Music inspired by classic banned over race claims

The long-running battle to ban the book “Cocorí” and artistic works related to it has flared again.

The minister of Cultura y Juventud, Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales, has yanked the funding for a series of orchestral performances based on the book that were to be given to schoolchildren.

The legislative Comisión de Derechos Humanos applauded the action in a statement released by the Partido Acción Ciudadana Wednesday. The commission had asked the minister to effectively censor the performances.

“Cocorí” by Joaquín Gutiérrez Mangel is one of the most popular Costa Rican books. The initial publication was in 1947. The tale related the adventures of a Caribbean boy and his search for life’s answer in the jungle. His friends include a turtle and a monkey.

Race appears when the boy visits a boat that has arrived offshore and meets a blond girl his own age. He never had seen anyone with light skin. The girl gives him a kiss and a rose.  He promises her a mono tit monkey, but the ship leaves before he can fulfill his promise. He then takes a dangerous trip through the jungle seeking the meaning of life.

The Acción Ciudadana summary Wednesday said that the book contains stereotypes against the Afro-Costa Rican population.

The orchestral version has two performances this month at the Teatro Nacional.  The music is accompanied by a narrator.

The members of the legislative commission said that the book contains the idea that Afro-Costa Ricans are primitive beings and promotes false standards of cocori042315beauty related to the color of the skin.

Epsy Campbell, who heads the human rights commission, figured in an effort to remove the book from the public school curriculum 20 years ago. But the Sala IV rejected an appeal and said that the book did not contain discriminatory elements.

Instead, the court said that within the historical context of the book it features the virtues of a race that in those times was relegated to second-class status. It only was in 1948 that the black residents of Costa Rica obtained full citizenship under the Constitution of that year.

Still, then-president Abel Pacheco in 2003 defended the action of the Ministerio de Educación Pública when the book was removed from the mandatory curriculum. Pacheco said some Afro-Costa Ricans felt that the book contains discriminatory elements. Ms. Campbell, of course, is Afro-Costa Rican.

Reviewers see the book as an allegory that can be read on many levels.

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.