Performing Peruanidad: Music, Dance, and Cultural Caretaking in Peruvian Communities in Los Angeles
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Performing Peruanidad: Music, Dance, and Cultural Caretaking in Peruvian Communities in Los Angeles

  • Author(s): Avalos, Claudine
  • Advisor(s): Ritter, Jonathan
  • et al.

Political unrest and an uncertain future were two of the main causes for much of the emigration that took place from Peru in the 1970s-1990s. During this time, Peruvians moved in search of financial stability and overall safety to countries like Japan, Spain, and the U.S., fostering community spaces where cultural traditions could remain alive. By opening restaurants, celebrating important religious holidays, and founding their own community performing arts programs, Peruvian migrants were able to establish themselves within the local migrant narrative in their new locations of residence while maintaining ties to home. Particularly in the U.S., Peruvian music and dance programs have provided spaces—through classes as well as community events and performances—for migrants to maintain ties to their Peruvian identity and homeland through performance while disseminating these traditions to their children, often born in the United States.This thesis explores the role that Peruvian cultural performance in Los Angeles plays in reinforcing and building Peruanidad (Peruvianness). Through ethnographic research with students, musicians, dancers, and teachers, I present three case studies to discuss how these spaces for Peruvian cultural traditions disseminate, support, and reify a larger Peruvian identity within migrant and first-generation Peruvian communities, as well as the broader Los Angeles community. Through fieldwork done at a Señor de Los Milagros event, and with teachers in marinera and festejo dance spaces, this project analyzes the ways community engages with cultural performance as a means to strengthens connections to home—real and imagined.

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