Invisible, Inaudible, Influential? Reclaiming Latino Life
Even before the first Anglo-American settlers arrived in the New World, there had been a variety of literary and other cultural productions on the North American continent by people of diverse ethnic origin. Likewise, by the mid-sixteenth century, administrative, cultural and educational institutions had been introduced to North America by Spanish explorers, missionaries, and colonists (Kanellos 2). Today roughly one in six people in the United States of America belongs to the group labeled “Latinos” or “Hispanics”, according to the 2010 census. Despite these facts and figures and despite centuries of Latino traditions and cultural expressions on the American continent and particularly on what is now the U.S. Southwest, the works of Latinos have been looked upon as those of an insignificant minority. In fact, Hispanics are assigned the status of “the Other”. They have been struggling to overcome rejections and stereotypes, striving to be heard and seen so they might be perceived as authentic individuals instead of outsiders or intruders. The subsequent analysis of Latino literary and other cultural productions will examine the interaction or rather interdependence of visibility, audibility and status. The focus of the study will be on concrete reflections and consequences of those aspects. Being unseen and unheard among others will lead not only to lower self-esteem but it also means having a smaller share in contributing to the construction of the historical legacy of Latinos in the United States.
As Latino art is receiving more attention, the power mechanisms in society become more transparent. At the same time, both individual lives and collective identities have a chance to be reassessed in less stereotypical terms.