Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race

I highly recommend Arlene Davila's new book Latino Spin. Davila has been described by Junot Diaz as "the finest, fiercest and most piercing of our public intellectuals." Davila is a professor of Anthropology and American Studies at New York University and the author of Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and the Neoliberal City, Latinos Inc: Marketing and the Making of a People and Sponsored Identities.

Her new book Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race examines contemporary constructions of Latino citizenship.

From NYU Press:

Illegal immigrant, tax burden, job stealer. Patriot, family oriented, hard worker, model consumer. Ever since Latinos became the largest minority in the U.S. they have been caught between these wildly contrasting characterizations leaving us to wonder: Are Latinos friend or foe?

Latino Spin cuts through the spin about Latinos supposed values, political attitudes, and impact on U.S. national identity to ask what these caricatures suggest about Latinos shifting place in the popular and political imaginary. Noted scholar Arlene Dávila illustrates the growing consensus among pundits, advocates, and scholars that Latinos are not a social liability, that they are moving up and contributing, and that, in fact, they are more American than the Americans. But what is at stake in such a sanitized and marketable representation of Latinidad? Dávila follows the spin through the realm of politics, think tanks, Latino museums, and urban planning to uncover whether they effectively challenge the growing fear over Latinos supposedly dreadful effect on the integrity of U.S. national identity. What may be some of the intended or unintended consequences of these more marketable representations in regard to current debates over immigration?

With particular attention to what these representations reveal about the place and role of Latinos in the contemporary politics of race, Latino Spin highlights the realities they skew and the polarization they effect between Latinos and other minorities, and among Latinos themselves along the lines of citizenship and class. Finally, by considering Latinos in all their diversity, including their increasing financial and geographic disparities, Dávila can present alternative and more empowering representations of Latinidad to help attain true political equity and intraracial coalitions.

Davila will be giving a talk at King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (53 Washington Sq. South, New York, NY, 10012) on December 4th @ 6:30pm.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Latin@s and the N-Word

Sorry about the hiatus. Work is crazy right now.

In the meantime, while I get my act together please check out Raquel Cepeda's on point Village Voice article "The N-Word is Flourishing Among Generation Hip-Hop Latinos."

More soon...

*tip of the fitted to Reggaetonica

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Reggaetón Factor in the U.S. Elections

*Originially published at NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America)

Who would have thought when Daddy Yankee released "Gasolina" in 2004 that four short years later the song would become the butt of jokes about John McCain and offshore drilling? If there were still sectors of U.S. society that didn’t know about reggaetón, this year’s presidential race certainly changed that.

Daddy Yankee (Raymond Ayala) endorses McCain before a shrieking crowd of high school girls in Arizona.

Daddy Yankee caused a stir in August when he publicly endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The reggaetonero recently made headlines again when he agreed to help moderate a debate on October 9 among candidates for governor of Puerto Rico as part of the "Vota o Quédate Callao" (Vote or Shut Up) initiative to get young voters to the polls in November.

Not to be outdone, Barack Obama has also had a number of reggaetón artists come out in support of his campaign, most notably Julio Voltio and Don Omar who appeared in the video "Podemos con Obama," directed by Yerba Buena's Andres Levin. Calle 13 is even rocking the vote over at MTV. The duo can be seen in ads on MTV and MTV Tr3s urging young people to listen to their new album on the way to the polls.

Does this signal the emergence of a "reggaetón vote"? Pundits have wondered about the weight of the "hip-hop vote" in this year’s election, particularly regarding Barack Obama’s potential appeal to young African American and Latino/a voters. But in 2012 will political pundits be asking candidates what they’re doing to win the "reggaetón vote"?

Maybe. But much like the "hip-hop vote," the idea of a "reggaetón vote" is more complicated than it seems, and it defies simplistic categorization. Politicians’ use of reggaetón in speaking to the so-called "Latino Vote" revealed stark cleavages within the Latino/a community along lines of nationality, race, class, gender, legal status, and age. Indeed, the strategy backfired in many ways and exposed the messy complexities and divisions within the Latino/a community that often gets lumped together with monolithic labels like "Latino/a" and "Hispanic."

Although some analysts continue to question reggaetón’s political potential, this election season confirms the genre’s growing politicization. What that means, exactly, depends on who is doing the politicking.

Daddy Yankee, "El Cartel: The Big Boss," 2007, Interscope Records.

When McCain appeared with Daddy Yankee in an attempt to woo Latino/a voters, controversy erupted over whether Daddy Yankee—and by extension reggaetón—could or should represent the Latino/a community politically. In public responses to the endorsement some felt that reggaetón was something too Puerto Rican or too Caribbean to fully represent the entire Latino/a community.1 Others felt that reggaetón was too "low-class," saying they did not want to be associated with references to drugs, violence, and aggressive sexuality.

Others felt that as a U.S. citizen Daddy Yankee was not immediately affected by immigration policy and, therefore, had no right to endorse McCain because of his stance on immigration. Still others wondered why Daddy Yankee’s endorsement even garnered so much attention since as a Puerto Rican resident he is barred from even casting a ballot for president on Election Day.

Likewise, recent events in Puerto Rico have sparked further debate over reggaetón’s political potential. Many youths are resisting the cooptation of reggaetón by the political mainstream and using the music to channel concerns and challenge the status quo.

A group of young artists staged a protest outside of the Puerto Rican Convention Center against the gubernatorial debate being held inside on October 9. They organized not in protest to reggaetón’s cooptation or even Daddy Yankee—though they did burn his albums—but in protest to the hypocrisy expressed by Puerto Rico’s four major political parties.

Listen to Sietenueve's "Quédate Callao":

The protestors denounced how reggaetoneros, like Daddy Yankee, are being used in an effort to attract youth to a political system that systematically ignores their concerns. Sietenueve, a hip-hop artist based in the barrio of Villa Palmeras in Santurce, composed a biting critique of Daddy Yankee entitled "Quedate Callao" accusing him of greed and political ignorance. While Yankee implores youth to "Vote or Shut Up," Sietenueve's song title suggests his colleague do the latter. At the end of the song, he raps, "How can you endorse a guy that wants to bring us more war, more blood, more death. It's real sad. Brother, if you don't know your history, educate yourself. Or just shut up."

Although urban music such as hip hop and reggaetón is seen by many as little more than apolitical party music, artists like Sietenueve, other musicians, and their fans in Puerto Rico are increasingly using it as a platform for social justice and anti-establishment political engagement. This point is made poignantly visible with "Ninguno, el candidato de los hip-hoppers" (Nobody, the hip-hoppers candidate).

The "Ninguno pa’ Gobernador" (Nobody, for Governor) campaign is an intervention by political theater group Papel Machete. Much like the "None of the Above" vote that Puerto Ricans made famous during the 1998 plebiscite to determine Puerto Rico’s status, Ninguno’s supporters are urging voters to once again turn to "la quinta" (the fifth)—in protest to the four main parties—and write-in "Ninguno" on the November 4 gubernatorial ballot.

Sietenueve and other high-profile ningunistas joined the Friends of Ninguno Committee in the protest outside the convention center during the gubernatorial debate to highlight the lack of representation all four candidates offered voters.

As one protester told Primera Hora, "In our country, political parties work within an imposed limited structure, making electoral participation an act of selection between candidates, who, once elected, automatically become puppets of the rich."

While all the candidates claim that they know the struggles of the young, the working-class, and the marginalized of Puerto Rican society, their platforms are largely indistinguishable from the status quo and desires of elites. Protestors provocatively asked, "Which candidate for governor comes from the barrios? Which one of them works in the factories? Is there a true representative of the worker, the woman, or the poor?" The answer is of course Ninguno. As Ninguno himself states, "Todos prometen, Ninguno Cumple" (Everyone promises, Nobody delivers).

While U.S.-based Latino/a youth and Puerto Rican youth are using music as a vehicle for political expression and action, they are also actively resisting superficial attempts made by politicians to win their votes through token musical shout-outs, while casting them aside in terms of actual policy.

Indeed, Daddy Yankee’s endorsement of McCain as well as his participation in the gubernatorial debate caused outrage among many young people because it threatened to turn reggaetón into a hollow signifier, separating it from its radical and subversive potential.

This election season shows politicians will not win the reggaetón vote through cultural pandering. To win over this growing group they will actually have to address the issues affecting U.S.-based Latino/a and island-based Puerto Rican youth with concrete policies. Dancing perreo on stage for votes isn’t going to cut it—and, in fact, it never did.

1. These "responses" are based on coverage of the endorsement by mainstream media such as Primera Hora, The Washington Post, Newsday, and New York Times, and their readers’ comments as well as Latino/a themed blogs and forums such as Latin Americanist and Vivir Latino.

Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Letter to Obama

Latin American Studies Association (LASA), the largest association of scholars working in the field of Latin American Studies, sent a letter to Barack Obama with suggestions about policy toward region. Spot on. [Tip of the fitted to Vivir Latino]

Check out the letter...

October 12, 2008

Dear Senator Obama:

We write to offer our congratulations on your campaign and to express our hope that as the next president of the United States you will take advantage of an historic opportunity to improve relations with Latin America. As scholars of the region, we also wish to convey our analysis regarding the process of change now underway in Latin America.

Just as the people of the United States have begun to debate basic questions regarding the sort of society they want-- thanks in part to your own candidacy but also owing to the magnitude of the current financial crisis-- so too have the people of Latin America. In fact, a recent round of intense debate about a just and fair society has been going on in Latin America for more than a decade, and the majority are opting, like you and so many of us in the United States, for hope and change. As academics personally and professionally committed to development and democracy in Latin America, we are hopeful that during your presidency the United States can become a partner rather than an adversary to the positive changes already under way in the hemisphere.

The current impetus for change in Latin America is a rejection of the model of economic growth that has been imposed in most countries since the early 1980s, a model that has concentrated wealth, relied unsuccessfully on unrestricted market forces to solve deep social problems and undermined human welfare. The current rejection of this model is broad-based and democratic. In fact, contemporary movements for change in Latin America reveal significantly increased participation by workers and peasants, women, Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples-- in a word, the grassroots. Such movements are coming to power in country after country. They are neither puppets, nor blinded by fanaticism and ideology, as caricatured by some mainstream
pundits. To the contrary, these movements deserve our respect, friendship and support.

Latin Americans have often viewed the United States not as a friend but as an oppressor, the guarantor of an international economic system that works against them, rather than for them-- the very antithesis of hope and change. The Bush Administration has made matters much worse, and U.S. prestige in the region is now at a historic low. Washington's tendency to fight against hope and change has been especially prominent in recent U.S. responses to the democratically elected governments of Venezuela and Bolivia. While anti-American feelings run deep, history demonstrates that these feelings can change. In the 1930s, after two decades of conflict with the region, the United States swore off intervention and adopted a Good Neighbor Policy. Not coincidentally, it was the most harmonious time in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations. In the 1940s, every country in the region became our ally in World War Two. It can happen again.

There are many other challenges, too. Colombia, the main focus of the Bush Administration's policy, is currently the scene of the second largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with four million internally displaced people. Its government, which criminalizes even peaceful protest, seeks an extension of the free trade policies that much of the hemisphere is already reacting against. Cuba has begun a process of transition that should be supported in positive ways, such as through the dialogue you advocate. Mexicans and Central Americans migrate by the tens of thousands to seek work in the United States, where their labor power is much needed but their presence is denigrated by a public that has, since the development of opinion polling in the 1930s, always opposed immigration from anywhere. The way to manage immigration is not by building a giant wall, but rather, the United States should support more equitable economic development in Mexico and Central America and, indeed, throughout the region. In addition, the U.S. must reconsider drug control policies that have simply not worked and have been part of the problem of political violence, especially in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. And the U.S. must renew its active support for human rights throughout the region. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Latin Americans, the United States has come to stand for the support of inequitable regimes.

Finally, we implore you to commit your administration to the firm support of constitutional rights, including academic and intellectual freedom. Most of us are members of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), the largest professional association of experts on the region, and we have experienced first-hand how the Bush administration's attempt to restrict academic exchange with Cuba is counter-productive and self-defeating. We hope for an early opportunity to discuss this and other issues regarding Latin America with your administration.

Our hope is that you will embrace the opportunity to inaugurate a new period of hemispheric understanding and collaboration for the common welfare. We ask for change and not only in the United States.



Eric Hershberg, LASA President 2007-09, Professor of Politics and
Director of Latin American Studies, Simon Fraser University

Sonia E. Alvarez, LASA Past President (2004-2006), Leonard J. Horwitz
Professor of Politics, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Charles R. Hale, LASA Past President (2003-2004), Professor of
Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin

Marysa Navarro-Aranguren, LASA Past President (2003-2004), Charles
Collis Professor of History, Dartmouth College

Arturo Arias, LASA Past President, (2001-2003), Professor of Spanish
and Portuguese University of Texas, Austin.

Susan Eckstein, LASA Past President (1997-98), Professor of Sociology &
International Relations, Boston University

Cynthia McClintock, LASA
Past President (1994-95), Professor of Political Science and
International Affairs, George Washington University

Carmen Diana Deere, LASA Past President (1992-94), Professor of Food
and Resource Economics and Director, Center for Latin American Studies,
University of Florida

Lars Schoultz, LASA Past President (1991-92), William Rand Kenan, Jr.,
Professor of Political Science, UNC, Chapel Hill

Jean Franco, LASA Past President (1990-91), Emeritus Professor,
Columbia University

Helen I. Safa, LASA Past President (1983-85), Emeritus Professor of
Anthropology and Latin American Studies, University of Florida.

Paul L. Doughty, LASA Past President (1974-75), Distinguished Service
Professor, Emeritus of Anthropology and Latin American Studies,
University of Florida

Cristina Rojas, School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa

Marisol de la Cadena, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC Davis

John C. Chasteen, Distinguished Professor of History, UNC Chapel Hill

Mario Blaser, Assistant Professor of International Development, York
University, Toronto.

Arturo Escobar, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, UNC,
Chapel Hill.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Knew It!!

Who would have known dude is actually really funny. I have such a crush!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ivy Queen vs. La Queen

So I came across this video at ElCorillord.com that asks the question:"Entonces qual tu prefieres La Queen o a Ivy Queen?"

My mind immediately jumped to Jillian Baez's illuminating piece “En mi imperio”: Competing discourses of agency in Ivy Queen’s reggaetón" for the Centro Journal.

peep the abstract...

"This paper argues for a more complex understanding of the intersection of gender and representation in reggaetón. Using the music and career trajectory of the female artist Ivy Queen as a case study, the author demonstrates how her music and self-representation in interviews simultaneously functions as a potential site of female agency within a male dominated sphere while being constrained by transnational music industries and Latin American norms of femininity. More specifically, the essay offers a critical discourse analysis of the music, performances, interviews, and press reception of female reggaetón artist, Ivy Queen, otherwise known as the “queen of reggaetón,” to understand how she and the media construct her subjectivity and agency. Ultimately, the author argues that as reggaetón´s most popular female icon, Ivy Queen straddles a tenuous space in which her hybrid subjectivity is complex and at times seemingly contradictory"

Her paper is off the hook and I strongly encourage folks to read it (you can google it and find a pdf). But checking out that video definitely demonstrates a lot of what Baez discusses in her piece mainly how can we read the differences in La Queen's aesthetic performance versus Ivy's, and what factors influenced the change. But don't take my word for it read the article for yourself!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

If the Bush Administration Ran a Gift Shop

Abu Ghraib coffee table, by Phillip Toledano.

Over the course of eight long years George Bush's presidency has provided us with searing images of human brutality and suffering that will haunt the American conscience for generations. Artist and photographer Phillip Toledano created a series of installation artworks for the exhibition America the Gift Shop, that takes those images and crystallizes them like souvenirs of the Bush Administration. Toledano notes that, "We buy souvenirs at the end of a trip, to remind ourselves of the experience. What do we have to remind us of the events of the last eight years?

According to Toledano 's site he created the "products" to reflect “the current foreign policy in the fun-house mirror of American commerce.” As Toledano told Vanity Fair, he hopes that “as we draw near to the election, this work may remind people of what the current administration has done, and choose not to elect someone (McCain) who would happily give us more of the same.”

Thankfully, none of the "products" are actually for sale, so no one will profit from these scenes of American imperialism and barbarism. View more of the "products" at America the Gift Shop .

What do you all think? Thought provoking or too far?

*Tip of the fitted to Vulture

Monday, October 13, 2008

Islamophobia and the McCain-Palin Campaign

As we enter into the last few weeks of the election McCain and Palin supporters have increased their racist attacks on Obama. McCain and Palin have said that Obama "pals around with domestic terrorists" and their supporters have felt free to shout "terrorist" and "kill him" at rallies. His opponents have been trying to present him to the American public as a Muslim candidate (which he isn't) in order to play on the current climate of violent anti-Islamic sentiment. Frighteningly enough people buy it, check out this clips of McCain-Palin rallies in Ohio and Pennsylvania...

Its interesting because by trying to link Obama to domestic terrorism the McCain-Palin camp actually encouraged the media to explore her and her husbands ties to an Alaskan extremist group. Keith Olbermann of course does a great job of breaking down the racism and Islamophobia in the McCain-Palin camp, check out this clip (its a little long but worth every minute)...

*Tip of the fitted to Playahata.com and VivirLatino.com

Friday, October 10, 2008

A-RAB Money?

Busta must have lost his goddamn mind with this song. I'm pretty much at a loss for words, but I encourage people to hit me up on the comments section with their thoughts.

*tip of the fitted to the amazing Wayne Marshall over at wayneandwax.com

Calle 13 Tr3sPass

Enjoy these clips from Calle 13's amazing show last night...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Move Over Gwen Ifill: Daddy Yankee to Moderate Debate

Daddy Yankee agreed to help moderate a debate tonight (October 9) among candidates for governor of Puerto Rico. He will be joining television personality Yizette Cifredo and journalist David Rodríguez as a co-moderator. Daddy Yankee is there as part of the "Vota o Quedate Callao" initiative to get young voters to the polls on November 4th.

Although, El Cangri recently made a big splash in the mainland because of his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, he says he is not partial to any of the candidates running for Governor of Puerto Rico. He told the newspaper Primera Hora, "I am going to be an instrument to deliver the people's questions."

The event is being sponsored by Univision, and has already garnered quite a bit of controversy. A group of young boricuas gathered outside of the Puerto Rican Convention Center , where the debate is being held, earlier today to burn Daddy Yankee albums. One of the youth, Jose Perez, said the artist is being used as "bait" in a system that otherwise neglects young people.

The discussion will be between Luis Fortuño, Edwin Irizarry, Rogelio Figueroa the current governor of Puerto Rico, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who will respond to various questions posed by young voters submitted through social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. For those of you on the isla you can catch the debate tonight on Univisión Puerto Rico.

What do you all think? Is this a smart political move or is that Daddy Yankee brand hair gel that El Cangri uses seeping into his brain?

[via/ Associated Press]
*tip of the fitted to Lossip

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kanye West Love Lockdown Video

Kanye West premiered his new video for "Love Lockdown" on Ellen (que hetero-queer!) and watching it pretty much made my head explode.

There was so much going on in this video Kanye is on some other shit. The video references American Psycho (the apartment is pretty much a replica of Patrick Batement's minus the Les Mis poster and you know blood), Coming to America (which is kind of old news since Busta did that in his Dangerous video), there are also some random ass spaceships or something ("Satillite of Love"?).

I'm confused, but obviously not as much as Ellen. Ellen looked like a baby deer in the forest after that clip. Craziness.

Old School, New School, No School

What up Mi Gente! I'm back from the Puerto Rican Studies Conference in San Juan with tons of stuff kicking around in my head that I hope to share on this blog in the coming weeks.

Lets kick stuff off and spark a debate. I'm putting up this YouTube clip from Real Talk NY from the VH1 Hip Hop Honors. Real Talk NY asked old schoolers to talk about what was lacking in the new generations music. The answers were varied, but they all basically agreed that the new school doesn't have anything on them.

I'm currently working on some stuff about these crisis moments in hip-hop (Hip Hop is Dead anyone?), and how people then remember and channel "old school" hip hop. I think there is this serious push towards a retro aesthetic in hip-hop and I'm working towards how it connects to the idea that hip hop is dead. If hip hop died in the new school does that mean that only the old school can revive it?

I'd love to hear what people think about this clip and the current nostalgia towards the old school.