book cover of Negotiating Latinidad

Interview With Frances Aparicio, Author of Negotiating Latinidad: Intralatina/o Lives in Chicago

Latinx Talk: Tell us about yourself.

Frances Aparicio: After thirty-five years of teaching, scholarship and administrative leadership in Latinx Studies Programs in the Midwest, I retired from academic life in December 2018.  However, my official retirement has not meant that I have stopped my intellectual life. I just published Negotiating Latinidad:  Intralatina/o Lives in Chicago with University of Illinois Press; this fall semester I am the 2019-20 AMUW Women’s Chair in Humanistic Studies at Marquette University in Milwaukee, where I am teaching a course on “Latinx Popular Music”; and I am writing a book about Marc Anthony structured around five of his songs. In the meantime, I have become a student again and am learning how to play the saxophone.  While I enjoy having more time for myself and my family, I am also aware of the importance of learning as we continue to age. Having time now is an amazing gift that allows me to choose my activities and to be flexible with my schedule.

Latinx Talk: Most books offer us complex considerations of multiple issues. What one or two issues or contributions in your book do you think will be of most interest to the varied readers of Latinx Talk?

Frances Aparicio: Negotiating Latinidad engages the multiple national identities of Intralatina/os in Chicago, their family lives and social experiences. It acknowledges and documents the daily and familial processes of national and ethnic negotiations that twenty Intralatina/os from Chicago shared with me in interviews. The book argues that Intralatina/os embody the long-contested concept of Latinidad, which continues to be critiqued, questioned, and challenged by the very shifting demographics in our communities, as well as proposes the term “horizontal hierarchies” as an analytic concept that allows me to analyze the boundaries, tensions, and power differentials between two or more national communities in Latino USA, that is, the interlatinx power dynamics. Whether these hierarchies are informed by regional demographics, by religion, by gender and sexuality identities, by language, race, or social class, Intralatina/os clearly struggle to establish a sense of belonging within their own families, within their social networks, and within Latino USA. The hegemonic ethnic segmentation that still structures our fields of study and our scholarship elides the spaces of inbetweenness that Intralatina/os inhabit and the challenges of surviving the rigid national boundaries that characterize their family and everyday lives. By sharing the intimate anecdotes of these twenty Intralatina/os from Chicago, Negotiating Latinidadoffers a new way of thinking about the term Latinidad as well as an affectively compelling introduction to the ways in which multiple ethnicities/national identities are negotiated in Latino Chicago. By examining race, language, public performativity, passing, and family traumas, the book reveals the painful yet also joyful and liberatory aspects of living in between two or more Latin American national communities in the United States.

Latinx Talk: What motivated you do to this kind of work?

Frances Aparicio: As a Puerto Rican young woman who came to the United States at nineteen to study at the university, I was not familiar with the rich history, culture and political challenges that U.S. Latinx communities shared. Since 1978, my own puertorriqueñidad has been not only enriched and expanded, but also profoundly transformed by my intimate relationships with my Chicano/Mexicano partners, their nuclear and extended families, and with my three MexiRican children. While I never planned to create an interlatino nuclear family, my own personal journey as the mother of three Intralatina/os definitely motivated me to reflect on the ways in which each of them negotiated between their Mexican-American and Boricua extended families. In addition, I also included the study of Intralatina/o subjectivities in my Introduction to Latino Studies courses whenever I could. When I taught at University of Illinois at Chicago, I invited mixed race Latina/os and Intralatina/o students to share their experiences with the rest of the class. These testimonios, always compellingly new to so many of our students, inspired me to interview Intralatina/os who had grown up in Chicago. The book, thus, analyzes the twenty interviews I completed between 2007 and 2011.

Latinx Talk: What aspect of the Latinx Talk project does your book most align with? What can our readers gain from your book?

Frances Aparicio: Latinx Talk is committed to a further understanding of our identities, and in this way, my book clearly exhorts us all, as scholars and students, to complicate our approaches to the term Latinidad as well as to the identity labels, such as Latina, Latino, and Latinx. The rich anecdotes and experiences that Intralatina/os shared in their interviews exhort readers to be able to acknowledge that Latinidad is very real, not only in our social networks, workplace, schools, and everyday lives, but for Intralatina/os, in the intimacies of their family dynamics. The book is also a call to engage in future scholarship that will allow us not only to complete demographic studies about Intralatina/os nationwide and in specific regions of the country, but also to produce oral histories, interviews, and engage in  additional ethnographies that will unveil the complicated negotiations that so many Intralatina/os engage in our communities. Methodologically, the book highlights the critical role of personal experiences in the construction of Latinx identities.

Latinx Talk: We have recently published on the state of Latinx Studies in the academy. How does your book relate to this topic?

Frances Aparicio: Negotiating Latinidad contributes to the expansion of Latinx Studies as a field of study.  By publicly acknowledging the existence of Intralatina/os as members of our Latinx communities, the book denounces the dearth of scholarship and lack of attention to Latina/os with multiple and/or mixed identities, a void that I attribute to the long consequences of cultural nationalism among us. Despite the demographic changes in Latino USA and the increasing spaces of interlatino interactions and shared experiences, we still write as if our ethnic communities only interacted with themselves, and with no other Latinx communities. By engaging interdisciplinarily with the multiple identities of Intralatina/os, the book compels us to question and challenge the segmented structures that separate Mexicans from Puerto Ricans from Salvadorans from Dominicanos, to name just a few. The term Latinidad takes on urgent new meanings as we begin to envision spaces of Latinidad that allow for the interaction and mutual transculturations that Latino/as from various ethnicities effect on each other and that Intralatina/os embody and constitute in their everyday lives. This acknowledgement is imperative during this political moment when solidarity, alliances, and cariño among us can lead to stronger practices of resistance and survival.

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