Videoteca Chango Prieto [Chango Prieto Video Library] reflects on the continuity of African arts, customs and social life in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean region as well as the new creole culture that emerged out of the uninterrupted interaction of slaves, freemen and laborers in the sugar plantations and other spheres of society molded by both pre-capitalist and modern-day capitalist modes of production. But this online resource also reflects on the interactions between the islands--Haiti, St. Kitts, St. Thomas, Jamaica, Cuba, and Dominican Republic--and the transnational nature of anthropological studies in the Dominican Republic whose center of gravity shifted from the study of the Taínos indigenous people to the living and breathing legacy of Afro-Dominican people. Following that line of thought, one of the major contributions of the Chango Prieto Video Library is the preservation of oral tradition, an endeavor that took off in the1970s with the birth of the Convite research and musical group. Founded in 1994 by anthropologist and author Soraya Aracena, Video Chango Prieto is not only an innovative resource, but it is also the first of its kind. According to its web site, the collection is comprised of more than 350 unedited videos.
The audiovisual collection, compiled by Aracena over the years as part of her ethnographic fieldwork research into Afro-Dominican culture, showcases the work of a number of artists, cultural animators, filmmakers, musicians with little or no access to commercial media and financial resources. Shot in cinéma vérité, these digital videos cover the following subjects: musical genres and dances from a diverse ethnic heritage that includes Haitians, West Indians, Cubans and descendants of slaves in the Dominican Republic (wild Indians, gagá, bomba, , jazz, salves); carnival celebrations, death rituals; harvest celebrations— a legacy of freemen community from the U.S that settled in what is today known as Samaná Province in the northeast; folk medicine, fashion, art, children’s games, body decoration and much more.
This video library and web site is recommended viewing to students, researchers, anthropologists, folklorists, musicians, plastics artists as well as the general public. Some of the key research areas are: The Caribbean region, Latin America, colonial history, linguistic differentiation in the Caribbean, afro-Caribbean music, carnival celebrations, funerary rites, syncretic religion systems, sugar production, and West Indian and Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic.
Amaury Rodríguez/Guest contributor