Vampires Vs The Bronx and The Bronx Is Gentrifying

Entry Question

Is your neighborhood gentrifying? What signs have you identified that make you think that way?

Stages of Gentrification

In the first, “pioneers” — often bohemians and artists — move to dilapidated or abandoned areas in search of cheaper rents; in the second, the middle classes follow; in the third, their numbers displace the original population; and in the final stage, the neighborhood is fully turned over to banks, developers and the wealthy. The fifth and last phase of gentrification is when neighborhoods aren’t just more friendly to capital than to people but cease being places to live a normal life.

Forget ‘The Bronx Is Burning.’ These Days, The Bronx Is Gentrifying

As rents rise across the city, people who’ve been priced out elsewhere are moving here, and after years of disinvestment, money is flowing in. Within a few blocks of the waterfront, there’s a new gourmet pizza place, a new boxing gym, and a new coffee shop. And they all have something — actually, someone — in common. Developer Keith Rubenstein co-owns these businesses. He’s building seven new residential towers on the waterfront: about 1,400 luxury apartments with panoramic views of Manhattan, plus swimming pools, gyms, a dog spa, music studio, an art studio, and a new waterfront park open to the public.

But Rubenstein admits some of his marketing efforts have backfired. First, he tried to brand his development the Piano District — after old piano factories that used to be here. Residents accused him of trying to invent a new neighborhood. Later, as a promotion, he hosted a star-studded party, with a “Bronx is burning theme,” with flaming trash cans and a car with bullet holes as decor.

The question for many people here is, when the new Bronx is built, whether they will be part of it.

How Vampires Vs. The Bronx illustrates the actions of real developers like Keith Rubenstein?

What evidence the characters of the film encounter that make them certain that they will not be included in the re-building of the Bronx? Why they think that if they disappear nobody will notice?

When Gentrification Isn’t About Housing

In a gentrifying neighborhood, title to the land is transferred first in the literal sense and then in the spiritual one, as local businesses and institutions change to serve the tastes of wealthier arrivals. To use “gentrification” to describe lifestyle trends is to focus on that second step rather than the first one — to focus on class signifiers instead of class itself.

The poor are still gentrification’s victims, but in this new meaning, the harm is not rent increases and displacement — it’s something psychic, a theft of pride. Unlike housing, poverty is a potentially endless resource.

What this metaphorical gentrification points to instead is dishonesty, carelessness, and cluelessness on the part of the privileged when they clomp into unfamiliar territory. When they actually profit from their “discovery” and repackaging of other people’s lifestyles, it’s a dispiriting re-enactment of long-running inequalities. But what seems most galling isn’t that they’re taking dollars off the table. It’s that they’re annoying.

Here in the States, though, we’ve adopted a novel word meaning “one who gentrifies” — the active colonist, someone who tries on neighborhoods like shirts at a thrift shop.

What solutions to gentrification  Vampires Vs The Bronx proposes?

Group Discussion

What was a major takeaway from our class?

Chat Discussion

Send some good vibes and words of encouragement to your classmates.

Asynchronous Assignment on Vampires Vs. The Bronx

Vampires Vs. The Bronx is a comedy-horror hybrid that pokes fun at the extinction and displacement many diasporic communities of color are facing right now in major cities by corporate forces. It follows a group of teenagers of Caribbean descent who are forced to protect their neighborhood in the Bronx when a group of vampires/gentrifiers invades.

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 5/12 before the class)

Instructions:

1. Watch the film Vampires Vs. The Bronx (Osmany Rodriguez, 2020) on Netflix

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

OPTION ONE

An allegory is a narrative in which a character, place, or event is used to deliver a broader socio-political message about real-world issues and occurrences. Discuss the allegory of corporate gentrifiers as vampires.

Refer to specific characters, scenes, and/or the plot.

OPTION TWO

How the movie proposes a trans-Caribbean unity to “save the neighborhood” and protect the needs of the Bronx residents.

OPTION THREE

Analyze how Vampires vs the Bronx flip common horror mise en scene elements (make-up; wardrobe; special effects; lighting; props) to highlight the contrasting presence of gentrifiers and as comedic tools.

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 Vampires Vs The Bronx do you want to bring into the discussion?

Raising Victor Vargas and “Do It For All your Pubic Hairs!”

Entry Question

What topics from the second half of the semester (units on migrations; Chicanx and Dominican cultures) would you like to see included in the final?

“Do It For All Your Pubic Hairs!: Latino Boys, Masculinity, and Puberty”

Professor and sociologist, Richard Mora argues that the Dominican and Puerto Rican boys of his ethnographic study embody the heteronormative masculinity present in their social worlds to claim male supremacy and belonging. Mora says that boys did not experience puberty on their own but rather within their homosocial group. He suggests that pubescence is a social process as much as a biological transformation, a social process that is interactional, collective, embodied, and situated in classed, gender ethnoracialized contexts. Lastly, he contends that Dominicans and Puerto Ricans residing in low-income neighborhoods constructed their masculine identities while seeking to abide by the dominant gender expectations in localized social worlds and the norms from their countries of origin.

How Victor’s performance of masculinity (and the other male characters) fluctuate depending on the spaces they are in and the people they interact with?

Oral Presentation on the film Raising Victor Vargas and Richard Mora’s essay “Do It for All Your Pubic Hairs!

Rodriguez,Doranny

Rythm,Wasif Afridi

Group Discussion

How the film Raising Victor Vargas illustrates or challenges one of the following quotes from Richard Mora’s essay?

.Ongoing gender policing within peer groups demands that boys must be vigilant about abiding by gender expectations and putting for appropriate masculine performances. (437)

.Male youths from low-income neighborhoods may enact masculinities that include the use of stoic personas—”tough fronts” by Black youth and “cara de palo” (wooden club-face) by U.S.-based Puerto Ricans—and the use of their bodies as weapons to gain status and ward off potential assailants. Such presentations of self by urban youth are oftentimes part of a “code of the streets,” a set of cultural ideas that dictate social expectations and conduct in urban localities, particularly those where neighborhood violence is a common occurrence. (438)

.The boys wanted height and physical musculature so that others, particularly their female peers and teachers, would no longer read them as “little boys.” They yearned for muscular bodies that approximated the “socio-cultural ideal male physique” highly valued by many males, including the young Dominican and Puerto Rican men in their urban neighborhood and their favorite rappers and wrestlers. (454)

.The boys’ hegemonic masculinity dictated that they had to learn to flirt in order to woo teenage girls and women. The most common form of flirting involved piropos, or ‘”amorous compliments,’ often undesired by the females at whom they are directed. (453)

.Into the flirtatious exchanges, the boys and girls often incorporated sexual innuendos that called attention to their own developed bodies and to those of the individuals they desired. These sorts of interactions allowed the boys and girls to express their physical attraction to one another and to explore the personal and physical boundaries of potential boyfriends and girlfriends. (453)

Asynchronous Screening and Assignment on Raising Victor Vargas

 

Raising Victor Vargas is a film about the abyss between reputation and experience, between self-awareness, gender performance, and teenage lust. Victor fancies himself a ladies’ man but his tactics amount to little. Similarly, Victor’s grandma has a difficult time accepting her grandchildren’s puberty and life changes. Victor and his family must deal with other ways to understand intimacy.

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 5/5 before class)

Instructions:

1. Watch the film Raising Victor Vargas (Peter Sollet, 2003) on Netflix 

or Pluto TV

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

OPTION ONE

How the movie explores the tensions and disconnections between self-image and reality; patriarchal gender roles and intimacy.

Refer to specific characters, scenes, and/or the plot.

OPTION TWO

The preservation of innocence is one of the key topics of the film. Elaborate.

Refer to specific characters, scenes, and/or the plot.

OPTION THREE

Watch this clip from Raising Victor Vargas and discuss how the script by Peter Sollet and the actors uses humor to explore generational gaps and cultural and moral clashes.

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 Raising Victor Vargas do you want to bring into the discussion?

Selena and Remembering Selena, Re-membering Latinidad

Entry Question

Is there a contemporary Latinx artist that has a similar symbolic impact as Selena in the 90s?

Writer-director Gregory Nava on his process of creating Selena

Nava positions Selena alongside this trinity of icons not simply to assert her presence within this pantheon but, in fact, to destabilize their iconic American status by suggesting that Selena’s story is more tragic than the others precisely because of her exemplary performance as an American. Here, Nava displays an acute awareness of the classical mandate that tragic status is contingent upon citizenship status, and he exploits this construct as a way to position Selena within the American rubric. (72)

Professor, scholar, and poet, Deborah Paredez, argues that the case of Selena in the 90s represents how “the Latina body was often and variously celebrated both as the means through which hegemonic forces sought to occlude and thereby to ignore the political-economic plights of Latina/os and as the site upon which Latina/o communities attempted to stage their presence within the nation.” (63-4)

Mainstream representational and corporate forces capitalized on Selena’s posthumous iconization, invoking her as a means for increasing profits by tapping into the Latina/o market (through film and theater musicals, for instance) and for reinforcing the borders of America (by asking who belongs to the nation?). Thus, while for many Latina/o communities Selena’s tragedy offered a site upon which to render visible their own tragic plights resulting from concurrent xenophobic legislation, numerous corporate forces acknowledged Selena’s tragedy as a way to inform Latina/os that they could become American only by becoming consumers (the debate over advanced tickets demonstrates this point). Undeniably, the Selena tragedy has emerged as both a significant site of (counter) cultural affirmation and as a lucrative industry. (65)

Oral Presentations on the film Selena and the essay “Remembering Selena, Re-Membering ‘Latinidad’.”

Torres,Dafne Zoe

Wu,Ming Xia

Selena Latina/os Forever: Tragedy and Latinidad

The tragedy of Selena offers many Latina/os a narrative framework through which to critique the political economic positions of Latina/os within the theatre and indeed throughout the US. Moreover, his desire for and subsequent articulation of an alternative narrative closure for the story of Selena’s tragedy reveals how the act of mourning Selena invariably begets the imagining of a future for Latina/os that moves past her murder and toward a space of cultural and political reclamation. (66)

Do you think that the film represents a “space of cultural and political reclamation” for Chicanx and Latinx people in the US or an exercise of iconization?

The Queen is Dead; Long Live the Queen

Nativism: the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.

Howard Stern’s parodic performance and the public battles it provoked reveal how within the fraught space of Selena’s memory, competing claims to America are enacted. Here, to mourn Selena is to proclaim Latina/o purchasing power, while “not mourning” her redraws the borders of America to exclude Latina/os, or in Stern’s words, “Spanish people” who should “go back to Mexico.” Furthermore, the positioning of Selena and her fans as Mexican and thereby beyond the borders of American citizenry, despite the fact that Selena was US-born and raised and learned Spanish as an adult, allows Stern to locate the source of their problems in Mexico and not in US investments in transnational capitalism… I suggest that Stern’s acknowledgment of Selena and her fans actually signals his fear that the substantial presence of Latina/os rendered visible at Selena’s wake constitutes significantly more than a mere incident. Stern’s comment that the Constitution would be forsaken should Mexican Americans achieve political power reveals his belief that the rising numbers of Latina/os pose a very real threat to the national(ist) order. (71)

Model Citizenship

Nava’s attention to the function of tragedy within the maintenance of the state surfaces in his equation of the ultimate tragic status with the fulfillment of the American Dream, characterized by Selena’s lack of a self-destructive nature. Within the context of the concurrent legislation and new nativist discourse that often criminalized Latina/o behavior, Nava’s evocation of Selena emerges as a way to (re)position discursively Latina/os within the borders of the nation. Here the Selena tragedy emerges as a means through which Latina/os strive to re-configure traditional notions of American identity. As such, Nava’s comments do not merely suggest a Latina/ o /American binary, but rather, they trouble the very line insisting on their mutual exclusivity. (73)

While these categories of stardom overlap within Selena’s career, do you believe the film’s main goal is to position Selena as a US-American, Chicanx, Latinx, or as a transnational superstar? What market (s) the film is trying to appeal to?

Do you think that having Jennifer López as a protagonist instead of a Chicana was a move to turn Selena into a pan-Latin icon? Was that casting choice a way to “polish” her image?

Asynchronous Screening and Assignment on Selena

 

Selena is a biopic of the Grammy Award-winning South Texas singer whose life tragically ended just as she was taking Tejano music into mainstream US America, México, and Latin America. The movie uses Selena’s voice in the soundtrack and a representation of her most famous live concerts.  Made with her family participation, the film focuses on her upbringing as a Chicana and her family member’s negotiations with their desire of keeping their heritage alive and achieving success in the US.

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 4/28 before class)

Instructions:

1. Watch the film Selena (Gregory Nava, 1997) on HBO Max or rent it on YouTube

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

OPTION ONE

What factors from Selena’s life and career allowed her to achieve stardom? Refer to specific scenes and/or the plot.

OPTION TWO

By referring to this scene and other sequences, discuss how the film tackles common identity dilemmas of Chicanx people.

OPTION THREE

Discuss how director Gregory Nava conveys Selena’s deep connection with the audience by using editing techniques, juxtaposed screens, and Jennifer López’s performance.

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 Selena do you want to bring into the discussion?

Mosquita y Mari and La Güera

Entry Question

What elements from your identity and/or cultural background would you like to see more in movies and television?

Theory in the Flesh

Poet, playwright, and cultural activist Cherrie Moraga proposes that theory in the flesh means a theory “where the physical realities of our lives- our skin color, the land or concrete we grew up on, our sexual longings- all fuse to create a politic born out of necessity.” Theory in the flesh happens when “we do this bridging by naming ourselves and by telling the stories in our own words.” Moraga explains that it implies the “refusal of the easy explanation to the conditions we live in.”

What are the conditions Mosquita y Mari live in?

Oral Presentations on the film Mosquita y Mari and the essay “La Güera.”

Santisteban,Samantha

Sepulveda,Adelfa Y

Group Discussion

Select ONE of these quotes from Cherríe Moraga’s essay and discuss the parallelism with the story and socio-economic circumstances portrayed in Mosquita y Mari.

.”I was educated, and wore it with a keen sense of pride and satisfaction, my head propped up with the knowledge, from my mother, that my life would be easier than hers.” (23)

.”And yet, the real story was that my family, too, had been poor (some still are), and farmworkers. My mother can remember this in her blood as if it was yesterday. But this is something she would like to forget (and rightfully), for to her, on a basic economic level, being Chicana means being less.” (23)

. “It was through my mother’s desire to protect her children from poverty and illiteracy that we became “anglocized” the more effectively we could pass in the white world, the better guaranteed our future.” (23)

.”I had no choice but to enter into the life of my mother. I had no choice. I took her life into my heart, but managed to keep a lid on it as long as I feigned being the happy, upwardly mobile heterosexual.” (23)

.”My lesbianism is the avenue through which I have learned the most about silence and oppression… in this country, lesbianism is a poverty- as is being brown, as is being a woman, as is being just plain poor.” (23-4)

.”We women have a similar nightmare, for each of us in some way has been both oppressed and the oppressor. We are afraid to look at how we have failed each other. We are afraid to see how we have taken the values of our oppressor into our hearts and turned them against ourselves and one another.” (27)

Asynchronous Screening and Assignment on Mosquita y Mari

 

This coming-of-age film follows a pair of Chicana teens who develop a profound relationship against the backdrop of Southeast Los Angeles. When straight-A student Yolanda — aka Mosquita decides to help struggling girl Mari with her homework an intense friendship and queer affection evolve between the two.

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 4/21 before class)

Instructions:

1. Watch the film Mosquita y Mari (Aurora Guerrero, 2012)

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

OPTION ONE

Yolanda (Mosquita) and her parents care a lot about good grades and educational opportunities. Why? Expand on the links the film establishes between socio-economic class and education. Refer to specific scenes and/or elements of the plot.

OPTION TWO

How the film portraits the increasing attraction and emotional ties of the two young women without relying on dialogues. Refer to specific scenes and/or elements of the plot.

OPTION THREE

Props in a film are objects that are important to the story, either because the characters interact with them directly or because they tell us something about their interiority, the world they inhabit, or the development of the plot.
Thinking of this definition discuss the importance of the Geometry book, the bicycle, the CD player and headphones, and/or the cowboy hat to understand the affections and desires of the two main characters.

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 Mosquita y Mari do you want to bring to the discussion?

I’m No Longer Here and Cumbia Cosmopolatina

Entry Question:

Is there a musical genre that you personally identified with a particular Latinx group in the US?

Metaphorically speaking, how this music illustrate aspects of the (im)migrant experience?

Cumbia: Well-traveled Music

Musicologist Deborah Pacini Hernández, argues that Cumbia “fit the descriptions of being well-traveled and having evolved into numerous styles, although the sophisticated gloss provided by the term “cosmopolatino” obscures cumbia’s much more humble roots and complicated routes through the Americas over the past century.

Origins

Cumbia does fit the descriptions of being well-traveled and having evolved into numerous styles, although the sophisticated gloss provided by the term “cosmopolatino” obscures cumbia’s much more humble roots and complicated routes through the Americas over the past century. Cumbia’s aesthetic origins are in pre-twentieth-century coastal Colombian folk culture, where it articulated the hybrid sensibilities of that region’s tri-ethnic population of mixed African, European, and native ancestries. In the 1940s and 1950s, commercialized variants of cumbia were popularized throughout Colombia and then spread to other parts of Spanish-speaking Latin America to the south (Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina) and to the north (Central America and Mexico), where it became embedded and resignified in (primarily) working-class and mestizo communities—and then, via Mexican immigrants, to the United States as well. Cumbia remains deeply rooted in working-class Latin/o American communities, but its recent global variants have become unmoored from any particular social group or location. (106)

Oral Presentations on the film I’m No Longer Here and the essay “From Cumbia Colombiana to Cumbia Cosmopolatina”

Ruiz, Tiana I

Mexican Connections

By the turn of the millennium, Mexicans had reconfigured and resignified cumbia to such an extent that many Mexicans believe cumbia is of Mexican origin. (107)

Interestingly, although rock ’n’ roll was embraced most avidly by urbanites in central Mexico, the development of the grupero style was very active in northeastern Mexico, where norteño groups were concurrently incorporating cumbias into accordion-based repertoires. (122)

How the Mexican characters in I’m No Longer Here “reconfigured” cumbia?

Migration

Mexican migration to the United States has always been steady, but in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had the effect of displacing millions of Mexican workers, the Mexican-born population in the United States exploded between 1990 and 2000, increasing 52.9 percent, from 13.5 million to 20.6 million.  Once in the United States, surrounded by other homesick migrants seeking to combat the anxieties of displacement with music firmly anchored in Mexico, the accordion-based sounds of norteño, once associated primarily with northern Mexican working-class culture, became increasingly linked to the migratory experiences of all Mexican immigrants. Although polkas remained a staple of norteño repertoires, cumbia, along with the long-popular corrido, became norteño musicians’ preferred idioms. (122-3)

Since migrants typically introduce musical practices from their homelands to their host societies, music and migration are generally directly linked. The literature is full of accounts of the many ways migrants use and transform their musics in new settings: as a link to home, as a form of cultural resistance, as a way of negotiating emergent identities, as a way of strengthening ethnic, racial, or class solidarities. (137)

Can you identify these aspects highlighted by Pacini Hérnandez in I’m No Longer Here? Do you think that cumbia represents all of these things to Ulises, the main character? How does the film question inter-Latinx solidarity?

 

Asynchronous Screening and Assignment on I’m No Longer Here

In Monterrey, Mexico, a young street “gang” spends their days dancing to slowed-down cumbia and attending parties. After a mix-up with a local cartel, their leader Ulises is forced to migrate to the U.S. but quickly longs to return home. The director Frias “captures the surreal sensation of feeling utterly alone despite constantly being around people as Ulises struggles to find his way in a foreign land.”

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 4/14 before class)

Instructions:

1. Watch the Netflix film I’m No Longer Here (Fernando Frías, 2019)

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

OPTION ONE

I’m No Longer Here suggests that once you migrate it’s impossible to reproduce your homeland and more so to really return to your place of origin. Expand on this idea by referring to the journey of the protagonist, Ulises.

OPTION TWO

Compare the two major cities and neighborhoods represented in the film: Monterrey and New York. How Ulises experiences poverty and community differently in each of these spaces?

OPTION THREE

Discuss the importance of costume, hair, and sound design in the mise-en-scene of I’m No Longer Here. Why do you think these particular elements are central to tell the story and present the cultural identity of the characters and their Cumbia sub-culture?

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 I’m No Longer Here do you want to bring to the discussion?