In popular culture the Latina body is often commodified as a consumable hyper-sexual curvy body that is strategically homogenized in order to reproduce ideals of whiteness, while simultaneously representing an exotic foreignness. In the media, the homogenized Latina body is not white, but does reproduce Eurocentric ideals of beauty—in both English and Spanish media outlets—often for capitalist demands. This of course requires a critical understanding of the history of colonialism in both Latin America and the Caribbean, in addition to an evaluation of the ways these histories get played out in the U.S., which as we know has its own racial discourse. Which brings me to my next point, in 2008 when Barack Obama received the presidential nomination we began to surprisingly see a new sense of visibility of black Latina bodies in U.S. popular culture. Popular magazines like Latina were now celebrating Afro-Latinas and were dedicating monthly issues to Afro-Latina/o culture. However, like any subculture that gets acculturated in the dominant imaginary, Afro-Latina bodies were subjected to commodification and homogenization. Today, our nations multicultural, bicultural and interracial explosion is undeniably influencing political discourses of race in the U.S., but what are these new portrayals of Latinidad—specifically, Afro-Latinas—telling us about how the African Diaspora is being represented in magazines such as Latina, or most important, how do readers consume these representations? Are consumers resisting Latina magazines homogenization of Afro-Latina bodies? For that reason, I find it important to look at social media spaces like Tumblr and Instagram in order to examine how counter-hegemonic resistance looks like within those sites.
My methodology will include a theoretical breakdown of the homogenized Latina body in the media and its relationship to capitalist demands. In order to mobilize this connection, I will also need to ground myself in the theoretical conversations that scholars are having in fields like Latina/o Studies, Chicana/o Studies, Cultural Studies, and American Studies regarding popular culture representations of the Latina body, and the effects these representations have on the material reality of Latin@s in the U.S. today. In addition, I will examine the magazine, Latina and their representations of Afro-Latinidad. I will specifically focus on the 2008 to 2012 editions, which will include an in depth analysis of both the online website and the hard cover magazine. Moreover, I will also look at Tumblr and Instagram in order to trace alternative representations of the Afro-Latina body in order to identify the voices that are resisting the coorporatization of Latina bodies in the media.
I do not want to completely reject Latina magazine in my analysis because I do believe that the magazine is making some important contributions to the Latina community, however we must always be mindful of what we are consuming. Coombe talks about the ways cultural hegemony is historically constructed through Eurocentric discourses of power, which speak directly to Latina magazine’s relationship to commodification, because although it is a magazine targeted for Latina women, the magazine must consent to commodification and to some extent cultural appropriation in order to successfully participate in capitalist demands. Therefore, is Latina magazine both a hegemonic and a counter-hegemonic production? If whiteness is understood as an ideological process, Latina unveils the social, cultural, political, and economic dangers of the Latin@ community, when fetishizing the Latina body as one that is consumable only when it poses no real threat to whiteness in mass-media productions. For that reason, I hope to suggest that counter-hegemony can be politically mobilizing when Afro-Latinas themselves not only reject the essentialized notions of Afro-Latinidad represented by the media, but in doing so, offer alternative representations of Afro-Latinidad that not only subvert western conceptions of ideal beauty, but also rupture the historical relationship between whiteness and “foreign-ness” that often gets played in the Latina body, especially in popular culture.
So far, Coombe’s theoretical framework is extremely useful for my own individual research project because she not only addresses the role of whiteness and hegemony in technology driven spaces, but also provides critical analysis of alternative representations of resistance that challenge and subvert ideological processes. I also think Coleman will be useful in my navigation of Afro-Latinas as subculture within the Latin@ imaginary, especially when examining how they simultaneously play themselves out in the public sphere. Coleman’s chapter of “Code is Speech” will be influential to my analysis of Tumblr and Instagram, since I will read these spaces as spaces that allow counter-hegemonic resistance for Afro-Latinas, specifically when thinking about the ways they decide to subvert Latina magazine's representations of black Latina bodies in the media, which will I will argue speak to their own “type of freedom” (Coleman 133).
This is still a work in progress and I am completely aware that my own research can change at any time, therefore I welcome any constructive criticism that I hope will help me mobilize this topic to its fullest potential. Thank You!