From “latinidad” to “latinid@des”: Imagining the twenty-first century
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- The Cambridge Companion to Latina/o American Literature, 2016, pp. 128 - 144
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© Cambridge University Press 2016. Now the United States’ largest collective minority, the country's heterogeneous Latin@ population increased from 35.3 million (12.5 percent) in 2000 to 55.4 million (17.4 percent) in 2014 (Ennis, Ríos-Vargas, and Albert 2011; Colby and Ortman 2015). The figures - attributable to Latin@ population growth and immigration from the Spanish-speaking Americas - were paralleled by sizeable migrant intakes from other parts of the hemisphere, Asia and Africa. Numerous commentators interpret these demographic patterns as heralding two interrelated phenomena. First, they may be signaling the United States’ evolution into a postracial age, exemplified by the election of the biracial President Barack Obama in 2008. Second, they may be signposting the irreversible “unwhitening” of the United States due to transnational migration patterns - which are also transforming immigrant receiver states across the “developed” world - and attendant ethno-racial transformations. In turn, these phenomena are often read by demographers, and institutions like the U.S. Census Bureau, as evidence of a twenty-first century in which the United States will have a Latin@ majority. Such speculations, moreover, are haunted by the epoch-changing temporal shift in global power and influence posed to the United States by the so-called “Asian century” and the emergence of powerhouse states across the “developing” world. Albeit a blunt summation, these scenarios indicate why fundamental processes of transnational and transcultural change underwrite the remit of this chapter. Numerous literary and cultural critics have also argued that the United States’ changing demographic contours - which coincide with an increasingly penetrative digitized communication age - modulate how Latin@ literary texts are being conceived, produced, received, and critiqued in the United States and across the world. In this chapter, accordingly, I focus on the literary consolidation and/or publishing debut in the early twenty-first century of selected Latin@ writers who appear to be responding to and/or emerging from such globally relevant changes. Their ranks, to select a few authors from many, include Maya Chinchilla, Roberto José Tejada, Rodrigo Toscano, José Rivera, Edwin Torres, Justin Torres, Salvador Plascencia, Giannina Braschi, Oscar Casares, Nina Marie Martínez, and Susana Chávez-Silverman. Despite the continuing importance of literary production under Chican@, Puerto Rican, Cuban American, and other specific Latin@ rubrics, it is arguable that the aesthetic strategies of many twenty-first-century writers are generating new post-identitarian and transnational, often globally referential and informed, narratives.
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