The Equivocal Politics of Carnival
The Forms and Discourses of Carnivalesque Theater in Contemporary Uruguay
This article reflects on the political, social, and cultural institutionality of carnival in Uruguay and on its growing centrality as a means of expression and space of popular enunciation since the return to democracy in the 1980s. It also argues that the “field” of carnival is a site of constant negotiation with both the state and nongovernmental sources of power (economic groups, the media, churches, etc.) and can thus accommodate various political proposals, leading to constant symbolic-discursive reconfiguration. A detailed analysis of three carnivalesque performances belonging to the murga genre—La caldera de los diablos by Diablos Verdes (2003), Los Sueños by Agarrate Catalina (2005), and Creer o reventar by Don Timoteo (2014)—highlights how carnival has responded to, and has been reconfigured by, three recent circumstances: the apogee of neoliberalism and “the crisis of 2002,” the election of a “broad front” leftist government in 2005, and the end of this government’s second term in 2014.