Section: Arts

Latinx speaker discusses memes, beauty and colombianidad

From a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz to an analysis of a music video from The Hamilton Mixtape, Kenyon’s Latinx Heritage Month celebrates the historical and cultural heritage of its Hispanic and Latinx students in a variety of events running from Sept. 7 to Oct. 12. Friday, Sept. 15 was the official opening with a flag ceremony on the first floor of Olin and Chalmers Library. Flags from Colombia, Peru and Mexico were hung around the room to remind passers-by about the importance of this local and national celebration. “This campus can sometimes make you feel lonely or it feels like you’re isolated from other Latinx folks, and seeing the flags really helps you remember that there are other Latinx people on this campus and that we all exist together,” said Mijal Epelman ’20, whose family is from Mexico and Argentina. On Saturday, Sept. 16, Professor of Latina/o Studies at Williams College Dr. María Elena Cepeda ’95 gave the talk “Putting a ‘Good Face on the Nation:’ Beauty, Memes and the Gendered Rebranding of Global Colombianidad.” Cepeda led the audience through an analysis of memes and social media posts relating to the activist organization “It’s Colombia not Columbia” (ICNC). The organization intends to dismantle Colombia’s poor reputation, garnered by Pablo Escobar and the popular culture that surrounds his legacy (such as the Netflix show Narcos), according to Cepeda. Cepeda explored the side issues that branch off of this campaign. Through analysis of memes and social media, Cepeda pointed out that this rebranding created a new narrative about Colombia, one of unfair beauty standards that favor those with lighter skin tones. Analyzing memes and Facebook posts may be new to academia, but Cepeda believes it is a critical portion of her study of gender and Latinx popular culture because social media represents people’s current interests. “I see them as a sort of mirror onto the political, the cultural moment, the historical moment that tell us what people are talking about,” she said in the Q&A session following the talk.

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