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Latin American Literature  
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In most of these writers, the personal is correlated with the political, and questions of sexual politics are inevitably related to larger issues of social construction. Such relationships are emphatically evident in Alvarez Gardeazábal's novel El divino (1986; The Divine One), in which a favorably portrayed gay man is also a drug trafficker.

Any minimally satisfactory critical exegesis of this novel must work through the challenging correlations the author establishes, beginning with the questions of whether the character's homoeroticism is compromised by what is usually understood as a criminal activity or whether the depictions of both homoeroticism and drug trafficking are indicative of the author's revised interpretation of what is "good" and "bad" in Colombian society.

Lesbian Culture

Lesbian culture in Latin America is different from gay male culture and also from North American lesbian culture though it bears some similarity to the lesbianism to be observed among marginalized women of color in the United States. As in the case of male homosexuality, a distinction must be made between international cultural models and models peculiar to each society.

Sylvia Molloy is the author of one of the only two Latin American lesbian novels to be translated into English, En breve cárcel (1981; published in English as Certificate of Absence). Molloy, a Paris-educated Argentine who has been a professor at several Ivy League universities in the United States and currently holds an Albert Schweitzer chair at New York University, has written a novel in which lesbianism and First World feminism intersect.

The protagonist's background is Argentine, but her experiences are set in France and the United States and her recording of them reflects the private struggle of the writer to find an authentic self-expression. Clearly, these factors are all privileged, white, middle-class dimensions that make the novel immediately accessible to foreign readers.

In contrast is the performance theater of Mexico City's Jesusa Rodríguez, where the limited-access space of a private bar (Teatro La Capilla/Bar El Hábito, which experiences repeated police harassment), the lack of published texts, and the enactment of female proletarian subjectivities, as well as the distaste that her work has provoked among more establishment feminists, all point to a lesbian framing that escapes customary international definitions, even when it may be coextensive with the Chicana-Latina lesbian identity described earlier. Lesbian writing remains very much a minority voice in Latin America even though published writing by women, including lost and forgotten texts, has increased dramatically in the past two decades. One suspects that a combination of factors account for the paucity of lesbian publications, including a reluctance, in the face of opposition to feminist writing in general, to use literature as a vehicle for lesbian issues.

The apparent silence of lesbian voices may, however, be more apparent than real and may involve a serious matter of critical optics, whereby it has not yet been possible for us to see a sustained lesbian tradition among women writers.

Octavio Paz's book on the seventeenth-century Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, for example, is profoundly ambiguous and ultimately contradictory in its handling of the poems Sor Juana addressed to one of her patronesses, the Marquesa de La Laguina. At times Paz recognizes homoerotic sentiments, whereas at other moments he seems to dismiss such details as part of the conventional amatory rhetoric of the period.

This ambiguous response parallels the division in Shakespearean criticism concerning the love sonnets addressed to a young man. Yet, it is now generally agreed, supported by research in the area of lesbian nuns, that Sor Juana's poetry must be taken as the point of departure for a lesbian literary tradition in Mexico and Latin America, both in terms of the tenor of much of her writing, which is now enthusiastically endorsed as central to a Hispanic feminist descendence, and in terms of her personal biography, despite all the shadowy factual areas that render it so perplexing.

But if Sor Juana is a lesbian foremother for Mexican writers, it will require much intensive literary historiography and some powerful analytical models to fill in the gaps between her death in 1695 and the publication of the first lesbian novel in Mexico, Rosamaría Roffiel's Amora (1989).

Roffiel had already written some excellent homoerotic poetry before the publication of Amora, joining the ranks of such figures as Sabina Berman in affirming poetry as a privileged space of lesbian expression.

But as a narrative Amora allows for a full play of social concerns in the way in which it introduces intersecting lines between a generalized feminism that resists the overwhelming machismo of Mexican patriarchal society and a specificially lesbian sensibility that characterizes the intimacies between women who are brought together because of their shared sense of marginalization, repression, and oppression.

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