15 Chapters
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Nine: Appropriation, Round 2: Immigrant Folkloric Dance

Matthew Krystal University Press of Colorado ePub

Appropriation, Round 2: Immigrant Folkloric Dance

Triton Community College features a large, high-ceilinged, adaptable open space that is flanked by the student service center and the bookstore. During the day it serves as a cafeteria. On this evening, teachers and students of the English as a Second Language program have gathered for a night of international culture. Fliers were distributed to the classes and posted around campus. Tables have been rearranged to accommodate displays of art and samplings of food. Against the solid west wall of the space a set of risers forms a stage. The district encompasses large Eastern European and Latino immigrant populations and the evening reflects the demographics of the surrounding communities. Polish and Mexican folk culture is presented as art, food, and dance. I take some pictures and talk with some former colleagues. The event, as teachers report to me, occurs largely because of student impetus; teachers assist in the organization, but it is students that really make the evening happen. It is a most public and direct expression of the kind of cultural exchange that pervades the transnational ESL classroom. Students learn about the English and culture of the United States. Their teachers and classmates learn about peoples and places from all over the world. Here, the whole campus is encouraged to join the exchange.

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Fourteen: Dance in Comparison

Matthew Krystal University Press of Colorado ePub

Dance in Comparison

We gather once again in the courtyard of a household participating in Totonicapán’s sustainable tourism project. At over 8,000 feet above sea level, the air is cool and the sunlight intense. Students visiting Guatemala during winter break sit at two tables under a veranda, enjoying lunch and live marimba music. A roof of alternating opaque and translucent corrugated panels provides both shade and sunlight. The view is well illuminated, the air cool and comfortable. Vines adorn the columns of the veranda and the roof that covers the patio. Flowering plants line the wall that separates this house from the next. Overall it is a pleasant atmosphere, achieved by making the most of limited resources.

Some of the students have remarked that the trip so far has been a unique experience. One comments that he could not imagine getting so far off the beaten path otherwise. Yet the moment and the space have certain transnational dimensions. Of our group of ten, five are native speakers of Spanish. They include sons and daughters of Mexican immigrants and a Puerto Rican woman, a citizen from a place that is part of the United States, yet not a state. The college that brought this group together is in the state whose senator, the son of a white woman and a Kenyan man, was elected president weeks earlier. The multiple places and identities represented by the group are extended by the current social setting. Our guide for the day is a mestiza Guatemalan; the hosts and the musicians, K’iche’ Maya.

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Five: Origin, Change, and Continuity in Powwow

Matthew Krystal University Press of Colorado ePub

Origin, Change, and Continuity in Powwow

Tulsa in August is certainly always hot, and this weekend in August is particularly so. The weather competes with sporting events for headlines and space in the local paper. However, it is neither the weather nor sports that has brought me to Oklahoma. I am here to attend the thirtieth annual Intertribal Indian Club of Tulsa (IICOT) Powwow of Champions. Before this IICOT powwow, I have attended powwows only in the upper Midwest, which draw dancers and audiences primarily from Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee communities. It is to complement my experiences with Woodland powwows that I have made myself a part of the audience in the Tulsa Expo Square for this most noted Southern Plains contest powwow.

Expo Center is a cavernous fieldhouse-like structure, affording large, open floor space well suited for a variety of uses. Although predominantly gray and starkly functional, it is air-conditioned and well lit. The space, aside from the pitch of the roof, is rectilinear; squares and rectangles predominate in the shape of walls, windows, and floor and their orientation to one another. Its length is split into two areas sharing the same roof, separated by a break in the level of the floor. The lower level is employed for the IICOT powwow and, visible and audible to all, the upper level hosts a carnival. IICOT organizers make the most of the functionality of the space and overcome its less appealing aesthetic qualities.

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Four: The Dance of the Conquest and Contested National Identity

Matthew Krystal University Press of Colorado ePub

The Dance of the Conquest and Contested National Identity

After scaling the stairs of a pyramid temple, the famed warrior Tekun Umam kneels before the K’iche’ king. Not long ago news reached K’uumarkaaj, the K’iche’ capital, that the great Aztec empire had fallen to the Spanish. Deeply troubled by this turn of events, the K’iche’ king has ordered the meeting to delegate military command to Tekun Umam. Able fellow warrior and second-in-command Witzitzil Tzunun is beside Tekun Umam when he receives the symbol of his command, a staff carrying the cerulean and white flag of the contemporary state of Guatemala. It is a critical moment both in the life of Tekun Umam and in this version of the most salient Guatemalan national origin story.

After bidding appropriately respectful farewell to their political leader, the K’iche’ warriors descend the stairs of the temple, leave K’uumarkaaj, and set about preparing for battle. They assemble an army and consult Ajitz, the Maya priest-warrior-scout. Meanwhile, Pedro de Alvarado and his army are on the march, intending to conquer and convert the K’iche’. In a few hours the Maya and Spanish will meet in battle, their respective leaders confronting one another in a struggle to the death. Tekun Umam will fight valiantly but will be defeated and killed by Alvarado. Witzitzil Tzunun, recognizing the significance of the loss of Tekun Umam and a good many other Maya soldiers, will call for the cessation of battle. The K’iche’ king,1 resigned to his fate since he learned of the fall of Tenochtitlán at the beginning of the play, now accepts conversion on behalf of his people at its end.

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Eight: Folkloric Dance, Modernity, and Appropriation

Matthew Krystal University Press of Colorado ePub

Folkloric Dance, Modernity, and Appropriation

It is a bright, pleasant Sunday morning in Melrose Park, Illinois. The September sky is a clear and deep blue, the fall air dry and slightly breezy. Nineteenth Avenue, the main commercial street of this near-west suburb of Chicago, is closed for Hispanofest. Normally dominated by automobile traffic, la decinueve, as local residents are apt to call it, now features families, couples, and groups of friends out for a leisurely stroll. They amble past booths rented by local businesses, community organizations, and national and multinational corporations. At the Lake Street intersection of 19th Avenue, a large stage with sophisticated sound and lighting systems marks the north end of festivities. A long block to the south, Main Street crosses 19th Avenue. To the east on Main we encounter carnival rides and two additional, smaller stages. The grade-level intersection of Broadway by the Union Pacific railroad, its crossing gates lowered, marks the south end of the fair. The atmosphere is altogether agreeable—festive yet relaxed. Later in the day, after families have returned from church and had lunch, the festival will pick up intensity and the crowd will grow large.

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