Latino Studies Hemispheric Latinidad
Paloma Martinez-Cruz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0152


Hemispheric Latinidad describes various aspects of cultural proximity across the diverse ethnic, national, and geopolitical terrains of the Americas. The prefix “hemi,” from the Greek word meaning “half,” is joined to the Latin word “sphera,” which denotes a round, solid formation, such as a ball or globe. The planet, envisioned in terms of two halves (hemispheres) is conceived as a division of the Earth from either north to south or east to west by an imaginary line passing through the poles. As such, hemispheric Latinidad constitutes a 21st-century reconfiguration of the panethnic identity “Latino/Latina” (or Latinx) that emerged during the final quarter of the 20th century to replace the “Hispanic” designation for peoples of Latin American extraction contributing to the US national project. As a site of continual political contest (rather than a finished product), Latinidad has garnered skepticism from observers and scholars who argue that political opportunism and governmental expedience undergird attempts to consolidate Latinx subjects across divisions of race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, migratory patterns, religion, language, and other axes of social difference to formulate a single, homogenous identity. However, contemporary scholarship that engages the conceptual framework of hemispheric Latinidad endeavors to take into account both the limitations, and the liberatory prospects, of approaches that emphasize interrelationships across Latinx and Latin American experiences. Hemispheric Latinidad hones in on the notion of overlap, as populations across the Americas contend with interlocking levels of domination that stem from the consequences of colonization, patriarchal hegemony, late capitalism, and other hemispheric structures that consolidate institutional powers and privileges along corporatist agendas. This interstitial approach to hemispheric experience informs projects of documentation, theorization, transformation, and rehabilitation of Latin American and Latinx peoples who share common experiences of national rejection within the US context, while contending with US economic, political, cultural, and military interventions and incursions into Latin American, the Caribbean, and indigenous territories in the Western Hemisphere that shape hemispheric patterns of migration, mobility, and immobility. Proponents of hemispheric Latinidad argue that these cumulative, interstitial encounters with Western domination and resistance occasion the need for conversations under an expansive rubric to describe a range of inter/intranational circumstances.

General Works

The works selected here constitute foundational resources for establishing the current parameters of unified and/or pan-ethnic approaches to Latinidad in cultural and literary criticism, ethnography, public policies, and history. The terms “Latino,” “Latino/a,” “Hispanic,” and “Latinx” in each entry are consistent with the language used in the text described. Aparicio and Chávez-Silverman 1997 contributes a fundamental examination of the scope of Latinidad, including the strategic reappropriation of mainstream tropical tropes in the face of dominant Anglo discourses. Caminero-Santangelo 2007 interrogates the pitfalls surrounding the “common themes” approach to US Latinx literary production, while Padilla 1985 and de Genova and Ramos-Zayas 2003 provide a regional focus on pan-ethnic Latino groups in the City of Chicago, where Puerto Rican and Chicano communities share common incentives for coalitional political engagement. Narrated from a personal perspective notable for its breadth, Stavans 1995 explores history and literature to understand how Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, and Central and South American citizens and denizens of the United States develop “hyphenated” identities: a conceptual, centuries-long meeting place connecting Anglo and Hispanic ways of being. García 2003 cogently argues for a “common causes” approach to understanding Latino coalitional politics, whereas Beltrán 2010 hones in on sites of rupture—rather than consensus—as a defining aspect of hemispheric Latinidad in the political domain. In the realm of media and visual approaches, Dávila 2001 deals with the power of advertising in the consolidation of Latinx public identities. Gonzalez 2000 contributes a key historical perspective to Latinx migrations, detailing the diverse circumstances of hemispheric sending countries that spur migrations north. Windell and Alemán 2018 provides a study on recent theorizations of Latinx hemispheric scholarship from a cultural studies perspective. These writings constitute seminal approaches across diverse disciplines to the current conversations about hemispheric Latinidad, while grappling with the practical and theoretical limitations of transnational groupings.

  • Aparicio, Frances R., and Susana Chávez-Silverman, eds. Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997.

    An interrogation of the dominant culture’s stock traits associated with Latinidad, as well as the ways Latinas/os have reappropriated tropicalization as a strategy of resistance.

  • Beltrán, Cristina. The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    This seminal text contests the idea of a coherent Latino vote or unified political agenda by analyzing three major moments in US Latino political history: the Chicano and Puerto Rican civil rights movements of the late 1960s, the voting power of Latinos in the 1980s, and the recent political activism surrounding immigration from Latin America.

  • Caminero-Santangelo, Marta. On Latinidad: U.S. Latino Literature and the Construction of Ethnicity. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.

    DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813030838.001.0001

    An indispensable, comprehensive overview of the arguments both for and against a “common themes” approach to pan-ethnic Latino groupings, bringing focus to stories of collective identity.

  • Dávila, Arlene M. Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

    This foundational work scrutinizes public representations of Latinos, analyzing how culturally distinct groups become reconfigured as market segments via discourses and image systems about and for Latino consumers.

  • de Genova, Nicholas, and Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas. Latino Crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and the Politics of Race and Citizenship. New York: Routledge, 2003.

    A collaborative ethnographic project conducted in Chicago during the mid-1990s that explores obstacles and incentives around the formation of a shared sense of Latino identity across Puerto Rican and Mexican urban enclaves.

  • García, John A. Latino Politics in America: Community, Culture, and Interests. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

    Introductory overview of the common causes that bring Latinos together to access political resources, leadership, authority, and influence.

  • Gonzalez, Juan. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. New York: Penguin, 2000.

    An essential hemispheric overview spanning five centuries of Latin American conditions from the colonial period to the contemporary US policies of economic, military, and geopolitical incursions. Features portraits of real-life migrants and firsthand accounts of events and conditions that compel families and individuals to leave their nation of origin.

  • Padilla, Felix M. Latino Ethnic Consciousness: The Case of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in Chicago. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.

    One of the earliest works to put forth the observation that pan-Latino positionality is situationally specific, relating to circumstances of inequality shared by more than one Spanish-speaking group in arenas such as civil rights laws, employment, and education.

  • Stavans, Ilan. The Hispanic Condition: Reflections on Culture and Identity in America. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.

    Provides diverse portraits of Hispanic cultures that interrogate stereotypes in literature and film. Serving as both cultural encyclopedia and lyrical auto-ethnography, Stavans takes into account writers and artists such as Julia Alvarez and Guillermo Gomez-Peña who are examined for their ability to adapt, transform, and perform hybrid identities.

  • Windell, Maria A., and Jesse Alemán, eds. Special Issue: Latinx Lives in Hemispheric Context. English Language Notes 56.2 (October 2018).

    Charts the circulation of Latinx literary, cultural, and scholarly productions as these circulate across the Americas while examining the term “Latinx” as a significant critical intervention.

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