Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Does Eva Longoria Symbolize the Future of American Culture?

The Los Angeles Times ran an intriguing piece in Sunday's Calendar on Eva Longoria, who plays Gabrielle Solis on ABC's "Desperate Housewives." Langoria is a Texas-born Mexican American who celebrates her mixed identity, and her experience may represent the changing nature of assimilation in the U.S. amid record rates of Mexican immigration:
What Longoria personifies, on screen and off, is cultural duality, the notion that two different things can share an identity without sacrificing their distinct individual properties. For centuries, this has been an essential component of Latin American identity and thought. It is expressed most succinctly in concepts such as mestizaje and syncretism, the mixing of clashing ethnic and cultural attributes, literally through sex and figuratively through the interchange of traditions, customs and beliefs. To Mexicans and other Latins, this type of cultural blending — of pagan and Christian gods, opposing philosophical systems, bloodlines, musical styles, whatever — is as old as the pyramids at Teotihuacan. But north of the border, historically, the idea of cultural mixing has been tainted by fears of miscegenation, more bluntly known as "interracial sex," one of the hobgoblins of the Anglo-Saxon mind. Our popular culture is filled with images of tragic Spanish American or Mexican American "half-breeds" caught between two worlds, from "Ramona" to Jennifer Jones as the doomed, mixed-race Pearl Chavez in King Vidor's nutty, hysteria-laced western "Duel in the Sun" (1946). As America's newly anointed sex goddess, Longoria — not unlike Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson before her — is undermining an old-fashioned racial ideology whose locus is human sexuality and the human body. So is Longoria's paramour Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs' star point guard, who was born in Belgium to an African American father and a European mother and raised in France. Both are part of the massive remixing of hyphenated-American culture underway.
The demographic aspect to the current illegal immigration debate has taken a backseat at times to issues of border security, guest workers, and legalization. Yet, Samuel Huntington raised the cultural issues surrounding Mexican immigration in his 2004 Foreign Policy article (in PDF). On the prospects for House and Senate compromise on the pending immigration reform bill, click here. Also, today's OpinionJournal.com ran a piece on how illegal immigration is affecting a key GOP primary contest in Utah. Finally, Time Magazine has a look at how right-wing extremist organizations have been mobilized by the illegal immigration debate.

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