Embodying Mexico focuses on The Dance of the Old Men and Night of the Dead of Lake Pátzcuaro, examining them in light of the fascinating web of political and poetic signification associated with their roles as icons of Mexicanness.
Framed as authentically indigenous, the humorous dance of old men--in which masked figures hobble meekly into the stage area and then execute intricate and rapid rhythmic footwork to the accompaniment of violin, double bass, and a guitar-like vihuela--serves ideological and economic agendas of indigenismo, nationalism, and tourism, even as it entertains. In the tiny cemetery on the island of Janitzio women kneel beside graves to commemorate Night of the Dead, drawing crowds of spectators, while tourist guide-books, postcards, websites, advertisements, and romanticized films represent the scene.
Covering a ninety-year period from the postrevolutionary era to the present day, Hellier-Tinoco's analysis is thoroughly grounded in Mexican politics and history. Simultaneously she incorporates choreographic, musicological, and dramaturgical analysis, exploring how and why this dance and ritual were used by those who staged and represented them--anthropologists, folklorists, artists, politicians--throughout the eight decades since the earliest appropriation and promotion.
The author examines multiple contexts in Mexico, the USA, and Europe including: the transnational perspective of a 1938 event in San Antonio, Texas that promoted notions of cross-border identity and nation-as-people; photographic representation in Mexican Folkways magazine; official performances following the 1968 massacre in Mexico City, including at the Olympic Games; proliferation of the dance through ballet folklórico ensembles in Mexico and the USA; and a 3D interactive film exhibition at EXPO 2000, the world's fair in Germany, essentializing the "soul of Mexico."
Embodying Mexico expands and enriches our understanding of complex processes of creating national icons, dance repertoires, and tourist attractions, drawing on wide-ranging ethnographic, archival, and participatory experience. This extensive companion website illustrates the author's arguments through audio and video.