In late-September 2023 I enjoyed the rare opportunity to present my research about Victoria Santa Cruz’s Paris years . . . at a conference in Paris!
Vera Wolkowicz organized a terrific international conference exploring the topic “Music, Cultural Policies and Identities: Transatlantic Encounters Between Music and Musicians of Europe and Latin America” at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences on Paris’s Left Bank. I am grateful to have shared my work about Victoria Santa Cruz and the University of the Theatre of Nations with this inspiring gathering of scholars and thinkers.
After hours, I found time for a bit of archival research in the collections of the National Audiovisual Institute, where I listened to interviews that shed light on Victoria’s Paris experience at the Theatre of Nations in the 1960s. I also retraced Victoria Santa Cruz’s pathways in Paris by walking to several sites where she studied, lived, worked, and directed theatrical productions. Here is the Chaillot Theatre, where Peru’s National Folklore Ensemble made its Paris debut under Victoria’s direction in 1975 in a world tour produced by Mel Howard. At that time, the Chaillot Theatre’s director was one of Victoria’s former classmates from the University of the Theatre of Nations. More about that in my upcoming book about Victoria Santa Cruz’s international career. . . .
It was such an honor for me to contribute a preface to the newly released book Victoria Santa Cruz: Escritos varios (Victoria Santa Cruz: Collected Writings), beautifully curated and edited by Octavio Santa Cruz Urquieta and published by CEDET in Lima. I also participated as a (remote) speaker at the book release event, held at Peru’s Ministry of Culture on Wednesday, June 28.
Victoria Santa Cruz broke new ground for Afro-Peruvian women when Peru’s Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces appointed her as founding director of the nation’s first National Folklore Ensemble in 1973. In this important position, Santa Cruz advanced her distinctive, Gramsci-influenced vision of folklore as an agent of individual and social connection and transformation, guided by rhythm. On December 9, 2022, I presented the talk “Rhythm and Revolution: Victoria Santa Cruz and the National Folklore Ensemble of Peru, 1973–1982” at the Second Continental Conference of Harvard University’s ALARI (Afro-Latin American Research Institute). I shared the floor with Denise Barata, Roberto Augusto A. Pereira, and Nicolás Aguía Betancourt in a panel dedicated to folklore, dance, theatre, music, and Black agency in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.
I am proud to announce that the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) has honored my scholarship on the emergence of Black theatre in mid-twentieth-century Peru with its prestigious Errol Hill Award, given annually “in recognition of outstanding scholarship in African American theatre, drama, and/or performance studies.” I am thankful to historian Carlos Aguirre, who invited me to write an earlier version of the winning article for publication in his co-edited book Lima, siglo XX: cultura, socialización, cambio (Fondo Editorial PUCP, 2013) and to Theatre Survey editor Marlis Schweitzer, whose keen editorial vision contributed to the expanded version for English-speaking readers.
On Sunday, October 30, the popular Peruvian television program “Sucedió en el Perú” (It Happened in Peru) profiled Victoria Santa Cruz’s life and legacy, in honor of her Centennial. As a featured guest, I contributed to segments about two vital but lesser-known periods of Victoria Santa Cruz’s career outside Peru: her sojourn in Paris (1962–66) and her years as a professor of drama at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh (1982–1999).
My book about Victoria Santa Cruz (in progress) will explore these fascinating periods in greater detail. Thank you to “Sucedió en el Perú” for the invitation to share a bit of my research with TVPerú viewers, contributing to a fuller picture of Victoria Santa Cruz’s global career and legacy for humanity.
Non-Spanish speakers may use the CC option to translate subtitles.
Francisco Caro and Peru’s National School of Folklore produced a moving documentary film comprised of testimonials about Victoria Santa Cruz’s career and creative legacy along with artistic performances inspired by her oeuvre. The film premiered at the National School of Folklore in Lima (in conjunction with a photographic exhibit) on October 30, 2022 in commemoration of Victoria Santa Cruz’s Centennial, and it is now available on YouTube. I was delighted to contribute my own testimonial to this project!
On October 17, 2022, I gave a (remote) invited presentation about Victoria Santa Cruz’s practice of rhythm for the first International Seminar of Peruvian and Peruvianist Musicology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima. This stimulating conference gathered noted authorities on Peruvian music from across Peru, Brazil, Chile, the United States, Canada, Finland, Austria, Germany, France, and the U.K. In addition to those who attended in person and via Zoom, the panels attracted a large audience through livestreaming on Facebook. In the videorecording linked below, my paper is the first in the panel on Afro-Peruvian music studies, beginning at around 2:31:00.
It was my great pleasure to contribute a virtual presentation to another event in Lima, Peru honoring Victoria Santa Cruz and reflecting upon her legacy in the year of her Centennial. On June 28, 2022, CEDET presented a roundtable “Conversatorio” (with Mariela Noles Cotito, Sofía Carrillo Zegarra, and María del Pilar Cáceres Cartagena) dedicated to the topic “Me Gritaron Negra: Structural Racism and Its Impact on Afrodescendants, an Intersectional Analysis.” My pre-recorded remarks addressed Victoria Santa Cruz’s promotion of Black arts and culture in her career outside Peru.
Victoria Santa Cruz (1922–2014) was one of four influential international figures born a century ago whose lives and impact were commemorated at the second international Colloquium on Afroamerican Studies at Casa de las Américas in Havana, Cuba, organized by Zuleica Romay Guerra. The theme of the Colloquium was “Breaking the Silences of the Past: Rewritings and Rereadings of Afroamerican History.” Honored alongside Victoria Santa Cruz were Centenarians Alex Haley (USA, 1921-1992), Florinda Soriano Muñoz “Mamá Tingó” (Dominican Republic, 1921-1974), and Armando Fortune (Panama, 1921-1979).
On June 16, 2022, it was my honor to present (virtually) a preview of my research about an understudied period in Victoria Santa Cruz’s global career: her formative years in Paris, at the fascinating University of the Theatre of Nations, from 1962 to 1966.
At the panelists’ forum and question-and-answer session later that day, I made the following remarks (scroll down for English translation):
“Victoria Santa Cruz testificó: ‘Nací mujer, nací negra, y más adelante constaté que el hecho de ser latinoamericana, suponía también un obstáculo’. Durante su vida, Victoria Santa Cruz superó obstáculos interseccionales y hizo visibles las vidas negras (como lo decimos en inglés). Pero el impacto de las mujeres afrolatinoamericanas que llevaron vidas globales es muchas veces invisible en el espacio académico internacional y en la conciencia pública, especialmente en los Estados Unidos. Para comprender ampliamente sus legados transnacionales, hay que llenar los huecos en los archivos y romper los silencios. Así que espero que mi ponencia hoy sobre sus menos conocidos años en Francia, como parte de mi proyecto más amplio, haya ayudado a visibilizar una experiencia que fue formativa, pero poco conocida, en la biografía de Victoria Santa Cruz.”
English Translation: “Victoria Santa Cruz testified: ‘I was born a woman, I was born Black, and later I realized that the fact of being Latin American was also an obstacle.’ During her lifetime, Victoria Santa Cruz overcame intersectional obstacles and made Black lives visible. But the impact of Afro-Latin American women leading global lives is often invisible in the international academic space and public consciousness, especially in the United States. To fully understand these women’s transnational legacies, we must fill in the gaps in the archives and break the silences. So I hope that my talk today about Victoria Santa Cruz’s lesser-known years in France, as part of my larger project, has helped to make visible an experience that was formative, but little known, in Victoria Santa Cruz’s biography.”
My full presentation (in Spanish) is available here. To watch with English subtitles, turn on Closed Captions (CC) and then adjust the settings wheel to turn on English translation subtitles.
I am thrilled to announce my first publication about Victoria Santa Cruz’s years at Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. This article (in Spanish) offers a preview of some of the material that will appear in my book. Thank you to Virginia Yep for inviting me to contribute to a special dossier about Victoria Santa Cruz in Cuadernos de Música Peruana issue 17, alongside illuminating articles by Alina Santa Cruz and Octavio Santa Cruz. Thank you also to Pamela Narbona for English-to-Spanish translation. Don’t miss the historic photographs and theatre program images, courtesy of Octavio Santa Cruz and Carnegie Mellon University archives. And heartfelt thanks to the numerous students, accompanists, colleagues, collaborators, company members, family, and friends of Victoria Santa Cruz who have shared their memories with me and made my research possible. Download my article here: http://cuadernosdemusicaperuana.com/