Ni ‘mamita’ Ni ‘mulatita’ (2013) is a lecture-performance based on research done under the same title Ni ‘mamita’ Ni ‘mulatita’: Caribbean Women Stereotypes and the Diaspora, studying the appearances of Blackmestizas in cinema, television and radio in the Spanish speaking Caribbean and Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s. The stereotypes of the oversexualized ‘mulata’ and the “faithful servant” or ‘mamita’ serve to illustrate how these figures emerged during colonialism often becoming symbols of nationalist renderings after independence. Ni ‘mamita’ Ni ‘mulatita’ reflects on the film Yambao 1957, featuring Cuban rumbera Ninon Sevilla, the film is played in a plantation in 1850’s Cuba and Ninon Sevilla plays a ‘mulata’ called Yambao, dissident, trickster and maroon, personifying Ochun, the Goddess of Love and ruler over the rivers in Cuban Santeria. The performance deconstructs white supremacist imageries in the film, the use of brownface and blackface, as well as offering a decolonial reading focused on the use of Afro-Cuban dances, songs, rituals, and the participation of many Black women singers like Merceditas Valdez, Xiomara Alfaro, Martha Jean Claude, Olga Guillot as well as other uncredited voices like Juana Bacalao, Celia Cruz and Jean Ophilias, La Haitianita.
Presentation of Ni ‘mamita’ Ni ‘mulatita’: Caribbean women’s stereotypes and the Diaspora at Be.Bop 2012 Black Europe Body Politics (Transdisciplinary roundtable and screening), roundtable Blackness, Sisterhood and Citizenship in the Society of the Spectacle with Minna Salami and Grada Kilomba at Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Berlin, Germany, May 4-6 , 2012_curated by Alanna Lockward , advisor Walter Mignolo. Photograph by Wagner Carvalho (Ballhaus Naunynstrasse).
In order to deconstruct the positioning of women of Caribbean origin, specifically from the Greater Antilles Spanish-speaking islands, in present day European cities, I wish to analize the way in which “mix-raced” women have been somehow compelled to take upon themselves the stereotypes created during colonial times, of ‘la mulata’ and ‘la mamita’. This will be done from a Caribbeancentric perspective, approaching the racialized stereotypes and oversexualization of Caribbean female bodies in the mass media during the first half of the 20th Century. Caribbean women, such as the famous Rumberas of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, and the representation of ‘mulatas’ and ‘mamitas’ in Cuban and Puerto Rican television is the point of departure of these arguments. Many of these so-called vedettes were extraordinarily gifted performers who apart from representing the “exotic/primitive”- “African” and “mulata” also contributed to the deconstruction of Blackness. Some of them, mostly Cuban, were light-skinned “mix-raced” women who challenged racialization in their lyrics, as in the case of Rita Montaner in the film Negro es mi color 1951 (Black is my color) where she acts in brownface as the rejected mother of a light-skinned singer. Montaner, with her amazing voice, sings about racial discrimination while her daughter, Mexican actress Marga López, is forced to don brownface and interpret “Alma Negra” (Black Soul).
Mexico became an interesting case in point as the Cuban presence in the Rumbera Cinema testifies on these challenging self-representations as in the case of wonderful Mexican singers like Toña la Negra interpreting Oración Caribe (Caribbean Prayer) where she sings ‘piedad, piedad para el que sufre’ (piety, piety for the one that suffers), implying the suffering of Black people. Noticeably, the self-affirmation character of these songs establishes the type of agency that these women had with regards to communicating their positionality on racializing issues. Yet, the popular images of Caribbean women as oversexualized ‘mulatas’ or undersexualized maids ‘mamitas’ and their self-representation as “Rumberas” enacting the “primitive” “African” ancestry in film and television productions of the 40’s and 50’s, have contributed to cement these stereotypes not only in foreign audiences but also in local ones. My hypothesis is that these roles are so ingrained in the Caribbean women’s view of themselves that it greatly affects their choice of social performance. In turn, these stereotypes are being taken for granted by white Europeans, which in the long run contributes to perpetuate the misrepresentation of Caribbean women and in this regard prevents their accessibility to other spheres of live in the West.
This synopsis was published in the catalogue BE.BOP 2012. BLACK EUROPE BODY POLITICS, edited by Alanna Lockward and Walter Mignolo, available at http://blackeuropebodypolitics.wordpress.com/catalogue/