Maria Elene Cepeda

María Elena Cepeda is Professor of Latina/o Studies at Williams College, where she researches the intersection of gender and race in Latina/o media and popular culture.  Cepeda is author of Musical ImagiNation: U.S.-Colombian Identity and the Latin Music Boom and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Latina/o Media. Her current project, Contradictory Labors: Gender and Transnational Media Narratives of Global Colombianidad, centers on diasporic Colombian media audiences at a moment of intensely gendered national re-branding.

"Moments of Recognition: Globalizing Latina/US-Colombian Girlhood in Bomba Estéreo’s 'Soy yo'"
In the summer of 2016, the viral music video “Soy yo,” (“That’s Me”) based on the hit song by Bogotá-based musical group Bomba Estéreo, emerged as a feminist anthem quickly hailed on social media as an “ode to little brown girls everywhere.”  Featuring eight-year old actress Sarai González, the song and accompanying video have been cited for their empowering vision of Latina girlhood.  As a pan-Latina/o media text, the video for “Soy yo” highlights the necessarily relational, globally-oriented nature of contemporary Colombian cultural production.  The video also encompasses a visual and sonic narrative that privileges Latina subjectivities in ways rarely seen.  Moving beyond a focus on the male gaze as so famously discussed by feminist film scholars, my analysis of “Soy yo” centers the female gaze.  I argue that the video is rooted in a series of feminist moments of recognition, and some of these protracted moments include the process of self-identification that many viewers experience when engaging with this media text. In this presentation, I address the following questions: What does the experience of media recognition entail for young female viewers unaccustomed to hearing, much less seeing, themselves in popular media? What does the insertion of a young girl as a paradigm for a sonic and visual Latinidad writ large – and arguably, global Colombianidad – mean? The music video and song also provide a fruitful platform for examining sonic Colombianidad and its relationship to happiness, a motif that has emerged as part and parcel of Colombia’s highly gendered global re-branding efforts in the 21st century. Finally, embedded in “Soy yo”’s status as an “ode to little brown girls everywhere” is an implied universality of experience – but how simultaneously might this be a uniquely Colombian diasporic or global text?