Flamenco is a music and dance of resiliency and protest. It has been, at times, an urgent call to gather and unify in the face of systematic oppression and genocide. At the height of its expression and expressivity, Flamenco endured (and continues to endure) the same rise of fascism that the world is currently moving towards.
The unstoppable movement of Flamenco—rhythmic, melodic, powerful turns and thundering steps, each telling a tale of defiance—shares a story of integrity, the capacity to overcome all adversity, the secret codes of survival locked in the creative arts. Unstoppable, uncontrollable movement that is itself a movement, in a political and cultural sense of the word, to persevere in the face of the most crushing attempts to destroy a culture and a people, orchestrated by the wealthiest, most powerful nations on earth.
Flamenco’s beauty is such that it can illuminate our paths during troubled times, an epoch of transition that gives every sign of a history the Roma lived through and continue to live through: round-ups, forced migrations, relegation to a second-class citizenry through the legal system, police brutality. The marks of Flamenco’s staggering beauty, of force, a cry that can tear apart all systems and allow us to see them for what they are, can also illuminate what appears to be the dawn of aggressive, state-warranted use of what Michelle Alexander an “era of mass incarceration” to criminalize ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups with the end goal of deportation. This move to criminalize (one that Alexander so potently contextualizes as a practice meant to trap African American, Latino, and Native American populations in cycles of poverty in all of its forms) to then deport is the same “racial-cleansing” practice that nations have employed to “protect” the empowered members of society and assuage their fears. We must see this as a global trend.
We cannot forget what is being covered up in Syria and the treatment of refugees uprooted and dislocated—their children murdered, their homes destroyed, world history sites in ruins, their nations torn apart by wars on ‘terror’ that are actually wars to secure fossil fuels and advantageous positions to wage future battles—in European camps. We cannot forget what atrocities continue to occur in African American communities and Native American communities, in communities made vulnerable due to forced migrations. We cannot forget the war being raged on the environment, undeniable increases in temperatures (also announced on November 8th) that ends up threatening, as if on a front line, the world’s most disadvantaged groups.
Flamenco holds a key and a hope: it is the possibility of art to keep memory alive, accessing a past obscured by official histories and nationalistic projects. Flamenco’s is a mournful call of immense beauty and power, it is a scream of anger, and a proud vision. Flamenco is a homeland—the only place that Spanish Roma could live without repercussion and that is why the affirmation “yo soy flamenco” an identity and a cultural nation, is such a powerful affirmation. It is the embodiment of a collective history and consciousness. Flamenco, in that phrase, means a music and also ‘Gitano‘: a double-entendre that gets to the core of the music and dance.
While the writing here will mine this art form’s poetics and trace its sources and connections to India, North Africa, West Africa and beyond, Flamenco can teach us all about how to navigate the current transition in world leadership and power, marked with astonishing clarity in the recent U.S. election.
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