Popular Culture

William A. Nericcio

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Popular Culture

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History


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It would not take a huge stretch of the imagination to embrace the fact that Latino studies is popular culture or, to put it another way, that popular culture is Latino studies. To the extent that Latino cultures make their way through the Americas, from South America to Central America, from Central America to the United States and beyond, to the north, to Canada, it is through popular culture that the myriad threads of the Latina/o dasein have entered the consciousness of viewers, readers, thinkers, and spectators across the planet. This mass cultural diaspora, carrying such diverse figures as Ramon Novarro, Desi Arnaz, Carmen Miranda, Raquel Welch, Tito Puente, Ricardo Montalbán, and El Vez in its wake, comes to enrich American popular culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. The term “popular culture” may mean different things to different readers. In general “popular culture” is a designation apart from “high culture” and might be better designated by the term “mass culture”—that is, cultural artifacts that are produced and disseminated to the masses, to the throngs, to the general public. In this regard, elements of popular culture will be seen to include television, comics, newspapers, advertising, film, etc.—if it is part of the ephemera of mass, corporate cultural entertainments, it is to be designated as part of popular culture. From the spectacular comedic and linguistic inventions of Mexican cinematic legend Cantinflas, to the animated hijinks of Speedy Gonzales, to the salacious gyrations of Charo, to the accented comedic undulations of Sofia Vergara (Modern Family, ABC Television), to the early-20th-century Hollywood adventures of Carmen Miranda and the Mexican spitfire, Lupe Velez, and the no-less-mesmerizing cinematic/“sinematic” attractions of Rita Hayworth (Margarita Carmen Cansino) and Salma Hayek, elements of Latina/o popular culture have shaped the imagination of the Americas, including their big brother to the north, in ways that continue to imprint perceptions of Latin Americans and their US-bound Latina/o counterparts. Popular-culture artifacts may be perceived to be lower or inferior to elements of high culture (opera, canonical theatre, literature, cinema), but their impact on culture more generally writ is not to be underestimated or ignored.

Article.  4807 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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