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New books in Latino Studies: Deborah R. Vargas

By David-James Gonzoles
New Books in Latino Studies

Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music by Deborah VargasIn her transformative text Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldua referred to the U.S.-Mexico border region as "una herida abierta (an open wound) where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country–a border culture." To Anzaldua the "open wound" or new culture of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands resulted from "the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary" (i.e., the imposition of the U.S.-Mexico border in the mid-19th century). Since the establishment of the U.S.-Mexico border, politicians, local officials, businessmen, and residents have competed over the definition, control, and memory of the region. In Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda (University of Minnesota Press, 2012) Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside, Deborah R. Vargas deconstructs the dominant narrative tropes that have defined the U.S.-Mexico borderlands as a hetero-normative and masculinist frontier space of Anglo American conquest juxtaposed against Tejano/Chicano efforts to resist Anglo dominance through the preservation of "authentic" Mexican culture.  In her fascinating analysis of Tejana/Chicana singers and musicians, Dr. Vargas argues that the lives of these "dissonant divas" resist simple classification as either purveyors of Mexican culture or as accommodating and assimilating Anglo American cultural norms and values. Indeed, through her investigation of the intersection of race, place, gender, music, and memory in the Texas-Mexico borderlands, Professor Vargas provides a new lens into the identities and histories that emerge from the new cultural space Anzaldua referred to as the borderlands.

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