Popular Culture as Healing: Baile, Musica Norteña, y Muralismo in Las Vegas, Nuevo Mexico

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Journal of Social Justice

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Mexico’s indigenous populations and their descendants experienced over 400 years of historical trauma beginning with the Spanish colonization of Mexico and later as the U.S. expanded and colonized Mexico’s northern territories in the 19th century. Embedded in this Westward Expansion were usurpation of Mexican lands, range wars, racism and lynchings, supported by mob violence and Euroamerican style injustice. Today, trauma continues for descendants -- racial profiling, deportations, the banning of our history, and denigration of the culture and language. Las Vegas in el norte de Nuevo Mexico, northern New Mexico, is a Hispano-Chicano cultural place that experienced colonization, so detrimental in its extent, that residents have dubbed this a holocaust. Today colonization continues covertly in the guise of gentrification of cultural places and marginalization of Hispanos-Chicanos from natural resources. With a history of resistance, activism, an insulating culture, and resilience, el norte de Nuevo Mexico has weathered devastation, creating a relatively inter-generational, culturally based, emotionally healing environment. In contemporary Las Vegas, Hispano-Chicano cultural resistance is manifested through baile, dance, musica norteña, music from the north, underlined by Español, the Spanish language, and public art muralismo, muralism. Key here is the generating of a strong, spontaneous, grassroots proactive healing to counter a legacy of victimization.