García Blizzard, Perigrinación a Chalma

Framing indigeneity in early ethnographic Mexican film: An analysis of Peregrinación a Chalma/Pilgrimage to Chalma (Díaz Ordaz 1922)

Monica García Blizzard, Emory University

‘Sponsored by the Museo Nacional de Historia, Arqueología y Etnología in
1922 (de los Reyes 1993: 65), the ethnographic film Peregrinación a Chalma/
Pilgrimage to Chalma (Díaz Ordaz, 1922)1 presents information about a pilgrimage site located in the south-eastern part of the state of Mexico that believers travel to in order to venerate the Señor de Chalma – a crucifix that ‘appeared’ at the site in the sixteenth century. The film emerges from the anthropologist Miguel Othón de Mendizábal’s ‘ethnological expedition’2 (Anon. 1922a: 230) to the area and involved the collaboration of musicologist Francisco Domínguez, archaeologist and historian Enrique Juan Palacios, ethnologist Canuto Flores and was filmed by Ramón Díaz Ordaz (de los Reyes 1993: 65). According to the bulletin of the Secretaría de Educación Pública, the purpose of the expedition was to ‘gather interesting ethnological and ethnographic data’, which included ‘melodies of the songs and dances that the Indigenous people sing and dance’ as well as ceremonies (Anon. 1922a: 230). Indeed, the film displays different groups of people presented as Indigenous people (the word ‘aboriginals’ is used throughout) who honour the Lord of Chalma through their various dances. Like other museum-sponsored expedition films, Peregrinación a
Chalma is invested in the project of salvage ethnography and treats the filmed
dances as the ‘ethnographic objects’ themselves (Griffiths 2011: 286).’

Works cited:

Anon. (1922a), ‘Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Historía y Etnología: Labores
técnicas de los Departamentos’, Boletín de la Secretaría de Educación Pública,
1:1, p. 230,
&anio=1922&mes=09&dia=01. Accessed 15 June 2019.

de los Reyes, A. (1993), Cine y sociedad en México 1896–1930: Bajo el cielo de México Vol. II, 1920–1924, Mexico City: UNAM.

Griffiths, A. (2011), ‘The 1920s museum-sponsored expedition film: Beguiling
encounters in an all-but-forgotten genre’, Early Popular Visual Culture, 9:4,
pp. 271–92.