Popular culture has been a vital component in the formation of modern Latin American communities and it can be understood as premier networking process. Research into these historical networking processes has shown that popular culture is paramount in the legitimation of power, the construction of identities, in racial and gender hierarchies, and in many more social realities. The medium of these activities are various, ranging from music, art, sport and games, religion, festivities and rituals, plays, and many more. Indeed, in the January 2011 edition of the The Americas Journal, William Beezley introduces an interesting set of articles that analyze the vital role that puppets have had in Mexican history since European colonization until today. Puppets were essential not only in nuanced performances of identity or political innuendoes of liberal or conservative tones, but also as pedagogical tools of hygiene, morality, and comic representations of daily life. Yet, while Beezley recognizes the growing literature on popular culture in Mexico, he also acknowledges that there is still more research to be done.
This panel contributes to the discussion of popular culture in Latin America and the Caribbean by providing new, and often overlooked, research in the field. Covering different areas of the region stretching from the Caribbean to Mexico to Chile, this panel also deals with innovative ways to see popular culture in relation to the pervasive condition of conflict in Latin America. For example, one paper will discuss the ways in which Cold War tensions and colonialism are present in the X Central American and Caribbean Games of 1966 in Puerto Rico. Another paper looks at gender and popular culture in the Latin American solidarity movement, specifically the Miss Universe contest of 1987 won by Miss Chile on the eve of the plebiscite that removed Pinochet from power. The intersections of Vodu and other eastern Afro-Cuban religions with the Cuban revolution will be discussed in an effort to show the complexities of one of the most important revolutions in the twentieth century. A final paper will explore the complexities and conflicts over the stereotyping of physically strong twentieth century Mexican women.