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Latina/os in Media: Representation, Production, and Consumption  

Manuel G. Avilés-Santiago

Developments in contemporary Latina/os media are the result not only of an exponentially growing Latina/o population in the United States but also of the synergy between transformations in the global political economy and the emergence of new media platforms for production, distribution, and consumption. To reflect upon the emergence of the industry is to consider the politics of the labeling of the Latina/o community and the eventual configuration of a market audience. It also requires a confrontation with the cultural history of representations and stereotypes of Latina/os, particularly in radio, TV, film, and the internet, and the transnational aesthetics and dynamics of media produced by and/or for Latina/os in the United States. If the notion of media revolves around a technological means of communication, it also encompasses the practices and institutions from within which the Latina/o communities are imagined, produced, and consumed. At the start of the 21st century, the idea of Latina/os in media revolved around a handful of Latina/o stars in Hollywood who often performed stereotypical representations, a racialized and marginal Spanish-language radio industry, and two Spanish television networks, Univision and Telemundo. A more complex constellation of representations has evolved in both mainstream and Spanish-language media, among them new platforms for production and resistance, including social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat), radio podcasts and streaming services (e.g., Hulu and Netflix), and a more active and engaged audience that consumes media in Spanish, English, and even Spanglish.

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Latino Gay Literature  

Daniel Contreras

Who are we when we read queer Latinx literature? It may be helpful in approaching this topic to think about what we mean by America along with what we mean by Latinx, or Latina/o, and Latin American. Some Latin Americans, for example, become irritated by US citizens referring to their own country as America when in fact that term refers to two enormous continents. Another issue to consider is what dynamic exists between Latino/a and Latin American as terms identifying groups of people. We should add Caribbean to this discussion, which also complicates matters since Puerto Ricans are US citizens with histories tied to the Caribbean. Mexican Americans (or Chican/aos) live in a country that borders the other “half” of their designation. Both these cases introduce vexed questions about immigration and belonging. Queer itself is not a word that escapes controversy. It can be used as a provocation, to challenge hate language by neutralizing it. But does that work? How do we know when it does? And when do we know when we have succeeded and can drop its usage entirely? And does queer automatically mean gay? In its usage as an umbrella terms what happens to the specificity of same-sex desire? And finally, literature is itself a contested term as there is no critical consensus on what exactly designates written expression as literature as opposed to simply writing. Therefore I would argue that any attempt to be comprehensive about Queer Latinx literature can only be provisional. But any such attempt that is based on critical rigor and empathy should be welcomed.

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Latinx Communities, the Criminal Justice System, and Literature  

José Luis Morín

Racially demeaning representations of persons of Latin American origin, also known as Latinas/os or the more gender inclusive Latinx, as criminally inclined can be found throughout US literature—broadly defined in this article to include laws, fiction and nonfiction, news stories, as well as movie, television, and theatrical scripts. Rooted in a history of conquests, hemispheric domination, and an expansionist ideology premised on the myth of Anglo-American racial superiority, this literature promotes the idea that Latinx populations are racially alien and inferior. These depictions involve negative stereotypes depicting Latinxs as criminals. For instance, in the period following the US war against Mexico through which the United States wrested half of Mexico’s land base by 1848, popular novels about the post-conquest era typically depicted Anglo-American settler colonialists as noble and heroic, while persons of Mexican ancestry were commonly portrayed as bandidos (bandits) and denigrated as “greasers”—shiftless, deceitful criminal threats to white society. Mexican women were typecast as devious “halfbreed harlots.” Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Colombians and other groups of people of Latin American descent continue to be portrayed as innately criminal in novels, newspapers, movies, and other media, whether it be as greasers, pachucos, knife-wielding gang members, or drug traffickers. These abject characterizations are a recurring trope in some of the most popular and iconic works of fiction and entertainment media. Even in popular social science literature—from the controversial 1960s “culture of poverty” to the discredited 1990s “superpredators” theory—deviance, depravity, and criminality are presented as being at the core of Latinx nature and the problems their communities face. Since the late 1970s, a range of writers, scholars, activists, and organizations have sought to present a counter-discourse to these ubiquitous dehumanizing and demeaning caricatures. Often equipped with empirical data and social scientific analyses, a more accurate account of the lives of Latinx persons in relation to criminal justice issues in the United States has been emerging. These efforts notwithstanding, racist and negative narratives associating Latinxs with illicit drug cartel operations and other criminal activity endure, influencing and distorting the public discourse and the perceptions about Latinx communities in contemporary US society.

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Latinx Popular Culture and Social Conflict: Comics, Graphic Novels, and Film  

Frederick Luis Aldama

Despite Latinxs being the largest growing demographic in the United States, their experiences and identities continue to be underrepresented and misrepresented in the mainstream pop cultural imaginary. However, for all the negative stereotypes and restrictive ways that the mainstream boxes in Latinxs, Latinx musicians, writers, artists, comic book creators, and performers actively metabolize all cultural phenomena to clear positive spaces of empowerment and to make new perception, thought, and feeling about Latinx identities and experiences. It is important to understand, though, that Latinxs today consume all variety of cultural phenomena. For corporate America, therefore, the Latinx demographic represents a huge buying demographic. Viewed through cynical and skeptical eyes, increased representation of Latinxs in mainstream comic books and film results from this push to capture the Latinx consumer market. Within mainstream comic books and films, Latinx subjects are rarely the protagonists. However, Latinx comic book and film creators are actively creating Latinx protagonists within richly rendered Latinx story worlds. Latinx comic book and film creators work in all the storytelling genres and modes (realism, sci-fi, romance, memoir, biography, among many others) to clear new spaces for the expression of Latinx subjectivities and experiences.

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Literary and Cultural Representations of Asians in Latin America and the Caribbean  

Zelideth María Rivas

Representations of Asians in Latin America and the Caribbean have been caught in the fissures of history, in part because their presence ambivalently affirms, depends upon, and simultaneously denies dominant narratives of race. While these populations are often stereotyped and mislabed as chino, Latin American countries have also made them into symbols of kinship and citizenship by providing a connection to Asia as a source of economic and political power. Yet, their presence highlights a rupture in nationalistic ideas of race that emphasize the European, African, and indigenous. Historically, Asian Latin American and Caribbean literary and cultural representations began during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade (1565–1815) with depictions of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino slaves and galleon laborers. Soon after, Indian and Chinese laborers were in demand as coolie trafficking became prevalent throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Toward the end of the 19th century, Latin American and Caribbean countries began to establish political ties with Asia, ushering in Asian immigrants as a replacement labor force for African slaves. By the beginning of World War II, first- and second-generation immigrants recorded their experiences in poetry, short stories, and memoirs, often in their native languages. World War II disrupted Asian diplomacy with Latin America, and Caribbean and Latin American countries enacted laws that ostracized and deported Japanese immigrants. World War II also marked a change for Asian immigrants to Latin America and the Caribbean: they shifted from temporary to permanent immigrants. Here, authors depicted myriad aspects of their identities—language and citizenship, race, and sexuality—in their birth languages. In other words, late 20th century and early 21st century literature highlights the communities as Latin American and Caribbean. Finally, the presence of Asians in Latin America and the Caribbean has influenced Latin American and Caribbean literature and cultural production, highlighting them as characters and their cultures as themes. Most importantly, however, Latin American modernism emerged from a Latin American orientalism that differs from a European orientalism.

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Literary Representations of Migration  

Marisel Moreno

Migration has always been at the core of Latina/o literature. In fact, it would be difficult to find any work in this corpus that does not address migration to some extent. This is because, save some exceptions, the experience of migration is the unifying condition from which Latina/o identities have emerged. All Latinas/os trace their family origins to Latin America and/or the Hispanic Caribbean. That said, not all of them experience migration first-hand or in the same manner; there are many factors that determine why, how, when, and where migration takes place. Yet, despite all of these factors, it is safe to say that a crucial reason behind the mass movements of people from Latin America and the Hispanic Caribbean to the United States has been direct or indirect US involvement in the countries of origin. This is evident, for instance, in the cases of Puerto Rico (invasion of 1898) and Central America (civil wars in the 1980s), where US intervention led to migration to the United States in the second half of the 20th century. Other factors that tend to affect the experience of migration include nationality, class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, language, citizenship status, age, ability, and the historical juncture at which migration takes place. The heterogeneous ways in which migration is represented in Latina/o literature reflect the wide range of factors that influence and shape the experience of migration. Latina/o narrative, poetry, theatre, essay, and other forms of literary expressions capture the diversity of the migration experience. Some of the constant themes that emerge in these works include nostalgia, transculturation, discrimination, racism, uprootedness, hybridity, and survival. In addressing these issues, Latina/o literature brings visibility to the complexities surrounding migration and Latina/o identity, while undermining the one-dimensional and negative stereotypes that tend to dehumanize Latinas/os in US dominant society. Most importantly, it allows the public to see that while migration is complex and in constant flux, those who experience it are human beings in search for survival.

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Literature of the Mexican Revolution  

Adela Pineda Franco

Summing up the literature of the Mexican Revolution involves the challenge of defining, assessing, and comparing an extensive and heterogeneous corpus of novels, chronicles, testimonial accounts, and short stories under a set of organizing principles, which cannot be thought of as static and invariable. It is important to consider the connection of this literary corpus with the historical event known as the Mexican Revolution; the defining role of this literature in forging a postrevolutionary national culture in Mexico; and the aesthetic and cultural significance of its main practitioners in and beyond Mexico. Besides fictionalizing events related to the revolution’s armed phase, the literature of the Mexican Revolution provides myriad interpretations on the revolution’s outcome and legacy. Hence, as historical inheritance, these literary works were intricately linked to the sociopolitical and cultural struggles of their own time, during the 20th century. Yet, even novels that were published in the 19th century, such as La bola (1887) by Emilio Rabasa, La parcela (1898) by José López-Portillo y Rojas, and Tomochic (1893) by Heriberto Frías, have been included in this corpus, since they foreshadowed the revolution’s outbreak. Los de abajo by Mariano Azuela is considered the foundational novel of the Mexican Revolution. Originally published in 1915, it set the precedent of approaching the revolution as a potentially emancipatory movement gone awry. Its second edition (1920) marked the beginning of the revolution’s literary historiography, a process of selection, exclusion, and reinterpretation of myriad works under the influx of postrevolutionary nationalism. Many literary works of the Mexican Revolution exceed simple classifications. This is the case of José Vasconcelos’s four-volume autobiography; Nellie Campobello’s enigmatic collection of tales Cartucho: Relatos de la lucha en el Norte de México (1931); and novels, such as El águila y la serpiente (1928) and La sombra del caudillo (1929) by Martín Luis Guzmán, Se llevaron el cañón para Bachimba (1941) and ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! by Rafael F. Muñoz, Al filo del agua (1947) by Agustín Yáñez, and El luto humano (1943) by José Revueltas. Such works entail inventive intersections of life-writing and experimental fiction, mordant critiques of power relations; self-reflexivity, intertextuality, and intermediality, among other formal and thematic features. A revisionist overview of this literature sheds light on the significant role that underrepresented actors played in the history of the revolution and its literature. It also brings forward the actuality of the literature of the Mexican Revolution in the 21st century, prompting a reflection on the role of literature as a lens, capable of turning history into a meaningful dimension of the present.

Article

Mario Bellatin  

Héctor Jaimes

Mario Bellatin is one of the most fascinating contemporary Mexican writers and, at the same time, one of the most challenging for the reader. If in part the interest in this writer lies in the textual quality that readers find in his novels, since many of them are comprised of fragments and discontinuous and surprising narrative threads, the challenge for the reader is to discover a literary or aesthetic logic, since through a succinct but precise style, Bellatin manages to create dystopian and unusual scenes and stories. In addition, he makes a clear distinction between “literature” and “writing,” which adds a degree of complexity to his texts, since because of this, reading becomes a theoretical, mental, and experiential exercise. For Bellatin, writing prevails over and overlaps with literature, thus providing his writing with an almost mythical quality, and, by the spiritual aspect that we find in it, also mystical. Likewise, Bellatin not only transcends the literary aspect by emphasizing through his practice that writing is creation and performance, but also, by incorporating spectacular and artistic photographs, produces an appealing aspect of transmediality. Beauty Salon, one of his first novels, has become a cult novel and a symbolic axis through which several of his recurrent themes are connected, that is: transgression of spaces and meanings; mutating bodies; transvestites; homosexuality; but also body politics, pain, and an implicit critique of society in general.

Article

Martí, José  

Alfred J. López

José Martí (1853–1895) is the best known of Cuba’s founding figures and was the civilian leader of the Cuban independence movement. Beyond his iconic status among Cubans and the diaspora, Martí ranks among the most important Latin Americans of the 19th century. Aside from his revolutionary legacy, Martí remains a canonical figure of 19th-century Latin American literature. As a poet he pioneered Latin American modernismo; volumes such as Ismaelillo (1882) and Versos sencillos (Simple verses, 1891) are considered masterpieces. Martí’s US crónicas (chronicles), which appeared in Latin America’s most respected newspapers of the 1880s, stand among the most important journalistic works of the Gilded Age. His other writings span several other genres, including drama and prose fiction. Martí also founded a newspaper, Patria, which served as the Cuban independence movement’s official mouthpiece. In a lifetime of exile and immigration spanning three continents and a half-dozen countries, he worked as a secondary teacher and university professor; law clerk; journalist, editor, and translator; and diplomat. Martí’s collected works fill twenty-six volumes, with previously unknown writings still emerging. Biographers generally divide Martí’s life into three phases: childhood and adolescence in Cuba, culminating in his imprisonment and first exile (1853–1871); post-exile life in Spain, Mexico, and Guatemala (1871–1878); and after the second exile from Cuba, his mature revolutionary period in New York (1881–1895). A brief imprisonment for conspiracy ended with Martí’s first expulsion from Cuba in January 1871. He spent the next four years in Spain, where he continued to denounce Spanish imperialism and earned a law degree. He then rejoined his family in Mexico but had to flee after the rise of the dictator Porfirio Díaz in 1876. Martí then emigrated to Guatemala, where he attempted to settle with his wife Carmen Zayas Bazán, whom he married in 1877. But disagreements with President Justo Rufino Barrios again forced the couple into exile. After a failed attempt to resettle in Havana under a general amnesty following the Ten Years’ War (1868–1878) and his second expulsion from Cuba, Martí eventually landed in New York, which served as his base for building the Cuban independence movement. After several false starts, the Cuban Revolutionary Party finally launched its War of Independence in February 1895. Martí joined rebel forces on the island in April and died in battle little over a month later. Martí’s posthumous fame spread slowly, but by the 1930s he was generally hailed as Cuba’s great “apostle” of independence. Successive Cuban governments burnished his legend, and Fidel Castro claimed Martí as the 1959 Cuban Revolution’s “intellectual author.” The mass emigration of Cubans fleeing the revolution then spread Martí’s fame to the United States and Europe; Cuban-Americans continue to identify with him as an example of the nation in exile. Though not a Latino in the contemporary sense, Martí remains a key figure in the historical formation of US Latino/a identities.

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Masculinity and Machismo in US Latinx Literature  

Ricardo L. Ortiz

Latinx literature’s historical interest in the cultural, social, and political dynamics of gender plays as central a role in its long and varied discursive tradition as any other major thematic concern. Since the 19th century, representations of life in Latinx communities inhabiting what increasingly became the territory of the United States put the forces and conflicts of culturally based gender differences center stage, whether those differences came from within a culture, whose values shifted when it moved to a new geographic setting, or from without, when a culture confronted the differing values of an often dominant, oppressive other. Latinx literature is too vast and varied to accommodate a comprehensive account of these shifts and currents. But one can see a steady move away from the rigid binary logic of gender difference inherited from the traditional cis-hetero-patriarchal mindset of colonial Spanish-Catholic rule, a mindset that, historically, overwhelmed whatever more fluid or ambiguous formations of gender and sexuality circulated through indigenous American societies. That steady move cannot be traced in a single line or direction, but it does clearly demonstrate a greater opening of the possibility of dislodging gendered styles of expression from the particular anatomical manifestations of sexed bodies, as well as a greater opening of the possibility for mixed lines of attraction and desire between, within, and even beyond genders. While much liberatory work remains to be done in the actual world, Latinx literature has increasingly opened itself up to more inclusive, affirmative representations of nonnormative lives under the signs of sexuality and gender.

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Maya Literature  

Rita M. Palacios

To talk about Maya literature is to talk about a literature that transcends borders though is not unmarked by them. Generally speaking, the Maya region encompasses Southern Mexico, including the Yucatan Peninsula, and Guatemala, extending as far as Honduras and including El Salvador and Belize. The majority of the Maya population resides in Mexico and Guatemala, as well as considerable diasporas in the United States. As a result, the literary production of Maya peoples occurs largely in the two neighboring countries, although the circumstances of the production and dissemination of each literature are quite different given that they respond to the development and continued reinforcement of the modern nation state. It is important to mention the role that the state has played in how Maya literatures have come to be, particularly because state policies directly affect the lives of Maya peoples and, in the case of Mexico specifically, some of these policies are invested in shaping the literature written by Indigenous peoples. Maya literature is indeed political. While this qualification may not necessarily apply to the themes that authors explore in their work, it certainly does to the promotion, production, and publication of Maya literatures. The reason for this is complex from the perspective of each country’s history, but quite clear-cut from the prism of nationalism and literary history. That is to say, while the notion of a national literature helps uphold a national identity and cement nationalism, Maya literatures for their part challenge more than promote such notions. In general, nationalisms set out to define and coalesce identity around ethnolinguistic markers, and literature is a key in shaping and promoting a sense of nationhood and unity. This results in a drive to homogenize and systemically exclued identities that do not fit the mold. In Mexico and Guatemala, this is further complicated by use of iconography and a reliance on myths from Maya culture to bolster national unity.

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Mexican American (Chicana/o)  

Frederick Luis Aldama

Discussions and debates in and around the formation of Mexican American letters, including its periodization and formulations of its unique ontology, are reviewed, and discussions and analysis of key literary phenomena that have shaped in time (history) and space (region) Mexican American and Chicana/o letters are presented. Foundational scholars such as María Herrera-Sobek, Luis Leal, José Limón, and Juan Bruce-Novoa are considered along with scholar-creators such as Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga. A wide variety of Mexican American and Chicana/o authors of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are reviewed, including Alurista, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Marío Suárez, Arturo Islas, Richard Rodriguez, and Ana Castillo, among many others.

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Morrissey as Latina/o Literary and Cultural Icon  

Melissa M. Hidalgo

Morrissey is a singer and songwriter from Manchester, England. He rose to prominence as a popular-music icon as the lead singer for the Manchester band The Smiths (1982–1987). After the breakup of The Smiths, Morrissey launched his solo career in 1988. In his fourth decade as a popular singer, Morrissey continues to tour the world and sell out shows in venues throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, Asia and Australia, and across North and South America. Although Morrissey enjoys a fiercely loyal global fan base and inspires fans all over the world, his largest and most creatively expressive fans, arguably, are Latinas/os in the United States and Latin America. He is especially popular in Mexico and with Chicanas/os from Los Angeles, California, to San Antonio, Texas. How does a white singer and pop icon from England become an important cultural figure for Latinas/os? This entry provides an overview of Morrissey’s musical and cultural importance to fans in the United States–Mexico borderlands. It introduces Morrissey, examines the rise of Latina/o Morrissey and Smiths fandom starting in the 1980s and 1990s, and offers a survey of the fan-produced literature and other cultural production that pay tribute to the indie-music star. The body of fiction, films, plays, poetry, and fans’ cultural production at the center of this entry collectively represent of Morrissey’s significance as a dynamic and iconic cultural figure for Latinas/os.

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Muñoz, José Esteban  

Iván A. Ramos

The late José Esteban Muñoz’s body of work provides readers and scholars of Latina/o literary scholarship a vast scope that centers the work of performance as the tactic minoritarian subjects engage against a racist and homophobic public sphere. Throughout his writings, Muñoz sought to reveal a trajectory for minoritarian subjects from the realization of difference through disidentification through the search for what he called a “brown commons.” His oeuvre bridges the divides between Latina/o and queer studies, and offers an expansive methodological approach for both fields.

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From Nationalist Movements to Transnational Solidarities: Comparative and Pan-Latina/o Literary Studies  

Marta Caminero-Santangelo

While literature by Latin American origin groups within the United States (e.g., Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican) has been treated as a single literary corpus—“Latina/o Literature” or “Hispanic Literature”—since the last decades of the 20th century, in practice, the commonalities among such texts were more comparative than panethnic in nature until significantly more recently. That is, while literature by different national-origin groups revealed some strong similarities in theme and form, the writing itself reflected the specific concerns, background, and history of the specific national-origin group, rather than giving evidence of intra-Latino group interaction or a developing sense of a shared intra-Latino culture. This article traces the commonalities among these bodies of literary production, including in the “pre-Latino” period, the 19th to mid-20th centuries, before there was even a commonly understood concept of “US Latino literature,” as well as during the Chicano and Nuyorican Movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It then turns to a discussion of developing representations of inter-group interactions and tensions, including in the more recent emergence of “Central American American” literary production. Particularly in the increasingly cosmopolitan urban centers of the United States, an evolving sense of intra-Latino solidarity and panethnic Latino “community” has come into view in the literature produced by Latinx writers of the later 20th and 21st centuries.

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New Mexico Newspapers  

Vanessa Fonseca-Chávez

The literary and cultural legacy of Spanish-language and bilingual newspapers in New Mexico provides insight into the changing political climate of the territory and state from the early 19th century to the years following statehood in 1912. As such, New Mexico newspapers provided an outlet for Hispanic New Mexicans to publish political commentary and literary production that promoted cultural preservation and served as a mode of resistance to incoming Anglo-American outsiders who arrived to this region in the years prior to and following the Mexican–American War (1846–1848). While newspapers came and went, the literature published and later recovered through more contemporary efforts of preservation and dissemination can be viewed as an important contribution to the current body of literature that informs regional New Mexican studies as well as larger Chicano/a literary and Latino/a literary studies.

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Nuns’ Writing in Colonial Mexico  

Stephanie Kirk

During the colonial period in Mexico, convents and their inhabitants played a central role in society. Nuns, who lived in permanent enclosure behind convent walls, were living emblems of New World orthodoxy and of the success of the Spanish evangelization project. Subject to a repressive gender ideology and the misogyny of the Church, nuns’ lives were carefully monitored and contained. While becoming a nun represented a valid and often attractive choice for the Spanish and criolla women who were permitted to profess as nuns in convent, the Church authorities went to great lengths to ensure they followed strictly circumscribed rules regarding their daily lives and spiritual trajectories. Nuns, however, succeeded in finding a variety of ways to exercise agency and demonstrate their individuality including the writing of different types of texts. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648–1695), was both a nun and the most influential writer of her age. While the depth of her erudition and the breadth of her literary skill set her apart from other nuns, she nonetheless shared their devotion to God and their experience of convent life in colonial Mexico. While most other nuns did not always possess such great literary skills, their works stand as documents that detail women’s spirituality and the affective response this engendered in them, as well as providing evidence of their daily lives. Their writings allow us a glimpse into their worlds, in which they express their great devotion and love of God but also detail the challenges they encounter as “brides of Christ” subject to male control. The most significant genre of convent writing is the spiritual autobiography or vida. Nuns could only embark on the drafting of these texts at the instigation of and under the supervision of the male confessor. These men would reorganize and rescript them to ensure they conformed to male-defined norms of spiritual exemplarity for women. However, women’s own words show how, even while they understood the power dynamics of this relationship, they drew on rhetorical and discursive strategies to communicate their subjectivity. Nuns also wrote a variety of different texts including letters, poetry, and theater (mostly, but not exclusively, of a religious nature).

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Nuyorican and Diasporican Literature and Culture  

Jorge Duany

The term “Nuyorican” (in its various spellings) refers to the combination of “Puerto Rican” and “New Yorker.” The sobriquet became a popular shorthand for the Puerto Rican exodus to the United States after World War II. Since the mid-1960s, the neologism became associated with the literary and artistic movement known as “Nuyorican.” The movement was institutionalized with the 1973 founding of the Nuyorican Poets Café in the Lower East Side of Manhattan by Miguel Algarín and Miguel Piñero. Much of Nuyorican literature featured frequent autobiographical references, the predominance of the English language, street slang, realism, parodic humor, subversive politics, and a rupture with the island’s literary models. Since the 1980s, the literature of the Puerto Rican diaspora has been characterized as “post-Nuyorican” or “Diasporican” to capture some of its stylistic and thematic shifts, including a movement away from urban blight, violence, colloquialism, and radicalism. The Bronx-born poet María Teresa (“Mariposa”) Fernández coined the term “Diasporican” in a celebrated 1993 poem. Contemporary texts written by Puerto Ricans in the United States also reflect their growing dispersal from their initial concentration in New York City.

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Oral Culture: Literacy, Religion, Performance  

Cara Anne Kinnally

While cultural critics and historians have demonstrated that print culture was an essential tool in the development of national, regional, and local communal identities in Latin América, the role of oral culture, as a topic of inquiry and a source itself, has been more fraught. Printed and hand-written texts often leave behind tangible archival evidence of their existence, but it can be more difficult to trace the role of oral culture in the development of such identities. Historically, Western society has deeply undervalued oral cultures, especially those practiced or created by non-Westerners and non-elites. Even before the arrival of the first printing presses to the Americas, starting with the very first encounters between Spaniards and indigenous peoples in the Americas in the late-15th and early-16th centuries, European conquerors understood and portrayed European alphabetic written script as a more legitimate, and therefore more valuable, form of history and knowledge-making than oral forms. Those cultures without alphabetic writing were deemed barbaric, according to this logic. Despite its undervaluation, oral culture was one of the principal ways in which vast numbers of Latinas/os were exposed to, engaged with, and exchanged ideas about politics, religion, social change, and local and regional community identity during the colonial period. In particular, oral culture often offers the perspective of underrepresented voices, such as those of peasants, indigenous communities, afro-Latinas/os, women, and the urban poor, in Latina/o historical, literary, and cultural studies. During the colonial period especially, many of these communities often did not produce their own European script writing or find their perspectives and experiences illuminated in the writings of the letrados, or lettered elites, and their voices thus remain largely excluded from the print archive. Studies of oral culture offer a corrective to this omission, since it was through oral cultural practices that many of these communities engaged with, contested, and redefined the public discourses of their day. Oral culture in the colonial period comprised a broad range of rich cultural and artistic practices, including music, various types of poetry and balladry, oral history, legend, performance, religious rituals, ceremonies, festivals, and much more. These practices served as a way to remember and share ideas, values, and experiences both intraculturally and interculturally, as well as across generations. Oral culture also changes how the impact of print culture is understood, since written texts were often disseminated to the masses through oral practices. In the missions of California and the present-day US Southwest, for example, religious plays served as one of the major vehicles for the forced education and indoctrination of indigenous communities during the colonial period. To understand such a play, it is important to consider not just the printed text but also the performance of the play, as well as the ways in which the audience understands and engages with the play and its religious teachings. The study of oral culture in the Latina/o context, therefore, includes an examination of how literate, illiterate, and semi-literate Latinas/os have engaged with, resisted, or repurposed various written forms, such as poetry, letters, theater, testimonios, juridical documents, broadsides, political treatises, religious texts, and the sermon, through oral cultural practices and with various objectives in mind. Oral culture, in all of its many forms, has thus served as an important means for the circulation of knowledge and the expression of diverse world views for Latinas/os throughout the colonial period and into the 21st century.

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Paredes, Américo  

Héctor Pérez

The remarkably multi-faceted Américo Paredes Manzano attained the status of renowned scholar, teacher, author, and poet over his tumultuous and illustrious lifespan. Born in 1915 in Brownsville, at the southeastern-most corner of the state of Texas bordering Mexico, Américo Paredes passed away in Austin in 1999. His life and professional career spanned much territory, touched many lives, and affected areas of study and pedagogy as few individuals can claim. His impressive body of work is encyclopedic in range and awe-inspiring in its originality. Certainly, Paredes’s life circumstances must be read in their historical context. He was born at a time when the scent of revolution was strong in the air, declared in Mexico in 1910, and with the nascent organizing of the revolt to liberate south Texas from the rest of the state in 1915. Tensions among competing groups in the formation of Texas since the treaty of 1848 had not yet been resolved and the state of a negotiated pluralistic existence was still precarious at best. For generations, university students have first encountered the work of Paredes through his major work of scholarship on the border corrido (ballad), namely the fully contextualized and historicized analysis of “El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez”/ “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez.” However, those who look further into his work realize that Paredes had already started to make his mark in the area of ethnomusicology, a branch of anthropology. His contributions are not insignificant as a number of his students went on to carry and extend Paredes’s teachings to other institutions of higher learning. One might see the logical relationship between this scholar’s interest in and knowledge of the Texas-Mexico border corrido and the more global ethnomusicologist’s perspective. In the same manner, Paredes trained and inspired numerous cadres of scholars in cultural and literary studies. By extension, his mentees have likewise now trained generations of scholars who have applied variants of the critical model pioneered by Paredes, rooted in his observations and study of the clash of cultures. Not unlike the history of other major intellectuals, the history of Paredes’s influence is marked by scholars who emulate, extend, revise, and also critique earlier views and critical approaches in a variety of areas such as language and linguistics, gender, class, race and ethnicity, and regionalism.