“Imaging Imagined Identities: Iconographies of Transgression, Indigeneity, and Pan-Americanism in Estrada Courts Muralism”
Eric Mazariegos Jr., Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
In the early 1970s, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles sponsored a beautification effort for the Estrada Courts, a housing project situated within Boyle Heights. Led by Charles “Cat” Felix and his entourage of Chicana/o artists, the resulting murals mostly all referenced Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican (Aztec, Maya) iconographies to signal a common progeny for residents. Nevertheless, some of the murals there defied this standardized mode of representation by co-opting more global, Pan-American visualities. An example is “Indian Profiles,” an ambivalent mural described by art historian Holly Barnet-Sánchez as “problematic” (2016). It depicts two indigenizing profile busts topped by distinctive Plains-Indian style (as opposed to Aztec or Maya) feathered headdresses. Backdropped against the tumultuous 1970s Chicano Movement, what prompted a Pan-American—as opposed to a “centered” and Mesoamerican—call to indigeneity on the West Coast? Here, did ideological “iconographies of transgression” broaden Latinx identity instead of geographically restricting it? What were the implications of this process? Indian Profiles unsettles predominantly Mexican and Mesoamerican visual culture in Southern California and the Greater Southwest, homogeneously expanding both laterally and longitudinally across lands. In this way, the image is in dialogue with Kellie Jones’ recent assessment of non-fixity and imagination as fruitful tools for black artists to actively (re)create sites of progeny (2017). Gloria Anzaldúa also notes in “Border Arte” that Nepantla, or the state of in-betweenness, is a space of disorientation, deconstruction, and ambivalence (1993). Nuancing the “problematics” of Indian Profiles with these frameworks, we thus locate an imaginative reconstruction of agency not based on grounded borders, but on shared thematics of indigenous identities.
“Cynicism and ‘Narcocorridos’ in the Aftermath of the “Liberation” of Ovidio Guzmán”
Jeanie Toscano, Spanish, UC Irvine
The narcocorrido is a musical-literary genre that can reveal key aspects of a subculture and a collective imaginary—extending to both sides of the US-Mexico border—which discursively posits itself in opposition to authority through the ‘narco’ figure who is casted as hero through these songs. In my paper, I take as my focus of cultural and literary study a specific set of ‘narcocorridos’—those related to the recent events of October 17, 2019 in Culiacan Sinaloa, when the Mexican military failed in their efforts to capture Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s son, Ovidio Guzmán López, due to the overwhelming armed response from the Sinaloa Cartel. Not 24 hours after the violent encounter between the two groups, a series of ‘corridos’ ensued on social media platforms revealing a cynical aspect of a Mexican collective consciousness that I seek to analyze in this paper. I rely on Peter Sloterdijk’s discussion about cynicism in postmodern societies (Critique of Cynical Reason, 1983) in order to elucidate the various modalities of cynicism at work and expressed in these corridos. My paper reveals how, in the backdrop of these cultural and artistic productions, lies a Mexican collective consciousness that grapples with a profound distrust of the Mexican state and a hopelessness about the possibility of building a society free of corruption and violence, while at the same time serving as a vehicle for expressing dissent and critique of law and authority.
“Queer Ranchero: Reimagining the Borderlands Through a Queer Lens”
Jorge Cruz, Latin American Studies, UC Los Angeles
In the borderlands between the United States and Mexico, the image of the ranchero is a symbol of Mexican cultural values and traditions. In the borderlands, where Mexican and American culture is often blurred into a hybrid identity, the ranchero is often portrayed as the hero in literature, poetry, music, and photography. This romanticized representation of the ranchero conjures a portrait of the ideal Mexican American man: strong, fearless, but most importantly, heterosexual. However, in the past couple of decades, queer Chicano(a) writers and artists have reimagined queer narratives and representations in spaces and times where they were often excluded and rendered invisible. One such artist is queer Chicano photographer Fabian Guerrero through his photo series depicting the ranchero as queer. Fabian Guerrero and I both grew up as young queer brown boys in the rural Texas borderlands, and through his images I am able to reimagine my familiar home not as a place of repression of my queer identity but of acceptance. I will analyze his work through a decolonial queer lens using the work of Chicana feminist scholars Gloria Anzaldúa and Emma Perez’s “Queering the Borderlands” and “The Decolonial Imaginary.” Fabian Guerrero’s photographs have reclaimed the image of the overly masculine ranchero into a feminine, gender-fluid brown queer body of love and acceptance. His queer ranchero series demonstrates the intersectionality of queer and Mexican American identity in the rural borderlands, one that challenges the dominant heteronormative narrative of Mexican American culture and disrupts the modern gender system.
“Bad Bunny: Breaking Boundaries of ‘Machismo’ in the Music Industry”
Kelly Scrima, Arts in Liberal Studies, Dartmouth College
Whether in the boardroom, on the street, or stage, men, like women, have long been subject to gendered norms within a dichotomous gender binary that is prevalent within the fashion and music industry. A prominent figure that is actively challenging male gender norms in fashion and music is Latin trap and reggaeton artist Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, who goes by the stage name Bad Bunny (also El Conejo Malo). While he is not the first male musician to challenge gendered norms, fashion or otherwise, with artists like David Bowie preceding him in fashion, he is paving the way for new masculinities within the context of machismo culture in Latinx communities. The relationship between gender and gender roles within Latinx culture, music as advocacy, and fashion as it applies to the musician, Bad Bunny will be explored in detail. Comparisons in this paper will be drawn between the current press on Bad Bunny, as well as texts exploring machismo/marianismo and gender roles in Puerto Rico.
“Hybridity and Music-Making In-Between Spain and Morocco”
Jan Niklas Cousin, European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures, Cambridge University
On the fringes of the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the north coast of Morocco lies one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world: the political and territorial boundary between the European Union and Africa. Erected to prevent undocumented immigration into Spain, a multi-layered security system is equipped with razor wire, or “concertinas”. Through this metaphor of the accordion, musicality is therefore employed to demarcate political and territorial boundaries. While tropes of a shared cultural heritage in Medieval Muslim Iberia (711-1492) and conviviencia (harmonious coexistence) reverberate through contemporary public and political discourse in Spanish-Moroccan relations, they are undermined by the humanitarian crisis at the Spanish border. In this paper, I wish to examine intercultural music-making and the Spanish-Moroccan fusion genre flamenco-andalusí as a synecdoche of this wider context and reveal if cultural hybridity can engender resistance against hegemonic structures or may, inadvertently, reinforce them. I intend to reveal how utopian readings of Spanish-Moroccan history contribute to the re-entrenchment of power structures. Against this background, I will explore Spanish dancer Ángeles Gabaldón’s flamenco-theatre production “Inmigración” (2003) as a “third space” bridging the cultural divisions and socio-political inequalities between Spain and Morocco while unifying the countries’ musical traditions. The paper’s overarching goal will be to illustrate the ways in which music-fusion projects along the Strait of Gibraltar can transgress physical and symbolical borders and serve as a model for understanding hybridity in cross-cultural relations.