Today we begin with an exploration of the overarching conceptualizations around Latina/o/x categories. We read a few scholars from A Companion to Latina/o Studies, whose conceptions included definitions and examples. Writing in 2017 (and maybe even before that), the work of Frances Aparicio and Edna Acosta Belén could be thought of as outdated. However, it is important to note that Latina/o/x histories and definitions are constantly evolving. Let’s go over some of the approaches that each scholar engaged in, before we attempt to update their thinking.
Currently, Aparicio is a Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and the Director of the Latina and Latino Studies Program at Northwestern University.
- What else can be said about Aparicio that she provides in the reading?
Similar to the approach taken in this course, Aparicio describes Latina/o(s) as: heterogeneous, full of complexities, based on experiences and power dynamics, informed by distinct categories, including nationality.
- What are the geographic areas she mentions? Where does she locate her analysis?
She proposes there are a variety of hybrid identities and intersections within which Latina/o identities need to be understood: “between notions of self and the constructions imposed from the outside” (Aparicio 40).
- Can you recall a few of the examples she provides? Who are the subjects she uses as evidence? Which are the differences she points to between them?
Aparicio also notes how there are elements of socioeconomic status and class informing conceptions of Latina/o communities.
As she indicates, “[t]he term ‘Latino’ carries with it internal semantic tensions that reflect the multiple sites from which it has emerged” (42). She notes the tendency of lumping various nationalities, and the distinction between Latina/o and Latin American.
Her main argument, and one of the subjects she is most known for is the concept of an”interlatino subject,” similar to a “domestic transnationalism” based on relational identifications in specific contexts, “rather than in the linear ways in which we tend to think about national awareness or cultural reaffirmation” (45). Of course, these are not without their conflict, such as interlatino racializations, where groups are integrated or differentiated based on “factors such as the power and visibility of each group in relation to the others, or the mainstream acceptance of some identities over others” (46). Ultimately, these tensions are informed by the connections, or lack thereof, with mainstream Anglo American, or dominant mainstream culture, which is why she prefers the location of Latina/o definition to be in unification/hybridity.
Edna Acosta Belén
Once again, there is an attention to the difference between self-identification and imposition of labels from outside, in this case the US government. Acosta Belén refers to the lumping of nationalities under Latina/o as promoting homogeneity. The issue of the “melting pot” is now taking a different view than that proposed in Aparicio.
- What is the difference between the two?
The tension in this text is mostly focused on that of the Anglo American mainstream culture, and that of other “disenfranchised minorities” or “ethnoracial minorities” (Acosta Belén 78). Acosta Belén argues that it is through social consciousness about a subaltern condition and “their creative imagination, [that] Latina/o writers and artists assert their differences and reveal an awareness of their role as collective voices of a particular community, and as the bearers of survival and resistance struggles against the forces of racism and cultural obliteration” (79). Thus, she historicises a panethnic latinidad, especially in regards to cultural expression.
- She starts with the 1800s push-back against Spanish domination as the birth of Latin America, and refers to Antillean separatist movements/émigrés taking place in the United States. One of the major figures in this history is José Martí, and his conception of “nuestra America” and the cultural production she surveys here are newspapers.
- Early in the 1900s, she traces unified fronts in activism for workers and cultural organizations in the Northeast and Southwest of the US. Once again she traces newspapers, but she adds how the exile of Spaniards prompted the promotion of hispanismo through the Revista de Artes y Letras.
- The last historical period she surveys is the civil rights era, and she claims that the “specific struggles and accomplishments of different Latina/o groups in this movement” are yet to be documented (82). She provides the examples of Teatro Campesino and Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
In addition to newspapers, poetry, and theater, Acosta Belén notes the bildungsroman literary genre as a particular venue for Latina/o artists to assert their identities and experiences.
- Any examples you identified in her list of authors?
Particularly relevant for this course, she mentioned the work of Latina feminists who proposed the framework of “women of color” feminism. Of course, we will be addressing these in more detail later.
To close, she noted other cultural expressions such as music and visual art, and also noted that the homogenizing lumping together of Latin(o) artists is a marketing strategy.
- Can you point to similar themes between Frances Aparicio and Edna Acosta Belén’s definitions of Latina/o?