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Latin American Literature  
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Finally, one needs to examine even the commercially motivated popular art of someone like the Brazilian novelist Cassandra Rios. Her novels may be unabashedly written to be read on the beach during the lazy days of summer, but their audacious sexual transgressions, including nonchalant lesbianism, are as much indexes of shifting erotic sensibilities as they are of the commercial advantages associated with the exotic and outrageous behavior of her socioeconomically privileged characters.

Rios surely sells the bulk of her novels to bored philistines who enjoy the jolts of deviant sexuality that her unmistakable potboilers provide. But the very fact that middle-class popular culture texts in Brazil are transgressive in a way that is not true in the United States cannot be overlooked.

Such texts may offer a potentially productive opportunity to articulate a lesbian identity within the popular culture enjoyed by the dominant social classes.


Concluding comments regarding possible avenues of future research on lesbian and gay motifs in Latin America follow clearly from what has been discussed up to this point. On the one hand, there is the need to recognize that a way of talking about homosexuality as illness and crime has been incorporated into Latin American social consciousness as a consequence of international influences. The same is true of the concept of gay sensibility.

Yet both gay male and lesbian issues and identities in Latin America not only reflect the parameters of the internationalizing Euro-American models but also manifest a unique Latin American experience, including the remnants of pre-Hispanic homoeroticism. Perhaps the most abiding and cohesive characteristic of Latin American homoerotics, one that crosses gender and ideological lines, is the imperative to make the personal political.

David William Foster

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arts >> Overview:  Latin American Art

Gay and lesbian Latin American artists frequently use their art to portray their desire for sexual and political liberation, often combining traditional subject matter with personal symbols and insights to stress their longing for acceptance.

literature >> Overview:  Latina Literature

Latina lesbian literature is a fast-growing, vibrant, and diverse literary tradition that offers readers innovative models for creating alliances among diverse peoples.

literature >> Arenas, Reinaldo

Persecuted for his homosexuality by the Castro government he had once championed, Cuban novelist, essayist, and poet Reinaldo Arenas challenged all types of ideological dogmatism.

literature >> García Lorca, Federico

The works of García Lorca, internationally recognized as Spain's most prominent lyric poet and dramatist of the twentieth century, are filled with thinly veiled homosexual motifs and themes.

literature >> Lezama Lima, José

A major Latin-American literary figure, Cuban José Lezama Lima included problematic homosexual passages in his two best known novels.

literature >> Moraga, Cherríe

In her own works, Cherríe Moraga defines her experience as a Chicana lesbian; and in her capacity as editor/publisher, she provides a forum for traditionally silenced lesbians of color.

literature >> Puig, Manuel

Homosexual themes and motifs are suggested in a number of Manuel Puig's eight novels, and in the best known of them, Kiss of the Spider Woman, homosexual desire is central to the fiction.

literature >> Rich, Adrienne

Adrienne Rich, who aestheticized politics and politicized aesthetics, is America's most widely read lesbian poet.

arts >> Vargas, Chavela

Acclaimed Costa Rican-Mexican performer and singer Chavela Vargas became notorious for the eroticism of her performances and for her open expression of lesbian desire.

literature >> Zapata, Luis

The fiction of Luis Zapata offers a broad look into Mexican gay culture.


Acevedo, Zelmar. Homosexualidad: hacia la destrucción de los mitos. Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Ser, 1985.

Almaguer, Tomás. "Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual Identity and Behavior." différences 3.2 (Summer 1991): 75-100.

Bruce-Novoa, Juan. "Homosexuality and the Chicano Novel." Confluencia; revista hispánica de cultura y literatura 2.1 (1986): 69-87. Also in European Perspectives on Hispanic Literature of the United States. Genvieve Fabre, ed. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1988. 98-106.

Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us about. Carla Trujillo, ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1991.

Compañeras: Latina Lesbians (an Anthology). Juanita Ramos, ed. New York: Latina Lesbian History Project, 1987.

Foster, David William. Gay and Lesbian Themes in Latin American Literature. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

Fry, Peter. "Da hierarquia á igualdade: a construção histórica da homossexualidade." Para inglês ver; identidade e política na cultura brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 1982. 87-115.

_____. "Léonie, Pompinha, Amaro e Aleixo, prostituição, homossexualidade e raça em dois romances naturalistas." Caminhos cruzados; linguagem, antropologia e ciências naturais. São Paulo, 1982. 33-51.

Howes, Robert. "The Literature of Outsiders: the Literature of the Gay Community in Latin America." Latin American Masses and Minorities: Their Images and Realities. Dan C. Hazen, ed. SALALM no. 30. Madison: SALALM Secretariat, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin, 1985. 1:288--304;

Jáuregui, Carlos Luis. La homosexualidad en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Tarso, 1978.

Jockl, Alejandro. Ahora, los gay. Buenos Aires: Ediciones de la Pluma, 1984.

Leyland, Winston, ed. My Deep Dark Pain is Love; a Collection of Latin American Gay Fiction. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1983.

_____. Now the Volcano; an Anthology of Latin American Gay Literature. Trans. by Erskine Lane, Franklin D. Blanton, and Simon Karlinsky. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1979.

Lumsden, Ian. Homosexualidad: sociedad y estado en México. México, D.F.: Solediciones; Toronto: Canadian Gay Archives, 1991.

Moraga, Cherríe. Loving in the War Years: lo que nunca pasó por sus labios. Boston: South End, 1983.

Mott, Luiz. Escravidão, homossexualidade e demonologia. São Paulo: Icone, 1988.

Murray, Stephen O., ed. Male Homosexuality in Central and South America. San Francisco: Instituto Obregón; New York: GAU-NY, 1987.

Parker, Richard G. Bodies, Pleasures, and Passions; Sexual Culture in Contemporary Brazil. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.

Paz, Octavio. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz o las trampas de la fe. México, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1982.

Schaefer-Rodríguez, Claudia. "The Power of Subversive Imagination: Homosexual Utopian Discourse in Contemporary Mexican Literature." Latin American Literary Review 33 (1989): 29-41.

Schwartz, Kessel. "Homosexuality as a Theme in Representative Contemporary Spanish American Novels." Kentucky Romance Quarterly 22 (1975): 247-257.

This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1981.

Trevisan, João S. Perverts in Paradise. Trans. Martin Foreman. London: GMP Publications, 1986. Originally published as Devassos no paraíso (1986).

Young, Allen. Gays under the Cuban Revolution. San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1981.


    Citation Information
    Author: Foster, David William  
    Entry Title: Latin American Literature  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated June 16, 2005  
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    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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