Salma Hayek's Frida: Transnational Latina Bodies in Popular Culture

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Given Hollywood's longstanding and complex cinematic relationship with the Latina other, Salma Hayek's career might have been relegated to the unidimensional terrain of Latina stereotypes (Lopez 1991): one more emotionally unpredictable, sexually voluptuous, thickly accented Latina appearing in Hollywood movies like Desperado (1995), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Fools Rush In (1997), 54 (1998,) and Wild Wild West (1999). However, with the 2002 release of Frida, the artsy biopic about the queer-feminist-marxist-Chicana-Mexicana- Latina icon Frida Kahlo, Hayek recuperated her on-screen image and public Hollywood persona. In this essay I argue that Hayek the subject disrupts gendered, raced, and nationalistic borders, while Hayek the body remains constrained by a history of racialized and sexualized mainstream media representations. Using an ethnicities-in-relation approach1 (Shohat and Stam 2003), the essay explores the relational construction of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, and nation through the commodified representations of Hayek's and Kahlo's identity and physicality. Furthermore, it examines how representations of Latinidad as circulated through public discourses about Hayek, Kahlo, and Hayek's performance of Kahlo connect to broader transformative notions of transnational identities. Acknowledging the academic and political contestations surrounding the use of Latina as a panethnic label (Oboler 1995; Rodríguez 1997), this project builds on Frances Aparicio's (2003) conceptualization of popular representations of Latinidad as a site for the formation of public knowledge about, and exploration of, shared and distinct Latina subjectivities. Such a framework recognizes that actual and perceived differences and similarities exist among Latinas. Nevertheless, the analytical focus is on how mainstream popular culture frames public understandings of Latinidad and Latina identity and how these representations speak to emerging contemporary Latina identity positions. Thus, rather than elide the cultural distinctions that exist between Hayek and Kahlo or erase the problematic question surrounding the identification of Hayek and Kahlo, both Mexican-born and -raised, as panethnic Latinas, this essay engages public discourses of Latinidad surrounding both women as a method for exploring the complex nature of Latina identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFrom Bananas to Buttocks
Subtitle of host publicationThe Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture
EditorsMyra Mendible
PublisherUniversity of Texas Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9780292714922
StatePublished - Jan 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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