Monday, March 03, 2014

Cristina Ibarra's 'Las Marthas' (Part 1)

I first saw Cristina Ibarra's Las Marthas (2014) as part of PBS' Independent Lens series, and aim to see it again soon. About a week before it aired, I happened to catch Ms. Ibarra discussing this documentary on the KERA radio show Think with Kris Boyd. Mention of The Improved Order of Red Men made me hop to. By coincidence, this old fraternal-patriotic membership had just come up last year, while duly noting that the Order's national offices are in Waco, Texas, of all places. Las Marthas is a sort of border-morphing out of the Order that began around the time of the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Las Marthas shows this colorful tradition centered in Laredo, Texas, USA, and linked also across the Rio Grande / Río Bravo del Norte with Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipa, Mexico, by bridge. The tradition -- well, as noted by a participant: "It's like walking through a door." Yes, it is. 

Las Marthas focuses on participants in that part of Laredo's Washington's Birthday Celebration specifically named the Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball.

This is an event (or a series of events) involving preparations as involved as that of, say, a Mardi Gras Carnival Krewe in New Orleans. Very elaborate costume dresses are designed and made for each participating "debutante," and much practice has to be done. 

Overall, Las Marthas lets us see how complex, eclectic, rich, imaginative and resilient historically-based borderland populations can be. Indeed, another line that stands out: "We didn't cross the border; the border crossed us." 

Las Marthas gives us a memorable glimpse at this syncretized hybrid process, a demonstrable show of strength for Laredo's elites over, through, under -- and around -- time itself. 

More musings to come in the next post.

Today's Rune: Signals. 


Charles Gramlich said...

One thing that fascinates me about human beings, and it's salient this time of year because of Mardi Gras down here, is the outright 'need' of people to engage in displays. It seems strange to me in a way, and yet I kind of understand the feeling.

jodi said...

Erik-the dress on the cover is absolutely gorgeous!