Cumbia Tejana: Synthesis Towards Unification in the Tejano Continuum
Cumbia Tejana emerges as the Texas-Mexican (Tejano) adoption of the Mexican (Cumbia Nortena) and Afro-Colombian Cumbia into the repertoire of the ensembles, music-cultures, and dance traditions of South Texas. Musically, Cumbia Tejana is not one interpretation of the Cumbia, but many. The Cumbia's dance and music traditions have deep ethnic roots that initially began as a genre from the Afro-Indigenous-Hispanic heritage of coastal Colombia (D'Amico 2013). The syncopation of the polyrhythm, the hip movement in the dance, the musical call and response, and the associated Blackness of the Cumbia remain the key elements in the Cumbia's appeal and longevity throughout Latin America. Every performance of the Cumbia by Texas-Mexicans served a purposeful function in projecting the aspirations, affiliations, and compromises that the Tejano community has undergone. These changes include the impact of new generations of Mexican immigrants, globalization of Pan-Latino music and culture, and aspiring middle-class pursuits by the Tejano community. In this thesis, I argue that Cumbia Tejana suggests the reimagining of Tejano musical identity throughout all dimensions of Tejano society. This implies a liberation of gender, sexuality, and cultural restrictions that the cumbia can offer a music-culture. The communal participation of this dance evokes a sense of community which gives the participants of Cumbia Tejana a state of flow on the consciousness of these participants, as well. The necessary series of events here at work can be best understood through what Ethnomusicologist Fernando Ortiz theorized as, "Transculturation". This being the fluid and dynamic convergence of ethnicity and expression, i.e., the Mexican, American, and Pan-Latino influences on Tejano identity. The transcultural mediation that South Texas Tejanos required was solidified in this phenomenon, known as Cumbia Tejana.