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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .

Making Latino News: Race, Language, Class
America Rodriguez

London: Sage, 1999
176pp. Index. Hb.: £29.00; ISBN 0-7619-1551-6. Pb.: £15.99; ISBN 0-7619-1552-4.

Rodríguez uses print, television and radio news in the United States to discuss the construction of a 'Latino' identity to represent the varied immigrant and non-immigrant populations which have only the Spanish language in common. She begins her work by examining the rise of Spanish-language newspapers in the nineteenth century and discussing how Spanish-language news broke into the new technologies, such as television and radio, in the twentieth. According to Rodríquez, a 'Latino' identity, which the media helped create, is composed of contradictory pressures to assimilate into the dominant US culture while simultaneously remaining culturally distinct. The bad organisation and inaccurate history in the introduction and first chapter immediately lessened my interest in this work. Worse still, it would appear as if these sections did not receive the same amount of editing as the rest of the book, since they suffer from too much passive sentence construction and confusing writing. For instance, Rodríguez refers to Mexicans whose self-concept was that of 'an exile' [sic] and says that these exiles were unlike 'immigrant people waiting for an opportunity to return home'. (?) (p.18) But as a reviewer, I had to go on and the superior research and writing style of the rest of the book offers some interesting theoretical frameworks for understanding Latino media. Rodríguez emphasises that racism, combined with assumptions that all Spanish-speakers were poor, has made it difficult for the Spanish-language media to convince potential advertisers that 'Hispanics' (she's not too careful with her terms), were a profitable market. Throughout this work, Rodríguez points out the inherient tension in the Spanish-speaking media born of the need to define 'Latinos' as a market distinct from the rest of the United States, while respecting distinctive national identies (such as Mexican, Cuban or Nicaraguan) and also respecting identities as US citizens. Ultimately, she notes that the construction of a 'Latino' or 'Hispanic' identity in the media was the result of commerical concerns and the need for profit. While this work offers some throught-provoking explanations for 'Latino' identity in the United States, I have too many reservations to reccomend it.

Dr Patience A. Schell, Birkbeck College

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