Latinx Screens: Film, TV, and Video

Wrapping-Up + Music Video Festival (Session 3)

I. The American Latino Experience by Carlos Aguilar

Latinos are not a monolith. American-born or -raised Latinos have unique life experiences, straddling the line between assimilation and pride in their heritage, which the big studios frequently fail to acknowledge. Such movies do exist, though often on the periphery. And they’re worth seeking out to help foster conversations about the intricacies of Latinidad.

Largely untold in mass media or classrooms, the history of Latinos in the United States is long, winding, and impossible to dissect in simple terms. Shaped by arbitrary borders in the aftermath of wars, colonization, and waves of migration from nearly two dozen nations across the Americas, our presence is intrinsic to this country. Yet, American Latinos remain mostly invisible in our collective narrative.

Border-crossing stories or those set in Latin America don’t fill the void created by the lack of American Latino narratives. They don’t reflect the lives of, say, Chicanos in California, Tejanos in rural Texas, or Nuyoricans in the Bronx — specific identities that have faced oppression in the United States. Instead, the entertainment industry desperately tries to fit all Latinos under one label, devoid of nuance, often erasing Afro-Latinos and Indigenous people.


Engaging with similar reflections in this hybrid class we have explored the representation of NYC as a Caribbean, (Afro) Latinx, diasporic city. We expanded our scope by looking at the lives, struggles, and joys of Mexican and Central American migrants in the Mexico/US borderlands, the Southwest, and Philadelphia. By examining these audiovisual narratives and themes influential to major Latinx communities, we explored issues of (neo) colonialism, gender, sexuality, race, social class, migration, urban life, and access to citizenship, resources, and institutions.

Feedback Questions

Write your response on a card:

.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?

Music video festival (Session 3)



Sanchez Baez,Renato

Sanap,Jyoti Shivaji


Rodriguez,Natasha Jalene

Grechka,Inna V



Mosquita y Mari and La Güera

Entry Question

What topics from the second half of the semester would you like to engage with for the final project? Do you want to propose a question?

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/slide Presentations 


Grechka,Inna V

Queme,Mathew K

Rodriguez,Natasha Jalene

Group Discussion

Select ONE of these quotes from Cherríe Moraga’s essay and discuss the parallelism with the personal essay and the 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 Blog Post 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 (Deadline 11/23 before the class)


1. Watch the film Mosquita y Mari (Aurora Guerrero, 2012) here, or via Netflix.

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 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?

Selena and Remembering Selena, Re-membering Latinidad

Entry Question

Is there a contemporary Latinx artist that has a similar impact as Selena in the 90s? How this artist resembles Selena, if so?

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/Slide Presentations 

Sanchez,Perla S



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?

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 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? What about the new Netflix show?

Asynchronous Blog Post 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 is 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 (Deadline 11/16 before the class)


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).


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


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


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


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?

Clínica de Migrantes and Ground Zero

Entry Conversation

Think back to the documentary and Cornejo Villavicencio’s text.  Reflect and share one of the topics from these sources that resonated with you.

.migration and its health cost

.mental health and migration

.gender-based violence

.denial of health services/ debt

.reproduction of plantation economies (Latinx overseer)

.invizibilized labor

.tip economies


Why do you think is important to center these discussions? Have you or your family experienced any of the struggles presented in them?

Brief Introduction

Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health) is a nonprofit organization that promotes the health and wellness of Philadelphia’s rapidly growing Latinx immigrant population through high-quality health care, innovative educational programs, and community building.

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio is an Ecuadorian-American writer and the author of The Undocumented Americans, published in 2020 and shortlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. She has written about immigration, music, beauty, and mental illness for various publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and more. 

A common story among Latinx migrants

She was born in Ecuador in 1989. When she was a year and a half old, her parents immigrated to the US, leaving her with family. A few years later, her parents brought her to the US. 

A rare story among Latinx migrants

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 2011 and believes that she is one of the first undocumented immigrants to do so. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Yale. She is also currently serving as Baruch College’s very own Harman Writer-in-Residence for the fall of 2021.

Recommended Student-led Interview

Oral/slide presentations

Sanap, Jyoti Shivaji

Sanchez Baez, Renato


Individual Exercise

Read again pages 45-48 (Paloma’s profile) pick one or two quotes or ideas from this section and discuss the connection between Cornejo Villavicencio’s text and the documentary.

Asynchronous Blog Post on Clínica de Migrantes

Puentes de Salud, a volunteer-run clinic, provides free medical care to undocumented immigrants in Philadelphia. Here, doctors and nurses work for free to serve people who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

ASYNCHRONOUS BLOG POST (Deadline 11/9 before the class)


1. Rent and watch the documentary Clínica de migrantes (Maxim Pozdorovkin, 2016)

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


Describe the particular types of health care services provided by the organization Puentes de salud and how they are conceived of with Latin American undocumented migrants in mind.


According to the documentary, what are some of the challenges the undocumented regularly face in terms of health care? How the lack of access to health care is connected to other US societal issues?


Explain one of the migrant cases presented by the documentary. What is the narrative and/or argumentative function of following this person?


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

Sin Nombre and Court

Entry Question

What things do you know about the ongoing 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.


Three Important Sections

.the “children crisis” (37-38)

.the bureaucratic crisis (39-40)

.news coverage (43-4)

Oral Presentations on the film Sin Nombre and the essay “Court.”


Rodriguez,Natasha Jalene

Chain Reactions

What is the importance within the essay of the story of the young boy and his folded police report? How can we link this story with the character of El smiley in Sin Nombre? (Pages 42-3)

How Luiselli contextualizes the history of gang formation in Central America?  How the film showcases the transnational nature of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13)? (Pages 45-46)

How Sayra storyline in Sin Nombre exemplifies what Luiselli explains about children’s intentions when crossing the border (Page 48)

How the journey north described by Luiselli coincides with what Sin Nombre presents? (Page 51)

Asynchronous Blog Post on Sin Nombre

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 BLOG POST (Deadline 11/2 before the 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 does the film contextualize 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 interact with 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?

Vampires Vs The Bronx and The Latinx Urban Space and Identity

Entry Question

Is your neighborhood gentrifying? What signs have you identified that make you think that way? Do these signs resemble the ones presented by Vampires Vs. the Bronx?

Stages of Gentrification

In the first, “pioneers” — often bohemians and artists — move to dilapidated or abandoned areas (as in governmental neglect) 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.

Recommended Article:

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

Oral/slide presentations




Group Discussion- Reading and Discussing Ed Morales’s The Latinx Urban Space and Identity

.Barrios (Pages 250-251)

How Vampires Vs. The Bronx illustrates the clashes between the barrio’s cultural memory and the actions of developers?

.Gentrification (Page 252)

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

.Afro-Latinidad and Urban Resistance (Pages 264; 267-268)

What coalition and solutions to gentrification Vampires Vs The Bronx proposes?