Angela Vasquez '04
with Brian Delagado '04 & Pradine Saint-Fort '05
Angela was involved with two projects for LATS 41. She co-founded and dances in a traditional Mexican dance company at Dartmouth called "Ballet Folklorico de Dartmouth" and Angela wanted to create a web presence for the dance company. She also modelled with her friend, Brian Delagado, who conceived of and organized a photography project, entitled "Through the Eyes of Latinidad." Please see
project profile and
The two projects I worked on differ drastically, one dealing with tradition and the other with taboos and stereotypes. However, together they symbolize my new understanding of what Latinidad means to my own cultural identity. A website for Ballet Folklorico de Dartmouth was something that I had wanted to accomplish since the first day of the group's conception. Other universities, such as Stanford and Harvard, have incredible ballet folklorico websites that have been enormously useful to me in the creation of this troupe. I felt that it was time for our troupe to create our own website not only to display our group, but also to put Dartmouth College out into cyberspace as having its own folklorico troupe.
The concept for the photography project stems from the first photo shoot that Brian Delgado and I had winter term of 2002. This photo shoot, "The Construction of Romance," happened rather randomly. As soon as we learned of the final project assignment for this class, Brian right away wanted to do another, more riskier, photo shoot dealing specifically with Latino stereotypes and taboos. For the longest time I was hesitant about the project. The idea of random people actually seeing me in rather "scandalous" photos scared me. However, as Brian began to show more and more people photos from our first shoot and the reception was rather positive, I gradually became comfortable with the idea.
[Several visiting lecturers came to our LATS 41 class. One visitor was Alma Martinez, who spoke about her experiences as a Latina actor and professor of drama and inspired Angela's work with the Ballet Folklorico de Dartmouth - Ed.]
Alma Martinez will always have a place in my heart as one of the most influential Chicanas in my life. Alma Martinez helped me to understand that although Dartmouth might not be the most diverse and accepting place to attend college, I can still be proud of my culture and display it to the best of my abilities. Because if I don't do it, then who will?
Her words made me realize that Ballet Folklorico de Dartmouth could be more then just a traditional Mexican dance troupe. That is when I began my mission to make Ballet Folklorico de Dartmouth a recognizable and admired dance troupe on campus. Because of this class I stopped being afraid of how bored people would be at our performances and I started thinking of ways to introduce the college into the diverse and talented world of traditional Mexican dance.
[below, Angela describes her work on Brian Delgado's book of photography]
Besides modeling in the pictures, I also helped in the layout
of the book. The album not only presents an interesting and controversial aspect
of Latinidad, but it also tells the story of my past two terms at Dartmouth.
I have learned that the stereotypes propagated in the media can easily influence and improperly educate the audience. Also, one must be very careful and aware of the audience in the encoding of an intended message sent through the media and arts. Because audience's range in diversity, it is important to remember that everyone will not decode media and art in the same manner. It is therefore the duty of the artist, the encoder, to guide the audience to the best of his/her abilities toward the intended message of the media/art.
As media explodes onto the internet, the audience grows. However, because the ability to convey a message on the internet is open to practically anyone with access to a computer, the audience now has a greater responsibility toward recognizing stereotypes and deconstructing them from the onset. The internet is not as controlled and regulated as other media and is therefore dangerous in that it allows for misrepresentations of cultural identity. However, at the same time, the internet gives Latinos the opportunity to publicly define their own cultural identity.
[For the Ballet Folklorico project]
I worked in conjunction with Ivan Hernandez '03. With his knowledge in putting
together a website and my goals and perceptions for the website, we created
Ballet Folklorico de Dartmouth's first website.
[Regarding the photography project]
With Raúl Serrano as our photographer and Pradine Saint–Fort putting words to
the pictures, the photo album was a success. I feel we all worked really well
together and each of us added an important piece to the final project.
The creation of the [Ballet Folklorico de Dartmouth] website helped me to overcome my own fears of the internet and technology and gave me a greater appreciation for all of the webmasters behind the millions of websites that existed within the internet. Although I encountered some problems and setbacks when transferring the site to a different address I am happy with the basic layout of the [current version of the] website and I will definitely be contributing more to it as time goes on.
My role [as a model in Brian Delgado's photography project] deals more with my own identity issues of being the "good" and virtuous Latina woman. Many of my poses were of a seductive and sexual nature. Growing up in a Latino household, I was taught that such demonstrations of femininity and sexuality were nothing short of a one-way ticket to hell. In fact, at first I was embarrassed to show these pictures to even my closest friends. I was under the Latino cultural construct that such photos would only label me as a "bad" girl, basically a "cualquiera." This project gave me the opportunity and chance to defy my cultural limitations and explore my cultural identity in a less structured and artistic form.
Due to the fact that this course was project-based I think I learned so much more about my own cultural identity and how it can be defined through representations in the media and arts. I believe it was fitting for this class to be project-based as the media we studied throughout the term were projects and collaborations in themselves. The two projects that I was involved in specifically helped me to redefine my own cultural identity and sense of self. Because of this class not only was I able to break free of certain cultural stereotypes, but I was also able to embrace my identity as a Chicana. This class has taught me that I have the power to change negative stereotypes and redefine my cultural identity so as to express the way I wish to be represented.