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    Popular culture as mass culture

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    Although football is not a fascinating topic for me, I found Alex Bellos’s article interesting in its way of presenting futbol in Latin America and in Brazil in particular as one of the main component of the national culture. I guess here, mass culture could be understood as nationally spread. But of course mass culture also implies the major role of the Media in the romanticization and exaltation of sport’s events. When I was reading the text, I have really seen an application of Benedict Anderson’s view of nations as ‘imagined communities’. Football in Latin America gather citizen’s imaginations and emotions together towards a similar goal. As the author says, ‘football gives Brazilians a feeling of national identity and citizenship’. I was both amused and surprised to read that the national football strip has a stronger national meaning that the national flag. Since the invention of the Olympic Games, it seems like sport has almost become a peaceful way of fighting other countries and to pit states’s strenght against other’s. A lot of references and terms in the text made me think that sport almost had the same purpose than military assertion for countries. The 1950 World Cup for Brazilians was a way of proving the state’s modernity. And yet we know that a state and its army’s modernity has always been crucial to the history of wars. For the Brazilian nation, losing the World Cup has been comparable to a military defeat and this historical event has stayed in Brazilians’s memories until today while Uruguayans already forgot they won. It was like ‘Hiroshima’ (I can’t believe they even dared making the comparison!. This defeat deserved a monument, like the one to the unknown soldier. This competition was supposed to become part of the national construction of Brazil by asserting the place of the country, as any myths in national histories. Instead it becames a myth of despair, exaggerated and romanticized by numerous books, narratives, movies, but still national. The ideological climat of this 1950 World Cup, both before and after, reminded me of every period of nationalist propaganda preceding wars.

    I do have difficulties to decide whether or not national culture has to do with mass culture and popular culture. We usually explain the emergence of nation-states with the expansion of technologies of communication, which means a new ability of massive symbolic diffusion. However can national culture be considered as popular?

    Nelson Hippolyte Ortega’s article present Telenovelas as a important expression of Latin American popular culture, but he does precise than telenovelas have been highly nationalized and identified to each producing country’s identity. So here, telenovelas are both popular and national, as well as being mass culture. The author describes telenovelas as a representation of the public’s symbolic and affective world, showing reality and daily life. The producers emphasize people’s identification and try to make of telenovelas a family ritual. The melodramatic aspect is supposed to emphasized the importance of the ordinary. To be honest after reading about the Brazilian Hiroshima, melodrama now seems to be a Latin American cultural trait. When we discussed it in class, I was wondering if this emotional exxageration about every events and drama in telenovelas could have an aim of catharsis. Make people living things that shouldn’t happen in real life. My understanding of this article is that telenovelas make ‘coexist commercial language and popular culture’ and this is precisely where lies the tension. At some points, the danger is that telenovelas that are supposed to be an expression of popular culture are took over by commercial exigencies and become populist and demagogist. Mass Media, although they have positive outcomes, are also at the crossroads between commercial and political stakes which force to ask ourselves about the messages in these televisual emissions. Is resignification really possible, or have telenovelas a manipulating and alienating component?

    This is always the downside of all our technologies of mass communication; knowing if it really serves as support for the diffusion of popular culture, or if it is used as a mean for shaping people’s culture and attitudes, both by politics and commercials.

    theories of mixture; hybridity

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    Theories of Mixture III: hybridity
    I have a history class this semester and in the tutorial we were talking about U.S. cultural Imperialism, and one of my classmates said that she did not think that the U.S. had anything to do with that because the American government was not forcing other countries to embrace American culture. Then, the TA asked Ana what do you think about that coming from Mexico, and I just tried to explain what it says at the beginning of the article that only the rich-powerful people and the government in Mexico have the choice to embrace American culture but that the other classes are forced to consumed it. For example when the government authorizes rich people to open a Wal-Mart the people with less resources have no choice and of course they buy there because it is cheaper than other stores. On page 146 it says that “the backwardness of the popular classes condemns them to sub-alternity” I do not agree with the idea saying that people of the lower classes are backwards or inferior. I think that adjective is used by rich people to keep their control over those people. I think that the article makes the reader to ask the question of where the authentic parts of a culture get eaten up by commercialization. On page 168 the author writes that some communities in Guerrero, Mexico are increasing their minimum wage because they started painting on the amate which is easy to transport as opposed to ceramics. I think here one can see in the effort to persevere something in this case pre-Hispanic art, the art losses its “authentic” essence and becomes a commercial product. But at the same time there is the ambiguity in what people consider authentic.
    I also found interesting how the notion of mass culture makes people from one society generalize people of another society. For example, the assumption that Mexican people are all exactly the same without recognizing regional differences such as the ways of speaking and dressing, and that applies to all other the countries in the world. I liked also the part on page 188 where it says that the “popular does not consist of what the people have or are, but what becomes accessible, what they like” because one can see that what becomes “popular” is a mixture of what one part of the society (rich) allows the other part to have and the people of this part takes what they liked of the accessible options.


    Comments Off on Transculturation

    I seem to have gotten behind on my blog in the midst of due dates, essays, exams, etc. But better late than never. In Oritz’s article, he brings to light the concept of transculturation, even suggesting that he is the one to coin the term. He poses this term during the rise of peoples growing usage of ‘acculturation’ suggesting that this phrase is too limiting in its scope. He uses the world ‘transculturation’ to “express the highly varied phenomena that have come about in Cuba as a result of the extremely complex transumtations of culture that have taken place here.” He describes that Cuba’s history is defined by a mixing of people, cultures, ideas, etc. The Spaniards mixed with the indigenous populations, killing the majority, but the remainders nonetheless influenced eachother. In description of this, Ortize writes: “A revolutionary upheaval shook the Indian peoples of Cuba, tearing up their institutions by the roots and destorying their lives.” As the slave trade ferociously brought Africans to Cuba, though marked by incredibly injustices perhaps on par with the treatement of indigenous populations, Africans and Africans culture mixed with indigenous and European cultures creating more cultural mixtures. Ortiz feels that ‘transculturation’ is a better way of describing the phenomanon that took place in the way of cultural mixing in Cuba, as the process of transistion from one culture to another does not consist of merely ‘acquiring’ another’s cultures, but is undeniable also the result of an uprooting and loss of previous culture. I agree with him here; cultural mixing is not merely a result of one taking up the ways of another, but is also the result of the loss that comes along with coercion, subordination, and violence in the process.

    In response to this, Millington feels that we must examine this term more closely as he feels that it is being overused. He feels that “these terms seek to excercise some critical leverage on the heirarchichal binaries of imperialism/neo-colony, centre/periphery, identity/otherness, which apparently hold Latin America in their iron grip. The sense is that what is produced by transcultuation or hybridisation does not fit within neat binaries, that it straddles, mixes and disrupts.” Millington feels that bunching many terms together under one ‘master term’ is confusing and at times, inaccurate. What I liked most about this article was when Millington puts into question that optimistic views of marginilized sectors of society as a basis of resistance, when he feels that their marginalization is at best an urgent reminder “of what needs to be done.” While on one hand, in looking at marginilized groups throughout history, we do not want to remove their agency and reciliency in maintianing their own culture in the face of oppression, at the same time, is this triviallizing the injustices they underwent and looking upon the situation too optimistically? Is the idea of culture resiliency in the face of oppression too easy and an optimistic of a conclusion? I thought it was interesting that he actually presented a conclusion on how he felt these issues are to be better addressed: “In my view, the best way of redrawing the cultural-political map is not to shrink back into narrow self-affirmations but, on the one hand, to expose what the dominany cultures are and how they work and are transformed…[and] on the other hand, in order to find and define emancipatory spaces we need to continue trying to understand how specific processes of transculturation function…”

    Futbol y telenovelas

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    I found both of the articles for this week interesting and well written. I will admit, while I appreciate soccer to a degree, I am not a huge sports fan in general, and have never really understood the craze and obsession that goes along with it. However, after reading the article about futbol, I feel that I have finally come to understand the reality of the importance that futbol means to people. To many people in around the world, with Brazil being an epicenter to the excitment, futbol is not nearly just a game but rather is a canvas for which great cultural meaning and identity is constructed. Futbol is not mearly people kicking a ball around a field for entertainment sake, but is a site in which people come together to create a larger narrative about their lives and identities. In the example of the game in the 1950’s, for Brazilians, this does simply represent a game that was lost, but rather is highly symbolic of greater loss. It was an event that came to speak as a national narrative of the people. The staduim that was built in preperation of the game was also not mearly a fancy staduim but rather a symbol of progress and pride for the Brazillian people at a time when they were constructing their national identity for themselves and the world to witness. I think this quote sums it up well: “the 1950 game is perhpas the greatest tragedy in contemporary Brazilian history. Because it happened collectively and brought a united vision of the loss of a historic oppurtunity. Because it happened at the beginning of a decade in which Brazil was looking to assert itself as a nation with a great furutre. The result was a tireless search for explications of, and blame for, the shameful defeat.’ Reading this article made me think about how popular culture in general can come to have great signifigance when it is taken in by the people a symbol of national pride, nation and identity constructing.

    As far as soap operas go…I will admit…I used to watch All My Children for many years when I was a child, namely because my Mom was into it, but I can definitly see the appeal. I mean, if you are going to watch bad television, why not just go all out for the aweful stuff rather that the mediocre stuff that tries to present itself as ‘good’ ? Soap operas and telenovelas get a lot of criticism, most of which is entirely valid, but I feel that they do play a role in bringing to light (an an entirely overly exagerated way) real issues that people face within society. In the case mentioned in the article, Por estas calles even acted as a mirror for political reality that people in Venezuela faced at the time. According to the article, “Por estas calles cannot be understood outside the context of Venezuela’s political, economic, and social situation in the last decades of the twentieth century.” Likewise, the author suggests that, “all feel affected by the world created in the telenovela, as long as it raises problems they beleive they have gone through themselves.” Telenovelas can be a medium that bring family together to view characters and stories as they experience real drama that is often, an exaggerated version of problems rooted in reality. As we discussed in class, telenovelas often bring up isses in society that are highly taboo. They flirt with these issues, but almost always tend to be intensely moral; wrong doers will not come out on top in the end. These shows raise forbidden topics in order to demonize them.

    Popular Culture=Mass Culture

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    So we’ve finally reached that point in the semester when we are given concrete examples of this elusive popular culture that we’ve all been searching for.  Futebol and telenovelas are certainly (in my humble opinion) excellent examples of contemporary popular culture in Latin America, and I feel that these two articles do an excellent job of defining the aspects of these pasttimes which make them so accessible and important to the general public.  National identity and national unity seem to be the common themes expressed in both articles.  Futebol and telenovelas serve the purpose of unifying a nation’s people under a common identity (in the case of futebol) and in common experiences and moral values (telenovelas) such that  both give a public form to conceptions of what it means to be Brazilian or Venezuelan.  In the case of both activities, the common citizen is merely a spectator to the action, yet they feel as though they are a part of a larger whole which is represented in the drama played out–within the telenovela or on the futebol field.
    While initially Brazilians’ obsession with their 1950 World Cup defeat baffled my sport-resistant sensibilities, as I read further, I began to understand the role that futebol plays in the lives of many and the stakes each individual has in the national game.  The game and its players represent much more than a simple game, but rather the opportunity to create and maintain an international image of prestige and power; something which is often achieved only in such practical interactions such as as international warfare or economic trade.
    Telenovelas too, have the ability to define and create national identity and unity in their portrayal of a ‘heightened reality” of the average citizen’s everyday reality.  As Venezuela’s example demonstrates, a forum such as the telenovela provides the opportunity for group unity in suffering and strife–in this case exemplified by economic and political turmoil–and for the experience of catharsis in being able to identify with so many others in a communal struggle.
    Ultimately this week’s readings led me to ask myself what aspects of American popular culture have led me to feel a part of a unified national group; a question I could not honestly answer.  The telenovela has no true equivalent in (for me) in American culture, while my absolute aversion to sport isolates me from the feeling of group unity found in cheering for a sports team.  Both futebol and telenovelas, while seemingly simple examples of popular pasttimes in Latin America, provide us with examples of the exceptionally important role popular culture plays in forming our everyday realities and group identities.

    Popular culture as mass culture

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    I didn’t have time to read the whole texts, especially the one about football which was very long so I will expand on what we discuss in class last Tuesday: the relation between sport and politics. Sport is a kind of peaceful way to make war. It is a field where countries could confront themselves on equal terms. Sport is based on physical strength and no political or economic power so it is a way for the developing countries or the one which are not very powerful on the diplomatic sphere to prove that they are as powerful as the others and could also defeat them. It is an opportunity for them to show they have talent. Sport is a field where any country be brilliant at. Football is definitely part of the Brazilian popular culture because it is a democratic sport accessible to everybody. It is a sport played by the people, the nation so it is very symbolic: the nation has to fight for the homeland, to defend it abroad. As Bellos says, the defeat of 1950 against Uruguay was a real tragedy « because it happened at the beginning of a decade in which Brazil was looking to assert itself as a nation with a great future ». Sport mobilizes masses, it is an element of social cohesion. Football is symbolic because people transfer all their expectations of a better future on it.

    Finally, I think telenovelas are also part of the popular culture. As Hippolyte Ortega says in his text, telenovelas and soap operas reflect the aspirations, in a certain way, the values of a society: soap opera stage American middle-class only interested in sex and money while telenovelas get into themes like love, family, contrast between rich and poor. The themes reflect the worries of one particular society because people must identified themselves to the characters.

    Both football and telenovelas are elements of mass culture which I think could enable us to understand how they think.

    Futbol and telenovelas

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    The readings for this week talked about two very important areas of Latin American popular culture: futbol and telenovelas. The first reading, by Alex Bellos, is entitled Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, and it underlines the prominent position of futbol in Latin American culture in general, and Brazilian culture specifically. One of the defining moments in Brazilian futbol outlined by the article was the loss of the World Cup in 1950 to Uruguay. In fact, this was such a momentous blow to Brazil that the article opens with a quote likening this ‘irremmediable national catastrophe’ to the bombing of Hiroshima. While in my view this is an exaggeration, it does demonstrate the importance of futbol in everyday life. Futbol can unite or divide a people, depending on the teams playing.
    In the case of Brazil’s loss to Uruguay in 1950, the effect on the nation was a lasting one. One of the quotes which struck me the most in the reading was said about the goalkeeper, Barbossa, 20 years after the match- “He is the man that made all of Brazil cry”. I think this quote perfectly captures the mentality of any nation which loves futbol and has suffered a crushing blow; it illustrates just how entrenched futbol is in everyday life. I think that people who don’t live in a place with such strong ties to a sport find this hard to understand; even Canadians, with our supposedly legendary love for hockey, don’t come close to matching the fervour of Latin American nations for futbol.
    The second phenomenon of Latin American culture is the telenovela. I had always thought of these programs as soap operas; however, Ortega delineates the differences between telenovelas and the North American soap operas. Telenovelas have more evolving storylines, while soap operas remain fairly unchanging and get repetitive; most importantly, soap operas show an “artificial” world and are based on the lives of the class. Contrary to this, telenovelas show “reality”, and they show the contrast between rich and poor.
    Seeing as I have never watched a telenovela, I have no personal experience to draw on here; however, from the reading it seems that these telenovelas generate a far greater audience than the soap operas here, and thus have a far greater impact upon culture and society.

    Futbol y novelas

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    I was waiting for weeks to get to this reading about futbol and culture and it did not let me down, it was really enjoyable and fascinating along the whole step of the way.

    Futbol, like many other sports, is not just something that you simply see, but you also live it and feel it. As Bellos puts it, there is always a before and an after. Latin America, in general, is renowned for having various champions in distinct disciplines such as futbol, baseball and boxing, however without a doubt futbol is the one that “mueve masas”. The nation, for many, is an imaginary community in which people who have never met before feel they have a common bond, and I believe that (in the case of futbol) the national team serve as a way in which to cement that bond among the people in this “imaginary community”. El Maracanazo is a perfect example of that; it united Brazilians before the game with a general feeling of confidence and one of sadness at the end. Ultimately, most Brazilians were going through the same phase together before and after the Maracanzo.

    I personally have a connection with that, like the Brazilians I had my own Hiroshima that had to do with futbol. To spare the details, all that has to be known is that I (and the majority of us) were confident that we would emerge victorious, however futbol is “la mecanica de lo imprevisto” and we lost to them. Until this day I still have not watched any replays of that match, not even to make sure if that was penalty or if that should of been a red card or not, I just do not want to go back and relive that moment. And of course I wasn’t the only one affected, it’s one of those moments when the whole nation seems to freeze and even though we are carrying our daily duties as usual, it is not as it was before. I remember the next day I had to go to work and one of my co-workers was also avid fan of the national team, and on that day we never spoke about The Game. I knew that we wanted to say something about The Game, but we just didn’t know what to say. A week later we finally discussed The Game and its consequences; that conversation lasted for almost 3 hours.

    Ultimately el Maracanazo and my Hiroshima reaffirmed something to me; futbol is not a game of 20 men (or women) who run for a ball and 2 men (or women) who stand beneath 3 goal posts. No. Futbol is a game of 20 men (or women) who run for a ball, 2 men (or women) who stand beneath 3 goal posts and all the souls who wait for the result.

    Telenovelas have been something that has characterized Latin American culture for a while and is probably the one of best indicator of true popular culture in Latin America because I’m sure everyone is familiar one way or another. When I was young and my parents weren’t home, nana would always put her novela while waiting for me to sleep so I’ve been (unfortunately) familiarized with them. I don’t particularly see what the deal about them is since they always have practically the same plot and structure, yet they are still as popular as futbol is to Brazilians or Argentineans. One of the things I noticed was that most of the people who sit and watch these novelas are from the lower and lower-middle class, particularly maids. I remember in my childhood how nana would talk with the other maids of the building about the episode from last night. One thing that I’ve always found funny was when they complained how much the ending sucked, I just find it funny simply because it ends the same way the other novelas have ended.

    ps: There’s this satiric show in Panama that did a “Top 10” on novelas a while back. It outlined the ten characteristics of a novela, basically if you do not most of these in your novela, then you’ve failed as a director. Part 1,Part 2 and Part 3.

    Microcosms of Pop Culture

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    I remember when I was in living in Peru last year, every night the eldest teenage daughter and Rutty, the lady who cleaned, cooked and took care of us (also my close friend by the end of the trip,) would watch telenovelas as if it were a sort of religious ritual. If I came home in between the hour that the telenovela was on, it was like everything was put off, the broom sat against the wall with a pile of dust beneath it waiting to be swept up and homework splayed halfway complete across the dinning room table. Now that I look back, it is evident that telenovelas’ influence on people and also culture is significant. Interestingly however, throughout the three months I was there I never ended taking the time to watch a single telenovela. I never watched one probably because I found them uninteresting or hard to relate to. Perhaps this is the very reason why telenovelas are so popular in Latin America. Nelson Hippolyte Ortega refers to the telenovela as being based upon “daily life”, if this is so, then the everyday individual could watch the telenovela and relate to it.
    But why do telenovelas try so hard to relate to the audiences? I believe it primarily has to do with generating profits. People will watch whatever they find interesting. The more people watch, the greater profits television stations make, as advertisers bid higher prices to plug their products. Ultimately this creates a new dynamic for both the show and audiences. We see that futebol in many instances seems like a sport that has sold out, can we say the same about the telenovela?

    Throughout reading Ortega’s article, I kept thinking about the similarities between the telenovela and Keesing’s metaphor of culture as a “coral reef”. Both share that defining characteristic of continuously reshaping itself through time and interactions. The coral reefs changes with every layer of whatever grows, or attaches itself to it just like how the telenovela is reshaped through commercialization, people’s interests, politics, etc. It is apparent that there are so many forces that readjust how the telenovela is produce.

    I am curious though, is there something is this readjustment that has schematic way of doing so? Ortega suggests the some telenovelas are created or change schematically in terms of a homogenous/similar plot line that they follow. This begs me to rethink then my idea of how culture evolves. The issue of the telenovela following a prescribe routine in its interactions makes me questions whether this is true for popular culture. Do all interactions follow the assumption that contamination upon interaction is inevitable?

    All in all I found that Futebol and Telenovelas share many similarities in its interactions within political, social and economical dimensions. All seem to act as function of one another and are continuously being redefined.

    El Futbol y las Telenovelas…

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    Las lecturas de esta semana describen dos fenómenos o dos partes muy características de la cultura latinoamericana: las novelas y el futbol. La primera de ellas, escrita por Alex Bellos es Futebol: The Brazilian Way of life a pesar de que es una lectura larga es interesante y fácil de seguir, narra con detalle esa parte esencial de la cultura brasileña. Inicia el capítulo recordando el famoso Maracanazo, día en que Brasil perdió la final de la copa del mundo en su propio país contra Uruguay en 1950, es tal la adoración que se tiene por este deporte que la derrota se compara con la tragedia de Hiroshima.

    En la lectura de Bellos podemos ver el proceso de transculturación que se ha dado del futbol en el país y la forma en que los lugareños de la región ha impreso su toque típico a este deporte, pues en todos lados es bien conocido el estilo brasileño. Sin lugar a dudas el futbol es el deporte nacional en Brasil, en cierta parte el autor da a entender que es una forma de unificación de la población, diferentes clases sociales, ideologías, etc. en torno a un objetivo, una idea, un equipo; dejando fuera los problemas sociales y olvidando al menor por 90 minutos los problemas del gobierno.

    La segunda lectura es de Nelson Hippolyte Ortega, quién escribió la obra “Big Snake son the Street and Never Ending Stories: The Case of Venezuela Telenovelas”. El autor se centra principalmente en la telenovela Por las Calles, la cual cambio la forma de hacer telenovelas en latinoamerica. Me parece importante analizar más alla de la lectura, que uno de los principales objetivos de las telenovelas es que el público se entretenga, distraerlo de los problemas de mundo real y que por un momento este más preocupada por qué paso con el galán de la novela en lugar de preguntarse cómo va la crisis económica; es decir, hasta cierto punto son utilizados por el gobierno como distractores. El caso de México es similar al de Venezuela, y es algo que se ve en todas las clases sociales, aunque ligeramente más marcado en la clase baja.

    The collective whole…Taking a hit for the team…The nation that is

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    Despite the length of this weeks readings, they were absolutely more enjoyable than normal. Perhaps it was because of the fact that for once we were reading about something that is undeniably considered (despite the seemingly elusive nature of the term) “Latin American popular culture,” and is considered as such by most people from Latin America. As we read, if you are Brazilian, you know about futebal/soccer. Alex Bellos’ writing was engaging, and narrative. Through the different vignettes he writes, a few things become apparent. Bellos develops symbolism through his understanding of the game. (loss of 1950 World Cup was an affirmation, correct or not, or Brazil’s collective understanding that they were fractured nationally;Pelé and Garrincha symbolize Brazil’s greatness and racial make-up) Whether he is merely elaborating or elucidating what he sees occurring in Brazil, I’m not sure. But it’s clear that certain things become metonyms for Brazil and their collective character. This idea of the collective also permeates much of what Bellos writes. In fact it seems that futebal/soccer has the ability to contibute to the creation of “imagined communities.” If not imagined communities, than the concept of nationalism, collective memory, and collective guilt. Futebal/soccer also becomes a conduit for discussions of race, gender, nationalism, and memory. The chapters selected for our reading also demonstrate the way that futebal/soccer has permeated so many parts of Brazilian everyday life. Not only does the jersey’s signature yellow color come to denote Brazil globally, but people around Brazil see visual indicators of the game’s importance to their country in the titling and construction of many buildings and “monuments” named after Brazilian futebal/soccer stars. The chapter, “The Fateful Final” was especially helpful in understanding the mentality of futebal/soccer fans, and the reason why the game may matter so much to them. The collective sense of failure and dejection Brazilians associated with the 1950 World Cup loss followed such a strong sense of collective hope, and renewal following their military dictatorship. In a country divided by race, and with huge economic disparity, diversion like futebal/soccer can come to mean a lot of lost happiness if your team loses.
    Latin American telenovela as Ortega writes comes to be a representative of the changes in Latin America through its ability or tendency to remain culturally and socially relevant to its viewers. These shows become arenas to discuss issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, machismo, and the quotidian. Interestingly, as Ortega denotes the difference between telenovelas and soap operas it almost becomes a distinction between values or ideology. The soap opera focuses on money and sex. Whereas telenovelas focus on the continuation of family. Could these shows come to stand in for nationalist values transnationally? What role do they play in shaping relationships between countries? I loved seeing the reference to telenovelas and their descent from the folletíns we read about in Rowe and Schelling. The other idea that struck me from Ortega’s piece was the idea of telenovelas as cathartic. Perhaps this is a modernist perspective of Latin America, but my understanding is that a number of countries from the region have been made poor, and as such have large numbers of people living below the poverty line. This indicates to me that the idea of catharsis, or escapism may play a role in the popularity of the telenovela. People who struggle to provide the everyday necessities are able to vicariously live through the stories of their country’s telenovelas. In the same way that Brazilian futebal/soccer can be collectively shared by people from all walks of life, the telenovela can do the same in other places.

    Fucho y Taranovelas

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    This week’s articles talk about two topics that are very dear to me for very different reasons. The first one by Bello’s talks about Brazil, and in specific tries to describe the feelings that embraced the nation before, during, and after the so called “Maracanazo.” Now, I should warn any readers that this is by far my most biased post… sorry I cannot help it; I love soccer and yet hate novelas. Now, don’t think that I am trying to pretend I’m all macho or anything I certainly enjoy watching a chick flick now and then… we all do. However, I do recognize that both football and novelas are two faces to a similar evil.

    Both of these ways to get entertained are often used as political tools by the state to ‘control’ the masses. Lets start with soccer, as much as I may love the sport, it is obvious that football stadiums are the new ‘colliceums’ and as long as the soccer season take place the people are pleased and can ignore major social, political, and even economic crisis. Furthermore, these events often carry so much emotion and so little logic that they often end on riots of some sort. This is understandable, as football for some people in Latin America is as important as religion. However, there is no way to justify violent acts as a result of a game…

    Moving on, Novelas in my opinion are the root of all evil – well maybe not all, but certainly a lot of it –. In Mexico, you can pretty much watch novelas from 2pm to 8 or 9 pm, now to be honest not everyone watches every novella. However, at any given point there is always a novela for every age group possible: there are novelas for kids (usually at earlier hours), the followed by novelas for mature women, then there are the prime time novelas – these are often aimed at teenagers, and younger women –. My main problem with the novelas is that as Hippolyte explains they are a megaphone for emotions, they blow emotions out of proportion and paint a world where the good always win, the poor become rich by marriage, getting pregnant early isn’t so bad because all you high school friends will stand by you the rest of your life, etc, etc, etc. It is a total misrepresentation of real life, which oversimplifies the already tabooed topics of society, and worst of all it is all feed to the masses by the elite. In Mexico there are only two providers of public television, both are headed by incredibly rich and politically influential characters.

    So, football is exploited by the governments to control the masses agreed, and that it can lead to violence and civil disobedience… no argument on that one. However, football never teaches you that the good always wins, or that life will be okai because you’ll marry a rich man, etc.

    Anyhow, I would like to end by arguing that mass culture does not equal popular culture… I would argue that mass culture sometimes does not carry any social significance; instead it merely reflects the lack of culture in a given society. How can you make something culture, when all you doing is sitting in you living room wasting time away? There may be cultural aspects that make either waste of time relevant to a culture, yet that definitely does not make the show –either soccer or novelas – a cultural event.

    Just a Jumble

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    • Popular Culture Transformations
      Nowhere else is the matrix of popular culture, its transformations, and all of its offspring – even challenging the number offspring produced by Garrincha – more apparent than in Alex Bellos’ “Futebol”. Bellos has the Midas touch in the blending of the divisions between specific forms of popular culture through the topic of futebol. Instead of pretentiously plucking the targets of his desires, he extends his reach beyond its capacity with a greedy (and indulgent) finesse. Futebol becomes the muse for Art Literature both in the form of the Maracanã match (where the “radio commentary was republished” (44) leading to the production of several books), in the styles of Garrincha who aroused even the imagination of poets such as Paulo Mendes (102) and Vinicius de Moares (110) and in the style of Zizinho who attained a comparison to an artist, “Zizinho as Leonardo da Vinci ‘ creating works of art with his feet on the immense canvas of the Maracanã pitch” (48) . Futebol becomes the central station of nations and their respective popular cultures, where in some cases such as Argentina and Brasil, their distinct features collide. In Brasil the Fateful Final is a resonating tragedy, whereas in Argentina it is a source of joy, earning the nickname of “maracanazo” and causing argentinos to “[rub] their hands in glee” (44). Bellos makes a point of incorporating iconic events that are relics of popular culture in other countries to compare and develop the monumental impact of the Uruguay vs. Brasil match of 1950 in the popular culture of Brasil, as well as entrenching the parallels found between nations. The United States is widely used for his comparisons: the final Uruguay goal is allied with JFK where “the goal and the gunshot that killed Kennedy both have ‘the same drama… the same movement, rhythm…the same precision of an inexorable trajectory” (54); Elza Soares the legendary samba singer is mentioned among the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and her songs seen as “torch songs” (116) a genre that is heavily centered around Billie Holiday and her contemporaries. Futebol becomes a Myth/Legend in order to satisfy Nation Building which also has its grubby fingers in the sugary-sweet honey jar of Politics: the Maracanã tragedy serves as a national myth creating a “united vision” (45) even noted as having a place among “things that build nations, a people drenched in their own pain” (54), where “the defeat transformed a normal fact into an exceptional narrative: it is a fabulous myth that has been preserved and even grown in the public imagination” (57). Besides being a narrative, the “Maracanã [also] fostered a football-inspired patriotism” (46); futebol once again contributing to the Nation. Futebol in/with/and Music is mentioned several times by Bellos who masterfully stitches (yet again) two forms of popular culture specifically Chico Buarque (52), (97), (116), Carmen Miranda (99), Caetano Veloso (128), Elza Soares (see: garrincha). Garrincha in turn is employed by Bellos to introduce Futbeol with the Indigenous (another apparition of popular culture!): where zicunati(78) is compared with futebol, where ” ‘play[ing] like an Indian'” is a manner of playing synonymous with “constantly attack[ing] and never defend[ing]” (87), and finally where the indigenous rituals gain rituals from football warm-ups in classic case of transculturation (88). The overriding popular culture transformation is the sheer commercialism of Futebol; Bellos illustrates this efficiently with his comparison of Pele and Garrincha (112-115), the hijacking and subsequent owning of the football strip by Nike, and the questioning of fanatical authenticity where money and logos are involved (*Cotton Bud*), every mode of Popular Culture into which he integrates Futebol is also another opportunity for capitalist expansion, where Art, Music, Literature, Politics, Nationality, Myths and Legends, the Indigenous and Folk all are subject to the same game of Profiteering.

      The Brazilian Image

    • Grandeur (as a pretext)
      – “blow their own trumpets they have a tendency to use global superlatives” (45)
      – ” size of country mirroring language and ufanismo “excessive arrogance based on the potential of Brazil’s vast resources” (45)
    • Maracanã (largest stadium in the world)
      – “our prestige and sporting greatness” (46)
      – symbol of Brasil’s placement “in the modern world” (46)
    • Jersey
      – “yellow is such a strong primary colour that it perfectly synthesised with the flamboyant, flash Brazilian style” (67)
      – “golden yellow adds a warmth and luxuriousness that complements prodigal Brazilian skills”
      – “evocative, visually unmistakable and iconic”
      – “personifications of golden statuettes”
      – “a touch of the exotic, like something you would expect from Africa”
      – “national identity – citixenship” (68)
      – “since football is the strongest symbol of national identity wearing a football strip asserts a utopian Brazilianness” (127)
      – Exaggeration of themselves as luckless… another form of grandeur (extremities)
    • “Stray Dog Complex” (55)
      – “the inferiority with which the Brazilian positions himself, voluntarily, in front of the rest of the
      – “lack of moral fibre” (55)- “Brazil is not a country of winners. It is a country of a people who like to have fun” (115) –> national motto(?)
      – “Brazilians, the cliché dictates, have taken carnival to the football terraces” (123)

    Carnival with a Twist

    • merging of 2 culturally defining aspects of Brasil established on consumerism basis
    • “carnival competitive” “football matches carnivalesque” (124)
    • “motivations were no especiallly philanthropic – he did so because it increased general interest in football, generated more copy and sold more papers.” (124)
    • “business mind and a literary bent to the sports pages” –> corrupting?
    • Torcedores
    • Cotton Bud
      “Professional Fan” (129)
      “Companies know that I will be on the television a lot and in newspapers, so they give me clothes and plane tickets in exchange for a logo on my Brazil shirt” (129)
      –>cheapans authenticity… parallels with Pelé

    The Case of Venezuelan Telenovelas

    • “is the continuation of a family: to fall in love, to marry, to have children” (65) and “contrasts rich and poor, good and evil” etc.
    • Golden rule: “man and woman fall madly in love, but before they can live happily ever after, they have to overcome a series of obstacles” (69) … “finally, either two men fight for the love of a woman, or two women fight for the love of a man”
    • Differentiation from American soap operas… history: U.S. Soap operas –>;Cuba —>; telenovelas –> rest of latinoamerica
    • Cuba: “theme of children born out of wedlock” (68) “exercise of suspense…use of music, and in the characters’ histrionic tone”
    • Mexico y Venezuela: “schematic..conflicts develop around familly relationships…manichean” , “linear…tend to focus on the male and female protagonists”
    • Brasil, Colombia: “class and territory, sex and procreation…advertising, and music videos”
    • Brasil: “complex series of plots and subplots”

    Futebol and Telenovelas

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    This week readings are about two of the greatest vices that Latin American people have, futbol and telenovelas, eventough both genders enjoy them; futbol is seen as a manly thing and telenovelas as a girly thing.
    Is not a secret that soccer in Latin America is huge, but in Brazil it’s something else, actually there are people that consider it a religion and not a sport, and we could get a scoop of that in this text. One of the phrases that I liked the most of the reading is: “Only three people have, with just one motion, silenced the Maracana: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and me” (Gigghia). It’s amazing how important is soccer to Brazilians that a single action can silenced a whole country, or on the other hand, engage all the people with a huge celebration. The Maracanazo is the biggest example of this, because for the Brazilian’s this has been the biggest tragedy that has ever occured in their country, but it wasn’t only because of the game; it was also because of the moment when it happened. In Latin America futbol is nearly the only thing that has the power to bring a whole nation together when the national team is playing, but also it has the power to divide the nation when the two biggest teams play against each other. Futbol is a party and as such the whole nation is paralyzed when an important game takes place, most countries are “soccer ruled” and the country moves and works according to the games or soccer events.
    Telenovelas are mostly enjoyed by women. These shows usually involves ridiculous love stories, a lot of drama, things that will never happen on real life and people that are extremely good looking that makes you doubt if they are real. They are compared to soap operas, but there have several differences, for example telenovelas eventually get to an end, as soap operas don’t have a final episode. Because of the way they are developed and their structure they really get people consumed on the story, tuning it everytime it is on. It is always on people’s conversations the day after, and sometimes even a couple of minutes after the episode is done. People always wait eagerly for the end of the telenovela, but they feel that there is an empty space after it is done.

    Popular Culture as Mass Culture

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    This week’s articles displayed popular culture through mediums which I most identify as being representative of Latin American popular culture: football and telenovelas. I felt like both articles, particularly the article on Brazilian football, did an excellent job of tying together all the different concepts we have discussed in class up to date.

    I really enjoyed the reading Futebol: A Brazilian Way of Life. It was entertaining to read, and tied in many of the concepts we have discussed in class, from the people, to issues of race, to concepts of cultural mixing. Since the reading was rather long and included a variety of topics, I’ll focus on a few that I found particularly interesting.

    The reading begins with a look into what is known as the “Maracana Tragedy”. The author analyzes reasons for why this event became so important in the lives of the Brazilian people as well as key in the history of the country. The author quotes Roberto daMatta who believes that this loss of the World Cup in Brazil’s own backyard was so influential to the Brazilian people because “it happened collectively and brought a united vision of the loss of a historic opportunity.” These collective events and memories are often the subject of popular art and culture, which brings us back to the key element of popular culture that people must be able to identify and relate to it.

    The occurence of transculturation, for lack of a better word, is also included in the discussion of Brazilian football. The author mentions the contributions that the Brazilian indigenous people have made to the game of football. The indigenous people taught the Brazilian football players their style of football, later called “headball”, in which they passed a ball around using only their heads. Brazilian players later incorporated this element into their football style, and now this is recognized as a defining element of Brazilian-style football.

    Football has also been widely accepted by the indigenous people. To be able to make it as a professional football player is a way for indigenous people, considered to be at the bottom of the social ladder, to climb the ladder up to the higher social classes. Some believe that the indigenous peoples’ acceptance of football is a way to bring modernity to their cultures. However, at the same time, it is also a way for them to preserve their culture, as the author mentions that indigenous teams, when playing non-indigenous teams, would shout “commands to each other in their language.”

    Lastly, what I found most interesting in this article was the story of the Brazilian football legend, Garrincha. I felt that through the telling of his story, I was better able to understand how something comes to be recognized as part of popular culture. Garrincha reminded me in some ways of Eva Peron, in that the people of his country strongly identified with him. Alex Bellos, the author, quotes Jose Sergio in his article, who stated that Garrincha “never lost his popular roots. He was also exploited by football so he was the symbol of the majority of Brazilians, who are also exploited.” This quote further strengthens the fact that a defining element of popular culture is that the people must be able to identify with it. They must see a relation between them and it. I felt that the depiction of popular culture was clearest in the comparison between Pele and Garrincha. The two players could not have been any more different. Although both were loved by the people, I believe the people saw Garrincha as one of them, and were able to see themselves in him, and identify with him. Bellos writes that “Garrincha indulged in most of the vices available to him, Pele behaved always as a model player.” The average person cannot be perfect all the time. Everyone has flaws. Garrincha wasn’t ashamed to show his flaws, and people recognized him as therefore being human. He was accepted by the people, similar to how Eva Peron was accepted by her people.

    In Big Snakes on the Streets and Never Ending Stories, the case of Venezuelan telenovelas is explored. In particular, the author focuses on one telenovela, Por estas calles. This telenovela in particular changed and re-defined the genre in Latin America. This redefinition was mainly due to the change in subject matter of the telenovela. While most televenovelas follow a similar storyline, Por estas calles tried to break conventions and include different subject matter.

    However, even prior to Por estas calles, telenovelas were widely watched by the Latin American people. Telenovelas, which we can consider to be a part of popular culture, often include elements of melodrama, which Peter Brooks defines as “a popular form not only because it is favored by the audience, but also because it insists– or tries to insist– on the dignity and importance of the ordinary.” We can tie this quote back to the article by Raymond Williams who stated that “culture is ordinary.” Melodrama can be considered a popular form because it relates to the ordinary or things we experience every day in our lives, but makes it into something more.

    However, the main point of the article in its analysis of Por estas calles is that this telenovela became such a defining part of the genre and of Venezuelan popular culture in general because it was real. The topics and storylines covered in the telenovela were reflections of what was actually going on in the country at the time. Therefore, viewers were able to identify with the storylines AND the characters. The telenovela was, in essence, a reflection of their lives.

    For me, the major takeaway from both articles was that a defining characteristic of popular culture is the ability for people to recognize and relate their lives to it. If the people don’t feel that the subject matter is relevant to them, they will not accept it. And if it is not accepted by the people, we cannot consider it to be popular culture in its truest form.

    Mass culture: Football & Telenovelas

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    Even though it’s half expected, it is amazing how much you can learn about Brazilian culture through futebol. Bellos’ “Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life” does it quite well. He tells Brazil’s story through events like the 1950 World Cup and athletes like Garrincha. I never knew that the 1950 World Cup was so important to Brazil and it was a little surprising to read just how important is was, and is. I think it’s too bad the Brazilian people let the loss plague them, and especially plague those who were sometimes “blamed.” It seems to me that the fact that they broke free of dictatorship, hosted the championship, and built the huge stadium to show for it is much, much more significant than winning or losing against Uruguay. I can see how it could be a let down, but for it to be a bitter memory for so long and to have it so negatively affect the lives of the players who were there, like Barbosa, makes me think that a lot of people need to get their priorities straightened out. Football is important to Brazil – fine. But Brazil must always win? I don’t know. I think that a popular disheartened response is appropriate for a while, but at some point becomes almost selfish, especially toward Uruguay who must have played hard to win. At the end of that chapter, when Gigghia says “In Uruguay we lived the moment. Now it’s over,” despite all previous explanation I still fail to see why the losers can’t feel the same way. I guess that has little to do with the topic of our class, but it’s by far the strongest feeling I got out of the text.

    Nelson Hippolyte Ortega’s little overview of telenovelas, how and why they came to be was pretty interesting. The cultural processes at work really become illuminated, even if the best examples of this are when he cites Rowe and Schelling. I have a problem with a statement in his introduction, though. When contrasting soap operas and telenovelas, he says “The soap opera’s intention is to entertain; the telenovela’s mission is to show “reality” and to teach about the affective, social, and political problems of contemporary society.” I think that this distinction is irrelevant because it’s quite obvious that telenovelas also intend to entertain, just as soap operas also try to underline certain themes in life. It seems like he is trying to say that soap operas, as in the U.S., are purely commercial products whereas telenovelas have some cultural value. I would say that when analyzed as Ortega does here, either can be understood culturally, although both are generally hollow dollar-sign forms of media.

    Futebol and Telenovas

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    I quite enjoyed the 4 articles by Alex Bellos that were extracted from “Futebol: The Brazilian way of life. The first chapter was written very passionately with excerpts from other authors that add to the strength of the emotional connection that Brazil has to this sport. Here, Bello’s talks about ‘The Fateful Final,’ Brazil’s devastating loss to Uruguay in the 1950 World cup. Bellos goes on to carefully describe the final moments, the rare silence of the stadium, the individual reactions and the outcome of the player’s lives. The game seemed to change some aspect of each individuals life that witnessed or even heard about the event. This was not just because a ‘game’ was lost, it was because ‘hope’ was lost.

    The Brazilian team had been immensely successful up until the end, and this success had broken boundaries between this diverse country and united everyone together in hope and equality. On Page 54, Bello’s says that “Second place in a World Cup was Brazil’s best ever result yet it felt like a failure.” On page 55 he follows up to this by quoting writer Jose Lins do Rego who stated “I saw a nation defeated—more than that—on without hope.”

    The second chapter was more of a historical tale of the history and formation of the sport. The third chapter told the story of ‘The Angel with Bent Legs,’ the story of a wildy successful football player, with below average intelligence and malformed legs that was a sports icon. Bello’s contrasts him to another famous footballer, Pele, who was the super-athlete, highly successful, good body, and highly organized. Pele assisted in the wins of 3 world cups, which is more than anyone else as a player.. but never really stood out like Garrincha in the publics eyes.

    Garrincha’s story was controversial; he was born with a natural ability, and lived a life of vices and foolishness. However, the public simply adored him. Partially due to a general obsession with a life gone sideways, but also possibly due to his humble background, his overcoming of the odds, and never living like a wealthy man making it so that is some roundabout way, he was ‘ordinary.’

    The last chapter, carnival with a twist, displayed more of Bello’s passionate prose once again as he talks about particular eccentric futebol fans in addition to Brazilian futebol fans altogether. A particularly meaningful line in this chapter is on Page 127 when he says “The Brazilian urge to dress up—which turns football in to carnivalesque blocks of color—seems to be particularly powerful because beneath the clothes there are few countries as racially diverse or socially unequal.” By uniting together for their team, they can, if only for that game, ‘forget their violent differences that mark day-to-day life” (127). This drives home the point from the first chapter of the utter despair felt when it was all over for them, when they lost the game, their moments of unity had ended.

    The second reading on Venezuelan Telenovas was quite interesting. Although they are similar to typical American ‘soap operas,’ they have much more cultural significance in Latin America then they would to the average American. By intending to represent everyday life in Latin America, they attempt to emphasize the importance of the ordinary and bridge the contemporary worlds of the rich and the poor.

    Telenovas have branched off in to different types, including historical and political ones that focus on economic and political situations in the country that instigated public interest and debate. The author focuses particularly on one Venezuelan telenova, Por Estas Calles, that went so far as to ‘threaten the political life’ of the country by bringing up controversial issues that got the public talking.

    Popular culture as mass culture

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    I think that in the first reading Bellos explains different aspects of the Brazilian culture that are somehow related to soccer. I enjoy the reading even though it was really long. It was very easy to understand and interesting at the same time. I like how the author uses different examples of fans, and players to show things that we have discussed in class; like the need to feel associate with more people creating aspect of popular culture (fans dressing up and supporting the teams). I found very interesting on page 127 how through the carnivalesque uniforms people in Brazil try to deny racial and class differences. I think that just as murals in Mexico, and soup operas in Venezuela people are always trying a way to create change in order to integrate the “different” groups of each society.
    I liked the part on page 122 where the author writes about Joe Radio and Dona Miriquinha and how they are considered role models but if it was England they would be seen as “eccentric”. I think that these people are like “magical realism” because it gives people the illusion and happiness that is needed to carry on with their lives.
    I liked the second reading as well. I think that it pretty interesting how “por estas calles” started as a new project showing the reality of Venezuela and it the end it changed and lost it force. I used to get really upset when people were discussing soup operas in Mexico instead of discussion other issues that I consider more important. I thought that the government wanted people busy with the soup opera´s reality instead of seeing their own reality with problems. After reading the article I felt that soup operas create some sort of illusion that make people have hope that eventually their lives will change for better as the live of the protagonist of the soup opera.

    Latin Store

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    In case someone is interested here is the store I talked about website, they are located on 3317 Kingsway. The address is on their website.


    Comments Off on Transculturation

    I found this weeks readings a good follow up to Vasconcelos and Wade’s discussion on mestizo. From the readings of Ortiz I found out the limitations of how this term can be used and discussed in certain contexts and how it can be expanded to encompass other subjects. I believed that it is the the natural coming together of people and how it comes out. Vasconcelos believes this leads to a superior mixed race, and Wade thinks it serves a function for displacement and identity questioning.

    Ortiz challenges Vasconelos and Wades arguments. Mestizaje according to Ortiz seems to be too narrow of a concept. It does not encompasses economic, social and political processes which allow for some societal traits to be above others, despite including the simple racial mixture. Instead of assimilating the natives to the conquistadors and creating a ‘cosmic race’, instead its about learning how each culture could contribute to one another’s cultures and allow all parties to be in the mixture. Ortiz uses the term of ‘transculturation’ rather than the more commonly know ‘acculturation’. He talks about how this term can encapsulate different complexities of ‘transmutation of culture’ such as class; both economic and social, religion, ethics, art, language, ideology, sexuality and other parts of life.

    The two article by Cornejo Polar were very good at explaining how cultural representations are influenced by artistic works of other cultures. Written works of indegenismo which have a European aspect to them by being in prose that describes the native culture.

    Millington emphasises the point that trans-culturation is better to the acculturation term. She describes acculturation as referring to a cultural take over as opposed to an mixing or a slow process that influences opposing cultures. Millington goes on to talk about written works that support the thought of the effectiveness of this term. The specific example from Neil Larsen is that transculturation allows for a more equitable cultural influence, performing as a illusion solution that does not deal with the issues of ‘social duality’. While this seems to be true to an extent, it is not completely black or white. I see the this as some sort of quick fix rather than dealing with the real issues that have implications in Latin America.


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    The readings of this week end enabled me to go deeper in the notion of mestisaje.

    I like the way the first text by Ortiz puts a distinction between the terms « acculturation » and « transculturation ». Acculturation means to acquire a new culture, it is « the process of transition from one culture to another ». For Ortiz, transculturation means both to acquire a new culture and to lose another one, be uprooted from another one (deculturation). Transculturation means to lose a part of its culture, to take a part of another one but also the creation of something new so it is a general process of transformation. However, Ortiz emphasizes the fact that in Cuba some people like the Indian people didn’t have this transition and their culture and institutions have been totally destroyed. This text shows that mestisaje could imply a part of violence and oppression: people have to forget their traditions and customs and have to be assimilated. This violent vision of mestisaje is totally opposed to the « romantic » one of Vasconcelos in his text about the cosmic race. Mestisaje is not always the fruit of the peaceful alliance between two cultures but could be the erase of one particular culture in the benefice to another one. In mestisaje, there is a relation of « dominant-dominated »: one culture always prevails on one another. In his text about indigenismo, Cornejo Polar shows that even in literature, there are some cultural cods. Indigenismo is a type of literature focusing on folk: indigenous myths, legends. However, Cornejo Polar asserts that these texts are written to fit to non-indigenous culture. « It is still a mestizo literature ». « If an indigenous literature must come, it will come in due time, when the Indians themselves are able to produce it ». The real indigenous culture is based on oral storytelling or dance, or they use a graphic language. But on the other hand, this kind kind of literature is also a way to resist. It’s a way to prove that the Spanish didn’t destroy all the indigenous culture which still remains. One could analyze mestisaje and transculturation as the domination of one part on another one: the dominant culture on the indigenous one, but even if the dominated culture is minimized, it is still part of the mix and still exists.


    Comments Off on Transculturation.

    This weeks articles explored the terms and associated meanings of transculturation. In the first article by Ortiz we learn of his ideas regarding the terms acculturation and transculutation and that he feels the latter is more appropriate or fitting. He states that the word ‘acculturation’ describes “the process of transition from one culture to another…” Arguing that transculturation as a term is more fitting. In his study he looks at Cuba because of its complex and extremely diverse cultures and “transmutations of culture” that have taken place there. He puts forward the idea of Cuba being similar to a mother and father having children together, the resulting child has similarities to both parents but is ultimately something new. Transculturation is defined throughout as the process from one culture to another.

    Antonio Conejo Polar gives us another point of view regarding types of literature in Latin America. He specifically talks of the heterogeneous and homogenous literature and indigenismo literature. I found this second article a bit harder to get into, and I look forward to talking about it in class.

    The third reading by Mark Millington examines and analyzes the arguments presented in Ortiz’s ‘Contrapunteo Cubano’. I think Millington does make good points and arguments against Ortiz’s (maybe too positive) outlook on transculturation. The idea that culture is like two people procreating making something new may be too simple. The idea that a culture can just change easily like that and it is not always a nice positive creation in the end.

    Theories of mixture II: transculturation

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    After reading Vasconcelos and Wade’s discussions on mestizaje, this weeks readings presented an interesting follow up regarding the limitations of certain terms when discussing this topic of cultural and racial mixture. Mestizaje seems to talk about an almost natural process of people coming together and how it plays out. In Vasconcelos opinion, this leads to the creation of a superior race, and in Wade’s it serves as a platform for misplacement and questions of identity.

    The readings this week challenge some of what these authors are saying. Mestizaje seems to be too narrow a concept. Although it represents much more than a simple racial mixture, it does not delve deep enough in to the economic, social and political processes which allow for some societal traits to triumph others. As well, unlike ‘the cosmic race,’ where when the conquistadors succeed in assimilating the native cultures the new race is complete, transculturation acknowledges the contributions of all parties involved in mixture.

    The first article by Ortiz explains why the use of ‘transculturation’ is used rather than the commonly known term ‘acculturation.” On page 98, Ortiz explains that ‘acculturation is used to describe the process of transition from one culture to another, and its manifold social repercussions.” Ortiz then goes on to describe that ‘transculturation is a more suitable term as it has the ability to encompass more of the complex ‘transmutations of culture’ such as “in the economic or in the institutional, legal, ethical, religious, artistic, linguistic, psychological, sexual, or other aspects of life” (Page 98).

    Ortiz uses Cuba as an example for this as the coming together of so many diverse groups on the island, the survival of some, and demise of others, has lead to the “problem of disadjustmment and readjustment, of deculturation and acculturation—in a world of transculturation.” (Page 98). Ortiz talks of not only the various economies and political systems (or lack thereof) influencing this process of transculturation, but also the manner in which the groups came to the island influencing how they influenced or were affected by transculturation.

    Most interesting to me was when Ortiz talked of the ‘white men’ from European countries who “brought with them a feudal economy, conquerors in search of loot and peoples to subjugate and make serfs of” (Page 100). Although they came with these lavish intentions, they weren’t necessarily coming from a similar hierarchal status. Ortiz describes these men as having “left their native lands ragged and penniless and arrived as lords and masters” (Page 100). They had visions of power and wealth that they may not have had back in their homeland. Hence, these ‘white men’ had a thirst for domination and power that has carved in to the history of Latin America.

    On the reverse side of the spectrum, Ortiz describes the Africans brought in to the country as slaves, ‘socially equalized by the same system of slavery’ (Page 101). Thrown on to ships while soundlessly being assigned their position in the new world, the Africans may not have been allowed their ‘institutions or implements’ but they did bring with them ‘their bodies and souls’ (Page 101). Although the African people were subordinated their culture did and still does leave an imprint on what is Cuban culture. This past summer I went to Cuba and witnessed an all day celebration of ‘Santeria’ in the streets of Havana. Santeria is a good representation of the combination of cultures, as the religion itself is a fusion of the Catholic church and the African’s own God’s, a necessary combination so its presence would be allowed. Transculturation is an appropriate term as it doesn’t involve the loss of one culture in exchange for that of another. All parties involved have an influence on one another’s lives.

    I chose to focus predominantly on the first article, however, the following two articles were great supplementary readings. The two articles by Cornejo Polar was excellent, especially in pointing out how cultural representations are influenced by artistic works of other cultures. Such as in the written works of indigenismo which have a European flare by being executed in similar written prose while describing indigenous culture.

    The last article by Millington drove home the point that trans-culturation is superior to acculturation, describing ‘acculturation’ as referring to cultural take-over which is too definite a process and undermines the influences cultures have over one another regardless of power position. For balance, Millington does use literature which argues the effectiveness of this term. In an excerpt from author Neil Larsen, the point is brought up that ‘transculturation’ seems to present some sort of fairness of cultural influence, acting as a ‘false solution to the underlying problem of social duality” (Page 266). While this is valid to some extent, I think he is giving too much credit to the term, I see it more as being explanatory then some sort of cure (or band-aid as he would describe).

    Theories of Mixture II: Transculturation

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    The first article by Ortiz is a fantastic overview of how Cuba has morphed, rather dramatically, into the country it has become today. He discusses how Cuba experienced so much change is such a small amount of time by stating “The whole Gamut of culture run by Europe in a span of more than four millenniums took place in Cuba in less than four centuries” (Pg. 99). An intrinsic throughout all this change was the idea of Transculturation. This term is used to describe the extremely complex transmutations that have taken place in Cuba with regards to culture, economics, institutions, legal, ethical, religious, artistic, linguistic, psychological, sexual, and numerous other aspects of life. Cuba is so unique because it was settled by people from all over Europe and Africa intertwined by the Indians that were already there. The result has been a culture that is truly unique and reflective of all the different backgrounds involved. Ortiz sums it up perfectly near the end of the article “…the result of every union of cultures is similar to that of the reproductive process between individuals: the offspring always has something of both parents but is always different from each of them” (Pg. 103). I enjoyed this article, it was an excellent read and provided me with a great synopsis of how Cuba has come to be such a unique and diverse nation.

    The second article was much different than the first, In Polar”s Indidgenismo and Heterogeneous Literatures: Their Double Sociocultural statute, the idea of universal (or National) literature is discussed. This article was much more complex and I must admit, I am not 100% sure if I have a complete understanding of its thesis but I will give it a try. Polar uses the term Indigenismo as a sort of literary Mestizaje. The term Indigenismo is a mixture of indigenous literature (or oral literature) and Mestizo literature, or in Polar’s terms, literature’s that are situated in conflicting crossings between two societies and two cultures. He then moves on to discuss Heterogeneity and how it has effected Latin American literature. What I was able to gather from the article is that even though literature was created in Latin America by either indigenous or mestizo people, it often was written in a way that the European elite would best understand.  He describes this on page 106 “Although written about the Indies, the chronicles nevertheless are realized when they manage to captivate the metropolitan reader. The fact that the almost unanimously appeal to the king, or to other instances of peninsular power, is a courtesan gesture, but also more profoundly, it is a sign of a system of communication that prevails in the chroniclers’ statements: the King or the metropolis is their reader”. I think what Polar is getting at is that these chronicles and literature were written for different reasons (he talks about the referent), and it is wrong to condemn them and say they are not genuine Indigenismo literature, because it is a true representation of where Latin America was heading, to a Mestizaje perspective and those writing reflected that. I may have missed some other key points but this is the best I could do to try and articulate my understanding of the essay. I look forward to hearing some feedback in class.


    Comments Off on Transculturation

    For this weeks reading, I found that Ortiz’s version of Mestizaje seems to be more “down to earth” than the romantic version that we analyzed earlier by Vasconcelos. In his essay, Ortiz presents the term transculturation, as the gaining of cultural aspects by mixing different points of view from several cultures, however he acknowledges that in the process of mixing there are elements that will be lost. Furthermore, unlike – in my opinion – Rowe and Schelling, and of course Vasconcelos, Ortiz recognizes openly that the process of transculturation can be a hard process to undergo, and that it can be painful. In my opinion this concept of transculturaion seems to be very relevant in today’s society, where due to the spread of telecommunications technology we are seeing an unprecedented exchange of ideas from almost every corner in the world. Unlike the Cuban case where people had to be physically put together in a place, today’s transculturation occurs electronically. Should this be a matter of concern?

    Well, we have seen that it is extremely hard to judge good from bad culture altogether. However, it is safe to say that not all the exchange of ideas over the net is a healthy practice, especially when it comes to material that relates to hate, pornography, among others. Thus we can say that in today’s process of transculturation there is still a struggle between different groups of people. Now, I would like to propose something, could we say that this practice of ‘blogging’ may be considered as ‘global’ popular culture, or texting, or e-mail, facebooking, etc?

    With regards to Cornejo Polar’s concept of Indigenismo, I am not entirely sure I got his point. I think he was trying to explain the importance of keeping indigenous works with their background and culture, as if they are detached from these aspects they cannot be fully understood. If this is what he was going for, then I have to admit that he makes an interesting point, when reading a book is always good to know who the author was when and where he/she lived, and also what sort of life he/she had? If we take oral narratives out of their context and simply transcribe them into a book they may lose their ‘essence’ and thus become ‘fake.’ I am not too sure, I’ll have to re-read this article at some point :P

    I’m out

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