Friday, July 3, 2015

Tradition and Independence

Mexico has a long tragic history of its folk culture being manipulated and its folk artists controlled by people who benefit from division.

These people and institutions create hierarchies of purity and wave banners and arguments about patriotism or revolution, religion or anti-religion, etc.

These cynical and destructive campaigns to control artists and culture play out here among Mexican Americans as well. Arguments about birthright, appropriation, colonialism and purity are flung around. 

But these efforts are power grabs disguised as causes to promote a select few. They are based on a false understanding of folk music and do a great disservice because they inhibit creativity and open collaboration by instilling fear and division.

We must not allow human expression to be controlled. Expression is an essential human right. We all carry cultural traditions within and they are ours to cultivate. And even if we cultivate them chueco - then so be it. Diversity of expression strengthens us. And our traditions are strong enough to survive and thrive regardless.

For those who claim to protect the integrity or purity of our traditions I say that in the end it is the pueblo that decides what thrives and what does not. That is the way it has always been.

Mexico’s campesinos have suffered 500 years at the hands of people and institutions who have tried to control their voices. It is time for us, the children and grandchildren of Mexico’s working people, to set ourselves free and fight for our independence of expression.

Tradition is a doorway, not a wall.