During the fist half of the 20th century, international interest in Latin American culture grew rapidly. In addition to the dramatic increase in technology and communication, this growth was due in large part to a regional increase in exported goods and non-local corporations, and the United States's completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 (viewed as opening South/Central America to the world [Dawson]). This interest infaltrated nearly all aspects of Latin America culture, from cigarettes (ex. Belmont) to pop-culture icons.

Use of StereotypesEdit

Shortly after international interest in Latin American culture rose, stereotypes began emerging of common trends and/or popular misconceptions. Bananas, first introduced to North America in the 1870's, became closely correlated with North America's perception of life in tropical Latin America. Other motifs, such as sombreros and spanish guitars, soon followed. Although these stereotypes were often harmful, they were occasionally embraced by the groups that were marginalized, creating symbols to rally around and empower through.

Exploitation of TraditionEdit

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Carmen Miranda, Brazilian Samba Singer, with Donald Duck in a promotional poster for the 1945 Disney cartoon "The Three Caballeros"

During this time, the international stage became open to Latin American preformers in ways previously impossible. As domestic stars began to florish and travel, the juxtipication of pride and scorn for "selling out" became more and more present.

Carmen Miranda, a Portuguese-born Brazilian samba preformer turned international movie star, exhibited this conflict for much of her career. Starting domestically in Brasil, her style was reflective of the Afro-Brazilian favelas.

However, as her career flourished she began spending more time in Hollywood rather than Brazil. This spurred Brazilian scorn, whom felt she had abandoned her native land to exploit the culture and traditions of their nation. This was exasperated by the United State's constant interveening and trend of Neocolonialism, causing Miranda to appear as though she was a tool for the U.S's Good Neighbor Policy. Adding to the problem, her roles in the United States continued to be less focused on her talents, instead becoming more cartoonish and focus on her signature fruit hat. These preformances led to her being accused of strengthening Brazilian stereotypes by exaggerating her mannerisms. For example, despite the fact she spoke perfect english directors often required her to speak with a thick accent. Despite this, Miranda opened the doors for many Brazilian musicians by bringing samba to an international audience as well as breaking through traditional gender roles of the area.


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Cover art for 1999 compilation album Tropicalia Essentials, showing the mixture of Brazilian elements with modern day buildings.

Tropicalia, also known as Tropicalism, was an artistic movement of Brazil during the mid-late 70's. Ironically originating in Bahia, Brazil's "historic hearland of culture" (Winn), it combined traditional Brazilian culture with music and elements of the external world of the time. In this way, it allowed Brazilian traditions to consume influences, rather than be exploited by them, resulting in pieces of the Beatles or Tango appearing in the middle of songs.

Although it may seem Tropicalia was similar to Carmen Miranda's style, it varied in a few ways. First, Tropicalia sought to preserve Bossa Nova by overriding the external elements and expressing a violent feeling of agression. In contrast, Carmen Miranda altered Samba to suit her audiences. Second, Tropicalia was centered in Brazil, while Miranda spent the majority of her career in the United States.


  • Carmen Miranda, Carmen Miranda Administracao. 2008. Link.
  • Dawson, Alexander. Latin America Since Independence: A History with Primary Sources. Routledge, New York, New York. 2011.
  • Winn, Peter. Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean. University of California Press, Los Angeles, California. 1992.

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