Latino Culture, Mainstream U.S. Culture Converge

Mar 16, 2016

Frederick Luis Aldama, who recently spoke on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce, says that Latino culture and mainstream culture in the United States are converging in new and important ways. Aldama also points out that Latino culture in the U.S. is itself increasingly diverse.

Frederick Luis Aldama: Different threads, different backgrounds. I’m actually, on my mom’s side Guatemalan/Irish-American second generation. On my dad’s side, I am first generation Mexican-American.

Mark Haslett: If you weren’t able to see Frederick Luis Aldama on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce last week, you missed a great program. The topic was Latino popular culture.

Aldama: And we need to move away from a model of understanding Latino pop culture as something that is created by isolated kind-of folklore-ic communities and more of the sense that in fact we are as a community, as a population, as the majority/minority transforming what we call the mainstream culture.

Haslett: Aldama is a Professor of English and a University Distinguished Scholar at The Ohio State University. He specializes in Latino pop culture. Aldama says that the increasing cultural influence of Latinos in the United States is blurring the old boundary between mainstream culture and Latino cultures. The rate of mutual borrowing is increasing. And as that happens, the old view of Latino cultures in the U.S. becomes less and less descriptive of what’s actually there.

Aldama:  Latinos are everywhere, actually. Right? And part of it is, however, that some people think Latino culture is the food they eat at their favorite Mexican food restaurant. And they stop, and that’s about it for them. Or they think that salsa dancing is it, in terms of Latino pop culture. But, in fact, if you start to bring an awareness to just how much we are contributing to the mainstream, you begin to see that we’re all over Disney shows. We have people like Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. We are Barbie dolls. We are action heroes. We are in all parts of culture, in all the parts that we touch, feel, taste, hear, etc. So really bringing a kind of an awareness to what’s actually already there. Whether you’re in rural America or isolated from Latino communities, or not, the fact of the internet and television and all of those things that we engage with means that necessarily you have contact with Latinos and Latino pop culture.

Haslett: Here in Northeast Texas, we’re used to Chicano or Mexican culture as being the local representative of all Latino cultures. That’s understandable, but demographic changes mean that even in places like the rural south central U.S., the variety of Latino cultures goes beyond Mexican-American.

Aldama: Latinos is a very varied population demographic in this country, and, in fact, what we’re seeing is where historically, of course, Mexican Latinos represent the majority in this country. What we’re actually seeing is more and more variation. We’re seeing more second/third generation Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban Latinos on the coasts, also those populations in the southwest and in the west and in places that we typically identify as more Mexican. So yeah, I think it’s a really important, exciting time, but it’s also an important and exciting time to understand that we aren’t homogenous as a group. We all come from different threads, different backgrounds. I’m actually, on my mom’s side Guatemalan/Irish-American second generation. On my dad’s side, I am first generation Mexican-American. These kinds of combinations are becoming much more visible and tangible today.

Haslett: We’ll have more from our conversation with Frederick Luis Aldama at this time tomorrow during North By Northeast. For KETR News, this is Mark Haslett.