Performance in the Zócalo

Constructing History, Race, and Identity in Mexico's Central Square from the Colonial Era to the Present

Subjects: Theater and Performance, Latin American Studies, Latinx Studies
Hardcover : 9780472132096, 232 pages, 13 illustrations, 6 x 9, October 2020
Ebook : 9780472127061, 232 pages, 13 illustrations, 6 x 9, October 2020
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Quien domina el centro, domina el pais: Whoever dominates the center, dominates the country


For more than five centuries, the Plaza Mayor (or Zócalo) in Mexico City has been the site of performances for a public spectatorship. During the period of colonial rule, performances designed to ensure loyalty to the Spanish monarchy were staged there, but over time, these displays gave way to staged demonstrations of resistance. Today, the Zócalo is a site for both official government-sponsored celebrations and performances that challenge the state. Performance in the Zócalo examines the ways that this city square has achieved symbolic significance over the centuries, and how national, ethnic, and racial identity has been performed there.
A saying in Mexico City is “quien domina el centro, domina el país” (whoever dominates the center, dominates the country) as the Zócalo continues to act as the performative embodiment of Mexican society. This book highlights how particular performances build upon each other by recycling past architectures and performative practices for new purposes. Ana Martínez discusses the singular role of collective memory in creating meaning through space and landmarks, providing a new perspective and further insight into the problem of Mexico’s relationship with its own past. Rather than merely describe the commemorations, she traces the relationship between space and the invention of a Mexican imaginary. She also explores how indigenous communities, Mexico’s alienated subalterns, performed as exploited objects, exotic characters, and subjects with agency. The book’s dual purposes are to examine the Zócalo as Mexico’s central site of performance and to unmask, without homogenizing, the official discourse regarding Mexico’s natives. This book will be of interest for students and scholars in theater studies, Mexican Studies, Cultural Geography, Latinx and Latin American Studies.

Ana Martínez is Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State University.

"Those who have marveled at the expanse and grandeur of Mexico’s main square or simply love all things Mexican are sure to find Performance in the Zócalo a fascinating read. ...Performance in the Zócalo is a reader-friendly, exhaustively researched, and carefully documented book; it is a treasure trove of fascinating information about the history of Mexico, the history of the Zócalo, and the history of all those who have “performed” politics there over the past five centuries."
Theatre Journal

- Theatre Journal

Finalist: Theatre Library Association (TLA) 2020 George Freedley Memorial Award for Outstanding Theater Books

- TLA George Freedley Memorial Award

"Concretely, I highlight how Martínez’s analysis expands the studies on the casta system by focusing on how it was spatialized in the Zócalo and how this spatialization provided the social structures for liberalism as it materialized in practices of policing and criminalizing.... this study is key to understanding the performative practices that attempt to subvert the regimes of coloniality (e.g., the EZLN marches) and reappropriate the space of the nation towards a plurality that acknowledges the histories of violence while constructing other nations and other worlds."
Latin American Theatre Review

- Iván Eusebio Aguirre Darancou

"Martínez's achievement with this text is remarkable. Charting the history of a single space over the course of five hundred years is no small feat, and Martínez compellingly uses this history to unpack the contradictions implicit within the nationalist discourse of Mexico."
--Ecumenica: Performance and Religion

- Sarah Alice Campbell

"Performance in the Zocalo is an interdisciplinary, well-researched study, combining a telescopic view of history with a microscopic view of space. By focusing on one site over a span of six hundred years, the snapshot performances allow for a deep understanding on the construction of Mexican national identity from the colonial era to the present, the invention of the "Indian" and subsequent subjugation of the indigenous peoples, and the way that performance redefines built environments to create new interpretations of historical processes."
--Mexican Studies

- Julie Ann Ward

Read: Performance in the Zócalo reviewed in Latin American Theatre Review Link | 6/25/2021