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Latino Spin

Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race

Arlene Dávila
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Latino Spin
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2010 Distinguished Book Award in Latino Studies from the Latin American Studies AssociationIllegal immigrant, tax burden, job stealer. Patriot, family oriented, hard worker, model consumer. Ever since Latinos became the largest minority in the U.S. they have been caught between these wildly contrasting characterizations leaving us to wonder: Are Latinos friend or foe?Latino Spin cuts through the spin about Latinos' supposed values, political attitudes, and impact on U.S. national identity to ask what these caricatures suggest about Latinos' shifting place in the popular and political imaginary. Noted scholar Arlene Davila illustrates the growing consensus among pundits, advocates, and scholars that Latinos are not a social liability, that they are moving up and contributing, and that, in fact, they are more American than "the Americans." But what is at stake in such a sanitized and marketable representation of Latinidad? Davila follows the spin through the realm of politics, think tanks, Latino museums, and urban planning to uncover whether they effectively challenge the growing fear over Latinos' supposedly dreadful effect on the "integrity" of U.S. national identity. What may be some of the intended or unintended consequences of these more marketable representations in regard to current debates over immigration?With particular attention to what these representations reveal about the place and role of Latinos in the contemporary politics of race, Latino Spin highlights the realities they skew and the polarization they effect between Latinos and other minorities, and among Latinos themselves along the lines of citizenship and class. Finally, by considering Latinos in all their diversity, including their increasing financial and geographic disparities, Davila can present alternative and more empowering representations of Latinidad to help attain true political equity and intraracial coalitions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8538-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Illegal, tax burden, patriotic, family-oriented, hard-working, and model consumer—how do we make sense of such contrasting definitions of Latinos? Why do they circulate in concert? Put simply, everyone seems to want an answer to the same question: Are Latinos friends or foes? Since the 2000 census showed Latinos to be the United States’ largest minority, there has been a growing debate about their values, political attitudes, and impact on U.S. national identity. Nativist and anti-immigrant groups view Latinos as America’s most impending threat. Others see them as the single most important, up and coming ethnic group. In dispute is...

  5. PART I. The Politics of Latino Spin

    • 1 Here Comes the Latino Middle Class
      (pp. 25-45)

      As recently as a decade ago, it was unimaginable to talk openly about middle-class Latinos. But now, this topic is present with a vengeance. With the marketing industry touting the profitability of Latinos as a market, and political parties touting their vibrancy as the “new electorate,” poverty is more than ever a political liability, almost entirely obviated from the national agenda. Thus, when in 2004 a study by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) showed that 26 percent of all Puerto Ricans, almost three times the national average, live in poverty, people were not amused. In the...

    • 2 Latinos: “The New Republicans (They Just Don’t Know It)”
      (pp. 46-70)

      Are Latinos America’s scapegoats, or the belle of the ball? For two years now, the immigration debate has dominated public discussion of Latinos: Brown faces are out there. Immigration and Latinos represent what is wrong with America. We must do something—Now. With the coming 2008 presidential election, however, Latinos emerge as the belle of the ball. We are told that Latinos are the swingiest of the swing voters: the one decisive constituency. Pundits claim that, unlike African Americans, Latinos are not married to any political party. Anyone can get them.

      By now, arguments about how Latinos voted in the...

    • 3 The Hispanic Consumer: That’s “A Lot of Dollars, Cars, Diapers, and Food”
      (pp. 71-94)

      One of the most intriguing conundrums in contemporary representations of Latinos is their growing preeminence as a so-called booming and profitable market at the same time that they continue to be stereotyped as illegal and a burden to the nation’s economic welfare. This contradictory scenario was poignantly evident throughout 2006, at the height of the immigration debate. While editorials bemoaned the threat that Latinos supposedly pose to the integrity of “America’s national culture,” it was not uncommon to find news in the business section of major national newspapers touting the profitability of this market. On and on, we were told...

  6. PART II. Political Economy:: Spaces and Institutions

    • 4 The Times-Squaring of El Barrio: On Mega Projects, Spin, and “Community Consent”
      (pp. 97-118)

      That New York City is undergoing a rapid and advanced stage of gentrification and that communities of color are experiencing the greatest burden is a simple understatement. Take the current transformations in East Harlem, a.k.a. Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio, now increasingly also known as SpaHa, among other, more chic names. As is the case all over the city, projects coming to East Harlem are larger in density and design, increasingly fast-tracked and presented as inevitable, triggering debates about the future of the area’s cultural identity. Thus, it was not that surprising when the largest commercial and residential development coming...

    • 5 From Barrio to Mainstream: On the Politics of Latino/a Art Museums
      (pp. 119-137)

      The relationships between museums and the communities they seek to represent are often contentious. Since the 1990s, however, cuts in state and federal funding for the arts and neoliberal cultural policies emphasizing privatization have exacerbated the tensions. These cuts have pushed many cultural institutions to turn away from grassroots constituencies toward more profitable ones—a shift that has generated multiple debates within the world of U.S. Latino/a culture and the arts.¹ One vivid example discussed below is the debate over El Museo del Barrio (literally, the museum of the neighborhood or community) in East Harlem, an area also known as...

    • 6 The “Disciplining” of Ethnic Studies: Or, Why It Will Take Goya Foods and J.Lo to Endow Latino Studies
      (pp. 138-160)

      For over 30 years now, some lucky university students have had the opportunity to take a course in Latino studies. What better sign of mainstreaming and of “making it” for Latinos, one may think, than becoming a university subject? The state of Latino and ethnic studies in American universities, however, is a good sign of the status of the “people” that we are supposedly learning about and of our ability to talk publicly about ethnicity and race. For what gets taught within the university is determinant. This is supposedly the world of true “knowledge,” not spin. In “the Academy” nothing...

  7. Conclusion: On the Dangers of Wishful Thinking
    (pp. 161-172)

    As Latinos do “make it,” or are said to “make it” in the American mainstream, abiding questions remain. Will we remember our historical roots and help transform the destination we are starting to reach? Or will we be part of the same problems that have long hindered our “coming of age”? I pose these questions with the belief that the Latinos’ coming of age is more spin than reality. Yes, more Latinos are joining the ranks of the middle class. Many have long been part of, while others identify with or are joining, the ranks of America’s political, economic, and...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 173-180)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-196)
  10. Index
    (pp. 197-210)
  11. About the Author
    (pp. 211-212)