Danzon Days

Age, Race, and Romance in Mexico
Author: Hettie Malcomson
An ethnography of danzon history and practice in Veracruz
Cloth – $110
Paper – $30
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 05/23/2023
Cloth: 05/23/2023
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About the Book

Older people negotiating dance routines, intimacy, and racialized differences provide a focal point for an ethnography of danzon in Veracruz, the Mexican city closely associated with the music-dance genre. Hettie Malcomson draws upon on-site research with semi-professional musicians and amateur dancers to reveal how danzon connects, and does not connect, to blackness, joyousness, nostalgia, aging, and romance. Challenging pervasive utopian views of danzon, Malcomson uses the idea of ambivalence to explore the frictions and opportunities created by seemingly contrary sentiments, ideas, sensations, and impulses. Interspersed with experimental ethnographic vignettes, her account takes readers into black and mestizo elements of local identity in Veracruz, nostalgic and newer styles of music and dance, and the friendships, romances, and rivalries at the heart of regular danzon performance and its complex social world.

Fine-grained and evocative, Danzon Days journeys to one of the genre’s essential cities to provide new perspectives on aging and romance and new explorations of nostalgia and ambivalence.

* Publication of this book was supported in part by the University of Illinois Press Fund for Anthropology.

About the Author

Hettie Malcomson is an associate professor of ethnomusicology and social anthropology at the University of Southampton. Her work examines what the ethnographic study of music reveals about social inequalities. She has explored manifestations of racism, ageism and hierarchies of knowledge production through Mexican danzon; and is currently interrogating experiences of violence in Mexico through hip-hop. Prior to entering the academy, she worked in the music industry and as a composer for film and theatre.



“Malcomson provides a superb ethnographic study of ambivalence in lived experience: danzon is disciplinary and jealously competitive, yet it gives aficionados room to be creative and convivial, and to weave identities around narratives of blackness and race mixture, local histories, and personal trajectories. A brilliant exploration of how people navigate the contradictions of everyday life.”--Peter Wade, author of Music, Race and Nation: Música Tropical in Colombia


•  Winner, BFE Book Prize, British Forum for Ethnomusicology, 2024