Latin American literature contains a culture of its own, displaying its rich histories and conflicts to its readers with the uses of performance techniques such as music and dance. Dance is an effective communication medium that captures performers moving in time and space, sounds of physical movements and the performing area full of emotion. From here, one can gather the important role it has had in the societal aspects of the day-to-day activities such as for gatherings, weddings, births, and special occasions or rituals. Dance could not have been accomplished without the use of various uniquely and cultural musical instruments that created the different rhythmic beats. In this aspect, the distinguished approach in understanding its context from its performance angle by utilization of visualizing the acting mechanisms to bring forth the key elements of themes, plot and imagery.
Fray Andrés de Olmos, a Franciscan friar, produced the staging of Final Judgement in 1533. The reasoning behind executing this play was due to the knowledge that the Franciscans recognized of the indigenous people’s passion for the theatrical arts and exploited them for their own means of advancing their sermons in an entertainment production (49). The central theme of this play is intriguing on many facets, the first being that it’s theatrical theme was entirely in the Nahuatl language with its cast being indigenous actors. They were used as the forefront messages of the extreme consequences to its Spanish audience about failing to lead a devoted Catholic life. Although, this was the central theme it is also imperative to note just how united, in a sense, these actors connected to perform. The contradictory ideologies worked together to bring out the main message and proved that differences wouldn’t get in the way of producing something incredible. It actually emphasized the theme in a distinct manner of what it means to be a good Catholic as it wasn’t primarily based on the sermon anymore but on learning to adapt and work as one to execute the message.The shift of the theatrics caused its audience to view what the main message was through stage changes, including the range of colors within the costumes and the props used. It became an inclusion of both cultures and the audience could be enveloped into the staging production as it then felt more real with these pieces of imagery shown to them.
For example, the character of Time is presented as this universal and absolute being stating, “I am he who continues ever-questioning the people. Our Lord God sent and established me to keep them, care for them, warn them, remind them day and night. Never do I stop speaking!” In this sense, Time is trying to gain the complete control of the people by stating that God had sent him to do so. Through this, he is manipulating the people with the fear that they aren’t living up to God’s expectations and will be judged as harshly as Lucia was for not marrying as that is the main point of the plot. Fear becomes the concept of the easiness to control its people as they will do whatever it takes to be seen a good in God’s eyes. Although this becomes the case throughout, the ending changes to one that is transformational, for Lucia understands that she has sinned and shouts it out. It’s as if something clicked in her and she confirmed her sins to Satan and the Priest.
On the other hand, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz produced a feminist play, The Loa for the Auto Sacramental of The Divine Narcissus. During her time period of 1648-1651, women were not permitted to obtain education and put themselves out there with any kind of voice. This didn’t sit well with Cruz and she decided to go against that notion and created a play that went further past what was expected for women. She became the first feminist in Latin America with an interest in the sciences and looked up to Sir Isaac Newton. Overall, she acted against everything that was prohibited for women. Cruz wrote in a baroque style of writing which was predominately reserved for the men as it was a reaction to the simplicity and austerity in the Protestant architecture. In this sense, she was able to produce a syncretism (union of two religions by creating a new, distinct one.
The main plot of her play was to bring a positive light to the Aztec culture by humanizing those people and giving them a voice. The complete empowerment behind this is that as a woman, Cruz was highlighting a minority and she had everything to lose with that but she wasn’t about to give up. Instead, she decided to give it her all and advances this injustices through a performance that would be seen by those in power with a small probability of any change. It is heavily symbolic that the character of Music would be more respective to the Natives as music is one of the main artistic styles used in the everyday lives of these people. It is religious to them using the beat of the drum and the flutes to create that harmonious melody for all styles of events in everyday life. Cruz transforms the character of Narcissus from the mythological standpoint to an allegorical with Jesus Christ as the forefront of that character. However, the symbolism in that is that Jesus’ reflection becomes one of humanity instead of his singular self and that love for his people is what causes the high self-sacrifice he commits later on in life.
Overall, these two plays pronounced important aspects of the rich history and culture that existed during those time periods. The universality of them is the fact that both could be attributed to today’s Catholic and feminist culture that continues to emerge on. The fight for women to be heard and seen as human beings with a voice and to be given the same respect that men are in their lives, to not have to be disregarded on the basis of their gender is huge and Cruz began those steps early on in history. On the aspect of Catholicism being placed highly with denoting the fear of its members who aren’t performing their best selves in that light isn’t as pronounced in today’s culture. This is due to the fact that many are turning away from God more and more to the point that it’s become the norm, however, the self-reflection is taking place to bring unity again.
The themes of self-reflection and discovery are inherently prominent in both plays as the characters find that their main conflicts may exist within themselves before they can go forth and denounce the government or those powerful voices that control them. The culture of dance and music is seen as a key factor in the plays and how their executed as in one Music is a character while in the other the acts of dancing with the music of the drums and flutes build the play up to what it is. One cannot simply choose to prefer one over the other as both have their own unique and beautiful qualities that make them distinct and realistic to connect with. For the blends of mythology with theology create this pastoral love story that can understand the power of the theatre. It isn’t the mere action of entertainment but to alter the views of the self as well as those one surrounds themselves with and from there encourage new discoveries and experiences, a new role is taken.