By Max Harris
In villages and cities throughout Spain and its former New global colonies, neighborhood performers level mock battles among Spanish Christians and Moors or Aztecs that variety from short sword dances to large road theatre lasting numerous days. The competition culture formally celebrates the triumph of Spanish Catholicism over its enemies, but this doesn't clarify its endurance for greater than years nor its frequent diffusion.
In this insightful booklet, Max Harris seeks to appreciate Mexicans' "puzzling and enduring ardour" for fairs of moros y cristianos. He starts off through tracing the performances' roots in medieval Spain and exhibiting how they got here to be superimposed at the mock battles that have been part of pre-contact Aztec calendar rituals. Then utilizing James Scott's contrast among "public" and "hidden transcripts," he unearths how, within the palms of people and indigenous performers, those spectacles of conquest grew to become prophecies of the eventual reconquest of Mexico through the defeated Aztec peoples. Even this present day, as vigorous descriptions of present fairs make undeniable, they continue to be a remarkably subtle car for the communal expression of dissent.
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Extra info for Aztecs, Moors, and Christians : festivals of reconquest in Mexico and Spain
But the indigenous reading, revealed only by the masks, pitted the sun and his warriors against the “weaker” invading force of Spanish conquista22 2. reading the mask (cuetzalan, 1988) dors. According to this reading, it was the conquistadors who were defeated when King Pilate was killed. Masks, which are ordinarily thought to conceal, in this instance reveal resistance. Since my experience in Cuetzalan, I have begun to use the phrase “reading the mask” to describe my approach to a wide variety of performances and texts in which, as James Scott would put it, a “hidden transcript” of resistance has been “insinuated” into the “public transcript” of subordination.
Scott argues persuasively that “every subordinate group creates, out of its ordeal, a ‘hidden transcript’ that represents a critique of power spoken behind the back of the dominant. The powerful, for their part, also develop a hidden transcript representing the practices and claims of their rule that cannot be openly avowed. ” 7 There are, then, in Scott’s model, three transcripts that we must learn to read if we are to understand any given political relationship of dominance and subordination.
In the rest of this chapter, I want to take a closer look at the notion of dissenting voices in festivals of reconquest, for such spectacles have often been dismissed as nothing more than orchestrated manifestations of power, aimed at persuading 20 2. reading the mask (cuetzalan, 1988) conquered groups of the inevitability and justice of their subordination. ” 2 I will make the case that this was no more true of colonial performances than it is of the morismas of Bracho. For now, I want simply to introduce the vocabulary of the case.