Coco Fusco Cultural Commentary

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  • Published : December 14, 2011
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Cultural Commentary

Coco Fusco’s book “English is Broken Here” grants the reader admission into the work of Latino/a performance artists born in the U.S. She gives insight into the viewpoint of the other versus that of the privileged making her book a refreshing outlook on the difficulties of assimilation and transcendence as a Cuban-American in the U.S. Her book sheds light on themes of “otherness” and that of “culture clash” through one of her better known performance pieces Two Undiscovered Amerindians.

This performance was intended to mock Western concepts of the exotic but instead took on a different facade when most audiences did not realize it was a performance piece. Their cage became “a metaphor for [their] condition, linking the racism implicit in the ethnographic paradigms of discovery”[1]. Reactions and commentary received throughout a span of two years allowed Coco Fusco to gage an even stronger sense of “otherness” where she was looked upon as a specimen instead of a human being. Being dehumanized in such a form cannot be easy to handle even when taking into account the fictional situation she and Gomez-Pena were in. However, the prevalent “otherness” for Coco Fusco wasn’t exclusive to the performance piece; as a Cuban-American she had already encountered that denial of one’s actual presence within society.

As a young child her family hid the reasons for and meaning of comments/looks made as a way of protecting her from the harsh realities. Even in later years when Coco Fusco returned from her study abroad trip to Paris, her family was exuberant by the thought of her speaking French. She anecdotes thinking that her “newly acquired French impressed everyone much more than [her] English ever had”[2]. This inadvertently established that languages of the Western world were superior to her vernacular Spanish. The implication was that if she relinquished the use of Spanish or even the hybrid Spanglish she would be more...
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