Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Part I: The arts
 Part II: Music and drama
 Part III: Literature
 Part IV: Education
 Part V: Religion
 Part VI: Cultural concepts


The Caribbean : its culture
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100620/00001
 Material Information
Title: The Caribbean : its culture
Physical Description: xxvi, 277 p. : map. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Wilgus, A. Curtis ( Alva Curtis ), 1897-1981
University of Florida -- School of Inter-American Studies
Conference: Conference on the Caribbean, 1954
Publisher: University of Florida Press
Place of Publication: Gainesville, FL
Publication Date: 1955
Copyright Date: 1955
Subjects / Keywords: Cultura -- Caribe, ilhas ( e.u.)   ( larpcal )
Civilization -- Congresses -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
conference publication   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographies and index.
General Note: "Series one, volume V."
General Note: "A publication of the School of Inter-American Studies which contains the papers delivered at the fifth conference on the Caribbean held at the University of Florida, December 2, 3, and 4, 1954."
Statement of Responsibility: edited by A. Curtis Wilgus.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University Press of Florida
Holding Location: University Press of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 02473809
Classification: lcc - F2169 .C66 1954
ddc - 917.203 C76p
System ID: UF00100620:00001

Table of Contents
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Table of Contents
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
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        Page xv
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        Page xxi
        Page xxii
        Page xxiii
        Page xxiv
        Page xxv
        Page xxvi
    Part I: The arts
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
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    Part II: Music and drama
        Page 29
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    Part III: Literature
        Page 85
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    Part IV: Education
        Page 107
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    Part V: Religion
        Page 147
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    Part VI: Cultural concepts
        Page 175
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Full Text






A publication of the
which contains the papers delivered at the fifth conference on the
Caribbean held at the University of Florida, December 2, 3, and 4, 1954.


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edited by A. Curtis Wilgus


Copyright, 1955, by the

A University of Florida Press Book
L. C. Catalogue Card Number: 51-12532

Printed by



FLORENCE ARQUIN, Painter, Photographer, and Lecturer,
JAIME BENITEZ, Chancellor, University of Puerto Rico
BENJAMIN A. COHEN, Assistant Secretary-General for Public
Information, United Nations

FEDERICO DE ONIs, Director, Department of Hispanic Studies,
University of Puerto Rico
JORGE FIDEL DUR6N, Rector, University of Honduras
DAVID K. EASTON, Librarian, Caribbean Commission, Trinidad
JosE G6MEZ-SICRE, Chief, Visual Arts Section, Pan American
KENNETH HOLLAND, President, Institute of International Edu-
cation, New York
MARJORIE C. JOHNSTON, Specialist, Comparative Education, U. S.
Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
LISA LEKIS, Dancer, Writer, and Lecturer, Gainesville, Florida
PAUL S. LIETZ, Chairman, Department of History, Loyola Uni-
versity, Chicago
JOAQUIN NIN-CULMELL, Department of Music, University of
California, Berkeley
ANDREW C. PEARSE, Director, Local Studies Program, Univer-
sity College of the West Indies, Trinidad
ADRIAN RECINOS, Writer, Lecturer, and Diplomat, Guatemala
J. WAYNE REITZ, President, University of Florida

vi The Caribbean
W. STANLEY RYCROFT, Secretary for Latin America, The Board
of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United
States of America, New York
ANIBAL SANCHEZ-REULET, Chief, Division of Philosophy, Let-
ters, and Sciences, Pan American Union
SCOTT SEEGERS, Editor, Writer, and Lecturer, McLean, Virginia
S. S. STEINBERG, Dean of the College of Engineering, University
of Maryland
Luis VERA, Assistant Chief, Division of Housing and Planning,
Pan American Union
WILLIAM A. WEBER, Manager, Gulf Division, Alcoa Steamship
Company, Inc., New Orleans
A. CURTIS WILGUS, Director, School of Inter-American Studies,
University of Florida


IN OUR SERIES of annual Caribbean Conferences we have
developed a pattern of looking at the individual problems, as well
as at the integrated and related ones, of the countries of the area.
At times these problems are considered in relation to those found
in other parts of Latin America, but more often they are dealt
with in a comparative manner by countries within the region.
By holding these annual gatherings of experts, a contribution to
knowledge is made which will prove of value to students, teachers,
businessmen, and government officials. Naturally, in symposiums
such as these, many topics of necessity must be omitted. An
examination of volumes thus far published reveals that these
meetings accomplish their collective objectives by presenting a
reasonably complete picture of civilization and development in
the Caribbean. These contributions should be considered not
only as individual papers presented orally in a series of meetings,
but also as a series of studies in the form of a permanent printed
record. We are gratified to note that in the United States there
appears to be an increasing general concern with the Caribbean
area and that there is, in consequence, an increasing interest in
our conferences and in the volumes that result. This supports
our belief that the State of Florida is in a strategic position to
take advantage of this interest and to project and plan carefully
future conferences over the years to meet the needs of the people
of this State and elsewhere, who are attracted by the significance
of Caribbean culture and development. Such conferences are a
valuable adjunct to our academic offerings in the University of
Florida, which include an Inter-American Area Study Program
coordinated by the School of Inter-American Studies.
Once more the University of Florida wishes to thank the

viii The Caribbean
Aluminum Company of America which, through the Alcoa Steam-
ship Company, Inc., helps to make these conferences possible and
J. WAYNE REITZ, President
University of Florida


Map of Caribbean Area . . . . Frontispiece
List of Contributors . . . . v
Foreword-J. WAYNE REITZ . . . . Vii
Introduction-A. CURTIS WILGUS . . . Xi


4. Joaquin Nin-Culmell: CONTEMPORARY
6. Federico de Onis: MARTI AND THE

7. Anibal Sinchez-Reulet: ESSAYISTS IN

9. Marjorie C. Johnston: LIBERAL EDUCATION


x The Caribbean


13. W. Stanley Rycroft: THE CONTRIBUTION OF
14. Adrian Recinos: RELIGION AND CULTURE

15. William A. Weber: CULTURE AND COMMERCE
16. Jorge Fidel Duron: CULTURE AND THE
19. Kenneth Holland: THE DEVELOPMENT OF

. 149

. 158

. 169

. 177

. 184

. 196

. 208

. 217

. 236

Index .

. . 271


THE PAPERS IN THIS VOLUME examine some aspects of
the culture of the Caribbean area. They do not cover every
cultural topic, nor do they pretend to exhaust the subjects of
which they treat. Each individual has presented material which
is of special individual interest. And, as in all symposiums, many
hiatuses exist in subject matter. But the reader, when he com-
pletes this book, should have a much better understanding of the
civilization of the Caribbean area than he once had.
One thread runs through the whole pattern of Latin American
cultural life: education. Perhaps, therefore, a brief summary of
educational origins, characteristics, and trends in Spanish Amer-
ica may serve as a general background picture on which the pres-
ent regional discussion of cultural and intellectual conditions can
be painted. In the following discussion, consequently, a number
of pertinent fundamental facts are presented as a basis for achiev-
ing a clearer understanding of present-day educational conditions
in the Spanish American countries.

I. Backgrounds
From the earliest days in the Spanish colonies, education was
carried on by the Church through the religious orders and the
secular priests. In the sixteenth century the principal religious
orders engaged in educational activities were the Franciscans, the
Dominicans, the Augustinians, the Carmelites, the Hieronymites,
and the Jesuits. When these missionaries arrived in America,
they founded missions, convents, monasteries, and schools in
great numbers. In Mexico alone at the end of the sixteenth cen-
tury, there were probably four hundred monasteries belonging
to the regular clergy, of which the Franciscans controlled one


The Caribbean

hundred and sixty-six. Connected with many of these were
schools, because wherever the missionaries went they assembled
natives into communities in order better to convert, civilize, and
educate them.
In 1529 the College of San Juan de Letran was opened in
Mexico City for Spaniards and Indians, and about seven years
later the College of Santa Cruz was established for Indian boys.
There, surprisingly enough, instruction was given in such sub-
jects as Latin, philosophy, music, medicine, and the native lan-
guages. In 1538 the University of Santo TomBs de Aquino and,
in 1540, the University of Santiago de la Paz were founded in
Santo Domingo, but instruction in these institutions was elemen-
tary at best and confined largely to the Indians.
Finally, in 1551, Charles V established the Royal University
in Mexico City (opened in 1553) and the University of San
Marcos at Lima (opened in 1571) for the purpose of giving
advanced instruction in theology, sciences, languages, history, and
The universities founded in the Spanish colonies were gen-
erally copied after the University of Salamanca in Spain. This
institution, the oldest on the peninsula, was founded about 1230
by Alfonso IX of Le6n, and refounded about 1242 by Saint Ferdi-
nand of Castile. Almost immediately (1252-1282) it gained
wealth and reputation under the patronage of Alfonso X, when
its schools of canon law and civil law became renowned. In the
fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries it became one of the great-
est universities in Europe, but it began to decline about 1550 at
the height of the Spanish conquest in America.
While the University of Salamanca was the best known, there
were many other important Spanish institutions. Indeed, by
1619 there were thirty-two so-called universities in Spain. The
University of Alcala de Henares, founded in 1508 by Cardinal
Cisneros, was second in importance to Salamanca. Cisneros had
attended the University of Salamanca and had patterned the new

university on that of his alma mater. Another important Spanish
university in the sixteenth century was in Zaragoza.
Courses taught in these institutions consisted first of all of
theology and canon law; but civil law, medicine, and the arts
(philosophy) were also taught. The degrees offered were bache-
lor, licentiate, and doctorate. In order to receive the degree of
bachelor, the candidate had to read publicly in the university ten
lessons of one-half hour each on theological points, with the rector
of the university, members of the faculty, and the examiners
present. On being admitted to the degree, the student knelt and
swore to remain loyal to his university.
The students recited in Latin, and, as Cervantes wrote in
Tia Fingida, they were young people "easy-going, free, passionate,
discreet, diabolical, and good-humored." For the most part the
students were poor, ragged, and ill-kept and frequently earned
money by begging. Some assisted the clergy in various religious
activities. While attending the university, the students were gen-
erally considered as members of the clergy and thus free from
civil trial. In many instances the students chose their own pro-
fessors, and discipline was haphazard and inconsistent.
While these great universities were most flourishing, America
was discovered and important regions conquered. It was only
natural, therefore, that the Spanish Crown, embodying the head-
ship of the Spanish Government and the Spanish Church, should
concern itself with the educating of the newly found peoples living
in a state of nature in the Western Hemisphere.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries showed great ad-
vancement in educational matters, even though many of the
improvements were of a superficial nature. As in the sixteenth cen-
tury, the Church still controlled education and acted as the in-
tellectual censor for the colonies. The last two hundred years
of colonial history were marked by the establishment of a num-
ber of important schools of higher learning. In 1613 the Uni-
versity of C6rdoba was founded in Argentina, and in 1623 the
University of Sucre was opened in Bolivia. In 1692 the Uni-


The Caribbean

versity of Cuzco was established in Peru. In the next century,
universities were opened in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1721; in
Havana, Cuba, in 1728; in Santiago, Chile, in 1743; and in
Quito, Ecuador, in 1787.
The enrollment in the colonial universities often reached sev-
eral thousand students. The subjects taught were native and
foreign languages, history, anthropology, law, medicine, geog-
raphy, natural sciences, theology, and, in the latter half of the
eighteenth century, philosophy. The exercises of the universities,
especially the conferring of degrees, were similar to those of con-
temporary European institutions, but no university in America
held a scholastic rank equal to that of the chief Spanish institu-
tions, especially the University of Salamanca.
Besides these higher institutions, a number of schools were
established especially for the education of Indian youth. Many
of these were Franciscan mission schools, where such elementary
subjects as reading, writing, and the Spanish language were taught.
The Jesuit Order established a number of secondary schools where
more advanced instruction was given, but the members of the
upper class continued to receive much of their education in Spain
or from local tutors. In the colonies as a whole during the
eighteenth century, illiteracy remained extremely high, and what
culture existed was largely superficial.
The revolutions for independence in the early nineteenth cen-
tury had very little effect upon education in general throughout
the Spanish colonies. It is true of course that many leaders of
the revolutionary movement were university graduates or had at
least attended these institutions. Some new courses were added
to the curriculum, especially on political philosophy. But on the
whole, the universities maintained their medieval characteristics
for many years.

II. The National Period

One of the earliest methods of instruction which first affected
national education was the Lancastrian form of teaching, with



monitorial and tutorial methods, introduced from Europe after
the revolutions for independence. Public instruction in Argen-
tina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela was in-
fluenced for a time by this technique. In fact, in all countries
European educational methods and patterns were the model. But
in recent years, the educational organization and methods used in
the United States have gained such wide favor that pedagogical
experts from this country have been asked to assist in the reorgan-
ization of public instruction in a number of the Spanish American
It has been mainly since the opening of the present century that
government efforts have been directed toward improving national
educational systems. Interest in the preschool child is one of the
most recent phases of Spanish American education. Nurseries
and kindergartens are increasing slowly, the schools adopting
some foreign techniques and developing others to meet the special
requirements of local conditions. To a certain extent the kinder-
garten is regarded as the most satisfactory solution for the prob-
lems of the working mother, and it is therefore still regarded more
as a philanthropic than as an educational institution. In some
countries it is still in the experimental stage and is significant
more for what it promises than for what it is already able to do
for large numbers of children. On the whole, the growth and
care of the child before he enters the first grade are rapidly com-
ing to be accepted as proper concerns of the state.
At the elementary school level, much thought has been given
to the improvement of the curriculum. However, the vast major-
ity of the children of school age in Spanish America do not go
much beyond the third grade, the attendance mortality being
greatest in the rural areas, where schools are few and laws are
not enforced. By attacking through special clinics the purely
academic causes of retardation, the elementary schools are trying
to lengthen the school life of the average child. They are dis-
tributing free textbooks in increasingly larger quantities, giving
free lunches and clothing to needy pupils, providing pupil trans-


The Caribbean

portation, and expanding many types of remedial and preventive
services among the school population.
Secondary education has been modified with varying speed and
effectiveness in different countries. Here, also, curriculum re-
construction is the main objective, but educational leaders are also
tending to lengthen the secondary course of study, to break the
curriculum loose from the grip of the classical tradition, to make
the high school more responsive to social change, and to offer the
student a wider and richer preparation for earning his living and
playing his role as a citizen. The promising experiments being
made along these lines all point to the time when a high school
education will be an opportunity open to all rather than a privilege
for the few.
The universities have also responded to a new stimulus. They
are concerned not only with their relationship with the students,
over whose lives they exercise a controlling influence, but with
their role as an intellectually vital force in the life of the nation.
Although they lack endowments from private sources, which many
of the universities of the United States enjoy, the Spanish Ameri-
can institutions of higher learning are nevertheless able to main-
tain their old objectives of personal enrichment, professional
ability, and preparation for multiple civic duties which in
Spanish America are the marks of an educated man or woman.
University laboratories, seminars, and research institutes now
bring within reach of their students the main currents of mod-
ern science and contemporary thought.
Several of the striking characteristics of Spanish American
education as a whole may be noted. First and foremost is the
rapidity with which educators grasp new conceptions, introduce
new methods, and battle for new ideals. It was less than a gen-
eration ago that Mexico set out to create a national elementary
school system worthy of the name. Today Mexican schools, de-
ficient though they may be in many respects, attract the attention
of educators the world over. It was less than two decades ago
that a handful of Bolivian teachers conceived a new education

for their people, and today in that country there are emerging
new educational ideals which deserve sympathetic attention.
To achieve changes and to achieve them rapidly, Spanish
American educators have created new tools or adapted those which
they have found in their travels in other lands. The rural school
idea has spread through Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Vene-
zuela, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Where permanent schools
cannot be established, itinerant schools have sprung up, following
the child as the child follows the crops. Rural teacher-training
centers of a new type have been developed. An encouraging de-
velopment in Indian education is the progress achieved by the use
of native dialects in instruction and by the tactful and honest at-
tempts to break down the reserve and even the hostility of the
Indian, justified by many factors past and present. The so-called
"popular university" has emerged out of the contact of devoted
teachers with the mass of illiterate adult workers.
The cooperative spirit in educational enterprise has been pre-
served in the rural areas, where a strong collective spirit sur-
vives. And most important of all, a new type of missionary-
teacher is being created-a competent instructor and leader who is
flung into the wilderness and expected literally to make bricks
with his own hands, to construct benches and tables with his
own tools, to set up and maintain humble centers of knowledge-
houses of the people-with little more than his own resourceful-
Over and above this creativeness in educational technique,
there is a steady assimilation of methods and practices from
abroad; there are efficient curriculum laboratories; there are, and
have been for many years, experimental schools which constantly
break new ground; there is an increasing use of the radio and the
motion picture; there are summer camps to rebuild stunted bodies
and to awaken lethargic minds; and there is educational planning
by which social resources are assessed in relation to educational

xviii The Caribbean
Throughout Spanish America, schools are noticeably dispropor-
tionate to the population, there being a great number of elemen-
tary schools and very few secondary and professional institutions.
Each country, however, has a well-established system of higher
education, and several universities-particularly in Mexico, Chile,
Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, and Cuba-have become
outstanding institutions. In recent years a number of govern-
ments have moved the national university out of crowded, ancient
buildings into new and spacious "university cities" in suburban
Comparatively speaking, few schools-whether elementary,
secondary, or higher-have had the same standards of instruction
as those of corresponding rank in the United States and Europe.
In all the Spanish American states, the school systems have suf-
fered from a lack of government funds, and in certain states it
has been frequently impossible to meet current educational ex-
penses. Moreover, since student political activity has gained such
popularity, especially since the inauguration of the Student Re-
form Movement, many of the institutions of higher learning have
been closed in order to combat the spread of revolutionary doc-
trines among their scholars.
III. The Student Reform Movement
One of the most significant educational movements anywhere
in the world has been the so-called Student Reform Movement
in the Spanish American republics. Toward the end of the First
World War there swept through the Spanish American countries
currents of thought and action directed toward the achievement
of social freedom and equality of opportunity for the masses who
were beginning to feel the need for relief from the innumerable
oppressions affecting the laboring classes. This movement was
augmented in part by the Mexican Revolution, by the Russian
Revolution, by the new ideology engendered by the First World
War, and somewhat by expressions of social equality proclaimed
by President Woodrow Wilson of the United States.



The students of the Spanish American universities, tradition-
ally active in politics since independence, felt this new stimulating
intellectual current and determined to use it as a means of gain-
ing their liberation from the oppression of the outmoded educa-
tional system. If they could bring about university reforms, they
believed not only that higher education could be improved, but
that citizens could be better prepared for democratic living, and
that certain important reforms might be adopted to promote the
improvement of Spanish American social and economic conditions.
The Student Reform Movement had as an objective, also, the
liberation of student thinking from the control of inadequate,
prejudiced, and dictatorial professors through increasing student
participation in the government of the universities. From this
objective the movement progressed to embrace the universal edu-
cation of the working classes. Thus it soon became ipso facto
a political and social force in one country after another.
The Student Reform Movement was propelled by certain Span-
ish and Spanish American intellectual leaders. Among these were
Ortega y Gasset and Miguel de Unamuno of Spain. In Argentina
there were Joaquin V. Gonzalez, founder of the University of
La Plata, and Dr. Alfredo L. Palacios. In Uruguay there was
Jose Enrique Rod6. These and other men proposed some of the
ideas and ideals upon which the reform movement was finally
built. But the actual promotion of the movement was sparked
by students in national universities.
For centuries, as has been seen, education had been conducted
by the clergy and by other nonprofessional teachers, and the
Church and the State still maintained most of their colonial con-
trol over the educational institutions. Now the influence of the
Catholic Church in the national universities began to diminish
rapidly. Many of the clergy forsook their educational activities and
returned to their religious duties. The relationship of the govern-
ments to the universities was modified.
Since the Student Reform Movement began in Argentina, a
brief look at government-controlled institutions there is essential.

xx The Caribbean
Before 1918, there were two provincial universities: in Santa Fe,
opened in 1890, and in Tucuman, opened in 1914. There were
three national universities: at Cordoba, established, as has been
noted, in 1614; at Buenos Aires, established by law of 1821; and
at La Plata, established in 1897, but not nationalized until 1906.
The provincial universities of Santa Fe and Tucuman were na-
tionalized in 1919 and 1920, respectively, as a direct result of
the Student Reform Movement. The name of the University of
Santa Fe later was changed to the University of the Litoral.
Prior to the Student Reform Movement, the basic administra-
tion of national universities throughout Spanish America was
similar. The governing body of the university was the Higher
Council, composed of the rector, administrative officers, and
delegates from the various faculties. It was the function of the
Higher Council to elect the rector as titular head of the university
in charge of its administration. The Higher Council also approved
the budget of the university, its bylaws, and the courses of study,
and it heard cases involving university discipline or policy brought
before it on appeal. Funds to run the university came from the
national legislature, and the university rendered strict account-
ability to it. Generally, the president of the republic was the
supreme head of the national university, with the power to take
over its operation by appointing an interventor.
Within the university each school, or facultad, was governed
by an academic council of professors of the school, with the dean
of the school at the head of the council. University students were
generally organized into "student centers" in each separate college.
These centers existed chiefly because of political interests rather
than because of cultural or social activities. All the individual
student centers were organized into a university federation of
students, which in Argentina belonged to the Argentine University
Federation of Students with headquarters in Buenos Aires. From
time to time this group exercised a rather strong political in-
fluence in the national life.

The university organization just described was largely provided
for in 1885 by an act passed by the Argentine Congress known
as the "Ley Avellaneda." Gradually, students came to be repre-
sented on faculty councils, and some students even gave courses
in the university when there was a shortage of professors. In
1908 the first congress of American students was convened in
Buenos Aires with student representatives from Argentina, Bo-
livia, Brazil, Cuba, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. At this
meeting it was generally agreed that the students should be al-
lowed representation on the administrative councils of the uni-
versity and that student participation in university management
should be extended.
At first there was very little popular interest in the demands
of the students. However, world events and their impact upon
national life gradually brought about an increased interest on the
part of the public in what was happening in the universities. In
Argentina, President Hip6lito Irigoyen, interested in social re-
forms, especially helped to make the time propitious for the
Student Reform Movement to begin in 1918.
The Student Reform Movement, or the University Reform
Movement as it is also called, began at the National University
of C6rdoba when the students issued a proclamation setting forth
what they considered their rights in the university. The students
charged that the university system reflected a decadent society and
that it was not in tune with the times. The universities still main-
tained the antiquated concept of the divine right of the professor,
which did not allow the students the right to think for themselves
or to reason out their own problems. It was suggested that the
professor should cease to be a glorified reader requiring students
to memorize everything that was said. It was urged that profes-
sors be chosen on the basis of competitive examinations and de-
vote full time to their teaching. It was also felt that students
should not be required to attend lectures. These precepts were
embodied in a so-called "Order of the Day," dated June 23, 1918.
In this statement the students resolved to remain away from their


The Caribbean

classes until satisfactory reforms were obtained. They agreed to
present a plan of reform to the provincial congress in C6rdoba,
which in turn would present it to the national congress in
Buenos Aires, thus publicizing the aims and objectives of the
reform movement in the national capital.
The immediate criticism by the students at the University of
C6rdoba was directed against the rector of the university, Dr.
Antonio Nores, of the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Nores was op-
posed to the extension of student participation in university gov-
ernment, and he favored the continuation of the old tenets of
academic discipline and universal respect for the faculty. To
show their solidarity with the students at C6rdoba, students at
other educational centers went on strikes. In Buenos Aires, the
Federation of Cultural Associations issued an Order of the Day
declaring that the principles proclaimed by the students at C6rdoba
be considered as proposals for an educational revolutionary move-
ment and that the education system should be renovated in ac-
cordance with the principles of the new "spiritual orientation,"
in order to promote popular education as the most efficient means
of elevating the laboring classes. Immediately, speakers appeared
at mass meetings and before labor and educational organizations
in order to popularize what was called the "New Cycle of Civili-
zation." When students and police engaged in bloody conflict,
as now happened frequently, sympathy for the students' objectives
became articulate on the part of various organizations throughout
While these activities were taking place in Cordoba, a special
commission was designated in July, 1918, by the National Uni-
versity of Buenos Aires to study the reform of the university
statutes so far as they pertained to student representation in uni-
versity administration and the attendance of students at lectures.
On August 14, 1918, this commission presented its report to the
national Ministry of Justice and Public Instruction. The report
suggested that the term of the rector be established at four years
with possible re-election for a second and a third term. Attend-

ance was no longer to be required of students at lecture courses,
although attendance at laboratories was to be compulsory. It was
proposed that members of the Higher Council of the university
should be named by a directive council at a general assembly.
This assembly was to be attended by the titular professors and an
equal number of assistant professors and students. Students at-
tending this meeting consisted of those having completed three
years of their career studies. The meetings of the assembly were
to be presided over by the dean of the faculty, and elections were
by public voting decided by an absolute majority. Thus the
students would obtain an indirect participation in the adminis-
tration of the university through the elections for the directive
councils of the individual colleges.
On September 11, 1918, President Irigoyen adopted the pro-
posals of the commission by a decree, and there resulted an almost
immediate change in the statutes of the National University of
Buenos Aires. This decree also became the basis for the reorgan-
ization of the University of Cordoba.
But the conflict at C6rdoba continued. The rector of the uni-
versity had submitted his resignation and also had resigned his
position on the faculty of medicine in August, 1918. Doctor
Nores was succeeded by an interventor appointed by the presi-
dent of the republic. The interventor was Jose Nicolas Matienzo,
who was responsible to the national Ministry of Justice and Public
Instruction. On September 9, 1918, the university reopened and
four students were appointed to exercise the rectorship of the
university concurrently. Instruction was to commence, all acts
of the deans were to be submitted for approval to the University
Federation, and the public was invited to attend the inauguration
of classes.
The provision concerning the University Federation met with
opposition on the part of the faculty and the directive councils
of the university. They appealed to the national Ministry of
Justice and Public Instruction for the intervention of government
troops to prevent the occupation of the university by the students.

xxiv The Caribbean
Then followed resignations by a large number of the faculty,
which the national government refused to accept. However, the
government did accept the resignation of Dr. Nores and the heads
of several of the faculties on September 17. On October 5 the
national Ministry of Justice and Public Instruction by a decree
reconstituted the superior council and the directive councils of
the faculties, which had been disorganized by faculty resignations
of the previous month. Other statutes of the university proposed
reforms in the accounting and handling of the university finances.
These were accepted by President Irigoyen on October 7, thus
clearing the way for the resumption of university classes. At the
same time, free access to the national astronomical observatory
was extended to all students in cosmography and geodetics and
to members of the faculties of the exact, physical, and natural
sciences. Finally, on October 10, the university classes began and
students were allowed to attend lectures voluntarily. On October
12 the university was turned over by the interventor to the ap-
propriate authorities amid imposing ceremonies.
While these activities were occurring at the University of Cordo-
ba, somewhat similar movements were begunri in other universities
in Spanish American countries. As at C6rdoba, the students asked
for greater participation in university management, better lectures
from their professors, more freedom of action in attending classes,
and more encouragement and opportunity to think for themselves.
The students generally appealed to the masses, arguing that they
stood for the common aims of all free peoples, and they asked
that the people join the crusade for liberalizing the national
education system.
The Student Reform Movement spread to the University of
San Marcos in 1919, when Dr. Alfredo Palacios went from Argen-
tina to Lima to assist Rail Haya de la Torre, a student at the
National University, to organize the reform movement in that
country. Here, beside the usual requests, the students demanded
the specific right to criticize the university system. Accordingly,
a decree was issued by the Peruvian government (1919) allow-



ing students to charge that a professor was incompetent and thus
force him to resign. Soon the university students in Peru were
given the right to have a voice in the abolition of any chair of
learning in any of the faculties. Under Haya de la Torre the
students took a direct interest in trying to educate the masses in
matters of sanitation, the harmful effects of alcohol, and the so-
cial improvement of industrial suburbs of the cities. The use of
student strikes in Peru became an important weapon of the Re-
form Party in their relations with labor unions and the working
In Mexico the student movement got off to a later start. In
1921 the First International Congress of Students convened in
Mexico City and agreed that it was essential for students to par-
ticipate in university government. However, such student parti-
cipation was not provided in the National University of Mexico
until by law of 1929. Subsequently the Student Reform Move-
ment spread into Cuba and Guatemala, and eventually to uni-
versities throughout the continent.
Thus in the years following the First World War, the old tra-
dition of Church control of higher education with government
support and the predominant importance of religious training in
national educational institutions disintegrated rapidly. Learning
by rote came to an end. Students attended seminars and labora-
tories. University professors consecrated themselves to their edu-
cational missions. The alumni of the universities became influen-
tial in continuing educational reforms, as well as in promoting
educational objectives through national political activities.
Lower education for the masses, however, was still left in
many instances to the Church, to the government, or to individuals
themselves. Nevertheless, many important educational results
had been achieved in the long centuries since the first Iberian
set foot on the good earth of the Western Hemisphere. Academic
training and religious teaching had combined to bring to the
Spanish American lands an individualistic culture, perhaps not
always well balanced, but ever striving toward an integrated

xxvi The Caribbean
Christian society with the intellectual leisure of the Old World
and the intelligent vision of the New. Educational activities and
ideals had taken on a new meaning and they were headed in a
new direction.

School of Inter-American Studies

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Parts I and III of this paper are based on a
section of "Some Religio-Educational Relationships in Spanish America"
presented by the author at the Columbia University Bicentennial Confer-
ence (October, 1954) on "Responsible Freedom in the Americas," the full
proceedings of which will be published later in the year by Doubleday &
Company, Inc., New York. These sections are used with permission. Part
II is based to some extent on two papers by Ernesto Galarza, published
by the Pan American Union (Bulletin [December, 1939], pp. 677-87) and
by the United States Department of State (Principal Addresses. Conference
on Inter-American Relations in the Field of Education, December, 1939).
Other material comes from the author's Development of Hispanic America,
first published in 1941.

Part I



Florence Arquin: TWO ASPECTS OF

bean area reveals not only vigor and distinction, but, more signifi-
cantly, the coexistence in reversed stages of development of two
highly divergent art expressions.
The older-much larger and of greater immediate conse-
quence-is the well-established school of Mexican painting, now
slowly approaching the period of decadence in the cycle of its
evolution. This Mexican renaissance is a result of the combined
efforts of a group of singularly talented, highly trained, and
sophisticated professional artists who were dedicated to the de-
velopment of an authentic national art. Despite magnificent easel
painting, it remains essentially an art of murals and of broad
social purpose, with roots deep in the political unrest and in the
revolution which occurred there in the first part of the twentieth
The other movement in Haiti, young, comparatively very
small, and only now approaching maturity, is of singular inter-
est because it springs from an intense personal need for creative
expression by independent, generally untrained nonprofessional
artists. Fundamentally, it is an art of easel painting, despite
recent mural developments. It is of special consequence because
it represents an accelerated activity in popular painting and, for

4 The Caribbean
the second time in this hemisphere and in this century, com-
mands recognition of the insistence, contribution, and aesthetic
tradition of folk art.
The first recognition came in the early years of the renaissance
in Mexico, when, in an effort to create this truly national and
functional art, such painters as Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo), Ro-
berto Montenegro, Adolfo Best-Maugard, Miguel Covarrubias,
Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and others rediscovered
the contribution of the Indian and revaluated the spirit and non-
academic character of the folk arts. They realized that these
arts had retained their basic indigenous personality and repre-
sented a natural intimate expression closely integrated with every-
day life. As a result, the folk art of Mexico exerted a profound
influence upon mural and easel painting, as well as on art edu-
cation of this period.1 So great was this effect that the character-
istics of folk art-large scale, bold flat pattern, simplicity of
design, dramatization of color and theme, sensitivity in handling
of materials, and a certain harshness and primitiveness which
frequently make it distinctive-have become especially associated
with the general concept of the Mexican school of contemporary
easel painting and today still remain identified with it. Impres-
sive, too, in relation to current developments in Haiti, is the
sustained concern of present popular artists in Mexico with re-
ligious as well as secular subjects. Today, in Haiti, the impor-
tance of popular art achieves even greater significance with the

1 The idealization of the Indian and of his cultural contribution, later
referred to as Indianismo, stimulated painting in other countries of
Latin America where indigenous Indian or comparable influences existed.
Some leaders of these movements are: Jose Sabogal in Peru; Cecilio Guz-
mAn de Rojas in Bolivia; Edouardo Kingman in Ecuador; Candido Portin-
ari in Brazil.
In the United States, the most direct influence came from personal
contact with outstanding Latin American artists invited to this country
to paint murals and to teach. A few such murals are at Dartmouth Col-
lege (Orozco), New School for Social Research, New York City (Rivera),
The Museum of Modern Art, New York City (Orozco), The Hispanic
Foundation in the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. (Portinari), and
the Detroit Museum of Fine Arts (Rivera).



phenomenon of a national art expression limited almost exclusively
to this folk tradition.
If painting is accepted as a tangible expression of human ex-
perience, then these two art activities have as common background
a cultural context which reflects the social, economic, political,
and religious forces peculiar to each in its own particular time
and environment. Environment-never static-continues to pro-
duce art of ever-changing sequence and inevitably determines the
character and cycle of each development. An equally determining
force is the ethnocultural heritage. In Haiti the unique back-
ground of African and European traditions produces art forms
which differ greatly from those in Mexico, where tradition has
evolved from indigenous Indian and European cultures.

Contemporary painting in Mexico, with a prodigious expansion
since 1920, is probably the most important and influential art
movement in the Caribbean area, if not in the hemisphere. It
owes this prominence not only to the rare genius and talents of
the original leaders and their followers, but also to the revival of
the fresco technique and the use of murals on a national scale
to serve the objectives of a new social order. It becomes a bril-
liant manifestation of the virility and tenacity of a rich aesthetic
tradition which evolved from highly developed pre-Conquest, Span-
ish, and other European art. Without this special and particular
cultural background, contemporary painting in Mexico as it ex-
ists today may never have come to pass.
In the era of national reconstruction following the revolution,
the new Mexican government was sending her most talented
artists to Europe to acquire proficiency and techniques and was
also employing them to paint murals in public buildings. Thus,
political activity served as a stimulus for the great artistic revival
which was to follow. In promoting a national art to meet the
specific needs of this period, Mexico was especially fortunate in


The Caribbean

having a large group of distinguished creative artists on whom it
could draw. Among them were Dr. Atl, Orozco, Rivera, David
Alfaro Siqueiros, Francisco Goitia, Montenegro, Fermin Revuel-
tas, Manuel Rodriguez Lozano, Carlos Merida, and Jean Charlot
-to name only a few whose contributions in both mural and
easel paintings created this Mexican renaissance.
In recognizing the role of the artist in the new social order,
the state for the first time in Mexico became the patron of the
arts and set a pattern since followed in various forms by other
The next ten years were a period of intense activity with
Orozco, Siqueiros, Rivera, Montenegro, Charlot, and many others
painting murals of social significance on the walls of public build-
ings. These artists combined the life of Mexico, as subject matter,
with the techniques and skills acquired through European and
other training. By incorporating political and ideological con-
tent in these frescoes, murals in Mexico became and still remain
both the problem and critique of the Mexican Revolution.
By replacing "Art for Art's Sake" with a new art of "content,"
in a period when Cubism was the accepted style in Paris, these
artists not only re-established the respectability of subject matter,
but brought about the first break with the tradition of French
painting. When I discussed this development with Diego Rivera,
he explained to me: "I believe the Cubist movement to be the
most important achievement in plastic art since the Renaissance.
However, I have always been a realist, even when I was working
with the Cubists. That is why, in Paris, they used to call me
the 'Courbet' of Cubism. I stopped painting in the Cubist man-
ner because of my belief in the need for a popular and socialized
art. It had to be a functional art related to the world and to the
times, and also serve to help the masses to a better social organi-
zation. In Cubism there are many elements that do not meet this
specific need. Nevertheless, the plastic values of Cubism can be
achieved without these limitations. In fact, I have never left

Cubism. My paintings now are more truly Cubist than when they
looked like Cubism."
Except for a brief visit to Mexico, Diego Rivera had remained
in Europe from 1907 until 1921, working with the Cubist group
in Paris, and also studying the mosaics and frescoes in Italy.
Especially inspired by Giotto's walls, covered with narratives of
both didactic and decorative purpose, Rivera perceived the me-
dium of the mural as a potential and powerful tool in promoting
the ideals of a new socialized art. Precedent for this had already
been established in Mexico by the indigenous Indian frescoes of
the pre-Columbian period. Just as the story of Christianity was
conveyed to the masses in Europe by Byzantine mural mosaics
and early frescoes, so the ideology of the Mexican Revolution and
the story of the Mexican people could be conveyed by this same
In 1921 Rivera returned to Mexico and joined his fellow
artists Orozco and Siqueiros in painting the first murals dedicated
to this ideal of a national revolutionary art.
In the beginning many artists experimented with mural paint-
ing, but it remained for two of Mexico's greatest talents, Orozco
and Rivera, to develop and perfect the techniques of fresco and
to become the actual leaders of this movement. It is interesting
to recall that in these early days, the Mexican people said of these
two men, "Orozco paints with his heart, Diego Rivera with his
Unlike Rivera, Orozco's Mexican subjects are never folkloric.
His main concern was less with the appearance of his time than
with the feeling of his time, which later earned him the title
"Tragic Poet of the Revolution." In the beginning, his technique,
like Rivera's, was in the tradition of the Renaissance in Europe.
Color was limited and transparent, brush strokes fine and close
together, and surfaces smooth. Drama, violence of feeling, pas-
sionate humanitarianism, and frequently caustic satire were in-
herent in his work from the very beginning. Later he became
interested in the Byzantine tradition of fresco. Colors became

8 The Caribbean
vivid and opaque, movement violent, brush strokes spontaneous,
large, and direct. Walls were no longer plastered first and then
painted. Instead, Orozco plastered as he painted-actually mix-
ing his colors with wet plaster for his background areas-and
organized his composition by use of strong black and white lines.
Emotional qualities became even more impassioned, sustained, and
intense. His early work reflects the influence of his European
visit of 1922, and the murals at Dartmouth College in the United
States, ten years later, mark the turning point of his style, which
becomes increasingly less national and more international in spir-
it. It is especially revealing today that Rivera, some ten years ago,
should have said to me, "You know, we have one great genius
in Mexico-Jose Clemente Orozco."
Diego Rivera's own and particular genius is expressed in the
manner in which he organizes his material into a compact unit.
In general, his compositions are characterized by largeness of
conception and rigidly held designs which, in their tendency to
retain wall surfaces, give evidence of his training in Cubism and
his adherence to that school of painting. Once, when we dis-
cussed the evolution of his painting, he explained, "Most critics
seem to agree in thinking that my Chapingo murals are my best,
probably because in these frescoes I have adhered more closely
to the accepted tradition of mural painting. However, I cannot
agree that they are my most important work because I have not
done anything new in them. For me, the more important ones
are those, like the stairway of the National Palace, in which I
have attempted to portray the whole dialectic development of the
life of one nation from the far past to the future; use the epic
material of Mexico's race saga, and for the first time create a
national expression which, despite subject matter, fundamentally
depends upon the immutable elements of art." This, in his own
words, defines the contribution of Diego Rivera to the art of his
It is problematical whether the genius of Orozco and Rivera
and the talents of the other founders and pioneers in this Mexican



renaissance would, in themselves, have been sufficient to sustain
this revival of painting for so long a period, had not the general
enthusiasm of the day generated an intellectual and artistic cli-
mate which produced such artists as Juan O'Gorman, Pablo O'Hig-
gins, Carlos Orozco Romero, Julio Castellanos, Alfredo Zalce,
and others, who joined their ranks.
All these artists, including the "pioneers," were preceded in
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by two men who,
through the individuality of their own work, were destined to
establish certain specific directions and idioms of expression which
were to be incorporated into this movement. They were Jos6 Maria
Velasco (1840-1912), the painter now famous for his land-
scapes of Mexico, and the brilliant and prolific popular engraver,
Jose Guadalupe Posada (1851-1913).
The popular tradition of art today achieves even greater stat-
ure than ever with the emergence and recognition of the "folk"
personality of the man whom Rivera calls his teacher. Posada
is now known not only as the greatest printmaker in Mexico but
also as the first representative of the independent movement in
Mexican art. He was one of the first to draw inspiration from
Mexico's social issues, using the skeleton, the common denominator
of all mankind and the symbol of biological equality, as the al-
lusion to a desired social equality. Bitter, caustic, political and
social satire endeared him to the generally illiterate, though
aesthetically appreciative audience of his day. Now he is as close-
ly associated with Mexico as Goya is with Spain or Daumier with
France. Leopoldo Mendez, his most gifted disciple in the graphic
arts, continues the tradition he established.
Diego Rivera pays tribute to Posada in his fresco at the Hotel
Prado. Here he paints himself, the artist, always the child, hold-
ing the hand of a skeleton whose skull is that of Posada's famous
"Calavera Catrina," the female dandy. This was one of Posada's
bitter satires against the heartless extravagance of a bourgeoisie
in a period of grievous poverty and acute need. The position of the
skeleton, placed between Diego and his portrait of Posada, joins


The Caribbean

master and student in a dedication to the portrayal of Mexican
social problems.

Recognition of the role and the tremendous influence of popu-
lar art in general, and the contribution of this Mexican folk
personality in particular, suggest the need for careful evaluation
of the activity current in Haiti today. For here an entire art
movement is being created and expressed in the idiom of popular
art. It also poses the challenging question: what are the potential
influences of this development on the painting of Haiti of the
The approval and acceptance of this folk art cannot be viewed
entirely without suspicion, since it is current fashion to admire or
profess to admire primitive painting and primitive art. Actually,
Haitian folk art does not fall into this large general classification,
if we define primitive art as a very early form from which a more
complete one is to evolve.
It is not denied that popular or folk art in Haiti is created by
people of little if any academic training or knowledge of art
techniques. Special circumstances isolated them from such techni-
cal knowledge, from exhibitions, journals, and other sources of
influences. They therefore remained absorbed in the particular
expression of their own talents. These paintings possess a high
degree of feeling for design, a lively sense of poetic mysticism,
and, occasionally, a sly, quiet humor. They also express what
the artist knows rather than what he actually sees. The result
achieves a simple artistic daring which magnifies facts, ignores
academic perspective, employs brilliant color in flat pattern, and
frequently stresses minute realistic detail with painting of meticu-
lous precision.
As subject, the Haitian artist documents his own existing cul-
tural patterns. These paintings of realistic dramatization of native
life, historic events, folklore, and religious themes bring to con-



temporary painting in general, and to this Haitian painting in
particular, a refreshing vitality and innocence of vision. They
also disclose the Haitian Negro's aesthetic awarenesses and in-
tuitive sensitivity, his capacity for penetrative thinking and deep
feeling, his ability to organize and to interpret his own expe-
riences in his own time.
The techniques of folk art in Haiti differ very little, if any,
from those found in Mexico, because artists in both countries
came to painting from similar impulses. The history of folk art
shows that earlier folk painters turned to picturemaking from
wood carving, sign painting, and other crafts. Similarly, today's
popular painters in Haiti were tailors, carpenters, mechanics,
sign painters, and house painters. Equally relevant is the fact
that although all, from an academic point of view, are untrained,
they seem to have certain basic qualities in common. All are ex-
perienced in coordinating the activity of their hands and of their
eyes, intuitively know how to place emphasis upon the essential,
and, while frequently nonrealistic in representation, neverthe-
less create paintings rich in human interest and possessing great
emotional force. Fortunately, art depends upon psychological and
emotional needs which are deeper than formal education. The
folk artist of Haiti, impelled by his own need and by the logic
of his own background, has worked out his own tradition of
popular expression.
The establishment of a Centre d'Art, begun in Port-au-Prince
in 1944 with financial assistance from the Haitian government
and from the government of the United States, was the first offi-
cial support of the popular artist there. The Centre was con-
ceived and organized by DeWitt Peters, a painter from the United
States, under whose able and sympathetic direction it has since
functioned. His primary objective was to encourage and assist
the aspiring and little-known, though talented, native painter to
gain recognition from his own people and from the outside world.
Inevitably, the Centre is serving to release the rich creative ener-
gies inherent in this country.


The Caribbean

Essential in the development of this tradition of popular art
is the cultural heritage of Africa, which includes the religion
of Vodun, derived from a background of African theology and
ceremonialism.2 It is the folk religion of Haiti and, like other
religions in other times and with other races, still serves as a strong
stimulus to artistic expression.
As the nonacademic, unconventional tradition of folk art sur-
vived in Mexico and paralleled official academic art of past years,
and indigenous Indian religions of some countries of Latin Ameri-
ca parallel the official religion of Catholicism today, so in Haiti
the popular, deeply ingrained, unofficial folk religion, Vodun, par-
allels Catholicism there. Neither has been dominated by the
other, although certain psychological reconciliations have been
effected between them. To many Haitian Negroes these recon-
ciliations in religious concepts permit harmonious dual existence
of both African and Catholic beliefs, each in its own sphere. The
importance and intensity of religious life in Haiti is paralleled
in this renaissance of folk art by the unique phenomenon of a
revival of religious art which incorporates iconography and sym-
bolism of both Vodun and Catholicism.
Occasionally, a religious painting may suggest traditional art
in spirit, but usually it expresses the very personal concept of the
individual artist. In this connection, the paintings of Hector Hip-
polite, a Vodun priest and an artist, are of singular interest. Hip-
polite, one of the most truly talented members of the Centre
d'Art group, died in 1949. His work is distinguished by a strange,
flamboyant fantasy and vivid, weird imagination which, com-
bined with such subjects as folklore, magic, and Vodun, create the
mood of surrealism.
Despite the comparative youth of both the participating artists
and the art movement itself, and the lack of talents comparable
to those which created the school of Mexican painting, the prog-
ress and direction of development in recent years are portentous

2 The author adopts the spelling of voodoo used by Professor Herskovits,
authority on the culture of the New World Negro.



and challenging. Experiments with mural techniques and actual
painting of murals in increasing numbers by the now more expe-
rienced artists of the original group suggest a change of interest and
emphasis from easel to mural painting, and from highly individual
spontaneous expression to one representing a more deliberate and
disciplined group activity. In 1950 the artists Philome Obin,
Rigaud Benoit, Castera Bazile, and Gabriel Leveque were com-
missioned to paint murals on the walls of the new Trinite Cathe-
dral in Port-au-Prince. Here, they have now produced not only
the most ambitious religious painting in Haiti's renaissance of
popular art but probably the most representative and distinguished.
The painting of walls is not new in the art tradition of Haiti.
It is part of her African heritage, which includes the decoration
of house walls with pictograms, formal designs, and geometric
shapes. Today, in Haiti's less accessible areas, such decorations
are still to be found.

The questions that now present themselves are whether pres-
ent mural painting is merely wall decoration created by the use
of enlarged easel painting produced directly upon such surfaces,
or whether, at this stage of development, the Haitian popular
artists have already apprehended the complex problems of true
mural composition and are prepared to amplify the tradition of
folk art in this medium.
Another and even more tantalizing question presents itself in
relation to the status of Mexican art today. It is almost thirty-five
years since the first murals in the new Mexican renaissance were
painted. Until recently, Rivera and Orozco, the two great lead-
ers of the Mexican mural tradition-older, wiser, and more pro-
found-continued to enrich this tradition which they in great
part had created. Now Orozco is dead, and Rivera, saddened by
the recent death of his talented painter-wife, Frieda Kahlo, and
weakened by continued ill health, remains alone, to continue his
"mission." For Rivera, in his murals, still retains the single ideol-


The Caribbean

ogy of Mexican revolutionary art, while Orozco, always the
philosophical anarchist, in his later work portrayed those aspects
of suffering and aspiration of the human spirit which are uni-
versal and not exclusively national. Enthusiasm and fervor for
the Mexican Revolution have waned as social, political, and eco-
nomic conditions improved.
With these changes, the need for murals of broad social pur-
pose is no longer urgent. The new generation of excellent artists,
Guillermo Meza, Ricardo Martinez, Francisco Gutierrez, Rail
Anguiano, Jose Chaves Morado, Olga Costa, and many others are
attempting to assert their own creative personalities rather than
to follow Mexican traditional forms and subjects. This tendency
is not a completely new development. It has always existed and
was given forceful expression from the very beginning of the
rise of the Mexican movement by such Mexican artists as Carlos
Merida, Rufino Tamayo, and their followers. The recent acceler-
ated pace of this tendency is new, as is the belated recognition
of the great talent of Tamayo and his place among the leaders
of contemporary Mexican art.
Despite differences in ideology and objectives, the national
character of contemporary painting continues to be expressed in
the commonly shared sense of plastic values and an unmistakable
racial flavor which is Mexican. Today, with Mexican artists turn-
ing once again to Europe and especially to Paris for inspiration,
history is repeated. For this was the status of painting in Mexico
before the recent Mexican renaissance. It is hoped that repetition
may be carried still further, and that a second Mexican renais-
sance of different character and emphasis and with new leaders
may be in the making.


Jose G6mez-Sicre: CARIBBEAN

IT IS GENERALLY ADMITTED that sculpture in the present
day is under a great crisis. This crisis, I would dare to state, is
due to an economic and social origin rather than to a lack of
inventiveness or power of creation. While the number of great
painters in the world is increasing every day, the proportion of
great sculptors is diminishing. America does not escape this fatal
law. The progressive industrialization and the reduction in the
living space of each family unit push the sculptor into being a
creator for public parks and memorials-which do not occur too
Since colonial times, however, America has had creators of
caliber in the field of sculpture, with two great figures standing
alone above time and circumstantial appreciation. One-the
greatest-is Francisco Antonio Lisboa, the crippled mulatto of
Minas Gerais in Brazil, known as "Aleijadinho," author of the
most powerful statues produced in America during the eighteenth
century. The other, a humble image maker in the highlands of
Ecuador, is Manuel Chili, an Indian craftsman, known as "Cas-
picara," who shaped agonizing saints, bleeding Christs, and tender
cherubs for altars and for nativity scenes, all of which are as
delicate and as expressive as the best examples of image carving
from Spain.


The Caribbean

In general, America has sent abroad sculptors who have come
back repeating European academic formulas. The native accent
has emerged from some of these, but not until recently have there
been serious attempts to analyze and follow more closely the in-
digenous legacy of expression and craftsmanship of the native

I will use for this brief panorama a few names, from a few
countries in the Caribbean, of artists who I consider are making
new developments and proposing new solutions in the sculptures
of America. Some of them are very young and known only in
narrow circles of dilettantes. Some have already attained a little
notoriety. In the particular case of Mexico, for example, I find
no possibility of a parallel between the great muralists and con-
temporary sculptors, in spite of having three prominent sculptors
who have worked steadily in a dignified way. These are: Ignacio
Asunsolo, creator of important monuments in his country; Carlos
Bracho, who has achieved maturity in portraiture; and Luis Ortiz
Monasterio, who, after following for years the classical and mas-
sive sense of forms, has recently started work on polychrome
ceramic in a way akin to the early pottery makers of Mexico. In
Mexico, the Costa Rican, Francisco ZunTiga, has also established
a reputation.
In Nicaragua, Genaro Amador Lira has worked in a stylized
expression-depicting undulating animals-closely related to that
of the Spaniard, Mateo Hernandez; and, in Venezuela, Francisco
Narvaez has attempted monumental forms with success.

Guatemala had, by the end of the First World War, a notable
personality in sculpture with Yela Gunther, follower of German
expressionism of highly dramatized effects. After him came
Rodolfo Galeotti Torres, who studied his craft step by step in



Carrara, Italy, where he mastered neoclassical apprenticeship.
Returning to Guatemala in 1940, he was given a commission for
several monuments and, after 1945, the direction of the School
of Fine Arts. Giving extraordinary freedom to his pupils, Galeotti
soon had a harmonious group of young sculptors working to-
gether; and from them, I wish to select the figure of Roberto
Gonzalez Goyri.
Gonzalez Goyri, just 30, had, apart from his discipline under
Galeotti, the extraordinary experience of having been a draftsman
and assistant to the chief of the ceramics section in the Museum
of Archaeology in the capital of his country. There the young
artist had to reproduce on cards for the file record all the pieces
of this extraordinary collection of Mayan art, possibly the most
complete one in existence. In copying the intricacies of the early
pre-Columbian artists, Goyri obtained the basis for the expression
of his personality, and what is unusual in his development is his
reluctance to make indigenous, descriptive, or folkloric art. Later,
the artist came to the United States and stayed in New York
three years, studying the new trends of contemporary sculpture
and going through different stages, from the massiveness of Zor-
ach to the neoclassicism of Bourdelle and the baroque intricacies
of Lipchitz. Following his return to Guatemala, the artist has
been tireless in investigating new forms which always have a
point of departure in his memories from his long period as a
draftsman in the museum. His "Head of Rocinante" has perhaps
some similarity to the horse's head in the Guernica mural of
Picasso-tragically forceful-but it has also a legitimate formal
inheritance from the snake heads which support with fierceness
the Mayan temples of Chichen Itza.

Together with the development of primitive painting which
has arisen in the country during the last ten years, Haiti has,
although on a smaller scale, similar manifestations in the field of
sculpture, which in certain ways have been prior to those of paint-


The Caribbean

ing. In the African tradition, sculpture is the main plastic ex-
pression; and in Haiti the inheritance of magic and esoteric rites
led artisans to the making of masks, idols, and wrought-iron fetish-
es of extraordinary intensity from an artistic point of view.
It was in 1947 that an American sculptor, Jason Seley, started
a course on sculpture at the Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince. Sev-
eral of the painters of the Centre started practicing in this new
medium. Before the Centre could afford to buy a kiln, it had to
bake the ceramic pieces in a rustic oven belonging to a bricklayer
in a nearby town. Mr. Seley relates that, when they made the
second trip with the pieces, one young man, who was a helper
in the humble factory, showed him a delightful series of replicas
he had done with clay of the pieces he had helped to bake on the
previous occasion. This young man, whose name is Jasmin Joseph,
was encouraged by Mr. Seley and eventually came to work direct-
ly in the Centre. He now has in that institution a kiln where he
bakes his work-which has a very personal flavor and consists
primarily of free interpretations of animals, especially dogs-
conceived with the emotion of Etruscan statuary and with the
tenderness of Tarascan pottery makers. One of the most fascinat-
ing works by Joseph is a whole window baked in pieces in the
form of hollow bricks, in which there are figures of exotic animals
in three dimensions surrounded by vegetation. Without losing
its flat-rectangular identity, each brick presents a total sense of
the sculpture in its three dimensions, lending extraordinary mean-
ing to the shape-which gives a truly fascinating aspect to it.
Jasmin, a timid man of about 22, works secluded in the base-
ment of the Centre and has spiritualistic implications in each
one of his pieces which he considers reincarnations of the dead,
and he sometimes refuses to sell, and even to show, some of his
sculptures to anyone.

At the same time as with modern painting, the movement of
sculpture in Cuba started in 1927 through the effort of the



sculptor, Juan Jose Sicre, who returned to the country after many
years of serious study in Europe. As a professor at the National
Academy of Fine Arts in Havana, Sicre helped to give a new
shape to sculpture in the island and, although he followed a
neoclassical simplified expression in the manner of the French
master, Bourdelle, he conscientiously knew his craft and never
tried to impose his own formal concept on the pupil, but gave him
absolute freedom. From his classroom emerged sculptors like Julio
Girona, Alfredo Lozano, Manuel Rodulfo, Eugenio Rodriguez,
Roberto Estopifiin, and Agustin Cardenas.
During the Second World War, the Czech sculptor, Bernard
Reder, who now lives in the United States, came to the island.
Reder stressed rounded, very massive figures in movement in in-
tegrated compositions to be seen in the round. Through lectures
and exhibits held in Havana, he exerted a definite influence on
most of the younger sculptors, who were formed into the class of
Sicre-an influence that still prevails in the work of some of
One of the sculptors who passed from the influence of Sicre
to that of Reder and who has evolved into a more personal ex-
pression is Estopifian, who has experimented with different ma-
terials, using an intelligent approach toward a language of tropical
flavor, giving open spaces to the form, which increase in intricacies
of exuberant vegetation.
Another young artist who has followed more or less the same
path of Estopifinn is Cardenas, who works in a more simplified
pattern of elongated shapes with genuine grace.

One isolated case in the quite conservative panorama of the
sculpture of Colombia is young Edgar Negret, born in Popayin
and graduated from the art school of the city of Cali. From the
beginning he followed different influences of modern sculpture,
which ranged from Henry Moore to Jan Arp. Negret, with a keen
eye for free forms, has attained an authentic personality which

20 The Caribbean
has been confirmed by critics of New York, Paris, and Spain,
where the artist has exhibited in recent years. Devoting most of
his effort to wrought iron, Negret gives wider expansion to the
inner and outer space of the sculptures. His inventiveness in
balancing shapes and the wit and humor of some of his forms-
especially of his latest production in the island of Mallorca, Spain,
where he is living at present-raise him to the position of one of
the most significant young creators of sculpture in America to-



IF ALL GOOD ARCHITECTURE seeks a balance between physi-
cal environment and human activity-which is its function-
this analysis is reduced essentially to considering the interaction
between the natural environment of a country and its degree of
culture. In studying the architecture of the Caribbean, as well
as that of any other region, it is necessary to take into account
the magnitude of the area where it exists.
Before proceeding with this study, it is necessary to make two
explanations. First, the term "environment" is not only referred
to as the "natural stage," but also as the "social stage," which
affects man's efforts to solve his spatial problem; in this way,
architecture as an authentic phenomenon cannot exist unless it
responds to the requirements of its natural stage and, at the same
time, evidences in the total environment man's technique, his
social orientations, and reasons for his behavior. Secondly, for
the purpose of this analysis, we should consider the architecture
of all countries in the Caribbean area, even if the landscape is
not the same and even though the cultural tradition of Venezuela,
Colombia, and Mexico has nothing in common with that of the
West Indian and Central American countries.


22 The Caribbean

Caribbean man is attached to his land in such a way that any
transplantation would be equivalent to the mutilation of a vivid
and deep reality, more serious and intense than can be appre-
ciated superficially. The history of the damp forest, the great
plantations, the uninhabited and arid lands, and the restless sea
is his own history. The landscape possesses the character and
necessary material to create the aesthetic values of vernacular
architecture. The landscape acquires not only the characteristics
caused by the phenomena of nature-winds, rain, sun, vegeta-
tion-but also the physiognomy sculptured by the strong will
power of man who inhabits it. Within that landscape man has
traced his own frontier, in which he expresses his innermost
feelings. His vocabulary is still new, but he has already poured
this intimacy into folklore and crafts and begins to do so in
architecture. It is more important for him to create the art than
to consume it, to understand the forms before explaining them-
processes in which his dynamic atavism of intricate, indigenous
African and European origin interferes.
When cultures as varied as those of the Caribbean countries
(with relatively simple technologies and limited economic re-
sources) are considered, the environmental pressure is so pene-
trating that artistic results seem to be imposed. But man's role
is more limited than determining, and, for the time being, Carib-
bean music and dance respond much more to the habitat than
do architecture or decorative art. Total environment gives man
the gross material of experience, even where there is an enormous
margin of variation as among Yucatan, the Antilles, and Darien.
To a certain degree, architecture is an interpretation of physical
environment, or landscape. This premise leads us to the conclu-
sion that architecture is an art primarily realistic rather than con-
ventionalistic, mostly made by technical ability that translates a
supported temporal accent into a spatial one. The use of con-
struction materials involves space, and they produce tridimension-
al forms that are closely related with the culture of the country



that produces them. Form, function, structure, and design are
elements equally necessary in the execution of any architectural
Architecture is more than a physical phenomenon: it is an
aesthetic product of culture and, as such, is a part of the envi-
ronment created by man. It embraces all elements in the cultural
maturity of a country: endowment acquired by a conscious learn-
ing or by a conditioning process, techniques of several kinds,
exploitation of materials from the land, adaptation to climatic
requirements, and use of environmental resources offered by na-
ture. These give shape and the sense of form which are the "will
of art" placed by the creator in his own masterpiece of nature.
In order to understand certain Caribbean architectural forms,
it is necessary to consider a series of paradoxes: contemporary
architecture is a universal phenomenon, but each one of its local
or regional manifestations is unique; architecture is an eminently
static art, although its process is dynamic and shows continuous
changes. Every country has some means of architectonic expres-
sion. No two countries in the Caribbean have the same formal
expression of space. Architectural forms in each country are the
result of the particular experiences of people-past and present.
In other words, each group of national traditions is the vivid in-
carnation of the past. Equally paradoxical is the fact that if
architectural shapes are analyzed over a period of time the tend-
ency to modify them is essentially dynamic, and the only static
architecture is that not held by tradition because it was not au-
thentic. If architectural change is ubiquitous, it must be remem-
bered that it is given in terms of environment and not in absolute
terms in itself or by itself.
The cultural and social history of Caribbean man is deeply
influenced by the landscape which is the essential element of
his cosmic vision-in the horizontal external landscape as well
as in the vertical landscape of myths. Environment acts deeply;
its answers in forms are so structural and its historical line so
soft, that it can be traced from the spontaneous earlier architecture


The Caribbean

to that of our own day. It is difficult to consider architecture as
something binding which leads man, whether he desires it or not,
to a destiny he cannot plan or foresee.

When we carefully analyze every architectural expression, we
meet a series of standard reactions characterizing a certain group
or school. That is, we meet architects who react, think, and
reason in a different form, even when confronted with a relatively
identical environment.
For many years and in almost every country, the problem of
pursuing various architectural trends has been tried. It is inter-
esting and of transcendental importance to follow the adventures
of Caribbean architecture through the influence of the landscape.
Whether analyzing its objective manifestations or examining the
wide avenues of hypothesis, whatever classification or terminology
we apply to the Caribbean pre-Hispanic cultures, it is evident that
man considered the landscape and its influence on architecture.
In colonial times the Indo-Spanish baroque was transcendent.
The external landscape, the religion, and the myths affected deep-
ly the architectural forms. It was the first fusion of land culture
with the autochthonous, but from it a false technological position
was derived, which, until recently, failed to allow Caribbean
architecture to assimilate the landscape and join it. Nevertheless,
mestizo architecture left everywhere the most beautiful examples
of marvelous exuberance and imaginative richness.
The nineteenth century contributed to the reaction of academic
classicism, including all copies, good or bad, of any traditional
style. Classicism lacks freshness, for it had a heavy burden of
doubtful aesthetics, foreign and trite, that could not be supported
by Caribbean man.

Although ignoring the landscape, pure functionalism as a
simple formal expression of the useful and the necessary is a



recent development in the Caribbean. Its mechanistic rationaliza-
tion can be explained by reason of its psychological origin; that
is, it is a romantic attitude in countries where technique is behind
the times, and it is a puerile reaction of adoration to technique
in other countries. The resistance which these new ideas en-
countered provoked, in the young architects of the time, a blind
belief in the possibility of producing, through functionalism, a
new architecture of the proper aesthetic content to show a way
of life. In order to produce architecture, it is not necessary to
apply the anachronistic. The new movement in fact broke the
traditional architectural dictatorship by establishing school cours-
es which looked to archeological models of Mediterranean cultures,
thus emphasizing the importance of construction materials and
the real function of the architect's work.
The task was simply to break immediately with the unreason-
able past and to proceed directly into a technological and practical
era of the present. But the ending of this functionalistic tendency
in the Caribbean was different from other Latin American areas.
It cannot be doubted that the dispensing with worn-out molds
of academic formalism was useful. It cannot be denied either
that it was a sincere and brave gesture on the part of those who
pulled down an almost immeasurable dictatorship of tradition.
A positive contribution was to awake uncertainties and to try new
techniques. Many of the latter were produced by the Bauhaus
group, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and others. New
patterns inevitably came to replace the old ones.
No plastic and intimate relationship existed between man and
his Caribbean landscape and the cold interpretation of the classic
decadent orders. There was no improvement in relationship
either through the use of plain walls or large windows through
which the tropical sun got in, or of innumerable columns, or of
violent colors, or of irritant murals. Perhaps the time has now
arrived for the Caribbean to offer its architecture to promote a
more social and human mission. But what techniques and
shapes are adequate? To the real artist, there is a need to use rare


The Caribbean

materials to express eagerness and aspirations. In this manner
architecture can acquire quality, character, and style. The en-
vironment, a natural and social stage in harmony with the land-
scape and social groups by which it can be used, will produce
architectural types of individual style and strong character.

Perhaps the most important example, because of its proportion
and dimension and its adaptation to the physical and social en-
vironment, is the group of buildings (some still under construc-
tion) forming Panama's University City. The architects, young
professors at the university between 1949 and 1952, had a special
opportunity to plan a group of buildings within fixed limitations
of cost and space. The topography offered problems not easy to
solve. Nevertheless, the decision to construct the library and
administration building in the best position .at the top of a hill
was adopted, with the other buildings located on lower land. All
buildings were connected by concrete corridors, adapted to the
topography of the campus. With all the experimental character
that may be attributed to it, Panama's University City represents
the best attempt at adaptation of the sound principles of contem-
porary architecture to environment and the best didactic demon-
stration of aesthetic maturity.
Continuing with university architecture, we note that Mexico's
University City is the biggest experiment in point of size of such
contemporary architecture in Latin America. All buildings are
located in an immense lava field in the vicinity of Mexico City,
where the landscape constitutes a rare product of nature: an
unlimited desert-type gray mass with a faraway background of
mountains. The whole has been well arranged, with some out-
standing buildings, such as the jai-alai walls, the stadium, and the
library, which harmonize in every way with the regional, social,
and natural environment. Other construction, however, reveals
immaturity and an absolute misunderstanding of the environment:
some buildings are too big while others are architectually poor



and need the large murals to save them. Generally, however, the
murals of Rivera, Siqueiros, and Chaves Morado are too strident
in composition, and are neither a message to the people nor an
example of integration of the painting to architecture and land-
scape. These murals, born of the Mexican Revolution against a
feudal economic background and with an eminently social and
didactic function, have betrayed their messages in order to be-
come a cheap well-paid affichism.
A few examples of good contemporary architecture could be
pointed out in Colombia, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, countries
with strong currents of architectural production; but architects
there are still very young and have not had the opportunity to
demonstrate their work.
Generally speaking, today's architecture either assumes an
aesthetic pattern for specialists, or it is a coarse copy of European
and American magazine illustrations, without being in harmony
with the landscape and social environment where construction
occurs, or in making a contribution to the culture. Some of the
worst examples of architecture today are found in certain alien
structures, especially hotels such as those in Caracas, Bogota,
Panama, and other places in the Caribbean where they con-
stitute a violent antithesis to regional architecture. The negative
condition of the social and natural stage is, unfortunately, imitated
in such buildings by local architects without hesitation and imagi-
nation. These structures are so poor in aesthetic character that
they nullify the prestige that might be reached by contemporary
architecture, whose purpose and form aim to achieve a synthesis
of Caribbean man and landscape.
A desire for a pure, authentic school exists today in the hearts
of many young Caribbean architects who wish sincerely to speak
their own words with their own voices. Will they succeed in
creating within their environment a "true architecture," an archi-
tecture for all time, vivid, stable, and dynamic? There is a great
deal of faith and hope that they will succeed.

Part II



Joaquin Nin-Culmell: CONTEMPORARY

THIS PAPER is concerned, primarily, with contemporary Car-
ibbean composers of art music. It is self-evident, however, that
one cannot take a glance at contemporary music anywhere with-
out peering, even if only in passing, at the music of the past.
Consequently, in dealing with contemporary Caribbean compos-
ers, a short resume of the past history of Caribbean music may
prove helpful. In the Caribbean-an area which for our purpose
comprises Mexico, the Central American republics, Colombia,
Venezuela, the island republics, and the Territory of Puerto Rico
-the past can be divided more or less arbitrarily into three his-
torical periods: the Pre-Columbian, the Colonial, and the Post-

The first of these, the Pre-Columbian, is characterized by in-
digenous instruments, which were blown, struck, scratched, or
shaken by the Indians. These instruments, for the most part,
have been collected, studied, and classified; but one can only
surmise the musical system for which they were intended. The
Pre-Columbian Indians had no musical notation, and hence the
rigid authenticity of what examples of their music have survived


The Caribbean

today is highly questionable. That these examples, along with
the instruments of the past, have exerted a notable influence on
the development of Caribbean music is a point beyond debate.
Sometimes this influence has been extremely active, as, for in-
stance, in Mexico where some particularly happy misunderstand-
ings with regard to the actual use of indigenous instruments and
some vague speculation on the musical system of bygone days has
produced a real national school. In Europe a similar situation
arose in Florence in 1600, where some equally happy misunder-
standings and some equally vague speculation on the musical sys-
tem of bygone days produced a musical form which we call
opera. At other times the influence of Pre-Columbian music
and instruments has been purely passive or dormant-as, for in-
stance, in Guatemala; or, again, as in the island republics, sheer
legend. And yet, active, passive, dormant, or legendary, the in-
fluence of Pre-Columbian musical practice has undoubtedly
helped shape the music of subsequent periods.
The Colonial period extends from 1492 to the Wars of In-
dependence in the early nineteenth century. In the instance of
Cuba and Puerto Rico, the final break with Spain came as late
as 1898. It is a period which begins with the observation of
native festivals by the early settlers, but which soon sees the
partial or total replacement of indigenous instruments and music
by their European counterparts. It goes without saying that this
partial or total replacement did not occur without the European
practice taking on some aspects of local traditions. The Indians
rarely if ever adopted anything from the Europeans without
adapting it to their own needs and inclinations. In the same
way that Colonial baroque architecture stems from and yet differs
from Spanish baroque architecture, so Spanish musical practice
took roots in the New World and flowered in a very special way.
The period further distinguishes itself by the establishment of
music instruction for the native population, the copying of musical
manuscripts, the building of church organs, the printing of liturgi-
cal music-the first of its kind in the New World-as well as

by the infiltration of African elements in certain areas. Though
the emphasis is on church music, secular music does not lag far
The third and last-the Post-Colonial period-extends rough-
ly from the Wars of Independence to about 1900, and is typified,
as could be expected, by a gradual awakening and development
of national cultures. National anthems were composed, conserva-
tories were founded, and qualified native performers and com-
posers began to emerge. Europe, however, was still the center of
attraction for those Caribbean composers who sought musical in-
struction elsewhere than in their own countries. A good number
of them achieved real success, and their efforts were reflected in
the gradual rise of cultural levels in their respective countries.
Indigenous music was almost ignored, and Pre-Columbian in-
struments had yet to find their place in the pattern of national
art music. African influences were obviously present in certain
areas more than in others, but no real effort was made to accept
or realize their potentialities in terms of art music. It can be said
truthfully that though the Caribbean composer's heart may have
been in the Caribbean, his ear was still in Europe.
The Modern Era, which follows-and which is the subject of
this paper-begins about 1900 and is marked by the rediscovery
of America by most native composers. There is little doubt that
musical nationalism in Europe had its effect on this new develop-
ment, but the more direct influence of social, economic, and
political factors should not be overlooked. This generation has
taken an extreme position with regard to the prestige of indigen-
ous music and instruments in Mexico, and with regard to the
influence and significance of African elements in the music of
Cuba. Whereas their predecessors listened to European music
and heard little if anything of the music surrounding them,
musicians of our era have attempted to shut out European music
and to listen only to music which reflects Indian background or
which shows signs of African tendencies. In every field, European
influence has been decried, and in the arts in particular the mean-

34 The Caribbean
ing and contribution of the Indian and of the Negro have been
idealized. Serious folkloric studies have begun to appear and
some efforts are being made to study the music and musicians of
the Colonial period, particularly in Mexico, and to a lesser degree,
in Guatemala, Venezuela, and Cuba. This rediscovery of Colo-
nial music has led to a revaluation of European influences and, in
some cases, has offered an avenue of escape for those Caribbean
composers who feel fenced in by the regionalism of folklore.

In Mexico, where the Pre-Columbian influence is strong and
vital, and where the Colonial and Post-Colonial periods have been
extremely active, it is not too surprising to find that the con-
temporary scene is one of great significance. Clearly dominated
by two composers-Carlos Chavez (b. 1899) and Silvestre
Revueltas (1899-1940)-Mexican music of today is indebted
to the musical refinement of Manuel Ponce (1886-1948), who
studied in Paris, and to the experimental theories of Julian Car-
rillo (b. 1875) who studied in Leipzig.
Though Revueltas died in 1940, Chavez has continued a
remarkable career, which includes composing, conducting, public
administration, and teaching. Both have been leaders in their
own way, Chavez as the builder and Revueltas as the iconoclast.
Musically, whereas Chavez tends to work from the musical form
to the musical idea, Revueltas is apt to work from the idea to the
form. It is perhaps for this reason that the music of Revueltas
is equally colorful with or without the use of Indian instruments.
Chavez, on the other hand, can be rather grim when instrumental
local color is removed or is simply absent. The "lean and hungry"
sound of both Chavez and Revueltas music is closer in spirit, and
sometimes even in letter, to the early folk style of Stravinski,
Bartok, and Falla than to the neoromantic style of Schoenberg
and his followers. In any case, what might be called the Indo-
Mexican music of Chavez and Revueltas has reached the main
stream of contemporary music, and, owing to certain freshness



of approach, has often disarmed the rarefied atmosphere of in-
ternational festivals.
Other prominent composers of Mexico include Candelario
Huizar (b. 1888), Jose Rol6n (b. 1883), the self-exiled Spaniard
Rodolfo Halffter (b. 1900), and the younger Group of Four:
Salvador Contreras (b. 1912), Daniel Ayala (b. 1908), Pablo
Moncayo (b. 1912), and Blas Galindo (b. 1911).

Further south, in the Central American republics, the picture
is far from encouraging. In spite of the fact that Guatemala con-
tributed a brilliant chapter to the history of Colonial music, Guate-
mala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Pan-
ama have not produced, as yet, any really first-rate composer of
art music. Folkloric elements are not lacking, on the contrary.
What are lacking are fully trained composers who can not only
distill these elements but who can also go even further into the
musical expression of their national aspirations. The emphasis
in present-day Central America is on music instruction and per-
formance, and in this connection mention must be made of the
recent educational efforts of Salvador Ley (b. 1907) in Guate-
mala and of Alfredo de Saint-Malo (b. 1898) in Panama. Folk-
loric investigations and some composing in this vein have been
accomplished by Jesus (b. 1877) and Ricardo (b. 1891) Castillo
in Guatemala and by Luis Delgadillo (b. 1877) in Nicaragua.

In Colombia and Venezuela, the picture is somewhat different.
Though to a lesser degree than in Mexico, Colombia and Vene-
zuela flourished musically during the Colonial period. Venezuela,
in particular, produced a remarkable school of native composers
-primarily church musicians-from about 1770 to the proclama-
tion of independence from Spain in 1811. These composers,
whose works are being published under the aegis of the Archivo


The Caribbean

de Musica Colonial Venezolana, are further proof of the auspicious
beginnings of art music in the New World.
With regard to contemporary music, Colombia has produced
one of the most interesting and prolific of all Latin American
composers of his generation: Guillermo Uribe-Holguin (b. 1880).
A pupil of Vincent d'Indy at the Schola Cantorum in Paris,
Uribe-Holguin has kept abreast of contemporary trends and has
exerted a most salutary influence on the development of con-
temporary music in his native country. As a teacher and con-
ductor-but above all, as a composer-he has led the way for
many of the younger men. Unfortunately, the almost total absence
of publishing facilities, the well-known indifference of commer-
cial recording companies with regard to contemporary music, and,
finally, the overwhelming difficulties of securing adequate per-
formances have all contributed to a certain manner of isolation
far too typical of so many Latin American composers today. In
this connection, it might be well to point out the efforts to over-
come the first of these difficulties-the almost total absence of
publishing facilities-by Curt Lange with his Editorial Inter-
americana de Compositores in Montevideo.
Other composers of Colombia include Emirto de Lima
(b. 1892), who has done a considerable amount of folkloric in-
vestigation, and Carlos Posada-Amador (b. 1908), a pupil of
Nadia Boulanger and of Paul Dukas in Paris.
In Venezuela, the contemporary scene is dominated by the
personalities of Juan Lecuna (b. 1898), a serious composer of
unquestionable talent, and by Juan Bautista Plaza (b. 1898),
organist, teacher, and editor of the musical manuscripts pertaining
to Venezuela's Colonial period.

Whereas most if not all of the preceding countries have been
influenced, actively or passively, by Pre-Columbian music and
instruments, no such theory can be advanced for the island re-
publics. At best we have the early accounts of the Spanish histor-



ians, which are accurate enough in their own way, but which do
not and cannot give us a truly documented report of what music
was like in this area prior to 1492. In any case, contrary to what
happened on the mainland, the original inhabitants disappeared,
and with them disappeared their instruments and their music.
European folklore took a firm hold from the start, and al-
though African elements were quick to exert a strong and un-
deniable influence, one is hardly conceivable without the other.
To be sure, both of them have their musically independent areas,
but more often than not they tend to fuse and overlap, making
it almost impossible to assign with any degree of accuracy definite
influences to the one or to the other. Moreover, it seems futile
to attempt to separate them when obviously they are at their
best together. Why separate the coffee from the milk when cafe
con leche is such a perfect result?
As in Mexico, with regard to Pre-Columbian music and in-
struments, the extreme position with regard to African influence
in the folk music of Cuba is the one which fired the imagination
of the younger composers and which produced two of its most
representative contemporary composers: Amadeo Roldan (1900-
1939) and Alejandro Garcia Caturla (1906-1940). Unlike
Chavez and Revueltas in Mexico, however, neither Roldan, who
studied in Madrid, nor Caturla, who studied in Paris, was in-
fluenced by their older colleagues Eduardo Sanchez de Fuentes
(1874-1944) or Joaquin Nin (1879-1949). Both of them, un-
fortunately, died prematurely. Their scores, for the most part
orchestral, are characterized by a feeling for disjointed rhythms
and short, percussive-like motives. Roldin's orchestral sense tends
to be more practical and at times even more effective, the result
perhaps of his many years experience as an orchestral musician
and conductor. Caturla, on the other hand, has a melodic gift
which, had it been given time to develop, might have radically
changed his aesthetic inclinations. Both of them succeeded in
reaching the main stream of contemporary music.
Other composers in Cuba include Jose Ardevol (b. 1911), the


The Caribbean

stimulating leader of a younger group which includes Harold
Gramatges (b. 1918), Edgardo Martin (b. 1915), and Julian
Orb6n (b. 1925).
With regard to the other island republics and the Territory
of Puerto Rico, contemporary composers of art music are virtually
nonexistent. There are ample signs, however, of a tremendously
vital folkloric activity, one which seems almost too vital to harness;
but there are no signs, at least to my knowledge, of native com-
posers ready to face the problem of national music and ready
to determine, by their example and by their compositions, whether
folklore is for them a crutch, a walking stick, or a signpost.
As in Central America, talent may not be lacking, but the
proper training of a composer is not something that can be im-
provised overnight or that can be simply wished into existence.
Generations of Mexican musicians labored long and well before
producing representative composers like Carlos Chavez and Sil-
vestre Revueltas. The same can be said with regard to Amadeo
Roldan and Alejandro Garcia Caturla in Cuba. For the rest of
the island republics and for Central America in general, one can
voice the hope that they, too, will produce in time a group of
composers of art music, eager to seek and find the main stream
of contemporary music and be fully representative of our Ameri-
can aspirations.


Chase, Gilbert. A Guide to Latin American Music. Washington: United
States Government Printing Office, 1945.
---. The Music of Spain. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.,
Duran, Gustavo. Recordings of Latin American Songs and Dances.
Washington: Pan American Union, Music Series No. 3, 1942.
Saminsky, Lazare. Living Music of the Americas. New York: Howell,
Soskin and Crown, 1949.
Slonimsky, Nicolas. Music of Latin America. New York: Thomas Y.
Crowell Co., 1945.




Castafieda, Daniel, and Mendoza, Vicente T. Instrumental precortesiano.
M6xico: Imp. del Museo Nacional, 1933.
Galindo, Miguel. Nociones de historic de la mzisica mejicana, I. Colima:
Tip. de El Dragon, 1933.
Mayer-Serra, Otto. Panorama de la mzisica mexicana desde la independen-
cia hasta la actualidad. Mexico: El Colegio de Mexico, 1941.
Mendoza, Vicente T. El romance espaiiol y el corrido mexicano. Mex-
ico: Eds. de la Universidad Nacional Aut6noma, 1939.
Saldivar, Gabriel. Historia de la mzisica en Mexico: epocas precortesiana
y colonial. Mexico: Editorial Cultura, 1934.
Stevenson, Robert. Music in Mexico. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell
Co., 1952.

Central America

Vasquez, Rafael A. Historia de la mzisica en Guatemala. Guatemala:
Tip. Nacional, 1950.

Colombia and Venezuela

Perdomo Escobar, Jose Ignacio. Historia de la mzisica en Colombia.
Bogota: Publ. del Ministerio de Educaci6n, 1945.
Plaza, Juan Bautista. "Music in Caracas (1770-1811)," The Musical
Quarterly, XXIX, 2.


Carpentier, Alejo. La mzisica en Cuba. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura
Econ6mica, 1946.
Grenet, Emilio. Mzisica popular cubana. Havana: Publ. del Ministerio
de Agriculture, 1939.
Ortiz, Fernando. Los instruments de la mzisica afrocubana. Havana:
Publ. Ministerio de Educaci6n, 1952.
-- -. Los bailes y el teatro de los negros en el folklore de Cuba.
Havana: Ediciones Cirdenas y Cia., 1951.
La africania de la mzisica folkl6rica de Cuba. Havana: Edi-
ciones Cardenas y Cia., 1950.



Carrillo, Julian Preludio a Crist6bal Col6n Columbia S115M
Chavez, Carlos Los Cuatro Soles ... Danza American Columbia
a centeotl (Ballet) 70334D

ChAvez, Carlos

Halffter, Rodolfo

Ponce, Manuel

Revueltas, Silvestre


Caturla, Alejandro

Nin, Joaquin

Sinfonia de Antigona
Sinfonia India


La Paloma Azul (Folk
song arrangement)

The Daughter of Colchis
(Ballet Suite)

Republican Overture

El Sol, corrido

Toccata for Percussion

Two Popular Mexican
Paganini, arr. Ponce:
Andantino Variato
Sonata Meridional
Theme and Variations:
Mazurka, Petite Valse
Also many recordings of

Trozo en el sentimiento

Cuban Suite No. 1 for
Piano and Winds
Poemas Alfro-Cubanos
Cadena de Valses ..
Danza Iberica

The Caribbean
Victor 12337/9

New Music Quarterly
Recordings 1012
American Columbia
American Columbia
70333 D and LP:
ML 2080
Amfi6n, Set 4
LP: American Decca
DL 7512
Part of Amfi6n, Set 2
LP: American Decca
DL 9527
Part of Amfi6n, Set 2
LP: American Decca
DL 9527
Boston 207
Chant du Monde
H.M.V. K8597

American Decca
DL 9647
LP: Columbia CX 1020
H.M.V. DB 1567/8

H.M.V. DA 1552
H.M.V. AB 656

H.M.V. DB 6915

Columbia 70717D

Angel 35105

Cambridge 203
Victor 1623

Ode6n 166371;
American Decca

Nin, Joaquin Danza Iberica

Collection (Tonada de la
Nifia Perdida; Canto An-
daluz; Granadina; Mon-
tafiesa; Laserna-Nin: El
Jilguerito; Malaguefia;
Cantilena Asturiana
Canto de los PAjaros

Jota Tortosina


Pafio Murciano



Tonada de la Nifia
Tonada de Valdovinos
Villancico Aragones; Mur-
ciano; Catalan; Anda-

Ode6n 188756; American
Decca 20528; Ode6n
Ode6n 188693/5; American
Decca 20541/3

Victor 10-1343
Ode6n 184229
His Master's Voice
DA 1037
Ode6n 195125; Brazilian
Ode6n A 3281; Ode6n
166091; Columbia LF
145; American Columbia
American Columbia
192M: 3944X
Victor 1984
Victor 1984: Ode6n
188695; American
Decca 20543; H.M.V.
DA 1086
H.M.V. E 588; Victor
4196, d.c.
Ode6n 12896GO; Ode6n
Ode6n 238135
H.M.V. DA 1086; Ode6n
Columbia DOX 664
American Columbia
17588D; Ode6n 188695;
American Decca 20543
Odeon 195125; Brazilian
Ode6n A 3281; Ode6n
12897Go; Odeon 166091;
Columbia LF 145;
American Columbia
4194M, d.c.
Ode6n 188693; American
Decca 20541
Columbia DOX 664
Victor 10-1100

Nin, Joaquin

The Caribbean
Victor 10-1073

Victor 2213
Columbia DOX 664
Victor 10-1109; Victor
2213; Ode6n 184246
Columbia DOX 664

Victor 10-1109

Columbia D 12045
Victor 2201

Victor 2201
Ode6n 166228

-- nos. 1 and 2 Chant du Monde GA
-- no. 5 only Ode6n 12896Go
Suite Espagnole Columbia DOX 664;
Odeon 166090/1;
Chant du Monde GA
Old Spanish Keyboard Chant du Monde
Music (Joaquin Nin, ed.) 5079/81
Chants d'Espagne Concert Hall CHS 1175
Variations on a Theme of Philharmonia 106
Preludio and Tocata Philharmonia 106
Ritmica no. 1 Angel 35105

Villancico Vasco; Castel-
lano; de C6rdoba; Gal-
Villancico Vasco
Villancico CatalAn
El Vito

Transcriptions of eight-
eenth century composi-
Anon: El Amor es como
un Nifio
Laserna: Tirana
Laserna: Los amantes
Chasqueados; El Jil-
guerito con Pico de
Literes: Acis y Galatea
Comentarios: no. 2, sur
un Theme de J. de
Bassa; no. 5, sur un
Air de P. Esteve

Orb6n, JuliAn
RoldAn, Amadeo



THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE has long been known as a
melting pot for the cultures of many nations and many peoples.
This has been particularly and uniquely so in the United States.
The diverse elements of the folklore and the arts of the country
have fused to become a single, rather homogeneous, pattern, with
only small islands of difference in isolated communities.
In contrast, the area known as the Caribbean is the home of
many races and nationalities, whose customs, religions, and
languages have retained their separate identities, making im-
possible a simple classification such as "Caribbean." In the field
of dance, no other geographic area of comparable size can offer
the variety, as well as the complexity, of patterns which exists
today in the Caribbean. Despite the parade of dance styles set
by Caribbean and Latin dance during the last two decades, the
greater part of ethnic dance is unknown, buried in the folklore
of many races, lost in the ritual of strange religions, and banned
by prohibitive laws. Only in the past ten or twenty years has any
significant understanding been achieved of the content of ethnic
dance and music and of the story of its evolution.
We have come to regard dance in the United States as either
a simple social function or an art reserved exclusively for the few.
Dance as a vital and fundamental part of life and religion is an


44 The Caribbean
alien idea to contemporary society in this country. On the con-
trary, dance in the countries of the Caribbean plays a far more
important part in the life of every individual than as a recreation
or spectator-viewed art, for dance has retained much of its
significance as the primary manifestation of culture, folklore, and
religion. Dance expresses, as nothing else can, the temperament,
mood, and heritage of the Caribbean.


Race is the first important determinant in the development of
the ethnic and folk dance of Latin America. Considering the
Caribbean to be made up of all the countries surrounding the
Caribbean itself-Mexico, Central America, northern South
America, and the islands of the West Indies-the customs and
cultures of three races have over the past four hundred years set
the course of all artistic achievement.
In pre-Columbian times, the area now known as the Caribbean
was inhabited by Indian tribes in widely varying states of civiliza-
tion, but Aztecs, Mayas, Toltecs, Caribs, or Arawaks all had in
common a reverence for both dance and music, which were in-
tegral parts of the daily lives of the people. Among the indigen-
ous Indians, both dance and music were closely associated with
religion and took a form in which general participation in the
ritual dance became the spiritual and overt expression of religious
belief. This attitude may be contrasted with that still prevailing
among other peoples, such as those of India, Siam, and Java,
where dance as a religious manifestation is confined to selected
persons who devote their lives to its techniques and performance.
In the Western Hemisphere, on the contrary, it can generally be
said that dance was performed by persons of all ages and social
It does not follow that all Indian dances were alike from area
to area. Indeed, great differences were apparent. Many varia-
tions have been noted by the early conquerors, whose accounts
of their adventures in the New World nearly always include at



least some mention of ceremonial and ritual dance. It is un-
fortunate for the study of the ancient folklore that most of the
early observations were made either by priests interested only in
exorcizing "devil worship and pagan practices," or by military
conquerors who soon came to know and dread the reverberations
of the war drums. Thus the dances were judged as being good
or bad. Observation was colored by personal prejudice and in-
fluenced by a European moral and ethnic code which condemned
all culture not based on a medieval concept of Christianity. Con-
sequently, full and accurate accounts of many rituals and cere-
monies are lost forever. Even Torquemada's comments as to the
monotony of the songs of the Aztecs may easily have been in-
fluenced by a lack of appreciation for what he called their "marked
rhythm." It is certain, however, that the Aztecs did have a form
of organized dance academy and that members of the nobility,
and even the king, were thoroughly trained in this art.'
The majority of Aztec dances were held in honor of the gods,
but Father Acosta described dances which apparently expressed
simply the joy of dance alone. Many of the sacred and war
dances were performed only by men, a custom which has its
counterpart in many primitive areas of the world. It is only in
our present society that men dancing alone have taken on a new
and socially unacceptable connotation.
Without detailing the specific mythologies, beliefs, and varia-
tions in religious concepts among the indigenous Indians, it can
be said that in general religious theory was both animistic and
polytheistic. All of man's strength and weakness was reflected
in the conduct of the gods who were honored by imitation. This
characteristic of the Indians' theology is far from being unique,
for their religion contained most of the basic elements of the
universal myth of creation and divine powers held by manlike
gods. Celebrants of Indian ritual wore clothing to represent the

1 Auguste Genin, "Notes on the Dances, Music and Songs of the Ancient
and Modern Mexicans," Annual Report, The Smithsonian Institution,


The Caribbean

gods and held ceremonies to recall the character and symbols of
the deity honored. A similar theme can be found in dances of
ancient Egypt held in honor of Apis in which disguised and cos-
tumed actors presented scenes from the life of Osiris in dance
Dances among the Indians, whether sacred or secular in theme,
were always in imitation of the occupations and customs of the
daily life of the dancers. Since gods, too, indulged in the same
activities, the dance could be representative of divine as well as
moral life. As a result, even the most fragmentary accounts of
the actual content of the dances serve as concrete examples of
social thought and custom during the pre-Columbian period. For
instance, Father Salvatierra makes an early note of tribal custom
in California (probably present-day Arizona or New Mexico), re-
calling snake dances in which he witnessed "three hundred dancers
carrying adders in their mouths."
There still exist controversy and disagreement over the ques-
tion of whether the ancient dances were direct imitation of daily
events, or whether they were in honor of a particular god's day
and his activities. Genin cites as an example the day when on the
Festival of Apochili, god of fishermen, everyone ate fish, dressed
as fishermen, decorated homes and temples in a fishing theme,
and in every way glorified the function and character of the god
whose day it was.2 If this latter theory is correct, it would
mean that a wedding dance would not be danced simply to cele-
brate nuptial ritual, but would vary according to the god whose
day it was. In any case, the difference of theory in actual effect
would appear to be slight, for the gods were endowed with the
character and pursuits of man. It is logical to assume that the
weddings of the gods would resemble those of mortals and that,
consequently, it was possible to honor both the occasion and the
god simultaneously.
Although according to local or regional custom, victory dances

2 For a complete discussion of this theory and descriptions of Aztec
dance ceremonies, see Genin, op. cit.

varied greatly among the tribes, dance was often used both as
a means of torture and of death. On occasion victors in battle re-
quired captives to dance until final exhaustion and death put an
end to their suffering. Among tribes in northern Mexico, it was
customary to deprive the captives of their scalps before the victory
dance. The tradition of "dancing to death" was rather wide-
spread, and often the victims included the women and children
of the unfortunate conquered people. As an added refinement,
it was not unusual for the old people of the victorious tribe to
torment the captives with flaming torches during the danse maca-
bre. If these customs appear barbaric and primitive, they are no
more so than the revolutionary dances held in France and Russia
in which severed heads on pikes took the place of scalps. Dance
is a physical release for emotional tensions, which has no limits
in terms of human decency, gentleness, or kindness, and has been
used from time immemorial as a purge of the soul. Dance can
be joyous, savage, delicate or obscene, aesthetic or evil, and can
express in material form all the emotions, conflicts, hates, and
loves of the human soul.
South American Indians, as well as those of Mexico, incorpo-
rated sun worship into their spiritual philosophy; many dances
eulogized the sun god and, with sacrificial offerings, praised or
propitiated him. The serpent deity ranked high in the deistic
hierarchy throughout the Indian civilizations, maintaining a po-
sition held in many other theological concepts, including Christi-
anity. Many early dances were performed in honor of the snake
or his symbols. The legends of ceremonies for other gods, and
diverse rituals dramatizing the ancient mythology in dance form
serve to emphasize that dance-regardless of occasion or motive
-was not just social recreation but a vital, living expression of
the religion itself. While it is not possible here to examine or
analyze at length the many dances reflecting the pre-Columbian
era-no matter what the tribe or geographic location, from South
America through the Antilles, to the Central American highlands
and Mexico-dance and dance ceremony were so much a part

48 The Caribbean
of the habit of the individual that their study provides important
clues to the lives and temperaments, the customs and traditions
of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
In the islands of the Caribbean most of the early culture has
disappeared almost entirely. We know very little of the activities
of the pre-Columbian Indians as compared with the extensive in-
formation pertaining to the cultures of the mainland Indians. We
do know that the dances of the island Indians were called Areitos,
that they were held as a part of the religion which was polytheistic
in nature, that they were imitative of activities of daily life, that
musical accompaniment was by voice or simple percussion instru-
ments, and that in a simplified form the tradition had much in
common with that of great Indian civilizations. This cultural
field has received little attention, however, and the majority of
the Indian dance ceremonies of the Caribbean islands is probably
lost forever. Traces of the culture may be found among the Black
Caribs of Honduras and the Carib Indian groups of the island
of Dominica, although no studies have been made of the dances,
either from a historical or modern point of view. The fast dwin-
dling tribes of Arawaks and Caribs now living in the Guianas
might also provide clues to an almost extinct culture. In Mexico,
Guatemala, and Central America, as well as Venezuela and
Colombia, however, it is still possible to observe almost pure
patterns of Indian dance, although great care must be taken to
separate the purely Indian forms from later, superimposed Span-
ish dances.

Following the occupation of the areas of the New World, dance,
as has been noted, proved an effective prelude to the frenzied
Indian revolts and massacres which occurred during the early
period of colonization. Spanish priests, whose first duty was to
Christianize the heathens, found that even renounced pagan gods
reasserted their influence during the dance ceremonials and festi-
vals. The conquerors, as military men, tried many methods to



ban and eliminate the dance as the primary psychological stim-
ulant to the violence and horror of Indian wars. The priests,
however, realized that in all probability it would be nearly im-
possible to erase from the souls of their converts so vital and basic
an activity as dance. Consequently, with little change in content,
the dance of the Indians was adopted or adapted into the ritual
of the Catholic Church in the Western Hemisphere, where it
still exists today.
Even with the addition of Spanish forms, the indigenous dance
remains, and Christian holidays and holy days were and still are
marked by performances of dances previously devoted to pagan
gods-but usually renamed for Catholic saints. The adaptation
of non-Christian rites to fit into the dogma of the Catholic Church
has had profound influence in the development of the entire
cultural pattern of the Caribbean, and is a primary factor sepa-
rating the social evolution of the Spanish-settled countries from
that of lands colonized by British Anglicans and Dutch Protes-
tants. The retention of dance as a significant form of expression
in Latin America, as opposed to the virtual obliteration of re-
ligious dance in the United States, must be credited to the im-
portance given dance in Spanish tradition.
The cultural tradition of Spanish dance found ready acceptance
among the Indians, and the intricate rhythms and melodic har-
monies fitted into the Indian concept of dance and its place in
society. In the United States, on the other hand, dance was often
banned by the strict Protestant religious sects which dominated
the colonization of the area. The Indian dances were never ab-
sorbed into the culture as was the case on the mainland settled
by the Spaniards, where the policy of colonization involved the
integration of the Indian races wherever possible, rather than their
removal or extermination, as was the case in the United States.
While this policy of Spanish conquest was true for the mainland
countries, it was almost the reverse in the Caribbean islands, and,
as has been pointed out, few traces remain of the ancient cultural
patterns of the island Indians.


The Caribbean

The Indians, being accustomed to the use of dance as a func-
tion of daily living, were quick to appreciate many of the Spanish
dance forms and simply incorporated them into their own dances.
In this way, a new interpretation of folk dance was developed,
which forms the basis of the popular dances of Mexico, Central
America, and northern South America, where the population is
so largely mestizo. The relationship of many of the dances to the
folk arts of Spain is readily observed. For instance, many of the
best known dances, such as the Jarabe Tapatio of Mexico, the
Joropo of Venezuela, and the Seis of Puerto Rico, all contain
forms of the fast footwork known as zapateos or zapateados, which
involve a rapid tapping of heel and toe dependent upon the ability
of the individual dancer. This style can be observed today in
most of the Flamencan dances from Spain. Not only do the
Caribbean countries use the zapateado, but the step is found
in every country settled by the Spaniards. But this dance form is
never found in the islands of the British, French, or Dutch West
Indies, being confined solely to areas of Spanish colonization.
One of the most interesting of the evolving dance forms which
is very popular today in rural areas is the dance drama-partly
religious and partly secular in character. It is within the structure
of the dance drama that the heritage of the past can be clearly
seen. Pagan and Christian religion, superstition and mythology,
and the pageant of history and colonization, which produced a
mixed race of people, are all parts of the themes of the dance
In Mexico, the dance drama is usually performed as a part
of a religious pilgrimage to a local shrine. While the worship
and belief are outwardly Christian, an important place is given
to the souls of the dead-momentarily using human bodies-that
are accompanying the pilgrims. Those who make the pilgrimage
without proper devotion run the risk of being transformed into
scorpions, stones, or bundles of old bones, a concept rather far
removed from Christian theology. The dances themselves show
clearly the tremendous influence on the thought and folklore

exerted by the Christianizing priests. The theme is usually one
which follows the traditional struggle between the Moors and the
Christians in Spain (Danzas de los Matamoros). The idea of the
conversion of the recalcitrant Moors is the dominant theme
throughout. It is very interesting to note that although the
Christians try mightily to convert the Moors during the drama,
they never succeed, and eventually are forced to kill all the
Moors. The dancing is done between phrases of dialogue, and
includes sword fighting, threatening gestures, and dance pan-
tomime. The Moors always wear dark, heavy beards and dark
glasses to distinguish them from the Christians who, being pure
in heart, have no need for concealing disguises. Aside from the
value of the Matamoros dances as folk forms, it is possible to
gain considerable insight into the Indian and mestizo concept of
Christian theology through the dialogue which accompanies the
Regional differences can transform the dance of the Matamoros
into a deadly fight between Spaniards and Aztecs or between
French and Mexicans, and thus into re-enactments of history.
The change in title and participants does not affect the theme,
however, which is always one of religious conversion. These
dances are noteworthy for several reasons. They are performed
in some form over nearly all of Mexico and in many parts of
Central America. Although the dances are Indian in pattern, the
steps used have been adopted from European styles, and include
even the schottische and the waltz. Lastly, although the dances
represent one of the methods of religious expression and the
theme is one of conversion, in none of the dramas is the villain
actually converted; killed, yes, but never converted. And to the
Indians, the dance drama is not just a pageant but a belief.3
Venezuelan folklore also makes extensive use of a type of dance
drama, although the theme is usually more secular in nature and
the dances are not necessarily performed during religious festivals.

3 Frances Gillmor, Dance Dramas of Mexican Villages (Tucson, Ariz.,




The Caribbean

The dances usually have two or three principal characters and a
chorus. Words are sung rather than spoken, following the ancient
Indian tradition. Many times the main characters are animals,
as in the Pdjaro Guanandol or the Chiriguare, or they may be
humans, wizards, or devils, depending upon the dance. Many
of the Venezuelan dances have a pure Indian background, al-
though at present the majority are mestizo. Through the efforts
of the newly created Ministry of Folklore, many of the Venezuelan
dances are being revived and others carefully described for their
preservation and continued use.
It is not possible here to mention or describe all the many folk-
loric dances of Mexico, Central America, and northern South
America; and because of the great variety in style, theme, step, and
function of the dances, it is difficult to generalize, except to say
that the basis of folk and ethnic dance of the mainland countries
is a mixture of Spanish and Indian cultures and a blending of
Christian and pagan religions. Dance remains today a part of
life as it was in pre-Columbian days, with only the addition and
incorporation of new elements, and it dramatizes in emphatic
form the culture, superstitions, and beliefs of the people. Al-
though we cannot observe Indian dances in the Caribbean islands,
the disappearance of the indigenous people led to the introduction
of the greatest racial and cultural influence of the entire world
upon popular dance and music-African slaves; and the year
1510 saw the introduction of the African into the Caribbean.

The African had many beliefs and customs in common with
those of the Indians he replaced. Both had an age-old tradition
of dance as an essential part of life; for both, dance was bound
to the ritual of religion; like the Indian, the African had a poly-
theistic belief that included the worship of the sun god and a
serpent deity. Both groups depended upon drums and rattles as
percussion instruments for their music, with voices carrying the
melodic strains. Many of the concepts of life and especially the



significance of death, including the relations of the dead with the
living, were strikingly similar. Although at the present time it
is tempting to think of the folk culture of the West Indies as of
African origin, it is well within the realm of possibility that In-
dians who had fled to the mountain areas of Haiti, Cuba, and
Jamaica had a least some cultural contact with escaped African
slaves, and that the Indians left an indelible mark on the culture.
In Haiti today, for example, certain features of ritual and ethnic
dance are difficult to explain without considering the possible in-
fluence of the Indians.4
African slaves were rarely sold or placed according to tribal,
family, or language groups. They arrived at their ultimate desti-
nations as mixed units-peoples who had little in common with
each other, except their rhythms, drums, and the universal ele-
ments of African religion expressed in their dances. The earliest
accounts of West Indian life nearly always mention the dancing
and drumming of the plantation slaves. At first it was not recog-
nized by European slave owners that these activities represented
the cohesive elements which spiritually bound the slaves together
to provide a momentary escape from frustration and bitterness in
their own lives-and so they irrevocably bound them to Africa.
Although the islands were slave markets dependent economi-
cally upon slave labor, the attitudes of the various colonizing
governments toward the slave differed to such an extent that the
ethnic dance of the Spanish-speaking countries evolved in a quite
different manner from that of the colonies settled by England,
Holland, and France. The policy of the Spaniards, often both
cruel and oppressive, did at least leave the African his identity as
a person. Probably the position of the Catholic Church, whose
priests felt it their responsibility to Christianize the African slaves
as they had the Indians, resulted in the relatively easy transition
from the status of slave to free man.
4 A great deal of evidence to support the theory of Indian influence
upon Haitian dance is given by Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen, the Living
Gods of Haiti, pp. 271-286. Other anthropologists dispute this theory,
giving an African interpretation to the Petro ceremonies.


The Caribbean

In any case, the slave was not considered as simply an ex-
pendable chattel in the islands of Spanish domination, nor were
limits put upon his future or the future of his children because
of his personal position as a former slave. On the contrary, in
the British, Dutch, and to some extent the French colonies, not
only did the Protestant churches refuse to baptize or convert
slaves, but some denied the existence of a soul in a slave. Although
records of slavery reach back to the earliest history of man and
include nearly all races, in the British West Indies the word
"slave" became synonymous with Africa. Even as a freed man,
the rights of the former slave were sharply curtailed and his place
in society rigidly controlled. While the Spanish considered the
fact of slavery as an unfortunate incident in the life of the in-
dividual, the British considered it to be the rightful destiny of
the black. These almost opposite views have determined and
moulded the whole course of West Indian folklore, including
dance and music.5
The Spaniards brought their own songs and dances to Cuba,
the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. As has been noted,
dance played a far more important part in the life of the Span-
iard than was the case in northern European countries; and the
African, like the Indian, was quick to adapt the Spanish forms
to his own rhythm structures brought from Africa. The marriage
of Spanish and African dance has proved to be one of the most
fruitful and successful of unions. Both forms combined to give
birth to the music known as Latin American, heard now in nearly
every country of the world. While it may be unwise to assign
arbitrarily a racial stereotype, almost without exception the African
has shown a physical reaction to rhythm and music, which is not
found to a comparable extent in other races.

" Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen (New York, 1947).



It is almost unnecessary to remark on some of the more popular
Cuban dance forms, for they have become international favorites.
Cuba has contributed the Rhumba, the Conga, the Guaracha,
Bolero, and the latest offspring of this family, the Mambo. Al-
though these are generally considered to be modern ballroom
dances, it is not necessary to go far out of Havana to see the even
more interesting folk forms of these same rhythms. Basically,
all these dances have come about through the use of Spanish
melody superimposed upon African rhythms. Percussion in-
struments are by far the most important in a Cuban orchestra,
and it is only to cater to North American tastes that pianos,
trumpets, and trombones have been added to the tambors, ma-
racas, giiiros, and claves.
Although many people are still in the process of learning the
Rhumba, the dance itself is over three hundred years old. Until
fairly recently, it remained hidden in rural Cuba, danced by the
Negroes and mulattoes of the sugar plantations, while Cuban so-
ciety sedately paced the measures of the Habanera. Even in
Havana today, the real Rhumba is confined to purely exhibition
dancing. What is considered to be rhumba music in the United
States and Europe is more often the rhythm of the slow and
melancholy Bolero or the Son, much-diluted cousins of the Rhum-
The dance originated as a part of the marriage ceremony sym-
bolized by a cock and a hen. The long ruffled train which has
become an integral part of the Rhumba costume, represents the
tail feathers of the hen, while the man's ruffled shirt is symbolic
of the hackle feathers of the cock. Many of the seemingly erotic
movements of the rural dance-which have proved so intriguing
to tourists-are simply following further the barnyard theme,
and, in dance form, illustrate tasks around the barn. Even the
famous "shoeing the mare" figure comes from this background.
The basic difference in the dance as performed in Cuba and
as taught by dance teachers in the United States is in the move-


The Caribbean

ment of the body. Body movement to the Cuban is not taught.
You cannot learn to dance with the music-you move because of
the music, because of the irresistible compelling quality of the
rhythm. Foreigners are likely to observe only the sensational,
sensual qualities of the dance, without realizing the ecstasy of
complete uninhibited abandon experienced by the dancers-
which may continue to complete exhaustion. The dance becomes
an emotional experience and not just a social function. It is no
longer a means to an end, but the end itself.
Dance in Cuba is not confined to the better-known ballroom
forms. In many parts of the island, dances nearly pure African
are still part of local custom and religion. Although "Christian-
ized," the slaves retained their ritual religious dances, which had
been part of their pagan African heritage. In many sections of
the isolated regions of Cuba, the Naningo drums beat through
the night while dancers express through the sinuous, violent move-
ment of their bodies their heritage from the Congo or the Gold
For the new race of Cubans whose Spanish blood is generously
mixed with that of Africa, neither the ritual religious dances of
the pure African nor the highly stylized and formal Spanish
dance of society were satisfactory; we now have a whole group
of dances known as Afro-Cuban. These rhythms have been the
inspiration for composers and dancers and have had tremendous
impact upon modern musical and dance interpretation.6
It is to be expected that in all of the Spanish-speaking coun-
tries, Spanish dance and music enjoys great popularity, because
the music and dance of Spain, despite the long struggle for in-
dependence, is still the music and dance of the "homeland." To
many people whose attachment for Spanish music is not wholly
sentimental, the newer rhythms and dance, bearing as they do
the trademark of Africa, are not acceptable, despite their vastly

6 A complete and exhaustive study of the African influence upon the
music and dance of Cuba, with particular emphasis upon the various
ritual dances, may be found in two volumes by Fernando Ortiz.



underrated contribution and significance. This group claims
Spanish music as "their own" and relegates African-inspired
rhythm to a socially undesirable classification. But although ap-
preciated and admired with nostalgia, Spanish dance falls far
short as an expression of the mood and temperament of the
modern Cuban.

Puerto Rico, although racially and culturally very similar to
Cuba, has produced a different sort of folk music and dance.
Because of legislation which forbade the introduction of slaves
into the interior of the island, little, if any, African heritage or
influence can be found in the dances known as Seis or the songs
called Decimas. The colonists from Spain, who settled the isolat-
ed mountain areas of the island, retained the rhythms of Spain
as a part of their memories of their homeland. Musical instru-
ments, crude and homemade, were in imitation of Spanish guitars
and mandolins. Songs were sung in the traditional falsettos, using
a complicated meter now archaic in Spain.
The Seis was originally a dance for six couples, which was
widely popular in colonial days. It has endured over the centuries
and, today, is the dance and music most expressive of the Jibaros
of the mountains. The dance soon lost the six-couple arrange-
ment, but continued as a dance for couples. Although undergoing
changes, the Seis is still expressive of the Puerto Rican in a way
no other dance can be. At one time, the Seis was so popular that
nearly every town in the island had its own particular variation
of the dance-and local and regional musical titles still persist.
The names given to the dance are also descriptive of its mood.
For instance, there is a form of Seis known as Seis Amarao (Seis
for Lovers). If by chance a lovers' quarrel should occur, then the
Seis Enojao (Angry Seis) would be suitable. A very popular form
is the Seis Zapateao. The steps require heavy beats and staccato
accents produced by the rapid interchange of heel and toe. These
steps are never found among the African and Negro dances,

58 The Caribbean
mostly because to be effective they must be danced on a wooden
floor or other hard surface-a rare object in either African or
former slave dwellings. The Seis is a lively, bouncy dance-
always gay, with rarely a serious overtone. Today, in Puerto
Rico, although the music is often heard, it is becoming more and
more rare to see groups dancing the Seis Bombeao, with its rec-
itative verses or the stamping of the ground with the Seis Chor-
reao. If an effort is made, however, groups of older people can
be found who dance the Seis in the style of their grandparents-
and bring back momentarily a phase of Puerto Rican folklore
that is rapidly disappearing under the impact of a superimposed
culture from the United States and a lack of interest by Puerto
Along the beaches of the northern coast of Puerto Rico and
beside the thatched-roof huts, the reverberations of the Bomba
drums may still be heard. If we may say that the Seis is pure
Spanish in content, then the Bomba must be termed pure African.
And as dance forms, these two have nothing in common. Even
in Puerto Rico, the Bomba is becoming a relatively unknown
form, although the dance is one of the most distinctive and in-
tricate in step pattern brought from Africa. Mention is made by
several writers of the Bomba dances in Haiti, but it is not com-
mon there and can be observed much better in Puerto Rico,
where it is no longer associated with religious ritual. The dance
is unique in that it violates the usual custom of the dancer being
directed and controlled by the drums. In Bomba, the dancers
face the drums and call for the breaks known as bombas. Puerto
Rico, unlike Cuba but much like the Dominican Republic, prefers
to consign the African dances to complete obscurity and, indeed,
many Puerto Ricans claim that the Bomba no longer exists-
or, that if it does, it is not worthy of note. From the standpoint
of dance technique and historical interest, the Bomba is one of
the most fascinating dances of the Caribbean, although it is en-
tirely probable that within a very short time the Bomba will be

lost, for Puerto Rico places little importance upon any of her
African heritage.
The only dance which developed in Puerto Rico as a result of
a Spanish and African mixture is the Plena, a relatively new
rhythm (1911) which adequately expresses the mixed race and
background of the Puerto Rican. The Plena discarded the roman-
tic idealism of the nineteenth century for a humorous, realistic
attitude reflected in both the words of its songs and the motions
of the dance.
In the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean-Cuba,
Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela-where
the slave trade flourished, the wakes for the dead, known various-
ly as baquines or velorios, dramatize the union of ancient myths
with the tradition and dogma of the Catholic Church. Whereas
in Venezuela it is possible to name and describe dances dealing
with the death and burial ceremonies, the baquine in Puerto Rico
and Santo Domingo is already close to oblivion because of its
African background and because of the legends of revelry and
debauchery which have accompanied the wakes for the dead child.
But underlying the celebration of the baquine, which outwardly
is callous and unfeeling, is the consoling philosophy which cele-
brates not the death of a child, but his admittance into heaven
and his escape from the poverty and ills of this world. Without
commenting on the moral values of the custom, even though it
seems inadvisable to make judgments using our own standards
as criteria, it can be said that the baquine and velorio both are
sources of as yet unstudied dance and music material which may
prove of great value-not only to the arts, but as a means of
understanding the cultural patterns of the people from whom
they come. The value of the death customs cannot be estimated
at this time from a standpoint of artistic creation; but, using the
chant of the baquine as inspiration, Rafael Hernandez of Puerto
Rico has written a three-part composition for chorus, which is a
masterpiece of musical expression.


The Caribbean

The same racial and cultural background that produced the
Rhumba in Cuba and the Plena in Puerto Rico led to the develop-
ment of the Merengue in the Dominican Republic. Somewhat
similar in rhythm to both Plena and Rhumba, the Merengue is
danced almost entirely with the weight on one foot in a limping
pattern and uses figures reminiscent of the Spanish Paso Doble.
Pure African dance has almost disappeared from the Domin-
ican Republic. One of the most popular folk dances, known as
the Carabine, has a history reaching back at least three hundred
years. Although the point is difficult, if not impossible, to prove,
some authorities seem to feel that the Carabine is a direct descend-
ant of Carib and Arawak Indian dances found in Santo Domingo
by the conquerors. Courlander has also remarked on the presence
of the same dance in Haiti under the names of Carabine, Cra-
bienne, and Gabienne and attributes it to Indian influences.7


During the nineteenth century, many dances were imported in-
to the West Indies from European society. Ladies and gentlemen
danced the sedate measures of the Minuet, the courtly Rigod6n,
the lovely Contradanza, the Spanish Danza, and even the Austrian
Waltz and the Polish Mazurka. These dances were, almost with-
out exception, confined to the upper classes and to formal balls,
but the always imitative African watched the dances, soon picked
them up, interpreted them in his own style, and produced a

7 The background of Dominican dance and music is a subject of some
controversy. Most Dominican writers tend to look for any substitute for
an African background. This position has been severely criticized by Mel-
ville Herskovits and Jacob Coopersmith. Flerida de Nolasco has claimed
the origin of the Carabine to come from the Spanish Danza, but the
evidence does not seem to bear out this theory. Courlander has thought
this dance to be of Indian origin (Haiti Singing, p. 122) in agreement
with Deren (op. cit., p. 275). Nolasco also attributes the development
of the Merengue to the Danza, a point of view which fails to take into ac-
count the strong African rhythm characteristic of the Merengue.



whole new set of dances still performed under the old names but
with a vastly different style.
Every island of the Caribbean has its own Mazurka, and it is
most interesting to talk with the country people and hear them
explain the origin of the dance. In all cases, it is regarded as
indigenous to the individual island, and it would be very difficult
to convince them otherwise. The same thing is true of the Waltz,
a form of which is danced from Cuba to Trinidad, each island
lending its own history and background to the making of a new
interpretation. And despite their foreign birthplaces, these Euro-
pean dances have so adapted themselves to their countries of
adoption that they have acquired characteristics which entitle
them to be called true folk dances. They no longer express Euro-
pean temperament and composition, but have become part of
Caribbean folklore.
As previously pointed out, the treatment accorded the slave
in the English-speaking colonies was based on the philosophy
which made a chattel of a human being-and one which was con-
sidered to be capable of not much thought and little, if any, feel-
ing. The church ignored the existence of the slave and assumed
no responsibility for his moral or economic welfare. Even as
freedmen, the ex-slaves had no legal rights, and only recently
have efforts been made to provide education or economic oppor-
tunity of any sort. If the social difference between white and
mulatto was great, the distance between white and black was
infinite, and status among the Negroes themselves was based
almost entirely upon the degree of whiteness achieved by illicit
unions with white colonists.
This particular social situation led to two important features
which developed in the folklore of the British West Indies. Be-
cause the ex-slaves often lived in isolated rural areas and had
little contact with cities and no educational advantages, not only
were African customs retained, but pagan religions remained al-
most intact. There was no diffusion or joining of cultures as
happened in the Spanish-speaking countries, for the English con-

62 The Caribbean
tribute very little in the way of compatible dance and music
usable to the African.
With the advent of the radio and increased educational fa-
cilities, the music and dance of the outside world came to the
British West Indies, and some of the Cuban dances were im-
mediately taken up. A second factor of great importance in West
Indian folklore has been the attitude of the islanders themselves.
Although African cultures were retained and their religions prac-
ticed, among those who had had the advantages of any education
or European cultural contacts or where there were prominent
mulatto groups, African music, dance, and religion were scorned
and reviled. All those of pure black ancestry were told that by
retaining their own customs they were "going back to Africa,"
and that, consequently, they would never find a place in the
white man's society if they persisted. As a result, the Caribbean
people are victims of an international inferiority complex, ex-
tended to include all elements of African culture. Because the
people have been told it is worthless, heathen, evil, and degen-
erate, this unique and valuable contribution of dance and musical
expression and creation has become a source of shame rather
than pride.
Once white colonists realized the unifying effect of dance and
drum among their slaves, both were immediately banned for the
protection of the grossly outnumbered Europeans. It was im-
possible, however, to legislate out of existence so basic an ingredi-
ent in African culture and personality, and, secretly or openly,
drums continued to accompany dances marking sacred and secular
ceremonies among both the slaves and their descendants.


In Trinidad, the primary African religion surviving European
moral indignation and legislative ban was Shango, dedicated to
the god of lightning. Among the Yorubas of Africa, Shango was
among the most powerful deities. His name is thought to mean



"strike violently and bewilder." Appropriately enough, Shango's
symbol is an iron chain. Shango is also known in both Haiti and
Cuba, but is of far more importance in Trinidad. Although offi-
cially banned, Shango as a religion is still strong, and its cere-
monies and dances are an important part of the folklore of the
Following emancipation, succeeding years saw a greater in-
fluence of the Anglican church among the Africans. The Shouters
of Trinidad are an example of a very altered form of Protestantism,
which would hardly be recognized in the staid and solemn atmos-
phere of an English Church. Outwardly Christian, their meetings
bear some resemblance to the revival meetings held in the United
States among some religious sects. Hymns introduce certain
Christian elements of the ceremony, which serve to invoke the
return of pagan gods. Many instances of possession and trance
are part of the ritual, producing some of the most violent and
uninhibited dance of the West Indies.
Within the Shango and Shouters cults are examples of the
ritualistic dances of Trinidad, but by far the best-known musical
form is Calypso. Calypso was originally a means of communica-
tion among illiterate people, and gossip, news, scandal, slander,
and political commentary was sung in improvised verse by African
troubadours. With the recent overwhelming popularity of Calyp-
so among all the British West Indies, it is not surprising that a
dance has developed side by side with the music-King Sailor,
the darling and creation of the Trinidad dance hall. While it is
not possible here to describe the dance choreographically, an ex-
cellent idea of the style of Trinidad Calypso dancing can be had
by observing "Bop" or "Bebop" in the United States. And this,
too, is logical, for "Bop" originated with the Harlem Negro, whose
history so closely parallels his Trinidad brother.
Calypso is now the theme music for Antigua, Jamaica, and the
Leeward and Windward islands, as well as for Trinidad and
Tobago. Each island has its own variation, but the mood and
motive are the same. Although during most of the year, the British

64 The Caribbean
West Indies are quiet, staid, and sometimes dull, when Carnival
time comes, all restrictions are cast aside, and the towns explode
in infectious gaiety, while the rocking rhythm of the Calypso and
the melodic tones of the steel drums shatter the sheltered re-
spectability of the islands. This is the time when all the folkloric
dances may be seen, brought out of hiding for their moment of
Jump-Up typifies the Carnival spirit which is shared by even
the most cold-blooded northerner. The dance is simple, but so
filled with exuberance and joy of living that its movement is hard
to resist, even for the English, who once a year let down all bars
and bans while the islands go into an ecstasy that is close to mad-
ness. Not only Jump-Up, but Calenda, Limbo, Bongo, Bel Air,
Beguine, Shango, and all the many other folk dances usually so
obscure are seen on every corner. Although a strictly once-a-year
event, Carnival has been responsible, more than any other single
element, for the preservation of the character and identity of the
ethnic dance and music of the British West Indies.
No discussion of folklore, as it applies to dance and music,
would be complete without at least a mention of the steel drums,
modern musical phenomena of the British West Indies. Years
ago, the British banned the use of drums and were able to enforce
the prohibition in the immediate neighborhood of Port-of-Spain.
But the removal of the drums only forced the people to invent
another form of percussion expression. And so they stole garbage
cans. Not only were the regular thefts of the garbage cans
annoying, but the horrible din produced by banging on metal
made Trinidad nights hideous. All efforts of the police and the
offended citizenry, however, failed to stop the thefts or control
the noise. Gradually, a technique was adapted to these weird
instruments, and old oil drums, with a better beating surface,
replaced garbage cans. Then came the remarkable discovery
that the bottom surface of the drum held areas of tonal differ-
ence. The drums were beaten with sticks with rubber tipped



ends, and a system of hitting the "pans" developed, which could
produce melody as well as rhythm.
The experimental period came to an end with a complete band
of twenty men or more playing anything from Beethoven and
Bach to Calypso, Mambo, or church hymns. To produce the
necessary number of notes, the drums are cut off to different
heights, and are appropriately known as tenor, baritone, and bass
pans. The tuning process is accomplished by the use of a block
of wood and a hammer, and the pan is pounded until the exact
tone is found. The playing is done entirely by ear, for, so far,
a written system has not been devised for steel drums. From be-
ing nuisances and delinquents, steel-bandsmen have become re-
spectable and their achievements so well recognized that Trinidad
sent a steel band to the coronation of Elizabeth II to represent the


Included in the English-speaking group of Caribbean islands
are our own Virgin Islands, whose cultural patterns more closely
resemble those of the British West Indies than those of Puerto
Rico or Cuba. In the little island of St. Croix is one of the most
unique and unusual dance groups in the world. Years ago the
slaves heard the stories of King Arthur, St. George and the Dragon,
and the Knights of the Round Table. During the centuries since
then, and throughout the many changes of nationality that re-
flected the European struggle for power, first the slaves and then
their descendants danced the "jig with recitation." Their use of
the jig is exactly as defined by the English Folklore Society-
dance with recitation. The words of the jig dialogue of St. Croix
have been passed on by mouth for generations. Although dis-
torted by time and by the almost incomprehensible dialect of
the Crucian native, the stories of King Arthur, St. George, and
other English folk legends are acted, spoken, and danced. This

8 Charles S. Espinet, "Trinidad's Tinpany," Esso, I, No. 5, 14-18.


The Caribbean

group is composed nearly entirely of people who are now from
sixty to eighty years old. Young Crucians no longer seem in-
terested in learning the long recitations which may go on for
hours-nor can they dance the intricate jig patterns which do
not resemble African steps, but look very much like a modern
Irish jig.
The Virgin Islands are also a stronghold for the old quadrilles,
learned by slaves looking through the windows of plantation
houses. Anyone knowing the formalized court etiquette which
dictated the form of the old quadrille would probably be amazed
to see this version, but all the figures remain intact-it is only
the step and style that have become Africanized. Musical instru-
ments resembling the flutes and trap drums used by the early
colonists have been devised. The music is unlike any other in
the West Indies.

Mention has been made several times of existent dances which
are pure African in character-the Nago of Cuba, the Bomba
of Puerto Rico, the Shango of Trinidad. But nowhere else in the
world has African dance developed to the extent found in Haiti.
Haiti is a land of incomparable contrast, vivid color, and un-
quenchable vitality. Although Haiti is part of the Western World
geographically, the roots of her culture extend far back into the
Dark Continent, and a violent history combined with a unique
philosophy and a strange religion have moulded her dance and
Vodoun is the name given to the spiritual beliefs and religion
of the masses of Haiti. Its development as a mystic but positive
force has been determined by the course of history as it affected
the lives of the Haitians. While it is obviously impossible in a
presentation of this scope to do more than mention the events
which led to the destruction of the French colony by Negro revolt
in one of the most brutal wars of modern history and to the es-



tablishment of the first black republic in the world, it was Vodoun,
as practiced in the vicious Petro ceremony, that initiated the first
massacre of the French colonists. Although maligned, deplored,
feared, and persecuted, Vodoun has maintained its hold upon
the peasants of Haiti and is the religion of the illiterate, des-
perately poor descendants of slaves, who for generations have
practiced the lores, religions, and customs of their ancestors. From
them comes the music and dance which is Vodoun.
There is no more misunderstood word than Vodoun. The
misconceptions which follow it range from cannibalism to tales
of zombies and black magic. Many novelists have treated the
sensational aspects of Vodoun, and films have distorted its
philosophy in horror movies. And it is difficult to explain in
terms understandable and acceptable to northern morality. Vodoun
is not just a philosophy, not just a religion, not just magic and
sorcery, not just superstition, not just good, not wholly evil, but
it is a way of life and a belief which encompasses the mythology
and the metaphysical concepts of a people whose worship and
prayers are physically expressed in dance and rhythm.
Greatly oversimplified, Haitian Vodoun consists of a hierarchy
of gods sharply divided into two groups. The first, undoubtedly
of Dahomean origin, is known as Rada.9 The second, which grew
up in the Western Hemisphere and is known only in Haiti, is
Petro. While there are many exceptions, in general the gods of
Rada are good, benevolent, and wise, while those of Petro are
evil and malignant and must be propitiated to guard against their
potent magic. Ancestor worship plays a large role in Vodoun,
for the beliefs concerning the dead and the spirits are among
the most important spiritual concepts of the religion.
Although Haiti has several forms of dance, the ritual dance

9 For a description of the origin of Rada ceremonies in Africa, see
Herskovits, Dahomey; and for its form in Haiti, see Herskovits, Life in a
Haitian Valley. Excellent accounts of Rada and Petro ritual may also be
found in Deren's and Courlander's accounts. An excellent example of dis-
tortion of Haitian religion and manifestations is to be found in Loederer's
Voodoo Fire.


The Caribbean

is most outstanding. It has often been remarked by writers that
the primitive dances are wild, uncontrolled improvisations. Noth-
ing could be further from the truth. Dances are performed for
certain gods on certain occasions, under specific circumstances,
and in rigidly fixed styles. The way of dancing and the steps
themselves are determined by the loa (god) invoked.
The drums which are used for all Rada and Petro ceremonies
are in themselves sacred instruments and are "blessed" or "bap-
tized" by the houngnan (high priest). The drummers, regardless
of their individual ability, are regarded only as necessary physical
instruments and have no place in the Vodoun priesthood. They
are hired simply to play, and the rhythm beaten must conform
to the rhythmic pattern associated with the certain god for whom
the ceremony is being held.
After the invocation to the god, everyone dances to await the
coming. There is no element of competition in the dance, but
rather an atmosphere of anticipation. The god makes his presence
known by "possessing" or "mounting" one of the worshippers.
The phenomena of "possession" has never been satisfactorily ex-
plained. Outwardly, the individual goes into a trance state during
which he assumes the character, appearance, voice, and person-
ality of the god. It is basic to Vodoun religion that the soul of
the individual must leave the body before the spirit of the god
may enter, for the soul and the body are not one, but two, and
may separate from each other. The mortal person is absent, and
his body is no longer even called by his name but by that of the
god who inhabits it. For the moment he is the god and is treated
All of the loa possess their own peculiar physical characteristics,
voices, and clothing. In states of possession, the mortal may wear
the typical god's clothing, assume another voice, and may even
change his sex. Since the body belongs not to a mortal but to a
god, it is quite possible that the god might perform feats of danc-
ing which the mortal can never equal. This is true of all Haitian
ritual dance, and may serve as an explanation of the apparent in-



exhaustibility of the Haitian while dancing a ritual under the
spell of possession, as compared to the professional dancer trying
to reproduce the dance under theatrical conditions.
Very briefly summarized, Haitian ritual dance emphasizes a
general participation and serves to prepare mind and body for
the entrance of the loa, and later special participation when the
gods dance. While it seems in many cases, and to unprepared
spectators unfamiliar with African dancing, that the dances are
sensual, erotic, and violent without the grace of the typical ballet,
a trained dancer can recognize immediately that the ritual dance
is one of the most complete dance forms in existence. Dance is
not restricted to movements of feet or legs-but emotion is ex-
pressed through movement of the entire body as a unit. Only
suggestions of this styling are found in the modern ballroom
dances such as Rhumba and Conga, but their antecedents are to
be seen in the ritual dance which is a child of Africa. Rhythm
to the Haitian is a symphony in movement involving arms, legs
torso, neck, and head. Certain dances such as Mahi emphasize
rapid foot motion; others such as Yanvallou interpret the writhing
motions of the snake; Petro dances always have a rolling shoulder
movement performed with a violent agitation of the whole body,
coming close to hysteria.
The fluidity of motion as a means of dance expression is the
dominant feature encountered in most of Haitian dance. Ritual
dances are never danced in couples, but singly. It is rather in-
teresting to realize that while the dances may appear sensual,
lewd, and even obscene to the North American, such is not
necessarily the intent of the Haitian. Haitian peasants view our
modern ballroom dance with couples close together as "shocking."
It all depends upon the point of view.
Not all types of Haitian dance, however, are confined to the
purely ritualistic forms devoted to the loa. There are many cele-
brations of a secular nature which are also observed through
expressions of dance and music. The best examples of this form
of dance may be seen during Carnival or during Holy Week


The Caribbean

when the Rara dances are performed. The Rara is another ex-
cellent example of the adaptability of the Catholic Church to the
African rite, for, although Rara is celebrated in honor of Good
Friday and portrays a struggle between good and evil, its manifes-
tations are far from Christian.
Still another group of dances is reserved for social parties known
as bambouches. The country dance is entirely a social event, al-
though it is often confused by tourists who think they are seeing
"Voodoo." Among the most outstanding of the bambouche dances
are Congo, Juba, Martinique, and others reminiscent of the
French quadrilles. These dances and others which comprise this
group give the individual the opportunity for exhibitionistic tech-
niques in a way that ritual dance would never allow. There is
never confusion between these two forms of dance, and it would
be unheard of to allow ritual dance at a bambouche in exactly
the same sense that jazz or boogie music is not heard in a church.
In every part of the Western Hemisphere (with a possible ex-
ception among the Bush Negroes of Surinam), the dance forms
brought from Africa have been subject to superimposed cultural
patterns from Europe. Haiti alone offers the opportunity to ob-
serve nearly pure African dance styles-not as they are currently
danced in Africa, but as a product of the New World almost
uninfluenced by Europeans.
Although from the beginning-first by the French slave own-
ers and later by the Catholic Church and the aristocratic element
-dance has been banned and condemned, the ritual and its
expression in dance have remained as a tradition of a nation, part
of a personal experience of the past, and part of the sacred bond
with the ancestors. Haiti is a challenge to both the mind and
body of a dancer, for to lift a corner of the veil of mysticism,
superstition, and taboo which envelop the tradition of Vodoun
is to catch a glimpse of a different and vital philosophy which is
the soul of Haiti.



While until recently many of the dances of the Caribbean were
rapidly disappearing, a new policy has been inaugurated in several
countries with the aim of preserving and stimulating interest in
the folk arts. In a sense, at least in some regions, the Caribbean
is coming to a belated appreciation of her own contributions.
Long hampered by an overwhelming sense of inferiority, repressed
and frustrated by official ban and moral indignation, the peoples
of the Caribbean have performed their dances secretly and kept
their traditions alive. At present, however, enlightened govern-
ments are making it possible for dance to be a subject of study,
and are encouraging the performance and exhibition of previously
prohibited dances. This is particularly true in Haiti. In Jamaica,
the University College of the West Indies has done a great deal
to stimulate interest in West Indian folklore. In Trinidad, private
and competitive groups are using folkloric themes as inspirations
for choreographic triumphs. Martinique and Guadeloupe proudly
present the Beguine. The Virgin Islands have recently organized
a special annual Festival to revive the dying folklore of the islands.
Mexico has taken a great deal of interest in the subject and offers
summer courses in the folk dances of Mexico. Venezuela has
set up a special Ministry of Folklore as a testimonial to the im-
portance given its own culture. Nearly every country of the
Caribbean now has its folkloric society dedicated to the preserva-
tion of its dance, music, and art. But these are relatively new
developments, and represent in many countries an almost com-
plete reversal of the previous desire to modernize and discard the
remnants of their ancient cultures.
To enter the dance and music world of the Caribbean is to
forget the civilized and standard dance tradition, for the body
and the spirit move with the beating of the drums and in rhythm
to the staccato of heels. Dance is no longer the social grace of
the formal salon and polite drawing room, but the expression of
a people to whom the dance is the natural outlet for all emotion.


The Caribbean

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Federico de Onis: MARTi AND THE

WHEN I WAS INVITED to prepare a paper on some aspect
of the theater in the Caribbean lands, I decided to examine one
which might help to clarify others by lending them historic per-
spective. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am
that the origin of the contemporary epoch in Spanish American
letters is to be found-earlier and in more intrinsic and com-
prehensive form-in the uniquely personal work of Jose Marti,
rather than in that of any of the other so-called precursors of
modernismo. There is no doubt about this being true in the case
of poetry and the essay (the two most typical forms this move-
ment assumed), in which Marti anticipated all others, creating
ideas and forms which not only fecundated this dawning epoch
of Hispanic letters, but sustained and enriched their vitality and
significance after the modernist revolution and the various schools
into which it crystallized had passed. Marti was more ample in
scope than all these schools, and his modernity, as I have pointed
out on other occasions, was of longer range than that of the other
modernistas, and contained the seeds of subsequent developments
in the literary field, even to our own day. The reason for this
is that in the work of Marti, fragmentary and hurried as it was,
there was always balance between the expression of his subjective