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23 (Re)Examining the Latin Lover: Screening Chicano/ Latino Sexualities

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

DANIEL ENRIQUE PÉREZ

Marriage? Not for me.

RAMÓN NOVARRO

Chicano/Latino males have been caricatured, stereotyped, and eroticized on the screen throughout the history of US cinema and television. In Latino Images in Film, Charles Ramírez Berg highlights the most common stereotypes for these men: bandido, gang member, buffoon, and Latin lover.1 Although several Chicana/o and Latina/o artists have created images that challenge these stereotypes, they nonetheless persist. Here, I am interested in examining the Latin lover archetype in US popular culture to demonstrate how this image has evolved over the years and how the Latin lover has always had queer characteristics. I trace the trajectory of the Latin lover, beginning with Ramón Novarro and ending with Mario López, and highlight queer aspects of his identity while also underscoring the influence he has had on male aesthetics and on facilitating non-normative discourses on gender and sexuality.

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22 The Latino Comedy Project and Border Humor in Performance

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

JENNIFER ALVAREZ DICKINSON

This is a nation of aliens, going back to the
first one: Christopher Columbus.

GEORGE LOPEZ, ALIEN NATION, 1996

In a 2007 article for the Huffington Post, Roberto Lovato calls attention to the proliferation of anti-immigrant humor in mainstream entertainment, particularly anti-Latino immigrant humor, providing several recent examples of demeaning humor: at the 2007 Emmys, Conan O’Brien showed a clip depicting his writing team as day laborers; one of Bill Maher’s August 2007 “New Rules” is a ban on fruit- and vegetable-scented shampoos, quipping, “Gee, your hair smells like a migrant worker”; and Jay Leno observes that illegal immigrants arrested for prostitution are “just doing guys American hookers will not do” (Lovato). While it may be tempting to dismiss these jokes as simply comedic gaffes, they are reflective of a larger anti-immigrant discourse that has resurfaced in recent years, what Otto Santa Ana calls an “explosion” of anti-immigrant representations in American popular culture (Santa Ana 2009). With the emergence of border vigilante groups, increased proposals for immigration legislation, the ongoing construction of a border wall, and cable news anchors regularly vilifying immigrants, it is clear that advocates for immigrant rights face significant challenges in shifting public opinion. Despite the long history and significant economic and cultural contributions of Latinos in the United States, fears of terrorism and an economic slowdown can easily reverse gains made in improving the popular images of Latinos and Latino immigrants. As Santa Ana points out in Brown Tide Rising, “human thinking, at base, is not mathematical code or logical expression. Human thought is constructed with images that represent reality” (Santa Ana 2002, xv).

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7 Performing Indigeneity in a South Texas Community: Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz Norma E. Cantú

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

NORMA E. CANTÚ

It’s a brisk morning in early March 2009 in San Antonio, Texas, and the annual women’s march celebrating International Women’s Day is about to begin. We will march past the Alamo, past San Fernando Cathedral, past the hotels and businesses with early morning tourists and local patrons. The march will go from Travis Park to Milam Park—Anglo names for spaces that in the old days were called “plazas.” A young girl no older than twelve, dressed in a long brown cotton skirt and a red blouse with a red headband across her forehead, holds an eagle feather. She will do a water blessing before the march begins. Her father, who also has a red headband and is wearing a white cotton shirt and pants, beats a flat drum solemnly. The crowd of a couple of hundred people hushes solemnly and listens to her soft song. She dips the feather in water and sprinkles the ground. Some of us face the four directions as she sings her blessing prayer in a language we don’t understand. Could it be Coahuiltecan? That was how Fabiola, one of the organizers, introduced her—as a member of the Coahuiltecan nation. But pretty much all vestiges of the many dialects of that language that were spoken in South Texas for centuries are gone. Erased. Only scraps survive, mostly in old prayer books; the Christian prayers used to indoctrinate the native people paradoxically remain as testaments of the old language. As a child, I went to “la doctrina” to learn the Catholic prayers—in Spanish, of course. But I also went to see the matachines dance to the beat of the drum. In this chapter, I focus on the latter, the folk religious dance tradition of los matachines, as I interrogate the indigenous identity we as Chican@s identify and disidentify with in the particular area of South Texas.

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21 Mexica Hip Hop: Male Expressive Culture

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

PANCHO MCFARLAND

On Los Nativos’ album Día de los Muertos (2003), the well-orchestrated, multi-layered musical production of Chilam Balam (Speaker for the Jaguar People) is somehow both funky and indigenous. The opening track, “Ometeoht,” is a “Mexica prayer.” The prayer opens with blowing conch shells, shaken beads, and Mesoamerican drums. Los Nativos chant in Spanish. The second track, “Like the Indigenous,” begins with a deep bass drum pounding out a standard syncopated hip-hop beat and a jazz-inspired, synthesized high hat. The emcees, Balam and Cuauhtli (The Eagle), trade verses in which they rap about the many things they do that are “like the indigenous.” Throughout the album, Balam uses drum machines, beads, shells, pianos, synthesizers, live drums, and other instruments to create polyrhythmic beats and a musical background that signals the myriad cultural, political, and economic factors contributing to Los Nativos’ lyrical and artistic neo-indigenism. Los Nativos’ lyrics and flow (cadence and meter) speak to their neo-indigenist ways (identity, traditions, customs, language, values, and cosmology) and militant resistance to colonialism and European domination. At the same time, their aesthetics and politics are indebted to a patriarchal, male-centered lineage in Chicano culture. These men of Mexican descent critique white colonialism and domination but retain their male privilege. Neo-indigenist privileging of the patriarchal imperial civilization of the Aztec/Mexica over the numerous cultures and nations in the pre-Columbian Américas that were matrilineal and matriarchal means that men dominate the social, political, and economic structures of an envisioned neo-Mexica/indigenism.

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3 The Other Train That Derails Us: Performing Latina Anxiety Disorder in “The Night before Christmas”

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

ANGIE CHABRAM-DERNERSESIAN

Anxiety is an activation of our senses and our physical readiness so we can assess our surroundings or look for dangers—and so we can be more ready to run or fight. Like the flashing red lights and crossing guards that come down over a railroad track when the train—still miles away—goes over a switch.

DR. J., “ANXIETY, PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

After a hard day’s work, Doña Elena sits down to watch her favorite telenovela, armed with a piping hot cup of café con leche (coffee with milk) and her favorite pan dulce (pastry). She has much company in this much-awaited daily ritual, according to transnational studies of Spanish media culture (see, e.g., LaPastina n.d.).1 Across Latina/o America, viewers of Spanish-language television—men, women, and children alike—join her in savoring yet another installment of this hugely popular televisual genre.

In this particular instance, not long after a reprise of the previous day’s melodramatic plot line, Doña Elena’s television ritual is rudely interrupted by a program change. In a programmed announcement, Doña Elena and her fellow viewers are met head-on with the image of a larger-than-life train that threatens to barrel out of control, lunging out of the small screen and engulfing their bodies, spirits, and home spaces. The burning light of the train offers no escape from televisual darkness or human entrapment. Viewers are thus caught unawares, somehow right in front of the path of the monumental, horrific train, provoking a primal urge to flee or seek protection—what therapists call the “flight syndrome.”2

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