Conditions of Use
The guiding pedagogical framework of the textbook is a critical approach to teach “Latino linguistic, cultural, and historical diversity” for a broad collegiate audience. The textbook is divided into its English and Spanish versions, allowing for... read more
The guiding pedagogical framework of the textbook is a critical approach to teach “Latino linguistic, cultural, and historical diversity” for a broad collegiate audience. The textbook is divided into its English and Spanish versions, allowing for more instructional flexibility. Each of the eleven units contextualizes an audiovisual product from North, Central, or South America. The quantity and independent nature of the units ensures that instructors have plenty of options from which they can choose and do not have to rely on the textbook’s ordering of chapters. Three units are designed around a television series, three deal with short video series, and three around music videos.
Mexican and Mexican American culture is the most heavily featured. Four out of the eleven units feature an audiovisual product from Mexico and/or portray Mexican Americans: Joe T Hodo, the TV series Vida, Lila Downs’s music video for “Urge,” and Vivir Quintana’s music video for “Canción sin miedo.” * Other units focus on media from Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala, and Chile, or an amalgamation of Latino cultures.
The textbook does not include an index or glossary.
No rubrics or suggested requisites are supplied for the unit’s final assessments.
*The unit discussing “This land is your land” by Los jornaleros del norte and Netflix’s Street Food also reference Mexican and/or Mexican American culture but also discuss other Latino cultures.
Overall, the textbook does not contain overt errors in content. Some links connect to popular, living sources such as Wikipedia pages and social media whose content may change. No egregious errors were found in the linked sources; however, a link to an interview with comedic personality Joe T Hodo was actually a tweet that contained screenshots of the article. The copied images included overlaid icons that blocked a few words in the text.
Some of the terms explained in certain chapters are loaded with meaning and may require more explanation than the textbook provides. For example, in the Spanish version of the Vida unit, the textbook differentiates chingón (“capaz, determinado, simpático, hábil, cool”) and its feminine version, chingona (“Mujer problemática (de acuerdo a criterios patriarcales) porque dice lo que piensa y toma sus propias decisiones”) but does not offer supplementary information regarding the terms’ nuances or connotations, including their vulgarity. However, the provided translation of chingona in the corresponding English chapter qualifies the term: “In some contexts and from a patriarchal perspective, a woman who speaks her mind and makes her own decisions” (emphasis mine). This reviewer could not determine if the textbook’s definition reflects the TV series’ use because the show is only hosted on the STARZ platform. Likewise, the textbook’s definitions of pocho (“someone of Mexican origin who lives in the United States and has assimilated him or herself to Anglo-American traditions and customs”) and tortillera (“lesbian”) do not give overt explanations that the terms can be used as pejoratives or reappropriations of the word to reclaim its power.
The textbook’s title reads Culturas hispanas a través de la pantalla/Hispanic Cultures through the Screen. However, as the Introduction states, the students “profundizarán en su conocimiento de las comunidades latinas [y] se centran en personajes y/o temáticas relacionadas con Latinoamérica o con los latinos en Estados Unidos” (“…will deepen their knowledge of latin communities [and] focus on themes related to Latin America or with those of Latinos in the United States” (my translation).) Other than Spanish pop singer Bebe’s song “Malo” being briefly mentioned in the “Canción sin miedo” unit, the textbook does not include any audiovisual media from Spain. The unit featuring ten episodes of Netflix’s Street Food also includes an episode about Brazilian cuisine. Consequently, the use of the term “Hispanic” in the textbook’s title can be misleading depending on one’s interpretation of the term.
Some of the lyrics to the song “This land is your land” by Los jornaleros del norte are missing because they are inaudible and were transcribed.
If the above hyperlinks do to not work:
The selection of materials is relevant and engaging for most university students. Three of the units focus on emotions and relationships. Most of the selected media is, at earliest, from the 2010s and centers around relevant topics that will continue to be pertinent. Also, the textbook highlights social issues (gentrification, femicide, and historical memory, etc.) that traverse national borders and therefore provide fertile ground for comparing similar media across a multitude of Latino communities.
To combat some inevitable issues of broken links or the need for some updating, the textbook could provide information to the students and instructor about where to look for more sources. Such discussion could include a general overview of media literacy skills that would aid in determining a text’s credibility, whether it be a Wikipedia page or those that have been traditionally deemed academically valid. Or, if including popular sources as supplementary materials, discussion questions could ask students to think about the source’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, when presenting the unit about Jane the Virgin, an instructor could pose questions regarding the textbook’s use of tourism videos (Little Havana, Calle Ocho) as an overview of Latino culture in Miami, Florida.
Some students might find it difficult to access some of the media content. All the TV series are only viewable with a subscription to a streaming service. In the summer of 2022, Netflix features Street Food, La niña, and Jane the Virgin. STARZ hosts Vida. The series’ hosting sites may change in the future.
This reviewer uses this section to discuss clarity as well as presentation of material. ACTFL’s 2017 Can-Do Benchmark Indicators state that students with intermediate high proficiency can interpret or analyze an authentic fictional text and “follow the main story and actions expressed in various time frames.” As such, students should, very generally, already be able to discern the textbook’s audiovisual’s main ideas without any additional aid. (Differentiating circumstances including the text’s complexity, length, proximity to the students’ L1 culture, and students’ prior experience with authentic materials can increase or decrease comprehension.)
However, the textbook’s chapters include scaffolding that should aid students’ comprehension well past basic interpretation to determine details and nuance. The chapters’ information and activities act as an anticipation guide to activate prior knowledge and/or provide explanations behind the media’s sociopolitical references. If students truly struggle with reading the provided material, the attached English version of the textbook can provide guidance. Likewise, the textbook author purposefully chose media available in English and/or in Spanish, or with subtitles/closed captioning in English, Spanish, or both languages. (Due to the fact that much of the supplementary material centers around learning the media’s vocabulary, even if students only refer to the English versions, they will be forced to engage with Spanish language.)
The post-viewing and post-reading activities prepare students for the chapters’ summative assessments. Discussion questions are primarily geared towards students with an intermediate low-mid proficiency, asking them to exchange ideas regarding concrete academic and social topics. Many of the units pose questions about camerawork, characterization, sound, and other media literacy techniques, but does not include jargon and as such, are suitable for undergraduates not well versed in film or media studies. The final assessments are often individual writings or presentations that require an advanced low proficiency. Students must be able to adopt a different perspective, defend an opinion, or respond to abstract concepts that involve critical thinking.
The textbook’s format and language are consistent throughout and appropriate for the media that it studies.
The textbook’s online version is easy to navigate from one chapter to the next. Each chapter is independent of the other and therefore the chapters can be presented in any order. The sections within the contextualized units are not long enough to require additional links to the homepage, or to the top of the page. Subtitles and graphics also facilitate navigation, especially if using the online version because the user can easily move back and forth between the original text and linked sources. However, it might be prudent to suggest students download the pdf version for an offline reference. Users cannot download individual chapters and therefore must have capability to download and store a PDF of 2.7 MB.
Only three out of the 113 links provided were no longer active. In the unit, “Canción sin miedo” the definition for both compas and judiciales is linked to a Asociación de Academias de la lengua española page that states, “la palabra judiciales no está en el Diccionario.” In “La cumbia de memoria” unit, the lyric “Sofía” has a broken link.
Some of the links lead to general pages that require a student to look for the source that the textbook mentions. For example, In the Cartas de amor unit, the link brings the user to the hosting website, UN3.tv (or its accompanying YouTube site) and the user must search for the series. In the Joe T Hodo unit, the text tells students that they can read the satire piece “Para qué tener una Malinche cuando puedes tener un Córtes?” However, the link leads the user to the comedian’s site that hosts videos, which do not explain how the historical figures tie into the videos’ topics or humor. In the unit about the song “Shock” by Ana Tijous, there is a link to an article with the newspaper El País, which requires a paid subscription.
The author of the textbook suggest that the individual units be chosen and organized according to the instructor’s discretion. Each unit is independent of the rest and can be read in any order.
The reviewer did not find any problems with the textbook’s interface. Images were helpful to summarize important points of the text.
The reviewer did not find any major grammatical mistakes. In the Spanish edition, “qué” is missing its accent from the lyrics to the song “La cumbia de la memoria” from its titular unit. In the English version’s Introduction, sometimes the Oxford comma was used and then later not. In the unit about Street Food, the gender-neutral possessive adjective “su” is gendered in its English translation (“her”) which refers to male and female antecedents. Also, one of the listed doña’s in the same section is missing its tilde.
The author made sure to include a wide variety of representative texts, including those from communities that have been historically excluded from textbooks. In Cartas de amor, the protagonists from two of the ten mini episodes are members from LGBTQIA+ community. The relationships are given the same consideration as their peer episodes; the gay relationships are complex, non-stereotypical, and yet also illustrate the unique obstacles that non-heteronormative relationships confront. In the unit “Urge,” discussion questions encourage students to think about the music video’s references to indigenous women. Similarly, the units that study La niña, Jane the Virgin, and “Canción sin miedo” all deal with feminist topics. The unit featuring videos by Joe T Hodo discusses the term güero, setting the stage for discussions about race and colorism. In the unit about Jane the Virgin, students are asked to note characters’ physical appearances and how that shapes how the audience reacts to them. Instructors should note that many of the textbook’s topics are serious, can be upsetting, and are potentially controversial. For example, Netflix’s La niña narrates Colombia’s long-standing battle with FARC, child soldiers, and narcotraficantes. The textbook offers contextualization to combat a potential superficial understanding of Colombian culture as imbued with drugs and violence. The unit about “Canción sin miedo” deals with femicide in Latin America. The music video for “This land is your land” by Los jornaleros del norte openly criticizes former USA president Donald Trump’s plan for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Such topics are highly relevant and can inspire thoughtful dialogue but require the instructor to create an inclusive and respectful learning environment. Some final assessments require that students adopt a different cultural perspective while respecting the individual differences within those communities. For example, La nina’s final task asks students to write from a Colombian character’s perspective and note how they have evolved. In the sole case of the unit focused on “This Land is Your Land,” the final writing assignment asks students to compare their experiences with those discussed in the unit, which can be problematic. Students are asked to consider a time that they had to move and reflect on how they felt and consider those emotions in respect to the unit’s discussion of migratory workers. The assignment appears to assume that the emotions associated with any changes in housing is indicative to varied and vast emotional experience of Latino workers crossing back and forth across the United States and Latin America. Additionally, the question supposes students feel comfortable discussing changes in their residency or citizenship, which may involve divulging personal information.
I plan on using this textbook in the future.
Table of Contents
- I. Culturas hispanas a través de la pantalla
- 1. Street Food Latin America—Comida para hacerte sentir bien
- 2. Joe T Hodo—“¿Para qué tener una Malinche cuando puedes tener un Cortés?”
- 3. Cartas a mi Ex—“Una radiografía del amor en la era de la soledad”
- 4. Jane the Virgin—Telenovelas: el drama de la vida común y corriente
- 5. Vida–Soplaré y soplaré, y tu casita derribaré
- 6. La Niña—Reconciliación
- 7. “Canción sin miedo” (2020) de Vivir Quintana y el coro El palomar—Feminicidios
- 8. “La cumbia de la memoria” (2016) de Rebeca Lane—Derechos humanos
- 9. “Shock” (2011) de Ana Tijoux—Protestas de estudiantes
- 10. “This land is your land” (2017) de Los jornaleros del norte—Fronteras
- 11. “Urge” (2017) de Lila Downs—Corazones, cuerpos, cuidar
- II. Hispanic Cultures Through the Screen
- 12. Street Food Latin America—Comfort Food
- 13. Joe T Hodo—"Why choose a Malinche when you can have a Cortés?"
- 14. Cartas a mi Ex—“A report of love in the era of loneliness”
- 15. Jane the Virgin—Telenovelas, the drama of everyday life
- 16. Vida–I´ll huff and I´ll puff and I´ll blow your house down
- 17. La Niña—Reconciliation
- 18. “Canción sin miedo” (2020) by Vivir Quintana and El palomar—Feminicides
- 19. “La cumbia de la memoria” (2016) by Rebeca Lane—Human Rights
- 20. “Shock” (2011) by Ana Tijoux—Protests
- 21. “This land is your land” (2017) by Los jornaleros del norte—Fences
- 22. “Urge” (2017) by Lila Downs—Hearts, bodies, caring
About the Book
Este libro de texto busca fomentar el visionado crítico de productos audiovisuales contemporáneos y el reflexionar sobre la representación de las culturas hispanas en webseries y vídeos musicales. This textbook aims to promote critical viewing of contemporary audiovisual products and thinking about the representation of Hispanic cultures in web series and music videos.
About the Contributors
Ana M. López-Aguilera, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Bemidji State University