- Transnational Encounters: Music and Performance at the U.S.-Mexico Border ed. by Alejandro L. Madrid
In scholarship and in daily life, experiences of transnationalism are, of course, normal in the twenty-first century. Great numbers of the world’s population frequently engage in some form of transnational encounter (consciously or unconsciously)—with the most obvious examples being listening to music; food and cooking; media, Internet, and telecommunications; and purchasing products. Such encounters necessarily relate to notions of identity (self and other), belonging, and border crossing, as transnational global forces link people and institutions across nations, moving in tandem with a decline in national sovereignty as a regulatory force in global coexistence. These forces and movements are at the heart of Transnational Encounters, a volume of essays examining “transnational connections and . . . local significance” primarily of music and dance (and also film acting) in terms of identities in Mexico and the United States. As might be expected, concepts such as hybridity, multiplicity, mestizaje, fusion, and reterritorialization—and indeed many other “re’s,” such as recontextualization, reinventing, reclaiming, and relocalization—are engaged as useful discursive frameworks, with many references to the work of Néstor García Canclini and Gloria Anzaldúa.
The volume comprises seventeen chapters—an introduction and sixteen focused case studies involving complex contexts, all of which encompass discussions of transnationalism in one form or another. The subject matter is broad and diverse: border reggae (Alvarez); named “border dances” and quebradita in Chicago (Hutchinson); the reception of narcocorridos in the late 1990s in border towns (Edberg); a brief history of mariachi in Mexico and the United States (Henriques); tensions around Tejano and norteña music and affinities associated with immigration in Texas (Limón); rap in Los Mochis, with technological connections to Tijuana and Los Angeles (Simonett); waila of the Tohono O’odham in southern Arizona, focusing on territory that is crossed by the U.S.-Mexico border and is thus literally transnational (Titus); the singing of spirituals (capeyuye) by Mascogos (Afro-Seminoles) in Coahuila, Mexico, concerning issues of race, black identity, and again a literal geographic border crossing (Madrid); cumbia in Monterrey, involving networks of transnational circulation and consumption (Ramos-Kittrell); cultural citizenship and “El Veterano” Conjunto Festival at the site of the border wall in southern Texas (Dorsey and Díaz-Barriga); a history of the Tijuana sound and Herb Alpert in the 1960s (Kun); avant-garde music in Monterrey, engaging transnational aesthetics (Corona); ’Manitos in New Mexico (Romero); [End Page 155] the musical personae of El Gringo, a non-Mexican, in New Mexico (Gorman); actor, singer, and songwriter El Piporro (Eulalio González Ramírez) and his characterization of pelados, braceros, and border agents in song and film (Ragland); and issues of gay identity and reggaetón in Phoenix, Arizona, in a Mexican migrant nightclub scene (Rivera-Servera). Each of these chapters provides a thorough theoretical and discursive exploration of the genre, performer, and context under scrutiny, drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, personal experience, archival analysis, and sound and performance analysis. As such, this volume is a great contribution to scholarly research on Mexico, the United States, and transnationalism.
In addition to the concept of transnationalism, this volume also has a second strand (and subtitle), which relates specifically to the U.S.-Mexico border. Madrid describes the aims of the volume as examining “a diverse variety of musical practices found along the U.S.-Mexico border,” therefore offering “a singular perspective on the complex character of this unique geographic area, . . . in order to understand borderland culture in all its complexity.” Given this objective, one might assume that all the material is therefore focused on the geographic area at/on the literal border. Some chapters engage phrases such as “border music,” “border dance,” “border identities,” “borderland culture,” and “border (lands)”; however, many of the essays do not focus on “this unique geographic area” but work with another definition of “border,” including the metaphorical usage of borders as “boundaries...