MLA citation:

Bender, Pennee.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association, <Not Available>. 2006-10-05 <>

APA citation:

Bender, P.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association <Not Available>. 2006-10-05 from

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Although movies had utilized Latin America as an exotic backdrop for years, the 1940s ushered in an intense �Latin craze� with Latin American music, dance, film stars and even cartoon characters inundating U.S. movies and entertainment. Carmen Miranda sang and danced her way through ten Hollywood musicals with Latin American themes. Young and old alike watched Donald Duck frolic in Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, and unite with cartoon characters from Mexico and Brazil to proclaim "all for one and one for all" philosophy in Saludos Amigos (1942) and Three Caballeros (1945). These Hollywood films served as part of a coordinated U.S. domestic propaganda campaign during the World War Two organized by the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA), a U.S. government agency lead by Nelson Rockefeller. This paper uses the OCIAA work with the Hollywood studios during the 1940s to illuminate how government agencies, Latin American artists and performers, business interests, and popular culture industries worked together to shift both international policies and perceptions of Latin America.

The OCIAA influenced feature film production through both official and personal channels. Nelson Rockefeller and John Hay Whitney, the first Director of the Motion Picture Division of OCIAA, had major investments in Hollywood studios and sat on the boards of directors of those studios as well as other cultural organizations. On the more official side, the OCIAA formed the Motion Picture Society for the Americas, (MPSA), a liaison organization made up of studio executives, agents and heads of industry guilds. The MPSA worked with movie producers to include Latin American locations, themes, music and talent into their feature pictures and suggested original script ideas, obtained background footage, and assisted in preparing special trailers for Latin America.

Twentieth Century-Fox produced numerous films with Latin American themes -- many featuring Carmen Miranda. Miranda has become an icon for the distorted image of Latin America in Hollywood films -- her identification with bananas, her use of broken and often comic English, her exaggerated portrayals of a sexually aggressive women, and her hybrid Latin songs. She is often characterized as a pawn of the Hollywood studios as they tried to please the U.S. government, but her on-screen and off-screen presentation during the 1940s reveal more complex and mixed messages She regularly acknowledged her role as a �Good Neighbor� while still insisting on asserting her Latin Americanness. This paper focuses on films sponsored by the MPSA and how the song lyrics about and images of Latin Americans in the musicals of the 1940s both conformed to and challenged government policy goals and U.S. business interests.