Smithsonian Center for Lation Initiatives
The Interpretation and Representation of Latino Cultures: Research and Museums Conference Documentation
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Jaquez, Candida

Challenging Traditional Curatorial Practices

Historicizing Narratives

Borders and Diasporas

Aesthetics Beauty

The Body: The Real and the Symbolic

All Abstracts



“Web Jefas: Performing La Mujer in Mariachi”

The mariachi tradition has long been understood by U.S. practitioners and aficionados as a male-dominated genre in its musical materials and as a lived practice. As a folkloric practice permeated by issues of nationalism, ethnicity, and history, this Mexican mestizo musical tradition highlights those issues as related to contemporary, Mexican descent communities. The presence of women in mariachi within the U.S. can be understood as a dialectical relationship between musical materials, performance practice, and professional norms.

This work examines women's performance practices as the contemporary crossroads of emergent, female roles in mariachi. The U.S. professional female presence remains in dialogue with musical portrayals of Latinas in the repertoire itself and accepted social practice within the profession. By viewing the performative interpretations of mariachi as both a profession and music tradition marked by particular musical materials, conceptions of femininity and issues of the body in musical, expressive culture can be more fully addressed.

Women mariachi professionals and educators in particular have engaged musical practice as part of a broader awareness of female embodiments of nationalist identities in cultural representation. This multi-media engagement has led to an expanded internet presence in the roles of female educator and professional. Of particular note is the work pursued by Laura Sobrino, Leonor Perez, and Sylvia Gonzales on websites that promote gender specific forms, methods, and ideologies that present mariachi history and identity as culturally viable for young people, especially females. A brief survey of these works reveals how these sites reflect socio-cultural networks among women that may or may not be formally acknowledged or legitimized as bases of knowledge for U.S Mexican descent communities.

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