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1 CONTEMPORARY DISCOURSES OF LATINIDAD: THE MARKETING AND LATINAS/OS IN THE U.S. IMAGINATION By AFIF S. NASREDDINE A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL F ULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2011
2 2011 A fif S. Nasreddine
3 To those who feel excluded, out of place, out of time, out of the dialogue, and generally out of touch in an unimaginative wor ld especially those residing in the ungraspable and ineffable cultural mlange that is Miami
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS A list of the people who have supported me e motionally, intellectually, and financially would be inexhaustible and it is unfortunate that I o nly have this space to acknowledge the many people responsible for this work Above all, I must thank Tace Hedrick, my committee chair for teaching me how to be a better scholar and showing me how to be a better human This project could not have been rea lized without her tactful guidance, meticulous feedback, and unwavering support throughout my graduate education She helped make me craft my inchoate, half formed thoughts into intelligible, at times even articulate, arguments I am also grateful to Reyna ldo Jimnez, my reader, for reading closely, catching typographical errors, and allowing me to observe his class on Latina/o literature. It was a productive experience for seeing through new lenses and thinking of possible audiences as I presented my ideas Efran Barradas, in short, broke me to key texts in Latin American intellectual history and Latina/ o Studies, but I also learned from him how pedagogically effective it is to teach from the margins in order to illuminat e the center I extend special thanks to Mihoko Suzuki and Joel Nickels at the University of Miami for enc ouraging me to app ly to graduate school and helping shape me into a worthwhile candidate. To this day they continue to show interest in my work and m y development as a scholar. I am grateful to Renee Dowbnia, Gabriel Mayora, Tamar Ditzian, and Melissa Mellon for our thesis and dissertation workshops together O ne could not ask to be part of a mo re nurturing environment for the exchange of ideas. Quite a few other folks have let me ramble on about my project, and I thank them for their patience and feedback. Sarah Mitchem helped focus my critical lens every time my thoughts got ahead of me. Meanwhile, Abra Gibson helped me keep an even keel as we commise rated over the
5 craziness of school. As my project was near complete and the threads just were not Laurie Gries helped me think of intellectual work as a process of opening up perspectives rather than foreclosing possibilities. I would be r emiss if I did not thank Shaun Duke as well for some of the most abstract and seemingly unrelated conversations in my life it helps to tango with absurdity every now and then I am indebted to John Wiehl for graciously hosting me on my first visit to Gaine sville. That visit was enough to convince me to attend UF. Finally, I must thank my family: my parents, Jacqueline and Samir for supporting me in every way ; my partner, Melanie Senosiain for putting up with me at my worst ; and my brothers, Mauri, Richard and Moody I appreciate their love, encouragement, and insistence on dragging me out of myself and furnishing timely levity it has made all the difference.
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTER 1 LATINAS/OS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 9 2 ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 26 3 SOMETHING QUEER ABOUT SHAKIRA: BECOMING LATINA AND THE POLITICS OF PERFORMING LATINIDAD ................................ ............................. 3 8 4 HISTORICAL MARGINALIA, MARGINAL HISTORIES ................................ .......... 54 5 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 71 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................... 73 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ............................ 77
7 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirem ents for the De gree of Master of Arts CONTEMPORARY DISCOUR SES OF LATINIDAD: TH E MARKETING AND THE U.S. IMAGINATION By A fif S. Nasreddine May 2011 Chair: Tace Hedrick Major: English This study looks at recent exam ples of literary and visual representations of Latinas/os and traces a shift that has also taken place in the marketing of Latin American subjectivity from a racially diverse yet nationally homogenous group to a seemingly more complex representation of the cultural and racial miscegenation embodied by distinct peoples of Latin American descent. This shift, however, does not necessarily indicate a progressive move, and my aim in exploring this complication of identity is neither a mere exercise in identitari an politics nor an appeal for authentic contemporary cultural imaginary of Latinid ad that att empt to tease out the specific histor ical, national, gender, and racial subjectivities of people of Lati n American descent. These three examples are not meant to elaborate a grand theory or an overhaul of Latinidad as a theoretica l term; rather I treat them as case studies on how racially and ethnically mixed Latinas/os might negotiate the specificity of their cultural identity through performance and representation in Latina/o popular culture. Further, though
8 these creative artists represent d istinct national, racial, and ethnic backgrounds as well as d istinct arenas of cultural performance and representation I argue that their subsumption into Latin a/ o popular culture can be read as more than just another homogenization of Spanish speaking pe oples into Latinidad. Each artist emphasizes their respective mi xed ethno racial identities in their work and each makes an effort to express constituent cultural influences. Yet these emphases and intentions are not necessarily transgressive, and might i n fact do nothing more than present a way for reconfiguring Latinidad as a repository for cultural difference geographically situated in the United States but not necessarily part of U.S. culture. In other words, the problems I engage are thus: Do these cu ltural texts take part in a reverse discourse against the homogenizing penchant of Latinidad? Or, in attempting to articulate their heterogen eity, do they situate Latinidad and all the racial, ethnic, and national groups represented through Latinidad, as s omething separate from U.S. culture, to be performed for a U.S. audience without being recognized as part of that audience?
9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: FRAMIN G LATINIDAD AND THE LATINAS/OS The notion of Latinidad can be a slippery, even e vasive subject for intellectual inquiry, and one of the central assumptions grounding this my work is that there is no way to pin down Latinidad definitively as a conceptual category. Latinidad is, simply put, a term that speaks for all and no one at once, to fully define complexity of self and experience especially in regards to sexuality, gender, desire, and the body ( Technofut uros 3 4). Though the term is imprecise, this is not in itself good or bad it is laden with potential (both hegemonic and counterhegemonic) for whoever deploys or configures the term to speak to a unity of e specificitie s of experience. I n The Idea of Latin America Walter Mignolo observes that hegemonic discourses depend to a 10). That is, one must take into account contingenc ies such as the historical moment, whether the speaker is in a dominant position or a subaltern, and most importantly, concept as manipulable as Latinidad that is, a concept that can be used to classify, define, and fix Latinas/os from a particular framework of knowledge as easily as it can be use d by Latinas/os to claim political power in day to day life can easily be read as an exercise of symbolic power. Nonetheless, a second assumption in this thesis is that,
10 L atinidad in the U.S. cultural imaginary and investigate the configurations and reconfigurations of an easily appropriable idea. This project, to put it briefly, serves as an archive of the ways in which certain Latinas/os crop up in the symbolic realm in t he contemporary historical moment of Latinidad. I focus, in particular, on how racially mixed and ethnically mixed Latina/o subjects are shaped into, and sometimes out of, A s I have noted, there is no intent to comprehensively define or classify Latinidad from my locus of enunciation, nor am I interested in claiming who does or does not belong to the classificatory system of Latinas/os. Rather, I assemble this archive to show how other Latinas/os the Latina/o distinctly marked by racial and ethnic mixture are marketed as they emerge in the U.S. cultural imaginary in film, music, and literature and the extent to which they are mediated in their respective mediums. The archive I put together in this thesis, then, draws from disparate cultural forms and is intended to serve as a prolegomenon on the study of these other Latinas/o s. Subjects of Latin American origin are always taken to be mixed race, but the implications of overtly marketing and representing mestizo and mulatto Latinas/os has unexplored implications for what Latinidad can mean in the U.S. imaginary. The question is: Are we witnessing a transgression and complication of Latinidad, or a re articulation that further pig eonholes the idea of other Latinas/os in stereotypical constructions? Near the end of this introduction I return to the notion of Latinidad and discuss its historical trajectory as an idea, but first I need to lay some groundwork for understanding the tang led histories of racial and ethnic mixture informing Latina/o subjects in the United States.
11 imaginary. This, of course, is a very broad conceptual definition, but as of yet there has not been a consensus as to what exactly defines a Latina/o. 1 Three high profile Latinas/os form this archive: Junot Daz, an Afro Dominican writer, Shakira Mebarak, a musical artist of Colombian and Lebanese descent, and Rosie Prez an Afro Puerto Rican actress and community activist. Comparative cultural studies and mixed race studies will be the predominant disciplinary approaches that inform my analyses of these t hree, but, as needed, I will look through different lenses postcolonial studies, film and media studies, and ethnography, to name a few. In one sense, I am exploring Store no question that the focus is on three figures who produce cultural artifacts which, along with their own self identification, complicate the idea of Latinidad by introducing something new to the idea of Latinas/os: a Latina/o as something other than just a darker shade of white, something more complicated. De la Campa observes that 1 riving an identity from more than one American imaginary, an aspect that has specific importance for all Latino groups, regardless of national, racial, or ethnic origin (35 36). His Technofuturos (2007) traces the term Lat melting according to racial or even ethnic characteris he points out the continued influx of resident Latin American in the United States becomes a Latino, or when a Latino re ene rgizes his or her Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives
12 modern nation with a natural claim to some unique transcendental dimensions is only references, In this regard, my focus on these artifacts fleshes out the political dimension inherent in the production and marketing of Latinas/os for consumption while disturbing the United St the normative expectations of Latina/o representation) by exploring the ineluctable relations of power and politics in Latinidad as a discourse that both includes a large and disparat e group of national, racial, and ethnic affiliations and, paradoxically and necessarily, excludes whatever does not seem to fit into hegemonic notions of American citizenship, race, sexuality, and gender. In another sense, Partha between the problematic and the thematic in social ideology is an apt one for framing this project: The thematic, in other words, refers to an epistemological as well as ethical system which provides a framework of elements and rules for establishing relat ions between elements; the problematic, on the other hand, consists of concrete statements about possibilities justified by reference to the thematic. (38) prominent postcol onial theorists; namely, Edward Said and Anouar Abdel Malek, who use the term problematic to delimit a certain time period and certain texts as objects of study that indicate the assertions, historical possibilities, and practical realiza tions of nationali st discourse. thematic that justifies the claims of nationalist political ideolo gical discourses (41).
13 Indeed, this study looks at the discourse of Latinidad (taken as a nationalist unity of Latinas/os in the U.S., however improper a designation this might be) by analyzing ideological content at the level of the problematic in order t o bear out that thematic which makes possible and justifies certain representations and articulations of Latinas/os. In particular, when a Latina/o figure creates a cultural text that does not accord with structures of justification and epistemological fra meworks of contemporary U.S. Latinidad, then we see how the relations of power and politics shape either the artifact, or the marketing and categorization of such an artifact, to better fit the thematic. With this in mind, it is important to touch on the h istorical context that produces these other Latina/o subjectivities, and in this regard I attend to how Arab and African diasporas to Spain and Latin America have shaped the racial, cultural, and ideological landscape both of Latin Americans as well as Uni ted States Latinas/os. By no means do I intend to be comprehensive. I simply offer a few broad brush strokes, a brief historicization that serves as a backdrop for understanding the Latina/o experience particularly the other Latina/o, the ethnically and ra cially mixed product of a long and vexed history of miscegenation diaspora, and neocolonialism. The historical presence of Arabs and Africans in Latin America has had a major effect on the racial and ethnic ideologies informing the subject positions of La tin Americans, which in turn has complicated what has already been an inadequate understanding of a United States Latina/o identity. I am not interested in simply detailing difference, but in showing how difference is ideologically disarticulated and re ar ticulated in the United States vis vis the marketing and representation of L atinas/os as cultural artifacts. In a broad sense, Arabs have been a part of Latin American history
14 since the first Spaniards arrived and had a profound influence on the geocultu ral imagination of Latin America. Carol Fadda Conrey writes that the Muslim presence in Spain spans over nine centuries, beginning in 711 with the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. However, with the conquest of Granada by the Christians in 1492, th e Moors faced extreme persecution and were forced to convert to Christianity if they wished to pertains to their Arab or Berber ancestry, this minority for the most part succumbed to th e forced Christian conversions imposed by Spanish Inquisition...,adopting new Christian names and abandoning their Arabic language and Muslim religion. (20) In spite of what the Spanish in 1492 called the Reconquista presence c learly had a large influence on Spanish culture and certainly entailed a great in Latin America. Fadda Conrey later claims that there is some evidence that Moriscos were abl e to migrate to the Americas during the Spanish Conquest of the New World, but there was certainly a great deal of anti Arab (often conflated with anti Muslim and anti Moorish) sentiment in the New World as well, during and after the conquest. Restrictions on Arab emigrants were in place until 1900, following the expulsion of Moriscos from Spain in 1607, in order to maintain religious orthodoxy and limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) of Spanish subjects. Yet especially in the nineteenth century, an Orienta lism took solid hold in many of known Facund o written in 1845 while Sarmiento, an Argentine, was in exile in Chile (he would eventually return to Argentina and serve as president from 1868 to 1874). In Facundo
15 France and Britain as exemplars of civilization 2 After restrictions on Arab immigration were lifted in the late 19th and early 20th century, the first wave of Lebanese immigrants began to arrive, mostly in Argentina and Brazil, but the anti Moorish confl ation and resentment did not simply disappear. Many of the Arab immigrants during this initial wave were Christians fleeing from the oppression of Ot toman rulers : Between 1870 and 1947, around 80,000 Syrian Lebanese arrived in Brazil, with the numbers of M iddle Eastern settlers being even higher in Argentina. These immigrants were referred to alternately as Syro Lebanese or Turks because up till the end of World War I, Syria and Lebanon fell under the mandate of the Ottoman Empire. Even after the defeat of the Ottomans and the establishment of Lebanon and Syria as separate states, immigrants arriving in Latin America from these regions were referred to (Fadda Conrey 24). Primary sources, notes Darcy Zabel in a quote from Theresa Alfaro Velcamp, a re still sparse on Middle Eastern immigration to Latin America, and interest in the subject has only recently surfaced (4). For this project, I simply want to establish the Arab presence during the Spanish Conquest, its effects on Latin American post indep endence nationalist projects in the 19th century, and the physical presence of Arabs during the diasporas from the Middle East of the late 19th and early 20th century. To this day, there are large numbers of Arabs and Arab descendant peoples throughout Lat in America. As Fadda Conrey been going on for centuries, deeply affecting the communal and individual Arab 2 Christina Civantos recent work on Argentine Orientalism and Anti Arab sentiment during the late 19th and early 20th century has been instructive here Her book, Between Argentines and Arabs: Argentine Orientalism, Arab Immigrants, and the Writing of Identity, is a much needed beginning to the study of Arab presence in Latin America.
16 character, and resulting in a medley of national affiliations and co mplex, frequently transnational movement of Arab populations by looking at how those mixed lineages which have resulted from the Arab diaspora to Latin America have in tur n affected the ways in which the Latina/o ethos is imagined in a United States entertainment figure such as Shakira. African slave trade, meanwhile, plays a central role in Latin American history, especially in the Caribbean. Cuba, for instance, relied hea vily on African slave trade to (Helg 124), even long after Haitian revolution 1804. This heavy reliance meant that in can desc ent comprised between 33 and 58% (Helg 124). Helg notes throughout her article Afro Cuban overrepresentation in war as fraternity between whites and blacks in the army, and attributed the marginalization of blacks to lack of merit and innate inferiority rather than a result of slave exploitation any attempt to assert otherwise was ta t Unlike Arabs in the Americas, the African slave trade to the Americas has been covered extensively (though work continues to be done), but both diasporic groups have had an immeasurable impact on racial and cultural attitudes in the New World. Africans, of course, were also a part of the racial and cultural hodgepodge of the Iberian Peninsula, notes Darin Davis in Beyond Slavery: The Multilayered Legacy of Africans
17 in Latin America and the Caribbean ans contributed to the diversity of Iberian cities such as Seville and Lisbon, both of which were already inhabited by Jews, Arabs, and Christians. Small communities of Afro writes that the initial conquest relied u pon Africans residing on the peninsula to supplement the limited number of Europeans in their effort to subdue the native population of the New World to the new economic and political order. The Spanish respected and rewarded their contributions. Thus, Jua n Valiente, a fugitive slave who fought along the conquistadors in Chile, a prominent Mexican historian, reports that Aztecs referred to the Afro Iberians who arrived with the Spania However, many Spaniards and Portuguese colonists soon realized that native populations would not be efficient laborers (and likely wiped out most of the aboriginal inhabitants), and soon began to rely on African slavery. As I have noted, the nationalist rhetoric of 19th century post independence Latin American nations often emphasized purity of blood as a key element of moving away from barbarism and towards civilization. Some intellectuals Jos Mart most notably ationalist rhetoric one step further by negating racial difference and conflict so as rather than the rule ( Beyond Slavery 10). It was not until the 1920s when Latin A merican nationalist writers began to celebrate racial mixture as part of national identity most notably, Mexican philosopher and minister of education Jos Vasconcelos in his 1924 work La Raza Csmica ( The Cosmic Race ). To this day, however, a major proble m with the valorization of mestizaje in the 20th century is that extant racism and class disparities that intersect with race were not recognized as systemic. Rather, the invocation of mestizaje allowed one to claim a transcendence of
18 race mestizo thus see the emergence of racism seemingly without racists The point, quite simply, is to show that the Arab and African diaspora are pivotal to the history of Latin America, and this histori cal context is important to keep in mind when discussing the ideological content of contemporary notions of Latinidad in the United States. The past half century of flows and counterflows, permanent diasporas, and people crossing borders and borders crossi ng people has created a complex network of Latina/o communities that spans an immense spectrum of national, ethnic, and racial affiliations. The past two decades have marked the emergence of an imaging of these distinctly other Latinas/os, the racially and ethnically ambiguous Latinas/os, as part of the idea of Latinidad, though these images are mediated by marketing strategies, performance, and representational practices. This emergence is, in a sense, more r eflective of the material realities of Latina/o communities, but their inclusion remains problematic if not attended to with a scrutinizing eye. A number of complications arise when looking at cultural texts by people of Latin American descent who identify as racially and ethnically mixed and are expres sly interested in representing their racially and culturally mixed origins in the United States: What are the parameters for defining such texts as Latina/o? Is the artist a Latina/o by virtue of performing for a U.S. audience of Latin American descent? Wh en are cultural expressions of Latinidad strategically provisional (and for whom do these expressions claim a provisional totalization?), suggestive of cultural hybridity (and does this hybrid tension and mutual influence hold in the U.S. marketplace?), or subsumed by a discourse of multi cultural inclusion (and what does this inclusion require its participants
19 to forego?). I address these kinds of complications in an attempt to understand the multiple, interrelated and interpenetrating expressions of being a mixed race Latina/o in a paradigm of Latinidad that tries to fix and make comprehensible the racially and ethnically ambiguous other. Thus, this work explores the relationship between a dominant U.S. (that is, white, patriarchal, and capitalist) hegemon y and its expressions of Latin American/Latino/a subjectivity, how that relationship shapes and regulates the idea of United States Latinos/as, and the complications multi racial/multi ethnic creative artists of Latin American descent must negotiate in sel f identifying and (re)presenting a complex and mixed identity. 3 The relative ubiquity of racial mixture in Latin America has made a multi ethnic and multi racial population quite common 4 More than simply cataloguing these discrete occurrences, I argue tha t they are part of a system of relations that emphasizes cultural difference and makes this difference palpable as a commoditized image for U.S. cultural consumption. In the end, this system of relations reinforces an asymmetrical and essentialist concepti on of other cultures. I return here to the historical trajectory of Latinidad. In its most recent iterations it has become an ethno racial marker for identity that homogenizes the wide array of Latin American origin nationalities and cultures. It can be mo bilized simultaneously as a rhetorical counter maneuver, can be used to signify the overwhelming threat of 3 Much of my own musings on culture are indebted to work by bell hooks Renato Rosaldo, Juan Flores, Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams. 4 It is important to note that the proclivity for racial mixture was not necessarily a utopian sentiment. y played a factor in many unions.
20 immigrants from the South. The history of this notion do es not begin with the United States, of course. It has undergone conceptual permutations during its journey from Southern Europe to the Americas. In Southern Europe, it was initially deployed as a transnational identity unifying groups who considered thems Latin ethos begins to take on an ethno racial dimension, and in the United States we see Latino becomes the fifth side of the ethno racial pentagon: African American, Asian American, European American, Native American and Latino (corresponding to black, yellow, white, red, and brown). This shifting shows at leas t two things: the conceptual malleability of Latinidad as a multivalent signifier used to name peoples loosely discourse naming precisely who fits the paradigm. To pu t it more concretely, regardless of how one theorizes and describes these expressions of cultural difference in the U.S. today, the focus is always on how these differences are shaped into acceptable forms of U.S. Latina/o culture. What I show, however, i s how this homogenization is not consistent across different racial and ethnic groups embodied by multi racial and ethnically ambiguous figures, and I use these three or at the very known and successful in the United States show the seams of Latin American racial and ethnic fusion. In a sense, Latin American history speaks through these three figures and the
21 w ork they produce. One can tease out how these histories are mediated, and at times tr ansformed, for a U.S. audience. Further, I argue that recent cultural production can be and often is used to reinforce essentialist structures of feeling encompassed by id entifying with Latinidad, and, in so doing, mimic the nationalist projects of nineteenth century Latin America and twentieth century Latino groups (the cultural nationalist movements by Puerto Ricans become part of a nation within re z, Daz, and Shakira do not all necessarily follow any uniform nationalist project with regard to the U.S. or a nation of Latinidad, but there is a social dynamic, notes Mary Beltrn, What makes these three particularly pivotal is that, in their respective industries, they have achieved a cert race and ethnic ambiguity was not standard. For Prez it is the late 1980s and early 1990s of the 21st centur industry. Finally, Daz enters the literary scene in the late 1990s with his distinctly Afro Latino voice, writi ng in a style inflected by Dominicanisms and African American slang and a poignant understanding of the racial politics in the U.S. with his collection of short stories, Drown. It is in 2007, though, with the release of The Brief Wondrous Life of
22 Oscar Wao where we begin to see how his stardom is actually bifurcated according to Latino black binary in the marketing of his work. To outline the work very roughly, the following chapter will center on Prez recent documentary, pas! (2006), as well as her career as an actress in the U.S. film industry. Throughout her career Prez has been redeeming qualities to the characters she plays, but the se qualities rarely surface on the screen. I argue that it is precisely because Prez is not so easily cast as a white Latina that she ends up being type Prez he role of an angry, colored woman sapped of any complexity, though, interestingly enough, her blackness is actually what allows her entry a, as I show in Chapter 2 Meanwhile, Prez documentary demonstrates a comple xity to her cultural self identification that often does not come through in her scripted roles in Hollywood films, and I would suggest that this lack of complexity is not a coincidence. Nonetheless, though the documentary does bring to light the tragic hi story between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, the discussion of racial and cultural identity remains reductive and positional that is, she embraces a particular history and lineage rather than the complexit y of her mixed race background. In C hapter 3, I turn my attention to Shakira and how her ethnic ambiguity has become part of a U.S. nationalist discourse. Her own identification with an Arab heritage and a Colombian national identity is shaped to fit a racially and ethnically ambiguous image of Latinidad when s he crosses over from a Colombian rockera to a U.S. Latina
23 pop star. This image allows her to express to be Arabic and Latina in ways that uphold a multicultural and exceptiona list image of U.S. nationalism. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which narrates a transnational and racially aware history of Dominicans and Dominican Americans in diaspora. Literary fiction offers some clear advantages to popular culture in the narration and imagining of complex s ubjects like Afro Dominicans and other mixed categorized as both African American and Latino. The Brief Wondrous Life is remarkable for historicizing the experience and affect of Afro Do minicans in the U.S. and black Dominicans on the island during the Trujillo regime, but the way Daz as a mixed race Latino author gets labeled is telling of the difficulties of labeling Afro Latinos/as. I should note here that there are a great deal of co mplications with regard to any biological constructs. I will at times discuss physical features or racialized characteristics during my analysis as they pertain to the social construction of a particular figures race or ethnicity (Rosie Prez order to elucidate the ways in which an ambiguous otherness is mobilized for particular purposes. Put simply, the label Latina/o has become the catch all repository for signifiers of cultural identity that are shaped by both the material history of Latin American development, the complex and intertwined r elationship between the U.S. and Latin
24 America, and the foundational myths by which specific countries in Latin America have defined themselves as nations. Part of what this thesis does, then, is look at how specific writers and performers of Latin America n descent self identify in work they produce for audiences in the United States. I am interested in the embodiment, enactment, and writing of distinct forms of mestizaje 5 as a process of racial mixture and cultural syncretism and how mixed race Latinas/os exemplify what I consider the back routes of Latinidad, whereby distinctly Arab and African histories and heritage are subsumed and commodified in diluted measures as part of Latina/o identity in the Of course, openly sel f identifying as being racially and ethnically mixed does not necessarily suggest any resistance to notions of a homogenous Latino community, and, Thus, I look a t how the final product reifies, subverts, or manipulates stereotypical cultural representations. Hence the other part of my thesis is to flesh out the latent racial Prez i n Hollywood films and self will argue for a more nuanced understanding of the historical and racial exigencies of Latina/o cultural production in the United States, which is a result of politic al obfuscation and regional homogenization caused by the designation of a Latino community, historical amnesia with regard to how Latinos come to live here (and, in some cases, 5 Miscegenation does not quite capture the sense of racial and cultural syncretism being invoked here. The concept of mestizaje articulated ideological, cultural and biological cross una conciencia de mujer outside of the specific instance of Anglo Indian relations Anzald a alludes to. Thus, in this thesis mestizaje identities faces.
25 historical amnesia about the Latinos who have been here long before U.S. expans ion), and the diverse attitudes toward racial miscegenation and mestizaje throughout the hemisphere. The genres and sites of cultural production explored in this essay are diffuse, and the histories are complex. These different sites of cultural production and routes of cultural migration are nonetheless necessary problematic for understanding whether we are witnessing a Latinization of U.S. culture, an Anglicization of Latinos, or, as I see it, the function of Latinidad as a receptacle for cultural differe nces separate from a U.S. cultural identity. All three of the figures I explore here are unique because their racially and ethnically ambiguous identities do not get swept aside in their separate fields of production. Rather, they negotiate their identitie s as multi racial Latinas to achieve different ends in their respective mediums, and I choose these three mediums for their particularly powerful influence in the ideological shaping of culture. Ultimately, these three introduce otherness to the notion of Latinidad in the U.S. film, music, and literary arenas, and have the potential to affect the imagining of Latinas/os in U.S. culture. As nondominant ethnic and racial groups, such as Latina/os within the context of the United States, can reveal a great deal about the prevailing racial attitudes and social
26 CHAPTER 2: LLYWOOD? THEY DO THA T TO US COLORED FOLK Chon Noriega offers a rather provocative analogy in his review of Mixed Race Hollywood an edited collection of essays by Mary Beltrn and Camilla Fojas on the Hollywood does to race what queer has done to sexuality it challenges binary thinking and the normative categories it creates apt starting point for my own discussion and begs the more fundamental question: Does the study of mixed race do to race what the study of queer has done to sexuality? More importantly, does being mixed race or being queer, for that matter necessarily make one transgressive? I am not suggesting that Noriega is making this claim. It seems obvious enou gh that his contention is that mixed race studies and queer studies rather than mixed race and queer individuals have challenged binary thinking. What I do suggest, however, is that this straight across analogy can be misconstrued in such a way as to con fer on queerness and being mixed race a transcendent quality outside of embodied in quee r thought and performance, which then gets grafted onto mixed race persons when straight across analogies are made. This notion of an inherent transgressiveness is one I try to dispel in favor of a more vigilant and nuanced understanding of mixed race Lati nas/os in the United States as a group that does not fit neatly in the discourse of Latinidad. In this chapter, then, I want to start my archive of these other Latinas/os with Rosie Prez As a case study, she is relevant to this project because she demons trates the
27 ways in which a mixed race Latina look can be used to claim provisional identities in order to gain entry into major Hollywood films. Prez is distinct from other Latina actresses in that she can actually pass for black as well as Latina due to her will return to later in this chapter). My contention is that her ability to pass as a woman of color and as a Latina allows her to be one of the first Latinas to s tar as a Latina in Hollywood film because she can play opposite both white and black male leads without entirely violating any notions of racial mixture (this appears to set the precedent for later actresses, particularly Jennifer Lopez in movies like Mone y Train ). That is to say, Prez is black enough to have a black partner without being too black to have a white partner. But the racial politics are more complicated than this, since class certainly determines with whom Prez can have a successful relation ship. In fact, Prez identifies her regionally and racially, as well as indicating her class origin. Fu rther, Prez often serves as a connection between white and black protagonists. In addition, Prez has directed her own documentary, starring herself, on Puerto Rico, Nuyoricans, and race Latinas/os, rather than breaking the mold, can be made to fit the mold by scraping off the signs of miscegenation. In the case of Prez this could be read as a significant gain n the entertainment industry, but it also marks the beginning of disclaiming and effacing
28 phenomenon of Rosie Prez we must examine the theoretical traditions whose To begin with, from within a traditional, mainstream feminist scholarship we get the notion of symbolic annihilation (Tuchman, Daniels, and Benet 1978) whose two compone nts are that women and minorities are underrepresented in media content, and when represented, they are marginalized, trivialized, or victimized. Though this finding was originally applied to white, middle class women, from a women of color perspective we gain additional insight. First, findings suggest that women of color are less represented than white women that is, they appear in a less proportionate manner. Second, when people of color appear, they are generally men. Furthermore, we find that when wome n of color appear they are more likely to be African American, with Latina, Native American, and Asian women appearing less often than the hegemonically dominant women of color group. (394 emphasis mine) tainment industry, a hierarchy of representation exists according to which women and minorities are underrepresented, but she complicates this symbolic annihilation by adding that African American women are more likely to appear than other women of color. This observation can help shed light on how it is that Prez can actually land a role in Hollywood when there are a number of obstacles in against Latinas during that time. Among these obstacles, enumerated by Valdivia, are the trend of casting white brune ttes to play Latinas (Marisa icular Brazilians (395). Thus, during that time in which Prez is entering the Hollywood scene, there are a limit ed number of roles for Latinas. the crucial note that the images of Latinas often overlap and, since the mid 20th
29 century, edge out African American females as the maid and the welfare m other (395) 1 As noted above, there is a hierarchy of representation according to which African American females are more visible in Hollywood films than Latinas, but their shared likes of a Rosie Prez her relative success as an effect of her racial ambiguity and liminality as a go between being used to cast her opposite either black or white male c haracters in a way that does not violate any black white binary interracial love interests. 2 To put Prez from the 1980s as a dancer and choreographer in Soul Train Do The Right Thing girlfriend (Mookie is played by Spike Lee and is also the father of their child in the film ). During the early 1990s she stars in a handful of major films as the love inte rest for a number of prominent actors Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in Jump (1992), Jeff Bridges in Fearless (1993) and Nicholas Cage in It Could Happen to You (1994), to name a few. This is not intended to be a comprehensive or encyclo pedic look at Prez Prez namely, Do the Right Thing and and her self positioning in a documentary 1 own face or, oddly enough, by Brazilians (Carmen Miranda comes to mind). This change from African American women to Latina women as the maid character indicates a historical, socioeconomic and cultural change. 2 This is a point Valdivia does not explore in her article. Though she does bring tactful consideration to the subject of underrepresentation and the burden of representation for Latinas and African Americans in Hollywood film, her analysis never investigates the possibility that Perz could actually stand in for n/either.
30 she directed and performed in on Puerto Rico. These films demonstrate the malle ability of Prez The opening credit sequence to Do the Right Thing is probably the most illustrative of Prez dances, or to put it more preci change periodically. Her expression is for the most part defiant, and her movements exhibit a powerful sexual anim us. In addition, the different outfits she wears throughout this sequence are highly sexualized as well. She is dressed as a boxer with midriff showing, dressed in a leotard with a leather jacket, and in tight red dress with a thick black belt at different times throughout this sequence. At times she is shadow boxing, at other times she is gyrating and gesticulating wildly. Throughout, however, she maintains an expression that fluctuates between grimace and glare, her nostrils are flared and her lips pursed ; she is both animalistic and sexualized. Prez is depicted in the familiar tropes of representing women of color here. What interests me about this opening is that the song playing while Prez Radio Raheem plays on his boombox throughout the film, and it is the song that really sparks the major conflict of black cultural nationalism, and linking Prez to this song rather than one of the many African American actors in the film suggests something about her ability to stand in as a black woman. In a film where racial tensions are high, Prez bridges the racialized and cultural divide between the blacks and Puerto Ricans
31 in this scene because she is aligned with this particular song and because she is stereotyped in the same way as an oversexualized and animalistic woman. This extends beyond the opening credits, of course. Her pe rformance throughout the film is a her side. She could easily pass for a number of stereotypes commonly associated with black women, with the only exception being her oc casional code switching to Spanish. In the larger context of this chapter and the thesis as a whole, Prez is able to attain this particular role to play a Latina because she is able to bridge the divide between blacks and Latinas/os as an Afro Latina. She transgresses the color divide by having a relationship and a child with Mookie and she is able to perform according to the same stereotypes of black women, with the qualifier of being a black Latina. Where Rosie is able to gain the rare role as a Latina i n a Hollywood film because of her ability to bridge Puerto Ricans and blacks in Do the Right Thing she is also able a film one need not look into too deeply for an array of racial stereotypes. Billy Hoyle, played by Woody Harrelson, and Sidney Deane, played by Wesley Snipes, forge a tumultuous partnership as hustlers on the basketball court in L.A. Much of the flick plays on a laundry list of essentialist notions: White me look pretty and lose where as white men would rather look ugly and win; white men ). Prez ith Do the Right Thing Prez character is in relationship with a lower class male, though this time it is a white male
32 from Louisiana. And, once again, she performs in the same liminal space as the bridge between black and white, as an Afro Latina who is not quite either. Through most of the film she is at a motel, waiting for Billy to come home after hustling and, often enough, lo sing the money he has hustled. However, when Billy is conned by Si dney, who has been playing with Billy while duplicitously scheming against him, Gloria decides to take action into her own hands change her mind and reminding her that C renshaw is a predominantly black area. concede that a deal can be worked out where Billy and Sidney can once again be partners in hustling. Two things allow Gloria to be unperturbed by the idea of storming into an predominantly African American neighborhood: she is able to serve as a go between race because she is a black Puerto Rican, and she commands a certain degree of authority in this setting because of how her voice racializes her and indicates certain class origins. In other words, she not only looks black but her vernacular can be characterized as a high In fact, when Rhonda and Gloria come to an agreement on how Billy can earn his money back without Sidney having to give back any money, they enter the living room where all the men Sidney, )?
33 These two films are a small sample, but they demonstrate Prez at the ce nter of Latina, black and white, and this position proved advantageo us in her career as an actress. The roles Prez takes on could not be played by a Marisa Tomei or another actress performing brown face. These roles required an Afro Latina. Of course, thi s is not necessarily a transgressive move. Prez is still performing characters bound to classic Hollywood stereotypes of minorities, and her characters are never able to move up in class and have a successful relationship 3 She is often part of an urban s etting, in L.A. or New York, and in relationships with men who have no social mobility and no desire to do well in fact, Prez is often little more than an angry sex object, despite her ability to fit into different ethnic settings and connect characters a cross racial borders. Prez show the ways in which Rosie functions as a bridge (Moraga and Anzalda 1983) between white and African American people (Do the Right Thing); as a facilitator in the eventual happiness of white men w ith white women (It Could Happen to You, Untamed Heart, and Fearless); or as a link between two male buddies (White Men).(401) Valdivia places a lot of emphasis on the Lat ina qualities of Prez Rosie is always encoded according to the U.S. mainstream stereotype of the spitfire and in a supporting 3 Billy fails. In Fearless, she and the character played by Jeff Bridges have a very close extra marital relationship following t he plane crash they survived (though it is unclear that they did anything more than kiss), but Perz ends up leaving her husband while Bridges, who appears to be a well off architect, finally ife. It is important to note that Perz does not leave her husband for Bridges, but Bridges enables her to realize her husband, played by Benicio del
34 Prez to function as a bridge; what all ows Prez class women and women of color collapse into a simultaneously stereotypical and transgressive role. One might say that Prez term from his 1999 text Disidentifications Though Valdivia offers a thorough analysis of Prez as she is encoded, as she negotiates her own image (for instance, in Fearless her role was initially slated for a white actress, and Rosie made sure to add Caf Bustelo and a Catholic shrine to the home of her character), and how audiences and reviewers decode Prez the politics and burden of representing for the underrepresented is further complicated by Prez special designation to Prez for being the Latina actr Latinas/Latinos are beginning to be acknowledged as the rising minority, not in terms of power, of course, but in terms of sheer numbers and as a proportion of the U.S. population and, consequently, as a set of pressing s would argue that Prez is the bridge for a representational shift from the Marisa Tomeis in the world to Latina vis analyses of how one can read Prez from a ne gotiated, preferred hegemonic, or oppositional standpoint as well as the ways Prez has some degree of agency in taking but one has to recognize the extent to which Pre z ¡Yo Soy Bor i cua, which offers a rare opportunity to rea d further the politics of Prez has been an
35 engaged community activist in New York and Puerto Rico (Vieques) over the past decade, and her documentary is an attempt to retrace her roots as a Nuyorican as a recapping the history of U.S. imperialism and neocolonialism in Puerto Rico, which in l arge part stimulated the Puerto Rican diaspora to New York. For Prez it is also a deeply personal reflection on her own identity and upbringing, and this reflection is a rare glimpse at how a Latina constructs her on screen image as both actress and dire ctor in her own community. It is worth emphasizing that this is in fact a construction rather than a privy glimpse at some true depiction of Prez but this construction clues us into how Prez wants to be seen rather than how she is cast in films. Interes tingly, Prez often privileges her Tano roots in her discussions of Boricua pride, and the documentary as a whole is less a historicization of Puerto Rico than it is celebratory tribute to Pedro Albizu Campos, the Tano lineage and culture shared by all B oricuas (at least that is Prez Prez for rendering a reductive re telling of history, but Prez tells a history of Puerto Rico that privileges the Tano and Spanish cultural influence over the Afric an. In a scene with her cousin Sixto Ramos and sister Carmen Serrano, she notes the Tano features they share, while later on she is at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe discussing (w hich Piedro Pietri, one of the musicians, points out is actually a Tano word from which barbecue is derived). Ultimately, the historical narrative seems to trace the continuance of a Tano legacy through colonization and diaspora from Puerto Rico to
36 the N ew York without fully acknowledging the place of Africans in Puerto Rico, but it seems Prez Boricuas feel as a diasporic community beginning to gain some clout in the United States. Prez i s charming and funny throughout the documentary, especially when she relates moments when her difference led to awkward moments. For instance, Prez tells of how her classmates would ask her where Puerto Rico is, and she would reply, Yo Soy Bori cua )? Or in another scene, when Prez is on her way to deliver a lecture at a Freshman orientation at Nassau Yo Soy Bori cua ). It is clear that Prez aligns herself with underrepresented minorities and is awa activism and attempts to tell the story of Puerto Rico U.S. relations is laudable. Whatever its shortcomings as a history, it is a transgressive move by an Afro looking Latina to partake in mak ing documentaries and community activism after being part of the Hollywood machine. Much like her film career, Prez identifies more with her Latina and Nuyorican culture and heritage, but clearly aligns herself to a broader array of ther experience effacement or misunderstanding in the United States. Prez for her part, appears to have benefited from her looks by being cast into the stereotypical roles for colored folks and functioning as a bridge for race, but the way she constructs her own image in Yo Soy Boricua suggests that this alliance between
37 her blackness and Latinidad in the minds of U.S. audiences is not foreign to her. As I have tried to show in this chapter, her mediated blackness is the vehicle for her integration in Hol lywood films during the early 1990s. Her subsequent community activism and documentary show that she also has a complex self identification according to which she is proud of an ethno national 4 identity Bor i cua, Nuyorican rather than a racial identity, yet is still aware of how her appearance is racialized in the United States. 4 To be sure, this ethno national identity is made up of a (fictional) national Puerto Rican identity, an ethnic United States identity as a Latina, and a mediated blackness that racializes her as an Afro Latina in the U.S.
38 CHAPTER 3 : SOMETHING QUEER ABOU T SHAKIRA : BECOMING LATINA AND THE POLITICS OF PERFORMING LATINI DAD In this chapter, I look at the ways in whi ch Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll has, ove r the course of her musical career from Barranquilla, Colombia to the United States career as her image and performance becomes a cultural product of Latinidad. This an alysis fleshes out the collusion between Latinidad and U.S. nationalist discourse, and the ways certain cultural gestures belly dancing as a gesture of Arabic culture, for instance c oll ision. What piques my interest about Shakira is her ethnically mixed background as a Colombian Lebanese person who has openly attested to the influence Arabic culture has had on her as a performer. I argue that her ethnic mixture and cultural syncretism ha ve been folded into the discourse of Latinidad as she becomes a transnational Latina performer a discourse that functions as a paradigm through which her otherness can be properly encoded for a U.S. audience. Shakira, then, exemplifies what I consider the back routes of Latinidad, whereby her distinctly mestizo background is subsumed and imaginary. In other words, that which might be unpleasant about Shakira that is, h er Arabic background is reconfigured in an Orientalist fashion and hierarchized in a way that makes her first (white) Latina, then a mixed ethnicity person of both Latin American and Arabic descent (and even then, Colombian first, Arabic second). Ultimatel y, I show that this reconfiguration of a ( mixed ) ethnicity identity allows Latinidad to function as a repository for cultural difference, which, though geographically and symbolically situated
39 in the United States, 1 is not necessarily a politically integra l part of U.S. culture. That is, Shakira can be represented as a belly dancing Latina in the service of a nationalist U.S. discourse without ever being representative of either Arabs or Latinas/os as a group, which becomes all the more possible due to the malleability of her physical appearance. Shakira becomes a belly dancing fantasy, a part of the U.S. cultural imaginary for how a Lati na looks and performs. S he is a white, blond, and emaciated aberration of an exoticized and eroticized other, which is a s tark contrast to the reality of ethnically mixed and mixed race Latinas/os (Afro Latinas/os, for instance) and her earlier career as a Colombian rock sensation. 2 Arab to Latina with a twist offers a valuable and highly visible case study in the way representations of Latina who can be identified, or self identify, as mixed (since most Latin Americans already are mixed) can be co opted and commidified in the discourse of Latinidad as a signifying practice. However for my analysis, I argue that Shakira has been transformed into a Latina, according to my provisional definition, for cultural consumption, and my working definition relies on the changes her visage has undergone as she has crossed over into performance for a U.S. audience. Moreover, in becoming a Latina, Shakira is racialized according to an ethnoracial category of Latinidad that signifies something neither black nor white. Thus, though her mestizaje is clearly ethnic more than racial cultural more 1 Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few. Silvio Torres Saillant, Mara Elena Cepeda, Arlene Dvila, Jennifer Aparicio and countless other scholars of Latina/o studies, Afro Latina/o studies, and mixed race studies have noted how Latinidad has proven successful in the symbolic realm (the entertainment industry, sports, and advertisement) without necessarily having achieve d political enfranchisement in the United States. 2 in Colombia, she lived for bands like Led Zeppelin, The Cure, The Police, the Beatles, and Nirva na. Rock was her first musical love, but her Arabic culture was her life
40 than physical my focus is on how these ethnic traits are racialized and reified in her not quite fit the paradigm of Latinidad As I mentioned early on in the second chapter, a link does exist between popular r epresentations of mixed race peoples and queers, but the link is not to be found in an ostensible transgression of essentialist visions of race and sexuality. In this chapter, I extend the link to ethnically mixed Latina s/os, and show how the imagining and shaping of this ethnically ambiguous Latina/o can be co opted by discourses of neoliberalism Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Quee r Times helps illuminate the ways in which civil rights era in legislative, activist, and scholarly realms: the homosexual other is white, the ra state and the attempt to evoke national identification f rom queer subjects by espousing tolerance of nonnormativity in order to indicate a teleological progressiveness. In other words, the white homosexual and the straight racial other become tolerable in a state of exception in order to demonstrate U.S. tolera homosexuals a nd racialized others who are represented as sexually deviant (Puar 1 36).
41 Thus, discourse is an an alytic that can help in understanding how Latinidad reanimates certain racialized binaries vis vis a neoliberal discourse and multicultural inclusion. Likewise, nalysis of race and gender in the technologies for the production of Ameri can nationalism constructed through various representations within transnationality after 9/11 provide s a much needed optic: In the dominant media representations after 9/11, we can see clearly the articulation of this nationalism as defined by hegemonic s tate power, the investments of many inside and outside the United States in the idea of policeman, a multicultural nation as well as a site of hierarchical racial and gendered formations, America the nation state, along with American nationalism, produces identities within many connectivi ties in a transnational world . Thus 9/11 does not mark a break, but a fulfillment of some of the directions taken by a neoliberal American nationalism, in particular the articulation of consumer nationalism, the link between geopolitics and biopolitics, and the changing and uneven gendered, racial, and multicultural subjects produced wi thin transnational connectivities. (196 197) Two lines of thought are clear at this point: the deployment of a multicultural and transnational discourse in contemporary modes of U.S. nationalism which reinforce the notion of the American imaginary as a lib eral and tolerant nation state and the complicity of consumer culture and marketing strategies in propping up this strain of nationalism. Multicultural subjects like Shakira, marked by a finely grained racial ambiguity and produced within a transnational connectivity of becoming Latina than Latin American (that is, an incorporated U.S. subject who is racialized but not foreign) can be made to articulate the proper Latina in the discourse of Latinidad while lity as a tolerant nation. Moreover, by
42 retaining her Arabic heritage through the performance of belly dancing Shakira reinvigorates a cultural product first made popular in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s as a paradoxical signification of per verse Arab sexuality and emergent feminist resistance in a putatively repressed Arab culture (Munaira 333 334). In this case, there are two simultaneous folding s into as she is transformed for a new ma rket First, Shakira transforms from a Colombian folding Orientalist fantasies into a palatable and commodifiable cultural product that is tolerably Arab, and allows for the appearance of a tolerant U.S. multiculturalism. works little by little, shaving of f undesirable elements shaping what remains into an object that is not entirely different, but different enough. She attains an ambiguous look and performs a multicultural identity in a strategic act of parading and marketing her racial identity rather than passing into U.S. c ulture. Parading, I suggest, is the modality through which Shakira can provisionally totalize a particular identity in a gesture the thrust of her hips as she belly dances, for instance without necessary claiming that identity as definitive. I use this ter m as something distinct from strategies of passing and covering, as I show during the course of my analysis. 3 I have been suggesting thus far, as others have, that there is a significant shift in the way Shakira, who has throughout her career self identifi ed as both Colombian and 3 Lisa Nakamura offers a succinct way of fleshing out the differences between passing and covering, who could not be assimilated to white privilege because of their colored bodies, and who thus chose to rewrite them as allow people of color to ga
43 of Arabic descent, looks when her music is tailored to a U.S. audience, which does not necessarily mean she disavows her Arabic background. Rather, her appearance is is accentuated and overlooked. Her excessive performance of Arabicness evidenced by the Oriental sets in her music videos and frequent belly dancing is characteristic of and consistent with at length: The paradox is that belly dancing in the United States is used to evoke a culture that is simultaneously oppressive and liberating for wom en, socially and sexually, and the figure of the Arab woman is one that is both envied and patronized by American belly dancers. Yet Arab American women are often missing from these performances, and it is generally white American women who ultimately stag e this contradictory view of Middle Eastern culture through the performance of what I call Arab face Belly dance performances detach Orientalized femininity from the bodies of Arab women themselves so that it becomes a form of racial masquerade, complete with Arabic names. Some belly dancers even have Arabic words tattooed on their body that are visible in performance, literally imprinting their bodies as the vehicle for Arab 334) Maira describes the popularity of this phenomenon amo ng white American women as Arab Face, but for women of color she argues that belly dancing is part of an overarching process of cross ethnic relational or peripheral Orientalism 329, emphasis in original). In other words, a Latina woman (who m ay or may not be a woman of color in Latin America, but in U.S. racial taxonomy is certainly considered Orientalizing and Orientalist dance as a sign of cultural similarity rather than cultural difference. At one which suggests the kind of influence Shakira has had on U.S. culture and the encoding
44 of Arab ness in her performances. What complicates the analysis for Shakira is that she has transformed from a woman of color to a foreign white woman by U.S. standards. She has thus increasingly gone from performing relational Orientalism in her Latin American career to performing Arab Face as she becomes a whiter, blonder version of herself. Sh akira is thus, I suggest, parading her Arabness when she belly dances, which is something Maira comes close to articulating when she describes the performance of To describe her performance of belly dancing a s an act of parading is important because it takes into account the simultaneous whitening of her image with the overemphasis on racialized performance, which allows her to play out her ethnic and racial ambiguity in the service of a whitewashed Latinidad This is distinct from passing because the attempt to assimilate to whiteness is merely ocular, and it is distinct from covering because the performance do es not cover her difference as recourse for gaining power in an ostensibly multicultural world. Parad ing, as I define it, is a strategy that incorporates signifiers of difference in the performance as mere adornment or trimming to the image of whiteness. A subject who is parading, then, never truly threatens white privilege, but is instead able to occupy multiple subject positions that are assimilable to whiteness symbollicaly, and only symbolically. For Shakira, parading bears the semblance of a transgressive act, but is merely a collection of gestures added on to a visage of whiteness in service of a mul ticultural American nationalism. as a musical artist, Magia (1991), up to her first English Langu age album, Laundry
45 Service (2001) ( Musical ImagiNation 61 86). Cepeda notes how the transnational media writes Shakira as an apo litical and Anglicized sellout and argues that Shakira has, in fact, written herself in albums like Pies Descalzos (1996) and D nde Estn Los Ladrones? (1998) as a political artist. The lyrical content certainly becomes more political, but one begins to notice the Anglicization of Shakira during this stage as well. ver the course of 4 As she becomes more politicized, she begins to dress more like a rockera (female rocker) than a pop star and wear her hair in dreads. In general, Cepeda notes t transition from making mostly pop ballads rooted in Colombian Caribbean genres like cumbia salsa, and vallenato to a rockera style is a dangerous move for Shakira, since the traditional genres are more likely to sell in a Latin American mark et (68 69). 5 However, this politicized image of Shakira is also the whitest image of Shakira, which suggests an attempt to begin transitioning to the U.S. market. Indeed, Shakira actually th the success of Pies D escalzos Shakira caught the attention of Miami based Sony Discos. Shortly afterward, she relocated to Miami to begin working with Emilio Estefan and his wife, the singer 4 http://www.shakira.com/music/ 5 Florec ita rockera: Gender and Representation in Latin(o) American Rock and Mainstream rock en espaol have appeared in Colombia since as early as the late 1950s and continued to remain a popular underground activity for Colombian rockeros through the 1970s and 1990s. During the 1970s and 1990s a great deal of group Aterciopelados (90).
46 crossover to the U.S. market, I suggest that whiteness allows Shakira to perform her mixed race heritage without being threatening to a U.S. audience. However, become more rockera Anglo, and, though the counter is well taken, there is more to the matter. Shakira, as I have suggested, is beginning to parade her otherness as she becomes whiter, which allow s her to become a subject who belly dances on stage and sings politicized songs while still being an incredibly marketable cultural product. In fact, she becomes more image ap peals to a Latin American audience, a Latina audience, and a non Latina U.S. audience. Her whiteness allows her to flaunt difference and racial ambiguity in a way that makes her acceptable to a U.S. audience in particular by making her acceptable as skinned, curly haired Colombian. That is not to suggest any intent by Shakira to attach a ne performance becomes an act of parading that allows her to perform a multicultural fantasy in white skin a performance that becomes popular in the U.S. and assimilated as pa her first English language album, Laundry Service comes at a pivotal moment in U.S. nationalist discourse, and her parading of Middle Eastern dance and setting is assimil able during this time because it is shrouded in a homogenous Latinidad Her Arabness finds a back route through Latinidad and her performance of Arab Face as a
47 s and 1970 s U.S. centric feminist discourse of savi ng Third World women from a culture that is at once sexually perverse and Face in this form of U.S. nationalism read s as a relational phenomenon rather than a watered down and Orientalist vision of Middle Eastern dance because she is in a position as an ethnically ambiguous subject to be aligned with Third World women a sweeping and weak alignment, but one made possible by her ambiguity It is both a stereotype of Arab culture and a relational phenomenon of cross ethnic similarity, both of which are used to prop up U.S. nationalism as an exceptional multicultural society of tolerance and a rescuer of the Middle East. ccessful in the United Sta tes. Rather, similar to the ways in which Rosie Prez serve as sites of convergence for racial and class difference and allow her to function as She clearly becom es slightly darker brown, perhaps from Laundry Service on. What her whiteness allows her to do, as it were, is perform her mestiza heritage as a white looking ethnically mixed Latina. Thus, she is able to continue incorporating belly dancing as part of her the performance early on in her career, 6 whereas later on as she gains popularity in the 6 skinned and curly haired look, first off, and, secondly, her initial use of belly dan ce is merely a part of the performance rather than the focal performance interview) : < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxHJ1 T9qxOo >
48 U.S. it becomes center stage. 7 become more that is, her initial parading was focused on belly dancing, but her most recent videos show a variety of dances and elements of dance incorporated from other cultures. 8 This would suggest a move away from the focus on Arabic culture as the events of 9/11 become less current and more historical. Her look, color fits a process we In a way, the argument I am making is also taking a concrete stance against Latinidad : oppositional rendering of the (trans)national body politic that is of significant import, given her m ultiple subject positioning . While highly visible and, indeed, universally marketable, transnational figures like Shakira are certainly free to embrace Latinidad and a concomitant U.S. Latina identity, by the same token, Latinidad may be just as easily be [sic] imposed upon them from the outside. (86, emphasis original) globalized and gendered rock sc ene. Though I do not agree with that Shakira is as free as she appears to be in the construction of her image, Cepeda 7 Ojos A Dnde Estn Los Ladrones? took place at the September 2000 Latin Grammys. The performance was choreographed around a display of tradition 8 < http://www.youtube.com /watch?v=DUT5rEU6pqM&NR=1 > Waka (This Time for Africa) (The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Song) < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRpeEdMmmQ0 >
49 course of her musical career. What Cepeda does not acknowledge is the extent to product of the entertainment machine which produces the looks and movements appropriate for a U.S. market. My own contention is that Shakira is working in a narrow paradigm of Latinidad that limits her agency and funnels her performance in certain ways. That is, Shakira is parading her difference through the discourse of Latinidad performing a fo rm of Arab Face that is only possible because of her interpellation as a Latina. s music and performance bore a trace of difference readings gestural d isidentification, to borro on queerness and the potential for transgressing normativity. Muoz locates potentiality in the gesture that signals a queer utopia in the then and there during his analyses of performers like Kevi n Aviance, whose explicitly femme gestures in a male coded atmosphere and whose visage of blackness in a predominantly white atmosphere can be taken as an ephemeral articulation of racialized and queer self enactment ( Cruising Utopia 65 81). However, s uc though, and in fact only reifies a binary that privileges mestiza performance as naturally more vital in relation explicitly clear: the set of behaviors and codes of conduct that we refer to as feminine or
50 race theory and its offshoots, especially mixed race studies, have made the same lesson cle ar about race. Yet reading queer and mixed race as inherently transgressive does nothing more than reinforce a binarized way of thinking, however much one wants many wa ys t rying to undo the stereotypical image of Colombians as drug dealers by showing the complexity of Colombian identity and the influence Colombian music has had in U.S. popular culture twentieth and early twenty However, Shakira, by virtue of being mixed race and performing her otherness, does not necessarily represent an alternative and oppositional space for imagining Latinas or Colombians, for that matter As I have shown, she is shaped in a discourse of Latinidad that privileges mestiza identity in ways that actually reify binaries by parading racial ambiguity and and, ultimately, the United St ates and the world. Her gestures of difference belly dancing in particular lose their potentiality as a product of U.S. Latinidad because they are being performed by a transmogrified Shakira in performances that are clearly an attempt at multicultural incl usion (see footnote 8 for videos). Through parading, Shakira can provisionally totalize identity in a gesture without being essentialized in that moment. 9 It is an ephemeral moment in the performance among many other moments 9 strategic essentialism), that identity can become a site of contest and revision, indeed, take on a future set of significations that those of us who use it now may not be able su ggest that her gestural identification, her parading of identity, is a provisional totalization in the discourse of Latinidad that has been used to foreclose possibilities for mixed race Latinas and for
51 that allows her to occupy that identificatory space and time, but that moment loses its potentiality because it is performed by a tinged representation of Shakira. Moreover, t he context in which the gesture happens has also lost its potentiality by being shaped to the end of neoliberali sm and multiculturalism for a U.S. audience by depicting a painfully manufactured phenotypically multifarious crowd, as shown in her recent videos. Shakira, as a mixed race Latina, could break the binaries, so to speak, and demonstrate the complexity of La tin American subjectivity embodied by the Latina/o, but the (marketing) discourse of Latinidad has limited the potential for such a transgression. In effect, though resignifying through the performance of identity has the potential hierarchy of hybridity in Latinidad becoming Latina, S hakira enters a discursive site that relegates her gestures to a normative parading of racial identity that privileges the white Latina over the other racial and cultural identities she embodies and performs. The notion of a hierarchized hybridity comes fr mestizaje which, to Beltran, recapitulates the same problematic trope used by a patriarchal Chicano movement reliant on cultural nati understanding Arabic culture beyond Orientalist fanta of performativity and the need to pay attention to the historicity and temporal contingency of terms in my own argument, this applies to the discursive production of belly dancing and Latinidad in gen eral as performatives, understood as discursive productions, do not conclude at the terminus of a given statement or utterance, the passing of leg islation, the announcement of a birth. The reach of their signifiability cannot be controlled by the one who utters or writes [or dances], since such productions are not owned by the one who utters them. They continue to signify in spite of their authors, and sometimes
52 Anzalda, along wi th other Chicana lesbian writers like Cherre Moraga, has been instrumental for queer studies, feminism, and women of color, but her use of mestizaje and cultural hybridity (Beltran uses the two interchangeably) relies on a hierarchy according to which the indigenous ancestry is a site of collectivity and unity (599 600). The term mestizaje however, is loaded with a history of resignification, and Beltran historicizes the use of the term to better understand the problematic aspects of its current usage nam ely, it privileges mestiza consciousness as the only consciousness capable of building bridges between cultures, thereby assigning and even necessity in her time, po mestiza narratives [that] are problematic not because they reflect some abstract philosophical gap, but, rather, because they serve to limit the emancipatory potential of mestizaje as a American enact a similar hierarchy of hybridity that reinforces binaries and forecloses possibilities for mixed race response to the idea of mixed race doing to race what queer did to sexuality indicates, I call for a more critical understanding of the ways representations of mixed race Latinas are encoded a nd used. What looks like potential can often be nothing more than a parading of multiculturalism, and this performative representation does nothing more strand of Ame rican nationalism. Latinidad as a discourse of Latina/o unity can privilege the white Latino in favor of the Afro or Arab
53 the simultaneous whitening of the Latin American subject and parading of her racial and e thnic ambiguities for the purpose of privileging whiteness and demonstrating American exceptionalism. The point here is not to lambast Shakira or treat symbolic representation as wholly ineff ective. Rather, the point is to look more critically at the conti ngency of signification and the temporal processes that go into the making of a Latina in the U.S. entertainment industry. It is both an ethical and a political imperative to understand and historicize, because even that which seems most transgr essive migh t be co opted. R epresentation s of queer, mixed race, and ethnically ambiguous subjects have a great deal of potential for changing the discourse, but they are also manipulable enough to be used in service of a hegemonic discourse.
54 CHAPTER 4: HISTORICAL MAR GINALIA, MARGINAL HI STORIES They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn open in the Antilles. Fuk Ame ricanus, or more colloquially, fuk generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World. Junot Daz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (1). My argument thus far has shown the ways in which mixed Latinas/os can have their ambiguity manipulated to serve the ends of a hegemonic discourse by reifying national and racial categories (not to mention gender) in the neoliberal and late capitalist sphere of representation. Shakira and Prez are rendered consumable in oth er words, safe to be viewed and sold as artifacts and serve the interest of power in their separate functions as bridge between races in the U.S. and bridge between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Rather than invoking repressed histories of neocolonial ism, imperialism, and diaspora, the representation of Shakira and Prez as commodities shows how racially and ethnically ambiguous Latinas can be produced in ways that erase histories and reify or blur over racial and ethnic mixture: Prez as bridge, Shaki ra as a seductive parade of multiculturalism. Daz in his most recent novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), calls the reader back to these histories by starting the novel with the figure of the fuk, described in the epigraph to this chapter. The curse of history, which, though we might ignore it or erase it, will always believes apparatus as an Afro Latino writer, and though he works in a medium that allows him to
5 5 recall histories of neocolonialism, imperialism, and diaspora, his work is anthologized in an either/or construction of racialized identity (either African American or Latino writer). The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a raucous, funny, and layered text. It is a story about Oscar de Len, an overweight Afro Dominican liv ing in Paterson, New Jersey who is more likely to stay up all night writing post apocalyptic stories than dance bachata with a dominicana, but it is also a re past under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. There is a certain, almost flagrant, discontinuity invoked by describing the novel as funny and horrific, but this kind of discontinuity functions as a disruptive device that allows Daz to do more than simply tell a story. Daz blu rs certain boundaries in the process of telling namely, the disciplinary boundaries that separate ethnography and storytelling, the boundaries that distinguish historiography from fiction, and the socio historical construction of raci limits of any attempt to write an objective account about Latinos without attending to the specificities of national difference among Latinos (Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, and so on) specific ities which, especially for Afro Latinos and other mixed race Latinos, get swept away by a homogenizing discourse of Latinidad. The point is not to establish historical objectivity or ethnographic accuracy, but to show how r ethnography is complicated by the African diasporas and U.S. neocolonialism. This marks a departure from recent attempts to write a Latino history that historicize the personal experiences of Latino groups and attending to the constituent national histor ies by referencing primary texts and reinforcing a sense of objectivity
56 (Harvest of Empire, published in 2000; Translation Nation, published in 2005, among others). Though these are excellent and tactful texts, what I suggest is that this departure is nece ssary for attempting to write about Dominicans in the 20th century, because a positivistic account can only be factually true; it cannot capture the affective dimensions of dictatorship, genocide, and diaspora. Likewise, any attempt to write ethnography be side history will still be marred by interpersonal boundaries: one can only transcribe interviews, research histories, and document migrations. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao however, imagines a Dominican family through the Trujillo regime and t Latinos. The key to this imagining is the voice Daz employs through the narrator, Yunior, whose storytelling is a blend of African American vernacular and Dominican Spanglish. Throughout, Yunior accompanies the narrati ve with paratextual histories footnotes and parentheticals that relay the national history as well as the folk tales and rumors. Thus Yunior, as the ostensible historiographer through most of the text, assembles a narrative that is part history, part ethno graphy, and all around laced with a distinctly Afro Dominican and New Jersey, urban African American vernacular. It is worth noting call, to borrow and complicate A 1 1 Put briefly, an anthropolitical linguistics joins qualitative ethnographic methods of linguistic anthropology with the quantitative methods of socioli members to static and disparaged ethnic, racial, and class identities, and that identif ies them with static the political and ethical imperative of a stigmatized group trying to represent itself and construct a representative self. I would Dominican and his particularly strong identification with the narrator, Yunior. See also t he interview with Edwidge
57 to mind Rosie Prez second chapter, l ocates Prez in a certain class, race, and region. More importantly, both Prez way of narrati American vernacular together, voice centers the relationship between race and history for the Afro Dominican in the United States. The main thread undergirding this chapter is a reading of the relationship between race and history for Afro Dominicans in the novel, which often comes thr ough in the storytelling as Yunior switches registers and voices between Spanglish and African American vernacular. Two characters in particular Oscar and his mother, Hypata Belicia Cabral are especially burdened by the construction of race. For Oscar, growing up as a first generation Afro Dominican in identify as African American or Dominican. 2 Although he is described as pheno typically Danticat for BOMB, especially the last question, where Daz and Danticat discuss Yunior as an extension of Daz. 2 in The Colum bia History of Latinos in the United States since 1960 for details on the imperialistic 1960s, few people migrated from the Dominican Republic. Trujill o severely restricted movement out of the country, fearing his opponents would organiz and begin to decli ne in the mid 237).
58 Dominican community and the African American community incommensurable insofar as their histories and self identifications are shaped by different ideas about ra ce. Beli, on the other hand, is a dark skinned Dominican girl living in the Dominican Republic in Haitianism, which has always existed as a remnant ideology of coloniality and was finally spurred into action by Trujillo in the potentially Haitian when she is living in the Dominican Republic. What my analysis shows is that marginalia becomes central to understanding the narra tive by complementing the story with historical background and inaccessible details any attemp t to write a Latino history that does not take an interdisciplinary and transnational turn, especially for recent diasporic Latino communities (as opposed to Chicanos and other Latino/a groups whose presence dates back centuries). 3 Racial mixture has had an entirely different valence in Latina America than it has in the U.S., and, moreover, each nation in Latin America has treated racial mixture differently. This has had a major effect on Latino communities in the United States. For instance, the Chicano m ovement is indebted to intellectuals and politicians like Mexican philosopher Jose Vasconcelos for valorizing racial mixture, mestizaje, in his 1925 book, The Cosmic Race The Dominican Republic, on the other hand, has been marked by a 3 duration, and impact of migration is sufficiently strong, transnationa l social fields or public spheres ways in which cultural production has become transnational and the ways in which developments in the home and host country m utually influence one another.
59 particularly vexed h istory of racial indeterminancy, due to a colonial legacy of racial ideologies that mark blackness as a social rather than biological characteristic 4 What is important to note, as I mentioned in the last two chapters, there is a certain hierarchy to hybri dity that emphasizes a particular heritage more than others: for instance, Prez focus on Tano roots as the unifying signifier for Borcuas. The case is the same in the invoki (Indian, light skinned Indian, and dark skinned Indian). However, when Afro Dominicans begin to migrate to the U.S. in large numbers following the Trujillo regime, they a re entering a nation that has had a historically bipolar racial ideology: biologically black or white. Afro Dominicans are not perceived as different from Haitians, African Americans, or Afro Puerto Ricans in the U.S. they are all equally black in the U.S. though these groups are ethnically different. Racial tensions and alliances are thus incredibly complex during this period, which is why Daz provides a historical and ethnographic perspective. That is not to say Daz is only trying to educate the reader though it could be argued that there is a pedagogical element to the text. The point, ultimately, is to mock the assumed U.S. reader for his or her ignorance, the idea of official histories, and ethnography that feigns objectivity. One has to understand the sociohistorical development of race as a construct in Dominican history as well as in U.S. history in order to grasp the historical moment Oscar de Len and his family are living through. It is clear that the narrator is mainly concerned with telling O story is necessarily entangled in the messiness of the Dominican diaspora and the 4 See Silvio Torres
60 legacy leading to it. This need to tell the story does not in any way preclude the narrator from interjecting with moments of irony and humor, which is why Efran Barradas 5 to describe the kind of genre this novel would most manifesto for a new genre in fiction, a genre that is capable of discussing absolutely horrific historical events ironically and comically without eliding the human tragedy or history, which is partly what distinguishes realismo cmico from magical realism. It is also different from magical realism in that the fantasti cal is certainly crucial to the plot, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao does as a text by an Afro Latino about A fro Latinos. It offers a realistic account of the tragedies in Dominican history, albeit without pretending to be a historical text. The comical tone offsets authority while allowing one to relay the one discernible truth of the matter: many lives were aff ected by Trujillo, and the atrocities can never be fully articulated in words. An unspeakable and unrepresentable structure of feeling can be communicated through this genre. Daz cannot reenact the lived experience of racial tension during the diaspora, b ut we get glimpses of this tension and the lasting effects of the Trujillo regime in often humo rous ways. Unlike Prez and Shakira, Daz works in a genre that allows him more freedom in terms of the ability to shape his text. Shakira is an entirely consuma ble and manipulable figure, easily appropriated and run through the Latin(o) sound machine, to put it crassly. 5 ico, Daz propone un realismo c
61 Prez has shown a degree of agency in her activism and documentary, though she has never been as successful as other actresses who have assimilat ed wholly (Jennifer Lopez again comes to mind). Daz, ultimately, works in a genre where the cultural artifacts he produces are the least consumable, but he does achieve a great deal of success because of the humor and skill in his storytelling. These work enough to keep both literally as a footnote to the text and figuratively. It is only after the laughter subsides that the full affective weight of the story and the hist consciousness. boundaries are being troubled by the text. In my own analysis, I would like to stick more closely to the relationship betwe en race, history, and the reception of the book itself in U.S. culture. Some of the recent scholarship written on The Brief Wondrous Life explores how the text functions as an historical account, but there is little consideration as to how racial ideologie s motivate the history being recounted and the stories being told. Interestingly, as I show throughout this paper, the perception of blackness for Dominicans is not as attached to biological or even phenotypical difference as it is in the U.S., which is a subtle yet pivotal point that needs to be teased out in a discussion of Afro Dominican identity, since, to this day, Afro Dominican writer demonstrates this point, as he i s simultaneously part of an anthology of African American fiction Best African American Fiction 2009 listed as one of the Bogot 39 (the 39 best Latin American writers under the age of 39), and included in The Norton Anthology of Latin o
62 Literature (2010) None of these, of course, could be an accurate or adequate classification for the Afro Dominican writer. In a way, The Brief Wondrous Life might be treated as an innovative and insightful response to what Torres Saillant called for in g Dominican historians, in effect, to embrace a narrative that careful to point out that, though Daz appears to have embraced this call, he has done so in order to sh ow how colonial racial ideologies in the Dominican Republic and U.S. racism play out for Afro Dominicans living in the U.S. It is certainly dangerous to claim a fictional narrative as being ethnographic, but what is qualitative ethnography if not a narrati The Brief Wondrous Life a fictional ethnography can speak to the experience of the many through the story of a single family. The stories Yunior tells, then, unfold the history a history overdetermined by race, diaspora, co nquest, colonialism, and imperialism 6 of the many through observations of the few. Two stories in particular are relevant to this point: Oscar de de ood in the D ominican Republic. These stories deal with interracial attractions in the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo regime and in New Jersey attraction in these two contexts, Daz allows the reader to see how racial ideologies play out in the descriptions of attractiveness according to racial qualities. One can see how attraction can either complicate or reify specific socio historical racial ideologies. For 6 Indeed, the second both the book and the complex Latina/o histories that rarely crop up in
63 r, attraction is shaped by a colonial legacy of racial ideology, Dominican, pan ethnic blackness and Latino self identification according to whom Oscar is attracted. the way in which Dominicanness is socialized at an early age. The narrator begins by describing Oscar as an oddity for Dominicans 7 According to the narrator, he was going on about he run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy wi th a million hots on his jock dude never had much luck with the females (how very un Dominican of him). (11, emphasis original) We can note here the use of a parenthetic emphasis, however, the narrator is actually mocki essential to Dominicans. We see further evidence of this on the same page, when the nascent pimp liness was encouraged by quotation marks to indicate that Oscar was still, in fact, a normal Dominican serves as a way of mocking the very idea of a normal Do minican or a typical Dominican family. As a young boy, Oscar behaves in this machista, misogynistic way because it is how he is nto some little girl and then everyone 7 Dominicans share a national background rather than a single race, but upon becoming part of the U.S., one must choose a race. Thus an Afro Dominican is in the hazy position in this historical moment of being black and Latino. This leads to intra Latino tensions and tensions with the African American community either way, Afro Dominicans are doubly racialized as linguistically and phenotypically not wh ite.
64 would howl as boy and girl approximated the hip socialization as a young boy thus functions as an ethnographic description of how Dominicanos are made. Oscar later changes, though, because of his contact with U.S. cultural products like comic books and graphic novels, which mark him as un Dominican. Oscar eventually becomes a nerd, for lack of a better word, rendering him n during his time in Rutgers: There was the initial euphoria of finding himself alone at college, free of everything, completely on his fucking own, and with it an optimism that here among these thousands of young people he would find someone like him. Tha afro and treated him with inhuman cheeriness. The kids of color, hearing Dominican. And he said, over and over aga in, But I am. Soy Dominicano. Dominicano soy. (49) becomes the central focus for the rest of the narrative typical Dominican. What needs to be flesh and shaped into attractions that follow a racial logic specific to the historical moment. With that in mind, a k ey storyline for understanding the connection between race and is one of the mar ginal stories in the text insofar as the main narrative is concerned, seeming to have little effect on the un Dominican teenage Oscar, yet it illuminates racial tensions and historicizes the community in which Oscar is raised. Maritza, an Afro
65 Peruvian, is ina, and, though it is never made clear whether Maritza is Dominican, Saillant remarks that, despite a history of anti that the larger U.S. society does not care to distinguish between them and Haitians as e diaspora, necessity allies Dominicans with Haitians; anti Haitianism is rendered basis of U.S. racism, which differs from the more complex pairing of biological an d social blackness in the Dominican Republic. 8 Thus, despite a history of negrophobia on e because her blackness is much more apparent than her Peruvian background. In the context of a indicates the possibility of a positive effect of diaspora the developmen Saillant 143). This alliance vis 8 Torres Saillant details how race becomes of a social classification rather than a biological classification, Dominican culture.
66 intra Latino racism. Oscar appears to choose to stay with Maritza and dump Olga based The la prejudiced against Puerto Ricans. In a parenthetical directly after Oscar outlines his bigotry: Beli is also quoted for her racist remarks about Puerto Ricans, describing them as drunk n Olga and her Puerto Rican family exposes the vitriol between the Puerto Rican and Dominican community during this time, which was often a result of their concurrent dia sporas to the New Jersey and New York community. This caused a great deal of competition between the two groups, though both were often lumped together as to identi fy with other blacks or Latinos. experiences in the Dominican Republic in order to construct an idea of the racial ideology she was raised in, but The Brief Wondrous Life imagin order to explore the emotional fissures not to mention the literal scars of her experience on the island as it happened. Admittedly, the account is fictional, but the point is that there is very little to separate an ethnographic nar rative based on interviews with someone who is trying to re member growing up on the island from a fictional
67 narrative other than the claim to objectivity and supplementing ethnography with historical evidence to corroborate the story. It is still a story, and Daz tells the story with Monica Hanna puts it while quoting Derek Walcott on the subject of Caribbean art. If anything, the fictional narrative can speak for the masse s in ways ethnography cannot. I do not mean to privilege one form of writing over another, but I do want to make clear that this distinction has had an undue hierarchical structure in accounting for the experience of Latinos. One can therefore look at Beli experience of race in the Dominican Republic from 1955 girl so tall your leg bones ached just looking at her / so dark it was as if the Creatrix had, 78). As a boisterous young black girl in a time of intense negro phobia and anti Haitianism, Beli can be read by others as the central goal the planting of Belicia in the provincial soil of Ban and in the inescapable fact of her Fa blackness might be transcended by enhancing her social status, and La Inca makes an best more accu rately, whitest and most upper class schools. It is there that Beli
68 Though ostracized, Beli develops and begins to pursue Jack Pujols, the boy with whom she has been infatuated ever since enrolling at the school (95). Jack Pujols is a white boy with cerulean eyes and is coveted by all the females. He is also a future supporter of Bal aguer, which the narrator throws in as a Beli can be read for the ways i n which black Dominicans are treated: before her secondary sexual characteristics develop, so to speak, Pujols is merely polite to her. After she develops, though, he has sex with Beli, which is a mild way to put it. Beli thing to compare it to at the time she assumed fucking was supposed to feel like she was bei ng run through with a cutlass . Afterward she tried to embrace him, to touch his silken hair, but he shook off her caresses. Hurry up and get dressed. If we g get caught, and the scandal, of course, is not that they were caught in a broom closet. one son of the blessed B clan, one of the most venerabl Two things are really striking about this passage in particular and, in general, the chapter in which these events take place. First, footnotes abound, all of which are presented as tangential to the story of Pujols and Beli, but this marginalia informs these attempt to fill in the blank pages of Dominican history by writing about all the figures in Dominican history who tried to resist the Trujillo regime
69 ackness, two parentheticals punctuate the description of the might have also been a problem) but with a scholarship girl, una prieta to boot. (The fucking of poor prietas [black or dark skinned people] was considered standards operating procedure for elites just as long as it was kept on the do be standard operating procedure, but clearly it is more of a problem than these asides let on. In the paragra believe Jack getting caught in a closet with una prieta kebabbed any future of simply another instance of operating procedure that is, the relationship between class power and sexuality. Race is the overriding factor in this scandal. y, Daz is able to show the complexity of racial ideology for Afro Dominicans in the United States. Being a Latino has proven useful only in the symbolic realm, but this has not translated into political enfranchisement. 9 The Brief Wondrous Life though a fictional account, speaks to the lived experience of being an Afro Dominican in the U.S. and the complex negotiations that cannot be swept away by invoking Dominicanness. By extension, Latinos as a whole trying to negotiate an existence that show the historical roots of Afro Dominican racial and political ideology arriving into the 9 This observation has b een made by Arlene Dvila in her book, Latinos, Inc ., and by Silvio Torres
70 U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. Along with the lived experience of these fictional characters, scathing footnotes on Dominican history complement the text in order to develop a more robust and affectively appropriate account of Afro Dominicans as transnational subjects of a post Trujillo diaspora. What I hope to have made clear throughout is that this novel, though unique and funny, also tells an incredibly tragic finds new ways to achieve an affective register in imagining the atr ocities of the Trujillo regime and showing how the legacy affects Dominicans after they leave the island. It is a transnational imagining and a humorous, comical realism that escapes the bounds of official history and the nave realism of both ethnography and fiction. As a cultural artifact circulating in the United States, however, it is also part of the marketing the text might be what makes it a consumable product despite its invocation of the repressed or little acknowledged histories again, no matter what you believe, fuk believes in you.
71 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION This study do es not define the idea of Latinidad in a universalist sense, nor does it offer anything mor e than a provisional categorization of what Latinas/os stand for in the U.S. imaginary. My readings are not intended to support an argument for cultural nationalism in the face U.S. cultural hegemony, and I do not suggest assimilation or resistance as the only routes. As I noted early on, this piece is intended as a prolegomenon rather than a series of readings offering closure on the issue. In turn, my goal throughout this project is to critique and offer some oppositional readings of the way mixed Latinas /os are shaped, marketed, and ultimately imagined in the politics of the United States 1 What I point out is how distinctively mixed Latinas/os, raci ally or ethnicall y, though crop in film, music, and literature and how these other Latinas/os other in so far as the traditional representation of Latinas/os as marginal, stereotype d, or white washed are marketed or positioned as racial and ethnic bridges tolerable in the U.S. so long as the history of diaspora and neocolonialism do not show. I a m interested in the terrain of ideology the moment of the text, precisely because of its impact on the imagining of Latinas/os, and the ways in which the more clearly mixed Latinas/os are shaped through the marketing and production apparatus for their artifacts to represent a number Latina as brid ge between races, the Latin 1 for describing te levisual and mass communications discourse to describe the discursive production of Latinas/os in a more general sense including the marketing apparatus, film, music videos, and literature.
72 American Arab as a Latina commodity representing a transcendent plurality possible in the U.S., and the Afro Latino writer whose work and identity is still being billed as African American or Latino. Th is phenomenon shows the wa ys in which historical specificity is effaced and suggests that Latinas/os are still imagined and represented reductively in the United States. This is not a lament for restoring a more proper vision of Latinidad it has always been an inadequate category. Rather, this is a call for an awareness of these shapings and contours and a reading of their functions and purposes. As the idea of Latinidad continues to shift and unfold, t he political impact these discourses have on a heterogenous collectivity and the ir imagining in the United States is tremendous.
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77 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Born and raised in Miami, Florid a cent (Latino and Lebanese). H e earned his Associate of Arts degree from Miami Dade College in 2006. In 2008 he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Miami He plans to teach high after earning his Master of Arts in Englis h from the U niversity of Florida in May 2011 and may pursue a doctorate in the future.