Latino/a/x Communities in the US

The Obelisk of Loisaida- Marcos Gonzalez

Entry Question

Pick one of the four paintings by Martin Wong. In an index card describe what do you see. How does the painting give a spotlight on how life was in NYC in the 1980s?

Wong’s work ties together brick, queer erotics, tenement living, city disinvestment, exploitative landlord arson to cash in on insurance money, and the Black, Brown, and Asian lives of Loisaida. Wong’s paintings, and the poems of Piñero and Rivas, represent a time that the current landscape of the Lower East Side actively conceals. The condemned tenement I pass by seems to be one of the only remnants left. It gives shape to the stories of yesterday, with its blasted windows and barred doors, this obelisk invisibly inscribed with their memories, keeping their Loisaida alive.

-Marcos Gonzalez

The Obelisk of Loisaida

Non-fiction writer, Marcos Gonzalez, of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent reflects on his time living in Loisaida (LES). He makes references to architecture, poetry, visual arts, and scholarly work to reflect on the Lower East Side’s history, vibrant culture, systemic marginalization, the derivative social ills that came with it, and eventual gentrification. In the essay, he argues that in order to avoid the erasures that come with gentrification it is vital to learn from the stories of the long-standing neighbors of the area as well as the arts.

Group Discussion

Groups 1 and 2

In groups, select and discuss a quote from the essay in which Gonzalez tries to respond to these questions:  How do we “continue to struggle for the rights, well-being, and lives of the marginalized, in places like Loisaida, New York City, and beyond? How do we keep thinking of, and fighting for, the displaced?”

Groups 3 and 4

How does Gonzalez compare life in suburbia vs life in the city?

Class Presentation

Salas,Alan

Nuyorican Poets (Cafe) and Urban Storytelling/Poetics

My time in Loisaida cultivated a particular kind of sensibility which was not the one I was raised on. The high concentration of people in such a small perimeter taught me ways of being in the world with others that were about caring and responsiveness, about being attuned to the ebbs and flows of neighbors and strangers alike. It was about the ways a story is told – the emphases of the voice, the twists and turns of a plot, the preciseness of words – and not just about the content itself. It was about the listener and audience, keeping them with you in story, in emotion, in longing, towards laughter, crying, thinking. My time in Loisaida was about learning to live in a space where the odds were stacked against you. It was about the imaginative reanimating of a past that was but will never again be, lived through the streets and tenements. 

-Marcos Gonzalez

Latino poets, playwrights founded iconic Nuyorican Poets Café

Miguel Algarín and Miguel Piñero

What urban descriptions stand out from Miguel Algarín’s poem?

Miguel Piñero

How does Piñero’s poem create simultaneously a portrait of himself and the neighborhood?

Denise Frohman

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

Asynchronous Assignment on The Obelisk of Loisaida

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Deadline: 5/2 before the class)

Instructions:

1. Read the essay “The Obelisk of Loisaida” by Marcos González.

2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2o0-words minimum).

OPTION ONE

Why Marcos González starts his essay on Loisaida (the Lower East Side) by referring to the Luxor Obelisk? What does the obelisk represent in the essay?

OPTION TWO

Gonzalez writes:

“Loisaida’s storytellers, dreamers, philosophers of brick and mortar taught me to imagine the past. To imagine the past, not as something to feel justified in transcending, nor to fit some narrative of progress that makes those in power feel good about how far we’ve come. Rather, they taught me how past times and neighborhoods made certain kinds of care and community possible, certain ways of thinking and storytelling manifest.”

How does Miguel Piñero’s work allow Gonzalez to imagine and understand different time periods in Loisaida?

OPTION THREE

González says: “Like Loisaida’s poets and artists of the 1970s and 1980s, it similarly became for me the site of an erotic awakening, and of artistic possibility.”

How does Gonzalez present the connections between sexuality and artistic expression in Loisaida?

OPTION FOUR

Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about”The Obelisk of Loisaida” do you want to bring into the discussion?

Nation and Migration and I’m Boricua, Just So You know

Both the Nuyorican actress, community activist, author, dancer, and choreographer Rosie Perez and the scholar of Puerto Rican Studies Jorge Duany depict the strong cultural identity en vaiven of Puerto Ricans. They describe circular migration, transnational practices, and how Boricuas present all sorts of tensions and at times open resistance to the prospects of assimilation into mainstream US American society.

I’m Boricua Just So You Know 

What is the context in which the documentary was written and produced?

Using the Puerto Rican Day Parade as a backdrop and questions about the roots of Puerto Rican pride, Nuyorican artist, Rosie Perez, her sister, and cousin embark on personal research about the history of Puerto Rico and its colonial dependency on the United States. The processes of Puerto Rican migration and community building in the U.S. are also discussed in the film.

What is the documentary’s central argument?

Rosie Pérez and her family, argue that to understand Puerto Rican migration to the United States, one has to discuss the history of imperialism and colonialism on the island and comprehend how the United States has benefitted from Puerto Rican land, resources, and people.

Pérez also argues that Puerto Rican pride comes from ongoing cultural and political resistance both on the archipelago and in the diaspora.

Group Discussion

Discuss how the documentary addresses ONE of the following topics:

.US military presence in the archipelago

.Population control and medical experimentation on Puerto Rican women

.Grassroots activism

.Puerto Rican diasporic culture

Class Presentation (s)

Paulino,Zoraya

Vital,Stephany

Transnationalism

Nation and Migration- J. Duany

After reading Jorge Duany’s excerpt discuss the following question:

How the notion of transnationalism could help us to better understand the Puerto Rican diaspora?

Asynchronous Assignment on Yo Soy Boricua Pa’ Que Tú Lo Sepas

Yo soy Boricua Pa’ Que Tu Lo Sepas! I’m Boricua, Just So You Know! (Rosie Pérez, 2006)

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT 

Instructions

1.Watch the documentary Yo soy Boricua pa’ que tú lo sepas directed by Rosie Pérez (posted above).

2. Read the essay “Nation and Migration: Rethinking Puerto Rican Identity in a Transnational Context” by Jorge Duany (Blackboard Course Documents)

3. In the comment section down below, write a 200-word response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 4/25 before the class):

OPTION ONE

Jorge Duany defines Puerto Rico as an overseas possession of the United States. He says that the archipelago has been exposed to an intense penetration of American capital, commodities, laws, and customs unequal to other Latin American countries. (51)

Taking into consideration Duany’s exposition and the documentary discuss what are some specific effects of  US colonialism in Puerto Rico? Expand on at least two cases presented in the documentary.

OPTION TWO

Duany argues that over the past few decades, Puerto Rico has become a nation on the move (en vaivén) through the relocation of almost half of its population to the United States and the transnational flow of people between the archipelago and the mainland (and vice versa). (54-7)

How does Rosie Pérez’s documentary depict the notion of Puerto Rico as a country on the move (en vaivén; in back and forth flows)?

OPTION THREE

Duany contends that Puerto Ricans moving back and forth between the islands and the mainland carry not only bags full of gifts but also their cultural practices, experiences, and values, such as ideas about respect and dignity (53)

Thinking about this argument elaborate on how do Puerto Ricans defend their cultural legacy and community in the US beyond the parade? Expand on at least one example presented in the documentary.

OPTION FOUR

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

The Ladder Up- Carina del Valle Schorske

Written by Puerto Rican essayist, translator, and journalist Carina del Valle Schorske, The Ladder Up is a personal portrait of Washington Heights. It looks at the history of Puerto Rican migration to the city; historical figures and events; local art and businesses, and social issues such as gender oppression, drug economies, and gentrification. The history of the author’s matrilineal lineage works in the essay as a thread that ties all these different perspectives. The essay also incorporates photographs by Carlos Rivera creating an intermedial narration.

Context: Puerto Rican Migration to New York City

Harvest of Empire

4:00- 11:40

Puerto Ricans in NYC

People

“In my favorite photograph of my grandmother, she’s the same age I am now, though I know this moment of correspondence can’t last. She’s shot from below, balanced sideways in stilettos on the top rung of the ladder up to the building’s rooftop. She has one hand hooked on the rail and the other fanned across her hip like an ornament. She’s wearing a striped jumpsuit with long sleeves and shorts so short I can make out the curve of her ass cresting the hem; she turns a bit to look down at us through dark glasses, as if to say, No es nada, as if the impossible glamour of her precarious perch were natural, necessary, all in a day’s work. As if to say, And you, aren’t you coming? At this angle her legs seem stories tall; the rest is sky. She seems to depend so little on the ladder for balance that I half-expect her to keep climbing up through the clouds. We could be anywhere.”

Inspire by this excerpt think about how our photographs and photography-based social media can be considered an historical and personal archive about Latinx people and neighborhoods?

Recommended Article:

How Does New York City’s Latinx Community See Itself?

Commercial Spaces

Washington Heights was and remains a commercial center, not just for drugs, but for bodegas and beauty shops, for bootleg DVDs and sneakers and sew-ins and fishnets and bedsheets. This was not the inner city as desolation, but the inner city as Oyá’s marketplace at the gates of the cemetery. The neighborhood inscribed its history in me as a long caravan of commodities. My grandmother assumed the role of all Three Kings in paving my wayward path with gifts: I left and left again with an elegant Madame Alexander doll from the uptown factory, a red wool coat with an embroidered capelet, a crispy twenty. Later, a pair of leather gloves or cat-eye sunglasses fished from her bottomless drawer of midcentury glamour, frozen pasteles wrapped in paper, a pineapple peeled whole, gold hoops shaped like hearts, a box of black soaps from Spain.

Often we’d shop together: I was overwhelmed by the vast world of wares at El Mundo, the Dominican emporium on 133rd, and saved up my discernment for a store called Nancy’s where my grandmother would take me back-to-school shopping for discounted jeans, discounted again at the register against the weakening protests of Nancy herself. I’d return to California with bedazzled pairs from Pepe Jeans London, or a rare specimen from Nelly’s short-lived Apple Bottoms brand, the dense stretchy denim designed with my shape in mind, mapping an alternate geography that hugged my hips no matter how far I traveled with my hard-won inheritance of freedom.

Why do you think Carlos Rivera highlights local businesses in Washington Heights? What type of visual information do you get from these particular photographs?

#yerrruptown

Class presentation(s)

Paulino,Zoraya

Pinzon,Katherine A

Music

It’s strange to think these tender teenage harmonies were once considered hood music, and treated that way—dismissively—by radio DJs. The telltale signs testing the limits of mainstream respectability were so much subtler back then: hair teased a touch too high, liquid liner flicked a lick too long. My favorite group from the Heights is The Ronettes, two sisters and a cousin who came up out of doo-wop through Amateur Night at the Apollo. Estelle and Ronnie’s mother was African American and Cherokee; their father was Irish. Nedra was Irish, too, and Puerto Rican: “Home for us was at our grandmother’s, entertaining each other on Saturday nights.” All the neighborhood stories start to sound the same. But at least, with the Ronettes, we can run the track back to catch the lower frequencies. Their biggest song was also their best—“Be My Baby” remains irresistible, Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound a dramatic backdrop to Ronnie’s nasal, almost accented pleading: So won’t you say you love me / I’ll make you so proud of me / We’ll make ’em turn their heads / every place we go. All the Ronettes were born in New York, like my mother, but I still hear the good migrant in those lyrics, her unreciprocated promise to America. I hear her voice breaking on that promise. And I hear the whole world dancing in the break she made.

The Ronnette- Be My Baby

She tore her dress half off singing there one night, and no one even covered the children’s eyes or ears as her voice abandoned the order of music as if she were coming—yiyiyi—or maybe a spirit was.

La Lupe- El Carbonero

La Lupe “The Queen of Latin Soul” in the Dick Cavett Show

Is there a singer, rapper, musician, band, DJ, that you identify with your (or a specific) NYC neighborhood? How does their sound, lyrics, or performances represent aspects of the neighborhood?

Comedy

“Freddie Prinze lived in the building a block up, close enough for my mother to spend many evenings leaning out her kitchen window to chat with him across the alley.”

Freddie Prinze | Standup (1975)

Do you have a family member, friend, or neighbor that uses humor to deal with everyday situations?

Asynchronous Assignment on The Ladder Up

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Deadline: 4/11 before the class)

Instructions:

1. Read the essay “The Ladder Up A Restless History of Washington Heights” by Carina del Valle Schorske, photography by Carlos Rivera.

2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2o0-words minimum).

OPTION ONE

How does Carina del Valle use three generations of women in her family to exploring the history of Washington Heights? Bring specific examples from the text.

OPTION TWO

Pick ONE of the following topics from the essay and discuss how del Valle Schorske uses one of these lenses to tell important historical developments in Washington Heights

.Puerto Rican migration

.Dominican migration

.music and the arts

.local businesses

.gentrification

.the drug trade

.pests

OPTION THREE

Elaborate on the relationship between photographs and written text in the essay. How do they complement each other? How do the photographs add other layers of meaning to the essay? Bring specific examples.

OPTION FOUR

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

Do Plátanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens- David Lamb

David Lamb was born in Queens, New York, and is a graduate of Hunter College, Princeton University, and New York University School of Law. He has written and produced two plays Plátanos y Collard Greens (based on his novel Do Plátanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens?) and From Auction Block to Hip Hop.

Do-Platanos-Go-Wit’-Collard-Greens–D.-Lamb_searchable

Entry Discussion: On the novel’s central conflict

After reading this short exchange discuss the question down below:

“Hey, what’s wrong, you sound upset? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“It doesn’t sound like nothing, tell me, what’s wrong?”

“I just got into an argument with my mother” “About what?”

“About you?”

“About me? Why me?”

“She doesn’t want me seein’ any Black guys.”

“Angelita, might I point out that your grandmom, your mother’s mother is like a couple of shades darker than me.”

“I know, it’s like we Dominicans say, ‘We all have a little black behind the ears,’ unfortunately, that’s where most of us want to keep it, behind the ears.” (406)

What do you understand by Angelita’s last statement? What does the phrase “behind the ears” in the context of this discussion imply?

8:00-11:00

“As I was explaining, about it being in the interest of the ruling class in the Dominican Republic to sell the masses this false notion of their whiteness, or at least their Indianness (as a sort of consolation prize if they so obviously weren’t ‘White’), in order to ensure their support against the Haitians.”

In this excerpt of the novel, David Lamb presents how Dominicans (and people from the Spanish—speaking Caribbean) face pressures to identify themselves as Black because being Black (in the US and globally) means being in the downtrodden class while being white or associating yourself with whiteness carries advantages.

Group Discussion

Instructions:

In groups analyze these characters and central quotes. How does your assigned character relates to and understand blackness?

Group 1

Angelita– is a young Dominican woman living in New York and in a relationship with an African American.

“Don’t you see, our ancestors didn’t just come from Spain, we are not conquistadores. Our ancestors came here just like the Blacks you look down on, like the Haitians you hate. In the hulls of ships, dragged off from their homelands … We are more like the Haitians than the Castilians.” (405)

Freeman– is an African American man in a relationship with a Dominican woman; intellectual; he wants to understand why Angelita’s mother rejects him.

“When Freeman got off the phone with Angelita, he was still tripping about her mother’s attitude. He could hear his pops typing downstairs, and he went to talk to him about it. He figured he’d have some insight.” (407)

Group 2

Samaná- Angelita’s Mother; has racial prejudices and is against Angelita and Freeman’s relationship.

“Like every other immigrant, she had been bombarded by negative images of African Americans blasted daily on the television, on the radio, in the newspapers and magazines. She, herself, had had a gold chain snatched by a young brotha during the chain-snatching craze of the early eighties. And that experience, coupled with the negative views and images ubiquitously dispersed throughout the media reinforced the negative connotations associated with Blackness that she learned growing up in the Dominican Republic.” (404)

Freeman’s Pop- an African American man; scholar and writer

“He figured he’d have some insight since he was at the moment writing a book about Black and Latino political coalitions in New York in addition to working on the Dinkins campaign.” (407)

“So let your girlfriend’s mother protest all she wants, the forces of society dictate that the younger ones will increasingly be drawn to see their connection with us, and all of our connections with Africa!” (409)

Group 3

Pablo– A young man of Dominican descent; Angelita’s brother

“Among all of their family, Angelita and Pablo shared a special bond. Their views and self—perception had been greatly influenced by the confluence of Afrocentricity and hip hop.” (407)

Julia– a recent migrant from the Dominican Republic who has similar racial views as Angelita’s mother; She works in a beauty salon; Angelita’s cousin

“Hair like grandma’s?”
“Yes, hair like grandma’s.”
“That’s bad.”
“And what makes it bad?”
“Because, you know, hair like ours is easy to manage. And girls with bad hair spend hours trying to get their hair like ours. I tell you Angelita, just the other day, I spent three hours working on this girl’s hair…”

“…there’s no such thing as pelo malo. How can hair be bad? Does it attack you? Is it mean? Does it enslave people? No it’s not bad, it’s just different. It’s only considered bad because the Spaniards put themselves on a pedestal, and made us want to look like them. Yeah, our hair is ‘good‘ you say, but it’s Black-Black, is blonde hair better? What about your complexion, is white skin better?” (407)

How does Elizabeth Acevedo’s poem complement Julia’s (and Lamb’s) discussions?

Class presentation (s):

Pacheco,Emily Anais

Paulino,Yarony

Conclusion

This excerpt of the novel Do Plátanos Go Wit Collard Greens presents how Dominicans like Samaná inherited racism and even self-hate as a product of their environment and the racial discourses prevalent in it. Samaná represents Dominicans (and Latin Americans) who have absorbed the views of the dominant classes and who continue to deify the Spanish and Catholic past, while simultaneously attempting to erase or minimize the African heritage. However, the novel does not argue that all or most Dominicans are racist (Dominicans are not a monolith), it presents characters with complex views on race and that understand the debate as generative. In the novel, the diaspora is a space that permits these conversations.

Asynchronous Assignment on Do Plátanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens

Asynchronous Assignment

Instructions:

1. Read the excerpt from “Do Plátanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens” by David Lamb (Blackboard: Course Documents).

2. Pick ONE of the following options and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 4/4 before the class. 200-words minimum.

OPTION ONE

In your own words explain ONE of the quotes down below using the characters and arguments presented by David Lamb in”Do Plátanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens” as examples of these racial and ethnic formations.

.“Now, take it to America. As I was explaining, about it being in the interest of the ruling class in the Dominican Republic to sell the masses this false notion of their whiteness, or at least their Indianness (as a sort of consolation prize if they so obviously weren’t ‘White’), in order to ensure their support against the Haitians, so today White Americans are interested in driving a wedge between African Americans and Latinos by playing to Latino‘s Spanish heritage above and beyond their indigenous and African heritage.” (408)

.Latinos from the Caribbean are challenged by a profound confrontation between two clashing and contradictory delineations of race. In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, they point out that race is defined along a multi-category continuum, but in the United States, it’s bipolar—Black or White. As a result, people from the Spanish—speaking Caribbean face pressure to identify themselves as either Black or White. Now obviously this creates a dilemma because, in America, race matters— being Black means being in the downtrodden class while being White carries advantages.” (408)

OPTION TWO

Explain Julia’s views on the generalized idea of “pelo malo” (bad hair). How does Angelita questions her mother and Julia’s Euro/Anglo-centric beauty standards?

OPTION THREE

Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “Do Plátanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens” do you want to bring into the discussion?

Dominicanish and Writing From El Nié- Josefina Báez and Lorgia García Peña

47:10-53:00

The Dominican Diaspora-Historical Context

.First U.S. military Occupation led to Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship

.Trujillo led through terror, re-inforcing white supremacy, militarization, and US markets (30 years dictatorship)

.The CIA kills Trujillo

.Juan Bosch writer, intellectual and left-wing reformer wins the presidency

.Violent right-wing opposition to Bosch social-democratic governments leads to civil war

.Second U.S. military occupation led to the presidency of Joaquín Balaguer (Trujillo’s right hand)

. the US offers refugee status to left-wing Dominican dissidents (migration as a safety vault)

.Migration continues through the decades because of political persecution but also due to extreme social inequalities and poverty

Bios

Lorgia García Peña

Is a first-generation Dominican Latinx Studies scholar from Trenton, NJ. She studies blackness, colonialism, and diaspora with a special focus on dominicanidades. I study literary and cultural texts in conversation with historical processes.

Josefina Báez (La Romana, Dominican Republic/New York) Storyteller, ArteSana, performer, writer, theatre director, educator, devotee. Founder and director of Latinarte/Ay Ombe Theatre (April 1986). Joy is the vital element present in her narrative, practice, and teachings.

Keywords

El Nié is an uncomfortable place that hurts and makes the subject bleed, creating an open wound of historical rejection: “una herida abierta.” Yet this discomfort also offers the possibility of finding a poetics of dominicanidad ausente, from which to interject both US and Dominican histories. It is in El Nié that the contradictions of dominicanidad are embraced and redefined, allowing the Dominican subject to emerge as an agent of his or her own his- tory and identity/ies, finding hope, harmony, and even bliss within this very uncomfortable space of contradiction. (173)

“I prefer to dwell in not what I have lost but what I have gained—what it has given me. Migration is not a burden, I am a builder. So my home, then, is el ni’e. My home is “the neither” that I know, that I have built. If I stayed in the Dominican Republic, I would still be in the ni’e. I was always a migrant, and I think that all migrants have been migrants in their dissenting communities. We wander and create.”

-Josefina Báez, El Ni’e: Inhabiting Love, Bliss and Joy

Dominicanish, is “a form of Spanglish that integrates English and S[panish Syntax while using Dominican linguistic codes and cultural references to describe US experiences. (199)

Key moments/phrases/acts/concepts within this section of the performance

.Diaspora as a dislocated-abstract-contradictory space and diction

.English as a second language as performance

.Pronunciation as assimilation: becoming a different body-mind/citizen

.Finding community, political and cultural spaces with African Americans

.Grasping a better understanding of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements after being racialized in the US

.Black diasporic music in conversation jazz + soul+ merengue

.Political racial persecution in the DR (Balaguer leave us/me alone)

.Marginal stories/cultures- indentured labor in the Caribbean from Asia

Class Presentation (s)

Nunez,Esther Marlin

Occean,Jean

Group Discussion

In groups discuss ONE of the following quotes using these questions:

Based on these quotes and the performance how do Josefina Baez and Lorgia García Peña understand the diasporic life of Dominicans in the US?

.In New York, the immigrant is confronted by the “crooked” city, the place where police brutality is the norm and marginality reigns. Yet it is also a place from which solidarity can emerge through contact with other marginalized ethnic groups, a place where the music of Johnny Pacheco and Spanglish can mix in a comfortable crookedness that the immigrant can navigate with ease. In the crooked city, the immigrant becomes a powerful subject by performing small acts of resistance in her daily activities. (193)

.Báez’s New York includes Dominican politics, Caribbean history, and particularly all the contradictions that had been denied in the official narration of the Dominican subject in the United States and the Dominican Republic. (195)

.As black and Dominican identities are negotiated through linguistic representation, Báez’s corporeal language, as exemplified in Dominicanish, seems to contradict her speech. The apparent disjunction between body and speech is accentuated through the use of Kuchipudi, which further challenges the official discourses of national identity, race, and ethnicity. (196-7)

Conclusion

[Migration to the US] requires that the subject deny the very historical processes that formed his or her particular experience in order to become part of the American Nation. For Dominicans such as Josefina, this process posed a contradiction, as it required US Dominicans in exile to forget the previous years of US-Dominican relations that have in great part provoked their immigration. But the very logic of US citizenship also marked Dominicans by their national origin, class, culture, and, most important, race. Therefore, they are never able to fully participate as citizens of the United States, no matter how much history some manage to forget. (186-188)

-Lorgia García Peña

Asynchronous Assignment on Dominicanish and Writing From El Nié

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Deadline 3/28 before the class)

Instructions:

1. Watch the performance Dominicanish (Josefina Baez, 1999).

Synopsis:

“Like many other immigrants, the main character, Josefina, arrives in New York with a suitcase full of hope and the determination to attain the “American Dream.” But unlike in fairy tales, the “American Dream” does not come true. Instead, a series of dislocations and disruptions are presented throughout the one-woman performance, as Báez re-creates the Dominican “racexile” migrant’s difficult encounter with the binary US racial system, the English language, and the city of New York.

Upon her arrival in the United States, the character Josefina, like many other Dominicans, was forced to confront questions of political and cultural belonging and to choose ethnic alliances in order to survive on the streets of New York.” (Garcia Peña 186-8)

2. Read the sections on Josefina Baez’s work (pages 186-202) from  “Writing From El Nié” by Lorgia García Peña.

2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2oo-words minimum).

OPTION ONE

Dominicanish is an experimental performance that tells a story of migration, linguistic and cultural negotiations, and resistance in the diaspora. It is told through body movements and interconnected but fragmented phrases. Through the dislocated structure of the performance, the audience is invited to feel the confusion of a recent Dominican immigrant.

Select direct quotes from Josefina Báez’s performance that could support the description above. How do you interpret these quotes?

OPTION TWO

Pick ONE of the quotes down below and expand on it: What do you understand by the quote? How do you connect the quote to Báez’s performance? Does it make you think of other ideas/sources discussed in the class or your own experiences?

1. “New York City, or at least its underground, is converted into a home for the immigrant, the marginal, and the poor through these daily and mundane actions that resist the seductive and oppressive narrative of assimilation, which is also a narrative of erasure. Most important, New York can become a place for rewriting history and creating a new voice, a poetics, through the very body of the Dominican immigrant woman.” (Garcia Peña, 193-4)

2. “The contradictions that Báez once viewed as her own individual tribulations represent, in the performance of Caribbeanness, a collective contradiction: being Caribbean already implies living in constant negotiation between races, languages, and cultures.” ( Garcia Peña, 196)

OPTION THREE

Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about the performance piece or the essay do you want to bring into the discussion?

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