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Latino Issues Conference

Scholars joined together to illustrate the importance of Latinos in popular culture — an importance underlined by the roughly 200-strong audience that gathered in the Union yesterday morning.

Dr. Frederic W. Gleach, a lecturer in anthropology from Cornell University, played a short DVD movie that used narrative, pictures and video clips to present his research on “The Latin Bombshell,” Diosa Costello.

Costello was a Puerto Rican actress during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s who played roles that stereotyped Latin American women.

Gleach concluded that gender-related and ethnocentric roadblocks limited the careers of Costello and other Latin American actors in the early days of film.

“We must learn from their struggles,” Gleach said.

After the conference in an interview, Gleach said academics should give back to the community through the work that they do.

“I think it’s important to have your life and work integrated because we all live in the world and the work we do is based in the world,” Gleach said. “Anything that we [academics] can do to give back as sort of repayment is only fair — in anthropology in particular, because it’s the study of people.”

Two grad students also presented work during the same session as Gleach.

Juliana Vukonic, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science, argued that Hollywood stresses the importance of the “American look — blonde hair with blue eyes.”

“With the influence of Hollywood,” Vukonic said, “[Latinos] have been changing their traditional values for liberal American values.”

The other grad student who presented, Evelyn Silva, discussed the movement of Argentinian youth from traditional social outlets to cybercafés.

“They’re not going to plazas [malls] and they’re not going to concerts,” Silva said.

“It’s important to say that when we ask these boys in the higher [income] barrios [neighborhoods], they say they go to cybercafés not to go on the Internet but to meet other young people,” she said.

“They are a way of life,” Silva said. “They [young people] live like this.”

According to Silva, Argentinian youths are at cybercafés now thanks to economic policy changes made by Argentina’s government that allowed globalization to begin within the country.

Michele Gerring, a grad student studying French at the University, attended the session. “The commentary on the spread of the Internet in Argentina was very interesting because it showed the widespread effects of globalization,” she said.

Among the attendees were a group of Spanish students from Bowling Green High School.

Sarah Price, a senior at BGHS, said, “I thought it was really interesting to see how the trends are changing and how the Internet has changed their culture because the Internet is so common in the U.S.”

Price also enjoyed Gleach’s presentation. “I never heard of that girl [Diosa Costello]; I think it was cool because she brought a Latino icon in a very American tradition, Broadway.”

Nashieli Marcano, a grad student who teaches Spanish at the University, has been following Gleach’s research for some time.

“I enjoyed Fred’s [presentation] because I saw him in another presentation,” Marcano said. “I can see the progress in his research and I look forward to seeing his interviews with [Diosa Costello] and how he incorporates them into his video.”

Marcano said she thinks Gleach should include more research on Latin American stereotypingin his video, but had praise for his work as well. “I think it’s wonderful that he can discuss issues that are important not just to Latinos but to all those who live with Latinos within the same community,” she said.

The entire presentation, titled, “Between Hollywood and the Southern Core,” joined three other sessions and a keynote speech as part of the Latino Issues Conference.

The 11th annual conference stretched on throughout the day, highlighting a diverse range of issues concerning the Latin American community and culture.

Francisco Cabanillas organized the conference. He originally formed it due to a need to make a forum for the discussion of Latino issues, he said.

“I’m trying to do two things,” Cabanillas said. “I’m trying to bring into the conference relevant issues, and I’m trying to … show people the connection between here [the U.S.] and Latin America.”

As for attendees of the conference, Cabanillas said, “I hope that they get something that they didn’t know about the Latino presence in the U.S. … and I hope that they realize that the U.S. is in a very dramatic process of Latinization but that Latin America is in a process of Americanization — in different ways.

“The main difference is that in the U.S. is made [more Latin] by the presence of Latin people and in Latin America, it’s [Americanization] more of a media/corporate presence.”

Gleach said he was very pleased to see people from the local community because it’s a way of tying together communities.

“It’s the cultural sense of witnessing,” he said of the entire conference, “and here, we have that. And I think the University tries to do that by having faculty and students work with the local communities and also by bringing in local community members.”

BGHS sophomore Alex Carey came away with a positive picture of the Latino Issues Conference.

“I think it’s really cool because of how minorities are becoming so big in America and they’re not minorities anymore, because they’re just normal,” Carey said. “Most people are starting to not think any differently of them.”

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