Performing Black Sovereignty
In this colloquium, Miguel Valerio, Assistant Professor of Spanish, will discuss the sources and methodologies from his new book, Sovereign Joy: Afro-Mexican Kings and Queens, 1539-1640. Sovereign Joy explores the performance of festive black kings and queens among Afro-Mexicans between 1539 and 1640. This fascinating study illustrates how the first African and Afro-creole people in colonial Mexico transformed their ancestral culture into a shared identity among Afro-Mexicans, with particular focus on how public festival participation expressed their culture and subjectivities, as well as redefined their colonial condition and social standing. By analyzing this hitherto understudied aspect of Afro-Mexican Catholic confraternities in both literary texts and visual culture, Valerio teases out the deeply ambivalent and contradictory meanings behind these public processions and festivities that often re-inscribed structures of race and hierarchy. Were they markers of Catholic subjecthood, and what sort of corporate structures did they create to project standing and respectability? Sovereign Joy examines many of these possibilities, and in the process highlights the central place occupied by Africans and their descendants in colonial culture. Through performance, Afro-Mexicans affirmed their being: the sovereignty of joy, and the joy of sovereignty.
MiguelValerio is a scholar of the African diaspora in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. He teaches courses in Afro-colonial culture and contemporary Afro-Latin American literature and culture. His research has focused on black Catholic brotherhoods or confraternities and Afro-creole festive practices in colonial Latin America, especially Mexico and Brazil. His research has appeared in various academic journals, including Slavery and Abolition, Colonial Latin American Review, The Americas, and The Journal of Festive Studies. He is the author of Sovereign Joy: Afro-Mexican Kings and Queens, 1539-1640 (Cambridge University Press, 2022) and a co-editor of Indigenous and Black Confraternities in Colonial Latin America: Negotiating Status through Religious Practices (Amsterdam University Press, 2022).
Header Image Credit: Jose Teofilo de Jesus (Brazilian), Africa, c. 1810.