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Loca Motion

The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture

Michelle Habell-Pallan

Publication Year: 2005

2006 Honorable Mention for MLA Prize in US Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies

In the summer of 1995, El Vez, the “Mexican Elvis,“along with his backup singers and band, The Lovely Elvettes and the Memphis Mariachis, served as master of ceremony for a ground-breaking show, “Diva L.A.: A Salute to L.A.’s Latinas in the Tanda Style.” The performances were remarkable not only for the talent displayed, but for their blend of linguistic, musical, and cultural traditions.

In Loca Motion, Michelle Habell-Pallán argues that performances like Diva L.A. play a vital role in shaping and understanding contemporary transnational social dynamics. Chicano/a and Latino/a popular culture, including spoken word, performance art, comedy, theater, and punk music aesthetics, is central to developing cultural forms and identities that reach across and beyond the Americas, from Mexico City to Vancouver to Berlin. Drawing on the lives and work of a diverse group of artists,Habell-Pallán explores new perspectives that defy both traditional forms of Latino cultural nationalism and the expectations of U.S. culture. The result is a sophisticated rethinking of identity politics and an invaluable lens from which to view the complex dynamics of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-11

In a world that offers too few opportunities to share and produce politically progressive knowledge, it has been my great fortune to find a community of dedicated scholars and students who seek social change. My academic career has been an amazing journey, and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined all the progressive destinations at which I...

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pp. 1-14

In the summer of 1995, El Vez, the “Mexican Elvis,” along with his backup singers and band, The Lovely El Vettes and the Memphis Mariachis, served as the master of ceremony for the first show ever of its kind to take place at the Mark Taper Forum: Diva L.A.: A Salute to L.A.’s Latinas in the Tanda Style.1 Directed by Diane Rodríguez and Luis Alfaro...

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1 From the Shadows of the Spanish Fantasy Heritage to a Transnational Imaginary

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pp. 15-42

Images flash on the six-by-six-foot screen. The ear-splitting theme from Black Rain, the 1980s Orientalist film about a white American cop inpursuit of the Japanese Yakuza (Japanese mafia), screeches. The three performers on the stage run in horror to hide from the larger-than-life images of found icons from everyday life in Los Angeles: Virgen de Guadalupe...

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2 “ No Cultural Icon”: Marisela Norte and Spoken Word— East L.A. Noir and the U.S./Mexico Border

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pp. 43-80

Late in the fall of 1991, Marisela Norte, the much-loved “East L.A. Ambassador of Culture,” who had recently released her spoken-word compact disk, NORTE/word, stepped straight out of a Fellini film and entered the Michel De Certeau lecture room in the Humanities Building at the University of California, San Diego, in black stiletto heels. She carried...

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3 The Politics of Representation: Queerness and the Transnational Family in Luis Alfaro’s Performance

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pp. 81-111

Marisela Norte was not the only performer in black garments and red lipstick to transfix the audience in the Michel De Certeau Room that autumn night in 1991 with her downtown glamour. Luis Alfaro, another of the guest performers at the “Speaking Experiences” event that also featured...

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4 Translated/Translating Woman: Comedienne/Solo Performer Marga Gomez, “Sending All Those Puerto Ricans Back to Mexico,” and the Politics of a Sexualized Location Puerto Ricans

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pp. 112-146

Marga Gomez is one of the most accomplished Latina feminist comediennes and solo performers of her generation. In several television appearances and numerous successful standup comedy and solo performance pieces, she has used the circuits of mass media to disrupt and to reinvent images of Latinas in the national imagination. She has appeared...

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5 “¿Soy Punkera, Y Que?” Sexuality, Translocality, and Punk in Los Angeles and Beyond

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pp. 147-180

The xeroxed flyer advertising Pretty Vacant, Jim Mendiola’s 1996 independent short film, depicts the much loved figure of the Mexican La Virgen de Guadalupe strumming, of all things, an upside-down electric guitar à la Jimi Hendrix.1 As a U.S.-born Chicana who, in the 1980s, was...

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6 Bridge over Troubled Borders: The Transnational Appeal of Chicano Popular Music

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pp. 181-204

El Vez has seven compact disks, several 45-rpm singles, and a book contract offer, and he is the subject of an in-progress independent film.1 He has “r-o-c-ked across the U.S.A. and all over Europe” and is referred to as a “modern multicultural hybrid of Americana and Mexicano” and as a “Cross-Cultural Caped Crusader singing for Truth, Justice and the..

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Epilogue: “Call Us Americans, ’Cause We Are All from the Américas”: Latinos at Home in Canada

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pp. 205-220

As post-9/11 xenophobic discourse justifies the increased surveillance and militarization of the territory that divides the United States and Mexico for the sake of security, support for the demilitarization of the border for the sake of human rights receives little attention in the mainstream media.1 General public debate about the need for undocumented migrant..


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pp. 221-262


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pp. 263-286


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pp. 287-309

About the Author

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p. 310

E-ISBN-13: 9780814773406
E-ISBN-10: 0814773400
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814736623
Print-ISBN-10: 0814736629

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 76838925
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Loca Motion

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hispanic Americans in the performing arts.
  • Women in popular culture -- United States.
  • Popular culture -- United States.
  • Performance art -- United States.
  • Performing arts -- United States.
  • Hispanic American theater.
  • Mexican American women -- Intellectual life.
  • American drama -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Hispanic American women -- Intellectual life.
  • American drama -- Mexican American authors -- History and criticism.
  • American drama -- Hispanic American authors -- History and criticism.
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