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Transcendence and Son Jarocho as Practiced in the San Francisco Bay Area



Transcendence and Son Jarocho as Practiced in the San Francisco Bay Area

Robin Sacolick

People of emerging or non-dominant ethnicities in multicultural, diasporic societies need ways to establish identities, merge strengths, and transcend difficulties. This study explores one way: community practices, by Latina/os and others in the Bay Area, of son jarocho, a centuries-old genre of Mexican music, dance and poetry. While their project revives traditional folklore, it also offers experiences in processes of transcendence that help to overcome challenges posed by Western modernity. Materially, participants together may transcend cultural barriers or gender expectations. Epistemologically, traditional values may provide refreshing respite from capital's demands. Affectively, ritual performativity may yield joy or identity transformation. In light of the considerable energy practitioners seem to reap from participation, this study investigates questions and hypotheses as to how and why:

--What empowers this genre to transcend centuries, borders, and even disuse, and become popular again? Perhaps today’s multicultural sonera/os face issues similar to ones that caused the original creators to imbue son jarocho with subversive, syncretic, timeless modes of transcending that still work. Chapters 3 and 4 trace how this occurred.

--Are transcendent experiences attributable to the music and/or the surrounding practices? Chapters 4 and 5 gather scientific research, testimonials, and new materialist theory that suggest that aspects of both the music and its rituals evoke affects that some participants call magical.

--How do community practices impact son jarocho’s success? Chapters 4, 5 and 6 show how context influences musical structure, affective power, and meaning, foregrounding the importance of tradition for maximizing individual and group benefit.

My interpretive methodology privileges informants’ own words, hearing them through frameworks devised by Chicana feminists and scholars from the African, Mesoamerican and Spanish cultures that first informed son jarocho. Perhaps the most striking differentiator of the Bay Area from sonera/o scenes in other locations is that most Bay participants have learned, at some point, from Mexican Maestro Artemio Posadas. His longstanding prioritization of indigenous values, community, and womens’ artistic potential have shaped local traditions that are especially conducive to transcendent outcomes.

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