Manuel Cuellar

Los mecos de Veracruz: The Performance of Indigenous Kinesthetic Epistemologies

My dissertation approaches the fiesta as both a trope and a performance practice shaping notions of race, gender, and sexuality in contemporary Mexican cultural production. It interrogates how the notion of fiesta permeates Mexican popular culture and its living manifestations as well as the discourse on Mexican identity or lo mexicano. In the spring of 2014, I will be working on the fourth chapter of my dissertation, which engages the fiesta as a lived experience. I will examine the “danza de los mecos” in the community of Tecomate, Chicontepec, Veracruz. Every year, approximately twelve young Nahua males—half of whom are dressed as women while two of them are dressed as devils—perform the “danza de los mecos” during the fiesta of carnival in honor of Tlacatecolotl—the “owl man” deity who embodies good and evil. I argue that, as modalities of knowledge production and transmission of social memory that shape processes of identity formation and identification, the fiestaand the mecos enable the Nahua community to interrogate the inscription and incorporation of contesting discourses about Mexican indigeneity. Given the importance of the construction of indigenous subjects for the configuration of a modern Mexico, my project ultimately seeks to examine the extent to which the fiesta and the danza actualize and re-signify various modes or mechanisms of normalization and discipline, while simultaneously allowing for the performance of indigenous knowledges through the racially and sexually marked indigenous festive bodies.