Juan Flores was a Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and director of Latino Studies at New York University. He was considered a leading pioneer, scholar, and expert in Latin American and Nuyorican culture.
An Overview on “Nueva York, Diaspora City: Latinos Between and Beyond”
In his essay, Juan Flores uses the fact that Nueva York is the most diverse large-scale Latinx city in the US to think and propose a complex and intercultural definition of diaspora. Flores discusses Latinx cultural ascendance and analyzes how mainstream media capitalize on Latinx pop trends. He also pays attention to the way politicians increasingly try to appeal to the Latinx vote (39-40).
Flores nonetheless argues that “in the case of US Latinos, celebrity status and the ceremonial fanfare are clearly part of the mirage, serving effectively to camouflage the structured inequality and domination which accounts for their diasporic reality in the first place…The spectacular success stories of the few serve only to mask the ongoing reality of racism, economic misery, and political disenfranchisement endured by most Latinos, who moved northward from their homelands only because of persistent inequalities.” (441)
Along with writer Junot Diaz, Flores questions pan-Latino identity labels, especially those who create a false association between Latinxs and whiteness. For Diaz and Flores, more than language or religion, the daily reality of racism and discrimination is more relevant to understand the Latinx experience. “Discrimination regarding educational opportunities and at the hands of the criminal justice system, for example, is what unites Latinos beyond the multiple cultural variations, along with the strategies developed to confront these social inequalities.” (442)
Flores then argues that it is central to consider the relation of Latinos to blackness and the interrelated history of Latinos and Afro-diasporic groups. He interprets the right-wing, conservative fear of Latin American migrants, but also the media fascination with light-skinned Latinx stars, as an anti-blackness stand. (443)
This reflection drives Flores to assert that the Latino community is “a process rather than a circumscribed social entity, and its formation entails complex and often converging interactions with other, purportedly “non-Latino” groups such as African Americans and American Indians… Beyond geopolitical ties, awakened cultural heritages and congruencies also engage Latinos in more abstract but no less pronounced diasporic affiliations.” (445-6)
One of Flores’ conclusions is that “living multiple diasporic realities simultaneously is more common than not among the city’s Latinos, as many find themselves sharing that reality with members of the Caribbean or African or broader “Latino” diasporas.” (446)
1. Diaspora– the diaspora concept has proven to be an extremely useful and convenient one for taking account of multiple Latino realities in our times, especially as those realities have become more complex over the past generation of growth, dispersal, and internal diversity. For one thing, it helps disengage Latinidad from an automatic association with immigration, at least in the conventional understanding of that phenomenon as a disconnection from the background country and culture.
It was clear that many Latina/os were not simply casting aside their inherited ways and accommodating themselves to the new setting. Many were not even here to stay, and most retained strong affective ties to their home cultures, preserving them and reinventing them in highly creative ways.
Latinos typically and willingly led bicultural and border-crossing lives.
Diaspora is an eminently dynamic, situational category, demanding the analysis not so much of the “immigrant group” itself but of the ongoing relation or interaction between each group and its country or region of origin, and between that group and others with which it comes into close social contact (447-8).
2. Overlapping and/or multiple diasporas– the notion accounts for the rich bridging between and among diasporic groupings and the frequent sense of an individual or community belonging to more than one diasporic configuration at the same time, for example, Dominican, Caribbean, Latino, and African. (448)
3. Diaspora City– an urban setting saturated by interacting and interlocking diasporic communities, including those among Latino populations from all over Latin America and the Caribbean (439).
It is a sociocultural location that is perhaps most accurately characterized as a demographic grid or matrix of transnational communities co-inhabiting a single geographically circumscribed city (446).
Nueva York is rich with this innovative cultural possibilities, and as the newfound home of so many people from so many Latin American countries, it now serves as a seminal ground for the rethinking and reimagining of America. (448)
Two Diasporic Case Studies
“N****r Reecan Blues”
Willie Perdomo is an award-winning poet, spoken-word performer, educator, and editor.
“Ode to the Diasporican”
Mariposa Fernández is a performer, spoken-word poet, educator, and activist.
ONLINE ENGAGEMENT (Deadline 5/3 until 11:59 PM)
Pick ONE poem and in the comment section below, write a response (225-words minimum) based on ONE of the following questions:
1. How the following quote by Juan Flores applies to the situation described by Willie Perdomo in his poem?
“The rampant “racial profiling” and waves of police brutality are directed against both African American and Latino victims, with no color distinctions of this kind playing a decisive role. For the fact is that, in many inner-city situations, there is no such difference, and it is not possible to “tell them apart.” What the hegemonic, consumer version of Latino ethnicity obscures is that many Latinos are black, especially according to the codes operative in the United States. And what is more, while this consumer version tends to racialize Latinos towards whiteness, much in tune with the racist baggage of Latin American and Caribbean home cultures, on the streets and in the dominant social institutions “brown” is close enough to black to be suspect.
In Nueva York in particular, where the prevalent Latino presence and sensibility remains Caribbean, this counterposition to blackness is often disconcerting at best, and many Puerto Rican and Dominican youth have responded by reaffirming a sense of belonging to an African diaspora. Indeed, for Puerto Ricans, this perspective entails not only emphasizing Afro-Boricua heritages but also, because of the decades-long experience of close social interaction with African Americans in New York, an identification and solidarity with American blacks perhaps unmatched by any other group.” (Flores 445)
*Please, avoid using racial slurs in your answer.
2. Explain the following quote by Juan Flores through Mariposa’s poem, that is, using the poem as an example.
“Mariposa gives voice to the sentiments of many young Puerto Ricans, and of many Latinos in general, in their defiance of a territorially and socially confined understanding of cultural belonging. Place of birth and immediate lived experience do not wholly define cultural identification, which in this view has more to do with political and social experience, and with personally chosen ascription.” (Flores 445)