May 25th, 2012

40. Cover Letter

Looking back at the syllabus now, I am amazed at how much I have learned this semester in this class. The first few weeks of school I didn’t think I would be able to handle all of the reading and writing that this class required. Latino Literature truly helped me improve both my reading and writing skills. I have learned to (almost) naturally delete “to be” verbs in my writing, I feel more comfortable in my close reading skills, and I feel much more comfortable in producing a LOT of writing in shorter amounts of time. I am also extremely grateful for the MLA practice I received in this glass. I will attribute this class to helping me improve in all of these areas. I am also appreciative of the knowledge I gained on Latino Literature. I am happy to see some of the writer’s we have studied start to pop up in my other classes and I feel rewarded to have learned so much about the history of a group of writer’s whom I would have never known about otherwise.

May 25th, 2012

39. Hey, Pachuco

Jim Carey in “The Mask.”

In this video, you see Jim Carey in “The Mask” dancing to “Hey Pachuco.” As you can see, he is dressed in an extreme form of pachuco dress (ironically enough even more extreme than pachucos themselves).  It is interesting to see a performance of pachuco dress in mainstream media.

May 25th, 2012

38. German Valdez Tin Tan

German Valdéz “Tin Tan”– Known for popularizing “pachuco culture” Zoot Suit dress in Latino community.

In this video, you can see more of the pachuco “fashion.” German Valdez made this dress known in popular culture.

 

May 25th, 2012

37. Paz and Pachuco

The pachuco has lost his whole inheritance; language, religion, customs, beliefs.  He is left with only a body and a soul with which to confront the elements, defense-less against the stares of everyone. His disguise is his protection, but it also differentiates and isolates him: it both hides him and points him out. (Paz A102)

In this excerpt, Paz describes the “inheritance” of the pachuco in terms of culture: ” language, religion, customs, beliefs.” According to Paz, the pachuco does not have a culture.  The use of the word “defense-less” implies the pachuco needs protection from something.  Paz implies that, in this case, this “inheritance,” or culture, would protect the pachuco; however, the pachuco remains a mere “body and soul.” The pachuco’s “disguise” protects him “against the stares of everyone.” Ironically, this “disguise” also “differentiates and isolates him.” Paz highlights this contradiction: “it both hides him and points him out.”

May 25th, 2012

36. Pachuco and Anzaldúa’s Borders

“The U.S.- Mexican border es un herida abierta  where the Third World grates against the first and bleads […] Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe,  to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary.  It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants […] those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confined of the “normal […] Ambivalence and unrest reside there and death is no stranger” (Anzaldúa 1493)

In this excerpt, Anzaldúa addresses the idea of “borders” as both literal and metaphorical lines that work to divide two groups. According to Anzaldúa, these lines work to create and separate a specific “us” from a specific “them.” The two sides of the border work as polar opposites: “Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe.” Immediately, Anzaldúa sets up two binary’s, “safe” and “unsafe,” in general terms, “good” and “bad.” In this case, the Mexican side of the border identifies with the “bad,” “unsafe,” while the U.S. side of the border identifies as the “safe” side. Not only does the border separate, the border also “divides,” which implies a sense of a clear, defined disunity and split.  Anzaldúa uses words such as “vague,” “undetermined,” “transition,” and “ambivalence” to highlight the ambiguity of the identity of those who reside in the border or straddle in between both the U.S. and Mexico, both literally and figuratively.

May 25th, 2012

35. Abstract

The pachuco culture that emerged in the 1940s Southwest United States highlighted the ambivalence of those with mixed cultural identities. In this article, I will suggest the ways in which the group divulges into neither Mexican culture nor American culture, but rides the line in between and creates a unique border culture. In this article, I will analyze Javier Durán’s “Nation and Translation: The “Pachuco” in Mexican Popular Culture: Germán Valdéz’s Tin Tan” and Octavio Paz’s “The Labyrinth of Solitude” to suggest the practices of the pachucos create a culture of excessiveness that both hides and exposes the pachucos in society. Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit” clearly expresses the practice of the pachuco culture in terms of performance and mimicry as well as the notion that the pachuco culture represents a hybrid of two cultural worlds through the use of “Spanglish.” I will analyze this cultural identity through the lens of Judith Butler’s notion of the “performative” and Homi Bhabha’s “mimicry.” In other words, I suggest the ways in which pachucos perform and mimic identity in order to reclaim and rebuild a specific cultural identity that gives them a specific place in culture and society. I will discuss Gloria Anzaldúa’s “Borderlands/La Frontera” and the ways in which her ideas of “border culture” parallel the ambiguity of the pachuco culture.

May 25th, 2012

34. Pachuco “Performing” Identity

Judith Butler’s idea of “performativity” suggests that one’s identity is a mere “performance,” the repetition of certain socially constructed practices, such as appearance, actions, and attitudes. “In other words, acts, gestures, and desires produce the effect of an internal core or substance […] Such acts, gestures, enactments, generally construed, are performative in the sense that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications […] (2548).  In other words, the idea of a “performance” of identity blurs the lines of a supposed “natural identity” by implying the socially constructed, “unnatural,” aspects of one’s identity. According to Butler, ambiguous identities work to undercut  identity “norms” that society creates.  In this way, the ambiguous pachuco culture crosses the lines, or borders, of society “norms” and work to undo these “norms.”

 

May 25th, 2012

33. Mimicking Pachuco Identity

In Durán’s “Nation and Translation:The Pachuco in Mexican Popular Culture: German Valdez’s Tin Tan,” Durán uses the idea of “mimcry” to explain how the pachuco culture “gives him a location in (and out of) culture.” Homi Bhabha’s theory on mimcry gives insight on how the pachuco culture uses mimicry:

“Which is to say, that the discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence; in order to be effective, mimicry must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference […] Mimicry is, thus, the sign of a double articulation; a complex strategy of reform, regulation, and discipline, which “appropriates” the Other as it visualizes power. Mimicry is also the sign of the inappropriate, however, a difference or recalcitrance which coheres the dominant strategic function of colonial power, intensifies surveillance, and poses an immanent threat to both “normalized” knowledges and disciplinary powers…”  (Bhabha 126)

Bhabha stresses the notion that mimicry is centered, or “constructed,” around “ambivalence.” Ironically, according to Bhabha,in order for mimicry to be “effective,” it “must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference.” In other words, in order for mimicking to be effective, it must be excessive and different than the subject of mimicry.  The use of words “strategy, ” reform, regulation, and discipline” imply mimicry as some sort of means to a desired end as well as a certain change or “reform.” The use of the words “double articulation” relate to the pachuco culture in that pachuco culture articulates duplicity within itself: projecting both Mexican and American identities. The word “Other” implies a sense of some “I” versus some “them.” In other words,  it separate “us” from “Others” based on who mimics who. However, the capitalization of the word “other” implies that the greater power and strength comes from the “Other” rather than the “us.” Ironically, the word “appropiates” implies a sense that the mimicry works to gain some control over the “Other” as well as gain “power.” Bhabha uses words such as “recalcitrance,” “coheres,” “threat,” “‘normalized’ knowledges” and “disciplinary powers” to imply a sense of threat of revolution or reform against the “Others” who have power over the “normalized.” Through mimicry,  the pachuco’s pose a threat to these powers of the “Others” and those who hold “disciplinary powers.” Bhabha implies that the ambiguity, the excesssiveness, the difference of this pachuco culture undercuts o the “norm,” and, therefore, poses a threat. We see this mimicry in not only plays and performances such as Zoot Suit, but we also see it in pachuco identity itself.

 

May 10th, 2012

32. German Valdéz Tin Tan

German Valdéz “Tin Tan”– Known for popularizing “pachuco culture” Zoot Suit dress in Latino community.

Mexican actor and entertainer Tin Tan (German Valdez) popularized the zoot suit for Latinos in the US and Mexico. El hijo desobediente, 1945. (http://tvnoticias.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/tin-tan-14.jpg)

 

“Wearing baggy, drape-like fashions, posturing defiantly before others, claiming possession of a street corner and using caló to communicate: all are exaggerated to such a degree that they become an exercise in mimicry…In the case of the pachuco, the camouflage and mimicry make him visible, give him a location in (and out of) culture” (Dúran)

The dress of the pachuco’s in pop culture (as seen in the picture above), according to Dúran “exaggerates” and “mimics” the pachuco culture. Interestingly enough, this both “camouflages” the pachuco and “makes him visible” in culture. This mimicry gives the pachuco a place in society. In other words, the border culture of the pachuco, through this mimicry in pop culture, finds its place in society, even if it considered “outside” of the norm.

 

 

May 10th, 2012

31. Bilingual/Bilingue

“The habitual speaker of such a mix ends by speaking not two, or even one complete language, but fragments of two that are no longer capable of standing alone or serving the speaker well with any larger audience. As a literary device with limited appeal and durability, ‘Spanglish,’ like other such blends, is expressive and fresh.  But as a substitute for genuine bilinguality – the cultivation and preservation of two languages – I suspect it represents a danger to the advancement of foreign speakers, and a loss to both cultures” (Rhina Espaillat)

Espaillat clearly believes that the construction of “Spanglish” is not a positive thing, but rather a negative construction; she states, “speaking not two, or even one complete language, but fragments of two that are no longer capable of standing alone.” In other words, those who practice “Spanglish” do not master neither English nor Spanish, but mere fragments of both languages. This, according to Espaillet, “represents a danger to the advancement to foreign speakers.” One would question what Espaillet means by “a danger to the advancement.” What advancement? An advancement towards an the American Dream? She also says that this practice will lead to a “loss to both cultures.” This supports the notion that pachucos who speak “caló” or “Spanglish” do not embody American culture or Mexican culture, but rather a separate, unique “border culture.” But, is that necessarily a bad thing?

 

 

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