Peruvian businesswoman Belén Barnechea defends her controversial wedding party as a sign of “cultural diversity” | International
The celebration of the wedding between the daughter of a Peruvian politician and a Spanish aristocrat that has caused a wave of indignation by using men dressed as indigenous people —tied together— and women with long braids sitting in The floor —which they simulated to work with baskets and clay utensils— has been justified by the Peruvian businesswoman Belén Barnechea as a sample “of how wonderful and culturally rich” her country is. However, for historians and cultural managers, as well as for artists and institutions that have spoken out these days about the controversial show, it is a reprehensible staging.
“We are a country full of diversity, different cultures and traditions that have managed to coexist and unite in a unique syncretism in the world. On all the days of celebration, we teach with love and respect something about Peru, about our culture, about my culture,” the bride, daughter of former presidential candidate Alfredo Barnechea, posted on Instagram after the controversy.
“I have seen that in some media they have referred to the Moche representation that we made, as slaves, indigenous women, the viceroyalty. What we did was represent the Moche culture that developed between the 2nd and 7th centuries. So it never crossed paths with the Incas or the Spaniards,” added the young woman, owner of a dessert shop in Madrid and known as “the confectioner of the jet” for his friendship with Isabelle Junot —daughter of Carolina de Monaco’s first husband— and Sassa de Osma —member of the royal family of Hannover by marriage—, among other personalities of Madrid’s high society.
Despite the attempt to dampen the wave of criticism that the setting of the wedding has received, videos reproduced on Instagram accounts also show extras dressed as soldiers of the Spanish Conquest —with helmets and breastplates— animating the moment called ‘La hora loca ‘ from the party. Some guests and the bride and groom wear golden headdresses similar to those found in the royal tombs of the Lord of Sipán and the Lord of Sicán (archaeological discoveries from the 1980s and 1990s). In a video from Hola magazine, the bride and groom dance reggaeton at that moment from the headdresses of the ancient Moche chiefs, while those dressed as Spanish soldiers dance with other guests.
Last Saturday’s wedding between Barnechea and Martín Cabello de los Cobos, grandson of the Count of Fuenteblanca, took place in Trujillo, a city about 550 kilometers north of Lima, in whose center some of the architecture of colonial times survives. and that preserves archaeological sites on the outskirts. The bride’s mother was born in that city. Barnechea assures that what was seen in the parade of the wedding procession -in a pedestrian street in Trujillo- “was a recreation of the rope dance, an ancestral dance that does not represent slaves but is a ritual representation of warriors.”
The Peruvian historian José Ragas considers that the so-called rope dance cannot be called “ancestral”: “The defense of Belén Barnechea adds a bit of information to what happened. Although it is true that it is the representation of an apparent regional ancestral dance, the context in which it was represented —an elite wedding— with someone from the nobility of a country like Spain, can lead to other interpretations. It is a reinvented representation, not necessarily reliable, and that can end up exoticizing the population,” said Ragas, a professor at the Catholic University of Chile and a researcher of colonial legacies.
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For Ragas, this controversy over the use of culture and history as adornments occurs just “when a few months ago there was a debate about the relevance or not of keeping the statue of Christopher Columbus, far-right neo-Hispanist groups appeared in the electoral campaign and, in addition, there is a long tradition of using the Andean population as part of the elite’s scenography”.
Barnechea added on Instagram that the women sitting on the ground – on a pedestrian path – “made a representation of the jobs and ways of cultivating the land at the time.”
Guillermo Rebaza, lawyer and cultural manager from Trujillo, a specialist in heritage, said for his part that the rope dance, although it is representative of the Moche culture, “has not remained in force. I don’t think it’s currently one of the most representative.” And he stressed, like Ragas, that the context in which these representations have been used cannot be ignored.
“It is impossible to lose sight of the social and political circumstances in which we live, a fact that in itself makes this representation reprehensible, especially since it comes from an elite, the national neoligarchy, which continues to look with marked contempt on the popular sectors,” said Rebaza. .
“It is a humiliating act”
The former vice minister of cultural heritage and documentarian of the popular culture of Peru, Sonaly Tuesta, questioned more directly the use of the rope dance in the parade of a marriage. “What is the relevance of staging the practice of exhibiting the vanquished in a battle? It is a humiliating act: the rope would be the instrument of domination and conquest with which they tied him. If you wanted to show yourself proud, you would participate in the staging, but if you don’t commit to the other or don’t include him —in the party—, you don’t know and you end up doing these things: you justify yourself, you don’t understand the objections, “he said, in reaction to explanations of the bride.
Tuesta has spent 20 years documenting regional, religious and traditional festivals on state television. For this reason, he explains that when one celebrates the culture of the other, he shares it, and does not present it separately on a stage as an accessory. The writer herself states that “it would have been interesting if this marriage that is proud of our wealth did not make the Moche town a stage or a decoration, but rather that it had been part of the party.”
On the other hand, the Afro-Peruvian singer Susana Baca, former Minister of Culture and three-time winner of the Latin Grammys, also questioned on social networks the “vexatious evocation of the Colony” during the Trujillo wedding. “When I was Minister of Culture we warned about the trivialization of history by some social sectors and we created the Observatory against racism. I am sorry that they have not reacted with the rigor of the case, ”she said this Saturday in a post published on Facebook.
Hours later, before a response from the mother of the bride – in the same vein as what her daughter explained – Baca added: “Beyond this, I must wish this couple much happiness that comes together with love.”
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