Salvador’s Spanish Class Blog

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The LAST Blog


Firs of all sorry for the delay… again. We’ll I don’t really know where to start with this final blog entry. I took the LAST 201 course because, as this is hopefully my last term at UBC, I wanted to study things that I am curious about. When I read the title of the course, I really really really wanted to see how we could cover an entire region of the world in 12 weeks. It was soon obvious that was not the case, that instead we were going to learn some general theories that could be applied to almost every Latin American country one way or another.

The first part of the course was really interesting for me,  I really enjoyed discussing the theories with the rest of the class. It was ‘cool’ to see how ‘outsiders’ would interpret a theory regarding “my region”. Also, I learned a bunch of theoretical stuff that I didn’t even know exited. The mid-term project was also an eye-opener in the sense that it ‘forced’ me to look for infiltrations of Latin American popular culture into the everyday Canadian (Vancouverite) life. Yet, this blog thing was by far the best for me. Though I had a hard time keeping up with it at the end, it was always good to write down a couple of thoughts and a great way to see what others were thinking about. In many other classes one only gets to know what the outspoken students are thinking regarding the issue at hand, and this was not the case for LAST 201.

In terms of the content, I really enjoyed the last second half of the course with all the examples and videos. It was cool to analyze things that just a few years ago where part my everyday ‘background’. Even better was being able to connect this things to previous unknown theories or literary works.

I hope you all enjoyed the course as much as I did. Thank you Jon.

I’m out… for good this time 🙂


April 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I like big butts and I cannot lie…

Now, this I did not see coming… Though I am not going to say that I did not find the article interesting… I must admit I definitely did not expect to talk about JLo’s butt in this class. However, I think this article by Mary Beltran is a good continuation for the Hybridity topic. If you remember – if not you can read my past post – I was wondering if given the current levels of globalization it was possible to find “authentic” culture anymore? As I mentioned on my previous entry, I do believe that globalization makes hybridity an interesting concept to analyze. Thus, I think that the mobility of people play an important role on the whole mixing cultures together.

Do I think JLo is a good example? No, I don’t think that a a second generation Puerto Rican – American can honestly represent Latin American Popular culture without being biased. I believe JLo was the creation of some very smart executive producers in Hollywood that realized that making a hot “Latina” famous, would attract the younger Latinos in the US to buy this “new product”. However, Beltran does not discusses this instead she tries to give JLo credit for creating an alternative ‘acceptable’ image of women. Well, no offense but I think that is just not true… because if anything young african-american artist would have been able to achieve this way before JLo. One example is the very famous show “Fresh Prince of Belair” where most of the women in the show are already “curvy”. This show was at is prime before JLo released her first single… Women with big butts were already becoming famous.

Did JLo contribute to this movement? Most likely she did, however in Beltran’s article she is given way more credit than she deserves as JLo is definitely not what an average “Latina” looks, thus not relieving any social pressure from Women of this ethnic group, instead all she is doing is creating another false image of what a Latin Women should look like.

As for weather the material presented this week really presents an “end of popular culture?” I think it may be too soon too tell. As we have seen popular culture has been constantly evolving. Furthermore, since we saw in the very begining of the course things move around and somethings move from high culture to pop culture and viceversa. Perhaps it is the end of popular culture as we know it, but if so this is definetly the begining of globalized popular culture.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hybridity: And I’m not talking about your car, or am i?

Ever heard that popular saying out there that goes something like this: “Kiss French, Dress Italian, Drive German”? Well that’s the first thing I thought when I say the word Hybridity. Why? I am not sure, all I know is that for me people have always try to adopt things from other places…. the grass will always be greener in the other side, no?

According to Canclini’s text – I think – Hybridity is like the globalization of culture. The terms attempts to capture the complexity of culture in today’s society. Going back a couple of weeks, when we were talking about the Folk Culture, we were discussing the authenticity of the stories. If simply taking the stories out of their context made them not authentic, well in today’s society it would be very hard to find authentic indigenous culture. Cancilini seems to take into account the massive process of globalization that the world has gone under in the past two to three decades, and I mean the guy wrote this in the mid-90’s. It would be interesting to see his view today with the massification of the internet!

Furthermore, the means of production around the world are all scattered all over the place. I mean, one good example for me are both the production lines of Airbus and Boeing… the go trough so much trouble to get the best components from so many different areas of the world… and the interaction that people have trough trade must have an impact both cultures. Now, this process is true for car manufactures, electronics, etc, etc, etc.  But not all global interaction takes place at a corporation scale! I dont know if you guys remember, but back in the day MSN had (maybe still have) random chat rooms… where you would go and kill a couple of hours… well sometimes you would be talking with a person from the other side of the world – not that i would recommend you doing that nowadays… its just creepy -. Also, in the same way we have sites like facebook, in which people from all over the world are ‘learning’ to interact in the cyber world the way the Americans design the site.

To finish this off, when I think of Hybridity I do think of your car, your computer, and your cothes. But I also think of the inevitable influence that having a bunch of ‘non-Canadian- food restaurants within minutes on a bus ride. So, is there any more authentic culuture anywhere? Thats for you to decide.

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fucho y Taranovelas

This week’s articles talk about two topics that are very dear to me for very different reasons. The first one by Bello’s talks about Brazil, and in specific tries to describe the feelings that embraced the nation before, during, and after the so called “Maracanazo.” Now, I should warn any readers that this is by far my most biased post… sorry I cannot help it; I love soccer and yet hate novelas. Now, don’t think that I am trying to pretend I’m all macho or anything I certainly enjoy watching a chick flick now and then… we all do. However, I do recognize that both football and novelas are two faces to a similar evil.

Both of these ways to get entertained are often used as political tools by the state to ‘control’ the masses. Lets start with soccer, as much as I may love the sport, it is obvious that football stadiums are the new ‘colliceums’ and as long as the soccer season take place the people are pleased and can ignore major social, political, and even economic crisis. Furthermore, these events often carry so much emotion and so little logic that they often end on riots of some sort. This is understandable, as football for some people in Latin America is as important as religion. However, there is no way to justify violent acts as a result of a game…

Moving on, Novelas in my opinion are the root of all evil – well maybe not all, but certainly a lot of it –. In Mexico, you can pretty much watch novelas from 2pm to 8 or 9 pm, now to be honest not everyone watches every novella. However, at any given point there is always a novela for every age group possible: there are novelas for kids (usually at earlier hours), the followed by novelas for mature women, then there are the prime time novelas – these are often aimed at teenagers, and younger women –. My main problem with the novelas is that as Hippolyte explains they are a megaphone for emotions, they blow emotions out of proportion and paint a world where the good always win, the poor become rich by marriage, getting pregnant early isn’t so bad because all you high school friends will stand by you the rest of your life, etc, etc, etc. It is a total misrepresentation of real life, which oversimplifies the already tabooed topics of society, and worst of all it is all feed to the masses by the elite. In Mexico there are only two providers of public television, both are headed by incredibly rich and politically influential characters.

So, football is exploited by the governments to control the masses agreed, and that it can lead to violence and civil disobedience… no argument on that one. However, football never teaches you that the good always wins, or that life will be okai because you’ll marry a rich man, etc.

Anyhow, I would like to end by arguing that mass culture does not equal popular culture… I would argue that mass culture sometimes does not carry any social significance; instead it merely reflects the lack of culture in a given society. How can you make something culture, when all you doing is sitting in you living room wasting time away? There may be cultural aspects that make either waste of time relevant to a culture, yet that definitely does not make the show –either soccer or novelas – a cultural event.

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


For this weeks reading, I found that Ortiz’s version of Mestizaje seems to be more “down to earth” than the romantic version that we analyzed earlier by Vasconcelos. In his essay, Ortiz presents the term transculturation, as the gaining of cultural aspects by mixing different points of view from several cultures, however he acknowledges that in the process of mixing there are elements that will be lost. Furthermore, unlike – in my opinion – Rowe and Schelling, and of course Vasconcelos, Ortiz recognizes openly that the process of transculturation can be a hard process to undergo, and that it can be painful. In my opinion this concept of transculturaion seems to be very relevant in today’s society, where due to the spread of telecommunications technology we are seeing an unprecedented exchange of ideas from almost every corner in the world. Unlike the Cuban case where people had to be physically put together in a place, today’s transculturation occurs electronically. Should this be a matter of concern?

Well, we have seen that it is extremely hard to judge good from bad culture altogether. However, it is safe to say that not all the exchange of ideas over the net is a healthy practice, especially when it comes to material that relates to hate, pornography, among others. Thus we can say that in today’s process of transculturation there is still a struggle between different groups of people. Now, I would like to propose something, could we say that this practice of ‘blogging’ may be considered as ‘global’ popular culture, or texting, or e-mail, facebooking, etc?

With regards to Cornejo Polar’s concept of Indigenismo, I am not entirely sure I got his point. I think he was trying to explain the importance of keeping indigenous works with their background and culture, as if they are detached from these aspects they cannot be fully understood. If this is what he was going for, then I have to admit that he makes an interesting point, when reading a book is always good to know who the author was when and where he/she lived, and also what sort of life he/she had? If we take oral narratives out of their context and simply transcribe them into a book they may lose their ‘essence’ and thus become ‘fake.’ I am not too sure, I’ll have to re-read this article at some point 😛

I’m out

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Arte Aca

I have to say that although this week’s readings were long, I found them very engaging. Especially the Campbell article, because it explored a part of Latin American culture that many times goes unnoticed by the people living or commuting by the areas where some of this public murals rest. I became completely engaged early in Campbell’s article early when reading about the Tepito arte Aca. For once, I have never seen these murals personally, but given the harsh environment in which these artists grew up I assume that some of the work must be fascinating. Not only because it was partially a political movement, but also because it served an alternative outlet for emotions, including anger and frustration – which often is let out through violence -. Furthermore, Campbell’s analysis seemed to be very through, not only was he interested on what happened to this form of art. He was also interested to see what happened to the people.

To many, the fact that many of the leaders of the arte Aca movement ended up being part of the bureaucratic system in Mexico might have been a surprise. Now, I am not going to pretend I have always know why the government during the PRI – party that was on power over 70 years till the 2000 elections – era actively absorbed leaders of civil movements into its ranks, however I would like to share with you something I recently learned in a PoliSci class regarding Latin American politics. The PRI regime is consider a Bureaucratic Authoritarian regime, what that means would take a while to explain, but how it connects to our class is the following way: the PRI constantly used government revenues to buy off political opponents. This is relevant because during the 1980s when Mexico for several reasons underwent a financial crisis, this large bureaucratic network could no longer be fed. The result was the resurgence of political opposition, which ended up in their removal of power – that is in essence a term of PoliSci for you -.

So where am I going with this?

Very simple, the tentacles of the state reach/or use to reach farther than many people thought. However, this arte Aca movement in my opinion did not die… it evolved. In many areas of Mexico one can now find the so called “graffitis.” These forms of ‘art’ are usually disregarded as acts by rebellious, angry, disrespectful teens. Yet, many of them contain clear political connotations, and definitely reflect certain social aspects of society. I wish, Campbell had taken a few of these examples. I know that on my next trip to Mexico City I’ll keep my eyes open and wont disregard this ‘acts of vandalism’ just yet.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Readingweek Review

After a couple of weeks into the course, and a lot of good – though sometimes tedious- reading I am starting to formulate my own version of what is popular culture. Over the past week, I was able to spend some time alone with my thoughts, and trying to put the pieces of this huge puzzle that we refer to as “Latin American Popular Culture.” There are a few things that I’ve notice are always present in our readings: tensions, struggle, religion/believe, hope, and a huge identity crisis.

Latin America seems to be the teenager of the world. It isn’t Europe, and it isn’t Africa, but it is also not purely indigenous. So far, we have only seen the works of Vasconcelos and Wade in terms of efforts to define where Latin America stands in terms of ethnicity. However, as we saw with Rowe and Schelling, regardless of how or where do we place ourselves in the ‘color’ scale, there is an underlying factor in the construction of traditions and other forms of culture in Latin America, there is a dominant minority that refused to be ‘native’ and there is an indigenous majority that refuses to assimilate everything that the west provides. The result is often a compromise either out of agreement, or from one side not being able to submit another.

However, culture – especially popular one – does not always derive from conflict; there are also elements of hope and belief. Apart from the brutal and forceful indoctrination of the native people into Catholicism there is another reason why the region still highly religious. As, we have seen in the readings, we have always been superstitious… and we have always liked believing in higher powers. As seen in the “Legend of the Crystal Mask” long before we knew the Spaniards even existed we were already trying to explain things based on belief rather than on logic. Why? I really don’t know, but I think it’s an important factor to consider, as this ease to belive often leads to false hope.

So yeah, although I am getting an idea of what popular culture is, I think the continent as a whole is more confused than I am.

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Mestizaje in my opinion is one of those things that most people refuse to talk about because they are afraid that they may offend someone. For the most part, these people are right, race in Latin America is still a very sensitive issue and racism is very much alive. Going trough some responses, for the most part everyone seems to thing that Vasconcelos is completely inappropriate. I must say I agree with this notion. However, it seems to me that people forget that inequality in Latin America is reality, and discrimination based on skin colors is very much alive. So why do we act all surprise or offended? In my opinion Vasconcelos read was an eye-opener, racism and discrimination in Latin America go beyond this century. It started with the Spaniards, but it certainly didn’t end there.

Now, please do not misunderstand me, Vasconcelos view of the native “red” populations is completely unacceptable. To say that our native populations do not deserve to enjoy the prestige of the great ancient civilizations is at best insulting. However, it is important to ask whether he created that notion, as opposed to simply mirror society? In the end he was a politician, so it was in his best interest to please the masses – not that this absolves him from his repsonsiblity – Yet, if this was the case, and I believe it was, the problem goes beyond a wild essay written by this guy. The problem in fact lies within the most basic structure of society, the family. I remember when I was in elementary school in Mexico and as kids we were not allowed to swear yet, common insults were calling people “indios” – which was synonymous for idiot – or “cabeza de Olmeca” – which meant that not only were you stupid, but ugly too – among others. So where the heck did kids come up with this? Well for the most part I think that many white households still believe they are superior to the rest of the population, and they teach this notion to their kids from a rather early age.

So, the idea that race does not matter anymore in the XXI century in my opinion is a lie. I strongly believe that we should read more of these controversial essays, because they force us to analyze the aspects of our societies – at least in my case – that we so stubbornly refuse to acknowledge.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Legends, Folk, and Popular Culture

The Folk, when I think of folk for the most part I think of “low culture”, is this wrong? Probably yes, after reading the four short stories for the week, I realized that if these are considered “folk”, then “folk” isn’t what I presumed it to be, and it definitely isn’t low culture. Now for me to try and define what that is would be like trying to define “people” on my own. So, I’m going to stay away from it.

However, I would like to talk about the “Legend of the Crystal Mask.” Unlike the other two stories from Asturias, this one I was actually able to read it without zoning out. Some people have mentioned in their blogs that this author reminds them of Magical Realism, well I agree… Now, I am not a big fan of “magical realism” because it leaves almost nothing to the imagination, almost everything is outlined for you. However, in the case of the “Legend of the Crystal Mask” the magical realism really did it for me. Check page 92, when Asturias describes how the man works on the mask:

“Days and days of toil… without stopping. Almost without sleeping. He could do no more. His hands scratched, his face cut, injuries which, before they healed, were replaced by new injuries, lacerated and almost blinded by the splinters and the infinite dust of quartz, clacking for water, water, water to drink, and water for bathing the chunk of pure crystallized light that was gong to take the form of a face.”

I felt like as if I was watching this person going at it… like a person on some sort of drug. Crazy about finishing your work…, and then Asturias throws you a bone by saying that the artist was “drenched in madman’s sweat”. Yes, yes, yes! The artist was going mad, with his work… and then the conclusion:

in the end he had it, carved in white fire, polished with dust from the necklace of eyes and snail shells. Its sheen was blinding and when he put it on – the Mask of the Rain Nurse – he had the sensation of emptying his transient being into a drop of immortal water.

Now, why is this relevant? When we started talking about culture, we talked about journeys. I mean literally, with the usual bus trip that eventually turns out to be a very complex set of ideas in a few paragraphs. And then, I thought, oh well, what about epic journeys and their contribution to culture. The great paintings, the epic poems, the grand architectural structures, what about the journeys that the artist and the people went through when creating them? Could that also be part of a collective memory that eventually becomes part of the popular culture?

I might have gone mad, but for some reason the week of ‘folk’ lead me to start thinking about the collective memory of society and how that affects popular culture. Anyways, I’m leaving that adjust some food for thought.

I’m out

February 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Latin American Popular Culture

After doing the readings for this week, I was still not convinced that one could explain Latin American culture in a few months. For crying out loud, it would take an entire course to truly understand the popular country of a single Latin American country. HOWEVER, I think I found one factor that identifies popular culture in most -if not all- of Latin America: the mix of pre-Hispanic believes/practices with colonial European traditions/ways of life.

In terms of Religion, let’s take the example of Mexico. Why is La Virgen Maria, so famous? The fact that she made herself visible to the “Indio Juan Diego”, makes all the difference in the world. In short, one of the many reasons why the Virgin is so widely worshiped around Mexico is simply because she was the heavenly character that reached out to the ‘native’ population. Taking this into account, we can say that one of the major displays of faith in Mexico – “El Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe” – is the result of combining two factors, that of European Catholicism and an indigenous factor. For the most part, I think that the most powerful/popular traditions in Latin America are a combination of both European and indigenous practices. Thus, Popular Culture in Latin America must be the compromise between European and indigenous believes, practices, and traditions.

After a 100 pages read, and three weeks in class (and having spent half of my life in Latin America) I feel that I have got it right. Not convinced yet?

The reading also talks about the celebrations of the “Day of the Death”. One of  my personal favorites, and also one of the best displays of a compromise between pre-Hispanic believes/traditions and Spanish Catholisims. I mean, crosses made out of  cempasúchitl (orange flowers used commonly in altars in Mexico), these flowers were used by indigenous people in Mexico with the believe that they attract souls!!! and yet, it is completely accepted both socially and within the clergy.

YET, having taken class with John before, I am certain it is not as simple as that. But, I think it may be a good start.

I’m out.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments