimonial Narratwue
in the French and Spanish Caribbean, Ivette Romero, Cornell University, 1994.


Ir6nicamente, dos events importantes que tambi~n ayudan a
Ti61umbe a salir de su inmovilidad se basan en el dolor emotional
y fisico. Primero, la llegada de Laetitia, la amante de su esposo, y
su usurpaci6n del lugar de T61umibe en su propio hogar, finalmen-
te la obliga a hablar y a defenders. Luego, su abuela decide hin-
carla con una aguja para qlue vea su sangre y recuerde que ella es
una mujer de carne y hueso y no un espiritu, y asi hacerle recor-
dar su lugar como mujer y parte integral del cuerpo comunitario.
Pero es el esfuerzo comunitario de todas las mujeres del pueblo
lo qlue finalmente despierta a T61umibe de su "ausencia" social.
Cuando T61umE~e decide retomar las riendas de su vida, ha podi-
do librarse de los viejos esquemas y del control masculine qlue la
inmovilizaban. El silencio establece un rompimiento del mundo
simb61ico prescrito anteriormente y deja lugar para reinterpretar
y redefinir el mundo con un lenguaje qlue ya no tiene las mismas
correspondencias de significado. Si pensamos en el scenarioi"
de la vida de nuestra heroina, su etapa de silencio podria definirse,
como lo hacen Nicola Savarese y Eugenio Barba en A Dictionary
of Theatre Anthropology: The Secret Art of the Performer, como una
"pausa-transicin"'. Esta no es una pausa estitica, sino una pausa
fecunda, parte del ritmo de la "actuaci6n" vital de T61umbe. En
t~rminos de ritmo teatral, dicen Barba y Savarese: "The secret of
a rhythm-in-life, like the sea's waves, leaves in the wind, or the
flames of a fire, is found in the pauses. These pauses are not static
stops but transitions, changes between one action and another [.
. .] dynamic silences: energy in time." Los silencios de los perso-
najes femeninos en transici6n constituyen silencios dinimicos,
silencios qlue mantienen una "pulsaci6n" de vida que se esfuerza
por continuar y no permanecer est~tica: "a pulsation which
struggles to continue" (212).
Dentro de la 16gica de la novela, el silencio de Ti61umbe puede
verse como un estado preparatorio para asumir sus poderes es-
pirituales. Como en las religiones afrocaribehias mencionadas
anteriormente, donde la fase del silencio juega un papel impor-
tante en ritos de iniciaci6n, hay muchas otras religiones en qlue
iAsta se consider como etapa previa a un memento de revelaci6n
o preparaci6n para asumir el rol de lider spiritual de una comu-
nidad. Ademis, diferentes estados de trance, posesi6n, o 6xtasis,
se han visto como formas de resistencia. Estos fen6menos se dan
particularmente entire los subyugados y oprimidos, y muy a me-


nudo entire mujeres que sufren de confinamiento y frustraci6n
dom~stica. El antropblogo, I. M. Lewis explore numerosos cultos
de posesi6n donde las mujeres de diversos grupos culturales uti-
lizan la posesi6n, ya sea para escenificar estrategias de protest,
para conseguir cierto grado de libertad, o para obtener favors
materials o emocionales. En muchos casos, las mujeres con aflic-
ciones cr6nicas se unen a un culto de posesi6n para curarse y
eventualmente convertirse ellas mismas en shamanes para po-
der diagnosticar y curar a otros afligidos. Este es el caso de nues-
tro ejemplo literario--T61umbe, quien se sana con la ayuda de
Man Cia, aprende de Asta el arte de curar y luego asume su lugar
en la comunidad. Estudia los secrets del cuerpo humane, de
las hierbas, de los hechizos y despojos; asimismo, aprende a
interpreter los signos de la naturaleza, a leer en los cuerpos
adoloridos, y a re-inventar el lenguaje (a travits de formulas
magicas, oraciones, encantamientos, y prescripciones) para
proveer un vehiculo de sanaci6n. Asi se reincorpora a la comu-
nidad con su dignidad de sobreviviente, ayudando a los demis
y manteniendo vivo un cuerpo de conocimiento qlue se transmi-
te de generaci6n en generacidn.
La obra de Brodber nos present el mismo desarrollo del pro-
ceso de sanaci6n que integra la re-estructuraci6n del lenguaje y
re-conexi6n con la comunidad. En Jane and Louisa, el personaje
que mis se parece a Man Cia, el curandero Baba, ayuda a Nellie a
salir del silencio. Cuando Nellie le pregunta, "I have been talking
aloud. Is that me?", it1 le responded, "Yes. It is you. You have found
your language." Refiri~ndose a esta obra, nos dice Wilentz: "For
sanity's sake, her [Nellie's] healing involves reconnection to the
community from whom she has been estranged" (42)." En los
textos de Brodber tambii~n aparecen los elements magico-reli-
glosos asi como el sentido hist6rico transmitido por los antepa-
sados y familiares como parte de la curaci6n:

Explore la idea de la reconstrucci6n del lenguaje y de los vinculos
comunitarios (y la imposibilidad de la misma en algunos textos) en "Sorcer-
ers, She-devils, and Shipwrecked Women: Writing Religion in French Carib-
bean Literature," Sacred Possessions: V/odou, Santerial, Obeah, and the Carib-
bean, 1997.


In Myal, Ella, who is diseased by the colonial spirit thieves, comes
to health through myalism; and through her healing, she takes
on the potential to become a healer herself. In Louisiana,
Brodber's companion text to Myal, the protagonist, Ella, com-
bines spiritual healing with social activism through a relation-
ship with the ancestors. (51)"

Vemos una estructura parecida al final de la novela Breath, Eyes,
Memory de la escritora haitiana (radicada en Nueva York) Edwidge
Danticat, aunque el ritual liberador queda desprovisto de una
conexi6n propiamente religiosa. El process de regresar a la co-
munidad "original" y establecer una comunicaci6n con el circulo
de mujeres de esa sociedad, en cuyo centro aparece la abuela,
ayuda a Sophie a romper el cidlo del dolor y el silencio. La libera-
ci6n psicol6gica y spiritual de Sophie queda representada por
su didlogo con la abuela, especificamente en la series de pregun-
tas "Ou libi~r6?" (jestis liberada?, jestis curada?, jeres libre?) y
la respuesta "Ou liberty". Como concluye Gosser Esquilin,

When women are able to answer their mothers, "Yes, I am free,
mother!" after unraveling a tale from the past, then the cycle of
silence, self-inflicted guilt and harm will be broken. The voice of
the next generation of daughters will resound loudly and clearly
with messages for rebuilding the nation, but no longer as an ex-
clusive male-inscribed project. (91)

Este es el caso de T61umbe, quien responded finalmente a las
exhortaciones de las mujeres de su comunidad a qlue se ancle a la
tierra, al circulo de sobrevivientes, y al "baile" de la vida.'3
La recuperaci6n y el renacimiento ritual de T61umite se represen-
ta con una especie de auto-bautismo. Despu~s de tres semanas,
surge de su silencio cantando muy fuertemente, se sumerge en el

'2 Brinda Mebta estudia el rol de la mujer como curandera o "shaman" de la
comunidad en "The Shaman Woman, Resistance, and the Power of Transforma-
tion," Sacred Possessions: V/odou, Santeria, Obeah, and the Caribbean, 1997.
'3Tomo la metafora del baile de Mary Ann Gosser Esquilin, quien la utiliza
de manera muy sugerente en su antilis de Coldre y Breath, Eyes, Memory en
"Marie Chauvet and Edwidge Danticat: Dramatic Narratives or Haitian Danses
Macabres," Salrgasso 1999 (76-93).


rio tres veces, y busca a su abuela para que le hable sobre la vida
(167). Como si estuvieran celebrando un nacimiento, la gente del
barrio le trae ofrendas y regales: comida, fruta, hierbas, incienso.
Llegan los tambores y empiezan los festejos y el frenesi del baile.
El baile extitico de T61umEbe corresponde a la explicacibn de Lewis:
"Lo que empieza como enfermedad o una experiencia profunda-
mente turbadora, terminal en 6xtasis; el dolor y el sufrimiento de
la crisis inicial quedan obliterados con la subsiguiente re-evalua-
ci6n como una seal de favor divine" (63). Despuibs del baile
celebratorio y expiatorio de la comunidad, las mujeres empujan
a Tit1umbe hacia el centro del circulo. Esta se queda inm6vil fren-
te a los tambores, consciente del silencio del p~iblico, y luego:

Levantandome el vestido, me puse a girar como un trompo
desviado, la espalda arqueada... con los brazos levantados
tratando de detener los golpes invisibles. De pronto, senti el agua
del tambor derramarse sobre mi coraz6n y darle de nuevo la
vida, primero con pequenas notas homedas, y luego en grandes
oleadas que me mecian y me bendecian mientras yo giraba en
medio del circulo, y el rio corria en mi; y yo saltaba y era Adriana,
y me bajaba y me levantaba, y era Ism~ne, ... yo era Olympe y los
otros, Man Cia y su perro, Filao, Tac-Tac ... Laetitia y ese hombre
que una vez habia amado, yo era el tambor y las mans seguras
de Amboise .. y entonces mis mans se abrian al circulo,
tomando vidas y rehaciitndolas a mi manera, ... y me sentia existir
con todas mis fuerzas, desde la raiz del pelo hasta los dedos de
los pies. (210-11)

El baile de T61umbe frente a los tambores se convierte en una
formal de bautismo por "el agua de los tambores" que la bendice.
Lo mas important de este festejo de consagraci6n es su comu-
ni6n con cada miembro de la comunidad, el sentir qune puede re-
hacer su propia vida y la de los demas, y, masqune nada, la sensa-
ci6n embriagante de existir "desde la cabeza hasta la punta de los
pies." Su danza parece a la misma vez un baile de fertilidad
(cuando se levanta el vestido y arquea la espalda), un baile de
guerra (cuando se defiende de los golpes imaginarios), y un baile
de comuni~n, no sblo con la gente que la rodea, sino con la tierra
en la cual se siente arraigada.


Obras Citadas

Barba, Eugenio and Nicola Savarese. A Dictionary of Theatre
Anthropology: The Secret Art of the Performer. London: Routled ge,
Bitbel-Gisler, Dany. Lionora: L'Histoire enfouie de la Guadeloupe. Paris:
Edition Seghers, 1985.
Blau, Herbert. "Universal Performance; or Amortizing Play." By Means
of Performance: Intercultural Studies of Theater and Ritual, eds.
Willa Appel and Richard Schechner, Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge
University Press, 1990.
Brodber, Erna. Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home. London: New
Beacon Books, 1980.
.Myal. London: New Beacon Books, 1988.
Chauvet, Marie. Fond des ndgres. Port-au-Prince: Editions Henri
Deschamps, 1960.
.Amour, Coldre,et Folie. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1968.
Dunham, Katherine. Island Possessed. Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1969.
Gosser Esquilin, Mary Ann. "Marie Chauvet and Edwige Danticat:
Dramatic Narratives or Haitian 'Danses Macabres'." Sargasso. Ed.
Lowell Fiet. Rio Piedras: University of Puerto Rico, 1999. 76-93.
Lewis, 1. M. Ecstatic Religion: A Study ofShamanism and Spirit Possession.
New York: Routledge, 1989.
Mehta, Brinda. "The Shaman Woman, Resistance, and the Power of
Transformation." Sacred Possessions: Vodou, Santeria, Obeah,
and the Caribbean. Eds. Margarite Fern~ndez Olmos and Lizabeth
Paravisini-Gebert. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997.
Murphy, Joseph M. Santerfa: An African Religion in America. Boston:
Beacon Press, 1988.
O'Callaghan, Evelyn. "Interior Schisms Dramatized: The Treatment of
the 'Mad' Woman in the Works of Some Female Caribbean
Novelists." Out of the Kumbla: Caribbean Women and Literature.
Eds. Carole Boyce Davies and Elaine Savory Fido. Trenton, NJ:
Africa World Press, 1990.
Palmer Adisa, Opal. "Widow's Walk." Green Cane and Juicy Flotsam:
Short Stories by Caribbean Women. Eds. Carmen C. Esteves and


Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert. New Brunswick: Rutgers University
Press, 1991. 142-64.
.It Begins With Tears. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinneman,
Romero-Cesareo, Ivette. "Afro-Caribbean Belief Systems and Women's
Empowerment in Pluie et vent sur Tilumde Miracle." Anales del
Caribe 13/1993-94. 209-224.
."Sorcerers, She-devils, and Shipwrecked Women: Writing
Religion in French Caribbean Literature." Sacred Possessions:
Vodou, Santeria, Obeah, and the Caribbean. Eds. Margarite
Fern~ndez Olmos and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert. New
Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997.
Schechner, Richard and Willa Appel, eds. By Means of Performance:
Intercultural Studies of Theater and Ritual. Cambridge, U. K.:
Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Schwarz-Bart, Simone. Pluie et cent sur Tdlumbe Miracle. Paris: Editions
du Seuil, 1972.
Wilentz, Gay. Healing Narratives: Women Writers Curing Cultural Dis-
ease. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Part Two
Performance and performing arts

Creacion colectiva y vanguardia performativa
en Puerto Rico: tres casos notables

Larry La Fountain-Stokes*

El cuarto encuentro del proyecto Caribe 2000, i(con)Fusidn
cultural?: Performance y performers transcariberios [ 28 al 31 de
marzo de 1999, Recinto de Rio Piedras, Universidad de Puerto
Rico], cont6 con varias intervenciones performativas de gran
valor, incluyendo la notable segunda visit a la isla del mexicano
Guillermo G6mez Peha, quien present junto con Roberto
Sifuentes y Sara Shelton Mann su instalaci6n/diorama The
Mexterminator. Entre las intervenciones de artists puertorrique-
iios, el pliblico espectador pudo presenciar La leyenda del cemi,
dirigida por Rosa Luisa M~rquez; dos piezas de danza de Awilda
Sterling: Solo sobre un tema de Awilda Sterling Duprey y Vejigante
decre'pito/La cultural que patina; y una presentaci6n teatral del
colectivo Agua, Sol y Sereno, Caravana de cojos no consiguid la
papa caliente, dirigida por Pedro Adorno.' Las siguientes paginas
son un esfuerzo por documentary estas piezas en el context de
su process de creadi6n, con itnfasis particular en la naturaleza
colectiva de Aste.
Antes de entrar en el andlisis especifico de cada una de estas
piezas, conviene brevemente elaborar los vinculos que existen

Rutgers University
SDesafortunadamente, no pude ver la pieza de Taller de Im~genes, otro
grupo que se present, asi que no podrit comentar sobre ella.


entire ellas como parte de lo que ha sido identificado por Lowell
Fiet (1997)--aunque con ciertas reservas-como teatro alternati-
co, ti~rmino empleado por otros como Vivian Martinez Tabares y
Lydia Plat6n, y criticado por Nelson Rivera (1999), para hablar
de esta vertiente de la performancia en Puerto Rico. La produc-
ci6n cultural de Mgrquez, Sterling y Adorno compare, en mayor
o menor media, ciertas dificultades y limitaciones del entorno
professional de la isla, tales como la hist6rica falta de recursos
econ6micos, la ausencia de una critical especializada, etc.; gene-
ralmente opera fuera de los espacios comerciales dominantes y
muchas veces no recibe-o, al menos hasta muy recientemente,
no recibi6-el mismo tipo de atenci6n de los medios noticiosos
que las producciones "profesionales". Tambidn se encuentran al
"margen" por no participar de models estiticos de f~cil acceso
para un pliblico masivo acostumbrado a los patrons dominan-
tes de la television, y por muchas veces presentar visions politi-
cas y sociales que cuestionan y retan el status quo. Pero como
bien seilala Rivera, algunos de estos creadores si gozan de cier-
tos privilegios-por ejemplo, el uso del espacio universitario, con
su alto valor de status cultural; multiples viajes al extranjero;
premios de la critical local; o patrocinio del sector de la empresa
privada-lo cual matiza su denominaci6n de alternativeo" como
necesariamente sini~nimo de marginal.
Independientemente de cuin "marginal" o no sean estas crea-
ciones, todas nos ofrecen una visi6n poco conventional de la rea-
lidad puertorriquella; utilizan ti~cnicas teatrales y artisticas
innovadoras en su entorno; dialogan con las mis avanzadas co-
rrientes internacionales; entablan una relaci6n direct con el pui-
blico, al pedir su participaci6n de diferentes maneras; y se carac-
terizan por su fuerte element colectivo, tanto a nivel de
conceptualizaci6n y producci6n como de presentaci6n. Como se-
italan Martinez Tabares y Plat6n, la labor de todos estos
performers esta marcada por su cuidadosa atenci6n al cuerpo y a
la expresi6n corporal. En su obra nunca hay un predominio exclu-
sivo del texto verbal; inclusive, si es que Aste aparece, el mismo se
convierte en uno entire varies aspects que contribuyen a la obra.
El otro vinculo que existe entire los tres tiene m~s que ver con
formaci6n y colaboraci6n. En el caso de Rosa Luisa M~rquez y
Pedro Adorno, hay una linea direct, pues Adorno recibi6 su pri-
mer entrenamiento y experiencia professional comno integrante de


Los Teatreros Ambulantes de Cayey, grupo que M~rquez cre6 junto
con Antonio Martorell en 1985; tanto M~rquez como Adorno han
estudiado con el Bread and Puppet Theater, el cual ha dejado una
profunda e important huella en su producci6n. Y si bien Sterling
nunca ha formado parte de un grupo con los otros dos creadores
boricuas (que yo sepa), si ha hecho colaboraciones, al menos
con M~rquez; ejemplo de esto es su participaci6n como core6grafa
en el montaje de El ledn y la joya de Wole Soyinka qlue M~rquez
dirigi6 en 1989, qlue inclusive cont6 con la participaci6n de los
padres de Awilda, dona Emma Duprey y don Tetelo Sterling, quie-
nes cocinaron para el pbblico espectador.'

Juegos teatrales, subversiones infantiles
y la creaci6n de Borik~n

La reconocida director y teatrera Rosa Luisa Mgrquez, quien
en estos mementos es profesora en el Departamento de Drama
de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, tiene una larga trayectoria de
quehacer teatral, caracterizado por su interns en t~cnicas alter-
nativas y de vanguardia, y por su fuerte compromise politico con
diversas causes locales e internacionales. Tras recibir un docto-
rado en teatro de Michigan State University, estudi6i con el brasi-
lebo Augusto Boal y colabor6 con su Teatro del Oprimido en Rio
de Janeiro y Paris. Tambi~n ha trabajado con el Bread and Puppet
Theater, compaiiia estadounidense dirigida por Peter Schumann,
reconocida mundialmente por su trabajo altamente politizado qlue
incorpora formas de teatro popular y callejero, especialmente el
uso de marionetas gigantes; y con el grupo Yuyachkani de Perli,
colectivo de larga tradici6n liderado por Miguel Rubio, que tra-
baja las diversas manifestaciones de la cultural peruana urbana,
rural y andina a travi~s del uso de miscaras, danzas y m~isica, y
de un muy regimentado entrenamiento corporal. En Puerto Rico,
Mbrquez ha tenido una larga y fructifera colaboraci6n con el ar-
tista pl~stico Antonio Martorell, con quien form6 Los Teatreros

SSu receta de "Caldo Santo" aparece en la p8gina 89 del libro de Mgrquez.
El leain y la joya se present como parte de la celebraci6n del Semmanrio sobre
la perseverancia de las cultures aflricanas en el Calribe en el Anfiteatro Julia de
Burgos de la U.P.R., Recinto de Rio Piedras.


Ambulantes de Cayey. En su libro Brincos y saltos: El juego como
discipline teatral, M~rquez ha recopilado la historic de sus pro-
yectos y colaboraciones y elaborado sus teorias sobre las artes
dramiticas; sus escritos como "relevista" en el peri6dico sema-
nario Claridad durante los aiios 80 tambii~n contribuyeron a di-
fundir sus ideas a un priblico mayor."
La leyenda del cemi, obra presentada en esta ocasi6n, es una
pieza para niihos y adults basada en un cuento de Kalman Barsy
que recibi6 el premio Casa de las Ami~ricas (Cuba) en 1981.4 La
pieza narra la creaci6n del fondo del mar y de la isla de Puerto
Rico, tal como es vista-y provocada-por una series de animals
marines, particularmente unos cangrejitos traviesos; a su vez,
explica la aparici6n de la figure del cemi, icono religioso de los
indios tainos. Mgrquez la mont6 por primera vez en 1982 como
parte de una celebraci6n del premio organizada por la U.P.R. y la
ha Ilevado a diferentes grupos durante los abos como parte de su
repertorio. En 1987, Los Teatreros Ambulantes de Cayey la
retoman, y en 1998 se rehace para "La Semana de Puerto Rico",
auspiciada por Casa de Am~rica en Madrid, y para la Feria Inter-
nacional del Libro en Guadalajara, M~xico, la cual estuvo dedica-
da ese aino a la cultural puertorriquena. La obra cuenta con
escenografia de Oscar Mestey Villamil, un distinguido pintor puer-
torriqueno con una larga tradici6n de colaboraciones teatrales.s
La estructura de la obra es la siguiente: una series de persona-
jes que cumplen el papel de cuenteros narran la historic, aseme-
jandose en su estilo a una maestra en el sal6n de clase. Seguin

Marquez fue una entire siete ensayistas que p~articiparon en una column
titulada Relevo publicada a partir del 1985 en CIlaridald. Dichos articulos fueron
recopilados y publicados en conjunto por Ana Lydia Vega bajo el titulo El
tramo andla. Tambi~n ver entrevista de Marquez con Martinez Tabares para
un recuento de sus producciones mas recientes.
4 Barsy es un escritor y academico argentino que Ileva muchos affos
radicado en Puerto Rico; junto a Mgrquez, fue uno de los "relevistas" de
Claridad. La leyenda del cemni forma parte de su libro Del nacimiento de la isla
de Borik~n y otros maravillosos sucesos (Rio Piedras: Ediciones Huracan, 1983),
que cuenta con ilustraciones de Nora Quintero. Marquez tambi~n ha montado
una representaci6n de su ensayo "La crianza: con la boca es un mamey", que
aparece en El tramo andla, como parte del especticulo Denuncaacalbarl (995).
s Ver Rivera (1997) para un analisis minucioso de las colaboraciones de
Mestey Villamil y otros artists pl~sticos con las artes teatrales en Puerto Rico.


M~rquez, esta estructura de representaci6n surge como influen-
dia del Bread and Puppet Theater. En el centro del scenario, en
frente de una carpa circense azul decorada con el sol, la luna y
muchas estrellas, vemos un marco en forma de pecera gigante
qlue sirve como teatro de marionetas; al pasar las p~ginas, Aste se
asemeja a su vez a un libro, haciendo referencia al format origi-
nal del texto escrito.6 La escenografia tambi~n hace eco de los
piquetes politicos qlue incorporan palabras y dibujos, otra marca
caracteristica del Bread and Puppet. Ademas de estas telas, hay
m6viles y actores/titiriteros en escena, que se valen de una varie-
dad de recursos minimos para lograr efectos marines: por ejem-
plo, los actors transforman sus mans en cangrejos con la ayu-
da de bolitas con elistico tipicamente usadas para agarrar el pelo,
pues las bolitas se convierten en los ojos y los dedos de las ma-
nos sirven como patitas de crusticeo.
La obra se propone establecer un juego entire el texto leido y
visual y no cambiar el texto original-que no fue escrito para tea-
tro-sino dividir la narraci6n por medio de un juego de relevo.
Mkrquez sebala que una constant en su trabajo es siempre cues-
tionar el concept de raza, y por esto el elenco de la pieza es
variado, como manera de subvertir y cuestionar las espectativas
del pliblico. Tambidn se juega con el g~nero sexual: actors mu-
jeres y hombres intercambian los papeles. Asi, el teatro se con-
vierte en un espacio de libertad.
El elenco de la pieza muestra no s610 diversidad racial sino
transcaribeha. La funci6n a la que asisti el 28 de marzo cont6
con la actuaci6n de Carola Garcia (Puerto Rico); Dolores Pedro
(Cuba); Minette Lagares (dominicana criada en Puerto Rico); y
Thaimy Reyes (Puerto Rico). Mgrquez asiduamente fomenta la
diversidad racial del elenco; en este caso, esto se logra pues
Carola es blanca; Dolores, negra; y Minette, mulata oscura. Los
mrisicos, que juegan un papel fundamental en la representaci6n,
fueron Ricardo Soto (percusi6n) y Javier Rodriguez Curet (gui-
tarra); ademis de hacer efectos sonoros que acompanan el de-
sarrollo de la trama, participan con los actors para que el plibli-
co aprenda y cante repetidas veces una canci6n, eje que motiva
la acci6n en escena.

6 Ver fotos de la obra tomadas por Miguel Villafafte en Marquez (66-69).


Durante su largo recorrido, La leyenda del cemf se ha presenta-
do en cientos de escuelas p~blicas y plazas municipales por todo
Puerto Rico, en el Antiguo Cuartel de Ballaj6 (que ahora alberga
el Museo de las Amitricas) y en el Paseo de Diego de Rio Piedras,
centro commercial de la zona universitaria. A esto se le suma su
viaje a M~xico y a Espana, lo cual implica que un sinnuimero de
espectadores a nivel national e international ha visto esta obra.
Los limitados e ingeniosos recursos que emplea hace que la pie-
za sea de f~cil acceso, pues se puede montar en casi cualquier
lugar, hasta de forma casi espontinea. Esta pieza infantil entretie-
ne por igual a niflos y adults; crea una conciencia national y
ecol6gica de una manera amena y divertida; subvierte roles sexua-
les y raciales con gran sutileza; y directamente envuelve al p~bli-
co, haci~ndolo participe director del espectaculo. Es un ejemplo
clave de c6mo hacer teatro popular ingenioso, educative y diver-
tido para un pdblico diverse.

Entre silencios meditados y escandalosas
deconstrucciones afro-antillanas

Awilda Sterling Duprey, distinguida bailarina, core6grafa y ar-
tista pl~stica, present dos piezas de baile como parte de Caribe
2000: Solo sobre un tema de Awilda Sterling Duprey y Vejigante
decrepito/La cultura que patina. Tambii~n fue honrada con diver-
sas ponencias en una sesi6n del congress exclusivamente dedi-
cada a su trabajo.7 Antes de describir las piezas, conviene breve-
mente trazar su carrera artistic.
Oriunda de Barrio Obrero, Awilda Sterling Duprey comenz6> su
entrenamiento de danza afro-antillana con Sylvia del Villar en 1964-
65 en la Universidad de Puerto Rico, apenas un aflo tras haber
comenzado sus studios en esa instituci6n docente. Entre sus
intereses se encontraban explorer las raices de la bomba y plena
y sus toques afroantillanos, los bailes puertorriqueflos y nigerianos,
la poesia de Luis Pali~s Matos y el concept de performance. Se
present inicialmente en espacios como el caf6-teatro La Tierruca

SDicha sesion ("El trabajo y contribucion de Awilda Sterling", Ilevada a
cabo el 30 de marzo de 1999) cont6 con la p~articipaci6n de Lola Aponte Ramos,
Nelson Rivera, y Rafael Acevedo, y fue moderada por Maria Cristina Rodriguez.


en el Viejo San Juan, y el Ateneo de Puerto Rico; tambii~n empez6
a viajar como artist, bailando en las islas de St. Kitts y Tortola.
En los abos 70, ya casada, se mud6 al Viejo San Juan. En esta
itpoca empez6 a trabajar las artes visuales. Segin cuenta, "el
casorio interrumpid mi relacisn con el baile". De hecho, recibi6
su maestria en pintura de Pratt Institute en Brooklyn. Su regreso
al baile viene por diversas maneras, incluyendo su participaci6n
en "Estampas especiales" de Jorge Arce para Ballets de San Juan,
una pieza sobre las experiencias de los esclavos africanos. Pas6
luego a tomar jazz con Loti Cordero y algo de ballet. Desde 1981
en adelante, participa en Pisot6n, proyecto colaborativo cuyos
integrantes tienen trasfondos variados.8
Sterling cuenta que ya para esa 6~poca (la ditcada del 80) la
danza contemporanea estaba rampant en Nueva York. Trabaj6
con Meri~n Soto en su taller en El Barrio (Spanish Harlem). Rela-
ta que fue en este memento que tom6 conciencia y confianza del
movimiento como manera de transmitir mensajes, y no como algo
meramente visual. Volvi6 a lo africano al estudiar las cultures del
Caribe e integrar las artes esc~nicas; de este modo se establece
un ciclo, pues habia comenzado asi, lo habia dejado y vuelve a
ello mis tarde en su vida.
En los liltimos siete aiios ha usado estas referencias afro aun-
que lo hace a un nivel muy abstract. Las formas en que ella
conceptualiza su trabajo parten de una vision principalmente
urbana. La performer comenta que "se nos va el control de la
mente", lo que ella caracteriza como "la problematica de la
indecisi6n". Tambii~n ve su obra como un esfuerzo de recobrar la
identidad cultural, una manera de recuperar fuerzas vitales.g
Solo sobre un tema de Awilda Sterling Duprey, la primera obra
que present, fue un estreno. Se trata de una obra muy libre, casi

Seguin Plat6n, "Pisotbn, active entire 1980-1987, inclula lenguajes del teatro
y de la danza para crear en espacios no convencionales (...) En Pisot6n los
integrantes nos son familiares: Maritza Perez, Awilda Sterling, Petra Bravo,
Gloria Llompart, Viveca Vazquez, entire otros" (172-173).
9 Comenta Plat6n: "Sterling es una de las pocas artists del lenguaje contem-
praneo que explore sus raices afroantillanas para hacer puentes entire nuestra
cultural popular, nuestras influencias y las interp~retaciones que hacen las artes.
Curiosamente p~ara los tiempos que estamos viviendo, no lo hace irbnicamente,
sino con un verdadero acercamiento de respeto y exploraci6n" (176).


minimalista, en la casi oscuridad de la temprana noche, que se
vale de la improvisaci6n dentro de unos parimetros especificos.
No es por acaso que Lydia Plat6n ha sebialado a Sterling, junto
con Viveca Vgzquez, como "las veterans de la improvisaci6n"
en Puerto Rico (176). Este Solo, al igual que La leyenda del cemi,
se present en la Glorieta de Humanidades cerca del Teatro Julia
de Burgos, por lo cual incorpor6 los sonidos y la ambientaci6n
de todo ese espacio universitario.
Al comenzar la obra, la artist camina en circulos, entrando y
saliendo, escondi~ndose detris de las columns de la glorieta,
recogiendo, poniitndose y quitindose diversas prendas de vestir
qlue va encontrando o sacando de una cesta, todo en casi absolu-
to silencio. Asi, su cuerpo queda desnudo o vestido, a veces ape-
nas visible, otras claramente plantado en frente de todos. Pausa
continuamente; a veces parece que no est6 haciendo nada-que
no hay pieza.
La obra parte de un ritual santero, la mezcla de agua y cobre
que sirve para limpiar lo malo, pues se entiende que 10 malo se va
al agua con el cobre. La banda sonora de esta pieza es por Nelson
Rivera, reconocido misico experimental y critic teatral; la obra
es una colaboraci~n entire los dos. La obra en si se basa en una
series de instrucciones sugeridas; son el marco de referencia de la
partitura-referencias de movimientos en espacios libres. Gene-
ralmente, cuando trabaja con Rivera y otros m~isicos, Sterling no
conoce la banda sonora de antemano, aunque si se ha planteado
sus elements; la artist sabia que tenia cuatro parties y los seg-
mentos le indican cu~nto tiempo le quedaba. La pieza empieza
cuando entra y acaba cuando sale. El sonido es independiente.
La m~isica sigue la estructura de un libro de Sterling, Ex libris,
que incluye diapositivas de su trabajo pl~stico y secuencias de
chavitos prietos (monedas de un centavo estadounidense) en el
siguiente orden: 4 4 4 2 2. Rivera dividi6 un espacio de 10 minutes
en intervalos regulars de dos minutes y medio; durante este
period, iba echando los chavitos en un vaso de agua y los graba-
ba; esta grabaci6n es el iOnico acompailamiento sonoro que tiene
la pieza, except por los sonidos ambientales que se integran
Tanto el vestuario como el maquillaje estin a discreci6n de Ster-
ling. De hecho, el vestuario de la pieza se crea al azar. Sterling recoge
elements diversos de antemano y los incorpora seg~n su parecer.


Seglin la core6grafa, esta ti~cnica nunca falla, pues se consolida su
propuesta al mezclar e integrar textures, colors y estilos comple-
mentarios; tambii~n hay un juego notable con la visibilidad del cuer-
po, ya sea desnudo o semi-desnudo, cubierto con telas muy te-
nues, o completamente tapado. Entre los elements mis notable
de esta pieza se encontraban un kimono azul y un sombrero teja-
no. Para Sterling, iAstos sirven para recalcar la confusion cultural,
que era el tema de la conferencia; se vuelve necesario decodificar-
los para entender su significado. El usar un esquema de un mismo
color tambiitn le permit sugerir clertos significados. Usa una ces-
ta para cargar ropa porque entiende que es un element cultural
muy caribeiko.'o El deambular constant de Sterling por el espacio
abierto recuerda, seglin la artist, 10 much que tenemos que ca-
minar. Deja que el caminar la lleve, determinando de manera alea-
toria d6nde hacer las pausas, quit hacer con el vestuario. La apa-
rente arbitrariedad forma parte de la propia 16gica de la pieza. El
silencio de la banda sonora, a su vez, fuerza a que se concentre en
el movimiento. Hay much repetici6n; todo es muy tenue.
La luz de esta pieza es minima: la Oinica especificaci6n era que
fuera un rayo que al caer sobre el scenario fuera redondo. El mo-
vimiento se da alrededor de esta luz. Tambidn se trata de aprove-
char la luz de la luna, el halo del edificio de atras, el exterior. Es asi
que vemos una figure siluetada, borrosa. El cuerpo desaparece,
queda una forma etirea; seguin Sterling, "se logr6> lo que se queria."
La experiencia de ver esta pieza es una de leve confusion, supe-
rada por una enorme tranquilidad. Como la misma Sterling afirma
en su propuesta, no hay un "mensaje" claro. Se trata mas de apre-
ciar los diversos elements (visuales, sonoros, t~ctiles), el ritmo
lento, la exquisitez de los movimientos, la delicadeza de todo.
La segunda pieza, titulada Vejigante decrdpito/La cultura que
patina, se present en la Galeria Oller de la Facultad de Humani-
dades y tuvo por trasfondo una exhibici6n de varies artists
contemporineos organizada como parte de la conferencia."' Esta

m' Otros performers tales como Eduardo Alegria tambien aprovechan el
element de la cesta; en su pieza Spookiricans, los bailarines usan cestas
amarillas de plistico ademis de chancletas de goma.
Segu~n el program, la exposici6n/instalaci6n fue organizada por Brenda
Alejandro y contaba con obras de Daniel Lind Ramos, Dennis Mario Rivera,
JosC Alicea, Rafael Trelles, Gradissa Fernandez y Antonio Conzilez-Walker.


pieza es una reinterpretaci6n de la cultural popular traditional,
es decir, la tradici6n del vejigante de carnaval, filtrada a trav~s de
una several critical ecoli~gica de la situaci6n de desarrollo indus-
trial y contaminacibn ambiental de Puerto Rico.12 Igual qlue la
primera pieza, se trata de un estreno; Sterling afirma que Asta
estaba mis conceptualizada que la anterior. Nuevamente, a pe-
sar de que la pieza es un solo de baile, consiste en su origen y
ejecuci6n de una colaboraci6n entire varies artists. Sterling rela-
ta que Hlam6 a sus colegas y le asign6 a cada uno una tarea en su
especialidad: a Freddy Mercado, talentosisimo artist pl~stico y
performer qlue frecuentemente juega con el travestismo, le pi-
di6 que hiciera el vestuario, un pantal6n con aletas como murcid-
lago; Santiago Flores Charneco, quien viene de la tradici6n del
carnaval de Mayagiiez, hizo la mascara; Gadiel Rivera se encarg6
de la utileria, incluyendo las vejigas o botellas. Otros elements
inclulan un hacha de Ogi~n, recordatorio de un viaje a Cuba, y
una careta de buzo, que es un element encontrado. La mlisica
estuvo a cargo del artist pl~stico Dennis Mario Rivera, quien toc6
las congas durante el performance. Todos estos artists han tra-
bajado much en conjunto con Sterling, y comparten muchas
ideas, incluyendo su protest political.
Un element central de esta obra es su interi~s en evadir signi-
ficados preestablecidos y quebrar el orden costumero y autom6-
tico, afirmandose como arte de vanguardia y tambii~n como pro-
ducci6n posmoderna. Asi, la mlisica de Dennis Mario decodifica
los toques de rumba, bomba y plena. "Como siempre se asocia a
las tumbadoras con estos ritmos, frecuentemente no se les abre
posibilidades para expresar otras sonoridades. Por este motive,
se sugiere un toque, pero se rompe," afirma Sterling, quien hace
sus propios movimientos que no correspondent a la mi~sica.
La artist comenz6 el process de esta obra trabajando patro-
nes de movimiento. El nadar en el mar es una de las fuentes prin-
cipales de inspiraci6n de &ste: la idea de que uno va a llegar a
algoin lugar. "Estamos rodeados de agua," comenta, afirmando la
necesidad de reflexionar sobre este hecho tanto en su sentido
abstract como concrete. Sterling buce6 en las playas con plena

'? Ver Fiet (1999) para un comentario sobre otras teatralizaciones del
vejigante, especificamente en la obra de Francisco Arrivi.


conciencia de que en ellas se tiran minas explosives durante los
entrenamientos navales estadounidenses y de que estin Ilenas
de todo tipo de basura, ya que la playa es uno de los principles
espacios de entretenimiento y sosiego para los puertorriqueflos.
La obra se propone repensar c6mo recuperarse de esta situaci6n
en la isla, de no saber lo que va a pasar. Nada, busca algo, con
preocupaci~n y miedo, pero tambii~n con el deseo de pasarla bien,
de participar del "gufeo" tan caracteristico del Caribe.
Ademis de la nataci6n, el movimiento simula caminar como si
estuviera en una pasarela de moda e incorpora movimientos de
guerra, imitando los bailes dedicados a los orishas afro-cubanos.
Se trata de abrir el camino con fuerza, declarar la guerra. El
vejigante decri~pito molesta, se mete entire la gente, no pide per-
miso. Comienza a entrar, se cansa y recupera energies. Se obser-
va una alternancia entire movimiento lento y r~pido.
Los aspects visuales tambi~n chocan e irritan. Su mascara
perdi6 un cuerno. No es lo tipico sino lo estirado. Su boca esta en
otro lugar, todo desfazado; la impresi6n que predomina es de lo
grotesco, aun mds exagerado que el natural grotesco del vejigante.
Se Ileva la desorientaci6n al extreme, y lo familiar se convierte en
desconocido, meta de los formalistas rusos para el process artis-
tico (ostranenie). Afirma Sterling: "No es bayoya, es muy serio.
No queremos bachata ni baile--lo que queremos es romper con
el folklore". Y despubs: "El pantalleo del turismo obliga a mante-
ner la superficie, los elements supuestamente 'autinticos', sin
corrupci6n;" en oposici6n, su obra present el inverse, convir-
ti~ndola en la peor pesadilla de la Compaitia de Turismo hecha
realidad, y abri~ndonos los ojos (y oldos) a otras posibilidades
de interpretaci6n.'

Comparsas populares y denuncias contra el abuso de poder

El colectivo Agua, Sol y Sereno, bajo la direcei6n de Pedro Ador-
no, present la obra Caravana de cojos no consiguid la papa co-
liente, alegoria sobre el poder politico, la seducci6n de la publici-
dad y la corrupci6n en la sociedad contemporinea. Agua, Sol y

'3 Awilda Sterling, entrevista in~dita.


Serene es un colectivo teatral formado en 1993 por Pedro Adorno
y Cathy Vigo, que se caracteriza por su uso de t~cnicas del teatro
popular, tales como cabezudos, miscaras, zancos y comparsas;
por sus intervenciones comunitarias y talleres; y por sus monta-
jes de piezas innovadoras en el context de la dramaturgia puerto-
rriquefia. El colectivo cuenta con aproximadamente cinco miem-
bros permanentes y tres que trabajan en sus oficinas. Para las
piezas, el grupo incorpora a m~s personas.
Caravana de cojos no consiguid la papa caliente se prepar6 a
pedido de los organizadores del proyecto Caribe 2000, quienes
invitaron al colectivo a hacer una comparsa o pasacalle, es decir,
una presentaci6n o espectaculo al aire libre que incorporase
movimiento, asemejandose a un destile. Para ese entonces, Agua,
Sol y Sereno ya habia presentado su obra Ulna de cal y una de arena
(que explore el desarrollo urban y la ecologia) en la Universidad
de Puerto Rico, al igual que Pepin y Rosa criticala del sistema edu-
cativo al nivel primario), y queria hacer algo nuevo; tamnblin se
encontraba ensayando para su pr6ximo especticulo, El adiestra-
miento (obra que critical la comercializaci6n rampant y la cultural
del consumo).14 La participaci6n en Caribe 2000 les dio la oportu-
nidad de hacer algo r~pido, y de crearlo todo "ahi mismo".
El mittodo de trabajo empleado por el grupo para el montaje
de Caravana de cojos no consiguid la papa caliente fue el siguien-
te: Pedro convoc6 a un grupo de "amigos" (simpatizantes) del
colectivo, integrado en gran parte por estudiantes universitarios,
a participar en un taller "relimpago" de tres semanas de dura-
ci6n; describe la estructura general de la pieza, pero no dice nada
en el taller, sino que hace preguntas sugerentes y trata de darle
continuidad y cohesi6n al especticulo total que van proponien-
do los integrantes. De antemano Pedro ya sabia que uno de sus

14 Ver resebas de Gloribel Delgado Esquilin ("Un teatro que experiment
con la educaci6n", El Nuevo Dia 26 febrero 1998: 116), Lowell Fiet ("Un teatro
poliritmico: La muestra de artes esc~nicas y 'El Adiestramiento"', Claridad
14-20 mayo 1999: 28; "La credulidad, Vieques, la democracia y tambien algo
sobre el teatro", Claridad 12-18 mayo 2000: 28), Hiram Guadalupe ("Triunfa el
teatro puertorriqueino en Espana", Primera Hora (Madrid) 5 noviembre 1998:
s.p.) y Mario Edgardo Roche ("A cinco ailos de Agua, Sol y Sereno", Didilogo
octubre 1998: 36) sobre algunos de los montajes y la historic de Agua, Sol y
Serene. Tambidn ver materials de prensa del colectivo (copia personal).


elements centrales es que hubiera m~iltiples entradas y salidas;
los teatreros tambi~n tenian interi~s de que la pieza trajera color
local. Esta obra fue hecha con la idea de la imperfecei6n, pues es
un montaje r~pido que juega con lo Ilidico; se observa la fuerte
influencia del Bread and Puppet Theater en su estilo.
Se hicieron cuatro sesiones de taller abierto, en las que se le
pidid a cada integrante que desarrollara un personaje a partir de
consignas f~cilmente reconocibles, y que elaborara unas secuen-
cias de la acci6n a seguir. Tras conversar, los integrantes se divi-
dieron en pequefros grupos para trabajar estas secuencias. Se-
glin Adorno, este fue un important memento para Agua, Sol y
Serene, pues nunca antes habia hecho este tipo de taller en Puer-
to Rico, aunque si en los Estados Unidos. Adorno siente que este
m~todo funcion6 bien.
Se entiende que la pieza debe tener un component de lengua-
je comiin, que la gente reconozea, y que debe tener un tema so-
cial o politico. Su interns es presentar el tema en forma de denun-
dia, pero no necesariamente decir qu6 posici6n asumir. Decidie-
ron, de esta manera, enfocarse en dos asuntos de vigencia en ese
memento en Puerto Rico: (a) la huelga de la Compaiiia Telef6ni-
ca y las reacciones del pueblo a la privatizaci6n neoliberal de las
empresas estatales; y (b) los juicios en contra de alcaldes muni-
cipales corruptos, especialmente el caso contra el alcalde de Toa
Alta, quien fue sentenciado por soborno al recibir un maletin con
dos millones de d61ares.
La selecei6n de estos temas le dio continuidad a las interven-
clones callejeras del grupo, que estaba en ese memento partici-
pando activamente en los piquetes en solidaridad con los huel-
guistas anti-venta de la Telef6nica. De hecho, la idea de la obra
nace de uno de los mismos actors, Modesto Lasi~n, cuyo herma-
no es policia y formaba parte de la fuerza de cheque durante es-
tas protests; se da el caso de una familiar literalmente dividida
en dos bandos por un tema de trascendencia national. La pieza
tambi~n est8 inspirada en los discursos divergentes que surgeon a
raiz de las "mliltiples victorias" en el plebiscito mis reciente y
busca cuestionar los intereses econ6micos de la conmemoraci6n
del '98. Agua, Sol y Sereno ha continuado mis recientemente su
compromise de abordar los temas de gran inmediatez a trav~s
de sus acciones a favor de la salida de la Marina estadouniden-
se de Vieques, esfuerzos que han incluido participar en paseatas


y actos en Puerto Rico y Nueva York (especificamente, el Desfile
Puertorriqueno del ano 2000, junto con el Teatro Pregones del
Bronx) y hacer talleres con ninos y universitarios en la Isla Nena.'
Los miembros del grupo que participaron en la actividad de la
U.P.R. fueron Kisha Burgos, Israel Lugo, Julio Ramos, Jessica Ro-
driguez, Cathy Vigo y Pedro Adorno. Los otros participants que
se incorporaron incluyeron a Iv~n Camilo, Yamil Collazo, Gabriel
Coss, Carla Godreau, Modesto Las~n, Ingrid Ramirez y Yarani del
Valle. La pieza utiliza elements reciclados, tomados de trabajos
anteriores del colectivo tales como El caballo de Troya y Pepin y
Rosa. Tambi~n se crearon elements nuevos, tales como las mis-
caras "cara de lata" hechas por Kisha Burgos de bandejas de metal
desechable para asar pavos y el personaje narrador creado por
Yamil Collazo, quien cantaba rap y declamaba poesia negra como
si fuera un "rapero vejigante" en la tradici6n de "vejigante a la boya,
pan y cebolla" y que se ponia y quitaba una mascara para crear su
identidad. Israel Lugo, quien se encarg6 de la muisica, quiso incor-
porar el concept de Miss Universo a la pieza. Cathy Vigo fue res-
ponsable de integrar los zanqueros y de organizar la comparsa ini-
cial; Julio Ramos, del entrenamiento de los personajes con misca-
ras; mientras Gabriel Coss toc6 percusi6n.
Caravana de cojos no consiguid la papa caliente tiene una es-
tructura tripartita organizada alrededor de la preparaci6n, la venta
y el consume de las papas fritas-elemento metaf6rico qlue sim-
boliza los bienes-, y de la mediaci6n de un nuicleo de politicos
corruptos que supervisan esta economic a base de la explota-
ci6n laboral y la intervenci6n extranjera multinational. Tambi~n
se vale de la participaci6n de un personaje "inocente"-tipo "Juan
del Pueblo"-que se involucra sin saber en lo que se estA metien-
do; y de un grupo de mujeres que son explotadas y se benefician
a la vez-qlue simbolizan la ambigiiedad de una situaci6n como la
de Puerto Rico, de "caer en situaciones qlue no te queda otra al-
ternativa, como qlue te toc6 o te conviene" (Adorno). Por lo tan-
to, como eje de la obra, cuyo texto fue elaborado por los propios
actors, est8 un product innecesario y potencialmente danino;
una seiia de la industrializaci6n de Puerto Rico y su inserci6n en

'5 Ver Agua, Sol y Sereno, comunicado de prensa, "Un mes en Vieques"
(copia personal).