Buenas Noches, American Culture: Latina/o Aesthetics of Night

Buenas Noches, American Culture: Latina/o Aesthetics of Night

Buenas Noches, American Culture: Latina/o Aesthetics of Night

Buenas Noches, American Culture: Latina/o Aesthetics of Night

Synopsis

Often treated like night itself-both visible and invisible, feared and romanticized-Latina/os make up the largest minority group in the US. In her newest work, María Deguzmán explores representations of night in art and literature from the Caribbean, Colombia, Central and South America, and the US, calling into question night's effect on the formation of identity for Latina/os in and outside of the US. She takes as her subject novels, short stories, poetry, essays, non-fiction, photo-fictions, photography, and film, and examines these texts through the lenses of nationhood, sexuality, human rights, exoticism, among others.

Excerpt

Of the more than fifty million Latina/os currently within the continental borders of the United States, Mexican Americans have had a long borderlands history—defined by military battles and treaties in the name of U.S. national expansion, by laws, and by daily discriminatory practices—of being treated as the other Americans, los otros americanos. They became aliens in their own land with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that officially concluded the Mexican-American War and in the years subsequent to that treaty, which involved an Anglo landgrab of previously Mexican areas. In 1971, Chicano attorney, writer, and political activist Oscar “Zeta” Acosta pointedly summed up the situation:

"The American government took our country away from us in 1848, when the government of Mexico sold us out. They sold not only the land, but they basically sold us as slaves in the sense that our labor and our land was [sic] being expropriated. The governments never gave us a choice about whether to be American citizens. One night we were Mexican and the next day we were American. This historical relationship is the most important part of the present day relationships, but it’s totally ignored or unknown or rejected by the Anglo society", [emphasis mine]

As Chicano critic Raymund A. Paredes observed over a quarter of a century ago, “According to Guadalupe Hidalgo and succeeding documents, Spanish and Mexican land grants were to be honored by the American government, but after the war, Mexican Americans were systematically stripped of their property.” They were not only dispossessed of their property; they were (and still are) systematically discriminated against in terms of education, employment, the law, health services, and many other areas of daily experience. This systematic discrimination is described in great detail and without apology in Julián Segura Camacho’s 2005 manifesto The Chicano Treatise.3 Traces of this alienation can be found everywhere in Mexican American and explicitly politicized Chicana/o cultural production, from early- to mid-nineteenth-century corridos (or narrative ballads that serve as a musical form of news) to the latest comic strips. Those traces are composed of a proliferating network of signs that denote or connote socioeconomic and psychosocial marginalization, erasure, and invisibility, ranging from masks to utter darkness. Night is the ur-sign, the penumbral trope, for this repressive Othering. Night is also a response to the Othering that challenges it with a dissolution of the terms and conditions of containment and subordination encapsulated by the concept of “illegal alien.”

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