In Abject Performances Leticia Alvarado draws out the irreverent, disruptive aesthetic strategies used by Latino artists and cultural producers who shun standards of respectability that are typically used to conjure concrete minority identities. In place of works imbued with pride, redemption, or celebration, artists such as Ana Mendieta, Nao Bustamante, and the Chicano art collective known as Asco employ negative affects—shame, disgust, and unbelonging—to capture experiences that lie at the edge of the mainstream, inspirational Latino-centered social justice struggles. Drawing from a diverse expressive archive that ranges from performance art to performative testimonies of personal faith-based subjection, Alvarado illuminates modes of community formation and social critique defined by a refusal of identitarian coherence that nonetheless coalesce into Latino affiliation and possibility.
The culture of the Nuevomexicanos, forged by Spanish-speaking residents of New Mexico over the course of many centuries, is known for its richness and diversity. Expressing New Mexico contributes to a present-day renaissance of research on Nuevomexicano culture by assembling eleven original and noteworthy essays. They are grouped under two broad headings: “expressing culture” and “expressing place.” Expressing culture derives from the notion of “expressive culture,” referring to “fine art” productions, such as music, painting, sculpture, drawing, dance, drama, and film, but it is expanded here to include folklore, religious ritual, community commemoration, ethnopolitical identity, and the pragmatics of ritualized response to the difficult problems of everyday life.
Intertwined with the concept of expressive culture is that of “place” in relation to New Mexico itself. Place is addressed directly by four of the authors in this anthology and is present in some way and in varying degrees among the rest. Place figures prominently in Nuevomexicano “character,” contributors argue. They assert that Nuevomexicanos and Nuevomexicanas construct and develop a sense of self that is shaped by the geography and culture of the state as well as by their heritage.
Many of the articles deal with recent events or with recent reverberations of important historical events, which imbues the collection with a sense of immediacy. Rituals, traditions, community commemorations, self-concepts, and historical revisionism all play key roles. Contributors include both prominent and emerging scholars united by their interest in, and fascination with, the distinctiveness of Nuevomexicano culture.
Although investigations of Hispanic popular culture were approached for decades as part of folklore studies, in recent years scholarly explorations—of lucha libre, telenovelas, comic strips, comedy, baseball, the novela rosa and the detective novel, sci-fi, even advertising—have multiplied. What has been lacking is an overarching canvas that offers context for these studies, focusing on the crucial, framing questions: What is Hispanic pop culture? How does it change over time and from region to region? What is the relationship between highbrow and popular culture in the Hispanic world? Does it make sense to approach the whole Hispanic world as homogenized when understanding Hispanic popular culture? What are the differences between nations, classes, ethnic groups, religious communities, and so on? And what distinguishes Hispanic popular culture in the United States?
In ¡Muy Pop!, Ilan Stavans and Frederick Luis Aldama carry on a sustained, free-flowing, book-length conversation about these questions and more, concentrating on a wide range of pop manifestations and analyzing them at length. In addition to making Hispanic popular culture visible to the first-time reader, ¡Muy Pop! sheds new light on the making and consuming of Hispanic pop culture for academics, specialists, and mainstream critics.