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Latina culture


Albany, NY – It's well-documented that Latinas are on the rise in the United States. Census data shows that for every eight people in our country, at least one is Latin American. Latin American cultures aren't known for empowering women. Hispanic men are known for their macho and dominating behavior. The theme of woman as traitor runs through much of Latin-American literature.

Still, there are signs that expectations of women are changing with in Latin America. One of Mexico's most famous artists is, after all, Freida Kahlo, a feminist and socialist from the first half of the 20th Century. And the country of Chile elected a female president last year. Add into those mixed signals a move to the United States. Suddenly a woman's role becomes exponentially more complicated and potentially confusing.

Ana Nogales underwent that shift when she came to the U.S. - and since she's a psychologist, she couldn't help but analyze her emotions. Now, the Argentinian specializes in treating Latinas living in the United States. Nogales appears on Spanish-language television shows on channels like Univision, and has even had her own Spanish-language radio call-in show. I met with Nogales at the Omega Institute in New York's Hudson Valley. She began by telling me how she ended up in psychology.

Ana Nogales helps Hispanic women reconcile cultural influences in their daily lives - but even language itself can be affect a person's identity. Lhasa de Sela makes music that mixes the melodies and languages from her life--English, Spanish and French. The Mexican-American singer/songwriter grew up in Mexico and the US, lived in Montreal and has now adopted France as a second home. Her first album, La Llorona, mixed Spanish melodies with a klezmer-sounding clarinet, and everything in between. It went platinum in Canada and had similar success in France. The songs on her latest album, The Living Road are in the three languages. Independent producer Sarah Elzas produced this next piece, where Lhasa speaks about the influence of languages and her life on her music.

Coming to the United States from Latin America can be quite a culture shock. Going the opposite direction is also jarring. That's what Cristina Kotz Cornejo found when she moved to live with relatives in Argentina as a high-schooler. Now a film professor at NYU, Cornejo has made a movie based loosely on her own experiences. 3 Americas follows a teenage girl named America. Her mother died when she was young. As a teenager, her abusive uncle kills her aunt - and without any other family in the U.S., America travels back to Argentina to live with her poor and ailing grandmother. Cornejo explores culture clashes and stereotypes throughout the film. She shows America's gradual acceptance of Argentinian life, despite her grandmother's vehement rejection of anything to do with the U.S. Cornejo sat down with me at the Woodstock Film Festival in upstate New York to talk about 3 Americas and the difficulty of living in-between cultures.

3 Americas explores fascinating cross-cultural issues - but how good is it as a film? Journalist and professor Lisa Phillips has a review.