Latin America in Hollywood Film

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Latin America in Hollywood Film: 

Latin America in Hollywood Film Lessons about our Neighbors

Angharad N. ValdiviaInstitute of Communications ResearchUniversity of Illinois, CU: 

Angharad N. Valdivia Institute of Communications Research University of Illinois, CU Media Studies Latin American and Caribbean Studies Latina/o Studies Gender and Women Studies Unit for Interpretive Criticism

Analytical framework: 

Analytical framework Looking at the mainstream Long history of representations 'Representation' over 'image' Differentiation or flattening? Issues of gender, ethnicity, class, generation, and location


Representations Re-present, not reflect/mirror About content and signification What is and not there In relation and difference to each other Does not tell about effect or interpretation though there are dominant themes

Practical strategies: 

Practical strategies Ask yourself, would that make sense/be funny/be sad if it were a US person/man Elements of scene, including music, setting, dialogue, costumes, action What is it quoting [to you as a member of this culture] Relationality, explicit or implicit

Latin America: 

Latin America Close enough to be familiar Far enough to be foreign/other Close enough to be within US sphere of influence Far enough to have its own politics

Latin America in film: 

Latin America in film Mostly a flattening of difference [anything south of the border melts into similar otherness] Land of indigenous and brown Land of political instability, disorder, revolution [banana republics]

Latin America [cont.]: 

Latin America [cont.] Land of feminized otherness [to be conquered] Less civilized, traditional in relation to our modernity Source of raw materials, market for our products

Competing discourses: 

Competing discourses Similar to how rest of world is treated in film but with its own themes Overlap with Latina/o Studies The tropicalist discourse The traditional Mexican discourse Many times these conflated


Tropicalism Assigning tropical traces to South of the Border peoples, locations, cultural forms Combustible/fire, fuchsia/yellow palette, tropical background music [salsa, drums], people in heat and frantic movement Traced to any LA location Contemporary assimilationist

Traditional Mexican: 

Traditional Mexican Though Mexican inflected, traced to any LA location Larger, poorer families Different, brown and orange, color palette Slow movement, near stasis Ranchera, mariachi music


Gender Tons of great work, Ana Lopez, Rosa Linda Fregoso and new book called 'From Bananas to Buttocks' by Myra Mendible Latin American women pose a double threat, sexual and racial dark lady, spitfire, or self abnegated/virginal; in relation to Roman Catholicism

More on Gender: 

More on Gender Also bleeding into U.S. Latina/o; in fact many can’t differentiate [Valdivia and Molina Guzman] The whole region is gendered feminine in relation to the masculine power of U.S. and industrialized West Not just women but men [machismo]

Race and ethnicity: 

Race and ethnicity Location of racial otherness Usually the Brown race with implicit whiteness of the Spanish and dark brown of the indigenous Sometimes acknowledged Blackness Seldom including whiteness

Common themes: 

Common themes Romance, the class and ethnic twist War, a land of disorder and tendencies toward authoritarianism Economic disarray, rampant poverty and extremely uneven distribution of wealth Production of raw materials; from bananas to cocaine Myth of discovery Our modern culture superior to their uncivilized nature

Themes in relation to our concerns: 

Themes in relation to our concerns Good Neighbors during 40s Cold war Drug war Terrorism and immigration

Resulting film themes: 

Resulting film themes A place to stamp out communism and bring democracy Original location of drug trade Source of terrorism Rampant poverty and political instability leads to illegal migration to U.S.

Contemporary gender: 

Contemporary gender Women as part of drug trade Women as bearers of illegal migration [they are the ones who reproduce] Men ruthless machistas; masculinity [in relation to both drug trade and terrorism]


Implications Critical reading leads to forms of global citizenship Some themes can be applied to other global regions More lessons about ourselves than them Becomes part of a way we interpret the world and ourselves

More implications: 

More implications Justifies US dominance in the hemisphere Either when happy natives are tamed [because they want it] or unruly ones are tamed [that they don’t want the taming justifies it all the more] the end result is still our superior status to tame others Since these films circulate globally, including in Latin America, they generate interpretive communities

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