Indigenous Cool and the Politics of Aesthetics

  • Michelle Bigenho


While members of both the Bolivian Workshop of Popular Music, “Arawi” and Música de Maestros made references to indigenous cultures in their music performances, they were for the most part members of the mestizo-Creole culture of La Paz. The two musical projects followed a long historical pattern in which some Bolivians have represented other Bolivians—that is, Bolivia’s mestizo-Creoles have represented Bolivia’s indigenous peoples. These kinds of representational projects can be interpreted under the rubric of indigenismo, a political and cultural current found in many Latin American contexts in which mestizo-Creoles have used references to indigenous cultures to bolster a national or regional identity. But Bolivia has had its own flavor of indigenismo, marked by the Chaco War, the 1952 Revolution, and indigenous mobilizations particular to Bolivia. Through a closer examination of the cultural projects of the workshop and Música de Maestros, I will argue that particular changes in performance practices in the representation of the indigenous mark a shift from the early-twentieth-century politics of indigenismo to the more recent politics of what might be labeled as “the return of the Indian,” to borrow the title phrase from an article by Xavier Albó (1991). By “return of the Indian” I refer to a resurgence of indigenous politics that has in turn shaped the ways elites, mestizos, and the state represent indigenous cultures within the national community.


Music Performance Indigenous Culture Symphony Orchestra Liner Note Workshop Organizer 
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© Michelle Bigenho 2002

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  • Michelle Bigenho

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