Dressed in our white shirts, black vests, and black pants, the members of Música de Maestros stood backstage in anticipation of another performance for a French audience. In France we accompanied a Bolivian dance troupe, Conadanz, and its members were both our most loyal supporters and our sharpest critics. One of the dancers surveyed us in our standard performance garb and yelled: “Look at yourselves. What is the difference between you and the French delegation? You look just like [the French]. Identical. You’re not Bolivian. What you are wearing is not Bolivian. You should be wearing ponchos and abarcas.1 Now that is Bolivian.” Some of the members of Música de Maestros tried to answer her, but their words fell on deaf ears. Not only were we performing for a French audience, but in that audience tonight was the French patron who had befriended the dance troupe and connected them to this series of folklore festivals. He was a cantankerous benefactor whose attendance at other performances had brought vicious critiques about costuming and presentation, on and off the stage. The dancer quoted above critiqued a music group that, when in their own country, explicitly presented themselves as performers of Creole, mestizo, and indigenous genres. While Música de Maestros was in Bolivia their costumes were never an issue, but in France the official dress of Música de Maestros was criticized for not looking Bolivian enough. Implicit in this critique was that Música de Maestros did not look indigenous enough.
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