From Segmented to Fragmented: Latino Media in San Antonio, Texas

Article excerpt

Historical evidence reveals that the definition of Latino mass media is a fragile but useful way to examine how cultural identity is forged through economic and industrial practices. Focusing on the development of Latino media and their political economy in San Antonio, Texas, the researcher describes four constructions of Latino producers and audiences: segmentation, massification, pan-ethnicity, and fragmentation. These constructions demonstrate that these media were sites for Latinos to define themselves as producers and audiences within the structural constraints of race and class in two nations, Mexico and the United States. The paper concludes the coexistence of these constructions today could be interpreted as positive signs of growing multiculturalism or negative effects of global trends that divide Latinos by class.

What is Latino media? This question is of vital importance to international and intercultural communication scholars, not least of all because the word "Latino" implies both an international and intercultural identity group. Practically speaking, the term refers to anyone from or with descendants in Ibero-Latin American countries. At the same time, the term is inherently multicultural, encompassing a diversity of peoples with divergent historical, cultural, and linguistic ties to these very different countries.1 Scholars who use the word recognize its fragile construction, often dispelling the assumption that "Latinos" share something in common.2 Nevertheless the word is still very useful in describing the source and motivating force behind current trends in urban politics, economic markets, modern culture, and media. The fact that Davis argues that the modern, American metropolis is Latino demands that scholars continue to observe and analyze how Latinos contribute to the fabric of life in the United States.3 This paper addresses how Latinos have contributed to the economic and industrial practices that define Latino modern mass media in at least one American city.

Many authors define Mexican-American, Hispanic, Latino, or Chicano mass media as print, broadcast, or film texts that are produced by members of those specific identity groups.4 For purposes here, Latino media are mass media texts that are produced principally by Latinos or for a Latino target audience. This definition recognizes that Latin Americans, Anglo Americans, and Latinos often work together in the production and distribution of media texts that may be targeted specifically at Latinos, as well as other populations. Another option, defining Latino media as texts that mediate Latino culture, is inadequate because it is often impossible to identify who is Latino and what cultural attributes Latinos should have.5 In short, the definition of Latino media in this paper casts a broad net around several types of mass media producers and target audiences who may have different class and ethnic backgrounds but prominently include Latinos.

With a broad cultural definition of Latino media, other economic criteria became useful in the distinguishing between different types of Latino media, from financing and ownership to creative activities and labor management. These economic constraints historically accompanied changes in the development of what could be defined as Latino media, though as Williams points out, these homologies were always uneven.6 For this reason, this paper utilizes the term "construction" in order to categorize the structural networks and economic constraints of Latino media given the slippery cultural boundaries that have changed over time to differentiate "Latino" from any other identity. While this is not a theory-building project per se, this paper hopefully illustrates the process by which scholars can integrate theories of identity and difference into a political-economic framework for studying mass media.7 Such a process responds to Mosco's call to bring race and gender into the forefront of political economy research in the twenty-first century. …

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