Monday, January 26, 2009

The Faces of popular culture

When I entered this class I sported a very limited amount of knowledge about Latin American Culture and I can honestly say that this article has helped immensely. I enjoyed the article, some areas lost me a bit, like the part about theatrical performances but in all it was a very interesting and informative article.
Due to the sheer size of this piece I will highlight some topics that i feel were integral such as the influence of the Spaniards on popular culture. Although the colonial Spaniards tried to wipe out many of the natives' Religious customs and traditions, and attempted to replace them with Catholicism it is interesting that many of those customs and traditions have survived. "Popular Catholicism in rural Latin America tends to be combination of native pre-Columbian elements, Spanish popular Catholicism of the sixteenth century and the teachings of the official church" (Rowe and Shelling, Pg. 68). These ancient native traditions have been kept alive through oral teachings, art, and even theatrical performances. It is amazing to me that even though the Natives in Latin America were froced to adopt Catholicism and disregard their own Gods, the people were able to somewhat salvage a significant chunk of their traditions religious practices.
Another important aspect of the article is the focus on a flow of population between rural and urban settings. With 60-70% of the population in Latin America now living in cities there has been a shift identity and culture of the people. "To see the city as a corrupting and contaminating force, in opposition to a pure and authentic culture rooted in the rural areas is to indulge in nostalgia" (Rowe and Shelling, Pg. 97).  With such a massive flow of population from the rural areas of Latin America to modern urbanization, popular culture in Latin America is now revolved around city living, with elements such as mass media being able to reach all the way into rural areas as well. 
Lastly, being a sports fan I found it ironic that while the British first brought soccer to Latin America, most notably Brazil, now the Brazilians are the best soccer players in the world and constantly beat the British at their own game. Soccer is a game that can be played by anyone, regardless of socio-economic status, and often its the poorer nations in the world that have the strongest soccer players.
All in all, it was a very fun and informative article that provides a great look at the faces of popular culture in Latin America both over the past 400 years and up until the present day. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

The People

Eva Peron's "My Message" was an amazing essay! I thought it was passionate, insightful, real, and surprisingly easy to follow. She talked about fanaticism for the people and her country and I believe no one could be more fanatic about her people, her country, and most importantly about Peron, then Evita herself. She heralded her husband for being a servant of the people when he didn't have to, as he was born into the Oligarchy and a life of wealth and status. My perspective of  of Evita's political ideology is somewhere between communist and liberal socialist, although I would lean toward the latter. She talks about how the people are both entitled and honored by being "workers" and that there shall only be one class of citizens. For the most part, I found this essay to be an interesting read, Evita is an extremely strong woman no doubt, and it shows in her writing. I also really enjoyed her section on religion and agree that "religion should never be an instrument of oppression for the people" (Peron, Pg. 77). Unfortunately we see that religion is far too often the root of oppression for people all across the globe both in the present day and the past. 
On the other end of the spectrum is "A celebration of the monster", what's the deal with this article? It's like trainspotting the essay, just a random, seemingly drug induced assortment of thoughts put together to make sentences. OR...I completely missed some sort of abstract way of describing some type of bus driver, a monster and, a letter to Nelly? Also, I definitely gathered that it was an Argentinian based story but it sure to have many hints of Italian throughout the article as well. Maybe I will figure all this out in class after some people much smarter than me dissect it in great detail. I can only hope because I am left very confused after attempting to read this one.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Hey class! My name is Javier and I joined class a little late but better late than never!! I am excited to learn about Latin American culture as I have some ties to that area of the world with my family originally being from Cuba. I am new to this blogging world so go easy on me at the start! Look forward to a fun semester!


I had a little technical difficulty with posting the first week's responses so I had to break the two articles up this week. In response to the Keesing article, I agree with the theme of his argument that "culture" is very complex and cannot be conceptualized as anthropologists have for years as a widespread reified entity. Culture is abstract not concrete. It is more than just art, music, language, and food. I do agree with the idea of Culture having a history likened to a coral reef, the core is constantly morphing in small almost invisible ways but it is in continuous change and all those subtle changes work to shape the true identity of that culture. 
I liked the section of the article (Pg. 7) that discussed how outsiders who are trying to study a culture are often viewed as villains because they try and understand customs and traditions that are not inherent to them, often misrepresenting the people they study. I often watch documentaries on certain cultures and feel like I have no idea what it would be like to be a part of that culture. In turn, it makes it hard for me to truly understand what that culture is really all about. 
Keesing concludes his article by saying that he is not arguing for a "concept of culture that takes paintings to be more cultural than cookbooks or umbrellas..." (Keesing, Pg. 11) and goes on to state that "...what anthropologists and other social theorists need is a concept of the cultural that adequately characterizes both complex modern ways of life and those of small-scale communities, past, and present" (Keesing, Pg. 11). Keesing feels that the reification of culture causes problems because the whole is not the sum of its part with regards to cultural studies. We must look further into roots of the entire society to truly understand what that culture is all about. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

span404-What is Culture? Williams

Williams- "A culture is common meanings, the product of a whole people, and offered individual meanings, the product of a man's whole committed personal and social experience" (Williams, Pg. 15). Williams argues that culture is indeed very ordinary due to the way in which it is taken for granted by people. He discusses how Marxism argues culture is dying and the masses are ignorant, influenced by the development of the industrial state and how it "deliberately cheapens our human responses, making art and literature into desperate survivors..." (Williams, Pg. 16). Despite being a member of the communist party for a year and a half, Williams rejects how Marxism views society and insists that the essence of culture lies within its people. He also notes how culture is constantly changing and evolving as people change and evolve. In Williams' rural homeland he sees a powerful sense of culture with a strong democratic ideology, one that has not yet been encapsulated by the capitalist doctrine. Personally I do agree with most of Williams' arguments although I found the article a little disjointed at times. Maybe that i just me not understanding the writing completely but after finishing the essay I do definitely get a sense of exactly the direction Williams is heading in. He feels the industrial revolution is thought of as a culture-vulture but in fact culture lies within the people, and those people are still strongly connected to the arts and other characteristics of a vibrant culture.