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Open Access Publications from the University of California

¿Ay mama, que será lo quiere el negro?: Racialized Representations of Women in La Sonora Dinamita’s Cumbias


Popular music (re)counts stories about Colombia, race, and gender. And in the cumbias of La Sonora Dinamita, one of Colombia’s most popular and internally-known bands, we hear some of these narratives; they are heard musically, as genres coalesce, linguistically, as vocal intonations and deliveries fortify language’s meaning, and lyrically, as words voice common ideas. Yet for the sake of time and space, I focus on what is sung and not on how nor to what these lyrics are sung. Such an analytical approach unveils how, racially, women are categorized simply as either white, mestiza, or black. La Sonora Dinamita’s lyrics disclose the racialization of gender through popular culture, I argue, where each label delineates specific gender roles, and where at the base of these constructed identities is the dissemination of racial codes imposed during the colonial experiment and subsequently (re)modified in the never-ending process of forming a nation.

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