Friday, February 6, 2009

General Question/Statement

I have a general question/statement:

I don't understand why different aspects of Latin American culture are so contrasting. So many of the movies and novels have such twisted plots that include prostitution, drugs, homosexuality, murder, etc....and they not only have just one of those things, it's often a bunch of them combined...Like in El Callejón de Los Milagros and other movies that we've watched so
far and novels, like by Isabel Allende for example...We had to read Eva Luna a few years ago in a "What is Bad Literature?" class, it's the only book that I've read by her, and it's really strange and kind of all over the place. I remember thinking "there's no way that all of that drama could possibly happen to a single person." A new character is introduced in almost every chapter and they have really bizarre stories.

I was born in Vancouver, but my dad's Cuban, and almost everybody in my family is a musician, so I've been around a lot of Cuban music and big family dinners where everybody talks at the same time and the mood is generally really happy most of the time. Just listen to merengue, and salsa and cumbia and banda, it's supposed to be really happy. I have Cuban music where they sing about coffee and fire and there`s happy music in the background. It's so contrasting from all of the drama and negativity in the plots of movies and novels. My dad was considering majoring in Spanish in university but he told me that he chose not to because he didn't want to read depressing literature. My mom was in a spanish book club awhile ago where she would basically do what we do in class, but with novels and with her friends...her friends would pick out the books, and she would have to go buy them and she told me that all of them were depressing and filled with drugs and prostitution. All of her friends are from Chile and Argentina, and yes they have problems, but so does every other person that I know...I don`t understand why they kept choosing depressing literature. I've never been to Latin America other than to Mexico, so I don't really know what it's like I guess, and from experience, a lot of people who I met were either like people here (happy when good things happen and down when bad things happen) or really positive and welcoming . My mom`s friends are generally pretty outgoing whenever I see them.

Also, people from here 'escape' to Mexico and other areas to take in the sun, and drink margaritas (and also that they have the Americanized version of a taco and of nachos here at dinner parties and it's supposed to be like one of the 'fun' foods like hot dogs and the Americanized version of pizza) and get away from all the drama in their lives...but the literature is depressing! Do Latin Americans need to escape from their happy lives and watch twisted entertainment? Or do they agree that it's depressing and try to stick to things like Cantinflas and Betty La Fea? Or does happy Latin American literature and cinema exist and I just need to be introduced to more of it?

What's with all of the contrast and exaggeration between Latin American culture, various forms of entertainment and reality? It's something that I'll have to think more about.


  1. Elena, I'd say that we've seen two comedies (Aguila y sol and Mecánica nacional), one realist drama (Los olvidados) and one melodrama (El callejón de los milagros). That seems like a fair mix to me.

    Imagine we were doing a course on, say, US TV and we chose to do what most people seem to think are among the best shows of recent years: Six Feet Under, The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Lost... a show in a funeral parlor, a show about drug dealing, a show about the mafia, a Wild West show, and a show about castaways. What would that selection tell us about the USA?

    Or, more generally, what do we expect any cultural production to tell us about the place where it's produced? I've been saying from the start that we shouldn't assume that these movies portray anything like a "real" Mexico, and shouldn't blame them if they don't. The same is true of US TV, surely?

    So here's the real question, I think: why do we expect Mexican movies to show us the "real" Mexico, but we don't seem to have the same expectations of (in this instance) US television? That's certainly a question that's worth considering further.

  2. What you're saying makes total sense to me. I guess maybe in a way I am expecting literature and movies to be like the "real" culture, but I'm still curious as to why we don't really see ANY of the positive part of the culture (eg, the music or the scenery and the togetherness of family) in most of the books and movies that I've read/seen. It's still really contrasting to me...almost to an extreme. Maybe I need to think more about what you're saying.