Latin America: An Institutional and Cultural Survey

Poetics of Latinidad + Wrapping- up

Poetry is the full act of naming. Naming states of mind. The rebellious, the contentious, the questioning personality wins out. And poetry is on the street burning it up with its vision of the times to be.

-Miguel Algarín, “Nuyorican Language”

Bilingual poetry and letters disrupted linear thinking, engaged in multivocal discourse, and restore call and response as the central logic of internal dialogue… It uses the modified language of two colonizers to express the conscience of a conquered race, a raza, by prioritizing its main raíz: the mestizo/mulato/black body. Nuyorican poetry expressed Latin American cultural tradition as refracted through Puerto Rico’s unincorporated territory status… in the end, she forms a voice in an act of decolonization from both the colonizer to the North and the one to the South.

-Ed Morales, “Raza Interrupted” (Page 113)

I. Poetics of Afro-decendencia/ Black Latinidad

ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is the author of the award-winning novels, The Poet X, With the Fire On High and Clap When You Land She holds a BA in Performing Arts from George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, winner of the National Book Award, and the Boston-Globe Hornbook Award Prize for Best Children’s Fiction of 2018.


Open discussion:

Discuss the three distinct views on Afro-Latinidad discussed by Acevedo in her poem.

II. Poetics of Salsa and Puertoricanness 

DENICE FROHMAN is a poet, performer, and educator from New York City. She is a CantoMundo Fellow, former Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion and Leeway Transformation Award recipient. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of ColorWomen of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism, and has garnered over 10 million views online.

 “Accents”- Denise Frohman


my mom holds her accent like a shotgun, with two good hands. her tongue, all brass knuckle slipping in between her lips her hips, all laughter and wind clap. she speaks a sanchocho of spanish and english, pushing up and against one another, in rapid-fire there is no telling my mama to be “quiet,” she doesn’t know “quiet.” her voice is one size better fit all and you best not tell her to hush, she waited too many years for her voice to arrive to be told it needed housekeeping. English sits in her mouth remixed so “strawberry” becomes “eh-strawbeddy” and “cookie” becomes “eh-cookie” and kitchen, key chain, and chicken all sound the same. my mama doesn’t say “yes” she says, “ah ha” and suddenly the sky in her mouth becomes Hector Lavoe song. her tongue can’t lay itself down flat enough for the English language, it got too much hip too much bone too much conga too much cuatro to two-step got too many piano keys in between her teeth, it got too much clave too much hand clap got too much salsa to sit still it be an anxious child wanting to make Play-Doh out of concrete English be too neat for her kind of wonderful. her words spill in conversation between women whose hands are all they got sometimes our hands are all we got and accents remind us that we are still bomba, still plena say “wepa” and a stranger becomes your hermano, say “dale” and a crowd becomes a family reunion. my mama’s tongue is a telegram from her mother decorated with the coqui’s of el campo so even though her lips can barely stretch themselves around english, her accent is a stubborn compass always pointing her towards home.

Open discussion:

How does Denise Frohman think of her mother’s accent? How she connects it to Puerto Rican culture?

III. Wrapping-Up

This interdisciplinary hybrid course examined indigenous and black experiences in Latin American history, society, and culture from pre-colonial times to the present. It looked specifically at European and US colonialism and imperialism while presenting ongoing decolonial, and anti-racist struggles. It emphasized socio-cultural and political contributions among Latin Americans and the implications of these manifestations for the formation of transnational identities. Lastly, we explored the notion of hybrid nationalisms and the fight for social justice and human rights in relation to various US Latinx communities.

Feedback Questions

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.What did you learn in our class?

.What was your favorite topic/reading/film/author/assignment?

.What was difficult this semester and how did you overcome that obstacle?