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Aleman-Fernandez, Carmen Elena (1990) Corpus Christi and Saint John the Baptist. A history of art in an African-Venezuelan community. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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For the past ten years I have conducted research in the town of Chuao (Aragua State), an area settled in the 16th Century, site of the oldest and most renowned cocoa plantation of Venezuela. By the mid-17th century, the owner turned control of the enterprise over to the Roman Catholic Church, which administered it through the Inter-diocesan Seminary until 1827, at which time, by direct order of Simon Bolivar, the plantation became the property of the University of Caracas (today the Universidad Central de Venezuela) until 1883. From then it came under the direct control of the State.;The inhabitants are descended from African slave populations brought in by Spanish colonists; and the area can only be reached by sea. The relative isolation of Chuao makes it a special place in which one can study the evolution of artistic and rituals forms. Chuao appears to be one of the few African communities in modem Venezuela which has actively maintained links with its past. The Chuao tradition has evolved in the local integration of official (Spanish Catholicism) and popular (slave African elements). This may well exemplify the evolution of artistical ritual forms in other coastal communities of north-central Venezuela from the time of Spanish Colonialism.;The thesis is centred around the principal festivities of the community of Chuao: Corpus Christi (featuring "devil" masquerade) and the festive cycle of Saint John the Baptist (featuring images of the Saint and his mistress). Both festivities are organized by societies, the Corpus Christi society led by men and the Saint John society, by women. These societies are thus responsible for all the different aspects of the celebrations, such as the preparation for the festival, rehearsals, stages of the festivities, masks, costumes, images, dances, music, songs, speeches and poems.;These festivities are placed within the historical background of the community, and plantation of Chuao including the possible origin of the Africans arrived in Spanish America during the period of the slave trade. Moreover, the importance of the religious tradition of Chuao for an understanding of these festivities is provided by the Doctrine of Maria Tecla.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:24

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