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PHOTO ESSAY

Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography

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Victoria Santa Cruz Gamarra

Victoria Santa Cruz Gamarra (1922–2014) (Flickr.com)

A talented and visionary figure in the performing arts (dance, music, poetry, costume design, acting, writing, directing, and more), Victoria Santa Cruz was an international arts educator and theorist of Afro-Peruvian origin who developed a distinctive pedagogical and creative method based on her personal experiences with ancestral memory. Along with her brother Nicomedes, Victoria Santa Cruz led a revival of African-descended arts and culture in Peru's theaters beginning in the 1950s, and is credited with re-discovering the choreography of several forgotten Afro-Peruvian dances as well as inspiring young Afro-Peruvians to reconnect with their African ancestry. Over the course of her varied career Santa Cruz, studied in France, directed her Peruvian theater and dance ensemble in a performance at the 1968 Olympics, served as the head of Peru's National School of Folklore, and directed Peru's internationally touring National Folklore Company. She also participated in a Senegalese colloquium on 'Negritude in Latin America' at the invitation of the Senegalese president, and became a professor of theater at Carnegie-Mellon University in the United States, before retiring in Lima in the early 2000s. DCALAB author Heidi Feldman writes that after Santa Cruz's death in 2014 "her legacy remained active, as her former students and those inspired by her enigmatic leadership continued the work of reviving and performing the black musical heritage in Peru."

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