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The Hispanic Image in Hollywood

A Postcolonial Approach


Jorge Barrueto

The Hispanic Image in Hollywood: A Postcolonial Approach offers an in-depth analysis of how Hispanics are represented in American cinema. Film production is a reflection of American historical processes that have defined Hispanics and American mainstream identity as oppositional forces in the domestic political establishment. Hispanic difference, as depicted in film, is understood as the by-product of Western philosophy, Western science, territorial expansion, colonialism and American nation building, wherein Hispanics have been identified as the antithetical, ubiquitous Other. More precisely, specific Hollywood films not only mirror American history but also a variety of political discourses that have defined Hispanic identity. Thematic categories of American history used to construct Hispanics reflect, in many ways, a deep-rooted, Eurocentric, colonial worldview. As the research of this book clearly shows, film depictions of Hispanics have created negative visual taxonomies based on gender, race, and class.


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Chapter Five: Contestation of the Colonial Past 151


Chapter Five Contestation of the Colonial Past o this point, our reading of American cinema in reference to Hispanics shows that the cinematic Hispanic Other is an artifice of the Hollywood establishment, and that Hispanic representation has always had social, political and economic objectives. American film insists on depicting Hispanics as gangsters, illegal immigrants and dodgy revolutionaries, and Latin America as a primitive space. At best, Hispanics represent exoticism, servitude and cheap labor. As the iterative stories of Hollywood illustrate, this linkage of culture, geography and race to pathology and crime is part of a dominant institutional discourse that keeps Hispanics within the limits of difference, criminality and foreignness. However, as argued in this chapter, Hispanic self-analysis and proactive work in film production can counteract those time-honored filmic principles. As seen in films such as Real Women Have Curves, Stand and Deliver and Zoot Suit, Hispanic self-questioning about Hispanic culture and Hispanic role in American life engenders different visions than the antithetical iconography common in Hollywood. The teleology of Hispanic films is different. It is self-critical; it has social goals and aims at the transformation of the Hispanic subject. They reveal ideologies akin to the Hispanic world in relation to Latin America and Hispanics in their new home in the north. These narratives explore issues of personal, familial and communal growth in connection to education, multiculturalism and integration. In all, these are alternative filmic representations of Hispanics that can be applied not only to fictitious constructs but also Hispanics in...

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