Caboclos of Nazareth: Improvisation and Renovation in Maracatu de Baque Solto of Pernambuco.

by Christopher Estrada

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: Anthropology and History
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: cultura popular; traditionalism; authenticity and cultural revival; Northeast Brazil and Pernambuco; maracatu; improvised poetry; History (General); Humanities (General); Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Anthropology and Archaeology; Humanities; Social Sciences
Record ID: 2059301
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/111558


This dissertation looks at an expressive musical-poetic form that has developed over the last hundred years, maracatu de baque solto of Pernambuco, but which has only recently begun to receive critical attention. Featuring poetic duels between poet-singers (or mestres) of different groups, maracatu draws on a variety of regional musical genres while also engaging creatively with mass-mediated cultural production. Maracatus organize performances in their local neighborhoods, present in neighboring towns and cities during Carnival, and participate in large festival productions. Based on three years of ethnographic and historical fieldwork in and around the town of Nazar?? da Mata from 2009 to 2012, the dissertation looks at different understandings of authenticity and the dynamic relationship between modernity and tradition as articulated differently within maracatu and by its intermediaries. In exploring how the expressive genre of maracatu continues to develop, I examine how cultural identities and practices can shift, calcify, or transform over time in relation to socioeconomic change, political developments, or interaction with other social groups. Since its ???discovery??? by elite artists, researchers, and funding institutions, the emphasis on maracatu???s rural identity and origins on the sugar plantations has often minimized or obscured its subsequent development by generations of working-class practitioners in the urban and semi-urban peripheries since the rural exodus of the middle twentieth century. Institutional frameworks created by folklore research and elite intellectual production about popular culture have shaped the ways in which maracatu eventually achieved recognition among a broader public in Pernambuco as well as other regions of Brazil. My research touches upon the strengths and limits of cultura popular as a form of resistance by exploring how elite interventions and popular practices have become entwined. I develop the idea of coronelismo cultural, or ???cultural boss-ism,??? as a way of analyzing how maracatu has developed within the persisting structures of patronage and domination that are strongly rooted in the region???s history. As maracatu is only sparsely represented in the academic literature, it is hoped that this dissertation will contribute to our understanding of similar expressive forms elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean.