Friday, July 12, 2019

Beyond borders: Complex identies and social networking in the quinceañera of Rubí Ibarra García [#5997]

M. Sidury Christiansen, "Listisimo para los #XVdeRubi:" Constructing a chronotope as a shared imagined experience in Twitter to enact Mexicanness outside of Mexico, Lingua (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2019.05.002.
  • Transnationals can transcend time and space online to co-create shared experiences.
  • Twitter viral events can serve as chronotopes for specific cultural participation.
  • Fields of belonging emerge based on how well people display cultural knowledge.
  • Co-creation of online chronotopes helps communities forge ethnic identities.
  • Studies on transnationalism that include online social media contexts are needed.


Communication technologies aid transnational communities in maintaining their relationships and strengthening their identities across borders. For example, by using digital media, communities can transcend both place and time to enter social spaces where they co-create shared experiences. This article explores how transnationals who do not belong to one single social network employ language and online participation in the micro-blogging site, Twitter, to co-create a chronotope, an imagined space that transcends geography and temporality, and in doing so, signal their belonging to a Mexican community. Using an online-discourse approach, I examine the participation of Mexican immigrants and children of Mexicans living in the US in an online viral cultural event: XV de Rubí, a celebration that marks the fifteenth birthday of a girl coming of age. I show that individuals use Twitter to co-construct an imagined experience in which they perform, negotiate and police ‘Mexicanness’. This article argues for more inclusive understandings of transnationalism that account for the ways in which people use the affordances of social media to enact cultural practices, keep in touch, forge ethnic identities, and display their sense of belonging to a wider Mexican culture.
It is common practice among people from the small, rural town in the central state of Mexico, San Luis Potosi, to send out flyers announcing a party and to invite everyone in their community.

A video invitation for the party of Rubí Ibarra García (Los XV de Rubí) was also recorded and shared by a local news outlet. In the video, Rubí's father stated that "everyone was welcome" to the celebration. The news outlet created a public "event" on Facebook and within hours the invite went viral.

Thousands of people physically attended the celebration and several more were virtual participants.

Christiansen noticed that people all over the world were sharing memes and pictures of themselves choosing clothes, food and pretending to go to the party. The party was covered by major news outlets in different countries. [...]

For this article, she chose examples from the most retweeted categories: attire (16.75%), making plans to attend the party (13.5%), criticism of the party, customs, or ranchero culture (11.7%) and food (8.3%). From those categories, she included the tweets that most clearly represented the diversity of engagement from Twitter users.

Christiansen noted that Twitter users found creative ways to participate in this cultural event and display their identities, despite their physical location. Mexicans in the U.S. used language to express their cultural belonging and often used Spanish in the form of a hashtag.

"The article shows how Twitter users virtually attending the quinceañera provided a strong sense of attachment to Mexican culture. Even when users appeared to distance themselves by using English or the use of strong language, they were speaking to the larger culture, claiming that they are Mexican, but of a different kind," said Christiansen.

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