Latinas/os on the East Coast
A Critical Reader
This book is an indispensable resource for scholars, researchers, educators, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as any individual, group, or organization interested in issues that affect Latinas/os in the United States in current times.
Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- 1. History
- 2. Culture, Ethnicity, and Race
- 3. Education
- 4. Health
- 5. Women Studies
- 6. Queer Studies
- 7. Film and Media Studies
- 8. Visual and Performing Arts
- 9. Literature
- Introduction: Latina/o Studies: The Emergence and Transformation of a Field
- Do Labels Fit?
- A Brief History of a Field
- Latina/os on the East Coast
- A Plea to Destigmatize Mariel
- The Evolution of the Latino Community in New York City
- Phase One, 1810–1900
- Phase Two, 1900–1945
- Phase Three, 1945–1965/1970
- Phase Four, 1965–Present
- The Great Exodus: Its Roots
- Explaining Dominican Migration
- The Middle Class and the Urban Background: Deconstruction of a False Identity
- The Making of a Migratory Movement: An Alternative Reading
- The United States, the Rise of Balaguer, and the Circulation of Capital and Workers
- The Politics of Stability: Family Planning and Emigration
- Our Heights’ Story: Exploring the Dominican Community in Washington Heights from 1992 to 2013
- Brief History of Dominicans in Washington Heights, New York City
- The First Dominican Migration Movements
- A Brief History of Washington Heights
- Description of Washington Heights as It Is Today
- My Study
- Oral History
- How the Dominican identity has been shaped by Washington Heights
- Perceptions of violence, drugs, and riots in Washington Heights
- Washington Heights in a Better Light & Gentrification
- Culture, Ethnicity, and Race
- “Neither Hispanic, nor Black: We’re Brazilian”
- National Identity and Ethnic And Racial Affiliations—Where Do They Join and Part?
- Racial Categories—The Obsession With Race and the Apology of Mixture
- Brazilian versus Hispanic Identity
- Hispanic Is not a Label, but a Straightjacket
- Assimilating the Culture of Nonassimilation
- Situating Latino Voices in a New England Community
- Latino Tales of the City
- Catalysts and Cycles of Latin American Immigration
- Portland as a Latino Place
- Transforming Perceptions of Community
- Bicultural Lives, Assimilationist Struggles
- Shifting Identities
- A New Diaspora: Latina/os in the Online Environment
- A Note on Ethnic Labels
- Latina/o Migration to the U.S. Northeast
- Latina/os in Higher Education
- Rising Enrollments
- A Gap in Graduation Rates
- The Changing Higher Education Landscape
- Latina/o College Students in the Online Environment
- Purpose of the Study
- Data Sources and Sample
- Data Analyses
- Online Enrollment
- Online Course Outcomes
- The Family in the Classroom: How a Culturally Valid Learning Community Transforms the Identity of Latina/o College Students
- Historical Context
- Familism as Cultural Context
- Professor Role and Intersubjectivity
- The Class Community
- Cooperative Learning Toward Mastery
- Making Visible the Invisible: Latina/o Students’ Insights about the Resources for and Barriers to High School Persistence
- The Study
- Student Transitions
- Educational pipeline transition factors
- Limited Access to Adequate Bilingual Services
- Concerns About Safety Within and Outside the School
- Conclusion and Future Steps
- Immigrant Identities in Transnational Contexts: The Figured World of a New York City English Literacy and Civics Education Classroom
- Conceptual Framework: Figured Worlds And Transnationalism
- Figured Worlds
- Immigrant Education in Global and Transnational Contexts
- Civics Education for Adult Immigrants: A Brief History
- Immigrants in America: The Figured World of an El/Civics Classroom
- The Center For Immigrant Adult Education
- Stories of Struggle, Hard Work, and Opportunity
- ‘Here Is Different Than My Country’: Locally Produced Discourses on ‘American Culture’
- Transnational Lives as Resources for Learning and Meaning-Making
- Concluding Thoughts
- The New Latino Diaspora
- The New Latino Diaspora
- Educational Experiences
- Navigating Language Use in the Elementary Mainstream Classroom
- Engaging and Communicating with Spanish-speaking Families
- Engaging and Supporting Spanish-speaking students
- The Implications and Impact of Race on the Health of Hispanic/Latino Males
- Race, Hispanics, and the U.S. Census Categories
- Race as a Structural and Contextual Factor Among Hispanics/Latinos
- Race, Phenotype, and Health
- Segregated Neighborhoods
- Policy Implications and Research Suggestions
- The Study of Race in Health Outcomes
- Botánicas in America’s Backyard: Uncovering the World of Latino Healers’ Herb-healing Practices in New York City
- Background and Methods
- Botánicas’ Metier and Unprompted Connoisseurs
- Healing with Herbs in the Urban Milieu
- Botánicas’ Back Room: The Realm of the Therapeutic Encounter
- Sociosoma: The Ecological Framework of the Healing Encounter
- Sociosoma in Action: The Power of Limpias and Baths
- Conclusions and Implications
- Women’s Studies
- Women Leave Home for the Factory: Gender, Work, and Family
- Women and Work in Cuba
- Cuban Women in Union City
- Follow-up Study
- Cuban Women Migrants in Union City: Mariel and the Migration of the 1990s
- Dominican Women Across Three Generations: Educational Dreams, Goals and Hopes
- Women of the First Generation: Their Lives and Their Educational Dreams
- Patterns of Immigration Among Dominicans
- Initial Adaptation
- Changing Educational Expectations for Women of the Second Generation
- Education and the Changing Roles of Women in the Current, or Third Generation
- Why the Educational Expectations Have Changed in Three Generations of Respondents
- Consequences of Immigration on Male/Female Relationships
- Effects of Immigration on Respondents: Looking Back on Accomplishments in the Face of Adversities on the Mainland Among Respondents
- Changing Social Trends Among Respondents
- “They Are Taken into Account for Their Opinions”: Making Community and Displaying Identity at a Dominican Beauty Shop in New York City
- “Compared With Other Women in the Rest of the World, Dominican Women Visit Beauty Parlors More Often”: The Dominican Beauty Shop in New York City
- Salon Lamadas: A Dominican Beauty Shop in New York City
- The Culture Workers
- “A Este Salon Hay Que Respetarlo”: Conflicting Agendas in the Shop
- “Ni a los salones ni a los medicos se va huyendo”: Dominican Hair Culture Takes Time
- “Es que aquí nos ayudamos mutuamente”: Fictive Kinship and Community
- Baby Hairs: Racialized Reproduction
- “The First Shop I Used Myself”: Learning to Look Like a Dominican Woman
- Conclusion: Culturing Beauty, De-politicizing Race
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Queer Studies
- Outside/In: Crossing Queer and Latino Boundaries
- Appropriating Spaces and Places
- Changing Urban Landscapes and Representations of Identity
- Latino Queer Organizations and Latino Queerscapes
- Queering La Comunidad/Latinizing Los Blancos
- Coproducing an Imaginary
- Crossing Boundaries
- Tacit Subjects
- Silence ≠ Death
- Playing With Lo Tacito
- Building Home: Arthur Aviles’s Choreography of the Public Sphere
- Food Markets and Flesh Trade: Imag(In)Ing Hunts Point
- Community Renewal: Housing (As) Story
- Dance as Public Practice: Arthur Aviles’s Homecoming
- Irreverent Performances: Popular Entertainment and Queer World-Making
- Home Is Where the Heart Is: On Loving Queerly and Publicly
- Film and Media Studies
- From the Margin to the Center: Puerto Rican Cinema in New York
- The Documentarians: Media Guerillas
- The Storytellers
- Searching for a Mode
- A Grounding In Self
- Policing the Latina/o Other: Latinidad in Prime-Time News Coverage of the Elián González Story
- Prime-Time News as Cultural Discourse
- Contextualizing Popular Representations of U.S. Cubans
- Symbolic Colonization: From One of “Us” to One of “Them”
- Homogenizing the Ethnic Other
- Feminizing the Ethnic other
- Racializing the Ethnic Other
- Conclusion: Policing The Latina/o Other
- Visual and Performing Arts
- New York’s Latin Music Landmarks
- Landmarks in “El Barrio Hispano”
- Landmarks Beyond The Barrio
- Merengue Típico in New York City: A History
- First Steps
- Típico Grows Roots in the City
- Invisible Fusions
- The Birth of Merengue con Mambo
- The Típico Explosion
- Fulanito’s Fusions
- Típico Sells
- Urbanizing Típico
- The Writing on the Wall: The Life and Passion of Jean-Michel Basquiat
- Labor Repressive: Art, Basquiat, and Captial
- White at the Top
- Off the Wall: Basquiat’s Transcultural Work
- Sandra María Esteves’s Nuyorican Poetics: The Signifying Difference
- Works Cited
- Appendix 1
- Dominican-American Auto-Ethnographies: Considering the Boundaries of Self-Representation in Julia Álvarez and Junot Díaz
- Bicultural Subjectivities and Their Tribulations
- Utopian Blueprints for a Selfhood
- Hybrid Subjectivities: Nostalgic Memories and Cultural Critique
- Concluding Remarks
- Women’s Bodies, Lesbian Passions
- On the Difficulties of Being a Diasporic Puerto Rican Lesbian
- 1970s Arrival and 1980s Disclosure: Shifts in Umpierre’s Poetics
- The Margarita Poems (1987)
| xi →
Latina/os on the East Coast: A Critical Reader brings together an impressive list of scholars and themes that place this book in a unique position in the Latino Studies field. The combination of scholars who look at Latinos both from the single-national and the pan-Latino or pan-ethnic identity departs from the notion advanced by Felix Padilla in his Latino Ethnic Consciousness. In 1985, in the midst of large immigration waves from Latin America to the United States, Latino community expansions, and pervasive anti-immigrant sentiment emanating both from the state and civil society, Padilla’s pioneering introductory approach to the development of a Latino consciousness appeared, giving members of academia reason to believe that a new identity among Hispanic groups in the United States had emerged. That new identity sprang from those Latino communities themselves.
Padilla’s Latino identity went beyond a language, a religion, and a legacy of Spanish colonization perceived as common identifiers that unified the various Hispanic groups residing in the United States. The axis of Padilla’s Hispanics’ new identity was praxis, or a reality of daily struggle carried out against a common enemy that maltreated Latino groups and exposed them to a historic exclusion that persisted no matter how long these groups lived in the United States.
The emergent Latino identity led to contested terrain, a minefield made up of believers and non-believers who either gave credence to or challenged Padilla’s views. Just as immigrants transform old, decaying, and abandoned neighborhoods into vibrant, dynamic centers of cultural and commercial activity, discussions about an emergent Latino consciousness invigorated academia with new discourses that spoke of ethnic identity, challenged canonic assimilation theories, and proposed a new order of things to understand Latinos residing in the United States. Many more Latino scholars, armed with a unique human capital, reflected on a historical wisdom, cultural legacies, a know-how, and—perhaps most important—on an intrinsic relationship with the Latino communities that went beyond the “participant observation” methodology used at the time of research. These scholars entered the research field as producers of knowledge about themselves and those of their own ancestry. ← xi | xii →
This avalanche of Latino researchers was unprecedented, and these scholars have blazed new paths and transformed forever the way in which research about Latinos is conceived, carried out, and presented.
The composition of Latino readers is a direct result of the establishment of Latino Studies as a field. It is an academic area that creates knowledge that is specific to people of Latino ancestry who reside in the United States and whose communities are social spaces that now rely on alternative discourses and definitions that no longer emanate just from above, from tenets of the larger society. As acknowledged in the introduction to this collection, several Latino readers have been published since the very first one, Latinos and Education: A Critical Reader, prepared by prominent scholars Antonia Darder, Carlos C. Torres, and Henry Gutierrez. These texts have set the tone for an energetic field that has carved out a distinctive space and claimed a voice of its own to speak on its own behalf.
Latinos on the East Coast clearly details one feature regarding Latinos in the United States. The book relies on a theoretical model that departs from two basic assumptions regarding Latinos: (1) Latino communities are not static spaces; and (2) they are certainly not monolithic. In Latinos on the East Coast one finds a convergence of stories that address the old and the new Latinos—narratives about migrants whose life experience and historical development in the sending societies may differ dramatically from group to group. This text also relies on a definition of Latinos that is porous and malleable, that has developed from a Latino scholarship that has rooted and polished itself during the last five decades by responding to the needs and experiences of the Latino group studied by each of the distinguished scholars included in this important volume. The definition departs from the view of that which glues Latinos together and exposes them to a common experience: that of being Latino, or the circumstance of being a person of Hispanic ancestry who has made the United States his or her home and who is exposed to injustices precisely because of this ancestry.
The porous and malleable definition of Latinos speaks of communities that have witnessed Latinos who were born and raised here beginning long ago, at a time when the United States expanded its mighty grasp to acquire lands and peoples in Latin America, first from their closest neighbors in 1848, the year of the Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo (Acuña, 2007), and later thousands of miles away in 1898, during the Spanish-American War.
The native-born Latinos coexist in the same communities with Spanish-speaking peoples who arrived after 1965, the year of the Family Reunification Act. At this time thousands of migrants flowed into the United States, following the financial resources that were drained incessantly from their countries and that found their way to the same country they were now migrating into. People who arrived after 1965 are labeled new migrants. The Latino experience brings the old Latino and the new Latino migrants together. The old native-born Latinos were perceived by Samuel Huntington and others as people who are incapable of assimilating into American culture and whose way of life is slowly eroding the cultural fabric of American society. The new Latino migrants, for their part, must deal with a perennial perception of them as unsettled foreigners who have “un pie aquí y otro allá,” as people who are just passing by, irrespective of whether they have put their luggage away for good. In the eyes of the larger society, Hispanics are more or less all the same.
For Latino scholars, the experiences of Hispanic groups require explanations beyond those composed by the “imperial scholars” (Delgado, 1984, p. 561), people who have the power to label and who do not necessarily move beyond their own powerful circles, unreachable to most Latinos. These are sectors of society that, in complicity with the government, have sought legislation unfavorable to immigrants and in favor of divesting poor communities of public funding and services, particularly Latino and other communities of color.
What sets Latinos on the East Cost: A Critical Reader apart is that it focuses on a Latino population located on the East Coast, an area whose demographic composition has dramatically changed in the last half-century. Such a demographic transformation has impacted the historical development and ← xii | xiii → the cultural fabric of the entire region. The East Coast is now characterized by a vibrant energy that is brought in by new immigrants and by an expanding second generation resulting from Latinas’ high fertility rates. Cities have been transformed from top to bottom, and colorful national flags from Latin America—adorning apartment windows, trees in parks, and street lamps—are visible and proudly displayed everywhere in Latino communities. Today, no leader on the East Coast who is in pursuit of an important post would dare to ignore the Latino people who reside in these areas.
The growth of the Latino population on the East Coast has also transformed local, state, and federal politics in such a way that an increasing number of people of Latino ancestry have been elected to office or appointed to the highest levels of government. Julissa Reynoso, the U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay, is the youngest ambassador in the history of the United States and is a Dominican woman from Washington Heights, a Latino neighborhood in New York City. Her story and her mother’s story challenge the perception of Latina women as passive and voiceless, and as appendages of men who control their movements. On the East Coast, a traditional view of Latina women is simply unsustainable in light of a reality that shows that both immigration and settlement are processes led predominately by Latina women. For instance, at any given time, Dominicans and Colombians—two of the three largest Hispanic population segments of New York City—feature more women than men migrating from their respective sending countries. These women have been in the vanguard of their own communities, whether through the development of community-based organizations to provide vital services to their own groups or through the establishment of cultural organizations that preserve their legacy. The community activism of these women has created the infrastructure and the narrative that has kept each group’s cultural and historical legacies alive, has passed it down to their children, and has slowly reshaped the larger spaces in which Latinos live.
Latinos are here to stay on the East Coast, and the present volume is a clear testament to this. The stories of the different Latino groups, eloquently captured in Latinos on the East Coast, are necessary reading, particularly for those who study the history and patterns of the diverse Latino populations in the different regions where they settle, reconstruct their lives, and move forward.
Acuña, R. (2007). Occupied America: A history of Chicanos. New York: Pearson Longman.
Delgado, R. (1984). The imperial scholar: Reflections on a review of civil rights literature. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 132.
Padilla, F. (1985). Latino ethnic consciousness: The case of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in Chicago. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
| xv →
A Plea to Destigmatize Mariel (1984) by Siro del Castillo was previously published in Caribbean Review volume 13, issue 4.
The Evolution of the Latino Community in New York (2010) by Gabriel Haslip-Viera was previously published in Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook, edited by Claudio Iván Remeseira. Columbia University Press, New York.
The Great Exodus: Its Roots” (2002) by Ramona Hernández was previously published in her book The Mobility of Workers Under Advanced Capitalism. Dominican Migration to the United States. Columbia University Press, New York.
2. Culture, Ethnicity, and Race
Neither Hispanic, nor Black: We’re Brazilian (2007) by Ana Cristina Braga Martes was previously published in The Other Latinos: Central and South Americans in the United States, edited by José Luis Falconi and José Antonio Mazotti. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Situating Latino Voices in a New England Community (2009) by David Carey, Jr. was previously published in Latino Voices in New England, edited by Ed. David Carey Jr. and Robert Atkinson. SUNY Press, New York.
Immigrant Identities in Transnational Contexts (2012) by Dina Lopez was previously published in The Immigration & Education Nexus, edited by David A. Urias. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam. ← xv | xvi →
The New Latino Diaspora (2013) by Stanton Wortham, Katherine Clonan-Roy, Holly Link, and Carlos Martínez was previously Phi Delta Kappan volume 94, issue 6.
The Implications and Impact of Race on the Health of Hispanic/Latino Males (2010) by Luisa N. Borrell and Clara Rodríjuez was previously published in Health Issues in Latino Males: A Social and Structural Approach, edited by Marilyn Aguirre-Molina, Luisa N. Borrell, and William Vega. Rutgers University Press, Rutgers.
Botánicas in America’s Backyard: Uncovering the World of Latino Healers’ Herb-Healing Practices in New York City (2006) by Anahí Viladrich was previously published in Human Organization, volume 65, issue 4.
5. Women Studies
“They Are Taken into Account for Their Opinions”: Making Community and Displaying Identity at a Dominican Beauty Shop in New York City (2007) by Ginetta E.B. Candelario was previously published in her book Black Behind The Ears. Dominican Racial Identity from Museums to Beauty Shops. Duke University Press, Durham.
Women Leave Home for the Factory: Gender, Work, and Family (2009) by Yolanda Prieto was previously published in her book The Cubans of Union City: Immigrants and Exile. Temple University Press, Philadelphia.
Dominican Women Across Three Generations: Educational Dreams, Goals and Hopes (2008) by Rosie M. Soy and Stefan Bosworth was previously published in Dominican Women Across Three Generations: Educational Dreams, Goals and Hopes. Dominican Studies Institute, New York.
6. Queer Studies
Crossing Queer and Latino Boundaries (2001) by Luis Aponte-Parés was previously published in Mambo Montage: The Latinization of New York, edited by Agustín Leó-Montes and Arlene Dávila. Columbia University Press, New York.
Tacit Subjects (2011) by Carlos Ulises Decena was previously published in his book Tacit Subjects: Belonging and Same-Sex Desire. Duke University Press, Durham.
Arthur Aviles’s Choreography of the Public Sphere (2012) by Ramón H. Rivera-Servera was previously published in his book Performing Queer Latinidad: Dance, Sexuality, Politics. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
7. Film and Media Studies
From the Margin to the Center: Puerto Rican Cinema in New York (1997) by Lillian Jiménez was previously published in Latin Looks: Images of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Media, edited by Clara E. Rodríguez. Westview Press, Boulder.
Policing the Latina/o Other: Latinidad in Prime-Time News Coverage of the Elián González Story (2008) by Isabel Molina Guzmán was previously published in Latino/a Communication Studies Today, edited byAngharad N. Valdivia. Peter Lang, New York. ← xvi | xvii →
8. Visual and Performing Arts
New York’s Latin Music Landmarks (2010) by Frank M. Figueroa was previously published in Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook, edited by Claudio Iván Remeseira. Columbia University Press, New York.
Mambo on 2. The Birth of a New Form of Dance in New York City (2004) by Sydney Hutchinson was previously published in Centro Journal, volume 16, issue 2.
The Life and Passion of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2010) by Frances Negrón-Muntaner was previously published in Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook, edited by Claudio Iván Remeseira. Columbia University Press, New York.
Sandra María Esteves’s Nuyorican Poetics: The Signifying Difference (2004) by Miriam DeCosta-Willis was previously published in Afro-Hispanic Review volume 23, issue 2.
Dominican-American Auto-Ethnographies: Considering the Boundaries of Self-Representation in Julia Alvarez and Junot Díaz (2010) by Aitor Ibarrola-Armendariz was previously published in Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses (RAEI), volume 23.
Women’s Bodies, Lesbian Passions (2009) by Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes was previously published in his book Queer Ricans. Culture and Sexualities in the Diaspora. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
| 1 →
Latina/o Studies: The Emergence and Transformation of a Field
A few years ago, I showed a sequence from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) in one of my classes. In the sequence, Chaplin’s character finds himself accidentally—as usual—leading a group of workers who, in that precise moment, were marching by in protest. After watching the sequence, an intrigued student asked me why the characters carried banners and flags written in Spanish. In the rally, the slogans “Unite” and “Liberty” were carried alongside banners that read “Unidad” and “Libertad.” What caught my student’s attention was the fact that there weren’t banners in any other language: “Were there already Hispanic immigrants working in the United States in the 1930s?” she asked. One way to answer this question is by going back to the mid-nineteenth century, which entails talking about a very different United States—to put it another way, it entails talking about a time during which the States were not yet United. Since a large part of what is today U.S. territory (California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) was Mexican territory until 1850, the presence of Mexicans in these areas throughout the nineteenth century and up to the first quarter of the twentieth century was due not to migratory processes but rather to processes of expansion and contraction of the nation-states. But this important historical fact does not explain the whole picture; migratory waves from the South did occur in this period, due largely to the Gold Rush in California. These were multiethnic migrations that included the arrival of Latin Americans from different parts of the continent—not only from Mexico. The peak of these migrations was reached precisely at the end of the U.S.-Mexican War. The image of Chaplin marching amid bilingual consignas documents and draws attention to the fundamental role that Mexicans and Latin Americans played in the formation of the U.S. industrial proletariat. The Modern Times sequence also makes visible, of course, the constant presence of Latina/os in this country.
The presence of Latina/os continues to grow and impact all forms of life in the United States, as evidenced by the growing influence of Latina/o culture in the public sphere, from the rise of Spanish-language usage to the increasing prominence of distinguished Latina/o women and men in various spheres of U.S. social, cultural, and political life—Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is one of the most recent and striking examples of this. According to a recent ← 1 | 2 → report by the Pew Hispanic Center, Latina/os are not only the nation’s largest minority group, but also one of its fastest-growing populations: “An estimate released in August 2013 by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the Hispanic population in 2012 was 53 million, making up 17% of the U.S. population. By comparison, non-Hispanic blacks, who are the nation’s second largest minority group, represent 12% of the nation’s population and non-Hispanic Asians rank third at 5%” (López, Gonzalez-Barrera, & Cuddington, 2013). The Hispanic population growth from 2000 to 2010 “accounted for more than half of the nation’s population growth” (Passel, Cohn, & Lopez, 2011). Moreover, “among the nation’s 40.4 million immigrants, nearly half (47%) are Hispanic” (Motel & Patten, 2013). In 1998, when the first Latino Studies Reader was published, Latina/os numbered 24 million in the United States and soon after became the largest minority group in the country. Unfortunately, the Supplemental Census Measure released in 2011 confirms the persistence of an issue already described by Antonia Darder and Rodolfo D. Torres in their introduction to The Latino Studies Reader: Culture, Economy, and Society. “Despite this increase in population and the political, educational, and economic advances of Latinos during the last 20 years,” the editors argued, “30.3 percent (or 8.4 million) of Latinos continue to live in poverty” (Darder & Torres, 1998, p. 3). In 2010, Latina/os had the highest poverty rates, with 28.2% of the population living in poverty (Lopez & Cohn, 2011). Moreover, “a majority of Latinos (54%) believe that the economic downturn that began in 2007 has been harder on them than on other groups in America” (Taylor, Lopez, Martínez, & Velasco, 2012).1 Latina/os living in different parts of the United States persistently face discrimination, prejudice, and social injustice supported by legislative actions and public policies—three noticeable examples are the Arizona SB 1070 Bill, strong forms of opposition to the DREAM Act, and the backlash against bilingual education services. As Suzanne Oboler (2012) argues, these practices “have ensured that Latino/as’ lives are continuously threatened by family separations, detentions, incarcerations and deportations, creating a climate of terror and constant fear in our communities, often regardless of legal status” (p. 282). Oboler adds that “one of the results of the past decade’s increasingly draconian anti-immigrant policies and practices is that by 2009, Latino/as had become the largest minority in US federal prisons” (p. 282). Discrimination is not only exercised on an institutional level, but it is also pervasive in daily racist/xenophobic practices that deny Latina/os their rightful place as primary contributors to the country’s cultural and democratic life.
The presence of Latina/os in the United States has always been marked by a double condition: if it is possible to perceive the historical continuity of different discriminatory practices, it is also true that communities and groups of Latina/os have learned to organize themselves to fight for their rights. Latina/os have maintained and spread their traditions and cultural practices across the country and have transformed the population landscape. This political and cultural activism has allowed Latina/os to succeed in different areas and, to differing degrees, to improve their quality of life.
One of the areas in which Latinos are starting to see significant changes is in education. According to a recent Pew Hispanic Center report, “A record seven-in-ten (69%) Hispanic high school graduates in the class of 2012 enrolled in college that fall, two percentage points higher than the rate (67%) among their white counterparts” (Fry & Taylor, 2013).2 The increase in the number of Latina/o high school graduates is all the more important since, as Oboler argues, “The current generation of Latino/a college students is…the first group of Latino/as to grow up defined as Latino/as by both themselves and US society. Previous generations were referred to as members of distinct communities (e.g. Chicano/as or Mexican-Americans; Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, etc.)” (Oboler, 2012, p. 284).
Do Labels Fit?
When it comes to defining Latina/os and their identity, one enters a territory not exempt from controversy and debate. One finds a very illustrative example of this issue in a short segment on The Daily Show in July 2013 regarding the question of immigration reform. Al Madrigal, The Daily Show’s senior ← 2 | 3 → Latino correspondent, introduced his segment by asking John Oliver, who was hosting The Daily Show that day and who happens to be British, the following: “We shouldn’t be [all identified as Latinos]—that’s like lumping all Europeans together…What if I said you were exactly the same as the French?”3 Oliver immediately responded: “Oh, really, you take that back or…I will cut your face off!” while threatening Madrigal with a broken glass bottle. In the 5-minute piece, Madrigal interviews Latina/os on the streets of New York City and asks them about their views on “other Latinos.” One Colombian says, “Latinos are all the same except for Mexicans, really”; an Ecuadorian points out that “Dominicans and Puerto Ricans don’t know how to speak Spanish”; one Mexican says that he “does not care about Latinos,” but that he doesn’t “dig Chileans” because “they’d just be eating too much mayo…I can’t be eating with them, you know what I mean? I don’t dig those Chileans.” Madrigal ends his segment by questioning the notion that Latinos “can’t assimilate in America” since they already “have the most important part down: hating Latinos.”
Beyond the comic twist of Madrigal’s conclusion and besides the fact that the Mexican man might have been right about the excessive levels of mayo consumed by Chileans—being Chilean myself, I must confess that I actually ask for mayo when eating at restaurants—Madrigal’s story is worth mentioning because it points to a matter of great significance within the field of Latina/o Studies. The existence of different labels or categories—Mexican, Mexican American, Chicana/o, Hispanic, and Latina/o—and the political, social, and ethnic implications of such labels, have been a subject of constant debate among Latina/o Studies scholars. Of course, labels are dynamic, and their meanings vary depending on how people use them. And even though people may use the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably, over time, different groups and institutions have given different meanings to these terms.4 During the 1960s and 1970s, at about the same time that Mexican Americans who embraced ethnic pride and political activism adopted the term “Chicano,” other groups—including Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Central and South Americans—self-adopted the term “Latino” (Oboler, 1995). The Latino label “emphasized closer ties to Latin America and opened the possibility to forge coalitions among these groups” (Alamillo, 2008, p. 1). The label “Hispanic,” in turn, was adopted by the U.S. federal government in 1977 to unify immigrant groups from all Spanish-speaking countries (including Spain), along with Chicana/os or Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans, emphasizing the ties of these groups to Spain. The notion of Latina/o as an “ethnic group” was officially recognized by the U.S. government in 1997 and was first used in the 2000 U.S. census. According to the “Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity,” the label Hispanic or Latino refers to a “person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. The term, ‘Spanish origin,’ can be used in addition to ‘Hispanic or Latino’.”5
Considering the institutional and official definitions, it is not difficult to understand why a large number of Brazilian immigrants who currently live in Boston, Massachusetts, have a hard time identifying themselves as Latina/os. But Brazilians are not the only ones who have shown reservations vis-à-vis the terms Latina/o or Hispanic. As Madrigal’s segment illustrated, and also according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, “When it comes to describing their identity, most Hispanics prefer their family’s country of origin over pan-ethnic terms. Half (51%) say that most often they use their family’s country of origin to describe their identity.” Moreover, half of the people interviewed said that they had no preference for either “Hispanic” or “Latino,” and “nearly seventy per cent (69%) said that they do not see a shared common culture among U.S. Hispanics.” In terms of race, “most Hispanics [51%] don’t see themselves fitting into the standard racial categories used by the U.S. Census Bureau” (Taylor et al., 2012).
Since the term Latina/o emerged “from within,” so to speak, and in continuity with pan-Latin-American discourses that have been present in the hemisphere since the early 1800s, there is a tendency in academic discourse to favor Latina/o over Hispanic. Yet for some scholars, both notions are ← 3 | 4 → somewhat inadequate in that they tend to oversimplify the complex aspects of race, ethnicity, and origin, and in doing so they obliterate the differences and particularities of each group or community. Earl Shorris (1994) comments on the pervasive confusion between race and ethnicity that prevails in definitions of Latina/o and Hispanic and suggests that one should address this combination of racial, cultural, and linguistic relations as a matrix that exists “in at least six dimensions: language, color, economics, education, citizenship, and national origin” (p. 149). Individuals, groups, and communities have different experiences of racialization depending on these dimensions, to which we could add class and gender. Latina/o subaltern classes, for instance, “are doubly racialized in relationship to both the ways in which racism of their places of origin is reenacted in the United States (Afro-Cubans and Guatemalan Mayans) and the manifold manners in which they are racialized by the racial state, institutions of civil society, and the racial common sense” (Laó-Montes, 2001, p. 10).
From the perspective of identity politics, labels such as Latina/o or Hispanic are also problematic in that different institutions use them to categorize, classify, and control individuals from the outside. Coco Fusco, for instance, argues that by calling ourselves Latinos, we lapse
into the bad habit which has enabled the U.S. government and the American media to turn hundreds of ethnic groups into one—Hispanic, Latino, you name it—and systematically promote its misinterpretation as a racial term, for the benefit of a segregationist system that sees only in black and white, no matter what the other’s color is. It also involves comprehending how the respective colonialists of the North and the South engendered different social constructions of race, despite shared legacies of slavery, sexual exploitation of blacks and indigenous women by white men, and segregationist legislation. (Fusco, 1995, p. 23)
Fusco points out a relevant matter: the fact that terms such as “Hispanic” or “Latina/o” reproduce the mode of categorization of the dominant ideology, preserving the hegemony of certain groups over others. Yet a possible counterargument is that very often Latina/os themselves conflate notions of race, origin, and ethnicity in their cultural practices and discourses to gain political agency. As Agustín Laó-Montes (2001) reminds us, “the perception of Latinos as a mestizo race situated in the middle of a black and white binary is not only a hegemonic racialized notion of the other, [but] also a guiding thread in several strands of latinismo” (Laó-Montes, 2001, p. 10). One of the guiding principles of the Chicano movement, which emerged in the Southwest contemporaneously with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, was that the Mexican presence in the region preceded that of the anglos. More important, the particularity of this multifaceted social movement was its assertion of a different racial conception: even though in the 1940s and 1950s Pachucos had fashioned themselves as neither Mexican nor American, “prior to the Chicano movement, no segment of the Mexican community had self-consciously embraced and affirmatively proclaimed a brown identity” (Haney-López, 2004, p. 2). This movement, through El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán (The Spiritual Aztlán Plan), also reclaimed the land of their predecessors, “the original inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlán.” A new Puerto Rican radicalism, or “Nuevo Despertar,” also emerged by the end of the 1960s and early 1970s in cities such as Chicago and Detroit in the Midwest and in New York City (Torres, 1998). Political events and cultural processes that were taking place in the 1960s throughout Latin America—the most important being the Cuban Revolution—and the figures of José Martí, Ernesto Che Guevara, and Paulo Freire were great sources of inspiration for the Chicano and the Puerto Rican movements.
The fact that we know that there is no such thing as a Latina/o or Hispanic race and that “race” as such is a cultural construction does not undermine the fact that racism exists and that it is the most immediate catalyst for the formation of a pan-Latino consciousness. In fact, argues Laó-Montes (2001), in many discursive instances, the notion of la raza latina “more than race signifies community and brings to light national and transnational constructions of latinidad” (p. 10). Laó-Montes suggests ← 4 | 5 → distinguishing between Latina/o identity as “specific positioning” and the notion of Latinidad as a discursive category:
Latino/a identity refers to the specific positioning of peoples of Latin American and Caribbean descent living in the United States, a historical location with particular historical foundations, hemispheric linkages, and global projections. I contend that for latinidad to be a “useful category for historical analysis,” it should be conceptualized as a domain of discursive formations. Latinidad, however, does not denote a single discursive formation but rather a multiplicity of intersecting discourses enabling different types of subjects and identities and deploying specific kinds of knowledge and power relations. (Laó-Montes, 2001, p. 4)
Both Latina/o identity and latinidad designate in Laó-Montes’s argument a diverse entity, an entity in constant transformation and whose experiences and practices are determined by specific contexts. Moreover, the notion of latinidad as a discursive category is conceptualized from the axis of difference—in that it is understood as a web that allows the formation of different subject positions and identities.
The arguments cited above are illustrative of the opposing views that exist within the field of Latina/o Studies regarding the uses, appropriations, and meaning of “Latina/o.” An issue underlying all perspectives quoted above is that of difference. Given the conflation of racial and ethnic discourses, along with the existence of cultural markers such as nationality, language, and religion, and an ensemble of shared experiences and discriminatory practices and policies that inform and produce the different discourses about Latina/o identity, the Latina/o population, and Latinidad, and given also the notable expansion of Latina/o Studies across the disciplines in the last decade, it is necessary to critically approach our object of study. How are we to define the Latina/o subject, the Latina/o population, and the Latina/o diaspora? How are we to think about difference in the context of Latina/o Studies? Should we think about difference as a singularity or as something specific? To put it differently: when thinking about our object of study, should we insist solely “on the multiple, particular, heterogeneous nature of contexts and subject positions” (Hallward, 2001, p. 21)? Or should we rather make “an effort to demolish notions of human behavior as specified by an intrinsic essence (class, race, gender or nation), so as to privilege the relations that make different groups specific to each other and to the situation in which they come to exist” (Hallward, 2001, p. 48)? By insisting on the differences that exist among the various groups, we might risk obliterating our object of study, rendering it unintelligible and unthinkable. The celebration of pure difference does not allow us to articulate notions such as the Latina/o population or the Latina/o subject, nor does it allow us to think critically about the instances of appropriation, classification, and discrimination that occur when the state apparatuses, the media, and other institutions of cultural impact use and reify these notions. Instead of conceptualizing difference as an essential attribute, our work should be grounded in situating this difference and thinking about it always in relation to specific historical experiences. In order to do this, we need to think about a structure that allows us to see the specificity—rather than the authenticity or the singularity—of the Latina/o experience, that is, the complex web of relations and practices that constitute the Latina/o subject in any historical conjunction.
Broadly speaking, Latina/os usually appear in the discourse as already specified, which is to be distinguished from the specific: “What is referred to as specific is always strictly distinct from positively specified or objectified characteristics of any kind, be they racial, sexual, cultural or physical. The specific is always specific-to, in the constrained freedom opened by a distance from (rather that absence of) the object” (Hallward, 2001, p. 49). As Peter Hallward argues, “we must find a way to account for the specific without recourse to the criteria of the authentic (as measured by fidelity to cultural origin or norm)” (2001, p. 40). Following Hallward, we would like to think about the Latina/o subject as a specific entity, as long as the specific is never given, but always a becoming: “We become specific, we ← 5 | 6 → become subjects as opposed to objects, we learn to think rather than merely recognize or represent, to the degree that we actively transcend the specified or the objectified” (2001, p. 48). If the specific “is the space of interests in relation to other interests, the space of the historical as such, forever ongoing, forever incomplete, the space where ‘we make our own history but not in circumstances of our own choosing,’” as Hallward puts it (2001, p. 5), then the Latina/os become specific at every historical conjunction, at different places, and by different means. The individual becomes a subject precisely when she de-marks herself, when she ceases to be the object of the other’s discourse and re-defines herself or defines herself for the first time. This same dialectic between the specific and the specified, between self-representation and classifications or definitions imposed from the outside, is apparent in the texts of the first intellectuals, ideologues, and political leaders who articulated the idea of a pan-Latin American identity since the beginnings of the nineteenth century: Simon Bolívar’s “Jamaica Letter” (1815), José Martí’s “Our America” (1891), José Enrique Rodó’s Ariel (1900), and José Miguel Vasconcelos’s The Cosmic Race (1925).
Hallward’s model also helps us to address other issues already mentioned. As I argued earlier, Fusco questions the use of categories and classifications already appropriated by the state and other hegemonic institutions—including academia—in that these notions reproduce the dominant ideology. In fact, “specifying” entities such as the state and the media use many of the labels that we employ in our academic discourse. These specifying categories, to put it in Hallward’s words, function in “the realm of the essence or essentialist, where the demarcation of an individual (subject, object, or culture) follows from its accordance with recognized classifications. The specified, as the participle suggests, extends only to the realm of the passive or the objectified” (2001, p. 40). Other questions that arise, then, are: What role does the academic discourse play vis-à-vis these specifying instances? If the same notions that articulate distinct political and social practices are used in repressive and discriminatory practices, how can one think critically within the field of Latina/o Studies about the dialectics between Latina/o as a label that is already specified and Latina/o as a specific entity? Also, what could be the analytical potential of thinking about the experiences of Dominicans in New York City, Brazilians in Boston, and Cubans in Union City not as singular or authentic experiences, but rather as specific Latina/o experiences? These questions are an invitation to rethink our object of study and to consider the critical and political potential of the notions that we use in our academic endeavors. Using different methodologies, theories, and analytical lenses, the chapters in this reader offer different explorations and approaches to these questions.
A Brief History of a Field
Latina/o Studies, an academic field that has dramatically expanded and transformed in the last three decades, has its roots in the fields of Chicano/a Studies in the Southwest and Puerto Rican Studies in the Midwest and the Northeast, both of which developed in academia as a result of social and political movements that emerged during the 1960s in these areas. Until the late 1960s, there were no academic departments that would address the particular experiences and needs of minority students, nor were there programs devoted to the study of the history and culture of minority populations. During this period, community activists and students joined forces and demanded the creation of academic programs at colleges and universities. The first Black Studies program was institutionalized at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1969, as the result of numerous student protests that had begun in 1964 and were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. The first programs, departments, and research centers of Chicano Studies opened their doors as the Chicano movement unfolded throughout the Southwest and as the number of second-generation Mexicans and Chicana/o students entering higher education increased.6 In New York City, also in 1969, Black and Puerto Rican students at the City University of New York (CUNY) demanded that courses relevant to their cultural heritage and experiences be offered. As a result of their combined efforts and struggle, the Department of Africana and Puerto ← 6 | 7 → Rican/Latino Studies (formerly Black and Puerto Rican Studies) was established at Hunter College. In addition, in 1973, the college founded the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro).7 By the late 1990s, even though Mexican Americans or Chicana/os and Puerto Ricans remained the two largest groups of U.S. Latina/os, increasing immigration from the Caribbean (especially from Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and also from Haiti) and Central and South America started changing the discourses about Latina/o identity and latinidad. Matt García and Angharad N. Valdivia (2012) argue that
the imperatives of forging an inclusive Latinidad in Midwestern cities…shaped higher education as sons and daughters of these mostly working class Mexican and Puerto Rican activists began to pursue degrees at places like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)…[where] students demanded a pan-Latina/o Studies program, despite the fact that Mexican Americans constituted the majority of Latina/o students. (García & Valdivia, 2012, p. 17)
The Latina/o Studies Program was founded at UIUC in 1996, and it became a department in 2010.8 In subsequent years, many other programs and institutions opened their doors—for example, the Center for Latino Initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution, established in 1998, and both the Pew Hispanic Research Center and the Center for Latin American, Caribbean & Latino Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center in 2001.
Since the 1980s, Latina/o Studies has developed across disciplines, expanding into different fields and integrating new approaches, methodologies, and theories from the arts as well as the social and natural sciences. This extensive corpus ranges from literary works such as memoirs and essays to cultural, historical, economic, and sociological studies on public policy, health, immigration, labor, race, ethnicity, and gender, which shed light on the experiences of Latina/os in the United States at specific times and places.9 In the last decade, Latina/o Studies scholars have also directed their attention to music, dance, popular culture, and the influence of mass media vis-à-vis discourses of Latinidad and Latina/o identity formation.10 The number of collective volumes covering different aspects of Latina/o experiences from different analytical frameworks has also grown considerably. The first collective volumes began to appear about 15 years ago and include Latinos and Education: A Critical Reader (1997), edited by Antonia Darder, Carlos C. Torres, and Henry Gutiérrez; Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad (1997), edited by Frances R. Aparicio and Suzanne Chavez-Silverman; The Latino Studies Reader: Culture, Economy, and Society (1998), edited by Darder and Torres; and The Latino Condition: A Critical Reader (1998), edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. In the last decade, the list has grown substantially and now includes Latino/a Popular Culture (2002), edited by Michelle Habell-Pallán and Mary Romero; Latinos Remaking America (2002), edited by Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and Mariela Páez; Juan Flores and Renato Rosaldo’s A Companion to Latino Studies (2007); Latina/o Communication Studies Today (2008), edited by Angharad N. Valdivia; Handbook of Latinos and Education (2010), edited by Enrique Murillo et al.; The Young Lords: A Reader (2010), edited by Darrel Enck-Wanzer, Iris Morales, and Denise Oliver-Velez; Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader (2011), edited by Michael Hames-Garcia and Ernesto Javier Martínez; the two volumes of The Chicano Studies Reader: An Anthology of Aztlan, 1970–2010; and Mapping Latina/o Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader (2012), edited by Valdivia and Matt García. This extensive scholarship attests to the consolidation and continuing development of this field.
Latina/os on the East Coast
Latina/os on the East Coast: A Critical Reader provides an overview of recognized essays as well as groundbreaking research about the different communities that represent the Latina/o diaspora living on the East Coast of the United States and that contribute to the historical, cultural, political, and economic dynamics that affect the Latina/o’s lived experience in the country. The chapters in the reader explore, through different lenses, the similarities and differences among the groups of Latina/os living on the East Coast.11 Since 1990, Latina/os have dispersed across the country, growing their numbers outside ← 7 | 8 → traditional settlement counties in California, Texas, and Florida (these remain the states with the largest Latina/o populations).12 There has been rapid growth in Latina/o population in areas where its numbers were formerly low (for example, as one of the chapters in this volume demonstrates, in Marshall, a suburban town in the Northeast, the Latina/o population grew from 100 in 1990 to 8,000 in 2010). Currently, almost 30% of the Latina/os living in the United States, regardless of their immigration status or place of birth, have settled on the East Coast. The dominant groups differ from city to city and from state to state: “In the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are the dominant Hispanic origin groups. In Miami-Hialeah, FL, Cubans are the dominant Hispanic group and in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas, Salvadorans are the largest Hispanic origin group among that area’s Hispanics” (Brown & Lopez, 2013). Besides these groups, there are clusters of Argentineans, Brazilians, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Guatemalans, Haitians, Hondurans, Nicaraguans, Peruvians, and Venezuelans who have, of course, settled in New York, New Jersey, and Florida, but also in towns and cities in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Latina/os on the East Coast offers relevant data about the lived experiences of different groups—among others, groups of Cubans living in the towns of Florida and New Jersey and Mexican immigrants living in the Northeast—as well as information about the changes experienced by Dominican communities living in New York City and Puerto Ricans communities living in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
- XVIII, 468
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Softcover)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2013 (September)
- Diaspora Immigration Civil rights Minority Cultural difference
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XVII, 468 pp., num. ill.