American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture

American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture

American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture

American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture

Synopsis

Award-winning anthropologist Jose Limon looks into history, politics, literature, folklore, ethnography, biography, film, song, & dance to prone the deeply entwined & ambivalent relationship between both sides of the border over the last 150 years. The idea of crossing the Rio Grande between the U.S. & Mexico has always conjured images of racial hostility & exclusion. And today these images include stories of immigrant drownings, drug killings, & toxic waste. Limon's analysis engages us in the political, popular, & cultural dimension of the border & offers hope for the future.

Excerpt

"Daddy! He's on!" I stop in the middle of an exquisite pasta sauce that I am preparing for dinner and put at risk my culinary efforts of the past hour. I run into the living room, where my twelve-year-old daughter, Renata, is chortling and pointing madly at the television. I start grinning and stare intently in full expectation at the commercial developing before us. Soon his furry little light-brown face fills the screen: his pointy nose, his small body, and most of all those huge, slightly sad, slightly mysterious eyes. The chihuahua looks directly at us, he looks at America, bobs his little head slightly and says, "Yo quiero Taco Bell." Renata cracks up, rolling all over her chair. "Daddy, I want to hold him!" I laugh all the way back to the kitchen.

I am an academic, so in between the garlic, the feta, the scallion, and the olive oil, I ponder the problem. Renata is the child of an upper-middle-class ambience and has lived her life at some physical distance from anything that could be construed as Mexican, except for her father. Yet she is wholly aware of her Mexicanness, such as it is -- talks affirmatively about it, weaves it into some of her school projects, and is concerned about "the Hispanic kids" who are bused to her school. "Their parents can't help them with their homework, Daddy." And she thinks the chihuahua is marvelously, hilariously funny, and lovable and charming. So do I.

Why shouldn't she? She is twelve, although I suspect that that's not the entire answer, or close to it. At age fifty-four, with my history, why do I find this character attractive? Probably for the same reasons she does, but there is surely more. What is it about this little guy, clearly "Mexican," who stares at us intently and somewhat sadly and enunciates in a perfect, though ever so slightly lowpitched and working-class Mexican Spanish, "Yo quiero Taco Bell"? Stirring my sauce, I repeat the words and crack up again. Taking full advantage of the semantic registers of the Spanish word quiero, he wants, desires, loves Taco Bell, arch commodity of American "Mexicanness," even as he sits there in all his own evident, though "small" Mexicanness.

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