1. The Big Pine operations were large-scale manoeuvers begun in February 1983. Big Pine II, which is referred to in Latino, was carried out from August 1983. The manoeuvers were intended to increase the United States' military presence against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. They not only provided joint training for U.S. and Honduran forces, but also circumvented the American Congress' restrictions on support for the Nicaraguan Contras. [return to page 1 of essay]

2. All quotations from Latino are dialogue transcripts by me.

3. The film's representation of the U.S. army is also gendered in very obvious terms. When furious with Eddie, Marlena once calls him "Mr. Macho Green Beret." The male society of the U.S. military contrasts with the feminine-dominated private life of Eddie, strongly associated with his mother and Marlena, but also the community of the Sandinistas, where women, too, make war because they want to protect their community. On the gendering of the Mexican-American soldier's experience see also Mariscál: "The drive to assimilate through military service is exacerbated by one of the most pernicious legacies of Mexican culture: warrior patriotism. The idea that masculine behavior must include a readiness to die for 'la patria' is powerful in Mexican nationalist ideology. When transferred to the Chicano context it is especially dangerous since the Mexican male's rhetorical claim that he is willing to die anytime anywhere becomes a fatal reality once it is linked to U.S. imperialist projects." (27)

4. Compare this to an earlier scene in the film when, arriving at the Contra camp, Eddie and Ruben counter a white major's flippant remark about "spic country" with a good-natured repartee, i.e. gloss over the racism of the remark.

5. Released in 1984, this song by Little Steven (Steven Van Zandt) also takes a critical look at the U.S. role in the world during the early 1980s.

6. The term is adapted, of course, from E. Kantorowitz's famous study of the King's "two bodies" (the body natural vs. the body politic) in Shakespeare's history plays.

7. Compare the corresponding passage in Anthony Swofford's autobiography: "'Black. White. Mexican. Vietnamese. Navajo. The Marine Corps does not care! [...] You are now green! You are light green or dark green. You are not black or white or brown or yellow or red. Do you understand me, recruits?'" (28f.).

8. For the statistics of the ethnic composition of the U.S. military see the relevant sections in the U.S. national statistics:
http://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/ (accessed 9/3/2006).
[return to page 2 of essay]

9. More recently, Only the Brave (2005 ) has attempted to do the same for the forgotten contribution of Japanese-Americans volunteers during World War II.

10. See for instance the discussion of the film by Robert Burgoyne.

11. For a similar judgment see the review by Elizabeth Valenzuela : "the real purpose of Windtalkers was clearly to create a vehicle for yet more white stars."

12. For treatments of the status of Mexican-Americans in the U.S. Forces see B.V. Olguín. His survey of Mexican-American war narratives (fiction, autobiographies, biographies), from the Texas-Mexican War to Gulf War I, shows how such narratives have always negotiated a complex and ambiguous identity, including positions that see service in the U.S. army as a means of assimilation and integration as well as anti-hegemonic adoptions of sympathy with 'Third-World' enemies. Olguín argues for a differentiated and gender-sensitive reading of these war narratives that pays attention to the "variable status of war in Mexican-American history and culture" and reveals "that US wars demand, and may even enable, broader diachronic and more complex remappings of Mexican-American identity and ideology" (84). Olguín also provides a useful survey of extant criticism in the area. A seminal publication of texts by and about Chicanos and Chicanas in the Vietnam war is George Mariscál's collection Aztlán and Viet Nam.

13. The film is, among others, the subject of the BBC documentary "Look Out Haskell, it's real!" The Making of Medium Cool (2001). See Paul Cronin’s article on this documentary and on Wexler’s work. For a more in-depth discussion see the chapter on Medium Cool in The Subject of Documentary by Michael Renov.

14. For a list see the entry on Wexler in http://www.cinematographers.nl/PaginasCoPh/wexlerhaskell.htm.

15. For instance, at the beginning of the film Marlena tell Eddie that most of her family are still in Managua, but later her father's funeral (we do not learn until then that the father actively supported the Sandinistas) takes place in El Porvenir, the cooperative which is also Luis' home and the setting for the film's final attack.[return to page 3 of essay]

16. In this context, compare the identification with the 'Third World' enemy of many Mexican American soldiers during the Vietnam War: Mariscál notes the "growing sense in the Chicano community that Vietnamese peasants and Mexican farm workers had much in common." (5)

Works cited


  • Glory. USA 1989, dir. Edward Zwick.
  • Jarhead. USA 2005, dir. Sam Mendes.
  • Latino. USA 1985, dir. and written by Haskell Wrexler.
  • 'Look Out Haskell, it's real!" The Making of Medium Cool, UK 2001, dir. Paul Cronin.
  • Medium Cool. USA 1969, dir. and written by Haskell Wexler.
  • Only the Brave. USA 2005, dir. Lane Nishikawa.
  • Target Nicaragua: Inside a Secret War. USA 1983, dir. Haskell Wexler and Saul Landau.
  • Windtalkers. USA 2002, dir. John Woo.

Secondary sources

Burgoyne, Robert. "Race and Nation in Glory." Hollywood and War: The Film Reader, ed. J. David Slocum. New York: Routledge, 2006 , 257-270.

Canby, Vincent. "Haskell Wexler's Latino, About Nicaragua." The New York Times February 28, 1986. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review (accessed 18/09/2007).

Cronin, Paul. "Mid-Summer Mavericks." Sight and Sound, 11.9 (2001): 24-27.

Ebert, Roger. "Review of  Windtalkers." Chicago Sun-Times June 14, 2002. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com (accessed 20/10/2007).

Kantorowitz, E.H. The King's Two Bodies. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957.

Landau, Saul. "The People's Cinematographer – Haskell Wexler." Originally published in  The Progressive April 1998.
http://www.cinematographers.nl/PaginasDoPh/wexlerhaskell.htm (accessed 18/09/2007).

Marrero, Pilar. "On Latino Minds – Non-Citizen Soldiers in the Line of Fire." Pacific News Service April 11, 2003.
http://news.pacificnews.org/news/view_article.html (accessed 23/05/06).

Mariscál, George, ed. Aztlán and Viet Nam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999.

Olguín, B.V. "Sangre Mexicana/Corazón Americano: Identity, Ambiguity, and Critique in Mexican-American War Narratives." American Literary History, 14.1 (2002): 83-114.

"President Bush Addresses the Nation on Immigrant Reform."
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/print/20060515-8.html (accessed 23/05/06).

Renov, Michael. The Subject of Documentary. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004, 21-42.

Swofford, Anthony. Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War. London: Scribner, 2003.

United States National Statistics.
http://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/ (accessed 9/3/2006).

Valenzuela, Elizabeth R. "Review of Windtalkers." L.A. Times July 1 (2002), F3.

Vernon, Alex, ed. Arms and the Self: War, the Military, and Autobiographical Writing. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2005.

Wunsch, Emma. "Activist Artist: Haskell Wexler." The Washington Free Press (1999).
http://www.washingtonfreepress.org/28/haskell.html (accessed 17/03/06)

To topPrint versionJC 50 Jump Cut home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.