Colombian-Americans - Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 29, 2010 03:00pm | Post a Comment

In the US, the word "Latino" is used often, regardless of accuracy, as shorthand for a region's dominant Latino population. In the southwest it usually means "Mexican," in the northeast it means "Puerto Rican" and in Florida, "Cuban." Indeed, those are the three largest populations of Latino-Americanos in the country, although it goes without saying that there are many less-recognized groups of Latinos. Each have their own distinct culture, history, and place in America. This entry is about Colombians, who at an estimated 730,510 currently living in the US, make up the seventh largest Latino population, and the largest population of South-American immigrants in the country.

The country of Colombia is home to at least 85 indigenous nations, including the Muisca, Quimbaya, Tairona, Wayuu, Arhuacos, Kuna, Paez, Tucano, Guahibo, Cauca, Guajira and Guainia. The main population of European immigrants to Colombia were from Spain. Basques, Italians, Germans, the French, Swiss, Poles and Russians also migrated in large numbers. Smaller but significant numbers of European immigrants include Belgians, Lithuanians, Dutch, British, Portugese and Croatians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From 1825 til 1851 the Spaniards forcibly brought uncounted numbers of slaves from West Africa. Syrians and Lebanese arrived from the Levant. Today, 58% of Colombians self-identify as mestizo, 20% as white, 14% as mulatto, 4% as black, 3% as zambo, and 1% as Native.

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Hispanic Heritage Month - Documentaries covering Latino & Hispanic experiences in the United States

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 2, 2009 04:00pm | Post a Comment
For Hispanic Heritage Month, if you want to get an interesting and informed look at Latino issues, you could probably do worse than checking out a documentary... Most cover a handful of issues and often from different perspectives. Check the Latino/Spanish Special Interest section at Amoeba for availability.

War - 
There are several documentaries that focus on Latino and Hispanic issues in American wars. From Juan Ponce de León and Hernan de Soto sniffing around the modern day US in search of eternal youth and gold, through aggression between the US, Mexico and Spain, to the disproportionate reliance on Latinos to fight our modern wars, these DVDs cover a lot of territory.


Immigration - It shouldn't come as a surprise that the number one topic regarding Latino issues is the subject of immigration, primarily of the undocumented variety. What may come as more of a surprise is that one in five illegal immigrants to the US isn't Latino... something zero documentaries deal with, to my knowledge.


Gangs - People love them some gang documentaries. Currently, there are suprisingly few about Latino gangs, whilst every week it seems like there's some new one made about the safely-behind-us, romanticized Cosa Nostra.


Artists - Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali account for nearly every documentary about Latino and Hispanic artists. I realize that neither ever became American citizens, but they worked in, interacted with, and affected the US in deeply felt ways. For example, 4 in 5 dorm residents still has some Dali poster or other, usually next to Bob Marley.


Hollywood -
The Latino experience in Hollywood is pretty limited, given the population make-up of the US. Perhaps that's why there are so few documentaries about the subject.

Communities - The US is still a very segregated society and established Latino communities in the US are still often separate, self-contained microcosms.


Cultural Observances -
These documentaries focus on holidays and commemorations... and Walter Mercado, who defies categorization in nearly every way.


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Hispanic Heritage Month - Latinos in American Cinema

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 26, 2009 01:51pm | Post a Comment

Aside from a brief fetish for Latin Lovers in the silent era, roles for Hispanics and Latinos in American silent film were few, far between and generally quite minor. In the sound era, images of Hispanics and Latinos in Hollywood began to increase in number, although Latino characters were at first usually portrayed by non-Latinos in brownface whilst real Latinos were frequently used as all-purpose ethnic types.

          Ramon Novarro and Lupe Velez (as Navaho) in Laughing Boy                                Leo Carrillo and Duncan Renaldo

In the first decade of sound, there weren't many roles for Hispanics or Latinos aside from in popular, long-running series like Zorro, The Cisco Kid and The Mexican Spitfire series, the latter a vehicle for Lupe Velez. Pedro Armendáriz mostly starred in Mexican films; when cast in American ones, he invariably had to exaggerate his accent sufficiently. Throughout the '30s and the following decade, Arizona-born Chris Pin-Martin appeared in almost eighty films, invariably as a heavily-accented, broken English-speaking Mexican in small roles and as sidekicks, like Pancho in the Cisco Kid movies and as Gordito in the Zorro series. The Zorro franchise, begun in the 20s, continued to be popular throughout the era. The Cisco Kid series dated back to the teens. In them, unlike with Zorro, Hispanic actors like Leo Carrillo, Duncan Ronaldo and Cesar Romero were usually cast in the lead. Hispanic actress Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Cansino) was initially billed as Rita Cansino in a series of unrelated B-movies. In them, she usually played a variation on the fiery Mexican maiden in need of an honorable Anglo's protection and love.

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On the margins' margins - Asian Latinos - Latasian 101

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 15, 2009 12:35pm | Post a Comment
A common misconception about Latinos they are a racially homogeneous people. In Los Angeles and elsewhere, the word "Mexican" is used to refer to pretty much anyone who looks like they may have roots south of the Rio Grande, regardless of country of origin. I assume the same goes for Puerto Ricans and Cubans in areas where they dominate, although I'm not sure. I've heard the Honduran Latino population of New Orleans described as "Mexican" by more than one person.

Habana, Cuba

This misconception is, ironically, inadvertently furthered by many Latinos themselves. Though the concepts of “brown pride” and “La Raza,” are used to instill pride in Chicanos, mestizos, or those with Spanish ancestry (depending on how they’re applied), at the same time they effectively marginalize Latinos with African and Asian ancestry, despite their being no less Latino by definition. Furthermore, in the 2006 US Census, 48% of Latinos described themselves as white/European-American. Only 6% described themselves as of "two or more races." In fact, the majority of Latinos are clearly of mixed, partially indigenous heritage. The census question may be a trick, since, as most people know, any actual white person will steadfastly self-identify as Native American, claiming a great-great-great grandparent who was (usually) Cherokee.

Japanese Brazilians

What distinguishes countries in the New World from those in the Old is that here there's no such thing as a Nation-State and no countries in the western hemisphere correspond to a single ethinicity. Just as is the case in Anglo America (The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, the United States and the Virgin Islands), there are Latinos whose race is Asian, black, Native, white or a combination thereof. In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins today, the focus of this blog on Asian Latinos aims to highlight just one example of the under-recognized heterogeneity of Latino culture.

Lulu Jam

Asian/Pacific Islanders have a history in what is now called Latin America that goes back thousands of years to when the descendants of paleo-Siberians crossed the Bering land bridge, headed south from North America and moved into Central and South America. Thousands of years later, Austronesians settled Rapa Nui (sometime between 300 and 1200). Although still fairly far from modern day Chile (although much closer than to their southern Chinese ancestral lands), there is strong evidence that these Polynesians traded with the Mapuche, who live in what is now Chile and Argentina. This has been surmised from several clues. One is the presence of sweet potatoes in Rapa Nui, which are indigenous to South America and in all likelihood couldn't survive a sea voyage without human aid. In addition, the Rapa Nui referred to the islet of Sala y Gómez to Rapa Nui's east as “Manu Motu Motiro Hiva,” meaning, “Bird's islet on the way to a far away land;" that "far away land" is presumably a reference to South America. Finally, in 2007 a group of scientist subjected bones of an Aracuana chicken (dated to have lived between 1304 and 1424) to be tied by its DNA to chickens in Tonga and American Samoa.

It wasn’t until the arrival of the Spanish that the concept of Latin America was created by Romance language-speaking European conquerors. From the the earliest days of conquest, the Spanish were accompanied by Asians. The first significant arrivals from Asia were Filipinos who, as early as 1565, escaped from their Spanish masters and settled mainly in Mexico. Many more Asians followed, primarily Chinese, Indian, Korean and Japanese laborers, the greatest number in the 19th century. In some South American countries today, the populations of Asian citizens aren't just noteworthy, they're dominant. In Dutch-speaking (so therefore not Latin American by most definitions) Suriname, the overwhelming majority of citizens are Asian. In English-speaking Guyana, a plurality are Asian. In French Guiana, 22% of the population are at least in part Asian. Brazil is second only to Japan in numbers of Japanese people.

Ana Gabriel - La Reina

Most Asian Latinos live in South America. Despite their presence in Latin America, where they number over four million, Asian Latinos are still, no doubt, the least recognized racial group among Latinos. In the US, the number of Asian Latinos of Asian ancestry alone is estimated to be around 300,000. Many more Latinos have a mix of ancestries, including Asian. The magazine Revista Oriental, founded in 1931, is still published in Peru and focuses on Asian Latinos there and elsewhere in Latin America. Many Asian Latinos have immigrated to the US, most often in cities like Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and South Florida.

Liberdade, Sao Paulo

Whereas in Latin America most Asain Latinos are Latino by virtue of their many generations of presence in the region, in the US, Asian Latino culture tends to be the product not of Latino Asian immigrants, but rather from a domestic mix of the two cultures, often in the neighborhoods of the San Gabriel Valley, Gardena, Atlanta, Milwaukee and (historically) Boyle Heights.

Anish (Nara Back)

The difference between centuries of organic fusion and more recent combinations can be seen in the differences of cuisines of Cuba and Peru and the newer, more delibarate Asian-Latino fusion common in the US as evinced by the fare of Kogi BBQ, Asia de Cuba, Cha Cha Chili, Danu, Marazul, Stingray Sushi Bar, Tamari and Asian Latino Grill and Vive

Other examples of the ongoing integration of Asian and Latino cultures in the US can be seen in the solidarity between Filipino and Mexican farmworkers in FALA, art exhibits like Tigers and Jaguars and projects like the Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana’s The Ties that Bind.

Lima, Peru

Many Asian Latinos have made significant contributions to academia, athletics, medicine, politics and, of course, the arts, although, in many cases, their Asian Latino heritage goes unmentioned. In film, as with all Latinos, the notion of Latino homogeneity/interchangability almost always works in the favor of White Hispanics/non-Latinos like Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz (or Welsh and Brits like Catherine Zeta Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Alfred Molina), while brown people play background gang members and Asian and black Latinos don't exist. For example, in real life, Paula Crisostomo was a Chilipina (Chicano/Filipina), but in the film Walkout, she was portrayed by the snow white Alexa Vega.

The real Paula Chrisostomo (left) and her cinematic version (right)... the resemblence is eerie

Given their population distribution, it's not surprising that most Asian Latinos in film and TV (behind and in front of the camera) are in Latin America, although as the list shows, there are a couple of widely recognized Asian Latinos in Hollywood too.

    Aline Nakashima                                          Anderson Lau                                                      Annie Yep

   Daisy Marie 
            Barbara Mori                                         Daniele Suzuki                                           Daisy Marie

Fred Armisen   
                 Fred Armisen                                                     Jeri Lee                                          Jin Yoo-Kim

                 Kirk Acevedo                                   Marvin "Trini" Ishmael                      Sabrina Sato Rahal

                     Sergio Nakasone                                               Tizuka Yamasaki

Not pictured: Hernán Takeda

Lisa Ono

Asian Latinos in music are more often citizens of Latin American countries, although, as with those in film and TV, this list includes some Americans too. Alberto "Beto" Shiroma, Alfonso Leng, Ana Gabriel (nee María Yong), Anjulie, Arlen Siu, Brownman, Cansei de Ser Sexy’s Lovefoxxx, Carlos Galvan, Cassie Ventura, Cesar Ichikawa, Camillo Wong “Chino” Moreno, Hiromi Hayakawa, Jasmine Villegas, Jorge Peña Hen, Kelis, Kiuge Hayashida, Leonardo Lam, Lisa Ono, Lulu Jam's Nara Back (Anish) and Takaomi Saito, Melinda Lira, Menudo’s Christopher Moy, Michio Nishihara, Pato Fu’s Fernanda Takai, Patty Wong, Sum 41’s Dave Baksh and Kokeshi’s Viviana Shieh/Shuy.

Hispanic vs. Latino & Hollywood Brownface

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 15, 2008 02:24pm | Post a Comment

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th to October 15th is officially recognized as Hispanic Heritage Month in the USA.The dates of the observance were chosen due to the timing of El Grito, the "cry" that brought the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua's independence (followed closely by Mexico and Chile.).

Some fellows celebrating "El Grito"

"Hispanic" vs. "Latino"

I suppose it's kind of interesting that whoever named the month chose the term "Hispanic" instead of, say, "Latino." Hispanic sounds old-fashioned to me, but then again, I know people younger than me who refer to themselves as just that. I still think it's like calling February "Colored History Month" or May being "Oriental Heritage month." The government's choice of "Hispanic" probably owes to the fact that the term "Latino" was in less common usage forty years ago when the observance was instigated by Lyndon B. Johnson (initially as Hispanic Heritage Week). Both terms are considered offensive by some indigenists since they disappropriate Native Americans from their origins and languages by defining people with sometimes no European ancestry with Eurocentric terms.

That being said, though Latino and Hispanic are frequently used interchangeably, they don't mean exactly the same thing.


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