Skip to Content

Faculty Research Spotlight

Ana Martínez, Department of Theatre and Dance

Performance in the Zócalo: An Interdisciplinary Book about Public Space, Performance, and Mexican History


Plaza Mayor de la Ciudad de México, unknown artist, ca. 1766. Oil on canvas. Museo Nacional de Historia, Ciudad de México. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.
Plaza Mayor de la Ciudad de México, unknown artist, ca. 1766. Oil on canvas. Museo Nacional de Historia, Ciudad de México. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

“My initial interest in the study of Mexico's central square, or the Zócalo, as a historical theatre grew from my own lived experiences and interdisciplinary background.”

Dr. Ana Martínez
Dr. Ana Martínez

I arrived at Texas State University in the fall of 2019 as an Assistant Professor of Theatre with a focus on Mexican, Latinx, and Latin American performance. I was born and raised in Mexico City where I earned an architectural degree. My engagement with the performing arts led me to pursue an MA in scenography (scene design) at Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design in London. I used my architectural knowledge in various research and performance projects, nationally and internationally. I then moved to New York City where I became a theatre historian and earned a Ph.D. in Theatre Studies from the City University of New York. I was delighted to join the Theatre and Dance Department at Texas State University, to share my areas of research through new courses in Dramatic Theory and Theatre History, and to continue my path as a theatre scholar and public intellectual.

My initial interest in the study of Mexico's central square, or the Zócalo, as a historical theatre grew from my own lived experiences and interdisciplinary background. I have walked many times through the Zócalo and its surrounding streets, the area known today as the Centro histórico [Historic Center]. I often wondered about what was performed there in the past and what those performances meant when surrounded with so much history. I became deeply interested in better understanding the role of performance in the construction of Mexican history and identity. Also, I wanted to better understand the racism and antagonism in the capital towards indigenous populations. Growing up in Mexico City, I regularly witnessed the casual racism so embedded in the middle and upper classes toward Indians. These internal prejudices must be addressed since they have certainly shaped the way Mexican history has been written and performed.

Performance in the Zócalo: Constructing History, Race, and Identity in México's Central Square from the Colonial Era to the Present (University of Michigan Press, 2020)

My book Performance in the Zócalo: Constructing History, Race, and Identity in México's Central Square from the Colonial Era to the Present (University of Michigan Press, 2020) is the first full English-language book to address the ways in which the material center of the Mexican capital manifests and contests its symbolic power through performance practices. I create a new perspective and provide scholars and students with further insights into the role of public spaces in performance, something that hadn't been done and that was necessary.

Performance in the Zócalo examines the ways that Mexico City's square achieved symbolic significance over the centuries. The Zócalo is one of the unique public spaces in the world. It is the largest square in Latin America and continues to be Mexico's material, symbolic, and official center. In Performance in the Zócalo, I highlight how particular performances built upon each other by recycling past architectures and performative practices for new purposes. I discuss the singular role of collective memory in creating meaning through space and landmarks, providing new insights into the problem of Mexico's relationship with its own past. I trace the relationship between space and the invention of a Mexican imaginary.

Archivo Histórico de la Ciudad de México, AHCDMX, Actas de cabildo
Archivo Histórico de la Ciudad de México,
AHCDMX, Actas de cabildo

A connection with archives was central to this book. Funded by various dissertation fellowships*, I took research trips to archives in both Mexico City and Texas, discovering in the process overlooked historical artifacts relevant to the history of performance in Mexico. I finished the book during my first years at Texas State with the invaluable support and enthusiasm of my community. The Theatre and Dance Department and the College of Fine Arts and Communication provided me with necessary funds to do so.

My current research and upcoming article focuses on "Relics, Effects, and Bones: Migrancy’s Material Traces in Performance.” I am continuing my interdisciplinary endeavors, writing about Mexican and Latinx theatre, and starting a second book project.

*Competitive dissertation fellowships included the following:

  • June Bennett Larsen Fellowship, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Vera Roberts Dissertation Fellowship, Theatre Program, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Magnet Dissertation Fellowship, The Graduate Center, City University of New York