Generating Latinas: Online Images and the Mechanisms of the Google Search Engine
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Latinos have recently become the largest minority group in the United States, and their growing presence is perceived as both a threat and an opportunity. The Latina body acts as a site where discourses about Latinos as a market, menace and object of desire converge, illuminating the tensions and ambivalence surrounding this group. In this article I explore these ambivalences through the Google Images search engine. The online search engine not only reveals what it is that users see when they search for Latinas, but the ways in which Latinas (as a visual signifier) are deployed. The top online images of Latinas fall into three categories depending on the search term used to "find" them: "Latina" generates pornographic photographs, "Hispanic woman" generates stock-image photographs and "Chicana" generates cholo-style, graphic artwork. While these three terms are often used in U.S. culture to refer to one ethno-racial and gender group, the particular images each term generates make visible not only the distinct socio-historical usage of the terms, but the hegemonic cultural deployments of them. Thus, unlike television and film which rely upon the subtle use of racialized and gendered codes, the images generated by the search engine lay bare the often covert codes that characterize Latinas offline.
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