Rasquache aesthetics in Alex Rivera’s “Why Cybraceros?”


  • Debra Ann Castillo Cornell University




website, mockumentary, border, Alex Rivera, aesthetic practice, film


This paper studies Rivera's 12-year-old spoof outsourcing website, with particular attention to the 4.5 minute 1997 video that served as its original point of departure (he is now best know for his 2008 feature film, "Sleep Dealer.").   Rivera’s work in general involves a practice he calls a “rasquache aesthetic” of filmmaking.  In a recent interview he defines this concept more precisely, commenting on how Latinos/as channel the creativity that responds to necessity, as people with limited resources turn to repurposing and recycling for their original work. In the hands of Latino/a artists associated with rasquachismo, like Guillermo Gómez Peña, Lalo Alcaraz and Coco Fusco, all of whom have influenced Rivera profoundly, this practice of collage becomes a conscious and conscientious cultural practice.  In a parallel manner, in Rivera’s work, the tearing apart and rebuilding of cultural images adds texture and depth, and both his fiction and documentary films include stock footage, rough animation, public domain google map images, and a variety of other materials.

Author Biography

Debra Ann Castillo, Cornell University

Debra A. Castillo is Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, Emerson Hinchliff Professor of Hispanic Studies, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. She specializes in contemporary narrative from the Spanish-speaking world (including the United States), gender studies, and cultural theory. Her most recent books are Re-dreaming America and Cartographies of Affect: Across Borders in South Asia and the Americas.




How to Cite

Castillo, Debra Ann. 2014. “Rasquache Aesthetics in Alex Rivera’s ‘Why Cybraceros?’”. Nordlit, no. 31 (July):7-23. https://doi.org/10.7557/13.3053.