Culture in the Battlefront 1
From Nationalist to Pan-Latino Projects
We are experiencing a cultural renaissance, a period of assertion and affirmation. … It is part of a revolution, a revolution which must be fought on every front. And the passion of our art must take its rightful place in this battleground because it is an instrument that condemns, enlightens and creates understanding.
—Felipe Dante (c. 1970s)2
I know, I already know, I am convinced already, all my life, that I have a Spanish cultural element, but I have never known about an Indian element, or African, in my culture. And I am now in a stage where I am going into that question. And then, if you, like others, interpret my attitude as anti-Spanish, “chevere,” but I know that I want to know about what is Indian and Black and to hell with the Spanish question.
—Jorge Soto (1974)
Although art, identity, and politics are increasingly at the forefront of contemporary analysis, such issues have long been closely intertwined in U.S.Latino cultural politics. Behind the leading Latino cultural and artistic institutions today lie the struggles for self-empowerment in the 1960s by both Chicanos and Puerto Ricans, who made cultural initiatives central to their quest for political enfranchisement. 3 To date, however, although more research is due in this area, we are considerably more familiar with the politicization of culture within the Chicano nationalist movement than with how similar processes reverberated in New York City, even though they are precursors to some of the foremost Latino cultural and artistic institutions in this country. 4 These include El Museo del Barrio, the Association of Hispanic Arts, the Caribbean Cultural Center, and other initiatives that were born out of the struggles of Puerto Rican artists, educators, and cultural workers for greater representation in the late 1960s and have since been pivotal for the public projection and definition of images of latinidad. An analysis of these earlier cultural initiatives is crucial if we are to analyze