Body Reflections in Latin Moon in Manhattan (Repost)

In the text we have encountered we have read about some sort of disfigurement of the body, where it is missing parts and renders it as an incomplete form. This disfigurement could be color of the skin or a person that was born with malformed or absent limbs. Where does this vision of imperfect or perfect body stem from in the Latino culture?

In Hunger of Memory, I saw that he dedicated a whole chapter to his skin and how his brownness affected the way he viewed himself in the public sphere of the education system. Richard Rodriquez notes that the color of his skin affects how he fits into different social worlds and writes that his skin color is a marker for his “mexicaness.” I got the feeling that he would have preferred to be more like his parents and siblings ambiguous as to to origins of their skin tone whereas his skin tone was directly associated to Mexico. In a way he saw this a deformity in that he could not be just known for his academic success but as an academic of color.

An extreme form of deformity in the play by Cherrie Moraga, Heroes and Saints, where we see the most powerful character have such a severe deformity that only her head is described in the play. The incomplete body is a product of the pesticides that affected the community of farm workers and was caused by the white land owners and their free use of harmful chemicals on the crops. In both cases, it is seen as a disfigurement because they do not fit the dominant white cultures form of beauty and this in ability to fit in physically can take the symbolic figure of an incomplete body.

In Latin Moon in Manhattan, Santiago describes a scene in a courtroom, where he is interpreting for a disabled young women who has a child with no extremities below the waist, which means that her son was born with no penis or definite orifice for his excrement. When the child is seen by the judge the mother has to explain why her child is the way he is:

“Fridania ran her fingers through her son’s black silky curls. “When Claus was born,” she began, “he weighed four pounds; he had a bump on his back the size of a grapefruit and …” She paused; this part was obviously very painful to her. “He was born without a penis. So the doctors told me it would be easier to turn him into a girl than to make a penis for him. They said I should raise him as a girl.” “Why didn’t you?” Warpick asked. “Why didn’t you follow the doctors’ advice?” Fridania slapped the table; Claus imitated her. “Because if God had wanted Claus to be a girl, he would have made him a girl.” “I’m a boy,” Claus shouted. “A boy, not a girl. Isn’t that right, Mommy?” “Sí, Clauscito,” his mother reassured him. Then she continued. “The worst part is that because he was born without a penis, his urine and excrement come from the same place.”

Manrique, Jaime (2003-05-01). Latin Moon in Manhattan: A Novel (Kindle Locations 2659-2668). University of Wisconsin Press. Kindle Edition.

Santiago is observing this from the sidelines as he watches as this invalid mother explains that the doctors wanted her son to be raised as a woman but GOD made him that way so she would not treat his son as a woman. I see this a direct reflection of what Santiago has to deal with when his mother insist he carries out a hetero-normative life opposed to living his life as a homosexual. Santiago even faces this pressure from his lesbian cousin who is willing to marry him all for the sake of fulfilling the expectations of the family and of their culture.

In the Latino community I see this grappling of how we view our bodies vs the mirror of society and how self acceptance is usually later in life after there is a realization that we will never fit in and will always be seen as having a queer body. Santiago attends a school where the boys have circumcised penises and when he sees that his is different, he tries to remedy the situation by trying to circumcise himself which results in a lot of pain for him. The boy in the courtroom is a representation of how Santiago feels in his life almost as he doesn’t have a penis because he doesn’t engage in sex during the book, except with a donkey and then with his hunky German neighbor. That self image is very prevalent in the text in that Santiago does a lot of self reflection of how his body looks like and how bobby’s body looked like after it was ravaged by HIV/AIDS. I see that there is a queerness as to how Manrique portrays the body in the novel.

The Marco Rubio phenomenon: Will Latin@s become the new “model minority” project?

Even before Election Night 2012 had come to an end, Republican strategists were already murmuring about Florida Senator (R) Marco Rubio as a strategically-wise future presidential candidate (he’d been considered as a potential Romney running mate, but Paul Ryan ultimately got the gig). The fact that white Americans represent only 63% of the United States’ population today and will lose their majority status by 2040 was reiterated by Harvest of Empire; white supremacists (whether they admit to that title or not) are squirming in their seats about this inevitability. The aforementioned GOP strategists acknowledged and mourned the blow from the low support in the Latin@ community. A UC Berkeley blog summarizes:

“Even with 62% of the white vote, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney could not win a majority of the popular vote, let alone the electoral vote. Eight-eight percent of Romney’s support came from white voters, yet Romney only won 48.1% of the overall vote. Part of the reason for this is that the President won huge majorities of the non-white vote. Obama won 93% of the African-American vote, 71% of the Latino vote, 73% of the Asian vote, and 38% of the white vote.” (Powell 2013)

Latin@s made up about 10% of the electorate, and another 3 million will be eligible to vote in the next presidential election. Although this participation percentage is much smaller than their total population, it represents a hugely significant stack of votes that, at a rate of 3:1, tend to go Democrat.

I wish I could objectively appreciate the GOP’s enthusiasm for supporting a person of color’s rise in the ranks, but even they admit to playing the identity politics game with Marco Rubio in an effort to “convert” Latin@ voters: the Christian Science Monitor ran an Opinions article written by former chairman of the Republican Party, Ed Gillespie, with the headline, “GOP success strategy: Recruit more Hispanics (like Marco Rubio) and women” (CSM 2013).

When I say “convert,” I decidedly do not mean “convince.” These strategies do not result in increased attention paid to that group’s interest; they try to recruit voters into the GOP’s white agenda without adjusting their platforms to be more inclusive or less discriminatory.

Okay. This sounds eerily, squickily familiar.

Asians also don’t turn out to vote in rates correlative to their total eligible population – or even correlative to other voters with their average rate of education; they represent over 5% of the voter-eligible population (or ~11% if you include half-Asians), but only 3% of the 2012 Election Day electorate (and even this 3% representation is a dramatic jump from previous levels of participation) (Powell 2013, Wolff 2012). They also voted Democrat at a rate of 3:1 in this past election, but I suspect that these GOP strategists are not increasing their “Asian conversion” efforts for two main reasons: by the numbers, they don’t represent as much of an immediately-concerning voting bloc as do Latin@s, and furthermore, white supremacists both within and outside of the GOP have already historically tried (and often succeeded) to “convert” Asians.

Now, I’m not saying that Latin@s and Asians have identical histories of oppression – of course they don’t. But some of the reasons for those conversion tactics look very similar, as do the actual methods of tactical implementation. And while this isn’t the first time that some Latin@s were singled out for preferential treatment (Cuban-Americans, as an example, or wealthy and/or light-skinned Latin@s, more generally), there seems to be a significant shift from courting one group in particular to courting the Latin@ population as a “homogenous” group in the way that Asians were targeted “homogenously” as well. (By “homogenous,” I mean to imply that the GOP uses homogenous rhetoric to address citizens with many/most/all nations of origin, not that Asians or Latin@s are homogenous groups. When Reagan helped coin the term “Hispanic” to envelop Latin@s from all countries of origin, he was pushing that homogenizing, flattening agenda via the US Census — all the better to identify bad subjects with, my dear!)

My own experiences made me critical of the “whitewashed Asian” stereotype that is often perpetuated even by other Asians. My zero/first-generation Asian family definitely does not reap all the widely-lauded benefits of being “model minorities” who are “almost white.”  My mother’s bootstraps have just about snapped in half from how hard she’s tried to pull herself up, but let me tell you, we’ve been too busy sifting through all the daily racism and poverty to track down her pesky just deserts.

Here’s what I learned when I looked harder: the push toward whitewashing Asians (particularly lighter-skinned East Asians) was spearheaded by conservative white men as a deliberate attempt to recruit the significant Asian-American voting population into their Republican voting bloc. By dangling the carrot of being almost white, they wanted to avoid being punished at the polls for American occupation/colonization/war; a brutal legacy of immigration roadblocks; grossly underpaid labor and violence (like in the construction of the transcontinental railroad); communism phobia and its malignant little brother, yellow peril paranoia; hate crimes; state-sanctioned detainment and internment; and so on.

Sound familiar?

This game of blocking coalition formation by offering “almost whiteness” to some is not original; it has been played by the French imperial state in Africa and Asia for hundreds of years, and versions of the same method are emblematic of nearly all (neo)colonial psychological warfare/control. Divide and conquer. A different form of the game played into the rather recent assimilation of Jewish people into mainstream white culture, for example; a huge part of Anti-Semitism is historically rooted in otherizing Jews as being people of color, but that color-coding has virtually disappeared both from discussions of Anti-Semitism and of Jewish identity (although their whiteness has been achieved more successfully than most other groups I can think of, for myriad complex reasons) (Gabriel 54).

In November 2012, I went to the Oregon Students of Color Conference, where I attended a lecture by OSU’s Professor Patti Sakurai (whose work you should all check out – I deeply respect and admire her). She compared sociological factors like the high concentration of Asians in urban centers with the urban/rural cost of living. Then, she applied that lens to US Census data and charts from the New York Times to break down the statistical fallacies in the “successful model minority” image perpetuated by the United States government and the mainstream media. She and I – and many others – subscribe to the evidence-saturated idea that these success stories are strategically exaggerated in order to drive a wedge between Asians and other communities of color, recruiting Asians for white, conservative causes (all while never intending to let Asians become “fully white” in terms of access to resources and rights). She spoke about how these conservatives attempt to exploit Asians’ stereotypically “traditional, conservative” nature as a point of identification with conservative white citizens.

When she said it, a warning bell went off in my head. Where else had I heard about this strategy being employed?

California’s Proposition 8 Campaign. The conservative leaders in the Pro-8 battle explicitly solicited Latin@ support because of mutual religious white/Latin@ identification. As a predominantly Catholic community, they said, you Latino@s should agree that the Bible condemns gay marriage. And it worked. Proposition 8 passed by a margin of only 4% – 52/48. A slight majority of California’s 20% Latin@ electorate voted in favor of Prop. 8, and both Pro- and Anti-8 activists identified the Latin@ vote as the tipping point. Funders of the Pro-8 campaign ran Spanish ads that deliberately misinformed voters. For example, one said that explicitly pro-gay marriage messages would be taught in public schools if the proposition didn’t pass (Hispanic Business 2008, Bjerg 2012). Um. Malarkey.

To return to Marco Rubio and the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party is trying its damnedest to revamp its image in the face of a very different electorate. They can no longer rely on the fact that older, wealthier, male-majority, conservative-leaning, white voters have tended to get out the vote at higher rates than others. Times are a-changing.  In an effort to grab the youth vote and Latin@ vote at the same time, Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus helped launch the “Latino RNC” Tumblr and Twitter pages in early 2013, targeting the young, social media-savvy Latin@ electorate.

41-year-old Marco Rubio is the picture of youth, charisma, and American Dream “model minority”-ness. As soon as I learned that Rubio was from Miami, I wondered if he was Cuban – and he is. We’ve talked in class about the odd, “model minority” status of Cubans already; they were welcomed with open, white savior arms to a communism-fearing United States that strategically hoped to bleed Fidel Castro of support and stability. On his website’s biography page, Rubio reinforces this anti-communist narrative in his parents’ immigration story, calling Castro’s leadership a deadly “communist grip” on the country (Rubio 2012).

Rubio rarely acknowledges his Cuban identity, and when he does, he typically does so only to denounce communism. Not coincidentally, the highlights of Rubio’s political track record reveal a heavy focus on the traditional conservative agenda: small government economic stability as a means for national security; namely, never raise taxes but never cut defense spending. He has only briefly commented on issues deemed particularly important to Latin@ voters – for example, in January of this year, he said that his opinion on immigration reform corroborates with the moderate Republican plan of highly-regimented background checks (to pick out the good, educated, useful immigrants, and exclude the criminals and freeloaders), fines, back taxes, probation, and continued deportation.

While he is slightly more forgiving than other conservatives who advocate for the status quo or even increased deportation, he still encourages the idea of preferential treatment for “model minority” immigrants (which explains his support for the DREAM Act’s university-bound undocumented students; indeed, he intentionally sandwiched his advocacy for the DREAM Act with a call to Republicans to stop alienating the numerically-significant Latin@ voting bloc).

It can be of no surprise that the Republican Party chose a Latino whose parents had a comparatively smooth immigration process, thus allowing him to distance himself from the kind of visceral, first-hand experience of xenophobia that many other Latin@ immigrants face. As an added bonus, he presents with many “whiter” physical traits; in fact, at first glance, before I knew his name or background, he passed for white to me:

Here’s his official Congressional portrait. I don’t want to be too much of a conspiracy theorist, but his skin here looks several shades lighter than a recent CBS screenshot of him speaking at the 2012 RNC – maybe this is insignificant, coincidental tanning, or maybe it’s Maybelline Photoshop?

I want to be careful to insist that anyone of any ethnicity is not honor-bound to be loyal to any party in order to qualify as a “real” or “good” member of that ethnicity. I don’t want to discredit the very real political savvy and experience that Marco Rubio undoubtedly possesses that make him an equally good posterboy for the Republicans as any white politician; the “underqualified token minority benefits from affirmative action” motif is definitely, definitely not one that I want to perpetuate. And anyway, it’s not like the Democratic Party has a great track record for being that different from their Republican counterparts.

bush obama

COUGH drones COUGH. Whoooops…(Street art by Dusin Spagnola; this version, as fate would have it, is at NW 24th St., Miami, Florida. Rubio territory.)

With that caveat mentioned, do I believe there is evidence that Rubio is benefiting from and personally encouraging strategic identity politics? Yep. Is he is exercising his dual consciousness to more successfully play up his “exception to the Althusserian ‘bad subject’ Latin@ rule”-ness? I think so. He seems to be responding the Hail by said, “Yes, it’s me, but I’m not who you think I am. I’m like you.”

He and his supporters are playing the strategic essentialism game in two big ways: first, they are using Rubio’s classic “model minority” success story of hard work/pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps as a way to unify all Latin@s without acknowledging – and, I think, avoiding – that his family’s Cuban roots afforded him certain privileges not available to all Latin@ immigrants; second, Rubio’s pan-Latin@ narrative of “model minority” achievement serves as a way to distance “good Latin@ subjects” from “bad Latin@ subjects” as well as all other “bad subjects” of color.” Asians also heard that they were “hard working” and “different” and “better than other brown people” in order to discourage their identification with “bad POC subjects.” In both cases, the constructions of “good subjecthood” rely mainly on the vilification and perpetuation of negative stereotypes of black and Latin@ communities – poor, crime-ridden, amoral, hypersexual, lazy, welfare-abusing, job-stealing, and so on.

This erasure of both national origin’s significance and historically-rooted and still-felt oppression is very Foucaultian in nature. In “We ‘Other Victorians’” and “The Incitement to Discourse,” we learned that the sexuality of the past has been strategically narrated to be muted, secret, universally shameful, or even nonexistent. That nostalgic narrative, although without basis in fact or retroactive appraisal of censorship, is used to police present and future expressions of sexuality: policing sex created “a new regime of discourses. Not any less was said about [sex]; on the contrary. But things were said in a different way; it was different people who said them, from different points of view, and in order to obtain different results” (Foucault 27).

Rubio seems to be a strategically-chosen creator of Latin@ political discourse; just as the state constructed a particular kind of discourse to achieve its goal of monitoring and controlling sex, it is now attempting to monitor and control the votes of Latin@s. This is made achievable by qualifying Rubio as simultaneously exemplary and universally-representative, granting him the ability to be a mouthpiece for a particular kind of assessment of the past and present Latin@ history – Foucault calls this the state institution’s strategy of “[coding] contents and [qualifying] speakers” (Foucault 29).

Oh, the United States colonized and continues to occupy your land, stuck its nose inexorably into your economies, created and exploited the political/fiscal instability that led to your widespread immigration to the US, and then hated the fact that you came? (All true of many immigrants from Asian and Latin American states.) Ah, yes, but when your demographic’s presence results in millions of citizens and voters, you need to forget all that and instead believe that hard work and obedience will result in approval from the white supremacists.

There’s a reason that the self-identifying “whitewashed” Asian kids at my high school were never taught about the extensive coalition work between Asian-Americans and the Black Panther Party; the narrative has been reconstructed to tokenize the success of Asians so they are more preoccupied with living the model minority American Dream than they are with maintaining important alliances with other people of color. In that reconstruction process, the contents of history were coded to nostalgically erase dissent as a premise for ensuring current and future obedience.

Is the Rubio phenomenon trying to do the same thing to Latin@ history? Well…If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it might be systemic, white supremacist powermongering…

Tropicalization Inside and Out

To tropicalize as we define it, means to trope, to imbue a particular space, geography, group, or nation with a set of traits, images, and values. These intersecting discourses are distributed among official texts, history, literature, and the media, thus circulating these ideological constructs throughout various level of the receptor society.” (8)

So there I was watching Modern Family, and I kept viewing the character of Gloria through a lens of tropicalization. I have to admit that I do not watch T.V. shows that often, but when I do I generally like to watch comedies. I was intrigued with this show because of its popularity and especially because it includes a bi-racial and many years-apart relationship. I was, and still am, intrigued by Gloria’s character and her performance of Latinidad throughout the show. I am still unsure of whether her accent is truly hers or if it is a product of the show’s producers. These questions bring up some interesting questions for me. If it is a production of the show, then I am concerned with how this tropicalization, how this quest to make the Latina a hypersexualized nena for American voyeuristic pleasure is still perpetuated in the American media. If it is Sofia Vergara’s real accent then is she conscious of how it sounds to the Anglo viewer? She has a background in modeling and other show business; she must know that she is perceived as an attractive Latina and what that means to her specific audience. Is it wrong to benefit from this tropicalization even though it means that Latin@s will be more represented in modern media? In addition, is this tropicalization seen as alright in light of other shows like Ugly Betty in which the Latina protagonist is not tropicalized at all?

I’ve been struggling with this theory of tropicalization and how it can not only seep into the threads of American culture, but also how it can be internalized by Latinos themselves. Before doing this reading I did not know that such a phenomena even had a name. I was well aware that there were tropes and characters often reserved for Latinos in U.S. society, but it was refreshing to read that there are scholars so intrigued with the phenomena that they wrote entire books on the subject.

I know that I have played into the trope of the “latin lover” several times during my life. At first I felt empowered and proud that my ethnic roots were found to be attractive to members of the opposite sex.  I mean, I grew up in a small Oregon town that was majority white, Latinos were few and far between and always considered “different.” I was happy to stick out, to have people notice me for my “difference.”  But now, the older I get and the more education I receive, the more and more I see this trope as binding, a bit exhausting and detrimental. Not all latino men are mini-Casanovas, who write poetry, womanize, and have “traditional values” and not all latinos and Latinas deserve to be hypersexualized. We deserve to be seen as more than just playthings. I deserve to be seen as a man who is not just romantic, but someone with aspirations, a young professional with goals. It is debilitating to be forced into such a rigid performance of identity and to constantly be fighting against these societal beliefs.

All of this swirling around my head leads me to questions surrounding the performance of my race in ways that I had not thought of before. Do I do things I think are “latino” because of my own thoughts and beliefs as to what latinidad is, or is it a performance molded by the surrounding Anglo culture of what being latino should be? I think back to how I learned my performance of latinidad and I think to my mother and my father who guided me in the ways that latinos in the U.S. should act and they obviously had a large influence on my development. However, I can’t help but think that they too, were not immune to some form of tropicalization. This leaves me in a precarious place, in between what I think is my own performance of latinidad and what could be a performance that has been imposed upon me from the outside.

Queering Burger Joints

I spend a substantial amount of time on Tumblr mostly avoiding thesis  but also because some amazing posts can be found there. The other day I was perusing my dashboard and this post and the commentary came up:

sacrificetheory:

feral-femme:

blacuadorian:

All over this burgers and hot dogs chain restaurant are signs saying they proudly do not have trans fats in their restaurant, as well as cork boards, paper, and crayons to tell em how much you just love their burgers and hot dogs (rolling my eyes hard). This incredible and gorgeous friend decided they needed to insert their own faggotry into the cork (lol) and that is how this wonderful GIF came to exist.

haha omg this is what i look like when i am eating fries with one of my favorite people on the whole planet

“no trans fats in your restaurant? UR WRONG THO”

This is delightful.

Just needed a lil feral-femme on my blog again ❤

There is so much that I love about this picture and the commentary that I will attempt to explain in the following blog post. As you can read in the above commentary, the chain of fast food restaruants that the person in the pictures is eating at has signs posted stating that they have no “trans fats” in their restaurant.  In this class I have learned of the many ways in which discrusive spaces and identity practices manifest themselves. The picture was taken then posted on the cork boards located in the restaraunt encouraging folks to tell them how much they love the food they were served. Well, the aforementioned words have multiple meanings, right? Trans fats are known as the fatty acids found in some food, particularly in processed foods and can cause one to have high cholesterol, however, the word has other meanings as well. As the commentary suggests, trans is the abbreviation for transgender and the fats is the plural for what is described as fat (there is a whole field of scholarship on fat politics of which I remain woefully ignorant so you’ll have to excuse me). As we have seen in Queer Latinidad, queering language is extremely significant in challenging normative ways of thinking and identification. The picture and commentary do just that!!! Much like the  Proyecto plays with language, so too does the person in this picture but it is more than just playing. In so doing, they are challenging normative ways of thinking and making people think twice about the use of the words “trans fats”. 

The space that they find themselves in is effectively queered because they end up posting the picture to the cork boards telling everyone who has the pleasure of seeing the wonderful picture that trans fats have multiple meanings. They queer the shit out of those cork boards in such an amazing and playful way that I cannot even handle it! This is the “y que?” way of responding to the “hail”; it becomes identity with a difference and is done so in a space that one might not expect it, in a fast food joint. As Jose Estaban Muñoz states, “Disidentifications is mean to offer a lens to eludcidate minoritarian politics that is not monocausal or monothematic, one tha tis calibrated to discern a multiplicity of interlocking identity components and the ways in which they affect the social” (1999, 8). Adding to theorists conceptualizations of interlocking identity components is the fat politics that is being addressed in both the picture and the commentary. The person is adding to discussions and conceptualizations of intersectionality by addressing fatness as part of an identity, one that is continuously under attack and scrutinized in the U.S. The person is making their presence known and felt in the fast food establishment by putting a non-normative picture on their board. Even the use of the word faggotry is reclaiming of a word that is typically pejorative and putting it all over the burger chain.

I would also like to draw attention to the heart drawn on the piece of paper and the use of gender inclusive symbols that come from it. Instead of being stuck in the binary, the heart becomes gender neutral, which is awesome. The commentary and the picture are so delightful because of the way in which they are queering the space using language and identity that they are gifted with. I don’t really know what else to say that I haven’t already said or that the picture doesn’t already say itself. Language becomes a tool with which spaces and the word themselves are effectively queered and often in ways that are humorous. This will make people think twice about the multiple meanings of the words trans and fat while also providing an outlet for the person in the picture to express themselves.

Art as Resistance

“In a sick society, wellness is rebellion. Art is medicine.” – Climbing Poetree

“Any attempt, therefore, to require or suggest the certain aesthetic parameters, both in terms of subject matter and style, dishonors, I believe, the legacy of Latino and Chicano poerty’s first adherents – both living and dead. A legacy, to be sure, that involved creating art informed our community’s stories and our social and political struggles, struggles that continue today, but which are also joined by a celebration, as well as an exploration of language.” (Aragon 10).

I usually don’t think too much about art, its power or purpose. Honestly, until fairly recently I believed that art was only that which was found in a museum. Art has the ability to fuel revolutions, to challenges norms, and to uplift the people.

This blog post goes out to the artists, the dreamers, the visionaries and lovers. To those who remember that creativity is the opposite of destruction.

“ Artists are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” – Cornel West

At the Social Justice Real Justice conference at the University of Oregon in mid-February, the spoken word duo Climbing Poetree conducted a workshop on art as a means of resistance. From them I heard of the Zapantera Negra (ZPN) project. This project is a collaboration between Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, and Zapatista artists. Douglas’ graphic art was featured in the newspaper The Black Panther to illustrate the harsh realities that made the revolution necessary and to “construct a visual mythology of power for people who felt powerless and victimized.” His drawings depict the struggles of the poor and working class, while also maintaining the dignity and active agency of the people. The Zaptista movement, which began as an indigenous movement in Chiapas, Mexico, has been named the first post-modern revolution and is known for using an array of media outlets and information formats to increase awareness of the movement and build solidarity.

The ZPN combines the graphic imagery style of Emory Douglas and the vision of Zapatista embroiderists and painters. The project links two movements across time and space in an effort to highlight the role of art in social movements. Revolutionary art provides not only an opportunity for self-representation, but also allows for the imagining of other worlds. The art of Douglas captured the plight of poor blacks, fueling the fire of the 139,000 subscribers to The Black Panther in 1960s and 1970s. His work was a reminder of the need for revolution. However, arguably more important is the fact that Douglas’ depiction of blacks stood apart from the servant/sidekick image present in popular media. Essentially it allowed for the Black Panthers to disidentify with the representation of blacks as simply poor, disenfranchised subjects.  The collective efforts of Douglas and the Zapatistas allow for the envisioning of a movement that is not bound by the constraints of time and space, and racial category.

 

“…the canvas [of Latin@ art] is now larger, its border expanded to include subject matter that is not overtly political.” (Aragon 1)

“What are the possibilities of politicizing disidentification, this experience of misrecognition, this uneasy sense of standing under a sign to which one does and does not belong? It may be the affirmation of that slippage, that that the failure of identification, is itself the point of departure for a more democratizing affirmation of internal difference.” – Judith Butler

Interviewer: “Why is this Chicana poetry?”

Lorna Dee Cervantes: “It’s Chicana poetry because a Chicana wrote it.”

Throughout the course of this class we have been attempting to deconstruct the notion of latinidad. What is included in this category? As we discussed in the beginning of the class, latinidad is, in essence, Latin@ness and this is not simply language or nationality. In an attempt to put this “ness” in a box, we frequently attempt to attribute some sort of unifying characteristics to latinidad. For Latin@ artists (as well as other artists of colors) this means that their art must explicitly address race. Latin@ artists that do not adhere to this criteria are critiqued for in some way betraying latinidad (an interesting parallel to Malitzin who is despised for speaking for herself and not her people). Not only does this limit Latin@ artists, but it also limits the audience. Viewing or reading a piece allows the audience to reflect on their own responses and interpretations. A wonderful reminder came to light during Wednesday’s class when we discussed Fefu and her Friends. Maria Irene Fornes does not include the race of any of the characters in her play. In doing so, she forces the audience to make their own assumptions. Not only did this remind me that white is still the norm in my mind if race is not specified, but it also sparked again this desire to define latinidad by the presence of the identifiable trope of explicitly non-white characters. By not identifying with the notion of Latin@ness proliferated by popular media, this work illuminates the variation of what constitutes latinidad and forces the audience to sit with our discomfort in the ambiguity.

And wonder.

Redefining Intimacy in the Age of Tumblr

There are things that are so personal that they can only be said to someone who is not close. Someone you don’t know. A person who is not an intimate friend or relation. There are things too personal to be shared with intimates.” – Hunger of Memory

Richard Rodriguez’s quote rings incredibly true for the millions of people logging into sites like Tumblr, where all is required of users is a username and a desire to blog (whether it be one’s original thoughts or the ‘reblogging’ of others’ thoughts to express one’s own or show solidarity) to become a part of a community that either does care or very convincingly gives the illusion of caring about each other. Juana Maria Rodriguez, in Queer Latinidad writes that “Sex, love, quarrels, and reunions [are] mediated through technology” (115). Not only are internet relationships able to become intensely emotional and intense with the aid of technology, but more communication, in so many different forms has also been increased, possibly enhanced for people in real life relationships. However, Rodriguez’s definition, just as most of the dictionary definitions of intimacy, talk about closeness, warmth, and understanding, but all in the context of a relationship that has been created and maintained in person.

Is being able to bare your soul to a group of complete strangers, be it on some form of social network or in person with folks that you’ve never met or may never see again a form of intimacy? Is this type of act (full disclosure to complete strangers) possibly even more intimate than trusting these details with the people that we’ve known and have known us for a long time? Can intimacy be achieved in anonymity? The definition of intimacy itself is “Close familiarity or friendship; closeness,” but does one have to be familiar with the person they are interacting with in order for closeness and intimacy to be achieved? In creating an authentic connection with someone, even if it is temporary, are we achieving intimacy, or are incredibly raw, impersonal personal moments in our one night stands and blog posts less intimate and valuable than the intimate relationships that are developed over time?

Intimacy, like the World Wide Web as mentioned in Queer Latinidad, is rhizomatic, no particular beginning, end, or center, as well as it can grow and flourish (albeit in many drastically different ways) wherever it is planted and utilized. People emerge and exit; “linkages assembled and dismantled.” (Queer Latinidad, 121) With the growth of use of social networking sites, people are allowed to express as much of themselves as they want or create whatever persona they desire to be read as by their readers and viewers, which adds a new dimension to intimacy that allows for transparency and anonymity, which often cannot exist in spheres outside of cyberspace. Users are able to represent only the parts of themselves that they wish to make public. In a realm where people are simultaneously present and absent, intimacy can be achieved in being able to bare one’s life of truths to a complete stranger while missing the traditional ‘intimacy’ of being physically close and in near proximity to one another.

Sites like Tumblr, specifically, allow for users to communicate aspects of their identities that may have been difficult to talk about in person or with people who they interact with in person that have already developed ideas of who they are and how they feel. Talking about one’s feelings to a group of users who have made the conscious decision to follow you, often because they are picking up what you’re putting down or at least trying to. People that aren’t familiar or someone regularly interacted with cannot say “this isn’t like you” or “I didn’t know you felt like this,” nor can their opinion of you drastically change because of what you posted, because they don’t know you (yet;) they can only listen or read what you have to say.

In Maria Irene Fornes’ play “Fefu and Her Friends,” one of her characters, Paula, articulates that relationships (and breakups) include different parts of the self: the brain, the heart, the mind, physical belongings, physical space, and the memories of it all (38). These are all things that she argues are a part of long-term, intimate relationships, then do interactions that are missing only the physical aspects but include the brain, heart, mind, and memories (the parts of relationships that are arguably the most important and meaningful) less intimate than those that exist within a physical space? When two people interact on the internet, “language is disjointed, fragments of thoughts brought together to create a mood and meaning understood by only the two participants, the white spaces of personal history and emotion haunting the lines of the text,” (Queer Latinidad, 116). Both what we choose to include and what we choose to leave out in our interactions with strangers on the internet aids in the redefinition of intimacy and allows us to define what intimacy can mean with each person we choose to become intimate with.

Illustration in “Indestructible”

 

I recently finished reading Indestructible by Cristy C. Road and have been thinking of the way the illustrations and formatting of the text function within the work and relate to the context of our class. I have no brilliant ideas as I begin writing this, and am instead now using this as a format to consider a possible relationship. I may expand this idea later after finishing the graphic novel Sexile and our discussions in class next week.

There are about 20 images that accompany the fifteen chapters of Indestructible. The text of the work is a visual element that contributes greatly to the overall feel of the novel, as it shifts between style, size, and spacing. I’ll start with the text.

For the most part, the text in the novel looks as if it was typewritten as it appears in a similar font. Contrasting this typewritten quality is the almost (but not quite) handwritten (you could argue drawn or cut out) chapter headings that loom at the top of each chapter and counting up to fifteen and possibly alluding to progress or movement. At times the formatting changes from double spaced to single space or appearing as if the page is Xerox-scanned by being at a slant, while at other times the font itself changes. These formatting choices feel DIY and reference Road’s involvement in zine publication and placing the novel within that context and triggering associations (punk rock, political activism, art, personal writings, sexual writings, and self-publication/representation). I guess the main point I am getting at is how these choices in publication draw attention to the choices of the author more so than if traditional font choices had been used and emphasizes the process that went into the work.

From here I’ll move on to the visual art component of the illustrated story. These 20 or so illustrations appear to me to be done with pens/markers/fluid-bodied acrylics, but could also have been done on the computer or even a combination of the two. These works are black and white (perhaps emphasizing the Xerox quality of the work) and incredibly detailed. Again emphasizing the presence of the author/illustrator (Road). Each illustration presents a scene related to the text in the chapter it accompanies.

What struck me most about these illustrations were two things: the expressiveness of the characters and the use of space in each scene. The first illustration we see (besides the cover) is a DIY yearbook-esque pasting of the main characters and the author staring at the viewer. This introduction enhances the over-all feel of the story, as a series of anecdotes about life as a high school, especially those that deal with her punk influenced friend group (the ‘burnout corner’). From here we meet the author as a young adolescent who is starring angrily out at the reader/viewer and helps develop the image of Road as an angsty, confrontational teen who does not want to compromise herself to meet the desires of others (at times). A few of the characters in the story make the same facial expression in almost every illustration. Eugene and Selene in particular make pretty much the same face in every illustration they appear in, perhaps emphasizing the ways these characters were idealized by Road, Selene being the object of infatuation/identification and Eugene as being the first person to affirm Road’s queerness as something valuable. These are visual elements that I think enhance the textual, and vice versa. Bodily elements are emphasized in the illustration by depicting body hair, placing the figures crowded into the fore-ground, and focusing on less idealized facial expressions. Perhaps in so doing, Road is representing her development of a positive relationship between her body and her self.

I could probably investigate the expressive line-work that creates the characters, the way Road places the characters in relation to one another, but I think what is really interesting to me is the way the characters are placed within the settings they inhabit, and the way in which Road depicts the environments surrounding the characters.

All the figures in the illustrations are contextualized by the space they are in. From the playground scene which juxtaposes Road’s aggressive expression with the implied innocence of the playground, yet the (perpetual) gray sky and the shadowed playground are also looming figures or fading into the distance, expressing Road’s awkward growing into her developing body her “uneasy method of growing up”. Most of the backgrounds depict liminal spaces such as doorways, hallways, or boundaries, a possible reference to the state of adolescence as impermanent or reflecting all the process through which Road intentionally built or tore down barriers between her and others. These spaces are also both expansive and shallow, extending into the background through illusory line work but also solidifying through that very linework into ominous ‘dead ends’ of solid color meeting a heavy, gray sky. I feel that this emphacizes the promise of potential (finding a community of those who accept you, of finding self-love), but also the pessimism of living in a world that may be harmful to some people. It also is potentially related to Road’s periods of optimism and happiness and bouts of sadness.

Overall, the illustrative work in Road’s Indestructible is compelling to me in it’s sheer expressive potential, it’s clever use of layout, line work, and shading and is very effective in developing Road’s affirmation of bodiliness, queerness, sexuality, and living.

Here is some of Road’s other works I enjoyed looking at:

KING OF CUPS:

Bridge Tommy

the day we dropped constriction