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(cover picture) Mendoza, Zoila S.
2008 Creating Our Own: Folklore, Performance, and Identity in Cuzco, Peru. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.

Notes: xvii, 234 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. ISBN: 9780822341307
Reviewed 1 Sep 2008 by:
Adam M. Pacton <>
English Department, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, USA
Medium: Written Literature
Folklore - Peru - Cuzco
Folklore - Performance - Peru - Cuzco
Ethnicity - Peru - Cuzco
National characteristics, Peruvian
Nationalism - Peru - Cuzco
Cuzco (Peru) - Social life and customs

ABSTRACT:    The folkloric arts of Cuzco, Peru had a leading role in the shaping of the regional identity of cuzqueños in the first half of the twentieth century, and this regional identity was proposed as a national and Andean identity.

The formation of identity within postcolonial contexts is never straightforward—the negotiation between pre-colonial and post-colonial representational schemes invariably produces manifold tensions within a people and their nation. Zoila S. Mendoza captures this problematic dialectic in her study of the folkloric arts of twentieth-century Cuzco, Peru. By presenting these folkloric productions as not merely reflective of social and political processes but integral to them, Mendoza convincingly foregrounds cuzqueño folklore as one of the primary vehicles of Peruvian and Andean self-identification.

The book is divided into seven major sections: an introduction, "Revisiting Indigenismo and Folklore"; "The MisiÓn Peruana de Arte Incaico and the Development of Artistic-Folkloric Production in Cuzco"; "The Rise of Cultural Institutions and Contests"; "Touristic Cuzco, Its Monuments, and Its Folklore"; "La Hora del Charango: The Cholo Feeling, Cuzqueñoness, and Peruvianness"; "Creative Effervescence and the Consolidation of Spaces for 'Folklore'"; and an epilogue, "Who Will Represent What Is Our Own? Some Paradoxes of Andean Folklore Both Inside and Outside Peru".

In her introduction, Mendoza explains the process of folklorization and contextualizes this process in Cuzco. According to Mendoza, folklorization is the process where public or popular forms of artistic expression are selected and promoted as representative of a region or group. In succeeding chapters, her book follows the history of folklorization in Cuzco and in Peru as a whole. Mendoza captures the ambiguity and recursivity of this process by illuminating the tensions between extant and proposed identities in Peru at the beginning of the twentieth century and shows how artistic-folkloric productions were inextricably tied to these identities. The classificatory difficulties of the mestizo, Indian, and cholo categories are examined not merely in racial or social senses, but also in terms of their folkloric productions.

In the first chapter, Mendoza concretizes these issues through her study of Incaic traditions and their elaborations. "The Misión Peruana de Arte Incaico and the Development of Artistic-Folkloric Production in Cuzco", follows the history of the Compañía Peruana de Arte Incaico (Peruvian Company of Inca Art), also known as "the misión", and its influence on the formation of a cuzqueño and Peruvian identity. The group’s formation was due, in large part, to the work of the Argentinean ambassador to Peru, Roberto Levillier. Levillier provided funds for a Peruvian group to perform indigenous or Inca art in Buenos Aires between October 1923 and January 1924. The group was well-received when it performed in Buenos Aires due, in part, to the perception of its art as authentic or indigenous. Mendoza is careful to point out, however, that the group’s productions were not merely mimetic; the musical productions, in particular, contained traditional elements and contemporary rural and urban components.

This confluence of the traditional and the contemporary, Mendoza argues, is one of the defining elements of cuzqueño folkloric productions, and she elaborates on this in the second chapter, "The Rise of Cultural Institutions and Contests". Mendoza argues that the success of the misión led to a rise in folkloric creation and to the institutionalization of artistic-folkloric productions in Cuzco in bodies like the Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo. The proliferation and institutionalization of cuzqueño folkloric productions led to a number of contests (such as the Música y Bailes Nacionales or National Music and Dance Contest), and these productions began to acquire national attention. In this chapter, and throughout the rest of the book, Mendoza shows that what would come to be considered authentically cuzqueño is, in fact, mestizo and not Incan or pre-Hispanic. Artists and intellectuals in Cuzco felt that to establish a credible national identity, traditional musical and folkloric productions needed to be elaborate and polished to avoid stagnation and perceptions of primitivism on the world stage.

In the third chapter, Mendoza illustrates other ways in which Cuzco and its folklore were brought to the attention of international audiences and how this attention stimulated further development in Cuzco in both artistic and touristic spheres. "Touristic Cuzco, Its Monuments, and Its Folklore" explores the impact that the 1911 discovery of Machu Picchu had on Cuzco and Peru. When the Peruvian government recognized Cuzco as the Archaeological Capital City of South America in 1933, the artists of Cuzco were given new opportunities to develop their regional and, by extension, national identity. Mendoza illustrates some of these new opportunities through the contests, celebrations, and institutionalizations that this status brought to Cuzco and how these, in turn, influenced the repertoire of cuzqueño artists. This new focus on Cuzco, and the increasing modernization of the city, provided greater spaces for cuzqueño folklore to develop.

In "La Hora del Charango: The Cholo Feeling, Cuzqueñoness, and Peruvianness", Mendoza argues that this radio program provided Cuzco intellectuals and artists with the means to disseminate a Peruvian and Hispanic-American identity that was essentially cholo or mestizo. The charango (a small guitar) and its music were offered as the symbol of a national identity and, because the charango was associated with both indigenous and European traditions, Mendoza argues, the artists and intellectuals who offered this symbol were identifying cuzqueñoness and Peruvianness with mestizo and cholo identities and not with pre-colonial ones. This identification was somewhat paradoxical, however, because the proliferation of radio broadcasting brought foreign musical modes such as jazz and the tango, which were perceived, in part, as a foreign colonial invasion. Mendoza describes how a number of artists and intellectuals sought to counteract these influences by clarifying the characteristics of authentic Peruvianness. She clearly articulates how this essentialization produced many debates among Cuzco artists and intellectuals.

The fifth chapter describes the further institutionalization of Cuzco folklore and how various groups, artists, and contests sought to crystallize cuzqueño and Peruvian identities. Mendoza describes the activities of the Instituto Americano de Arte and the contests it organized between 1938 and 1941. She also follows the life and work of Armando Guevara Ochoa and his efforts to impart greater formality, complexity, and richness to Cuzco music to achieve greater world-wide appreciation. Finally, Mendoza explores how the establishment of "Cuzco Day" and "Cuzco Week" helped to solidify cuzqueñismo. Although in the epilogue, she explains how these efforts to extend a developing regional identity to the national and even continental levels did not succeed.

Mendoza closes her book on a pessimistic note. She explains that in the 1960s the Casa de la Cultura decided that the group Teatro y Danzas Negros del Perú (Black Theatre and Dances from Peru) would represent the country in the Cultural Olympics held in Mexico. Afro-Peruvianism, by this time, was accepted as the national identity of Peru. Mendoza intimates that this identification came about from a consensus reached among the most powerful social, political, and economic groups of Peru. Events like the Cultural Olympics dashed the hopes of those who offered cuzqueñoness as the national identity. Even so, Mendoza argues, the creative practices of the intellectuals and artists of Cuzco brought to the forefront of national and international stages folkloric practices that had hitherto been marginalized and denigrated.

Creating Our Own lucidly reproduces the tensions, difficulties, and paradoxes of postcolonial identity-formation at the regional and national levels. Not only is Mendoza successful in showing how the artistic-folkloric productions of Cuzco were integral to the formation of both cuzqueño and Peruvian identities, but she also succeeds in humanizing and individualizing what are often seen as largely social and national processes. Some readers, however, may find fault with the fact that her book ends with the frustration of the cuzqueño proposal for national identity and her decision not to trace the further development of Cuzco folkloric productions and regional identities. Mendoza’s stated goal in the book, however, is to focus upon the first half of the twentieth century insofar as this was the time-period in which folkloric canons coalesced. Furthermore, the text was originally written with the cuzqueño and Peruvian artistic and intellectual communities in mind—Mendoza originally published the book in Spanish, and it was rewritten for English-speaking academics. These revisions are reflected in a number of helpful supplementary features including extensive notes that combine detailed explanations with scholarly references and even song lyrics. Also included are a limited discography, substantial bibliography, and thorough index. Lastly, Mendoza provides a number of well-chosen photographs to illustrate particular individuals, groups, and contests.

Creating Our Own is a suitable resource for graduate students and scholars of anthropology, history, and musicology. Mendoza organizes her materials logically, elegantly, and clearly. Due to the specialized nature of the subject-area, however, the text is probably of limited use for undergraduates and the general public.