The marinera is the best-known couple dance on the coast of Peru. It is characterized by the use of handkerchiefs, steps of great elegance and rhythmic music similar to the Aragonese jota, the zamacueca and the Chilean cueca, but with its own Peruvian identity that flaunts the Hispano-indigenous-African miscegenation. For the same reason, over the years Andean and highland versions have emerged.
It is inevitable to link the official origin of the marinera with the War of the Pacific. Its origin, as a registered word to name this Peruvian dance, is dated: March 8, 1879. Titled "La Antofagasta", this marinera written by Abelardo Gamarra, "El Tunante", with music by Nicanor Núñez del Prado, is the first of which there is a record. Days later, on March 15, “Ciruelas de Chile”, written and set to music by José Alvarado, “Alvaradito”, was also published in the newspaper El Nacional.
There are three versions that explain the origin of this dance and its importance in our country. A first version, the Peruvian, supported by the Peruvian historian Rómulo Cúneo Vidal, indicates that the marinera derives from the zamacueca, whose Quechua name zamiquiqui referred to the dance that marked the beginning of the peasants' rest after a week of work during the Viceroyalty of Peru. These claims are supported by various huacos of the Mochica and Inca cultures, which show women with their hands on their waists and men with their hands on their back, both holding a handbag or handkerchief.
The second current, Hispanic, explains that the marinera comes more from European ballroom dances, such as the minuet, the cuadrilla or the rigodon, which were assimilated into the viceregal popular culture. Thus, the Argentine musicologist Carlos Vega argues that the zamacueca was born in 1610 in the Malambo neighborhood, in the current district of Rímac. It was about a loose and picaresque couple dance, and the dancers using a handkerchief in their hand. In any case, we can affirm that the colonial influence contributed with instruments imported from Europe: the guitar, the harp and its variables.
Finally, the Africanist current, defended by the researcher José Durand, indicates that the zamacueca comes from the broody zamba, a dance reminiscent of African dances, in which the “zamba”, a black, mestizo or indigenous woman performed similar movements those of a "broody" hen, which had just laid an egg. In turn, the musician and poet Nicomedes Santa Cruz maintains that the name comes from samba and cuque, from the Kimbundu language, which means "I came to start the lundú." In accordance with this trend, in the early 1800s this dance was called first “zamba”, and later “zamacueca”. Africanists consider that this is the origin of the marinera and other dances, such as the mozamala, the cueca and the dance of the handkerchief.
WHAT IS THE MARINERA LIMEÑA LIKE?
The Marinera Limeña is elegant, rhythmical and wears a scarf and shoes, usually high-heeled shoes. It is a ballroom dance that shares a common structure with the other variants, composed of the first, second and third jarana, followed by a resbalosa (slippery) and a fuga (scapes).
The clothing stands out for being elegant and sober: a dress, usually made of silk, with puffed sleeves, which falls to the ankles. It resembles that of the Chilean cueca, since both dances have a common origin. The upper part of the garment includes a discreet neckline that covers the bust, but remains tight to the body until the beginning of the hips, while the skirt has a wide fullness, but without the volume of the garment in the northern or puneña marinera.
As decorations, the dancer wears a satin or sateen under her dress, which is partially exposed during the dance, either with the rhythmic movement or to play in a flirty way, rolling up her dress. The hairstyle of the Marinera Limeña is a simple bun that can be adorned with accessories.
WHAT DIFFERENCES THE NORTHEN MARINERA?
The northern style became famous during the War of the Pacific and contains characteristics of colonial dances and native to northern Peru. In the northern marinera, the man dances with shoes, while the woman, who represents the peasant women, does not wear them. The old saying "the worse the ground, the better the dancer", refers to the resistance of the feet, which are tanned and used to dance on uneven, stony and very hot floors. This distinctive is a source of pride for the northern marinera dancers.
The marinera danced in the departments of Lambayeque, La Libertad and Piura is agile, elegant, free, happy and spontaneous. It is a dance that exudes love. The lady expresses her affections with mischief, cunning and intelligence, while the male woos, accompanies, stalks and conquers his partner.
Another substantial difference is that the women wear typical dresses of the northern towns in the style of the early nineteenth century. Meanwhile, men usually wear the typical “cholo norteño” or “chalán” costume: a poncho made of loom and thread, accompanied by a wide-brimmed straw hat. Some towns, however, wear a single stitching white denim suit, characteristic of the entire northern Peruvian coast. Footwear must be black and dress code.
MARINERAS AREQUIPEÑAS AND PANDILLAS PUNEÑAS
While this was happening in Lima and the northern regions, the ancient zamacueca developed in Arequipa and then traveled to the highland regions of Peru, Chile and Argentina. It is a slower dance, even in the proper musical aspect. While the northern and Lima marineras are written in 6/8 and are interpreted in two times, the Arequipeñas are written in 3/4 and are interpreted in three times. In addition, they are more melancholic: they are written in minor keys, despite the fact that their lyrics are, in general, cunning, cheerful and even uninhibited. Don Benigno Ballón Farfán is the most famous composer and compiler of Arequipa marineras, such as “Natividad del alma” and “La traidora”.
In Puno, the marinera has a carnival character, with very rhythmical movements. It begins as a marinera and continues in the form of a huayno pandillero or pandilla.
Other Andean variants are usually fusions with the local traditions of each town. Generally performed in a minor key, with slow movements, the marinera is usually repeated twice and ends in a fuga of huayno or pampeña. The same happens with the clothes, the instruments and the dance steps, since the miscegenation has produced variants such as those of Cajamarca, Ayacucho, Ancash and Cusco.
All the marineras have similarities and differences among themselves, depending on the Spanish and Andean influences of each sector or region. But they all beat to the same rhythm of the same Peruvian heart.