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Kings for Three Days

Kings for Three Days: The Play of Race and Gender in an Afro-Ecuadorian Festival

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Kings for Three Days
    Book Description:

    With its rich mix of cultures, European influences, colonial tensions, and migration from bordering nations, Ecuador has long drawn the interest of ethnographers, historians, and political scientists. In this book, Jean Muteba Rahier delivers a highly detailed, thought-provoking examination of the racial, sexual, and social complexities of Afro-Ecuadorian culture, as revealed through the annual Festival of the Kings. During the Festival, the people of various villages and towns of Esmeraldas--Ecuador's province most associated with blackness--engage in celebratory and parodic portrayals, often donning masks, cross-dressing, and disguising themselves as blacks, indigenous people, and whites, in an obvious critique of local, provincial, and national white, white-mestizo, and light-mulatto elites. Rahier shows that this festival, as performed in different locations, reveals each time a specific location's perspective on the larger struggles over identity, class, and gender relations in the racial-spacial order of Esmeraldas, and of the Ecuadorian nation in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09472-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Although relatively small in size, the republic of Ecuador is known for its remarkable geography and cultural diversity. Ecuador’s indigenous peoples have long drawn the attention of ethnographers, historians, and political scientists,¹ but with a few outstanding exceptions (West 1952, 1957; Whitten 1965, 1970, 1974; de la Torre 2002a; Walsh 2010a, 2010b; Walsh and García Salazar 2002; Antón 2007a, 2007b, 2009, 2010),² Ecuadorians of African descent have not. The province of Esmeraldas in Ecuador, which has been associated with blackness since the colonial period, borders Colombia and faces the Pacific Ocean. As I explain more extensively in chapter 1, most...

  6. 1 Setting Up the Stage: Contextualizing the Afro-Esmeraldian Festival of the Kings
    (pp. 13-34)

    My approach consists of viewing festivities as nonstatic texts always embedded in ever changing or evolving sociocultural, economic, and political realities. Thus, my concern here is not the discovery of the origin of the various aspects of the Festival in order to identify more or less “pure” and “authentic” forms, or to interpret the festival as if the only way to read the content of African diasporic festive performances would be to evaluate the intensity of their “africanisms,” or as if whatever expression of African diasporic, political resistance in a festive celebration should always and automatically involve Africa or so-called...

  7. 2 The Village of Santo Domingo de Ónzole and the Period of Preparation of the Festival of the Kings: The Centrality of Sexual Dichotomy and Role Reversal
    (pp. 35-60)

    Santo Domingo de Ónzole is located deep in the Esmeraldian rainforest on the left bank of the Ónzole River, an affluent of the Cayapas River, which itself reaches the Santiago River near Borbón (see figure 1). It does not differ much from the other small Afro-Esmeraldian villages established deep inside the rainforest (Concepción, Güimbí, Telembí, Selva Alegre). Although these villages might have benefited in the past from the gold, tagua, and banana booms, their inhabitants continue to live principally from subsistence products (agriculture, hunting, and fishing). Their cash economy is more limited than in San Lorenzo, Limones, and Borbón, which...

  8. 3 The Festival of the Kings in Santo Domingo de Ónzole
    (pp. 61-97)

    Elders told me that in the past, January 6 was called the “day of the whites” and also the “day of the first King”; January 7 was called the “day of the Cayapas” or “day of the coloreds” (día de los colorados); and January 8 was called “day of the blacks” or more precisely “day of the little blacks” (día de los negritos). This strict division of the festival’s three days that allocates one day to each racial group (whites, indigenous people, and blacks) evokes the folklore nègre of Roger Bastide (1972), which he saw as a folklore created by...

  9. 4 The Festival of the Kings in La Tola
    (pp. 98-120)

    The situation, the population, and the history of the village of La Tola differ quite strikingly from those of Santo Domingo. These differences explain, in final analysis, the singularities of the Play in each one of the two villages. In the following pages, I underline the characteristics of La Tola that are indispensable for the interpretation of the Toleño Play and for its comparison to that of the Santo Domingeños. If I am more brief than I have been when writing about the characteristics of Santo Domingo, it is because the lesser intensity of the Play in La Tola makes...

  10. 5 Race, Sexuality, and Gender as They Relate to the Festival of the Kings
    (pp. 121-142)

    As the descriptive interpretations of chapters 2, 3, and 4 have shown, race and race relations, as well as sexuality and gender relations, constitute major fields of meaning for the interpretation of the Afro-Esmeraldian Festival of the Kings in Santo Domingo de Ónzole and in La Tola.

    According to elders, sexual dichotomy is one of the foundational principles of the Juego de los Cucuruchos in both villages. As my ethnographic observations show, it is however in Santo Domingo de Ónzole that the importance of sexual dichotomy as a field of meaning appears more clearly and directly to make sense of...

  11. 6 Performances and Contexts of the Play in January 2003
    (pp. 143-163)

    This chapter provides ethnographic information about the Play in both villages at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    In December 2002, after having decided to go back to my work on the Festival with the purpose of eventually publishing it, I traveled to the province of Esmeraldas, where I spent four weeks doing some fieldwork. My objective was to find out how the Play was being performed since I last visited. Once back home in Miami, I revised my diary in order to develop my initial analyses. I also inserted transcriptions of fragments of interviews I conducted while in the...

  12. Conclusion: From the Centrality of Place in Esmeraldian Ethnography to Theoretical and Methodological Considerations for the Study of Festivities
    (pp. 164-174)

    The work of Isidoro Moreno (1985; 1997; 1999) leaves no doubt about the European and Catholic origin of the Afro-Esmeraldian Festival of the Kings, which was certainly introduced to the forefathers of today’s Afro-Esmeraldians by Catholic missionaries. It would be interesting to consult, if they exist, Catholic missionaries’ reports and other relevant documents in the archives of the various religious orders that have been active in the region of the Pacific lowlands to see what information they provide about the organization or “invention” of festivities.

    For Moreno, this invention of festivities by missionaries in the Americas was very much inspired...

  13. Glossary of Esmeraldian Spanish Terms
    (pp. 175-178)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 179-182)
  15. References
    (pp. 183-194)
  16. Index
    (pp. 195-198)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-202)