Going to the parade in Pujili brought up some more questions for me about what is and isn't racist. For one, if something is considered racist in the US, does that automatically mean it is racist in another country? There were two kinds of costumes in the parade where people who aren't black dressed up as black. Jordan and I debated whether they are racist and ultimately decided one is and one isn't. I'd be interested to hear if you agree.
The above photo is from a performance of a coastal dance from the northwest of Ecuador. Everyone familiar with Ecuadorian geography knows that this is the area in Ecuador with the largest population of Afroecuatorianos. Since this is an Afroecuatoriano dance and the man painted black is simply performing the dance we decided this isn't racist. Ideally, the parade would have included actual people from Esmereldas (the province in the northwest), but in many ways this picture shows a celebration of one of the many cultures of Ecuador.
This second photo is of one of the men performing in the section of the parade that included a group of men in clown suits and black face. To us, this is racist. Why the clown suits? Why the silly dances not based in culture (or at least not clearly based in culture) like the other performances? Why the gold tribal-like painting on the faces? (And why is Ecuador spelled wrong in the photo on the left?)
Supposedly, this performace was loosely tied to the Mama Negra celebration from the nearby town of Lactacunga. Each year a new man is awarded the title of Mama Negra and dresses up as a woman and in black face. I missed this celebration this past fall so I cannot say for sure whether or not it is offensive. However, based on the discrimination against black Ecuadorians we've witnessed elsewhere, the idea of people "playing" black does bother me. I know racial relations in Ecuador have improved and I wonder as they continue to do so if this tradition will be changed or eradicated altogether?