Bejel+from+Gay+Cuban+Nation

Bejel+from+Gay+Cuban+Nation - WARNING CONCERNING...

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Unformatted text preview: WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT'RESTRICT IONS The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproduction of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research. If electronic transmission of reserve material is used for purposes in excess of what constitutes "fair use”, that user may be liable for copyright infringement. * EMILII'J BELIEL THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS C H I C A G O A N D L O N D ON ,é T W E '- V E Crossing Gender and National Boundaries n this final chapter I have decided to return to the initial theme of the book: the relationship between Cuba and the United States in terms of representations of nationalisms and homosexualities. But this time the problem is not reduced to a single figure in Cuban politics, nor is it limited to the city of New York (in chapter 1 I discussed some of Jose Marti’s texts written in New York City). The texts studied in this chapter come almost exactly a century after the article “Do We Want Cuba?" and Marti’s reply, both from 1889. Written by three authors of Cuban origin who hold American citizenship, the texts that I discuss deal with matters related to homoeroticism, CubannessLar‘id ._ 1..-.-. .,. the question of American “ethnicflLdentitie—sfiJy narrating stories set in Los‘Ang—elesf'CIiiWE—VVYork, Miami, and even Havana. First, I wish to examine the novel Crazy Love (1989), by “Cuban- American" Elias Miguel Mufioz (1954—). This text tells of the conflict of national and sexual identity experienced by a Cuban-American character living in Los Angeles. In this work the dissemination of Cuban identity and the ambivalence of sexual identity are complicated by the enormous pull of American consumerism and mass culture. Another author studied in this chapter is Achy Obejas (1956-), whose collection of short stories is titled We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress like This? (1994). Several of the conflicts seen in Crazy Love also appear in Obejas’s stories, but this time the main character is a Cuban-American lesbian living in Chicago who feels very much a part of US. ethnic and urban lesbian culture. From that position M CHAPTER TWELVE / 949. she must deal with the conflict of older Cuban relatives who have clung more tightly to the customs and values of another time and place, of another nationality. Also in Obeias’s texts, there is a social and political redefinition of mainstream America as well as of socialist Cuba; in this way these stories both affirm and break American and Cuban—American stereotypes. Finally, 1 undertake a reading of the short story collection Las historias prohibidas de Marta Veneranda (The forbidden stories of Marta Veneranda) (1997), written in Spanish by Cuban-American Sonia Rivera-Valdés (1937—). These stories problematize not only na— tional and ethnic identity, but also sexual and even linguistic identity: although written and frequently set in New York, some of the sto- ries' characters travel to and from Cuba, speak Spanish and English, mingle with characters of other nationalities, and often question their sexual identities. Moreover, they invite a queer reading that indicates a destabilization of the socially prescribed limits that rigidly maintain stereotypes. To complicate things even more, Las historias prohibidas de Marta Veneranda was honored with a literary award in Cuba by the Casa de las Américas in 1997 and was published in Havana in 1998. The success of these texts, both in Cuba and elsewhere, seems to carry implications of dissemination and synthesis, of exile and of return. Reading Rivera-Valdés’s works and those by Munoz and Obeias does not resolve the question of nationalities and homosexualities; instead, it opens new horizons and crossroads on these issues. Dissemination, Consumerism, and New Stereotypes In 1989 Elias Miguel Mufioz published Crazy Love, a semiautobio- graphical novel that was his first work in English.1 The story takes place in Los Angeles, where young Julian (later spelled without an accent as “Julian") lives. The novel’s main theme is the relationship between the opposing forces of the Cuban culture left behind and the new American culture taken up. The latter is driven by what could be called an ideology of success, which is articulated in the novel mainly through popular music; hence the title Crazy Love, after the well— known Paul Anka song. In fact, Julian becomes a pop musician during the course of his first-person narration. The story of Julian, a Cuban who as a child left his country with his family and now lives with them in Los Angeles, consists of fragments. Each part respectively 1. Elias Miguel Munoz, Crazy Love (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1989). CROSSING GENDER AND NATIONAL EDUNDARIES / 2/?) relates Julian's memories of life as a child in Cuba, his Journey to the United States, and his personal, professional, and erotic (including homoerotic) development in California. One of the main conflicts presented in this novel is the dilemma between the past and the present, between the pull of the culture of origin and the temptations and obstacles of the adoptive culture. In the novel, Julian’s grandmother is the figure who best and most radically represents the Cuban past. She purports to faithfully maintain the customs and values of the Cuban middle class of the 1950s alono with the family’s unity and “Cubanness” in their present situatiofi in Los Angeles. Her demands are often out of place in relation to the values of US. society. Faced with his grandmother's demands Julian desperately asks himself, “Why won’t grandmother let go of the past?" and “Why can't she realize that we’re far so far from Cuba?” (104). ’ . Through the narrative it becomes clear that Julian’s strongest desire 18 to achieve large-scale success in US. society. The more focused this desire becomes in Julian’s personality, the more he realizes that the values of his Cuban past constitute obstacles to his dreams But Julian’s drive toward commercial achievement finds other obstacles as well: his homosexual practices conflict with both Cuban and American cultural norms. Therefore, it becomes necessary for him to resolve not only the dilemma between Cuban and American cultures but also the conflict between homosexuality and heterosexuality. The most noteworthy gay practices in the narrative are those referring to the homoerotic relationship between Julian and Lucho, another young Cuban-American musician in the same band. Well along in the story, however, a new character emerges: a young American woman named Erica Johnson, who quickly becomes the vocalist, organizer, and highly efficient agent for Julian’s musical group, “LA. Scene.” Erica ends up not only taking control of the group, but also of Julian’s feelings, since he falls in love with her and discontinues his relations with Lucho. In this way, at the end of Crazy Love almost all of the basic story elements change or are radically inverted from what they were at the beginning. Erica has been the principal catalyst of the peripetia of the narrative: from this point in the story the group’s music becomes increasingly Americanized and therefore successful on a large scale. In addition Julian becomes increasingly well adapted to the customs and values of the United States (much to the scorn of his grandmother), abandons his homosexual practices, and surrenders himself completely to his heterosexual relationship with Erica. CHAPTER TWELVE I 9—H In my reading of the story, Erica symbolizes dominant American discourse, which brings with it both the highly prized commercial and consumerist success and the socially approved heterosexual relation- ship (in this sense, both cultures coincide). The novel ends with a letter from Geneia, Julian’s younger sister, in which she approves of her brother’s decisions and tells him not to sacrifice himself: “Don’t give up your life" (ibid). This appeal by Geneia as well as many other inferences in the text seems to imply that Julian’s conflict is between a tyrannical Cuban past and a “freedom” that can only be achieved by adapting to mainstream American values (with a heavy dose of consumerism and heterosexism). Nevertheless, the problem is not that simple. With the conversion of Julian’s musical group from a Cuban/Latino beat to a rather Americanized type of music, he, along with his fellow Cuban artists, is able to free himself from a tyrannical past and adopt a new and no less tyrannical set of rules and cultural stereotypes. Julian discovers that the course of his life shows a rejection of Cuban values and customs along with a progressive acceptance of American stereotypes, symbolized in expressions such as “American Success Story," “Hispanic rocker," and “The best thing to come along since Ricky Ricardo" (144—52). To attain commercial success, Julian’s Cuban cultural heritage has been almost totally defeated by the powerful postmodern American discourse. The cultural values ofhis homeland have been disseminated and practically eliminated, but the new consumerist American values have not brought with them any real sense of freedom. Indeed, in his desire to adapt himself to the mainstream values of his adopted society, Julian has even renounced his gay practices. Crazy Love attempts to offer a solution to the dilemma of Cuban versus American values and of heterosexuality versus homosexuality, but the result has been another dilemma, in which the new values are a kind of trap. The appeal of Munoz's text lies precisely in this realization, because it is not a story of “pure success" but rather an invitation to reflection, dialogue, and debate on Cuban and American values (both homophobic) of the past half century and what they mean for a Cuban-American like Julian. Another thought-provoking aspect of Crazy Love is the dilemma between writing a narrative text (a pseudo—autobiographical novel in this case) and writing popular music. The work is a novel, not a chart-topping pop music hit in the U.S. market. Crazy Love, although enjoying some success among Latino and Cuban-American readers, is far from being the large-scale commercial success enjoyed by such popular artists as Paul Anka. Not only did the book fail to become a DRESSING FENDER AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES / 745’ commercial success in the U.S. market, but it also failed to compete with another novel by a writer of Cuban origin: Oscar Hijuelos’s The Mambo Kings (1989), which was published the same year as Crazy Love and awarded the Pulitzer Prize.2 Are works like The Mambo Kings— works that completely fulfill the stereotypes American society main- tains and encourages for Hispanics and Latinos in the United States— the novelistic equivalent of the I Love Lucy television program? Perhaps the concessions Crazy Love makes to the U.S. market have been in- sufficient both in content (too many references to Cuban and Cuban— American worlds and to homosexual practices?) and in form (lack of polish and of the specific literary techniques and marketing niche that the U.S. literary market‘demands of a best—selling novel, or even of a novel well received by mainstream readers). It seems that Crazy Love is consumed by the values of the postmodern consumerist society, yet the sacrifices of language, style, content, and sexual orientation have not been enough. One of the main questions left after reading this novel is that perhaps there are other “solutions” to the cultural and sexual dilemmas that Munoz presents. Nostalgia for the New Home The “solutions” that can be derived from Achy Obejas's short story collection, We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress like This? (1994),3 have some similarities with and notable differences from those of Crazy Love. Obejas’s stories, like Mufioz's novel, were originally written in English, and like the protagonist of Crazy Love some of the characters in this collection struggle against the values and customs of their Cuban parents. Also, several of both authors’ characters engage in homoeroticism. Nevertheless, there are many important differences between Munoz’s novel and the short stories of Obejas. For example, although at the end of Crazy Love Julian seems to have adopted the values of the American consumer society, he still shows constant concern for his Cuban roots. He has cast them off, but not without great difficulty and second-guessing. Also, Julian ends up abandoning homosexual practices, giving himself over to heterosexual relations with Erica Johnson, who represents the values of the ‘American Way of Life." In contrast, most of Obejas's characters 2. Oscar Hijuelos, The Mambo Kings (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1989). 3. Achy Obejas, We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress like This? (Pittsburgh: Cleiss Press, 1994). CHAPTER TWELVE / 944 seem to be Hispanics or Latinos who have become part of American “ethnic minorities" and whose conflicts are not at all directly related to the values of their homeland or to a sense of nostalgia for its loss. If they feel nostalgia at all, it is not for Cuba or even for Miami, but rather for the city of Chicago. Also, almost all of Obejas's characters are strongly associated with the gay and lesbian identities and politics typical of the post-Stonewall world. The details and daily worries of American society in the 19805 and 19905 are depicted so thoroughly in Obejas’s stories that only a reader well versed in these matters can understand most, if not all, of the narratives. They touch on matters including automobile in- surance, the Chicago mass transit system, postmodern consumerism, TV dinners, the sort of relationships that develop between lesbians in major American cities, recent films, typical feminist attitudes, police behavior, therapy sessions, the sharp differences between gay, lesbian, and straight, drug addiction, and relations with those who have AIDS. The majority of the main characters in Obejas’s works are clearly and openly lesbian, although a “gay” male couple are the main characters in one of the stories. In that story, “Above All, A Family Man," the narrator- character Tommy Drake identifies himself as a gay man sick with AIDS who has relations with Rogelio, an illegal Mexican immigrant living in the United States. The effects of his illness are truly terrible and their description very characteristic of the suffering of AIDS victims. But the title of the story refers to Rogelio, who despite havmg a sexual and loving relationship with Tommy and showing great patience, understanding, and even tenderness toward his partner, never perceives himself as “homosexual” or as “gay.” As the text says, Rogelio. does not consider himself even vaguely homosexual. Instead, he thinks of himself as sexual, as capable of sex with a cantaloupe as with a woman or a man.” Rogelio “is no less married, no less a parent—in fact, he is, abbve all, a family man—and how he manages to juggle it all has always amazed me.”4 All of this “identity” or lack thereof in Rogelio pomts to the instability or lack of a real referent in terms like homosexual or gay, and therefore to the variety of identifications that those of different cultures acquire in relation to their sexual behaViors. What also stands out in this story is Tommy’s nostalgi_a__f_or Chicago. When he and Rogelio are in St. Louis, Tommy thinks nostalgicalIchif‘Chicago as his “hometown.”5 4. Ibid., 53. 5. Ibid., 59. CROSSING GENDER AND NATIDNAL BOUNDARIES / 1/7 The descriptions of those living with AIDS and of homosexuals, gays, and lesbians in somewhat difficult socioeconomic positions, as well as of drug addicts, lead to images in these stories that are often marginal in relation to mainstream America. Also, these images refer to a marginal world quite typical of any great US. city, in this case Chicago. Nevertheless, it is repeatedly mentioned that one of these characters is a writer, specifically a Hispanic journalist quite well known in Chicago (sometimes it is implied that she is Cuban, at other times Puerto Rican or simply Hispanic/Latina). Perhaps the scenes that most typify this world of the great American city are the descriptions of this journalist traveling on the Chicago mass transit system amidst great crowds of people. Not only does the novel tell us that she is a journalist, but the style of narration and description is frequently journalistic, with short, precise sentences; insightful, detailed descriptions; and penetrating observations. It should be noted that the title of the last story in this collection is also that of the entire book, which is somewhat deceptive, since this story is quite different in style and content from the others. Judging from the title of the collection, Obejas’s stories seem to imply a central struggle between a certain Cuban character and his parents. Nevertheless, this only takes place in the last story, the only one in the collection that covers the life of a narrator-protagonist from childhood to the present, emphasizing her Cuban roots. This text generally deals with two moments in the narrator—protagonist’s life: her arrival from Cuba at the age of ten in a small boat with her parents, and thirty years later (assumed to be the present of the narrative), when she is reflecting on the past during her father's wake in Miami. The protagonist, who now lives in Chicago, is a lesbian, a feminist, and in several other ways the opposite of her parents, especially in terms of social and political values. In fact, her political ideas could be called leftist in regards to socialist Cuba, since she has reconsidered her political position in this respect and has established a sort of rapprochement with Cuba. Some of the situations and commentaries in this story seem to imply that her political changes have come about as a result of the attitudes and values of feminism and the U.S. gay/lesbian liberation movement rather than from any Cuban influence. The two key moments from “We Came All the Way from Cuba" imply that all or most of the other stories in the collection take place between these two moments. The story mentions a number of historical events and political figures related to the United States and Cuba: the Vietnam War, the Kennedys and the protagonist’s father’s opinion of them (he is a stereotypical CHAPTER TWELVE / fl/fl Cuban anticommunist), the Bay of Pigs invasion, and Fidel Castro. Her father views all of these issues with an intense and often exaggerated patriotism. But little by little he starts to get used to the idea that a return to Cuba as a result of a U.S.-backed overthrow of Castro is not imminent, and so he begins to try to adapt himself to American life. But while his adaptation is minimal and comes politically from the extreme right, the protagonist's adaptation seems to be quick and from an iconoclastic, rebellious, leftist position. Her coming out of the closet as a lesbian seems to have some influence on her coming out politically as a left-wing liberal. All of the changes and conflicts of this last story lead the narrator~protagonist to reflect on her life, past and present, and even on what would have happened had her parents not come with her to the United States or had the 1959 Cuban Revolution failed. These questions are left unanswered, but returning to Miami for her father's wake allows her to put everything that has happened to her as a journalist, lesbian, feminist, and activist into perspective. Perhaps the death of her father can be read as the end of a Cuban-American stereotype. The representation of the protagonist implies another sort of person who on the one hand lends herself to new stereotypes (the typical urban lesbian in present—day America) yet on the other is able to break molds and limits, allowing for an interpretation that includes a possible resistance to the dominant power system. An Aesthetics of Destabilization In January of 1997 the Special Prize for Hispanic Literature in the United States(1 was awarded by Cuba’s Casa de las Americas to Sonia Rivera—Valdés for her collection of short stories Las histories prohibidas (1e Marta Veneranda (The forbidden stories of Marta Veneranda).7 This was a truly special occasion, since it was only the second time _...,.-»~—-- v ~—._._.___ .__- ___.—.E ~‘7___ in more .t-h‘aiT‘fh‘i’r‘t‘YIfii/E"yearf‘thaffhe Casa las..Amér.i9€1§ll§d. 5.0 honored a CubaiilAifi'e‘r‘i‘ca'n.“’Th‘é“"fi‘fst“wasmLourdes Casal, who in 1981W¢ii the Poetry prize for her Palabras jimtan revolucién (Words gather revolution). Rivera-Valdés, like Casal, identifies herself as a “Cuban-New Yorker," but unconditionally accepts her literature as be— e h n H ' ” ing more within American “ethnic literature than Cuban literature. 6. Premio Extraordinario de Literatura l-lispana en los Estados Unidos. A 7. Sonia Rivera- alde’s, Liis histories prohibidus de Marta Venerandu (The forbidden stories of Marta Venerantla) (Havana: Ministerio dc Cultura, Colombia/Casa de lasAmericas, Cuba, 1997). CRDSSINE GENDER AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES / fl/j This gives rise to some complex questions about categorization: is Lcis historias prohibidas part of “Cuban literature," or is it of “American ethnic literature"? My answer comes from my conviction that the delimitation of what is Cuban, American, Cuban—American, or Ethnic is often the product of political and discursive struggles more than of ontological realities. Of course, there are elements of identification and shared memory that help to construct a “national identity" or group, but I think that even the concept of nation is a category in a constant state of change, which serves as the battleground for several opposing discourses, since the limits of a nation are not real but “imagined” (in the sense that Benedict Anderson uses the term).3 The very instability and porosity in the parameters of the concept of nation are what lead many citizens to try to mark the boundaries that determine (or try to determine) where this idea called “our nation” begins and ends. This dissemination of national borders does not, in my opinion, imply that we should not take seriously the political position of citizens who adopt a defensive attitude toward other nations or powers when they deem it necessary. Rather, I wish to draw a distinction here between a category's ontological implications and the political and strategic needs of a group of people in the face of another at a given point in time. Rivera-Valdés distinguishes between her “personal identity" and her “literature.” She was born and raised in Cuba, but has lived most of her life in the United States, almost entirely in New York, and has been a US citizen for many years. The themes and influences in herliteratiire are closely related to the “ethnic literatures" of the United States, above all to the work of feminists Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldi’ia. This is not to say that Cuban literature, both past and present, has not influenced her work; indeed, her texts are always written initially in Spanish, never in English, and the characters ofLas histories pro/abides are almost all Cuban women living in New York, although there are also Peruvian, Puerto Rican, Indian, Italo-American, and Anglo-American characters. The more one might try to categorize these texts, the more reductive the results would become. Many elements would be left out of such a classification and therefore the classifications themselves would become obviously arbitrary. The struggle for classification (and also for the process of assim- ilation/rejection) is at times obvious and at others quite veiled in 8. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 1991). nHAF-TER TWELVE / 19—0 Rivera-Valdes’s work. Although Las historias prohibidas was honored in lanuary of 1997, it was not published until the end of that year and only came out in Havana at the beginning of 1998.. Published by the Cuban Casa de las Americas and the Colombian Ministry of Culture, the book’s front and back covers were designed by Cuban artist Felix Antequera Amaral. Even with these covers, various discourses try to assimilate Rivera-Valdés’s text into an artifact of “Cuban culture. Antequera Amaral’s back-cover photo shows a young. woman. w1th black hair, dressed in a somewhat punk style: hair slightly frizzed; wide, striped pants coming to below her shoes; wide, black, long— sleeved blouse. This blouse is open to below the navel, exposrng part of her breasts, and she is posed dramatically against a crumbling wall typical of certain places in Old Havana (the photo is from a collection by Antequera Amaral titled Habana srempre Viva [Havana . a s alive . qlelie SCClllJ)Ctl0n offered by the young woman’s open blouse (her image could also be interpreted as the representation of a person havrng characteristics of a certain lesbian stereotype or. of the new .Cuban generation) takes on new possibilities with the front cover. This cover shows a head—and-shoulders close—up of the young woman in a two- by-two-inch square at the viewer’s lower right, superimposed over a larger, somewhat muted photo of a street‘in Old Havana. This stlrept is wide in the foreground but narrows as it recedes to the upper e 3, finally disappearing altogether in the brightness of the space beyon1 . If the seduced vision of the observer had prevrously been fixed on t re torso and barely covered breasts of the young woman in the back-covgr photo, this attention is now reoriented toward the receding of a M e street in Old Havana. The representation of modern young woman seems to have seduced us into a “Havana-ization’ of our gaze, initially lascivious and now nostalgic. There has been a contention for the initial libido by a reorientation toward a vision of Habana szempre Vlvfl. The nostalgic possibilities of the background photo of Old Havana seem to have been the objective (or at least part of the obje-ctivle) of the photograph’s seduction: relocate the lesbian body wifhgift ie stereotypical frame of Old Havana. The observer of the bolo H( e ore he or she has become its reader) has already been nostalgical y avana— " uban-ized. lzeflfilrlcike any cultural artifact, the front- and back—cover photos perc-1 mit several readings, whose possible interpretations become. CllSIPCI‘SC’ before the viewer’s gaze. So another posmble reading of th‘IS‘S iototi]: that it symbolically connects the texts of Las historias pro/HIM as w1 ' 7i v rl A l I CROSSING GENDER AND NATIEINAL BOUNDARIES I MU the most recent generation of Cuban writers and artists. The connec— ii i tion is not entirely absurd, since from a certain viewpoint of Cuban culture at the end of the 19905, what could be more like these texts full of scenes of lesbian eroticism, of marginal situations of liberated women who escape from their husbands to live an independent life, of intense bisexuality . . . than a clever image of the newest generation of Cubans? So the front- and back-cover photos may establish a link to the culture of resistance of this newest Cuban generation (above all, to the image that some of its members have projected). It also may be iii- terpreted as an assimilation of marginal eroticism (specifically lesbian eroticism) to everything that is stereotypical of Havana and intensely nostalgic. But the texts of Las historias prohibidas are constructed by an image that destabilizes all attempts at clear and precise definition; its aesthetic conspires against all processes of institutionalization or naturalization of the accepted limits. The intended assimilation of Las historias prohibidas becomes much more obvious in the note appearing on the back cover. It states that in these “forbidden stories” “the revival of the most tra- ditional concepts and stereotypes of citizens’ conduct is pursued and achieved."9 It seems to be understood, although not explicitly stated, that this “citizen” is Cuban. It is surprising to read this opinion about Sonia Rivera—Valdés’s stories, since they are characterized by precisely the opposite qualities. Can these mostly “lesbian,” “gay,” and “bisexual” stories of “Hispanic” characters in New York, whose female characters murder their husbands when they can find no other escape from machista abuse, be said to be “the revival of the most traditional concepts and stereotypes of citizens’ conduct"? It is rather difficult to discern what is meant by this note, but what seems obvious to me is that, apart from the intention of these opinions, the note implies a marked effort to contain the subversive possibilities of these texts. They deal With all kinds of “forbidden stories”; they are all forbidden precisely from the point of view of the official history of the nation, of traditional morals, and of the “stereotypes of citizens’ conduct.” All this leads me to believe that the dynamic of these texts projects a dissemination that a certain conservative ideology is trying to contain by encapsulating it within stereotypes. What characterizes these texts is not their stereotypical nature but rather their constant crossing of the lines of accepted codes, and their insistent questioning of thElimits w.._‘_.,___ 9. Spanish original: “[56] persigue y logra la reanimacién de los mas tradicionales conceptos y estereotipos de la conducta ciudadana.” Rivera-Valde’s, Las liistori'us prohibidas. CHAPTER TWELVE I 999 oLstegeotypes. That is why I would like to orient the critical reading of M “Las historias prohibidas toward an aesthetic of destabilization—that /‘ is, toward the representation of the transgression of national, cultural, -’- sexual, and authorial codes. But this aesthetic does not imply that such a transgression leads to a utopia outside the realms of power. There is no accessible space that transcends oppression; it is, rather, an illusory effect of the very discursive structures that this “outside” claims to overcome“) Rivera-Valdés’s texts question the mechanisms of homophobia and situate themselves in the place where various conflicting codes intersect. But, like all cultural artifacts, they still participate in some way in those same mechanisms of power and acquire their force of resistance from the structures of domination they hope to overcome. Las historias prohibidas is a collection of eight short stories and a “clarifying note.”11 This introductory note frames the stories, and “clarifies” that these forbidden stories have been compiled by Marta Veneranda, a Cuban woman who attended college in New York and now holds a PhD. in literature. Her American professor, Arnold Haley, deceased by the time the note was written, had sent her to make an ethnographic or “scientific” study of the relationship between what ) people consider shameful about their lives and the very deeds for which 3 they feel shame. Marta resists Dr. Haley’s method, since he comes to represent the American patriarchy with its discursive power of science. She prefers to approach the matter through literature. Of course, it is supposed that the eight forbidden stories the other characters tell Marta are real, but she does not make use of the scientific method for E» her study. These stories are more like therapeutic confessions that the J. narrator—characters tell 'to the narrator Marta. From this initial moment "i the rupture of numerous codes begins to appear. Martajlenexanda. (( resists scientific discourse and tI]gill.LCIEIgE...Qf_aD-AH\CLi(1311.111211]. A Hispanic or Latina woman residing in New York appropriates authority to choose both the method as well as the informants for her stories, and with this gesture starts what I could call a project of reclamation in which certain power structures are decentered to Open a public space for marginalized persons. Lesbian Utopics (New York: Routledge, 1994), 162. For an lamation of the lesbian body" in Latina artistic produc- tion in the United States, see Yvonne Yarbo—Bejarano, “The Lesbian Body in Latina Cultural Production," in Entiendes? Queer Readings, Hispanic Writings, ed. Emilie L. Bergmann and Paul Iulian Smith (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 181—97. ‘nota aclaratoria." Rivera—Valdés, Las historias prohibidas. 10. See Annamarie Jagose, interesting study of the “project of rec 11. Spanish original: ‘ CROSSING GENDER AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES / 993 In spite of the apparent variety of stories in this book, several patterns emerge. Four of the narrator-protagonists, as well as other secondary characters, practice homosexuality (three of them practice lesbianism and one, maleifio—mosexuality), but all of the lesbians are or have bigrlnlarried toflnlenuand have marital problems. I'ii‘ali'iios't' all Of the stories there is a sort of alliance among {he'wo‘m'én that helps them to subvert the established male order. The characters are frequently Hispanic or Latino/a and have experienced poverty, which they have overcome by the time of the narration of the story, to the point that several are professionals and function quite well in American society. Several of the stories tell of exaggerated incidents of sexual passion and cultural transgression, and throughout the entire collection official histories both of Cuba and the United States are notably absent. Only thfigicshavemalewnarrator-protagonists: “El olor del desenfreno" (The smell of the spree) and “Desvarios” (-Deliriums). In “El olor del desenfreno," Rodolfo, the narrator—protagonist tells Marta Veneranda of the unexpected passion he felt one day toward a very fat neighbor woman who gave off a “horrible stink" (31).12 Rodolfo says that it is inexplicable that he has been able to have passionate sex with someone like her, since he considers himself to be very tidy But I believe that there seems to be an obvious explanation for one aspect of his passion: Rodolfo’s unconscious attraction to the smell of the sea (which is not unlike the smell of the neighbor woman). Rodolfo states that as a boy he used to meet his girlfriend on a little bridge in Iaimanitas, near the sea. According to the logic of the story, it is implied that this smell is what lies hidden in Rodolfo’s subconscious, only to reemerge with renewed force when he finds himself near the neighbor woman with the sealike stench. This return to his clfldlioocfllguba in order to explain an adult phenomenon seems to be a psychoanalytic or Freudian interpretation, which, of course, it is; the story's logic leads me to this possible conclusion. But the representation of the Cuban coastal village of Iaimarritas is quite idealized, appearing as a utopian place beyond the problems of the world and its unpleasant realities. As is customary in these stories, “El olor del desenfreno” avoids all explicitmelitioriof’politics and history. These matters can only be per- ceived through the conduct—afid—Eiibtional conflict of the characters it is as if Cuban public life were present and had an effect on the char: acters, but they prefer not to give it explicit or detailed mention. They 12. Spanish original: “fetidez horrible." CHAPTER TWELVE / M4 are eccentric to official national history. Nevertheless, the narrator’s idealization of his childhood village in Cuba, and of his childhood itself, is important to my reading. Jaimanitas, his girlfriend, and the sea odor he associates with them are somehow present in Rodolfo. He retains a subconscious utopian feeling for his homeland that as an adult leads him to do inexplicable things. His exaggerated desire is associated with the utopian Cuba of his childhood, a utopia that leads to exaggeration and excess. But here I should note that the symbolism of his childhood utopia reemerges traumatically (and therefore may be symbolically and compulsively repeated in adulthood) at the very moment his parents are sending him alone to the United States as part of Operation Peter Pan. His childhood ends there, as he sees himself helpless and alone, separated from his parents and thrown into a totally unknown world. Operation Peter Pan came about as a political ploy of the forces opposed to the Cuban Revolution (principally the U.S. government). Its goal was to frighten Cuban parents with the notion that the Cuban socialist government was going to take their children away from them to be raised by the state. The anxiety of Cuban families was great, and Rodolfo was a victim of this political turmoil. Nevertheless, the reader must be informed about Cuban history in order to understand what Rodolfo is referring to when he says, “That’s the way it was, I came with Operation Peter Pan. That Operation hurt so many people" (29) .13 For all of these reasons, I can say that both his utopian childhood and the “Peter Pan trauma” mark Rodolfo in this story. Thus, Cuba is present in his (sexual) desire, conditioning it but not subjugating it, since in this and the other stories the conditioning is always restructured toward a new meaning. The Childhood utopia and the “Peter Pan trauma" serve as symbolic sources of Rodolfo’s adult passions. In “Desvarios” the narrator-character is named Angel information that we draw from the other stories, since the narrator does not tell us his name in the course of this one. All of the characters in these stories are linked by friendship and give subtle Clues for the reading of the other stories. Although Angel identifies himself as gay or homosexual, the story has certain structural similarities to “El olor del desenfreno." In “Desvarios” the explanation privileged by the story is quite obviously psychoanalytic, and the utopian place is a little village near the Mayabeque River in the province of Havana, where 13. Spanish original: “Asi mismo fue, vine con la operacron Peter Pan. Esa operacrén desgracio :1 111513 gente.” CROSSING GENDER AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES / Mtg Angel lived during his Childhood. The first thing Angel tells Marta Veneranda is that “[f] or more than twenty years . . . I haven't had sex with a woman. Always with men, and black men" (53).” But Angel, who is an adult and a math teacher at the time of his confession to Veneranda, hesitates between two mental symbols imposed during his youth that seem to have a paradoxical effect on the objects of his desire: Teresita and Sandokan. Curiously, these two characters from his childhood are’poor, and their statUs is that of servants or children of servants from Angel’s household. Teresita was a housemaid in the home where Angel was brought up. His relationship with her was one of dependence and is quite erotic. Sandokan is the young black or mulatto son of a servant. In his childhood, Angel thought of Sandokan as a kind of superchild, because Angel was spoiled and overprotected. Among other things, he was not allowed to eat fish with the bones intact (his mother, grandmother, and servant obsessively dissected and deboned each fish before Angel could begin to eat it), while he saw/Sandokan eat fish with the bones, head, and everything else intact. Angel’s idealization of black men stems from this. And here I must add not only the conditioning between sex and race, but also among sex, race, and social class. All of this combined seems to "explain" Angel's sexual attraction. Nevertheless, and to the surprise of the reader, Angel’s confession to Veneranda is not about homosexuality, nor even about his attraction to black men, since in reality he has very much assumed his gay identity. His "secret" is that in spite of his gay identity or identification, he has heterosexual fantasies thaFEEEfiéfiflflfllfififiéhhé{EtfiEiiiiilmpfiifiideas, which allow him to imagine himself“ sex withgwomen. Here the story takes a turn typicaEf—alffiosfall 0 those ill-Ellis collection: there is a destabilization not only of thi—s—(EEfly/iiggepied limits but also of marginal—idefiitit‘ies. Not‘bfilfa’re—t 6 orders of traditional codes—cfossedwtowartl "marginal identities, but they stay crossed for some time. Not even gay identity is stable, and Rivera-valdés's texts make a gesture that is more (Queer than gay/lesbian. The destabilizing image that predominates in all of'these stories avoids fixed categorizations, even that of gay or lesbian identity. Another type of destabilization that indicates an attack on machis- mo is shown in “Entre amigas" (Among friends) and “Los venenitos" (The little poisons). In these stories the narrator—protagonists literally kill their abusive husbands. In “Entre amigas" the narrator—protagonist 14. Spanish original: “Hace mas de veinte afios [ . . .] no me acuesto con una rnujer, Siempre con hombres, y negros." CHAPTER TWELVE I Mé tells how she disconnected her dying husband's oxygen tank after real— izing how bad he had been to her for so many years. In “Los venenitos" the narrator kills her husband with some poisonous flower pistils that leave no trace of the crime. In both stories the murder is not only justified from. a certain point of view, but also committed as a perfect crime. The authorities never discover the truth about these men’s deaths, and the wives’ friends help to cover up the deeds. Thus the texts situate the reader as an accomplice, perhaps as a “female accomplice.” Machismo has been dethroned and no one has come to its rescue, not even the readers’ morality, which has been curiously directed or manipulated during each of the texts in order to justify the murders. In “Los ojos lindos de Adela" (Adela's pretty eyes) the attack on machismo is not a murder but rather something that from the male character’s perspective could be called a scene of frustrated seduction. From the female character's point of view, however, it is a scene of symbolic castration. In this story, as in several others in the collection, Cuba is_ LIElltl011§g1,_b_u_t_1IIQS.ll.P.QlltiQfler historical commentary is " avoided. We are told that the narrator arrived in- New York in 1966 during the Vietnam War, but no further mention-is made of that great historical event. It istheprivate lives (made public through the act of telli11g)._.thatarg otiritcrqstand nof‘fIiEf‘eVéfitgéf.hum. Neither the . «"‘Cuban Revolution nor the Vietnainwar form an important part of any of the characters’ commentaries. “Los ojos lindos de Adela" is one of the most touching stories in the entire book. The poverty-stricken lives of two Cuban women in New York are described dramatically and in detail as, in their exile, they work in factories under sometimes unhealthy conditions. Adela, a childhood friend of the narrator's, begins to lose her eyesight due to the microscope she works with in a transistor radio factory. The narrator, who convinced Adela to take the job in the first place, feels guilty. They go to another factory, but Adela is unable to perform adequately and the boss wants to fire her before the Thanksgiving holiday. The narrator takes drastic action to keep Adela from losing her new job. The factory boss is a highly machista Italian-American who is constantly trying to seduce the narrator, but she always resists his advances. He is always advertising his masculinity and sexual prowess, but when the narrator decides to have sex with him so that he won’t fire Adela, he is unable to achieve an erection—a patently ridiculous scene. The boastful male is unable to even become sexually aroused; it has all been a farce, but an agreement has been made, and he cannot fire Adela. The narrator has symbolically castrated this “supermacho.” CROSSING GENDER AND NATIEINAL BEILINDARIEE / M7 In the story “Cinco ventanas del mismo lado" (Five windows on the same side) we see something common to all of these stories: a character who seems to discover her homosexuality but without definitively re- nouncing her heterosexuality. Mayté, the Cuban narrator-protagonist, lives in New York and is married to a man named Alberto; she also has a lesbian relationship with her cousin Laura, also married, who is visiting from Cuba. The seduction takes place in Mayté’s apartment (her husband is away on a trip) while the two women dance to some long boleros that serve as the romantic motivation between them. In her confession to Marta Veneranda, Mayté says that when she was danc1ng With her cousm she felt a “desire to conquer her, to sexually possess her" (21).15 It is obvious from‘ the bolero ‘scene and from the ? ’7' ___,___‘_..—~«—~—~___..—4... confession that lesbian desire here is conditioned alnfldnalsoerotically reclainfiidfiffihgergsexuflfiesire. Mayté has made a gesture both against and within the machista code, and one that we see repeated in Other characters of the “forbidden stories": the restructuring of a reality achieved by rearranging its components to create a new reality. The lesbian transgressions may be the most remarkable in the book, due to the repeated and scandalous nature of their rupture and the strictness of the code they transgress. But in this sense I must point out that the figure represented as the "lesbian" maintains an unassuming dependence on the norms of power, from which she seeks to distinguish herself. This aspect of “La mas prohibida de todas” (The most forbidden of all) makes it, besides “the most forbidden" story, the most significant. First of all, in this final story there is a reversal of the utopia that appears in the other stories of this collection. If the other stories suggest a utopia situated in the Cuban childhood of the narrator, in “La mas prohibida de todas” this uLQpliljé lgeatedneither in Chi_l__chQQfi_D_QLifl_CLLba. In fact, childhood and Cuba in this story are a destruction of the Cuban utopia and its relation to an idealized childhood. Martirio, the narrator-protagonist, is of very poor Spanish Republican parents from Andalusia. The father was executed during the Spanish Civil War, and the mother was able to leave for Cuba shortly after the end of the war; she was only seventeen years old when Martirio was born just after her arrival. Their life there was one of great misery, and we are told that the mother was a most unfortunate woman, always crying and complaining, and so she gave her daughter the name Martirio (Martyrdom). The mother lived among prostitutes, and from a very young age Martirio had sexual relations numerous 15. Spanish original: "ansias de conquistarla yo a ella, de poseerla." . iii/1V \ J K "F CHAPTER TWELVE / 9.9.3 ..3(J~" if 12;. t"- times with men who were almost always married. At eighteen she became pregnant and had an abortion. All these factors make the representation of the narrator’s youth in Cuba exactly the opposite of the utopian idealizations of the book’s other stories. I . If there is a utopian space in the story of Martirio’s youth, it is not that of daily life in Cuba but rather that of American cinema. In this text, the idealization of love in Hollywood mov1es, With their beautiful women, suffering in the midst of splendor, becomes the place of the first utopian space in this story (another very significant utopian moment will be established later). In those mov1es .‘They loved each other as if for the very first time. Their feelings intact, nothing had been able to change that impossible love" (103).16 In this way American mass culture becomes a deCisive factor in the structuring of the narrator’s desire, and also in the structuring of the Cuban culture from which she comes, Thus Cuban culture becomes “contaminated” by the American. This means that Martirio's heritage is fundamentally destabilized very early on by American mov1e culture. 2 This conditioning reaches such an extreme that Martino confesses that her passion functions largely based on what she has learned emotionally r 4))?“ from the American movies that have influenced her so much since / 1 J .3 _., )2 >1} Martirio and her mother left Cuba for New York in 1958 as a way of her girlhood. temporarily distancing themselves from the difficult political situation during the last years of the Batista regime, when Fidel Castro was leading the revolution from the mountains in Oriente. They stayed on and established themselves in New York. From what Martirio says about herself we also know that at the time of narration she is a writer (“author of several collections of short stories" [101])17 who'was‘ once a poor girl with several married lovers. The fact that Martino is not only ah informant at the time of narration (she is one of the characters in Marta Veneranda’s stories) but also a writer (as she herself says) destabilizes the narrative levels that had been established in the other stories in Las historias prohibidas. Martirio tells Veneranda, “I hope to get my own story about the episode from this conversation, that 5 why I’m going to record it” (102).18 Also, Martirio states that this story will be part of a collection titled Historias de mu;eres grandes y Chiquitas ' ' ' ‘ ' ' i tos intactos nada 16. Spanish original: 'Se amaban como la primera vez. Los sentini en , i r - - ,, habia logrado canibiar aquel amor imposrble. " 17. Spanish original: “autora de varios libros de cuentos. ‘ ' ' " ' io cuento sobre el 18. Spanish original: “Espero sacar de esta conversacron mi prop . . .7 episodic, por eso voy a grabar. CROSSING GENDER AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES / My (Stories of women great and small); in fact, this is the title of a still- unpublished collection by Rivera-Valdés. Martirio says that she wants to establish a distance between the character and the narrator, but in a sense exactly the opposite occurs: the more Martirio insists on this distance the more she looks like Marta Veneranda and the more Marta Veneranda resembles Sonia Rivera- Valdés. Obviously, the narrative levels become subverted by her state— ments. And Martirio says something that greatly complicates these levels: she tells Marta, “[1 want you to listen] from two angles: hearing the story so that you can recreate it, and at the same time listening with a critical sense, as I explain the aesthetic problems that I foresee in the writing of my text and the solutions I've thought of to those problems” (ibid.).19 With these statements Martirio expresses her intention for this story to have several writerly and readerly perspectives: that of the narrator—character Martirio as an informant, Veneranda as an active and passive listener, and the reader as critic. This entire effort indicates a synthesis of Martirio and Marta as alter egos of Rivera-Valdes’s. This process may produce an invitation for the reader as critic, but at the same time it brings the narrator-protagonist (Martirio) closer to the therapist-listener (Marta) and also suggests that the protagonists and characters of the other stories possess certain Characteristics of Rivera—Valdés. But, what is Martirio's “secret”?The narrator—protagonist’s attitude in “La mas prohibida de todas" is much more affirmative than that of the other protagonists. Martirio tells Marta Veneranda that she believes it is “important to clarify that I haven’t come because I think what I’m going to tell you is taboo, in the way you’ve defined ‘forbidden history’ ";20 here she admits that she has read or at least knows quite a bit about the other stories in the collection. She adds, “I fully enjoyed what happened, and I take responsibility for it"21 and “When I analyze it now, 1 see that within myself 1 was dedicated to seeking not love but a deception that my subconscious perceived as freedom from my enormous need for affection."22 But her “forbidden 19. Spanish original: “desde dos angulos: oyendo la historia para tu recrearla, y a la vez con un sentido critico, segun yo vaya explicando los problemas estéticos que prevco en la escritura de mi texto y las soluciones que he iinaginado para sortearlos." 20. Spanish original: “importante aclarar que no he venido por considerar tabi’i lo que voy a Contar, en el sentido que has definido ‘historia prohibida.’ " 21. Spanish original: “He disfrutado 10 sucedido a plenitud, y 10 asumo." 22. Spanish original: “En mi interior vivia dedicada a buscar, cuando 10 analizo ahora, no el amor, sino una decepcién que mi subconsciente percibi’a como liberadora de mi enorine necesidad de carir'io." CHAPTER TWELVE I 9.30 confession" seems to be the following: “what I didn’t foresee, what I never thought of in the movies, as a girl, is that it wouldn’t be men who would disappoint me in the end, but women. Yes, the greater part of Toii—ifiiTtic-r—elationships have been witfi~women, although as a young girl I was fascinated with men" (104).23 Martirio’s statement is clear: she was fascinated with men in her youth (at the time of narration she is fifty—five years old), but later experienced mainly lesbian relationships. But in spite of her avowed lesbianism, Martirio’s sexuality is far from being strictly “homosexual.” In fact, she tells how when she was young and already in New York, she met a young man from southern India while both were modeling for a painting school. His name was Shrinivas, and Martirio’s sexual-sensual scene with him is the most extraordinary not only of this story but of the entire collection. Their encounter was so exotic and fulfilling, and so delicate and sensual were his caresses, that Martirio, by then “disillusioned with love," resolved that “from then on [she look] for [happiness], certain that it existed" (117).24 The turning point in the story comes when it is revealed that Shrinivas lives with another man, his lover. In other words, Shrinivas is gay, or at least bisexual (he tells Martirio that he doesn’t sleep with women very often). Therefore, the only fulfilling "heterosexual" love scene in the entire collection occurs between a woman who at one point declares her lesbianism, and a man who describes himself as gay. This is typical of the defiabil’ 'Vngambiguity that appears throughout these stories and that in 7La Vinas prohibida de todas" is carried to ‘ the extreme. After her romance with Shrinivas, Martirio tells of a horrible mar- riage she had with an alcoholic Irishman named Mark, ten years her senior, who mistreated her. After their divorce Martirio “decides” to have only lesbian relationships: the names of her lovers are now Ada, Betina, and Rocio. The initial excuse for her lesbianism comes from a widespread myth that situates lesbian desire as derived from romantic disillusionment with men. Martirio, besides having the excuse of her bad experience with Mark, expresses a sort of lesbian utopia when she explains her reasons for “changing” to lesbian relations: “Woman with woman, without worries of pregnancy, I imagined a relationship free 23. Spanish original: “lo imprevisto, lo que janias calculé en el cine, de nir'ia, es que no seria de los hombres de quienes nie iba a estar decepcionada al final, sino de las mujeres. Si, la mayor parte de mis relaciones romanticas han side can muieres, aunque de jovencita nie fascinaban los hombres." 24. Spanish original: “en adelaiite la busque’ [la felicidad], segura de que existia." CROSSING GENDER AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES I 13/ 0f inhibitions, total pleasure, absolute intimacy, a perpetual party” 25 . . . . (124). Thus conceived, lesbianism is construed not so much as a subversion of machismo but more than anything else as a space of freedomflfrgileyerythjng. But lesbianism isialso aconstruct that is never simply a representation that functions as an absolute guarantee of escape from phallocentrism.26 The lesbian text is also a space in which discursive battles intersect, and the text of “La mas prohibida de todas" takes up various aspects of this issue. As for her relations With Ada, Martirio says that “I put up with more fi'Om her than from any man"27 and “[w]ith women everything became even more complicated" (ibid).28 She finally admits that “[t]he reasons I felt attracted to women were now very distant from the reasons I started seeking them out" (IZ6).2" But in spite of the self—deconstruction of the “reasons” Martirio gives for her lesbianism after her divorce from Mark, lesbian utopia does not \ ‘fl‘ entirely disappear in this text. In fact the story ends with one that, oddly adv i" enough, connects with the_sgexglityh/lai:tirio had learned in her youthl } U5“ .j . during her sexual sessions with older married men. These Cuban males ~y4'”;’l“l': frequepjyhfid’aflfiiyfifaliséxfial . _ have sex they had tol, "0, ‘lwi constantly say whatutheyuwanted frginthewoman. What CXCith them was he mise-en-soene of the woman—child. Among the expressions of these men’s “spoken sex,"—possibly the “most forbidden" passages in the collection—the following stands out: Abrete, niaiiii, ense’r'iale a tu papi todo lo que tienes guardadito entre las piernas y que tL’i sabes es mio aunque te resistas. Déjanie ver esa Horecita que voy a comerme poquito a poco. Asi. Dios mio que cosa mas santa estoy viendo. Asi . . . asi. No puedo creer que todo esto sea para mi’ solo. Ya veras que no vas a arrepentirte de liabérniela dado. Te voy a hacer gozar conio janiz’is te ha heclio gozar nadie. N0 vas a olvidarme nunca, aunque Cien mas traten de liacerte lo que yo te estoy liaCiendo. Nadie va a hacértelo como yo, con este gusto con que te lo hago y a nadie vas a darselo con el gusto que me lo estas dando a mi. Ven ricura de mi vida, cielo santo. (1 10) 25. Spanish original: “Mujer con niujer, sin preocupacioii de eiiibarazo, iiiiagiiié una relaCién libre de inhibiciones, disfrute total, intimidad absoluta, fiesta perpetua." Z6. Iagose, Lesbian Utopics, 160. 27: Spanish original: "le aguanté mucho mas que a cualquier hombre." Rivera-Valde’s, Las historids prohibidds, 124. 28. Spanish original: “Con las muieres todo se volvio aun mas enredado." . . . ii 29.. Spanish original. Las razones por las cuales me sentia atrarda por las niujeres aliora eran alenas a aquellas por las que comeiicé a buscarlas." CHAPTER TWELVE I 32:59. [Open up, mama, show your daddy what you’ve got hidden there between your legs. You know it's mine no matter how hard you resist. Let me see that little Hower I'm going to eat out bit by bit. That's it. My God, what a holy thing I’m looking at. That’s it . . . that's it. I can't believe all this is for me! You won't regret giving it up to me, you'll see. I’m going to make you scream with pleasure like nobody ever did. You'll never forget me, not even if a hundred other guys try to do you the way I'm doing you. Nobody's going to do it to you like me, the way I like doing it to you, and you'll never like giving it up the way you're enjoying yourself right now. Come here honey child, my little angel.] At the end of “La mas prohibida de todas," Martirio meets up with a young Cuban woman in a bookstore. Her name is Rocio, and early in the conversation she states her inclination toward lesbian relations. Martirio, although attracted to Rocio from the beginning, does not sleep with her immediately, but waits until meeting up with her again in Cuba several months later. Their love scene takes place at Rocio's house in the Malecon District of Havana, and reflects many aspects of Cuban poverty at the time as well as a bit of Havana nostalgia. Martirio and Rocio make love sensuously and tenderly, but Martirio, clearly showing the heterosexual conditioning of her behavior, repeats something very similar to what the men said to her as a girl. She says to Rocio: “Open up, baby, show your mama what you’ve got hidden there between your legs. You know it’s mine no matter how hard you resist. Let me see that little flower I'm going to eat out bit by bit" (140).“) But to the surprise of the reader and of Martirio herself, Rocio knows perfectly well how the “spcfignflsexlscene‘gpes. She says to Martirio, Mirame bien, mi reina, estoy como tu me querias, para ti solita, para que me goces. Ahora to me vas a dar a mi lo mismo. Deja los dedos dohde los tienes y abre las piernas tu, déiame verte yo a ti ahora, fijate lo buena que soy yo contigo, vas a ser ti’i igual conmigo, damelo mami, como yo te lo estoy dando a ti. (Ibid.) [Take a good look at me, my queen, I'm just the way you want me, just for you, for your pleasure. Now you're going to give the same thing to me. Leave your fingers where they are and open your legs, let me see If 30. Spanish original: “Abrete, rica, enséfiale a tu mami todo lo que tienes guardadito entre las piernas y que tu sabes es mio aunque te resistas. Déjanie ver esa Horecrta que voy a comerme poquito a pace. 531'“ [IRDSSINE GENDER AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES / 9-1)?) you now. See how good I am with you? You’re going to be the same way with me. Give it to me, mama, like I'm giving it to you.] But in spite of the impression that both Martirio’s and Rocio’s words copy precisely those said by the men of the narrator’s youth, in reality they are not exactly the same. There is a conditioning here, but not 3 copying; the text requires a restoration of the colonized forms to create a new reality. The___strength o_f_t_h_e_exp_re_s_s_i_on comes from the rules of dominance that both women have learned",.,_u_,__t_hi_s final scene is of a mutfifiéfis'ua’lity, of egalitarian understandingznit noted thatwvfl fa.9.t,.tha.t__.1$99i_9 ei‘ti wh ifliflgasgoiagto.sayii. learnedginher”y9,g_th,___isarupgre rts in the realism ofthetext; only aWhat,[11.aner1tdoes.it appeaLiQ 13,9 Tilé he“ ends by stating that these relations have been going on for three years, seemingly implying that everything is working out well in the end. The magic moment of repeating the words learned in youth, along with this ending, point to a lesbian utopia;_The text, despite the difficulties of failed loves and frustrated passions, ends on this note. imalyagpeatiag §imi18tl§¢iiéviors ‘1‘. ,. K, . i‘x; I \aw » ,. mysteriously kiwi" béfbié'h‘élhd we” («Jib i3 . 1.. ‘Cr- Ix . t , N. ,m u I) U I L “5.. yd“? This ending presents a paradox, since on the one hand it underscores ‘ the conditioning affected by the power mechanisms of Cuban phal- locentricity, while on'the other it makes a utopian gesture indicating a total liberation from those very mechanisms. It is precisely in the intersection of this paradox that we could find the possibility of a more theoretically sophisticated model to analyze both the technologies of control without simply proposing them as derivatives of an un— avoidable monolithic source of power, and the gesture and postures of resistance and subversion without simply attributing them to positions beyond the control system or interpreting them as indicators of the immanent collapse of the system of domination.31 In this way we avoid falling into unsatisfactory positions that propose either idealistic willfulness (“I make my__gw_nhreali_ty") or structural determinism (“I am .L...___.__._._-_ _ ghg_ngj§_[9hgl/Ea151E]i‘é‘t/éblbfiial'warld") ' (ibid.). If we take into account the fact thaf‘iionefio'f‘the'se solutions explains the disCourse of emancipation, we will be in a better position to deal with the complex issue of resistance and replication, and we will be able to contribute to a critique ofmiiisiiisofpower and the condition- ing they exetcise on the entire liberation process (ibid.). Las historias prohibidas de Marta Veneranda, with its destabilizing aesthetic that 31. Iagose, Lesbian Utopics, 161—63. 9.! ‘1?! ‘7” ’ l \,,}V ) .«g L . 91’.) l wig] 7 Ar h >;ng} V.- i‘) ,1! J; J), r; r.) “)0 MM “S,” ' ~90 W" ~/'\ .. V V * ‘6‘" 7' / J‘s” u)” Dy ’3 .4 H L/ Q{ \f' kw” ~ ' , 3w Vi S 4—7-9 .3” .J) [335’ CHAPTER TWELVE / 9:51,! Eva constantly tests the limits both of the established codes as well aslthe “marginal identities” with pretensions of fixedness, mvrtes a question— ing not only of power but also of its liberating responses. Thus, the work constitutes a cultural artifact that not only makes for fascmating reading but also for critical reflection. Las historias prohibidas make simultaneous gestures of affirmation and diffusron, of return to the home, and of dissemination and containment. Rivera-Valdés’s texts, like the others in this final section of the book, do not put an end to the questiOns of nationalisms and homosexualities; rather, they open new horizons and crossroads. .. p3 1:2" r1 . "I as» , Fez. BIBLIOGRAPHY Almaguer, Tomas. “Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual Identity and Behavior." In The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, edited by Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin, 255—73. New York: Routledge, 1993. Almendros, Nestor, and Orlando Iiménez--Leal, eds. Conducta impropia (Improper conduct). Madrid: Editorial Playor, 1984. Alonso Estenoz, Alfredo. "Tema homosexual en la literatura cubana de los 80 y los 90: érenovacion o retroceso?" Paper presented at the 2000 Modern Language Association Convention, Miami, Fla., March 2000. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread ofNationalism. Rev. ed. London: Verso, 1991. Arenas, Reinaldo. Antes que anochezca (Autobiografi’a). Barcelona: Tusquets Edi- tores, 1992. Translated by Dolores M. Koch under the title Before Night Falls (A Memoir) (New York: Penguin Books, 1993). Argiielles, Lourdes, and Ruby Rich. "Homosexuality, Homophobia and Revolution: Notes toward an Understanding of the Cuban Lesbian and Gay experience," parts I and 2, Signs 9, no. 4 (summer 1984): 683—99; 11, no. I (1985): 120—35. Balderston, Daniel. El deseo, enorme cicatriz luminosa. Caracas: Ediciones eXcul— tura, I999. Balderston, Daniel, and Donna I. Cuy, eds. Sex and Sexuality in Latin America. New York: New York University Press, 1997. Béjar, Eduardo. La textualidad de Reinaldo Arenas. Iuegos de la escritura posmod- erna. Madrid: Editorial Playor, 1987. Bejel, Emilio. lose’ Lezama Lima, Poet of the Image. Cainesville: University of Florida Press, 1990. .“Seriel Paz: homosexualidad, nacionalismo y utopia." Plural 269 (February 1994): 58—65. ...
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