Balaclavas, Bootys and… Salsa.

Posted by: | March 30, 2009 | Comments Off on Balaclavas, Bootys and… Salsa.

I loved the readings this week! What a great way to end the semester. The three articles we were assigned this week all dealt with contemporary expressions of Latin American culture that I can relate to on a more personal level. Having spent time in Oaxaca.. Zapatista country, been a die-hard fan of the fly girls and the film Selena, and trying my hardest to catch a rhythm in both Vancouver and Cuban salsa clubs… I felt like I could connect to these analyses.

The first article, “The ‘Subcomandante’ of Performance,” is an interesting display of pop culture and politics fusing to promote a message through the almost celebrity-like idolization of their leader. The Zapatistas message and plea is powerful, yet it is also wonderment as they convey their meaning in unconventional and ever-changing ways which captivates their ‘audience.’ It was interesting to read how Marcos was portrayed by the people. Much like we do with celebrities, Marcos actions are adamantly followed, and the man himself is an object of sexual and emotional desire.  However, once this image has been created, the people do not want to know the real Marcos. They want to preserve the pristine and inspiring image of this leader without taint knowing that he is an ordinary man. There is something much more powerful in the mystery than the reality.. in the mystery anything is possible… in the reality the issues confronted by the ‘zapatistas’ are much more real, and much more stagnant.

The second article came as a surprise.. how has Jennifer Lopez’s behind has influenced social struggles of Latin American’s. I was surprised to find it was actually a completely appropriate foundation for describing how Latino/a’s roles in Hollywood have generally reflected existing ”social and racial hierarchies” (Page 72). Its interesting that Jennifer’s breakthrough role was the true story of the slain Latin American singer Selena that achieved some of these actual breakthroughs, only for Lopez herself to become a symbol of acceptance of certain Latin American cultural aspects in to mainstream North American media.

This article focused on the female body as something that differs between the two cultures. In North America, there is the desire to have a model-thin body, where as in Latin America a full figure “commutes health, inner peace and success” (Page 72). The expectation for Latin Americans in media was to either play into the assigned stereotypical role only a Latin American would play or to conform to North American society. However, Lopez came in and took pride in her figure. Although she did not put much emphasis on her heritage and did ultimately adapt to many expectations of Hollywood, embracing at least this one aspect of herself inspired women in north America and with it carried the “potential to upset the primacy of whiteness” (Page 80).

The Last article regarding Salsa was also quite interesting. It gave the unique aspect of an art-form that is so classically Latin American being translated in to a modern context. This includes women’s involvement in the male-dominated performance, and people from other cultural descents learning and performing the music. This is best expressed when Roman-Velazquez says “that cultural identities are not fixed to a place of origin has more resonance when thinking of those musicians who perform salsa, who may have no direct, or indirect, link with Latin America” (Page 117). Rhythms can be learned, and therefore this art form need not be constrained to the tradition of only Latin American males performing this music. It’s fascinating in respect to how popular culture can be adapted to modern circumstances. In light of rebellion against ‘machismo,’ and the global interest in Latin American music, Latin American popular is being expanded.


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