Monday, March 30, 2009

Marcos and J-Lo do the salsa

I really enjoyed the readings this week, especially the first two! I find that when some sort of story is being told, I have a much easier time following along. The first article is a short and concise essay about Marcos and the Zapatistas (indigenous rebels) from Mexico. This is a fascinating situation where a leader of a rebel army and potential future president of a nation, is thrust into an international spotlight largely due to the suspense of hiding his true identity behind a balaclava or ski-mask. "el Sup" as he came to be known, used the media like it was a stage to create a buzz throughout the entire world that grew into erotic and cult-like following. However, as time wore on, the love affair with Marcos and the Zapatistas faded away and they were never really true contenders to take control of the Mexican government, in fact, "the day President Zedillo disclosed Marcos's identity on national television, no one even batted an eye" (Pg. 228). Interesting read, I would have never guessed that the world would have become so enamoured with a smooth talking masked man from Mexico but it happened and it is an interesting situation to reflect upon.
The second article is about Jennifer Lopez's voluptuous body so naturally it was not a difficult read for me. The author Mary Beltran argues that J-Lo's attitude towards her body and how it was received in the United States created a new role for Latina crossover actresses. In the past, Latinas were typecast into certain roles that were rigid and secondary in regards to the plot. J-Lo bucked that trend by not only being a short curvy actress in a streamline world, but also by stepping into lead roles that Latinas had rarely ventured in the past. her success led to an almost obsession with her body and was "indicative of larger changes in the cultural landscape" (Pg. 83). There is no question that J-Lo's "crossover butt" was a big deal in the late 90's and was a huge influence on future notions of appearance in Hollywood.
The last article by Patria Roman-Valazquez talks about how the performance of Salsa can provide a lot of insight into how Latin American pop culture is becoming blurred throughout the world. As more and more non-Latin people engage in traditional salsa practices, a new identity for the music is being born. One that has a unique touch on tradition salsa performances and shows that even if non-Latin people engage in this type of music, they can articulate the true meaning of Salsa through they way in which they move their body, not by where in the world the dance is taking place. In a globalized world, even certain dances are becoming transient and this article does a nice job of showing how salsa has made its way to London and is being enjoyed by people from all over the planet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Telenovelas and Futbol

In this response I want to switch it up and talk about the second article first "Big Snakes on the Streets and Never Ending Stories: The Case of Venezuelan Telenovelas" by Nelson Hyppolyte Ortega. In this article, Ortega talks about the telenovela phenomenon that is so central in Latin American popular culture and how it has evolved over the years. He talks about how the radio novelas that were prevalent in the early 1900's were most likely the historical ancestor to the modern day telenovela. One aspect of the essay that I found intriguing is how Ortega compares soap operas and tlenovelas saying that soap operas are for entertainment and represent the upper class, while the telenovela's "mission is show reality and to teach about the affective, social, and political problems of contemporary society" (Pg. 65), while appealing more to the working class. The article focuses a great deal on one specific telenovela called Por estas Calles and its direct influence on Venezuelan Culture. This particular telenovela uses plots that are based on actual issues within the country, or as Ortega puts it "successfully exposed the national reality" (Pg. 72) such as scandals, corruption, drug trafficking, and money laundering etc. It has been heavily criticized by many scholars because of how real it is and how it can often depict powerful people within the country in such a negative manor. For example, there was an episode that had a a metropolitan police officer rented his revolver to certain delinquents in exchange for drugs. This telenovela is a great example of how the public consciousness has changed throughout the years in Venezuela. Overall, it was an interesting read and had some person elements for me because my Abuelita loves telenovelas and is hooked on them watching everyday.
In Alex Bellos' article Futbol: The Brazilian Way of Life, all that is football in Brazil is discussed. I have always known that football was a big deal in Brazil but I had no idea just how big! It is larger than life in that nation and this essay does a fantastic job of depicting that reality. The article focuses largely on the 1950 world cup that Brazil hosted and were favorites to win. They built the worlds largest stadium called the Maracana that could hold an excess of 180,000 people and the entire nation was envisioning watching their home squad capture the world cup on home soil. In the end they came up short, losing to there neighbours the Uruguayans by a score of 2-1. Some people were said to have jumped off the second story balcony to there death due to the outcome of the game. Bellos does an excellent job of relaying the feelings and emotions of the people after the loss, basically stating complete disbelief. The people even spread the rumours that team Uruguay "used the tactical system of Sao Goncalo's Carioca" (Pg. 44), a former Brazilian coach and a Brazilian style of play. This was a very long essay that tackles many different issues pertaining to Brazilian football, but one issue that really stood out for me was that of racist discrimination. All the scapegoats of the 1950 Brazilian football team were Black including Barbosa, the goalkeeper that let in the decisive goal. "Barbosa suffered most. Journalists voted him best goalkeeper of the 1950 world cup, yet he only played once more for the national team" (Pg. 56). It is amazing to me that a nation is so passionate about a sport that they could completely ostracize a player simply based on a performance in a game. One thing I know for sure is that the pressure on those players must be incredible and it is both a blessing and a curse to suit up for the Brazilian national team. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Theories of Mixture II: Transculturation

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.  

Monday, March 2, 2009

Folk Culture And Modernity

I found the first article an interesting read for about the first 40 pages or so, then I began to fade away. In his essay, Mexican Murals in times of crisis, Bruce Campbell gives a well rounded synopsis of both the creation and demise of Mexican Muralism. As he states, "Mural painting was a pre-Columbian practice (Pg. 13), with its roots in the Aztec and Mayan empires. Over the years Mexican Muralism grew to be an artistic method for telling a story or more importantly, displaying political defiance. After the Mexican Revolution ended in 1920, highlighted by the "tres Grande" (Diego Rivera, Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco), Mexican Muralism became increasingly Political in an attempt to represent the working class or Campesinos. Throughout the article, Campbell discusses how over the next 60 years or so, Mexican Muralism has gone from a thriving powerful art form to being all but wiped out by the government. Campbell talks about the idea of public space and how it was contested for by activist Muralist and the government. For a number of years Murals were the primary platform for the working class to display their feelings about society and the government and they were heralded as masterful pieces of art, more than just graffiti. But almost all of the Murals have either been destroyed or painted over for advertising or political campaigns etc. Campbell describes these Murals as being a way for the people to convey Folk culture through Art within the public sphere. Overall it was an interesting read that gives a great deal of background info on Mexico and a great deal about the political evolution of the country over the past 100 years or so.
The second article, The Spirit Queens Court by Michael Taussig, was a battle. I tried, I tried like hell to figure out what was going on in this story. There were mystical aspects, Historical aspects (Lenin was mentioned early on), Political aspects, Indigenous aspects and religious aspects. The only problem is I have no idea how they all are intertwined. I think I will have to do the same thing I did with the Borges article when I first read it, try and figure it all out during our class discussion because I am lost. I am disappointed in myself because I think the writing is beautiful but I simply cannot comprehend what it all means. Adios!