The Exotic Other: Representations of Latina tropicalism in U.S. popular culture

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Abstract

U.S. Latina/o identity is a complex and panethnic construction. One of the most enduring tropes surrounding Latina women in US culture is that of tropicalism, which by erasing ethnic specificity helps construct homogenous stereotypes such as bright colours, rhythmic music, and brown skin that are represented in visual texts. Tropicalization helps position the Latina body as oversexed as well as sexually available; all that is identified with seductive clothing, curvaceous hips and breasts, long brunette hair or extravagant jewellery. The article concerns Latina images in US media and popular culture and focuses on such stars as Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek in order to explore the gendered signifiers surrounding Latinidad and Latina iconicity. The female ethnicity is depicted as other through its categorization and marginalization in relation to dominant constructions of Whiteness and femininity. The article bridges the approaches of gender studies and Latina/o studies with recent research on hybridity and transnational identities.

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