An examination of the significance of dance performances in the demonstrations of the Puerto Rican summer of 2019, this essay argues that these performances belong to a history of irreverent, extravagant mourning gestures that periodically irrupt in Puerto Rican culture as decolonial practices by dislocating the socially prescribed binding between performance and affect. Using the theories of Saidiya Hartman, José Esteban Muñoz, and Juana María Rodríguez, and connecting to the work of Rocío Zambrana on strategies that address the island’s colonial legacy, the essay explores the mournfully irreverent dance performances of the Afro-Boricua bomba dancer Clara Isabel Díaz, the patería combativa (combative queer voguing) of Aldrin Manuel Cañals, and the reggaetón perreo of queer feminist activists Perra Mística and Kaya Té as gestures of loss and mourning that both demand redress and enact what Puerto Rican artists, activists, and critics have begun to call “decolonial joy.”
Dancing in an Enclosure: Activism and Mourning in the Puerto Rican Summer of 2019
Arnaldo M. Cruz-Malavé is professor at and associate director of the Institute of Latin American and Latinx Studies at Fordham University. He is the author of Queer Latino Testimonio, Keith Haring, and Juanito Xtravaganza: Hard Tails (2007); editor of Manuel Ramos Otero: Cuentos (casi) completos (2019); and coeditor, with Martin Manalansan, of Queer Globalization: Citizenship and the Afterlife of Colonialism (2002).
Arnaldo M. Cruz-Malavé; Dancing in an Enclosure: Activism and Mourning in the Puerto Rican Summer of 2019. Small Axe 1 July 2022; 26 (2 (68)): 1–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-9901569
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