In Latin America, perhaps more than elsewhere, culture is political and politics are cultural. This chapter takes culture to mean more than the arts and the theatre, and to embrace the whole process whereby we make sense of our lives and produce the meanings that configure our social worlds. Culture is taken to mean cultural politics and refers to the struggles individuals and social groups engage in over meanings and representations. Cultural politics is, above all, about identity, the ways in which we constitute our sense of ourselves. This chapter begins with a broad overview of the ideologies for change and transformation that have influenced post-war Latin America. It then turns to the role of religion in society, focusing particularly on the influential ‘Theology of Liberation’ and recent religious trends. Then we turn our attention to the so-called literary boom of the 1970s (Gabriel García Márquez, among others), which helped put Latin America on the world cultural map. Finally we examine various facets of contemporary popular culture, from the famous telenovelas (TV soaps) to the carnival.
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