The Folkloric Traditions of Masaya: El Mestizaje as a Process, aState of Being, and a Culture Open Access

Lee, Isabelle (2017)

Permanent URL:


"The only constant in life is change." What this old adage leaves out is that everything is in a constant state of change, multiplicity, and becoming. Systems which attempt to label us as static, inert entities limit our thinking and possibilities of existence. Existing as one's full self despite these constraints can generate new cultures and ways of being.

In Masaya, Nicaragua, today's dominant culture of mestizaje is the result of the arrival of the Spaniards to the Americas and the process of racial and cultural blend that followed between Spanish, indigenous and African peoples. But in this mixing process, Spaniards held disproportionate power: most of the changes they imposed were made through violent and deceptive imposition. Yet indigenous and African people still subversively preserved their traditions and left bold influences on the new mestizx culture. This essay records how these cultures amalgamated and are present in Masaya's folklore and sense of identity, paying mind both to the influences of the cultures that mixed to form it as well as giving dignity to mestizaje as its own distinct culture.

It also explores the concept of mestizaje as a process of racial and cultural syncretism that is still occurring in Masaya today. This modern mestizaje is a more balanced, natural, and equal exchange of cultures occurring in numerous ways, including through globalization and technological advances. Masaya's traditions of folklore, which were originally produced through a process of amalgamating discrete global elements, are now being subjected to a more modern fusion. This investigation also examines how Masaya deals with tradition, notions of change and preservation, and contemporary perspectives on mixed identity.

Table of Contents

Epigraph 3

Preface 4

Terms, Concepts, and Themes 9

Section 1: The Construction of Race in Colonial Nicaragua:

Order, Disorder, & Elusion 14

Section 2: Masaya Case Study:

Introduction 30

Methodology & Researcher's Lens 33

Research Findings 39

On Identity 39

El Güegüense 42

Music 45

Artisanship 48

Dance & Costumes 50

Food 56

Religion & Patron Saint Festivals 59

Conclusion 64

Bibliography 66

Appendix 72

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files