Ilan Stavans's Latino USA: A Cartoon History (of a Cosmopolitan Intellectual)

Palgrave Macmillan
Publication Type:
Redrawing the Nation: National Identity in Latin/o American Comics, 2009, 1st, pp. 227 - 250
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Launched with considerable media coverage in 2000, nan Stavans's Latino USA: A Cartoon History, with illustrations by comic-artist Lalo Alcaraz, aimed to render accessible the history of the United States' heterogeneous Latino sectors.' In the Foreword, Stavans justifies the book's comic format by distancing it from Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart's Para leer al Pato Donald, which in English translation became How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic? That 1971 study targeted the Disney comic as paradigmatic of U.S. cultural imperialism, a mass-cultural form capable of corrupting Third World youth with nefarious "American" capitalist and bourgeois individualist values. Stavans dismisses this argument as simplistic, tired, and tied to a bygone era ofleft-right Latin American antagonisms. Rather, Stavans insists, the worldwide popularity of the comic medium confirms that "Our global culture is not about exclusion and isolation, but about cosmopolitanism, which, etymologically derives from the Greek terms cosmos and polis, a planetary city" (xi). This appeal to an all-inclusive cosmopolitanism underwrites Stavans's desire for his cartoon history "to represent Hispanic civilization as a fiesta of types, archetypes, and stereotypes," and thus to avoid "an official, impartial tone, embracing instead the rhythms of carnival" (xv).
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