Book Review//Beautiful Politics of Music//Trova in Yucatán, Mexico by Gabriela Vargas-Cetina

About the book

An exploration into the history and practice of trova, a genre of music that is the soul of Yucatán.

Yucatecan trova is a music genre comprising a type of romantic song that is considered “the soul of Yucatán and Yucatecans.” The first book on Yucatecan trova, offers an insider’s view of the history and practice of a treasured cultural heritage. A central theme of Gabriela Vargas-Cetina’s ethnography is what she refers to as the “beautiful politics of music” practiced by Yucatecan trova patrons and organizations, which is a way of asserting the importance of groups and issues through nonconfrontational means.

Trova emerged on the peninsula at the end of the nineteenth century and continues to be part of the general urban soundscape in the states of Yucatán and Campeche. Until the 1920s, this music was little known outside Yucatán and became absorbed into the larger Latin American Bolero genre, making it difficult to perceive its uniqueness and relation to life in Yucatán.

Vargas-Cetina, a native Yucatecan and trova musician, offers ethnographic insight into the local music scene. With family connections, she embedded herself as a trovadora, and her fieldwork—singing, playing the guitar in a trova group, and extensively researching the genre and talking with fellow enthusiasts and experts—ensued. Trova, like other types of artistic endeavors, is the result of collaboration and social milieu. She describes the dedicated trova clubs, cultural institutions, the Yucatecan economy of agricultural exports, and identity politics that helped the music come about and have maintained it today.

Positioned in the larger context of the music of Mexico and Latin America and engaging with theories of modernity and cosmopolitanism, experimental ethnography, and the anthropology of organizations, Beautiful Politics of Music consists of rigorous scholarship. It is also a warm tribute to performers and songs that have inspired many people around the world for more than two centuries.


Gabriela Vargas-Cetina is a professor of anthropology at the Autonomous University of Yucatán, Mexico. She is the editor of Anthropology and the Politics of Representation; has published on sheep herding cooperatives in Sardinia, Italy, and on weavers’ cooperatives in Chiapas, Mexico; and recently coauthored, with Steffan Igor Ayora-Diaz and Francisco Javier Fernández Repetto, a book on cooking, aesthetics, culture, and technology in Yucatan titled Cocina, música y comunicación. Tecnologías y estética en el Yucatán contemporáneo.

“A sophisticated examination of cultural tradition and innovation that makes the argument for cultural imagination and aesthetic choice, which is extremely important today when hard lines are once again being drawn around heritage and the arts, who defines them and who owns them.”


—Anya Peterson Royce, author of Becoming an Ancestor: The Isthmus Zapotec Way of Death and Anthropology of the Performing Arts: Artistry, Virtuosity, and Interpretation in a Cross-Cultural Perspective



About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.