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Connections between the body, musical and dance forms are cultural constructs, and it's vital that these constructs not only exist on the body but also flow through it. Musical genres have often played a crucial role in the expression and negotiation of identity. There's a tendency to view social identity as a performative mask expressed through music and dance. When we situate this discourse of mestizaje and music in the context of modern history, it becomes apparent that there is a vibrant and contemporary role of musical participation along borders, particularly in the case of cumbia.

As we delve into the deconstruction of this cultural phenomenon, one traditionally passed down to lower and working-class communities, a distinct mode of learning emerges that exists beyond the confines of both traditional and modern Western art. This amalgamation of cultures has the potential to challenge the binary distinctions often prevalent in the narratives examined by decolonial scholars, such as those between modernity and tradition, male and female, nature and culture, transcendence and immanence.

In the border regions of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, where Mexico meets the United States, cumbia serves as a form of recreation and social interaction. It's a leisure activity that people engage in during their free time, setting it apart from the dominant economic activities in the area, which are linked to the drug trade and the maquiladora industry. 

While both men and women enjoy cumbia, the genre is particularly associated with the male members of the community. In this context, cumbia is not just a music genre but also representative of a distinct aesthetic, culture, and lifestyle. Many members of the border community are often perceived as cartel members or sicarios,   even if they are not. In places like Reynosa and Monterrey, cumbia enthusiasts have a unique style that may be seen as reminiscent of gangsters and thugs by outsiders. Their attire includes long jean shorts, spiky mohawks, and oversize button-up shirts, reflecting a fusion of American Hollywood and Mexican Catholic cultural elements (Dazed).

The representation of young working-class men and women in media, the aesthetics of "cool" in hip-hop culture, and in media representations such as Hollywood action films or computer games are all elements that can be found in the cumbia rebajada dance. This aspiration to appear cool is also related to Chicano and Kolombia aesthetics. To imitate the gringo    and become like them, to cannibalistically devour cultural codes, and to distance oneself from the folkloric idea of "the Mexican," which has been undervalued by colonial difference.

The essence of "coolness" is also present within the dance movements themselves. Performed close to the ground, there is an element of concealment, similar to neighborhood thieves or dealers who are often found tucked away in the urban landscape. Dancers assume a posture with a slightly contracted torso, engaging in steps and turns that maintain this close-to-the-ground stance. This stance echoes indigenous dance traditions and incorporates elements from African American culture, such as "on-the-ground beats." They dance in the style of hip-hop icons, gang members, dealers, or marijuana enthusiasts.

I have come to experience this music and dance as a space for dis-identification with the racializing schemes imposed on me as a fronteriza.   The borderlands are home to the new "mestizos." To be marked by colonial difference determines the possibility of my body to inhabit certain territories and not others. Being squeezed between two nations, as is the case in the border between Mexico and the United States, implies being denied the freedom of movement and being subjected to the living conditions of the borderlands as a liminal territory, somewhere between the real living conditions of the United States for a person with citizenship and the Mexican side of the border (low wages, violence, etc). Cumbia can also be understood as a practice of reclaiming one’s presence in the land. Practically, this strong stepping dance expresses a connection between the feet and the earth, acting as a counter spell to the disavowed, to those who cannot cross because their bodies carry borders




22. The maquiladoras are factories in Mexico near the U.S. border that rely on low-cost labor, and workers there are often prevented from forming labor unions.

23. A "sicario" is a term used in Latin America to refer to a hitman hired on behalf of criminal organizations, drug cartels, or other powerful groups.

24. Slang term used to refer to a white or anglo american person.

25. "Fronteriza" is a Spanish term used to describe a person who lives in or is associated with a border region. "Fronteriza" can denote a sense of regional identity, experiences, and perspectives that are shaped by life on the border and the cultural interactions that occur in these areas.

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