Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Hispanic Studies


Dr. Rafael Montano


This study carries out archaeological research around the representation of the Latina/o soldier in American war-minded cinema. The theoretical orientation is comprised of a synthesis of sociological, New Historical, and genre-studies frameworks. I start from the assumption that images of Latinas/os in war-minded cinema—whether “negative” or “positive,” marginal or center-stage—come to propose, and in most cases reinforce, modes of “being” in the nation. Whether in the form of a colourful tokenism, vile-stereotypes, or suspect models of identity, these representations are hardwired to prescribe specific valances, to heed or to follow, of patriotism, sacrifice and positionality vis-á-vis the (white) heroes and all Others. It is by way of these prescriptions, I propose, that the filmic bodies of Latinas/os are effectively mobilized through the spaces opened up by war: those spaces typically imagined as being part of the homefront/warfront, as well as those less obvious sites forming around the imaginaries of the past, present and future, class, gender, language and citizenship. In sum, the tales of mobility we will encounter are ultimately also narratives of assimilation whereby the Latina/o is finally “accepted” into the fold of the nation. Of course, there are certainly films where the Latina/o is represented in more ambiguous terms. Hence, the Latina/o may be altogether absent from the narrative, for instance, or present in such a way that the predominant mobilization of his/her currency is challenged. It is here, I argue, where the Latina/o may transcend the tyranny of the “negative/positive,” in order to find a more richly represented existence.

There are a small number of articles which have tangentially touched on the representation of a few Latino-soldier characters and a few others focusing specifically on the emergence of the warring Latina. As there is no current work holistically tackling the representation of the Latina/o soldier in war films, this dissertation aims to be the first comprehensive approach.