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This Indigenous Argentine Artist is Uniting Dancers with Andean Roots in a Colourful Montreal Pageant

A parade of local dancers and musicians of Latin American origin Sunday will set the stage for three nights of performances by an Indigenous artist from Argentina, the headline act in this year’s Festival TransAmériques.

Playwright Tiziano Cruz will lead some 15 musicians and more than 40 dancers from Place Émilie-Gamelin down Ste-Catherine Street to the National Theatre on Sunday at 5 p.m., and again on Monday and Tuesday, at 7 p.m.

The parade is how Cruz, an Aymara artist from northern Argentina, likes to open his show Soliloquio which he’s currently touring around the world. Wherever the show goes, Cruz collaborates with local Andean groups to put together the procession.

“I’m someone who does not speak Aymara or Quechua…. I don’t know how to dance Andean dances; I don’t know how to play [our] instruments. In some ways, I’m an orphan of my ancestors’ culture,” says Cruz. 

“Meeting these communities helps me fill that void.” 

In Montreal, the groups represented in the procession include Grupo Argenkuna, Armonía Andina, Baila Conmigo Canada, Ballet Folclórico Munaykim Perú and Mosoq Illariy. 

Ana Silvia García, the director and lead choreographer of Grupo Argenkuna, is originally from Peru, but Garcia said she’s always taken an interest in Argentine folklore, which shares roots with Peruvian Indigenous culture.

“People are familiar with the tango but not other styles,” she says.

The Indigenous interpretation of some dances imported from Spain to Latin America have their own flair worth celebrating, said García. Traditional dances like the chacarera, carnavalito and huayno, all originating in the Andes, are among those that will be performed in the parade. 

Creating a safe space for Andean artists worldwide

Soliloquio is the second play in an autobiographical series written and performed by Cruz. It’s based on 58 letters he wrote to his mother during the pandemic, when he was grappling with the loss of his culture. 

He said Aymaran mothers like his didn’t want to see their children discriminated against.

“In a certain way, they forbade us from speaking our language to protect us,” says Cruz.

The event that propelled him toward becoming an artist, he says, was the death of his younger sister, Betiana, when she was just 18. He says she was a victim of medical negligence, which he sees as tied to the cycle of violence and oppression against his people in northern Argentina.

It is a subject he still finds emotionally difficult to talk about.

“I set out to make myself known so they wouldn’t let us die easily, and in that process I realized that what happened to my sister wasn’t an isolated case,” says Cruz. 

Cruz says he now understands why his mother chose to raise him the way she did. He says he wants to create a safe space wherever he goes in the world, where Andean people can celebrate their culture.

Sparking a dialogue

Evelyn Ynocente,  the creative director of Baila Conmigo Canada, says she’s grateful for the opportunity and the dialogue Cruz has sparked within Montreal’s Latin American community. 

“Sometimes we remain closed off within our own circles or within our own cultural groups, and we don’t exhibit all the wealth that we can bring,” says Ynocente.

She said she had met some of the local Andean artists for the first time at rehearsals for the pageant, and already some of them are talking about future collaborations after Cruz leaves Quebec.

Born and raised in Montreal, Ynocente said she formed her group to reconnect with her Peruvian roots — and as a tribute to her parents, who emigrated from Peru in 1979.

“I think I’ve been able to value more, lately, the trip they made,” she says. 

They will be present at her performance Sunday, as will her eight-year-old nephew and six-year-old niece. 

“I would have liked to have had that experience at that age,” says Ynocente.

Source : CBC