By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
In 1969, the nine brothers Estrada Pacheco created the so called "danza de los caporales" (literally, "dance of the caporales", "caporal" being a sort of slave master), whose inspiration seems to haven been taken from one of the characters of the Afro-Bolivian saya, the "caporal". Far from retaining its African roots or giving some sort of recognition to the ancient culture from which they have drawn much "inspiration", the Estrada Pacheco seek to create a new, urban, mestizo dance, which mixed (according to their own statements) a bit of North American twist with a bit of "tuntuna" from the yungas and a bit of Andean k'usillo.
This is how the dance was developed into the form it is today. A dance that is performed in almost every Bolivian musical event and in many festivals abroad, and which, alongside the morenada, is the main attraction of the street parades at the annual Carnival of Oruro, the Jesús del Gran Poder Festival in La Paz and the Virgen de Urkupiña Festival in Quillacollo (Cochabamba).
Originally, men wore a wide brim hat, loose-fitting shirt, belt, knee-high boots and a whip or "chicote", while women wore a beautifully embroidered blouse, wide long skirt and a small hat. These costumes have drastically changed over time. Men’s attire has turn into a flamboyant costume with sequins and reflective threads of gold and silver; they do not wear hat anymore, and their boots are higher and have jingle bells attached to them. In the case of the women’s costume the change was even more pronounced: sandals have become heeled shoes, blouses now include shoulder pads and a very low front, and the long skirt has turned into an extremely short skirt; as with men’s, women’s attire is now profusely adorned.
During the dance, men perform acrobatic jumps exhibiting their strength and agility, while women spin around swirling their short skirts.
Musically speaking, the caporal is a variant of the "Andean" saya popularized by Los Kjarkas. In fact, in recent times, "Andean" saya and caporal (or "saya caporal") have become almost synonyms; Afro-Bolivian organizations, however, insist in saying that authentic saya "is not the same as caporal".
In June 2011, caporales were declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. According to the government, this measure was adopted to insure against any appropriation attempts on the part of neighbouring countries (i.e. Peru).
Video 01. "Soy caporal", by Tupay.
Video 02. "Sambo caporal", by Amaru.
Video 03. "Sambos de corazón", by Proyección.
Video 04. "Caporales", by Fortaleza.
Video 05. Caporales 100% boliviano.
Video 06. Caporales San Simón, Carnival 2010.