10th Annual Cine LatinoIn Focus: Miguel Ángel Rosales

By Jan Willms
Subject: Miguel Ángel Rosales, director of Gurumbe: Afro-Andalusian Memories

Miguel Ángel Rosales’ background and education in anthropology has served him well as a filmmaker. His documentary feature, Gurumbe: Afro-Andalusian Memories, explores the Afro-Andalusian contribution to the foundations of flamenco.

“The silence with regard to the African influence in flamenco is parallel to Spain’s own erased history,” Rosales said. “Flamenco music, like many other powerful cultural expressions, has got a complex relationship to political and social power.”

According to Rosales, that relationship with appropriation and re-signifying has been used to construct a narrative in accordance with the convenience of particular groups and their sense of national history. “In that way, the African influence in flamenco, but also flamenco’s own mixed heritage has been deeply forgotten,” Rosales explained. “This fact is also a consequence of a particular way of building national histories full of prejudices about Africans and black people.”

Rosales was born in Jerez, which he said is one of the most important cities in flamenco music.

“We can compare Jerez for flamenco with the relevance of, for example, New Orleans for jazz music,” Rosales said. “For me, flamenco is a very important part of my identity and background and holds many personal memories and experiences. To make this film has allowed me to resituate this background in other space, a more diverse one which in turn develops a full and rich version of my own country’s history.”

Rosales said that in his documentary, he has tried to show the legacy of the black population in Andalusia and Spain, where flamenco is a part of this legacy. “This big population of Afro-descendants, of Afro-Spanish people, had been a part of our country for centuries,” he claimed. “This and the complex state of society at the time, is the point of departure of my film. The discovery of this silenced part of our history puts into question the official narrative about Spanish and Andalusian culture.”