Ricky Martin’s 1999 musical hit “Livin’ La Vida Loca” brought the term “loca” into households across the United States. Ricky Martin gained his fame by gyrating his body while singing lyrics depicting a Latina woman driving a man insane with her sexual games, thereby popularizing an association of “locura” with Latina/o sexuality.
In this course, we will explore the multiple meanings “loca” has acquired in Latina/o literary and cultural production. We will examine how the term literally means “crazy” or “insane,” and analyze novels and poems that focus on the construction of Latinas/os as mentally unstable such as “Night Madness Poem,” “Small Madness,” and So Far From God. We will also read texts that focus on the relation drawn between “locura” and Latina/o sexuality, exploring short stories and personal narratives by queer Chicana writers such as Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga. Moreover, we will look at how the term “loca” is additionally affiliated with gang banging, as writers Yxta Maya Murray (Locas) and Luis Rodriguez (Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.) and filmmaker Allison Anders (Mi Vida Loca) demonstrate. Throughout, we will question how each of the connotations of “locura” feeds into and/or challenges stereotypical ideas about Latinas/os in the U.S. popular imagination.
Students will be expected to complete a number of writing assignments, including at least one essay for each of the three sections of the class. Students will also be expected to give in-class presentations on one set of the readings. Active student engagement, open-mindedness, and sensitivity towards varying opinions are critical ingredients towards making this a successful course.