Categorized | Arts & Culture

Yo Soy Latino

The 2008 Latin Xplosion started off just as it has in years past – with Reggaeton blaring from the enormous speakers on the MSU Auditorium stage and Latin Xplosion-themed banners hanging from the walls near flags and Greek banners. The members of MSU’s Latin community excitedly greeted each other with the smacking of dress shoes and high-heeled stilettos on the wooden floor in the background. The MSU Latin community’s talent show, held annually since 1996, was similar to past shows in a lot of ways, but for the last couple of years, the sense of Latin Xplosion’s importance has heightened.
Latin Xplosion committee members have tried to make this show as comfortable and familiar as it has been in the past without being repetitious. Communication junior Crystal Stoll’s performance resonated with many Latin-Americans. In particular, she affected those Latin-Americans who don’t feel they are accepted as “Latin enough.” The half-Argentinean’s forceful Spanglish (intermingled combination of English and Spanish words and phrases) poem was about a lack of acceptance and the stereotypical misconceptions from Americans and Latinos alike. Stoll was out to announce, “Yo soy Latina,” and that she was not bound by any definition. The poem was a common type of performance about a real, ever-changing topic.
[latin12]Latin X, as it is often called, has been the event to showcase and exhibit the different aspects of Latino culture, especially Latin-American culture. On Friday, Feb. 8, these types of showcases were still the main premise. Yet, it has become slightly evident that Latin Xplosion and its importance have indeed shifted.
In the beginning, Latin X was an opportunity for people, especially Latinos, to perform their talents for other MSU students, according to MSU alumnus and past Latin Xplosion committee member Ricardo Leon. The Latin MSU crowd looked at Latin X as merely their own talent show, where Latinos would gather to cheer on their fellow Latin Spartans as they danced and sang and recited poems about Chicano history and civil rights, among other topics. But as the years passed and the show became more popular with the masses, more opinions on Latino-related issues were stated. The issues themselves got stronger. This year was no different, as one of the most debated national issues took the stage.
“It’s become more important to support each other,” said Daniel Soza, College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) student service assistant. “Studies are showing that there is an increasing anti-Mexican [sentiment in America].” This year, the theme for Latin X was “Amor Latino,” translated in English meaning, Latin Love. But love is one of the last things that Latino Americans – not only Mexican Americans – are feeling from their own American society.
Many people believe this to be caused by the illegal immigration debates, in addition to what many people point to as negative portrayals of Latinos in the media. Family and child development senior Frederick Combs has attended Latin X for years. Of Dominican Republic lineage, he feels the showcase of Latinos in the media is usually pretty wrong and obscure. “When you see Latinos in the media, it’s always the same thing. We’re either drug dealers or [gangsters],” he said. It is these same issues that have many Latino Americans across the nation feeling stereotyped and labeled “foreign” in their own country. But the issue goes deeper.
Since 1996, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has produced the Brownout Report, which “examines the nation’s major English-language television networks’ coverage of Latinos and Latino-related issues…” Those networks usually include ABC, NBC and CBS. The annual reports consistently have the same results: Latinos are not being represented enough. The 2005 Brownout Report stated that Latinos “remained virtually invisible and marginalized on the network evening news.” In 2006, the report stated that out of more than 12,500 reports, less than one percent of them were “exclusively” about Latinos.
[ricardo]Another problem in the media was that the networks tend not to show enough Latin perspective. The report shows that in 2005, Latinos were used as sources in only 1.7 percent of an estimated 12,495 stories. Unfortunately, the report also says Latinos were not even used as sources in stories related to Latinos. In fact, the report states that, “Of 105 stories, one-third did not cite a single source.”
Third, the examinations also found that when Latinos were portrayed, they were portrayed stereotypically with a foreign sentiment. In most cases, Latino-related stories were either about immigration (in 2004, one out of every three stories was about illegal immigration) or gang-related crime where, in most cases, Latinos were the perpetrators and not the victims.
Combs has noticed the abundance of negativity in Latino characters. To Combs, popular television series and movies have been no exception. “You see it as soon as you turn on the TV with shows like CSI: Miami. Even on shows with positive roles, for every one good trait there are three bad,” said Combs. Telecommunication junior William Deramus agrees with Combs. “Representation [of Latinos] is usually bad,” he said. “Even when I went to New York, all they talked about was the Latin Kings.”
However, the Brownout Report does acknowledge the problem isn’t about the accuracy of the story. Instead, the problem lies in the accuracy of representation. “Stories on illegal immigration or Latino gangs may not be inaccurate, but this becomes unfair when it compromises an overabundance of coverage.”
According to the Brownout Report, statistics showed that with more than 30 million people watching the news every night, the networks “failed to reflect” Latinos and thus the ever-changing American society.
So at MSU, many members of the Latin community are finding that Latin Xplosion can be used as a tool not only to exhibit the differences between the Latin cultures, but to celebrate them as well. “With this whole immigration issue, all [Latinos are] being bundled together,” Leon said. “It comes back to making sure Latin X is diverse. Too much of one culture and Latin X loses its purpose.”
Combs also has a problem with the lack of exposure to different Latino cultures at the university. “You see two main nationalities: Mexican and Puerto Rican. People are not exposed to a lot out here,” Combs said. “When I first got here, people didn’t know a lot about Dominicans. I’m sure it is the same for other types of Latinos.”
[aspects] Throughout the show, calls to different ethnicities -“Where the Boricuas at?”- and performances that ranged from dietetics senior Melissa Gutierrez’s Mariachi singing and Dirty Politix’s hip-hop rapping to Sigma Lambda Gamma’s Greek stepping helped highlight the blending of differences that not only make up Latin X, but make up Latin-American culture.
“I think Latin X has become a pretty fair representation of Latin Americans,” Deramus explained. “There’s so many different aspects. You can see a hip-hop act as well as a traditional piece.”
Another aspect of Latin Xplosion’s importance is to show Latinos are Americans too and, more importantly, to represent Latino-American culture fairly. Daniel Soza believes there should be more events like Latin Xplosion because it produces a better exchange of culture and ideas. Interdisciplinary studies and health studies senior Wanyi Lueng, an active member in the Asian and Asian-American communities, was one such person who came to do more than support. “I don’t know much about Latin culture, so I came to learn as well,” she said.
To show her talent, Stoll stepped up to the bright red Christmas lights that lined the stage, in her shiny and just as bright black dress, ready to speak into the microphone. With a piece of paper in her slightly trembling left hand, Stoll forcefully yelled about what it means, in her view, to be a Latina. With an “anglo father and a Latin mama” she asked dramatically, “Am I still brown?”
Look at my skin for its texture and grace
Don’t look at my skin, just seeing a race.

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