Add to bookbag
Author: Elaine Carey
Title: Preface
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
Summer 2001

This work is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Please contact for more information.

Source: Preface
Elaine Carey

vol. 3, no. 1, Summer 2001
Article Type: Essay


Elaine Carey

click to enlarge image
click to enlarge image
"Frida and Diego in Bed"

This issue of Post Identity takes as its point of departure current studies in Latino and Latin American Studies. Both areas are politicized and contested fields. Whether in the form of Boricua Studies, Chicano Studies, Cuban American Studies, or simply under the aegis of Ethnic Studies, Latino Studies was born out of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. In the wake of the civil rights movements and the student movements, young people interested in pursuing Latino Studies demanded that higher education respond to their cultures and the societal and cultural shifts that continue to be part of the United States urban and rural landscape. Latin American Studies, as a recognized scholarly discipline, reached its formation in the wake of the Cuban revolution when scholars interested in the Américas came together in 1966 to form the Latin American Studies Association (LASA). In 1997, Latino scholars organized a section of Latino Studies within the confines of LASA. Their origin statement established the group's purpose:

The Latino Studies Section of LASA... institutionalizes the historically unprecedented meeting of the various national populations of Latin America, in one of the hemisphere's countries—which happens to be the United States. From this point of view, the Section provides a meeting place for the exchange of information, research, and discussion among scholars who focus their research on the interaction between and among Chicanos/as and Puerto Ricans (the two Latino historical minorities of the United States), and other, more recently-established national populations of Latin American descent (e.g. Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Colombians, Peruvians, Argentineans, etc.) now living in the United States (LASA, Latino Studies).

In the United States, the population of those of Latin American descent has grown, thus changing the cultural, social, political, linguistic, and economic landscape of the United States. With these population shifts and with the United States increasingly looking south for economic and political partners, divisions between the nation and the new immigrants has become more entrenched, while at the same time more fluid. Of course, the continued xenophobia and racism against those of Latin American descent in the United States has contributed to the militarized U.S.-Mexican border, changes in Immigration and Naturalization laws, and, as we have seen in the previous United States presidential elections, attempts to disenfranchise and marginalize Latinos. On the other hand, the passage of NAFTA, the growing Latino population that will be the largest minority by 2010, and the shifts of Latinos to areas beyond those traditionally viewed as heavily "Hispanic"—the Southwest, California, Florida, New York, and Illinois—are yielding a growing hispanization throughout the United States (Delgado and Stefanic xviii-xxi). Yet, the need to artificially separate the disciplines of Latino Studies and Latin American Studies as alien and marginal to the areas of inquiry viewed as essential to an understanding of the United States' past, present, and future continues, much to the dismay of many and the ignorance of others. This is not usually the case outside of the hemisphere where the relationship between America and the Américas is seen as inherently intertwined. When one of my colleagues went to Europe on a Fulbright Fellowship in the area of American Studies, he found—much to his surprise—that "America" did not simply mean Abraham Lincoln, but it also meant Símon Bolívar. These changing definitions of space, culture, and identity are themes that constantly emerge in Latino and Latin American Studies, and these same themes are addressed in this issue of Post Identity.

In "Beyond the Island: Puerto Rican Diaspora in 'America' and 'América,'" Felica Fahey quotes Luis Rafael Sánchez: "Salgo de Puerto Rico, pero Puerto Rico no sale de mi..." ("I left Puerto rico, but Puerto Rico has not left me..."). In discussing Sánchez's La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santo, a fictional account of Puerto Rican bolero singer Daniel Santos, Fahey illustrates the purpose of Post Identity: to challenge categories and to question the complexity of identity whether as a cultural, social, or institutional construction. The tale of Santos reflects a conflicted space: Santos is from the United States colony of Puerto Rico where the language and the culture are related more to its neighbors in the Caribbean and south than to Washington. In "Beyond the Island," through a historical and literary approach, Fahey argues that puertorriqueñidad is a trans-América experience. Daniel Santos performed in the United States, but also throughout las Américas, and Sánchez, as well as Fahey, reveal that through Santos' music he transgressed the barriers of the island of Puerto Rico to become a voice of the Américas.

While Fahey focuses on the music and literature of the Puerto Rican diaspora as essential part of history and literature of the Américas, in "Translating the Ironies of Ethnicity and Feminism in the Work of Judith Oritz Cofer" Darlene Pagán examines the work of Judith Ortiz Cofer, a Puerto Rican writer from New Jersey who currently resides in the state of Georgia. Pagán's work focuses on the complexity of identity, language, and women's issues. Cofer represents the fluidity of identity construction. Cofer is Puerto Rican, and she identifies with aspects of Nuyorican culture. However, she is not from New York, and at times the voices of Nuyoricans do not resonate in her thoughts. Instead, as Pagán explores, Cofer's work embarks on the exploration of new identities by blending English and Spanish to challenge her readers to contemplate the cultural implications of language, place, and people as she semantically reconfigures the language that terms that define women: mother, virgin, and prostitute.

In "Blind Men and Fallen Women: Notes on Modernity and Golden Age Mexican Cinema," Andrew G. Wood examines one of the feminine archetypes of Mexican cinema: the fallen woman. Wood sees both the fallen woman and blind men as the victims of modernity in Mexico. During the Golden Age of Cinema in Mexico, Wood argues that a central theme emerged whereby young woman went to the city looking for success, only to turn to a life of prostitution. Moreover, the blind man exemplifies the only good man in a cauldron of sex, money, and corruption known as Mexico City. By examining the films Santa (1932)and Los Olividados (1950), Wood argues that the struggle of young women in the metropolis and the blind men who come to their aid reveals a struggle between the modern urban life of Mexico City and the traditional rural life of the provinces that forges contemporary Mexico.

The first three articles build upon contemporary discussions in Latin American and Latino Studies; the last article has a more narrow focus on a more local issue. In "Missing Voices, Missing Researchers," I question the role of archives in Latin American historical inquiry, and contemplate how to subvert the traditional purpose of an archive by transforming a small archive on Latin American solidarity and human rights work at the University of Detroit Mercy into a teaching tool about Latin American and United States history. Furthermore, I explore how an archive that emerged from social justice and solidarity work must continue to further the mission of the groups that donated it to be an additional voice of resistance.

Works Cited

Delgado, Richard and Jean Stefanic. "Introduction." The Latino Condition: A Critical Reader. New York: New York UP, 1998.

The Latino Studies Section. 10 May 2001. Latin American Studies Association. 2 March 2001.