I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Latin@s are so often stereotyped as existing within specific geographical areas. For example, Mexicans are in Texas and California, Puerto Ricans are in New York, Cubans are in Florida, etc. And while, on the whole, it’s largely true that there are huge populations of each of these groups in those areas, it’s also true that Latin@s exist outside of those geographical areas as well. I think the emphasis placed on where each population exists has the effect of shutting off, silencing, and/or marginalizing Latin@s that exist in geographical areas where they don’t “belong.”
I grew up in Michigan, and while there was/is a fairly large Mexican population here, there’s also a LOT of isolation as well. Growing up in small towns (that there are a lot of) rather than bigger cities like Detroit, leads to a lot of pressure to act as the ‘token’ Mexican (she’s a *good* one! Compared to all those evil *bad* ones!) or to completely assimilate by pretending your not Mexican at all (When every Jose suddenly prefers to be called Joe!).
All this reflecting made me wonder about VLatin@s. What geographical area are located in? I know that Mamita has a lot of followers in the New York area, but I wonder if there are any VLatin@s that are like me, sitting your lonely butt out in the middle of Hickville U.S.A. (or Canada)?
Tell us where you’re at! Are there other Latin@s there? Other Latin@s of your “type” (for example, if you’re Cuban, there are other Cubans)? If not, how do you negotiate being so isolated?
The world famous world music club SOB’s located in New York City started its own music label. Last night I had the pleasure of attending the CD release party at Joe’s Pub for the label’s first release, Alma y Niurka. The two Cubana childhood friends, after years of working on separate musical careers all over the world, including Mexico and France, reunited to record this live album.
A Cuban musical wave exploded in popularity in the late 90s all over the world with the premiere of Wim Wender’s documentary, The Buenavista Social Club, and the albums associated with the film, produced by American musician Ry Cooder. The most ironic thing about this “new breed” of music was that it was very old. The members of Buenavista were well into their 90s and the music is about as old as Cuba itself. Add to that the fact that the songs were guajiro standards, music of common people, and one wonders why it has had such mainstream appeal.
I was living in Mexico City at the time this movie was released, and I remember how it suddenly became “cool” to be Cuban. Formerly ignored Cuban immigrants were now the most popular people in town, the bartenders at the hottest new Cuban nightspots, which seemed to be popping up everywhere. Mexican upper crust was embracing Cubans as a result of this musical trend. When I returned to the States in 2000, I saw that though it had simmered a bit, Buenavista and their contemporaries had also had their day in the sun here. Perhaps it was even responsible for this mojito trend now in cocktail lounges everwhere? Ugh.
With Cuban son becoming popular in the U.S. there has been a price to pay. While it’s of immeasurable value that this music can now be enjoyed by people who otherwise would have been ignorant to its existence, the musicians who are still alive (leaders Compay Segundo and Ibrahim Ferrer have both died within the past three years) and their heirs are engaged in a legal battle with a U.S. record company to obtain the royalties due them since the rights were purchased by New Jersey-based Peer International in the 1930s.
These men, while national heroes and international superstars by the late 1990s, were still shining shoes and picking up odd jobs to supplement their state pension income checks. Now, say the remaining members and their families, it’s time to get what’s due them. Peer says that they were impeded from paying royalties due to the U.S. embargo. And to add an even more international touch, all of this drama is playing out in a court in London, where British lawyers for both sides are battling it out before an English judge, with evidence that’s over half a century old.
I’m pulling for los viejitos de la Habana.
Via / The Miami Herald and Latin Music News