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Performing & Visual Arts
Marinera Dance
Photo by Alfredo DiNatale, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
Marinera dancers from Monsefú proudly model their beautifully embroidered outfits outside Manas Peruanas, a shop that specializes in the dance’s customary woven sashes and embroidered clothing.
Photo by Alfredo DiNatale, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

The Marinera is Peru’s national dance, with roots in the Spanish fandango, African zamacueca, and indigenous couple dances. The dance portrays a couple’s flirtatious pursuit. The woman, in her embroidered pollera (skirt) and handkerchief, teases the man with her graceful movements.

Each region has its own style, punctuated by variations in the tempo, key, clothing, and steps. The Norteña dance from Trujillo is playfully flirtatious and accompanied by a brass band. The Mochera style, also on the north coast, reflects its rural origins in the dress style. The Limeña is considered the oldest. The elegantly dressed couples dance to the rhythms of the guitar and cajón drum.

The Marinera is not only a dance but a craft industry for embroiderers, weavers, hat makers, and filigree jewelry artists, among others. Its vitality is expressed in the energy of the dancers, the rhythm of the musicians, and the hands of the artisans.

Faithful to its diversity, the Marinera crosses boundaries, traveling wherever Peruvians reside. Many dance schools have been founded throughout the United States, from Washington, D.C., to Seattle, Washington, where parents send their children to maintain cultural ties to their homeland. This tradition is at the forefront of Peruvian social gatherings and celebrations, forming an important element of Peruvian identity abroad.

Filigree Jewelry

“Embroidering” silver and gold filigree threads, Eda Arroyo creates beautiful accessories for Marinera dancers. She learned this delicate craft by watching her father and uncles and now creates jewelry such as hair pieces with intricate designs and dormilona earrings with innovative peacock patterns.

Arte y Cultura Monsefuana

The organization Arte y Cultura Monsefuana strives to open economic opportunities for its members and promote regional identity. Formed in 2011 by fifteen Monsefú artisans, it hosts workshops to develop their embroidery, crochet, weaving, and hat making skills. They also hope to pass on their traditions through workshops for children in schools.

Crisscrossed with paths connecting communities across geography and history, Peru boasts a stunning vertical landscape that integrates a diversity of ecosystems and cultures. Peru is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations, containing ninety microclimates across extreme variances of altitude. The coastal, rain-forested, and mountainous environments provide abundant resources, including major exports such as fish, copper, and asparagus. Many culturally and historically significant areas are popular tourist destinations that encompass complex layered histories.

The uniqueness of Peru’s diversity lies in the connectedness of its landscape in the form of rivers, roads, and pathways that existed long before the Inka Empire (fifteenth–sixteenth centuries) and Spanish colonization (sixteenth–nineteenth centuries). Across its different altitudes and climates, communities exchange commodities and practices, shaping deeply rooted but constantly changing daily customs and celebrations. The influx and movement of people between and beyond borders also influence and transform these exchanges.

The 2015 Peru program featured projects, organizations, and groups whose cultural expressions highlight these social, cultural, and economic exchanges. It demonstrated how the networks of celebration and community, crops and markets, textile and craft production, foodways and technology, and music and dance forge the diverse cultural heritage of the country.

Visitors to the Peru Festival program could experience these unique connections through cooking and craft demonstrations, music and dance performances, moderated discussions, ritual and celebratory processions, and other participatory activities. In addition, there was a robust involvement with Peruvian American and diaspora communities. The public had the opportunity to learn, to eat, to dance, to shop, to witness these vibrantly connected cultures, and to create their own connections with Peruvian artists and specialists on the National Mall and beyond.

Olivia Cadaval and Cristina Díaz-Carrera were Curators for the Smithsonian; Rafael Varón Gabai was Curator and Consultant to MINCETUR. Valentina Pilonieta-Vera was Program Coordinator; Alexia Fawcett was Community Engagement Manager, and Betty Belanus was Family Activities Curator. A Curatorial Advisory Committee included: Madeleine Burns, Marjorie Hunt, Mary Linn, Luis Guillermo Lumbreras, Giancarlo Marcone, Soledad Mujica, Diana N’Diaye, Luis Repetto, Marcela Ríos, Daniel Sheehy, Jorge Ortiz Sotelo, Milagritos Saldarriaga, Francisco Tumi, and Madeleine Zúñiga. A Community Advisory Group included: Catherine Cabel Chicas, Nelly Carrión, Billy Castillo, Kristy Chavez-Fernandez, Fabiana Chiu- Rinaldi, María del Carmen Cossu, Miguel García, Elmer Huerta, Vicky Leyva, Doris Loayza, Ana Noriega, Elena Tscherny, and Ricardo Villanueva.

The program was co-presented and co-sponsored by the Republic of Peru Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (MINCETUR). Additional support was provided by the staff of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, directed by Kevin Gover (Pawnee), coordinated by Amy Van Allen; Washington Dulles international Airport and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The program received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. Special media support is provided by Telemundo Washington DC,, Latin Opinion Baltimore Newspaper, Orange Barrel Media, WAMU 88.5, El Tiempo Latino, Washington Hispanic, Washington Blade, El Tiempo Hìspano (MD-DE-PA), CTM Media Group, El Zol 107.9, Digital Conventions, and Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Support for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage's welcoming ceremony was provided, in part, by Avocados From Peru and Pisco Portón (in-kind).

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