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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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10 Decolonial Border Queers: Case Studies of Chicana/o Lesbians, Gay Men, and Transgender Folks in El Paso / Juárez

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

EMMA PÉREZ

. . . but I don’t consider myself gay, not because I think, that “ugh!” you know, it’s because I see me and I see a gay male right here, and then I see [a] heterosexual male on the other side, you know what I mean, and I’m like, in the middle . . .

ORAL INTERVIEW WITH TRANSGENDER COCA SAPIEN (2001)

How do queers in the US-México cities of El Paso and Juárez “recognize themselves as subjects of a sexuality,” and what “fields of knowledge” and types of normativity have led Chicana/o lesbians, gay men, and transgender folks to experience a particular subjectivity?1 I want to consider this specific, historical, political border to argue that for these border queers of color, the particular fields of knowledge that make up their sexuality constitute an epistemology of coloniality. More importantly, queers in El Paso and Juárez must engage and perform decolonial practices to survive the colonial landscape.

When I began my study of queer Chicanas/os and Mexicanas/os in a region that was my home for fourteen years, I realized that questions outnumbered answers and that the twenty-four transcripts of oral interviews in my possession would only provide cursory insights into the lives of a few lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender folks in these geographic borderlands.2 My friend and former colleague at the University of Texas in El Paso, Gregory Ramos, conducted the oral interviews from 2000 to 2002 and subsequently wrote a poignant performance piece, “Border Voices,” inspired by the LGBTQ folks he interviewed. Of the twenty-five interviewees, seven were women, seventeen were men, and one was a transgender woman. Six of the seven women identified as Chicana, fronteriza, or Hispanic. One was white. Of the men, twelve identified as Chicano, Hispanic, or Mexicano; one was African American, one was Latino with parents from El Salvador, and three were white men.3 Overall, the majority of interviewees identified as Chicana/o, Mexican, or Hispanic. Those interviewed probably represent a cross-section of the predominantly Chicana/o and Mexican communities of El Paso, where seventy-eight percent of the population is of Mexican origin. Although some of the Chicano/a interviewees may have been born in Juárez or have family in Juárez, only one of the twenty-five said he was a Mexicano from Juárez. Although he lived in El Paso, his dual citizenship allowed his allegiance to México.4

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24 Rumba’s Democratic Circle in the Age of Legal Simulacra

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

BERTA JOTTAR-PALENZUELA

The procession to the rumba in Central Park starts at West Seventy-second Street, and the first spiritual stop is John Lennon’s memorial, “Imagine.” Each Sunday, fans adorn the shrine with flowers, candles, and idiosyncratic offerings as devotees play acoustic guitars, flutes, and, occasionally, drums. The rumba procession continues past Asian masseuses promising full relaxation in twenty minutes and Daniel Webster’s bronze statue reminding us: “Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable.” At this point, you can hear the rumba drums; on your right, a jazz band plays along West Drive. As you walk toward Cherry Hill fountain, the rumba pulse fuses with the sounds of the pan-African djembe circle at Bethesda Terrace. Continue toward the lake, where the Colombian opera singer navigates his gondola through the Victorian landscape and the tourist economy surrounding it. Down the hill, near the bow bridge, is where you’ll find the rumba circle.

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13 Lila Downs’s Borderless Performance: Transculturation and Musical Communication Brenda M. Romero

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

BRENDA M. ROMERO

Suddenly, everyone is interested in Lila Downs! Her musical performances appeal to multiethnic, multilingual, and transnational audiences across hemispheres, gender boundaries, and musical cultures. These audiences include progressive academics, political activists, and radical artists with political consciences. Who is this remarkable new vocalist/ composer? Lila Downs made her debut into the mainstream with four song credits in the acclaimed film Frida,1 where she appears singing in the tango and bedside scenes. Certainly her proximity to the Frida cult via the movie has led her to capitalize on the pop cultural Frida image, as her critics are quick to notice, but Lila also claims indigenous ancestry, holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology on Oaxacan textiles, and is a musical activist. Lila Downs is the daughter of a Caucasian father and a Mixtec2 mother; she straddles the middle of a divided world. This essay celebrates Lila Downs’s artistic contributions and proposes that she offers a truly new brand of musical performance that not only represents her own journey of personal discovery but also integrates diverse musical ideas and fuses deeply layered indigenous ideas and beliefs about music with sounds and lyrical imagery. The result is truly engaging for listeners on both sides of the US–México border.

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15 Suturing Las Ramblas to East LA: Transnational Performances of Josefina López’s Real Women Have Curves

Aldama, Arturo J. ePub

TIFFANY ANA LÓPEZ

In the lexicon of media and visual culture, the term “suturing” describes the process by which a director or artist strategically connects various scenes by positioning them as mutually informative parts of a larger whole. The author makes full understanding of separate scenes contingent on reading them in conversation with one another; to ignore this crafted signaling is to refuse the lens of reading cast by the director or artist and, subsequently, to read narrowly and miss the full mark of the text.

Suturing is especially relevant to Josefina López’s Real Women Have Curves, a play about women working in a garment factory sewing dresses they themselves cannot wear because the dresses are both priced and sized out of their range. Sewing carries much artistic and critical force as a consistently deployed action, metaphor, and theme. It emphasizes how the play’s characters share their aspirations and struggles. Furthermore, López uses it to signify how several issues of violence, most especially economic and representational violence, are basted together via the mythos of the American dream.

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