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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Latin American Literature  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  

One could argue that Roffiel reenacts in Spanish and in a narrative framework a dominant-society perspective like Adrienne Rich's notion of a lesbian continuum. Roffiel's stance may be the result of the urban internationalization of Mexico City or it may be part of a postmodern position that must necessarily transcend local ideologies, whether those of Mexican machismo or those of Mexican marianismo (woman's compulsory adherence to demure sacrifice as modeled by the Virgin Mary).

Sara Levi Calderón's Dos mujeres (1990; published in English as The Two Mujeres [that is, Women]) is quite a different story, beginning with the added dimension of the Jewish minority status in Mexico City and the fact that the author uses a pseudonym, in order, one suspects, to protect the honor of her family.

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Dos mujeres is a novel of feminine rage in the face of a constellation of abusive forces that engage in every strategy possible to coerce--physically and psychologically--the protagonist into submission and subservience. Not surprisingly, and as part of an imperative to break with the (essentially gay male) prototype of homosexual tragedy, Levi Calderón's novel is a chronicle of triumphant liberation; however, the cost is a tremendous one, as successive layers of conventional feminine identity are stripped away.

The protagonist loses her identity as a good Jewish daughter, her identity as a loyal wife, her identity as an omnipresent soothing mother, and her overall identity as a dedicated guardian of the patriarchal order. Moreover, she violates the stern imperative to uphold a social pact of exemplary respectability in order not to occasion shande far di goyim (shame in front of non-Jews).

Levi Calderón's novel is, of course, the occasion for multiple levels of shame in its rewriting of the social text, for a sense of shame and outrage is essential to the lesbian critique of an implacable heterosexist order.

Dos mujeres reinterprets the matriarchal model, both in terms of Jewish culture, as epitomized by the Sarah of the Tanakh on whom the author slyly bases her pseudonym, and in terms of the Guadalupan myth, the figure of the mother as the servant of Mexico's patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The immigrant daughter's rejection of Guadalupan motherhood is as scandalous as her separation from traditional Jewish family life, a conjunction of elements that has ensured the novel an important place in contemporary Mexican fiction--much to the consternation of heterosexist feminists whose affinities lie within a Christian Mexican tradition that Levi Calderón appears to spurn.

The reaction of heterosexist feminists to Dos mujeres may explain why Mexico's most important contemporary woman writer, Elena Poniatowska, herself an immigrant daughter, has studiously avoided any lesbian resonances in her own impressive oeuvre.

It may, however, be possible to deploy a reading strategy by which the female protagonist of the documentary narrative Hasta no verte, Jesús mío (1969; Until We Meet Again) transcends patriarchal authority and her relationship with the author-narrator becomes sexually problematical in ways that challenge heterosexist feminist interpretations.

Homoeroticism in Alternative Texts

When dealing with Latin American literature, one needs to seek out homoeroticism in areas not immediately apparent when reading either as a foreigner or as a Latin American inscribed within a patriarchal order that denies the possibility of public discourse about alternate sexuality. One must look for materials that escape privileged generic or conceptual categories.

In Mexico, for example, this means attention to the song lyrics of Chavela Vargas, texts that are really quite stunning in their unabashed lesbian positioning, including a same-sex marking in the narrator-narratee relationship that is unique in female-voiced compositions in Hispanic society, where for either male or female singers a potentially homoerotic relationship (as in the ballads of Federico García Lorca or the love songs of the Mexican gay popular singer Juan Gabriel) requires either conventionally distributed sex roles or, at best, common gender ambiguities.

The children's songs of Argentina's María Elena Walsh and her fiction addressed to children probably cannot be demonstrated categorically to be marked by a lesbian consciousness. But there must be some point to be made about a woman publicly identified as a lesbian who devotes virtually the bulk of her creative writing to the production of literature for children.

One of Walsh's songs is the leitmotif for Luis Puenzo's Academy Award winning The Official Story (1985), a movie about women's consciousness and feminist solidarity in the face of a masculinist military dictatorship, concentrated in the figure of a little girl who is the tragic victim of an anarchy provoked not by rebellious women but by tyrannical men.

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