La música nacional: changing perceptions of the Ecuadorian national identity in the aftermath of the rural migration of the 1970s and the international migration of the late 1990s

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Wong, Ketty

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This study examines changing perceptions of Ecuadorian national identity in the aftermath of the social, economic, and political transformations in Ecuador in the period 1960-2004. By comparing upper-middle-class discourses about Ecuador's lack of international presence in the world, on the one hand, and lowerclass musical practices expressing pride for Ecuadorian national culture, on the other, I seek to understand how Ecuadorians of different racial, ethnic, and social class backgrounds articulate their sense of nationhood. To these ends, I examine the notion of música nacional, a surrogate term for Ecuadorian music, as metaphor for Ecuadorian national identity. I argue that the way this phrase is used, showing the inclusion or exclusion of musical genres associated with the indigenous and the urban-working-class populations, provides information about how different social groups envision the nation's ethnic configuration. First, I analyze how the elites' ideology of mestizaje neglects the indigenous component of the mestizo nation, which is reflected in the nationalization of the pasillo in the 1930s. Then, I examine the emergence and development of música rocolera and música chicha, two styles of music associated with stigmatized working-class and indigenous populations, which emerged in the aftermath of the rural-to-urban migration in the 1970s. Finally, I examine the massive exodus of Ecuadorians to Spain and the United States as a result of the economic crisis in the late 1990s, which coincided with the tecnocumbia boom in Ecuador. I argue that changing perceptions of national identity at the turn of the twenty-first century are musically reflected in the decline of the pasillo, the elite symbol of the nation, and the boom of música chicha. I demonstrate that the naming of the latter as música nacional is symptomatic of the weakening of the socio-cultural hegemony of the uppermiddle classes. The lower classes are de-homogenizing, racializing, and pluralizing perceptions of "Ecuadorianness" through the dissemination of their music at national and international levels. By doing so, they are stressing the indigenous component of the mestizo nation and providing a better picture of the actual configuration of the Ecuadorian nation.