Introduction: Community/Identity: Latin Americans in Australia

This article was first published in 2005. It is the introduction to a special edition of the Journal of Iberian And Latin American Research.*


This special section of JILAS is dedicated to the dual issues of community and identity and their impact on Latin Americans in Australia.  Academic research on Latin American migrants in Australia is scarce.  This special section of JILAS will shed light on this important, yet relatively neglected, aspect of Latin American scholarship.  Issues related to migration are quintessential in exploring the historical, cultural and political intersections of Latin American studies on a global scale.  The Australian multicultural context provides a fascinating social milieu to investigate such intersections.

The following six articles critically examine what it means to ‘be Latin’ in the Australian context and the authors reflect upon the political and social influences related to the creation of Latin community identities in Australia.  More specifically, the articles share two common themes: first, the understandings of community and the celebration of community by Latin migrants; and second, the influences of multiculturalism on the formation of Latin identities in Australia.  While the authors come from diverse academic backgrounds, their work is complementary due to their methodological approaches.  The articles are based on qualitative research studies into specific Latin groups from around Australia. 

Photo: Zuleyka Zevallos
Photo: Zuleyka Zevallos

Rafaela López has been a long-term activist working with Latin communities, and her article describes the factors that contributed to the history and development of the ‘imagined’ Hispanic community in Australia.  López analyses the migration patterns and the formal organisation of Spanish and South and Central American groups that have settled in the state of Victoria.

Silvia Torezani is an anthropologist whose paper examines the process of ‘naming’ Latin communities through a case study of Chileans in Perth, Western Australia, and their uses of the body in dance related events.  Torezani argues that the practice of labelling the various South and Central American communities in Australia using the identity of ‘Latin’ disregards the importance of local knowledge within the individual community groups.

Erez Cohen is an anthropologist whose article challenges multicultural notions of community through an analysis of communal fiestas in Adelaide and issues of place and ‘otherness’.  Cohen argues that these community fiestas should not be read as a means of maintaining an original cultural identity and, instead, that such representations are operating from within a complex set of identities and intricate social relationships.

Mytoan Nguyen is a political analyst.  Her article focuses on Chilean exiles in Melbourne who, on September 11, 2003, organised a public commemoration of the 1973 coup in Chile against President Salvador Allende.  For the Chileans who participated in these activities, mourning the dead is a form of politics that continues to shape exile cultural memory and, as such, informs the way this memory is transmitted as a collective narrative.

Bob Pease and Paul Crossley are social researchers whose paper investigates how male immigrants from Latin America negotiated ‘what it means to be a man’ in contemporary Australian society.  The authors adopt a social constructionist approach to gender that locates masculinity within specific historical and cultural contexts of gender relations, and they consider the extent to which Latin-American men reconstruct their gender identities in Australia.

Latin Americans in AustraliaZuleyka Zevallos is a sociologist whose article explores the ethnic identities of second generation migrant-Australian women from diverse South and Central American backgrounds.  Zevallos presents a case study of the social construction of pan-ethnic Latin identities.  She argues that the women’s construction of a pan-ethnic Latin identity is strategic because it allowed the participants to feel part of a larger minority group outside their individual country-of-origin groups.

This special section of JILAS offers a unique opportunity to enhance academic knowledge about the formation of the community identities of Latin-Australians, and it provides pivotal insight into wider questions facing Australian society, including the influence of multiculturalism on the lives of migrant-Australians.


The published article can be obtained from the publisher via the link below. Unfortunately it is pay service – check with your institution or library if you have access to these services.

Citation for published article:

Zevallos, Z. (2005) ‘Introduction: Community/Identity: Latin Americans in Australia’Journal of Iberian And Latin American  Research 11(1): 93-94.

*Note: At the time of publication, this journal is was called: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies, but it has since changed its name as above.