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Mambo Montage

Mambo Montage: The Latinization of New York City

Agustín Laó-Montes
Arlene Dávila
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Mambo Montage
    Book Description:

    New York is the capital of mambo and a global factory of latinidad. This book covers the topic in all its multifaceted aspects, from Jim Crow baseball in the first half of the twentieth century to hip hop and ethno-racial politics, from Latinas and labor unions to advertising and Latino culture, from Cuban cuisine to the language of signs in New York City.

    Together the articles map out the main conceptions of Latino identity as well as the historical process of Latinization of New York. Mambo Montage is both a way of imagining latinidad and an angle of vision on the city.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50544-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION Mambo Montage:The Latinization of New York City
    (pp. 1-54)
    Agustín Laó-Montes

    New York is the capital of mambo and a global factory of latinidad. The booming of mambo dance classes and the increasing popularity of Latin music are visible signs of the latinization of the city. Lou Bega’s “Mambo #5,” a hip-hop version of Pérez Prado’s worldwide hit of the 1950s, after peaking at the top of the 1999 charts, is now a standard of U.S. pop entertainment. Dominican bands are now calling their new strand of merengue mambo. The word mambo itself is constantly used as a metaphor for New York’s Latino cultures. This can be seen in titles such...

  6. Part I The Production of Latinidad:: Histories, Social Movements, Cultural Struggles

    • CHAPTER ONE “No Country But the One We Must Fight For”: The Emergence of an Antillean Nation and Community in New York City, 1860–1901
      (pp. 57-72)
      Nancy Raquel Mirabal

      In 1868 anticolonial forces in Puerto Rico and Cuba revolted against the Spanish colonial government. For revolutionaries in Puerto Rico, the rebellion known as the Grito de Lares would be short-lived, lasting no longer than a month. For those in Cuba, on the other hand, the rebellion would turn into a ten-year struggle, becoming one of the longest revolutionary wars in Cuban history. The failure of Cubans to achieve independence during the Grito de Yara would spark further revolutionary efforts, including La Guerra Chiquita in 1879 and the Cuban War for Independence in 1895.³

      Despite the differences in the length...

    • CHAPTER TWO “The Latins from Manhattan”: Confronting Race and Building Community in Jim Crow Baseball, 1906–1950
      (pp. 73-96)
      Adrián Burgos Jr.

      A chilly wind swirled about Dyckman Oval as the New York Cubans readied themselves. Although New York City seemed cultural worlds away for the club’s new Latino players, the opening-day scene at Dyckman was familiar for most; some of the players had appeared in the black baseball circuits as early as 1916. Unlike the other Negro League teams that called New York City home, the Cubans played the majority of their home games in Harlem and Manhattan. Fans and local reporters took note, adopting the Cubans as “Harlem’s own” and referring to them as the “Latins from Manhattan.”¹

      Under the...

    • CHAPTER THREE Latino Caribbean Diasporas in New York
      (pp. 97-118)
      Ramón Grosfoguel and Chloé S. Georas

      The ‘Latino’ category collapses the differences between and among colonial/racial subjects, colonial immigrants, and immigrants in the U.S. empire. These distinctions have important implications for understanding the positive or negative reactions of dominant Euroamerican groups toward a particular Latino ethnicity. Colonial subjects have historically been the target of racist representations in the Euroamerican imaginary as a particular expression of the worldwide history of colonialism. For instance, Puerto Ricans constitute a colonial group of the U.S. empire that has been the target of many racist stereotypes. Because they also constitute the largest Latino population by ethnicity in New York City, their...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Niuyol: Urban Regime, Latino Social Movements, Ideologies of Latinidad
      (pp. 119-158)
      Agustín Laó-Montes

      “Hoy por Juan Rodríguez, mañana por nosotros,” “¿Por qué lo mataron? Porque era Latino,”¹ chanted Estella Vasquez (Dominican), along with Howard Jordan (Puerto Rican) in the front line of a march against police brutality in the summer of 1988. What began with a crowd of around 1,000 activists of a booming movement for racial justice and in opposition to police brutality in New York City swelled at the end to include almost 5,000 marchers, most of whom joined the demonstration in a route that crossed two largely Latino working-class Brooklyn neighborhoods (from Bushwick to the Williamsburg Bridge). As an activist...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Culture in the Battlefront: From Nationalist to Pan-Latino Projects
      (pp. 159-182)
      Arlene Dávila

      Although art, identity, and politics are increasingly at the forefront of contemporary analysis, such issues have long been closely intertwined in U.S.-Latino cultural politics. Behind the leading Latino cultural and artistic institutions today lie the struggles for self-empowerment in the 1960s by both Chicanos and Puerto Ricans, who made cultural initiatives central to their quest for political enfranchisement.³ To date, however, although more research is due in this area, we are considerably more familiar with the politicization of culture within the Chicano nationalist movement than with how similar processes reverberated in New York City, even though they are precursors to...

  7. Part II Expressive Cultures:: Narrating, Imaging, and Performing Latinidad

    • CHAPTER SIX Life Off the Hyphen: Latino Literature and Nuyorican Traditions
      (pp. 185-206)
      Juan Flores

      In 1990 literary history was made when for the first time a book by a Hispanic writer won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, generally considered the most prestigious honor in American literature. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, the second novel by Cuban-American author Oscar Hijuelos, tells the story of two musician brothers, Cesar and Nestor Castillo, who arrive from Cuba in 1949 to try their luck on the New York music scene. Though not an untroubled immigrant success story, the Castillo brothers do get their piece of the American Dream when in 1955 they appear in a scene...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN “Nothing Connects Us All But Imagined Sounds”: Performing Trans-Boricua Memories, Identities, and Nationalisms Through the Death of Héctor Lavoe
      (pp. 207-234)
      Wilson Valentín-Escobar

      On Tuesday afternoon, June 29, 1993, one of Salsa music’s greatest soneros (improvisational singers), Héctor Juan Pérez, commonly known as Héctor Lavoe, passed away at St. Claire’s hospital in New York City. Lavoe died of a heart attack, bringing to an end his struggle with HIV. Héctor Lavoe’s passing marked a turning point in the world of Salsa music as well as in the transnational Puerto Rican and Latina/o communities in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Latin America.¹ Thousands of Lavoe’s admirers in Puerto Rico, la República Dominicana, Venezuela, Colombia, Perú, Panama, New York City, Chicago, and other urban...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Hip-Hop, Puerto Ricans, and Ethnoracial Identities in New York
      (pp. 235-262)
      Raquel Z. Rivera

      The above is a fragment of a conversation I had in 1995 with Q-Unique, a skilled and feisty MC who is a member of the Arsonists (a popular New York underground rap group that released its debut album, As the World Burns, in August 1999 with Matador Records) and the Rock Steady Crew (the legendary hip-hop organization better known for its contributions to the dance form known as breaking). A self-described hip-hop¹ activist committed to nourishing a socially responsible, historically grounded, holistic hip-hop creativity, Q. deeply resents being segregated, as a Puerto Rican, from a hip-hop cultural core that is...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER NINE Ambiguous Identities! The Affirmation of Puertorriqueñidad in the Community Murals of New York City
      (pp. 263-290)
      Elsa B. Cardalda Sánchez and Amílcar Tirado Avilés

      This essay explores the social representations of Puerto Rican cultural identity through the study of muralism in El Barrio. For the last three decades a tradition of muralism in New York City has been used by Puerto Ricans to express their socioeconomic and political concerns. Therefore, we ask what muralism in El Barrio says about the community and about puertorriqueñidad as well as why it has arisen with such force recently.

      The selection of El Barrio for conducting our study is based on its historical and symbolic importance for Puerto Ricans, who have occupied this neighborhood for over seven decades....

  8. Part III Latino/a Identities and the Politics of Space and Place

    • CHAPTER TEN Making Loisaida: Placing Puertorriqueñidad in Lower Manhattan
      (pp. 293-318)
      Liz Ševčenko

      In 1976, real estate developers described the area just north of Houston Street as a “vast wasteland.” One out of every five lots was either empty or contained the remains of crumbling, abandoned buildings.² From this rubble a handful of Puerto Rican community organizers built Loisaida: a territory, a movement, and an identity constructed to claim resources for the working-class residents of the area. The making of Loisaida—officially the area between Houston and 14th streets and between Avenue A and the East River—stamped a new Puerto Rican territory on the map of Manhattan and marked a significant step...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN The Manifold Character of Panethnicity: Latino Identities and Practices Among Dominicans in New York City
      (pp. 319-336)
      José ltzigsohn and Carlos Dore-Cabral

      This paper addresses the question of the formation of a Latino identity among Dominican immigrants. We attempt to answer three questions: Do Dominicans define themselves as Latinos? If so, what does that definition mean? And finally, how do they act based on a Latino identification? Answers to these questions will provide a better understanding of the process of incorporation of Dominicans to U.S. society and the processes of formation of individual and collective identities.

      When immigrants cross borders, they confront systems of symbolic classification, systems of organization of social reality that are strange to them and force them to look...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Immigration Status and Identity: Undocumented Mexicans in New York
      (pp. 337-362)
      Jocelyn Solís

      Some could argue that the adoption of discourses that label and identify are a necessary aspect of social life. One cannot have an identity unless one is named. As I approach the issue of illegal Mexican immigration, especially as it is taking place in New York City, it is important to keep in mind the problems that being classified as “illegal” can cause for an individual who must learn to navigate within and outside of the many sources of meaning that such an identity carries.

      This essay will discuss the close link between discourse and identity and the complex conditions...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Outside/In: Crossing Queer and Latino Boundaries
      (pp. 363-386)
      Luis Aponte-Parés

      During an early evening “round” of Parque Zamora in Veracruz during December 1997, two Mexican men signaled me. As I approached them, they asked, “¿Qué busca?” And I answered, “Maricones.” Like so many other places throughout Latin America and elsewhere, Zamora Park in Veracruz is one of the many “furtive night landscapes”³ or “queerscapes”⁴ that gay men have invested with meaning and historically used to contest urban narratives. It has been a project of mine to decipher the way in which Latinos and Latino queers have invested with meaning the spaces of everyday life because “space has no natural character,...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Engendering and Coloring Labor Unions: Transcultural Readings of Latin American Women’s Ways
      (pp. 387-408)
      Mary Garcia Castro

      This article is based on an old affair of alliances: my research on activism among Puerto Rican women in labor unions in New York City during two different historical periods and on union women in Brazil in the city of Salvador, Bahia.¹ Latin American working-class women in New York reconstruct an engendered and enraced class, deterritorializing “nuestra America, la America mestiza” (Martí 1983:20) or multiplying its northern territories through continuities and ruptures with Latin American identities (or their stereotypes) in the process. These trends are present in the narratives of pioneras—Puerto Rican women who arrived in New York in...

  9. Part IV Latinizing Cityscapes

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN The Latin Side of Madison Avenue: Marketing and the Language that Makes Us “Hispanics”
      (pp. 411-424)
      Arlene Dávila

      Latinos currently make up a coveted U.S. marketing segment. No other ethnic group in the United States is targeted by such a vast network of advertising agencies and an entire marketing industry selling them consumer products by addressing them as a common people and a market. In this context, Hispanic marketing has become one of the primary institutional forces fueling a common Latino/a identity, prompting analyses of this industry in relation to contemporary Latino cultural politics.¹ Today, Hispanic marketing agencies can be found in every city with sizable Latino populations, over fifteen of which operate in the U.S. advertising capital,...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN Eating in Cuban
      (pp. 425-448)
      Lisa Maya Knauer

      Cubanía (Cubanness) is in vogue now throughout the United States, perhaps no place more so than in New York.¹ The “boom Cubano” is perhaps most visible—or audible—in the musical landscape. Jazz at Lincoln Center recently featured a miniseries on Afro-Cuban sounds. According to New York Times music critic Peter Watrous, in 1998 almost every week a different musical group from Cuba played at New York clubs.² And in the rapidly shifting microclimate of New York’s restaurant scene, what we might call with apologies to Appadurai (1997) its “gastroscape,” there has been a recent flurry of new Cuban and...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Taking “Class” Into Account: Dance, the Studio, and Latino Culture
      (pp. 449-472)
      Karen Backstein

      I found myself irresistibly drawn to Clark Center after seeing Brazilian dancer/choreographer Loremil Machado perform in a free outdoor concert at Lincoln Center. Inside the white buildings, entered only with high-priced tickets, was the ballet I’d loved since childhood, with mostly adult spectators sitting silently until the proper moment came to applaud. Outside, in the sunshine, samba, the orixas, and capoeira; lots of children; gleeful shouting; and movement rippling through an audience thoroughly enraptured by Loremil’s puckishness, energy, and acrobatics. Then I overheard someone behind me make a comment about Loremil teaching a class, and when I spotted him later...

    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Deceptive Solidity: Public Signs, Civic Inclusion, and Language Rights in New York City (and Beyond)
      (pp. 473-494)
      Vilma Santiago-lrizarry

      Some years ago, when I was teaching courses on Latino identity and culture at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, my Latino students would argue that the course material I was assigning was too dark.¹ Drawing upon my training in anthropological modes of cultural critique as well as my own knowledge and experiences in and of the United States, I wanted my students to challenge essentializing definitions of cultural identity as well as received historical accounts that reduce the complex processes shaping ethnoracial histories in the United States to dominant narratives of eventual assimilation,...