Latin Numbers

Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance
Brian Eugenio Herrera
From the conga line to West Side Story to Ricky Martin, how popular performance prompted American audiences to view Latinos as a distinct (and distinctly non-white) ethnic group


Latin Numbers is a work of performance history, examining the way in which Latino actors on the twentieth-century stage and screen communicated and influenced American ideas about race and ethnicity. Brian Eugenio Herrera looks at how these performances and performers contributed to American popular understanding of Latinos as a distinct racial and ethnic group. His book tracks the conspicuously “Latin” musical number; the casting of Latino actors; the history of West Side Story; how Latina/o performers confront stereotypes; and the proliferation of the gay Latino character in the AIDS era. With a flair for storytelling and a unique ability to see the deeper meanings embedded in popular culture, Herrera creates a history that will appeal to popular culture enthusiasts, theater aficionados, and those interested in the cultural history of Latinos. The book will also delight readers interested in the memorable (and many of the lesser-known) Latino performances on stage and screen.

“. . .Posits the centrality of theater and diverse forms of entertainment (film, television, toys) to politics at a local and global level. Latin Numbers is a great book that will garner huge interest among diverse audiences, particularly students and scholars of American studies, Latina/o studies, and scholars of theater, performance, popular culture, and film and television studies”
—Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, University of Michigan

“In this extremely well-polished and captivating historical account, Brian Herrera documents the deep tradition of playing Latino and performing Latinidad—in contrast to the popular presentation of Latino presence as new, novel, or emergent…. As a Latino Studies project, this is an extremely urgent and needed intervention.”
—Isabel Molina-Guzmán, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Latin Numbers is the breakout book of the year, and its impact will be significant. Brian Herrera, one of the most interesting contemporary voices in American studies and in theatre and performance studies, writes with intelligence and wit… His book transforms our knowledge of Latino popular culture as it introduces new ways of understanding the history of Latinos in the United States.”
—David Román, University of Southern California, author of Performance in America: Contemporary U.S. Culture and the Performing Arts

Cover design by Michael Quanci. Illustration by Chad Sell.

Brian Eugenio Herrera is Assistant Professor of Theater at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Herrera shows that just when one thinks one has the position of the Latina/o pegged, that position is undermined by a number of different movements for change, some outside entertainment media, some inside its power structures, and some represented by individual actions on the part of Latina/o performers themselves…Recommended."
    --Choice Reviews
  • "Latin Numbers is an impressive and engaging work that makes a significant contribution to Latina/o performance scholarship by deeply examining the key roles Latina/os have played in shaping racial and cultural consciousness through US popular performance."
    --Modern Drama
  • "A thoroughly compelling ... significant, provocative book that will impact multiple fields and raise new questions for years to come."
    --The Drama Review
  • Honorable Mention, John W. Frick Book Award, American Theatre and Drama Society 

Look Inside

News, Reviews, Interviews

Listen: Brian Herrera on The Critical Lede (Link) | 11/05/2015

Product Details

  • 288 pages.
  • 20 B&W Halftones.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12106-9

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

Add to Cart
  • $32.95 U.S.

  • Kindle

Add to Cart

Choosing any of the above format options will take you to the appropriate e-retailer to complete your purchase. Pricing may vary by individual e-retailer. Please see e-retailer site for purchasing information.

For more information about our Digital Products, including reading systems and accessible formats, visit our Digital Products page.

Related Products

Add to Cart
  • $85.00 U.S.

Add to Cart
  • $32.95 U.S.



  • Latina/o Studies, Theatre/Performance Studies, American Studies, U.S. Cultural History, Popular Culture Studies, Media Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, West Side Story, Rita Moreno, Ricardo Montalban, Juano Hernandez, Mel Ferrer, Longtime Companion, Luis Valdez, Zoot Suit, Latina/o Performance, Musical Theatre