Latin America: An Institutional and Cultural Survey

Asynchronous Blog Post on Cocolos Modernos

Asynchronous Blog Post


Pick ONE of the following options and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 11/04 before the class.


According to Rivera-Rideau, what are the central links between salsa and reggaetón? What does she mean by diasporic connections?


Who are the cocolos? Why Rivera Rideau conceptualize reggaetoneros as cocolos?


Rivera Rideau argues that salseros and reggaetoneros share similar cultural politics. Thinking of these commonalities, share a video by a salsa or reggaetón artist that exemplifies this political frame. Explain your selection by referring to Rivera-Rideau essay.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “Cocolos modernos, do you want to bring into the discussion?

Hip Hop in Colombia, Cuba, and México- Arango Garcia, Gates, and Tickner

Entry Question

Why do you think is important to think of Hip Hop as a Latin American musical genre too?

Hip Hop and Latin America

Hip Hop resonates in Latin America and the Caribbean because of its legacy of colonialism and slavery. There is a rich oral tradition in the region connected to the stories of people with African roots. Latin America and the Caribbean have the largest concentration of people with African ancestry outside Africa — up to 70 percent of the population in some countries. The region imported over ten times as many slaves as the United States and kept them in bondage far longer. Hip Hop in Latin America reminds us how the African cultural contribution is often forgotten or ignored.

Contextualizing Hip Hop 

Hip-hop exhibits a series of shared meanings and aesthetics that confirm the existence of a translocal network of cultural practices. The lyrical content of rap, especially, provides words, resources, and knowledge for articulating similar but not identical lived problems encountered in distinct places and times. The basic common denominator of this translocal space is the shared experience of marginality, understood as racial and ethnic discrimination, poverty, violence, and hardship. Hip-hop’s location in everyday life problems, however, also generates strong variations in local narratives, depending on the specific cultural contexts in which it is inscribed.  (Tickner 130)

Oral/Slide Presentations



Portillo-Carrillo,Laura A.

Ricketts,Javaun Anthony

Historical Context by Arlene Tickner

.Cuba’s isolation because of the U.S. embargo hindered hip-hop’s direct arrival via the culture industry. In the 1980s, however, television programs such as Soul Train and numerous U.S. radio stations, which Cubans heard through makeshift antennas, were received throughout the country. The 1980 Mariel boatlift, which permitted many Cubans to migrate northward, increased the circulation of cultural goods, such as cassettes and music videos, between the two countries. (129)

In the mid-1990s, the liberalization of foreign investment in Cuba, combined with the boom in world music sales, brought an upsurge in global music label contracts with Cuban musicians. (131)

.In Mexico, national and international media and record labels have been relatively uninterested in local hip-hop production, so that its expansion, development, and visibility to the public have been considerably less significant than in Cuba. The lack of public exposure led hip-hoppers to explore alternative venues for disseminating the genre. (132)

.In Colombia, hip-hop has enjoyed relatively ample media coverage nationally but has failed to attract similar levels of international press and record label attention. As in Cuba and Mexico, the mid-1990s constituted a turning point, when the genre gained recognition and an international market. (133)

-Arlene Tickner, “Aquí en el barrio”

Case Studies

I. Colombia

The song narrates a story of sadness and despair that characterizes everyday life in a poor and violent neighborhood in Bogota. The characters include a homeless man; a prostitute arrested for the umpteenth time for drug possession; her small children, who are forced to earn a living cleaning car windshields at stoplights; and an innocent youth unfairly accused of trying to steal an expensive car and then shot down and killed by the corrupt police. (134)

How this song by La Etnia compares to what the film La Playa D.C. depicts?

II. Cuba

The song is narrated by a black schoolboy who is the son of a construction worker. In subsequent verses, his awareness of class difference is apparent in the way he describes himself in comparison to the sons of doctors, who wear Adidas shoes and expensive cologne. At school, the narrator is the object of negative stereotypes associated with his race and social standing, among them thief, poor student, dishonest, and dis- respectful. In contrast, the doctor’s son is treated with veneration and respect. When the teachers discover that some math tests have been stolen, the black schoolboy claims that they automatically blame him, joking that the only reason he passed was that he cheated. Through this account, Clan 537 calls attention to problems of social inequality and racial discrimination. The song’s constant referral to the construction worker’s son as negro points to the role that race has played in the differential treatment of black people in Cuban society. (131)

Does this critique match what the rappers in Gates’ documentary series argued?

(Watch 47:41-51:15)

III. Mexico

In this song, Control Machete speaks about the violence characteristic of urban youth, as well as the anger and resentment associated with being poor and living near the U.S.-Mexican border. Throughout the narrative, being Mexican is vindicated through reference to local icons such as Pancho Villa and threatening language directed toward an invisible listener. As the song progresses, it becomes clearer that the “other” toward whom Control Machete’s rage is directed is the United States. In reference to U.S. border controls and police aggression, one of the rappers asserts, “what, you’re going to build a wall? We know how to drill. Don’t think for a minute that you’ll stop me!” Later on, he avenges dis- crimination against Mexicans by promising that he will be “sitting in your kitchen smoking a cigarette and drinking tequila, watching your television and eating your food.”

What thematic elements are distinct of Control Machete in relation to the other examples?

Asynchronous Blog Post on La Playa D.C. or Black in Latin America: Cuba

Asynchronous Blog Post


1. Rent the film La Playa D.C.  (Juan Andrés Arango, 2013) or watch the documentary Black in Latin America: Cuba (Henry Louis Gates, 2011).

2. Pick ONE of the following options and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 10/28 before the class.


“What makes hip-hop unique among popular musical genres is the way it relates to everyday life. In reflecting on poverty, inequality, exclusion, and discrimination; claiming a positive identity based on these conditions; and offering musical, linguistic, and corporal tools for commenting on them, it transcends the bounded sites where it is practiced and participates in a symbolic network that circulates globally. However, hip-hop is also markedly local, in that lived experience is rearticulated in the contents of rap lyrics, which speak to the daily concerns of its practitioners; and in graffiti and breakdancing, which occupy and resignify the streets and neighborhoods where they are performed. (Page 121)

-Arlene B. Tickner, “Aquí en el Ghetto: Hip Hop in Colombia, Cuba, and Mexico”

Reflecting on the film through this quote from Tickner’s essay, examine how Tomás and his brothers in La Playa D.C. participate from hip hop’s “symbolic networks” in Bogotá, rearticulating practices in their impoverished neighborhood.

*Remember to think about hip hop beyond music and rap lyrics.*


Tickner defines “vernaculization” as “the modes of cultural production  [that] are re-inscribed in diverse contexts, where they acquire new meaning. Although a series of underlying themes define hip-hop as a global commodity, the way it is appropriated in different settings are intimately linked to how specific social actors, primarily marginal youth, experience the world and the places they occupy in it.” (Page 122)

Reflecting on the last section of the documentary through this quote from Tickner’s essay, elaborate on the processes of hip hop “vernaculization” in Cuba and how musicians and rappers have been using the genre to expose a critique of institutional notions of racial equality.


Thinking of Hip Hop as a lyrical art, write a reflection poem about your takeaways from La Playa D.C or Black in Latin America: Cuba.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about La Playa D.C or Black in Latin America: Cuba, do you want to bring into the discussion?

Pan-Africanism, Negritude, and the Currency of Blackness- Darién Davis and Judith Williams

Socio-historical Context

Anti-Black Racism is  Everywhere in the Americas by Jomaira Salas

Darién Davis is a professor of history and  Latin American Studies. His areas of research are twentieth-century Brazilian social and cultural history and the African diaspora in Latin America.

Judith Williams is a professor, filmmaker, and theater director.  Her research emphasizes Black theater in Brazil and Latin America.


Pan Africanism

A Political and cultural project motivated by the belief that the people of the African diaspora had endured a similar set of social experiences resulting from the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Pan Africanist aimed to provide a forum for conversation and action among people of African descent across cultures.


In the 1920s Negrismo was born in Puerto Rico and Cuba. The unofficial-movement celebrates black-music, rhythm, folklore, avant-garde literature, and art. Negrismo focuses on the physical body and performance -of women for the most part- but it also brought forth a way to introduce black music, dance, instruments, and food, languages, religions, myths, and beliefs in Caribbean literature.  They promoted the unity of the Antillas by referring to the common African root. Negrismo represented the Afro-Caribbean culture rising -moving from exoticism to social critique- and becoming an integral part of the Caribbean identity.


Davis and Williams (153)


Négritude was an international movement that held the promise of universal emancipation for Black people. The struggles for Black liberation were linked to the universal freedom of workers and colonized people worldwide.  Négritude created a bigger identity than the one previously available through kinship and ethnicity.

Davis and Williams (Pages 148-9)

Recommended Reading


. “I have always striven to create a new language, one capable of communicating the African heritage.” (83)

.On the negro question: “I maintained that the political question could not do away with our condition as  Negroes. We are Negroes, with a great number of historical peculiarities.” (85)

. On négritude: “… if what we want is to establish this [black] identity, then we must have a concrete consciousness of what we are- that is, of the first fact of our lives: that we are black; that we are black and have a history, a history that contains  cultural elements of great value; and that Negroes were not… born yesterday because there have been beautiful and important black civilizations.” (91-2)

Oral/Slide Presentations



Mejia,Marjhory R

Lee,Kristin Brianna


Davis and Williams (Page 164)

Asynchronous Blog Post on Pan-Africanism



Pick ONE of the following assignments and post your answers in the comment section down below. Deadline: 10/21 before the class.


How did the Teatro Experimental Do Negro (TEN) challenge the idea of a racial democracy in Brazil? Describe how they adapted the ideas of négritude to the Brazilian context? (Pages 155-163)


Explain Nicolás Guillén’s vision of bringing together his double heritage in “Ballad of the Two Grandfathers”?  Explain his negrista point of view by referencing the ideas presented by Davis and Williams (Pages 152-155)

Ballad of the Two Grandfathers- N- Guillén


Discuss how Aimé Césaire initiates his poem “Elegy” by praising the beauty of the tropical region but also showcases the painful effects of colonialism in the Caribbean. To examine his négritude poetics integrate Davis and Williams’ discussion (Pages 148-152)



Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Pan-African poetics do you want to bring into the discussion?

An Exterminating Bolt of Lightning – George Reid Andrews

In the second chapter of his book Afro-Latin America, historian George Reid Andrews discusses how the Latin American wars for independence created a hemispheric debate on the abolition of slavery. (Pages 54-5)

Entry Question

Does freedom from European colonial rule in nineteen-century Latin America imply liberty and equality for all citizens? (Page 56)

Parallel Wars

The wars presented many opportunities for enslaved people to fight for their liberation through official (the end of the slave trade; bargaining; manumission; joining armies) or unofficial methods (escaping; creating isolated maroon towns; rebelling; making war against their enslavers).

“In the Cartagena and the Cauca regions […] plantations slaves fled to nearby runaway communities, looting and pillaging the plantations as they left.” (59)

Oral/Slide Presentations


Lee,Kristin Brianna


Freedom and Independence

“Fighting for their freedom, slaves played a crucially important role in winning independence for Spanish South America, and in so doing they triggered the programs of gradual emancipation enacted during those years.” (Page 64)

“Manumission, freedom through military service, high rates of mortality (both in the wars and in daily life), and the absence of any further slave births all combines to greatly reduce the numbers of slaves in the years after independence” (Page 65)

African Spiritual Practices

Andrews also discusses the proliferation of African-based cultural institutions and practices. He mentions for instance the cabildos: mutual aid societies that helped and benefitted members and serve as official negotiators with the government. “One of the recurrent points of contention between the authorities and the cabildos were African cultural observances: music, dance, and religion.” (Page 70)

The historian introduces then some major African-derived spiritual and cultural formations in the Caribbean and Brazil. “These religions had much in common. Each emphasized the powerful role in people’s lives of the spirits of their ancestors and of supernatural forces embodied in nature; each invoked closely guarded sacred mysteries and secret knowledge.” (Page 70)

Yoruba, Lukumi: Spiritual, Philosophy and Ethical Conceptions