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Oscar Barrera-Nunez
Graduate Student,University of Washington Seattle, USA.

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Dancers

This picture was taken on October 26th, 2000 during the Baile del Torito (bull dance) in Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Guatemala in preparation for the celebrations of the Patron Saint of the village. A German photographer, like many of the hundreds of tourists who visit Todos Santos, snaps pictures of Maya Indians, their performances, and all of what he imagines to be "traditional". Outsiders taking pictures are a common phenomenon and are well accepted in the village.

I took this picture because it reveals the different realities that converge in Todos Santos. It captures the taking of another picture, making it a representation of a representation. In the village, outsiders take pictures of Indians. In my fieldwork, I take pictures of foreigners taking pictures. Interestingly enough, for the Todos Santos Maya all of us outsiders are "the same" and, in fact, we are already part of the "tradition". Most of the locals do not distinguish between tourists, professional photographers, or even anthropologists. The "Other" is called turista (tourist) regardless of the outsider's intentions.

One cannot imagine a Todos Santos performance, like the Baile del Torito without tourists. They are part of the landscape. Foreigners are often part of the cultural practices in Todos Santos and participate in many aspects of villagers' lives. Todos Santos Maya have incorporated the presence of outsiders into their lives and into their cultural practices. The American Flag that the dancer in the photograph uses, for example, has also become part of his "traditional" clothing. Outsiders, the American flag, and also myself as an anthropologist, coexisting in the village, reveal the ability of Todos Santos Maya to incorporate outside forces as they constantly redefine their cultural identity.