This article analyzes how Mexican American author María Cristina Mena’s short magazine fiction boldly illustrates the emerging U.S. beauty industry as effectively producing whiteness for sale in the neocolonial marketplace. Her representations of Mexican women’s use of cosmetics articulate how the beauty industry both lends structure to and is structured by the idea of race; at the same time, she reminds her audience that the impact of beauty products and services is in large part determined by the political and economic context of the goods themselves. Through the techniques of role reversals, character development and dramatic irony, Mena’s stories portray the U.S. beauty industry as a dynamic trade that exports new forms of whiteness across its southern border. Far from depicting Mexican women as passive consumers in the neocolonial marketplace, however, Mena shows how beauty products and services can be appropriated as limited yet potent acts of resistance.


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pp. 82-104
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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