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Rise of the Latin Lover
And other Cultural and Decorative Impacts Resulting from the Good Neighbor Policy
By Veronica Gonzalez-Rubio and B. Todi

From the mid 1930’s until the end of WWII the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American affairs, which had a motion picture division monitoring references to Latin America in the movies, was instrumental in bringing the markets of Latin America to the door of the average American in an effort to improve the relationship and strengthen the ties to the neighbors on our borders.

This is commonly known as President Franklin Roosevelt‘s “Good Neighbor” policy and it brought Carmen Miranda, Desi Arnaz, Anthony Quinn and Ricardo Montalban to Hollywood. It also brought us Bugs Bunny in drag, Walt Disney and José Carioca (Donald Duck’s Brazilian counterpart). It introduced Americans to the music of Xavier Cugat, and Latin American dances like samba and rumba became Western ballroom classics.

It formed the fantastical Technicolor landscapes, which became the “travelogues” of American perceptions of “Our friends to the South.” This presentation takes a look at how the wartime government with the help of the major studios, mostly for profit but also a little fun, deliberately formed images in the movies and in popular culture.

The presentation was written by Veronica Gonzalez-Rubio, (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0327992) and Todi (https://www.linkedin.com/in/boudiccatodi) for the Queen Mary Art Deco Festival and was subsequently presented at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood for the ADSLA and the Bellevue Club for the ADSC.

BIOS

Veronica Gonzalez-Rubio has a lifelong love of classic movies and—as a member of the Director’s Guild of America—has made that love into a career in the film and television industry. Born in Ecuador and raised in Los Angeles, her interest in the idea of the ‘Latin Lover’ started in childhood while watching the technicolor extravaganzas of the 1940’s. Veronica holds her bachelors in theater from Loyola Marymount University. She a founding board member of the Social Daunce Irregulars, an intrepid global traveler, a regular lecturer at Costume College, and writes a popular history and fashion blog B*tch, Pelisse!

B. Todi has worked in theater and music in SF, LA, Boston and NYC. A committee chair of the Art Deco Society, she is active in historic preservation and global living history events. Todi’s current livelihood is as a design and marketing strategist and she’s on the global team behind Ben & Jerry’s flagship scoop shops. This work has taken her to Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Tbilisi, and all over the USA. Todi still occasionally treads the boards performing in festivals and has choreographed/taught dance for the Edwardian Ball, Dark Garden Fashion Shows, the Social Daunce Irregulars, East Bay Waltz and Yale. She holds her MFA from Yale School of Drama and BA in directing theater from SFSU.

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