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January 1, 1998
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Listening to Salsa

Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures

Winner of the MLA's Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for an outstanding book published in English in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and culture (1999)

For Anglos, the pulsing beats of salsa, merengue, and bolero are a compelling expression of Latino/a culture, but few outsiders comprehend the music's implications in larger social terms. Frances R. Aparicio places this music in context by combining the approaches of musicology and sociology with literary, cultural, Latino, and women's studies. She offers a detailed genealogy of Afro-Caribbean music in Puerto Rico, comparing it to selected Puerto Rican literary texts, then looks both at how Latinos/as in the US have used salsa to reaffirm their cultural identities and how Anglos have eroticized and depoliticized it in their adaptations.

Aparicio's detailed examination of lyrics shows how these songs articulate issues of gender, desire, and conflict, and her interviews with Latinas/os reveal how they listen to salsa and the meanings they find in it. What results is a comprehensive view "that deploys both musical and literary texts as equally significant cultural voices in exploring larger questions about the power of discourse, gender relations, intercultural desire, race, ethnicity, and class."

About the Author

FRANCES R. APARICIO is director of the Latina and Latino Studies Program and professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Her books include Listening to Salsa (Wesleyan, 1998) and critical anthologies such as Tropicalizations (1997), Musical Migrations (2003), and Hibridismos culturales (2006). Her English translation of Cesar Miguel Rondon's The Book of Salsa was published in 2008. She is the founding member of the Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest Book Series with the University of Illinois Press. She is also co-editor with Suzanne Bost of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature and is currently writing a book on Latinidad and Intralatino subjects in Chicago.


"Deftly explores the cultural politics of Puerto Rican music, revealing how salsa illuminates the complexities of class, race, and gender identity among Puerto Ricans at home and in the continental United States."—ISAM Newsletter


"Destined to be a landmark in the study of Latin music, gender studies, and of modern popular culture in general."—Peter Manuel, City University of New York

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