When I think back to the night of our final performances, I am reminded of the tears, the pain, the song, the dance, the fireworks and the love. I think about the collective healing and resilience that took place that night, and the strong sensation and awareness of connectivity with the land, the past, the present, and one another that I felt. Not only were we danzando nuestras historias, but we were collectively comprehending the drastic changes from the global pandemic, expressing our mutual but unique pain and heartbreak from the abrupt end of our time together, and articulating our profound love for one another and the group as a whole.
To me, this night was more than an act of rebellion, more than an act of resistance— it was an act of resiliency. As a community, we cultivated an intimate space to show our lived human experiences. Amidst the global crisis, on a scale that most of us have never lived through, we remained rehearsing the change we wished to see in the world; connecting to native traditions amidst the brutal forces of military and capitalism, connecting and persevering with spirituality through the institutions of organized religion, sustaining the strength and message of Ecuador’s manifestations, and returning to an equilibrium between human beings and the natural world. All of these topics are intrinsically interrelated to each other, as well as to the current global crises.
However, the current global crises are more than “capitalism and neoliberalism’s version of democracy”, or even the COVID-19 pandemic. According to indigenous pedagogy, “the central crisis is spiritual," “rooted in the increasingly virulent relationship between human beings and the rest of nature” (Magnat, 221). A large majority of humans, especially in the western world, are so disconnected from their roots, land, water, food and Madre Tierra as a whole. Living by false visages of connectivity through capitalistic technology, and solely seeing land as natural resources and property, the harmony and balance of our earth’s ecosystem has been ruptured. I understand the COVID-19 pandemic as a direct result of this disequilibrium.
Disease and environment are directly correlated. A large majority of infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic, and evolve from humans encroaching into wild lands, whether it be for poaching, wildlife trafficking, deforestation and natural resource exploitation. This virus is the natural world’s response to this disequilibrium, and also reminds us of nature’s resiliency and strength. I conceptualize this human pandemic as the natural world’s attempt at combating the virus—the virus being humans. Moreover, if humans continue living in this manner, we will die. However, I am not hopeless.
We as a society have the tools, knowledge, and wisdom to return to this equilibrium. We must look to our ancestor’s way of knowing, being, living, and understanding the world in order to find balance again.
Throughout all of our presentations, the act of healing these uneven relationships was portrayed through dance, rhythm, and song. But these methods of storytelling were not only for theatrical effect. They were rebellious acts of embodying decolonization, a pushing away from “dominant Western culture’s denial and repression of the body, and of experience as a source of knowledge” (Magnat, 216). By creating these performances, we were collectively breaking out of the “cage of oppression”, where forces of historical colonization and continued oppression systematically confine and shape one’s body, and one’s life, “restricting or penalizing motion in any direction” outside of the cage (Magnat, 72). Instead we made a safe
space without borders, a circle that always opened wider, in which we can embody the past, understand the present, and rehearse the change needed for the future.
These methodologies are radical, but they are not new. We are learning directly from indigenous methodologies and knowledge systems which embody their knowledge through dance, story, theater, song, drumming and ceremony. While colonialism has tried to separate the mind and body, life and art, we return to a mind-body/ life-art duality, connecting not only with the soil beneath us, but the other bodies and spirits around us. This harmony that our ancestors can teach us, will help us heal ourselves, the earth around us, and reconnect with our indigenous ways of knowing and being.
On a more personal level, the song, dance, and energy of these performances drew me out of my sorrow. I walked into class feeling a deep sadness within my heart that I would have to leave Ecuador due to the pandemic, but throughout the night my feelings were transformed into motivation, strength, gratitude, and happiness. The dances and singing from the performances reminded me of Aya Uma keeping the rhythm, beat, and dance going for days on end, giving strength to their community. During this time, I literally felt spirits dancing above us—“as I sang this lullaby during rehearsals and performance, I imagined my ancestors witnessing from the corners of the theater, helping me in the healing and often painful work of suture” (Ritenburg et al. 224).
While the current times are uncertain, and this pandemic is seemingly killing more people every day, as a society we will overcome this, and hopefully recognize that now is the time to heal our relationship with our ancestors, spiritualities, and natural world. Resilience.
Magnat, Virginie. “Conducting Embodied Research at the Intersection of Performance Studies, Experimental Ethnography and Indigenous Methodologies.” Anthropologica, vol. 53, no. 2, 2011, pp. 213–227. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41473875. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.
Ritenburg, Heather, et al. “Embodying Decolonization: Methodologies and Indigenization.” AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, vol. 10, no. 1, 2014, pp. 67–80., doi:10.1177/117718011401000107.