Abstract: "Our Roots Are Emerging:" Indigenous Cultural Dance As a Transformative Place of Health and Prevention for Members of an Urban Danza Mexica Community (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

187P "Our Roots Are Emerging:" Indigenous Cultural Dance As a Transformative Place of Health and Prevention for Members of an Urban Danza Mexica Community

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Angela Fernandez, PhDc, LCSW, MPHc, Doctoral Candidate, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Ramona Beltran, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Background and Purpose:

The U.S. Census Bureau recently developed “Mexican American Indian” (MAI) as a new category to describe people who identify ancestry from Indigenous groups of Mexico.  This census category comprises the fourth largest Indigenous population group in the U.S., and encompasses a vastly diverse, complex, and intersectional group of people, for which there is little empirical health research.  Many Indigenous scholars and community members cite involvement in place and settings-based cultural and spiritual practices as potentially protective in reducing health risks and promoting well-being.  The aim of this study is to develop an understanding of the role of participation in cultural dance as a potential protective place for reducing risk for HIV and alcohol and other drug abuse (AOD), and promoting overall health among a sample of people from an Urban Danza Mexica Community (UDMC).  Narrative, as storytelling, continues to be a powerful medium of communication with the potential to uncover important risk and protective factors among Indigenous communities globally.


This study is a secondary data analysis (n=12) of qualitative, in-depth interviews from an AOD, HIV and overall health needs assessment pilot study that uses a community based participatory research approach with UDMC in the Pacific Northwest (n=21).  It introduces the Decolonizing Narratives of Health (DNOH) model as an innovative, relational, analytic framework by which participant stories are placed in relationship to their context across three distinct yet interconnected levels—the personal, the communal, and Indigeneity in the larger world.  These levels of narrative analysis in health function as culturally grounded, relational pathways through which to articulate health prevention and promotion methods. Participants identified ancestry among five Indigenous groups from northern, central and southern states of Mexico.  Their ages ranged from 18-55, with education levels from 0-8thgrade, to graduate/professional degrees.  Five participants self-identified as cis-gender female, four as cis-gender male, and four as transgender/two-spirit. 


The DNOH model narratives delve into the complex and nuanced relationships within participants’ internal worlds (personal), between themselves and their danza community (communal), and between themselves and their overall Indigenous identity within society (Indigeneity).  Participants use narrative as a mechanism for resistance to colonial assaults on their existence and to remember ancestral teachings about health and prevention. They grapple not only with marginalization of their intersectional identities outside of the danza circle, but at times within the danza circle.  Despite these ongoing challenges, participants use narratives to create “brave” spaces wherein they navigate complex conversations that resist oppression, reconnect with and strengthen their Indigenous identities, and strive toward ancestral visions of health and well-being.

Conclusion and Implications:

This study contributes to Indigenized theoretical and methodological expansion, and to the development of place/settings-based, narrative cultural health interventions aimed at decreasing health risks and promoting wellness among populations similar to UDMC.  Identifying protective places and spaces that foster distinct pathways for decolonizing narratives helps increase understanding of its role in prevention of health risk behaviors, and promoting overall health and well-being.