Latin numbers: Playing Latino in twentieth-century U.S. popular performance
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I remember vividly the summer of 1999, when Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” dominated the sonic landscape of the United States. That summer I also snatched up my copy of Time magazine’s May 24 issue, where Martin’s camera-ready face beamed atop the proclamation, “Latin Music Goes Pop!” Martin’s mainstream stardom injected me with a strong dose of cultural uplift. Indeed, I found the Latina/o vibe that seemed to saturate that summer a striking shift that capped a decade of conspicuous Latina/o visibility in the US, and then evanesced.
As performance historian Brian Herrera’s sumptuous historical study, Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performanceinforms us, the mainstream media attention showered upon Latina/o popular performances that summer constituted one final episode in US dominant culture’s recurrent enthrallment with Latina/o or Latino-ish (a descriptive conceit Herrera employs roguishly) expressive forms in the twentieth century. Herrera...