Paucartambo, Peru

The term “mestizo” is a relative concept that includes a blending of European with local Native American (and in some cases, African) cultural heritages and worldviews. The fiesta in Paucartambo celebrates the Virgin Mary, a Catholic saint, but one whose significance is derived through syncretism with Pachamama, the Inca Earth Mother. Costumed dance groups tell the story, each group representing a particular class of characters. Chunchos, the “good guys,” are pitted against all possible types of outsiders: Qollas (uncivilized traders, the main enemy), Saqras (devils, the Spanish colonists), Doctores (lawyers/government officials), Negros (black slaves), Chilenos (Chileans), Chuk’chus (malaria carriers from the jungle), Majeños (liquor traders from the city), and even hippie, camera-toting tourists. During the fiesta, the world is turned upside down and oppressors can be ridiculed. The reversible nature of the world is emphasized by the Maqtas, clowns, who serve as policemen during the fiesta.

Each dance group at the fiesta is accompanied by its own band, which plays music from an established repertoire. There are three types of ensemble: European-style brass bands, indigenous pre-Columbian ensembles of side-blown flutes and drums, and orquestas típicas, which combine European and pre-Hispanic instruments, e.g., diatonic harps, violins, kenas, drums, and accordions. Together they underline the coexistence and mixing of European and indigenous traditions. The musical style, too, combines traditions: European triadic harmonies are mixed with Andean syncopated rhythms and styles of instrumental performance (including a dense, breathy tone quality on the flute).

Veracruz, Mexico

In Mexico, mestizo son styles have strong regional identities. Many of these styles may be heard in cities like Veracruz, performed by ambulantes (strolling musicians) who frequent local outdoor cafés. The son is a song-dance genre that combines 3/4 and 6/8 meters (both simultaneously and sequentially) and is played in a relatively fast tempo. Texts are often strophic, using coplas (four-line stanzas), instrumental introductions, interludes, and conclusions.

Son Jarocho: Associated with the rural southern coastal region of Veracruz. The main distinguishing features are the ensemble (voices, harp, and two guitar-type instruments called jarana and requinto), a recurring harmonic/rhythmic bass pattern (compas) that uses I, IV, and V chords, and solo-chorus vocals. Typically pieces begin with an instrumental introduction in which the harp starts alone, is joined by the plucked requinto, and finally by the strummed jarana. “La Bamba” is a well-known example of the son Jarocho.

Son Huasteco: A regional style from the northern Veracruz area. Distinguished by the strumming patterns of guitar-type instruments (jarana and huapanguera), use of violin, and falsetto singing. Also typical is the alternation of singers: often the first half of a verse is repeated by a second singer before the last half is completed by the first singer.

Mariachi: Mariachi began as a string band style from the Jalisco region of western Mexico. Riding the wave of post-revolution Mexican nationalism (after 1910) and taken up by the mass media in the 1930s, mariachi was adopted as a Pan-Mexican style. The ensemble was enlarged, trumpets were added, and performers began to wear Mexican charro (cowboy) outfits with large sombreros. The distinguishing feature in the ensemble is its violins, trumpets, and guitar-type instruments of various sizes.

Conjunto norteños - a popular dance band type originally associated with northern Mexico and southern Texas, featuring three-row button accordion, bajo sexto (12-string guitar), bass and drums. These groups perform various forms of songs but canciones rancheros often make up a large part of the repertory. Like the norteños style itself, popular ranchera has a working-class aesthetic and romanticized rural association. In many ways, these songs are the equivalent of North American country and western.