The Faces of Popular Culture

Posted by: | January 27, 2009 | Comments Off on The Faces of Popular Culture

After three weeks of class discussions and many pages of readings, I’m sure many people will be glad to finally get directly to the question, “What is popular culture in Latin America?”  In terms of beginning to answer this extremely complex question, I felt that Rowe and Schelling’s article, “The Faces of Popular Culture” brought up several excellent points that I hope we explore further in class. 

The first of these is the concept of dual meanings and subversion in popular culture.  As a region of conquest and colonialism, Latin America is a region of extreme cultural interaction.  In the present day, several hundred years after the conquest, we can see a subversion or sublimation of many indigenous cultural concepts and ideologies into the predominating Western culture that was imposed upon them.  I felt that Schelling and Rowe did a wonderful job of highlighting the process of this sublimation and the dual meanings or hybridized culture that results without removing agency from indigenous people.  Too often, the results of the conquest are viewed in terms of victimizer and victimized—an idea that suggests a uni-directional transmission of culture from Europe to the Americas.  This article emphasizes the “exchange” part of the so-called “Columbian exchange” and demonstrates that important pieces of “traditional” indigenous culture have survived.  In addition, I appreciate that the article’s authors do not try to gloss over the negative aspects of conquest and colonization as well; they do well to point out the negative implications of European conquest while describing the resilience of popular indigenous culture. 

Secondly, I found the authors’ description of national “folk-culture” particularly interesting with regards to the way national identity is created.  Using the example of Mexico or Guatemala, I feel that when studying Latin America it is extremely important to recognize the national/political dialogue that appropriates indigenous culture and heritage and uses it to create an international image of the country as a whole.  Rowe and Schelling discuss the Mexican government’s efforts to represent the nation in terms of its “Aztec” heritage—a concept which seems at odds with the large percentage of the population which is descended from European heritage.  Another example of this can be seen in Guatemala’s use of indigenous Mayan identity to represent the nation, while simultaneously persecuting Mayan individuals during the 1980’s civil war. 

Although this article was extremely long, I found it extremely helpful in defining (what I hope to be) our course of study for much of the term. 


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