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Latin American Literature  
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Moreover, some of the most diverse societies in Latin America offer examples of the macho who makes it with both men and women without ever yielding an iota of his masculine persona. The figure of the maricón (the fag or the queer in the most stereotypic terms) is reserved exclusively for the insertee though there may well be a disjunction between the ideology of the macho insertor and the maricón insertee and what may in fact be the intimate details of their sexual practices.

Defining Homosexuality

Thus, Latin American culture may define homosexuality in two ways: either in terms of the Euro-American medico-criminal discourse, where any sexual commerce between individuals of the same sex makes them both homosexual or, more paradigmatically, in terms of a distinction between the insertor, who never loses his alignment with establishment masculinity, and the insertee, to whom alone a deviant sexual persona is attributed.

The Insertor/Insertee Model

In Manuel Puig's El beso de la mujer araña (1976; Kiss of the Spider Woman), it is clear that the queer is Molina. Even when Valentín has sex with Molina, there is never any question about Valentín's masculinity.

Babenco's film version for the American and international audience is disconcerting because Valentín is never "gayified," even when he and Molina exchange commitments. Valentín recognizes the justice of nonheterosexuality, whereas Molina assumes Valentín's revolutionary political activism.

Still, it is an unavoidable fact of Latin American fiction that the figure of the insertee, aside from any characterization as morally, emotionally, and psychologically disadvantaged, is routinely portrayed as the victim of macho exploitation, whether in terms of male rage, power politics, personal and social revenge, or opportunistic randiness.

This is a point that Reinaldo Arenas makes about the concentration camps for gay men in the early years of the Castro government in Cuba.

In the case of the Chilean José Donoso's El lugar sin límites (1966; Hell Has No Limits), the figure of the transvestite maricón serves only to reaffirm the masculinist code. Yet the macho who turns on the maricón is as much a victim of the social structure as the latter is, losing in the process the object of his erotic attachment.

Only when the macho is challenged over his masculinity in a public fashion does there appear to be any questioning of the division of sexual roles; when the macho's preferences are challenged, the violent--and murderous--reaffirmation of the male code must take place. But until that point, the separation of the public and the private--everything is permitted, but nothing is discussed--allows for a fluid sexual satisfaction that does not gibe with the Euro-American discourse on homosexuality.

The Euro-American Medico-Criminal Model

Of course, there are examples in Latin American literature of the endorsement of rigid demarcations between heterosexuality and homosexuality, with the latter looming large with any transgression of the former and affecting equally both partners in the transaction.

Luis Zapata is the most prominent gay writer in Mexico at the moment, but his half-dozen novels--even though they include dimensions of sexual liberation and the Latin American conflation of the personal and the political--have routinely been criticized for reproducing older European stereotypes and a typically American model of homosexual tragedy.

Zapata may not subscribe to any proposition concerning the inherent wrongness of homosexuality, but many of his Mexican characters, moving in what is often alleged to be the gayest of Latin American societies, certainly do not come close to anything like erotic fulfillment. One can understand the terrible fate of characters whose sexuality collides with tyranny, as in novels set in Puig's Argentina or Arenas's Cuba, but Zapata's characters exist within the confines of relatively open and noncoercive social contracts in contemporary Mexico.

Alternatively, one could argue that the passive liberalism of Mexico, which reflects the North American pattern of assimilating its uncomfortable minorities on the margins of society, provides Zapata with a model of even greater human aggression than military tyranny.

The latter is so explicit as to make clear what the battle lines are, whereas the former is ambiguous enough to make it impossible to define the question in concrete terms of human rights violations. This greater tragedy emerges in Zapata's Mexican novels and in texts from similar "liberal" societies like Isaac Chocrón's Venezuela, Luis Rafael Sánchez's Puerto Rico, or João Trevisan's Brazil.

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