Cultures of the City

Cultures of the City: Mediating Identities in Urban Latin/o America

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 264
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    Cultures of the City
    Book Description:

    Cultures of the Cityexplores the cultural mediation of relationships between people and urban spaces in Latin/o America and how these mediations shape the identities of cities and their residents.

    Addressing a broad spectrum of phenomena and disciplinary approaches, the contributors to this volume analyze lived urban experiences and their symbolic representation in cultural texts. Individual chapters explore Havana in popular music; Mexico City in art; Buenos Aires, Recife, and Salvador in film; and Asuncion and Buenos Aires in literature. Others focus on particular events, conditions, and practices of urban life including the Havana book fair, mass transit in Bogotá, the restaurant industry in Los Angeles, the media in Detroit, Andean festivals in Lima, and the photographic record of a visit by members of the Zapatista Liberation Army to Mexico City.

    The contributors examine identity and the sense of place and belonging that connect people to urban environments, relating these to considerations of ethnicity, social and economic class, gender, everyday life, and cultural practices. They also consider history and memory and the making of places through the iterative performance of social practices. As such, places are works in progress, a condition that is particularly evident in contemporary Latin/o American cities where the opposition between local and global influences is a prominent facet of daily life.

    These core issues are theorized further in an afterword by Abril Trigo, who takes the chapters as a point of departure for a discussion of the dialectics of identity in the Latin/o American global city.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7763-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. VII-X)
  4. Introduction: Mediating Urban Identities
    (pp. 1-12)

    Beatriz Sarloʹs verbal snapshot of the installation of an advertising marquee on a building at the corner of a street in Buenos Aires is one in a book of snapshots (Instantáneas) that leaves little doubt about how much the city and everyday life at the end of the twentieth century were already part of a globalized urban experience. The ironic loss of meaning discovered in a street corner following its acquisition of a new role in communications is among several themes that permeate her book as she ponders how times have changed. Sexuality and morality in a new age, fast...

    • Havana in the Nueva Trova Repertoire of Gerardo Alfonso
      (pp. 15-30)

      Havana represents a fascinating focus of study for considering notions of identity, uses of place, and processes of cultural formation. The city has always been a nexus of influences, developing along trade routes crossing the Atlantic, and serving as a site for the fusion of cultural influences from Europe, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, the United States, and elsewhere. Havana’s residents represent themselves musically in many ways that reflect this rich heritage. Some of the city’s genres—for instance, its Afro-Cuban religious repertoire or political theater—have generated controversy for decades, even centuries. Yet one might argue that, with the...

    • Last Snapshots / Take 2: Personal and Collective Shipwrecks in Buenos Aires
      (pp. 31-45)

      In 1989, seven years after the collapse of the military dictatorship, a film with an evocative title was made in Argentina:Últimas imágenes del naufragio(Last Images of the Shipwreck), directed by Eliseo Subiela. Set in 1982 or 1983, but also reflecting the uncertainties and crises of Raúl Alfonsín’s mandate, it is a stylized film that links the sense of social dissolution of the years of hyperinflation and political uncertainty to the collapsing narratives of a failed author cum insurance salesman who finds himself unable to make sense of the entangled threads of poverty, crime, and dissolution of family relationships...

    • Buenos Aires and the Literary Construction of Urban Space
      (pp. 46-58)

      The Buenos Aires locations presented in the novelsEl sueño(The Dream; 1998) andLa villa(Shantytown; 2001) by César Aira—streets, buildings, businesses, and public spaces—are identifiable both by nativeporteñosand by literary tourists finding their way with street maps in hand. However, the geography of Aira’s barrios and city streets cannot be understood solely in light of conventional maps. The familiar places of his fiction are constructed according to a complex geography that embodies the status of Buenos Aires as a social space and derives from a dynamic between his characters’ knowledge of the physical city...

    • Body Art and the Remaking of Mexico City
      (pp. 59-72)

      The place of the city, and visions of the city, in the construction and projection of identities has a long and periodically violent history in Mexico. This chapter uses key stages in that history to approach work by Teresa Margolles, an artist who has grounded her critique of Mexico’s failed modernization in the heart of its capital. From her base in Mexico City’s Central Morgue, she has expressed this critique in terms that recast the nation’s conventionally mystical and heroic identification with death—at a time when its art has never been more bankable, nor its death traditions more resonant...

    • Feasting on Latina/o Labor in Multicultural Los Angeles
      (pp. 75-87)

      The symbolic production and consumption of the Other¹—of minority and historically disenfranchised cultures—is perhaps most rampantly, yet inconspicuously, perpetuated in Los Angeles by style-setting nouvelle restaurants that cater to elite surveyors of multicultural cuisine. Such restaurants embody those spaces where the critical infrastructure² and largely immigrant Latino service workforce converge in a stark pairing to market and produce the multicultural cuisine that unassumingly defines Los Angeles as a global city.

      That nouvelle restaurants help manufacture the edible multicultural symbols upon which a global city’s pluralistic self-image is constructed is not surprising. The metropolis of the industrial age has...

    • Mediating the Public Sphere in Latina/o Detroit: Heart and Margin of an Embattled Metropolis
      (pp. 88-104)

      Apart from the fact that, for nearly a century, Detroit has served as the hub of a sprawling corporate automobile industry with assembly plants and markets across the globe, it has rarely been considered a global city. Even less likely has been its identification as a “Latino metropolis,” attracting migration from Latin America and the Caribbean, and projecting and nurturing a Latina/o cultural presence in multisensorial forms along public thoroughfares, over the airwaves, and in private-public places of commerce and leisure. Yet Detroit’s global status, to the extent that it still exists, is inextricably—if imperfectly—tied to its ability...

    • Textual Revisions of Identity: Nostalgia and Modernity in Asunción
      (pp. 105-119)

      La ciudad en que vivimos(2004) by Juan Manuel Prieto andPostales de Asunción de antaño(1999–2002) by Jorge Rubiani are illustrated collections of articles published recently to celebrate the often neglected capital of Paraguay. Promoting local interest in Asunción, above all, these works seek to reevaluate the image of the contemporary capital and recognize its distinctiveness. Both representations fluctuate between a nostalgic perspective of the city and the expression of a desire for its modernization, a dualistic approach that parallels, more generally, a series of juxtapositions inherent in urban Latin American lifestyles and attitudes—the modern and the...

    • Northeastern Images: Recife and Salvador in Contemporary Brazilian Cinema
      (pp. 120-132)

      When one thinks of cinematographic images of urban Brazil, Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo come to mind almost immediately. One rarely remembers that the most important filmmaker in Brazilian history, Glauber Rocha, was from Salvador, the third most populous city in the country and the capital of the state of Bahia, or that Recife, the fifth largest metropolitan area and the capital of the state of Pernambuco, had an important film industry in the 1920s. Moreover, Recife, Salvador, and the other northeastern cities are not usually conjured up when it comes to notions of the urban, cosmopolitanism, or the...

    • Performing Citizenship: Migration, Andean Festivals, and Public Spaces in Lima
      (pp. 135-150)

      In the 1990s, political demonstrations were no longer held in downtown Lima, especially at the Plaza Mayor, which was not reclaimed by civil society until 2000 during the movement to bring down Alberto Fujimori. The absence of demonstrations reflected the control over the internal war achieved by Fujimori’s civil dictatorship, as well as a process of “depoliticization of politics” (Comaroff and Comaroff 2001) promoted by his government. Fujimori’s 1990 campaign slogan was “Honesty, Technology, and Work,” which he dramatically applied in 1992 when he shut down the congress on the grounds that the political class had proven itself inefficient and...

    • The TransMilenio Experience: Mass Transit in Bogotá and National Urban Identity
      (pp. 151-166)

      The chapter analyzes the case of TransMilenio, the new mass transit system in Bogotá, and argues that, through the speedy application of its formula to other corners of the country, it is being developed as a mechanism of national hegemony to support a particular version of Colombian identity in accordance with the government’s ideology and understanding of the role of public space within an organized society. In a country like Colombia, as in other Latin American states such as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, ridden with inner conflict and lacking a strong project of nationhood, Bogotá’s bus rapid transit (BRT) design...

    • The Feria del Libro and the Ritualization of Cultural Belonging in Havana
      (pp. 167-182)

      The concept of cultural revolution in Cuba since 1961, although far from uncontested or unproblematic, has been central to the post-1959 process of revolutionizing attitudes. The debates and tensions of that process have generated several outstanding episodes of apparent conflict (notably between the state and the artist) dominating external perspectives of culture and revolution in Cuba. In part, this has all been complicated by one of the Revolution’s most explicit imperatives: to “democratize” culture. At one level, this meant the seminal 1961 Literacy Campaign which created a potential new readership overnight and revolutionized perspectives (Fagen 1969), but at other levels...

    • Zapatistas in Mexico City and the Performance of Ethnic Citizenship
      (pp. 183-198)

      In early March 1999, five thousand delegates from the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or EZLN) set forth from the Lacandón jungle in Chiapas, southeast Mexico, en route to multiple points throughout the republic. The object of their journey was to promote the Consulta Nacional por los Derechos de los Pueblos Indios y por el Fin de la Guerra de Exterminio (National Consultation for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the End of the War of Extermination). Scheduled to take place on March 21, the Consulta, or referendum, asked Mexican citizens to cast their vote...

  8. Afterword: The Dialectics of Identity in the Latin/o American Global City
    (pp. 199-216)

    The chapters in this volume address, directly or indirectly, the problematic configuration (adulteration, negotiation, reinvention) of social subjectivities in contemporary Latin/o American urban milieus. They explore conflictive spaces, ravaged by neoliberal policies and plundered by transnational capital, contested by emergent social actors and imploded by new cultural practices, where most of the population lives ensnared in a global imaginary that condenses the cosmopolitan fantasies of universal happiness, unbridled individual freedom, and multicultural harmony in an ultratechnological world without borders, powers, or inequalities. In other words, these chapters, which focus on a wide array of topics, subjects, and social practices, portray...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 217-230)
  10. References
    (pp. 231-248)
  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 249-252)
  12. Index
    (pp. 253-262)