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Relationships or Identity

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Interracial relationships are unavoidable in a multicultural society. Yet, many people strongly oppose to encouraging such relationships, basing their views on prejudices passed to them from their forefathers. They believe that different backgrounds, different customs, different beliefs, different ideas, and different lifestyles are insurmountable obstacles to interracial relationships. As Havoc (2005) vividly demonstrates, the opposites can attract, but they cannot survive. Hector (Freddy Rodriguez) and his Latino friends are portrayed as the opponents to interracial relationships, which erode the solidarity of their Mexican-American community.

The plot unravels in Los Angeles, which is known as a racially diverse city, composed of huge numbers of immigrants. Meri Nana-Ama Danquah describes it as “a place where everything is subject to change, where even the land is not stable. It is a city of illusions; what you see is not necessarily what is… Far from being idyllic, it is a city at war with itself, a place where xenophobia and self-hatred run rampant”. Los Angeles history bears the marks of the skirmishes with Latinos. In 1943, for instance, sailors from the Los Angeles Naval Reserve Armory attacked Chicano youths, seeking revenge for the attack on an American sailor. As a result, a week-long ethnic conflict was sparkled, which is widely known as the “zoot suit riots”.  Police did little to stop violence and arrested Mexican-Americans for disturbing the peace. Some of them died in jail from injuries and many more were convicted of crimes they did not commit. It was probably of the brightest examples of racism against Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles. The city does not embrace its multiculturalism, dividing people across color, status and income parameters. A significant proportion of the city’s population does not hold citizenship and, as a result, immigrant minorities live in close-knit isolated groups. The Chicano/Mexican population that inhabits the East of Los Angeles forms the largest ethnic group in the region. In Havoc they are portrayed as an alien culture dominated by gangsters and drug dealers. Hector and his gang are well aware of their forefathers’ low social position, which resulted from illegal immigration, underpayment, poverty and poor living conditions. As a matter-of-fact, Latinos experience many hardships living in LA, such as language barrier, economic issues, isolation, prejudices, and discrimination, which stand in one row with the greatest challenge of all Latino immigrants – the desire to preserve their national identity, which is widely labeled as “Chicano”. The latter is a modern term for the assimilated Latinos who recognize their ethnic, racial, and cultural background in the mainstream American culture. Chicanos are “stuck” between America and the land of their origin, living on the border of two cultures and worldviews, which will never mix, blend, or mingle into a complete and harmonious whole. There is a wide chasm of prejudices, beliefs and value systems that separates Hector’s community from the one represented by Allison (Anne Hathaway) and Emily (Bijou Philips). The latter are an embodiment of modern American culture that promotes superficiality, individualism, and self-indulgence. Hector pinpoints that the American mainstream culture, which Allison belongs to, provides no solid values to hold to and is probably no match to their aboriginal Mexican culture:

“I know everything about you. Yeah, I can see right through you. Everything to you is a fucking game. You ain’t real. There’s nothing real about you. Your talk ain’t real. Your walk ain’t real. The way you dress ain’t real. You don’t even copy it from the real thing. You fucking get it from the TV”. 

Interracial tension

Hector’s community views itself as inferior, as they are denied the privileges and opportunities available to Allison and her peers. Decades of inequality, racial prejudices, discrimination, and stereotypes against Latinos have increased Hector’s bigotry towards deeper interracial relationships. However, what the Latinos are welcoming is interracial sex that does not impose any obligations. Two distinctly different cultural environments breed people with polar views and lifestyles. Interracial tension is fully exploited in the movie, although the underlying reasons of this tension or rather hatred are not openly stated, they are just implied. Past and current experiences related to migration patterns in Los Angeles are primarily accounted for the prejudices whites and Latinos have against each other. Between the lines Havoc hints that people do not enter into interracial relationships for the fear of losing their identity. After all, it is the only thing both Latinos and whites cling to and try to preserve from time immemorial. Julia Alvarez underscores that preserving identity within diversity should be a cornerstone of American culture:

“Many of us have shed customs and prejudices that oppressed our gender, race, or class on our native islands and in our native countries. We should not replace these with modes of thinking that are divisive and oppressive of our rich diversity. Maybe as a group that embraces mane races and differences, we Latinos can provide a positive multicultural, multiracial model to a divided America”.

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The socio-economic atmospheres

The movie deals with the socio-economic atmospheres in Los Angeles at the turn of the twenty first century. In fact, Latinos form the fastest growing national minority in the United States. Although Latinos account for about 50% of the Los Angeles County’s population, many of them live in poverty and complain of poor welfare, health benefits and education. They come to America in both legal and illegal waysattracted by the possibilities and opportunities, which they envisage in the “promised land”. The process of migration can hardly be stopped, in view of the fact that the US economy exerts its influence far beyond its borders, and various countries are strongly dependent on it. The flow of cheap labor force to the United States is one of the most hotly debated issues and many Americans believe that immigrants take their jobs from them and the land of abundance gradually turns into the land of depletion.

The second generation of immigrants is likely to dissolve in American culture. However, it is not emphasized in Havoc. What movies shows is not necessarily the representation of reality, although it is not far from it. Americanization has not touched the Latino neighborhood, as there is nothing in their lifestyle that indicates their Americannness. They follow their traditions and customs, reinforcing cultural ties with the home country. However, the main barrier to assimilation is economic, as immigrants constantly strive for equal payment and treatment at work. Some Latinos have achieved American Dream. Among them are Congressman Edward Roybal, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard, educator and diplomat Julian Nava and others. In 2005, Antonio Villaraigosa was elected the 41st mayor of Los Angeles, the first Latino elected to that office since 1872. 

Conclusion

Havoc does not delve into culture clash, allowing the viewers to arrive at their own conclusions. Obviously, the racial tension is a bit exaggerated, but no one can tell for sure to what extent. The movie addresses the problem of interracial conflicts, saying nothing new, just repeating the history. Havoc offers its black and white perspective on two distinctly different communities that cannot harmoniously coexist, because they apply different standards to measuring what is right and wrong. Latinos are not celebrated in this movie, nor are they sympathized. They are just labeled as poor and dangerous. The white society also has it numerous flaws and vices, which are underscored throughout the film. Rich teens try to use another culture to make their own identity, but their attempts cause them more problems than provide answers.

Interracial relationships bring about the clash of interests, lifestyles and beliefs. Latinos portrayed in Havoc are not eager to mix with the whites, for through history they were never on equal terms. Past and current experiences, social and economic factors marginalize the Latino community, making them vulnerable to prejudices and stereotypes. The Latinos view interracial relationships as a threat to their identity, which they try to preserve no matter what. Through this identity they are united into a distinctive whole.

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