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Latin American Literature  
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Indeed, one of the sustaining themes of anthologies of Chicana lesbianism like Compañeras; Latina Lesbians (an Anthology) (1987), Chicano Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About (1991), and the Chicana material in The Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981, of which Cherríe Moraga is the first editor) is the coordination of Chicana-Latina culture and a profoundly spiritual lesbian identity that is disconsonant with white, middle-class, leisure-society images. The existence, and the sustained survival, of a homoerotics among large segments of the socially disadvantaged, or at least among those who only sporadically accede to positions of public privilege, may have escaped recognition because this homoerotics cannot be captured within the parameters of an internationalist gay sensibility.

Carlos Monsiváis's magnificent cultural critiques have underscored the deep homoeroticism of the poets of the internationalist Contemporáneos group in Mexico (late 1920s to mid-1940s), but have also delved into a wide array of popular culture practices that can be said to be marked by alternate sexuality, including homoerotics.

Manuel Puig was also interested in sexual modalities among subordinate groups, among individuals who did not recognize themselves as homosexuals not because they denied their "true nature," but because what their society called homosexuality or a gay sensibility failed to match the business of their lives. This was one of the reasons that Puig on several occasions energetically repudiated any validity for the concept of homosexuality.

His first--and for many his best--novel, La traición de Rita Hayworth (1968; Betrayed by Rita Hayworth), establishes a pattern of interest in erotic feelings and practices that match poorly both the medico-criminal concept of homosexuality and the politics of gay identity.

Puig pursued this pattern throughout his career. His last novel, Cae la noche tropical (1988; Tropical Night Falling), although superficially dealing with marginalized older women, may be read as a homoerotic text where gender roles have yet to be carefully distributed. Many working-class men populate the pages of Puig's novels, with their machismo tinged with emotions and experiences that do not conform to the conventional stereotypes of the heterosexual Latin lover.

The same is also true of novels by Mexico's José Joaquín Blanco, the narrative essays by Brazil's Glauco Mattoso (one of which also has a comic book version), and the social anthropological narratives of Néstor Perlongher, an Argentine working in Brazil.

There has yet to be an adequate analysis of homoeroticism among the socially marginal figures in the Cuban Severo Sarduy's fiction, especially texts like Cobra (1972), Maitreya (1978), and Colibrí (1984), and one suspects that this is so because they cannot be dealt with conveniently by the models of an internationalist gay sensibility.

Moreover, discussions of Sarduy's poetry always seem to stop short of his remarkably explicit homoerotic writing in El Cristo de la rue Jacob (1987; The Christ of the Rue Jacob) and Un testigo fugaz y disfrazado (1985; A Fleeting and Masked Witness).

Similarly, criticism on José Lezama Lima's dense novel Paradiso (1966) has been unable to decide definitively as to the presence of homoeroticism in the text, a question whose interest is compounded by the fact that the novel was published in Cuba at a time when those accused of homosexuality suffered draconian persecutions.

Virgilio Piñera's expressionist-surrealist narratives have also been resistant to transparent gay readings though Piñera was himself a victim of Cuba's revolutionary morality.

The Presence of a Gay Aesthetic

A gay sensibility or gay aesthetic may be detected in several prominent Latin American writers, even when homosexual themes are not present. These writers, whose texts do, of course, sometimes incorporate explicitly homosexual themes, include, in addition to Puig and Sarduy, the following: Brazil's Aguinaldo Silva, João Trevisan, and Silviano Santiago; Colombia's Fernando Vallejo and Gustavo Alvarez Gardeazábal; Mexico's Luis González del Alba; Puerto Rico's Luis Rafael Sánchez; and Argentina's Juan José Hernández.

Yet there has been nothing like a systematic critical exploration of the topic, in part, one hypothesizes, because of the absence of adequate models that take into account the general configurations of Latin American society and the specific circumstances of individual national cultures.

Such circumstances include, for example, the crossed paternity of Puerto Rico, caught between the U.S. and Hispanic social practices; the particular structural violence that characterizes life in Colombia for Alvarez Gardeazábal (and also for his acclaimed compatriot, Gabriel García Márquez, who has attained fame and fortune without ever having so much as hinted at a homoerotic dimension in his narrative world); the repression of the social outcasts and the uncontained urban specter in Blanco's Mexico City.

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