Panel Discussion on: “Music, Identity, and Politics in Latin America”
In the spirit of the 26th annual Bard Music Festival, this panel will deal with the artistic and political expression of the nationalistic movements of 20th century Mexico. After the revolution of 1910, Mexico found itself with an identity crisis: the feudal system inherited from the Spanish after the independence (1810), and its ruling class of European heritage, had been destroyed, necessitating a search for a new cultural identity. Figures such as Carlos Chávez, José Vasconcelos (then minister of education and philosopher) and Diego Rivera began to promote a new national identity based on the nation’s indigenous past. Vasconcelos put forth his ideas of the raza cósmica (cosmic race), embracing the idea of transcending traditional concepts of race in favor of a universal race resulting from a mixing of all people; in practice it was an embrace of mestizaje, the mixing of european and indigenous blood that most Mexicans were the product of. At the same time, a young Chávez composed imagined Aztec music, distancing himself from the European roots of the orchestral world in search of a new musical identity, indeed, writing to his friend, American composer Aaron Copland about the need to create original American music (American in the sense of the continent of the Americas). These and many other figures pushed to create a modern Mexico with a self-created identity, in the processes spurring a variety of political shifts and changes. This panel is an exploration of the roots of modern Mexico through the work of such figures.