The original latino gangsta or how Hollywood created the urban jungle
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This essay will analyze Hollywood’s imagined and violent Latino communities of the Lower East Side and the South Bronx as envisioned in films featuring Nuyorican poet, actor, and playwright, Miguel Piñero. Short Eyes (1977), Times Square (1980), Fort Apache The Bronx (1981), Alphabet City (1984) and Almost You (1986) all featured Piñero, who in the 1970s and 1980s served as Hol- lywood’s “stand-in” representation of the poverty stricken, criminally minded Latino “other,” re- sponsible for the decay of once prosperous neighborhoods and the necessity for “white suburban flight.” Piñero’s legendary drug abuse and criminal activity conflicted with his successful acting and playwriting career and helped to define a generation of “Nuyorican gangstas” in film and television. The iconic persona of Piñero eclipses each of his roles; a “Grindhouse” representation carefully controlled by Piñero in what can now be viewed as Latinized self-branding. To experience performances by Piñero is to recall a history of manipulation, both by Hollywood and ironically, by Piñero himself. However, to deconstruct the chronology of his work is to stand witness to the eventual theft of his own voice, substituted by the cultural piracy of his self-made brand and later promoted by Hollywood packaged representations of urban Latinidad.