Media Jones

Star Spanglish Banner

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


For decades, a booming Hispanic population forced the U.S. to rethink its metaphors: If we’re a melting pot, why won’t Latinos melt? Cut to 2000. We’ve become a nation obsesionada with everything from Jennifer Lopez’s navel to Santana’s Supernatural staying power. As this sampling attests, writers, musicians, and filmmakers have thrown Hispanic and U.S. cultures into the blender, and audiences — both Latino and Anglo — are sipping the bilingual, bicultural concoction con sabor.

Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the U.S. City
Mike Davis
New York: Verso, 2000.
With 32 million Hispanics, the United States is now the fourth most populous Latin American nation — trailing only Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina. Most U.S. Latinos have settled in our inner cities, Davis writes, reinvigorating blighted neighborhoods and forever changing the face of urban politics. A word of caution: If you don’t know a municipio from a colonia, you’ll need a bilingual dictionary to navigate this colorful, scholarly book — and the cities it highlights.

Bi
Pastilla
BMG, 1998.
Alternative L.A. roqueros Pastilla released the appropriately titled song “Bi” on their album, Vox Electra. The bilingual single overlays two sets of lyrics — one in Spanish, one in English — to create what one rock critic dubbed a “word-twisted audio helix.” But any confusion is easy to unravel: Fade out one speaker and tune in to the language of your choice.

Bodega Dreams
Ernesto Quiñonez
New York. Vintage, 2000.
What makes this debut novel sizzle is Quiñonez’s mastery of bilingual barrio-speak. Fortunately, the author problem-solves for monolingual readers along the way. When Chino, the main character, says “[Sapo] was still my pana, my main mellow man” — regardless of whether you translate pana as bro, pal, or homeboy — you know exactly how he feels about his friend.

Diccionario de Spanglish
Nelson Gonzalez
members.tripod.com/~nelson_g/spanglish.html.
This homespun online dictionary celebrates the linguistic aberrations born from the mezcla of Spanish and English. Each entry gives a Spanglish coinage and its equivalents in the two mother tongues. Though there are some clunkers (quarter becomes cora), the new word often seems an improvement on its derivatives: glass + vaso = glasso.

Americanos: Latino Life in the United States
Susan Todd and Andrew Young
81 minutes. HBO Studio Productions, 1999.
Americanos guides viewers on a tour of Latino North America. The itinerary includes a visit to the Nuyorican Poets Café in Manhattan to hear boho Spanglish verse; to a lowrider competition outside Chicago to watch some “car dancing”; and to a late-night lounge act by comedian and pompadoured impersonator, El Vez. This playful documentary celebrates the surprising diversity — ethnic, racial, and cultural — of Latino U.S.A.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate