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)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2oo-words minimum).
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.
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.
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.
Respectfully interactwith 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?
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.
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”
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?
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?
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)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2oo-words minimum).
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.
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?
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?
Respectfully interactwith 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?
What things do you know about the current humanitarian crisis at the border at the US-Mexico border?
“Tell Me How It Ends,” a work of narrative nonfiction by the Mexican novelist and essayist Valeria Luiselli born partially of her experience as a volunteer court translator for undocumented migrant children in New York.
Filtered through the lens of the court narrative, these stories of child migration have a single origin somewhere in Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala […] Once the decision to depart is made, the stories begin to migrate north in earnest, starting with La Bestia — the aptly nicknamed network of trains whose roofs and spines thousands of migrant children cling to in order to make it into Mexico alive, the penultimate step in a journey that in the best-case scenario concludes in a detention center on the United States side of the border.
“Sin Nombre is set as a border crossing social-political thriller. The stories of Sayra, a teenager living in Honduras and hungering for a brighter future, and teen gang members Smiley and Casper, for whom the Mara Salvatrucha is nearly their entire universe, become interlaced on the train to the US border, a journey that will determine the future of their lives.”
-Production Notes, Sundance Catalog
ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 4/7 before class)
1. Rent and watch the film Sin Nombre (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2009)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2oo-words minimum).
Give your interpretation of the film title: Sin Nombre (Nameless). Think about the gangs’ naming practices and ethics as well as the experiences of migrants. Refer to plot elements, specific scenes, and/or characters.
How the film contextualizes migration to the US from Central America? Refer to plot elements, specific scenes, and/or characters.
In filmmaking, a long take is a continuous shot with a duration much longer than the conventional editing pace either of the film itself or of films in general. Significant camera movement (handheld or with a steady-cam) and elaborate blocking are often elements in long takes.
Why do you think the director and his crew decided to film the above-posted sequence as a long take? Which character’s point of view is highlighted by filming this scene as a long take? How does this long take make you feel as an audience member?
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Sin Nombre do you want to bring to the discussion?
What do you understand by daily acts of resistance? Can you think of specific examples?
When Does Resistance Begin? Queer Immigrant and U.S-Born Latino Youth, Identity and the Infrapolitics of the Street
In her essay, associate professor, urban ethnographer, and educational researcher, Cindy Cruz examines the small and deliberate practices of queer youth toward their caseworkers, security guards, and with each other. She proposes that observing these practices aids to expand the notion of resistance. She recognizes resistance when youth refuse the logic of domination and share knowledge in ways that suggest new kinds of socialities. She argues that these new socialities have the possibility to become spaces where queer youth can practice new sensibilities and ways of being as they negotiate through the often hostile worlds they traverse. (289-90)
.Resistance- it happens when youth say no to the alternatives they are offered in worlds where they are brutalized and oppressed or to the narratives that emerge within these oppressive spaces. Queer Latino youth might resist using the smallest of gestures. (291)
.Infrapolitics-defined as the dissident offstage practices that resist the everyday degradations and experiences of exclusion that make up the daily fabric of LGBTQ+ Latinx youth lives. (294)
.Resistant socialities- off-stage (non-institutional) practices of queer Latinx youth; breathing spaces, however tight, for youth to reclaim energy, regroup, and create safe space; small deviation from the logic of oppression. (292)
.Hidden transcript- the space of rest and leisure, a place to gossip about your caseworkers, teachers, and the ever-present security guards in Spanish, Spanglish, or English. It is also a place for youth to exchange valuable information about how institutions, organizations, worksites, schools, and youth centers, work (297)
Think of all the different spaces Vanessa, the young trans woman presented in Gun Hill Road, “traverse.” How these spaces differentiate? In which ones she feels safe? In which spaces she engages in resistance?
Oral Presentations on Gun Hill Road and “When Does Resistance Begin?”
The socialities of resistance that youth develop for survival are vital spaces where the potential to learn new ways of negotiating these hostile worlds can also become places to learn multiple sensibilities and new ways of engaging their world(s) that offer liberatory possibilities. When queer Latino street youth move away or refuse to continue to engage with abusive partners, share technology and vital digital information with each other or question the pedagogy of research, I argue that it is here that resistance begins. (317)
Instead of staying silent, invisible, passive, youth talk back, share knowledge, and practice ways of knowing and being that have the potential for other kinds of emancipatory praxis. (318)
In this film written and directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, a Puerto Rican ex-con, Enrique, returns home to the Bronx to find that his wife Angela has had an affair while he was away, and his child is exploring a gender transformation that tests his notions of masculinity, gender, sexuality, and the bonds of family.
ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 3/17 before class)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (175-words minimum).
In Gun Hill Road the different characters have their own distinct understanding of gender and sexuality. How the film addresses with nuance the topics of machismo, trans lives, and role definition within a Nuyorican family and Latinx community?
Discuss how performance poetry and her chosen queer community helps Vanessa navigate her gender transformation while she faces transphobia and bigoted views?
How lighting and the use of close-ups in this scene enhance the emotional struggles and ties of the different characters? Discuss both mise en scene elements and content.
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Gun Hill Road do you want to bring to the discussion?
Do you believe that the different people in your life bring out different aspects of your cultural and psychological identity? Explain briefly.
The Plasticity of Culture
Mexican-American documentarian and scholar Ricardo C. Ainslie challenges ideas of linear acculturation, that is, that immigrants arrive in the US with “identities defined in the terms of the culture they have left behind and that they gradually relinquished those ties as they became increasingly assimilated.” He argues that immigration-related phenomena have complexity, a rich, fluid, and dynamic character. (291)
He agrees with models that pose that individuals can be competent in more than one cultural setting and in different cultural contexts without necessarily developing the values of the majority group. Ainslie values how these models “attempt to factor in the marginalization effects of racism and social devaluation.” (293)
Adding a psychological perspective he argues that cultural terms are plastic. In day-to-day life, cultural terms are “infinitely malleable and they adhere readily to a variety of ideas, objects, and actions… we appropriate cultural terms and utilize them as psychological tools as we engage with others around us.”
“Culture not only shapes and defines us; it also represents a social artifact to be appropriated, manipulated, and engaged in ways that tap the central elements of our psychological experience.” (296)
Oral Presentations on I Like It Like That and “The Plasticity of Culture”
Through the analysis of case studies, Ainslie proposes that:
1. In immigrant families, the different members can have various types of relationships with each other. The language that is spoken and the cultural connections to a homeland and its ideologies may vary.
2. In the face of emotional stress, people may re-adopt or re-engage with elements of their homeland’s culture as a way to cope and feel grounded again.
3. People may utilize what appears to be assimilating postures as a way to detach from their immediate cultural background or family situation.
How I Like It Like That presents these different levels of cultural plasticity?
I Like It Like That is a 1994 dramedy written and directed by African- American director Darnell Martin about the trials and tribulations of a young Puerto Rican man and a half Jamaican Puerto Rican woman living in the poverty-stricken South Bronx. The film looks at how socio-economic struggles and labels affect our sense of self, family, and community.
ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 3/10 before class)
Before watching The Get Down and/or reading “Between Blackness and Latinidad in the Hip Hop Zone” did your conception of Hip Hop included other cultural groups besides African-Americans? Why? Why not?
A Hip Hop Definition
Raquel Z. Rivera, Puerto Rican author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone, argues that “hip hop is most often historically defined in terms of music, visual arts (graffiti), and dance (breaking, popping, locking, rocking). Language, mannerisms, fashion, and other expressions of culture are considered by some to also be defining aspects of hip hop. Hip hop, like earlier cultural expressions, has in many senses served as a bridge between Puerto Ricans, other Latina/os, West Indians, and African Americans.” (354)
Davey D Cook, an African American who grew up during this time in the South Bronx, explains: “Hip Hop was multicultural in the sense that it was Blacks and Puerto Ricans who put this whole thing down. We lived next to each other and for the most part shared the same urban problems. We also shared the same legacy of exploitation, oppression, and colonization. (354)
(Watch from 33:40-40:55)
When New York Puerto Rican youngsters began participating alongside African Americans in the early development of MCing as a lyrical/musical style, they were not exactly “defecting” from Puerto Rican tradition. In terms of social function and aesthetics, Puerto Rican oral and musical styles can be invoked as precursors of MCing as much as African American ones.
Island musical traditions like plena, bomba, and música jíbara can be invoked just as easily among rap’s forebears. Verbal duels featuring boasting, trading insults, sexual innuendoes, and improvisation are common in all three. Like rap, they are notorious for historicizing everyday events.
What would breakbeats be without the decades-old influence of Puerto Rican and Cuban musical traditions on African Americans in New York City? Those timbales and conga solos that were the heart of so many breakbeats got into soul and funk records from Africa via the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. (357)
Oral Presentations on The Get Down and the essay “Between Blackness and Latinidad in the Hip Hop Zone”
In her essay, “Between Blackness and Latinidad in the Hip Hop Zone,” Raquel Z. Rivera argues that the Puerto Rican input to Hip Hop has been depreciated or plainly erased because of ethnic and racial constructions in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America. There is a marketing factor to the Puerto Rican exclusion. The U.S. music industry and the media centralized English-speaking African Americans over Puerto Ricans and Latinxs. But Rivera also posits that although conceived as multi-cultural and multi-racial, the Puerto Rican and Latinx identities (formed collectively,) tend to reject the African heritage while celebrating Europeanness. This social process has created a false cultural divide between African Americans and Puerto Ricans. (352)
In the mid-1980s, as graffiti and the “breakdancing” craze faded into the media background, hip hop music became commercial popular music and thought of as almost exclusively African American. Back then [1980s], rap’s blackness was a big part of its commercial appeal. But it was not clear if Latina/os were a lighter version of black or not black at all. The industry gatekeepers were not often willing to take a risk by signing Latina/os. That is, until Latina/os, and particularly Boricuas, became a ghetto-tropical fad in the mid-1990s, and then it became trendy for Latina/os and non- Latina/os to include words in Spanish and references to Latina/os in rhymes and have Butta Pecan Rican mamis adorning videos. (355)
How The Get Down shows this joint Afro Diasporic cultural movement? Which characters represent better the cross-cultural dynamics of Hip Hop as describe by Raquel Z. Rivera?