Enrique Lamadrid in OkinawaPhoto courtesy of Enrique Lamadrid.Enrique Lamadrid in OkinawaPhoto courtesy of Enrique Lamadrid.
For five centuries, the native and mestizo peoples of the Americas have dramatized their political and cultural struggles in festival and ritual display. Conquest and re-conquest, resistance and capitulation are recurring themes in the intangible cultural heritage of the vast region. Victory and morality plays, ritual dance, and even contemporary fiesta parades utilize mimetic portrayals of cultural selves and others including Christians, Muslims and Jews, Aztecs and Comanches, Spaniards and Anglos. Alterity, hybridity, and identity are negotiated on the plaza and in the cultural imagination. To read cultural narratives and metaphors more deeply, we must follow them beyond the documents of history and literature and into choreography, costume, ritual, and song. Collective memory is profound in contested regions at the edges of empire, where conquerors are conquered in turn, and where discourses of power morph into discourses of survival. Indo-Hispano cultural knowledge has much to contribute to a global conversation about the limits of empire in our own times.