Alternative Communities in Hispanic Literature and Culture 144389494X, 9781443894944

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Alternative Communities in Hispanic Literature and Culture
 144389494X, 9781443894944

Table of contents :
Marginality and Community
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Intellectuals: Rethinking Community
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
The Mexican Case: Counterculture
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen

Citation preview

Alternative Communities in Hispanic Literature and Culture

Alternative Communities in Hispanic Literature and Culture Edited by

Luis H. Castañeda and Javier González

Alternative Communities in Hispanic Literature and Culture Edited by Luis H. Castañeda and Javier González This book first published 2016 Cambridge Scholars Publishing Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2PA, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2016 by Luis H. Castañeda, Javier González and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-9494-X ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-9494-4


Acknowledgements .................................................................................. viii Introduction ................................................................................................ ix Luis H. Castañeda and Javier F. González Marginality and Community Chapter One ................................................................................................. 2 An Alternative Nation Building Project: The Depiction of Ángel Vicente Peñaloza in Eduardo Gutiérrez’s Historical Folletines Gisela Salas Carrillo Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 20 Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in “Elena Garrigó” and René’s Flesh Pilar Cabrera Fonte Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 37 La Montaña Mágica: Representations of HIV/AIDS from the Sanatorium Óscar A. Pérez Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 61 Víctor Hugo Viscarra: The Dog Life of the Human Pack—Reflections on the Limits of Community as a Promise of Emancipation Irina Feldman Chapter Five .............................................................................................. 87 Street Dwellers and Youth Gangs as War Machines in Colombian Literature and Film Carlos-Germán Van Der Linde Chapter Six .............................................................................................. 110 Into the Matrix of Contemporary Spanish Squatter Communities: Navigating Through Utopian Landscapes of Hospitality and Dystopian Landscapes of Hostility in Okupada by Care Santos Diana Palardy



Chapter Seven.......................................................................................... 135 Alternative Communities in Lavapiés: (Dis)Encounters between Spain and Cuba Ana Corbalán Intellectuals: Rethinking Community Chapter Eight ........................................................................................... 152 “Anarchy is a Literary Thing”: Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja and the Ephemeral Community of 1906 Xavier M. Dapena Chapter Nine............................................................................................ 174 Deciphering Macedonio: Macedonio Fernández’s Project to Found an Alternative Community in Museo de la novela de la Eterna (Primera novela buena) Federico Fridman Chapter Ten ............................................................................................. 197 Transient Communities: Authority and Emancipation in Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja Juan García Oyervides Chapter Eleven ........................................................................................ 215 Two Peruvian Circles of Artists: Artistic Communities and Globalization in the Novels of Iván Thays and Rodrigo Núñez Carvallo Luis H. Castañeda Chapter Twelve ....................................................................................... 236 A Cellular Literary Model: Globalization and Transnational Flows in Latin American Contemporary Fictions Carlos Yushimito Chapter Thirteen ...................................................................................... 257 Cultura Profética: Across Communities of Resistance and Insistence Geraldine Monterroso

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The Mexican Case: Counterculture Chapter Fourteen ..................................................................................... 280 The Literature of the Onda: Imagined Alternative Communities in 1960s Mexico Javier F. González Chapter Fifteen ........................................................................................ 309 The Representation of the Mexican Counterculture Movement in Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses by Héctor Manjarrez Salvador Fernández Chapter Sixteen ....................................................................................... 333 From Manifesto to Manifestation: The Infrarrealista Movement on the Margins of Mexican Literary Culture John Burns Chapter Seventeen ................................................................................... 357 Porn-themes of Dominance and Submission: Perverse Communities in Alberto Chimal’s Los esclavos Salvador L. Raggio


The editors wish to thank Cambridge Scholars Publishing and Middlebury College for the financial support that made this publication possible.



This book studies the literary and cultural representation of a diverse group of social organisms that, despite their vast historical and geographical differences, can all be described as “alternative communities” operating within the open, fluid borders of the Hispanic world between the nineteenth century and the present. In more precise terms, the seventeen chapters that comprise this book study the depiction—mostly in novels and narrative texts, but also in film, poetry, music, etc.—of certain artistic communities or circles or artists, along with a handful of more marginalised, even criminal groups, all of which challenge a plethora of set notions regarding national, cultural, and artistic identity, as well as other elements of the accepted status quo. But what, specifically, are alternative communities, and why should critics of Hispanic literature and culture explore them? In short, alternative communities are small and subversive groupings; transgressive associations that differ from society at large and threaten it with the possibilities of transformation. A first attempt at a definition conjures up two images: the secret society, and the circle of artists. Secret societies can be defined as bands that meet clandestinely to devise plots that usually involve overturning the established order in a radical way.ͳ A motif of popular literature and film, the secret society gains a metaphysical status in the work of Jorge Luis Borges as it becomes entangled with ruminations about the nature of reality, language, and literature. In Borges’ seminal short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” (1940), a secret society of conniving intellectuals devotes generations to imagining a whole planet— Tlön—and writing forty volumes of an encyclopaedia that describes every possible aspect of this invented world. Significantly, in Tlön reality is not grounded in objectivity but exists as a system of idealistic constructions in which language is the ultimate fabric of things. The story’s final twist is



Tlön’s slow but steady invasion of our world, a colonisation that changes everything, from history to objects themselves, and that resembles the advance of totalitarianism in the Western world at the time Borges published it. The lonely and mournful narrator bears witness to this inevitable conquest and finds in the work of translation a source of quiet resistance. Secret societies can be understood as the dark cousins of alternative communities. Borges’s Tlön incorporates a key element that we must take into consideration when we study the latter: the idea of a collective and systematic invention, supported by a handful of seditious agents, that entails an intellectual and political project of conquest, replacement, or transformation. There is a utopian drive here as well as a deep faith in the transformative potential of words. In the arena of language, two confronted worlds engage in conflict: the status quo and a possible, alternative reality. Two communities fight against each other: society as we know it and the group of plotters. In Borges, the use of imagination and language as tools of coercion has a problematic authoritarian undertone that cannot be overlooked. Not all alternative communities have this aggressive, tyrannical trait, but most of them can be said to be intrinsically violent in their bold and often unequal struggle with reality as it is. Never satisfied with any given state of affairs, especially when inequality and oppression prevail, the majority of alternative communities never reach such a level of power that enables them to do what the heresiarchs of Tlön accomplish, because they often survive on the edges of society. Nevertheless, in Spanish American literature, it is perhaps Borges’ contribution (even though Roberto Arlt had already published his masterpiece The Seven Madmen/The Flamethrowers in 1929 and 1931) to bring together insurgence, intellectualism, and linguistic imagination in the shape of a secret society: This bold estimate brings us back to the basic problem: who were the people who had invented Tlön? The plural is unavoidable, because we have unanimously rejected the idea of a single creator, some transcendental Leibniz working in modest obscurity. We conjecture that this “brave new world” was the work of a secret society of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicians, poets, chemists, mathematicians, moralists, painters and geometricians, all under the supervision of an unknown genius. There are plenty of individuals who have mastered these various disciplines without having any facility for invention, far less for submitting that inventiveness to a strict, systematic plan. This plan is so vast that each individual contribution to it is infinitesimal. To begin with, Tlön was thought to be nothing more than a chaos, a free and irresponsible work of the imagination; now it was clear that it is a complete cosmos, and that the

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strict laws which govern it have been carefully formulated, albeit provisionally. (Borges 1962, 22)

In Borges’ world, secret societies are not only destructive forces, they are also creative ones, artistic and systematic in essence. This second characteristic makes it possible to summon another archetype that embodies the aesthetic thrust of alternative communities: the circle of artists, such as the poets and painters that Borges mentions, but also the engineers and mathematicians, because the definition of art at stake here is wider than the mere production of beautiful objects. Indeed, circles of artists are small communities of aesthetes embarked on the pursuit of radical collective experiences that involve the transformation of their own social bond into a work of art; or, more precisely, an artistic event that projects itself utopically as the seed of a large-scale social revolution. Predominant in the historical avant-garde and often revisited by neo-avantgarde movements, the circle of artists has a long and important history in Spanish American literature.ʹ In fact, it makes a surprising appearance in the most influential Latin American novel of the past century, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), a text seemingly saturated by family, genealogy, and territory—the stuff of nations, not alternative groupings. In García Márquez’s magnum opus, Aureliano Babilonia, the last member of his dynasty and exegete of Melquíades’s scrolls, leaves the family home for the first time to join a circle of young écrivains spearheaded by a Catalan sage who owns a bookshop. ͵ Exclusively comprising male subjects, the group’s main activities are byzantine literary discussions and recreational sex with prostitutes, and its experience is as intense as it is short-lived: a few pages after its inception, this circle of artists is disintegrated and Aureliano Babilonia meets his demise through the conflation of reading and disaster. It is crucial that García Márquez’s cenacle needs to first sever all ties with the home and the family—the spaces of filiation, according to Edward SaidͶ—in order to build an artificial environment where identity, estranged from its traditional foundation, is only determined by books, and where sex, unlike mirrors, does not increase the number of men, as Borges wrote in his famous short story. In fact, literary dialogue and sexual relations represent two sides of the same coin, since both of them materialise the vanguardist dream of fusing art and life into a single sphere where reality is the offspring of literature—collective reality, it is essential to clarify, because what becomes aestheticized is the actual connection between colleagues and friends, their togetherness in a context of dialogue, communication, and equality. In this example, the Buendía family, with its



history of identitarian duplications, is akin to the narrator’s cherished reality in “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”; that is, the basis of tradition, repetition, and belonging to a specific locale, the town of Macondo. In this manner, One Hundred Years of Solitude adds two important features to the definition of alternative communities: first, the target of their transformative intervention is the rootedness of identity itself—family, town, nation, culture, etc.—a statement that García Márquez’s model grounds in terms less philosophical than those of Borges. Second, the creation of an alternative collective identity is an aesthetic project that endows its members with artistic capital and has a historical referent—it harks back to the utopian experiments of the avant-garde and, just like them, has an ephemeral life. Indeed, the premature dissolution of alternative communities is an event that many examples collected in this book highlight, maybe because this type of association is resistant to all forms of duration, structure, and institutionalisation. Alternative communities merge the clandestine side of secret societies and the artistic nature of circles of artists. It is clear, then, that they share a marginal peculiarity that sets them apart from all things official, conventional, or customary; it may therefore seem unexpected to encounter the names of Borges and García Márquez, the two most canonical contemporary writers of the Spanish language, in association with them. This apparent contradiction unveils a set of tensions present in the constitution of such communities, a certain uneasiness that can be explained as the différance of structure and communitas, to use the classical dichotomy of Victor Turner in his book The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (1995). As an anthropologist of performance, Turner posits that both traditional and modern human societies alternate between two basic modes of interaction: one in which there is a rigid system of power with fixed positions, relationships, and rules (structure), and another in which hierarchy is suspended, giving way to a fluid solidarity and deep communication between equals (communitas). ͷ Communitas can only be accomplished under special circumstances and for short periods, for instance in the heterochrony of the ritual, the party, or the happening. Any further prolongation of communitas would require the implementation of order, hierarchy, and power, thus distorting its essence and becoming structure. To clarify this point, one could imagine the breaking point of communitas as similar to the transformation of a subculture, an underground movement, into official culture: this is precisely the process that deprives avant-gardes of their transgressive flare. The reader may be tempted to identify alternative communities with communitas, but despite the fact that they do have a strong link, it is

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necessary to acknowledge, as in Borges’s short story, that these groups also harbour a desire of structure, a will to persist and establish themselves in reality. The paradox here is that, by doing so, they may lose their alternative edge. Different degrees of communitas and structure mix to produce the groups studied in this volume. Rather than an opposition between these poles, what we find is an unstable, uneven exchange that reflects a changing nature and multiplicity that could be characterised as rhizomatic, following Deleuze and Guattari in their now classic second collaborative work A Thousand Plateaus (2010). According to them, space can be inhabited in two ways and thus transformed into completely different media. Dominated by the state and its machinery, striated space is marked by vertical control and observation; within it, all forms of movement conform to deep-seated pathways, and capitalism equates reality, with no external possibilities. In a way, striated space is the spatial consequence of the imposition of structure as defined by Turner. In permanent conflict with striated space, there is also smooth space, an open landscape with no centre or borders in which displacements follow the randomness of the rhizome, a metaphor of multiplicity.͸ In striated space, the protagonist is the “war machine,” an agent that is both metaphor and subversive band that threatens the state by reminding it of its contingency, of being in competition with other modes of organisation. To pursue the analogy, smooth space is the habitat of communitas. In their purest form, when empty of structural desires, alternative communities are like war machines roaming around the desert, freely creating their own paths at ground level and plotting against the state’s need to conceal its fragility by disseminating its rule—the law of striated space. A couple of important conclusions can be derived from Deleuze and Guattari: firstly, that alternative communities may not be that different from structured, striated ones, since what differentiates them is their kind of mobility, a certain style of moving around space; and secondly, that space itself, with its territorial and national connotations, is a crucial aspect to our discussion. Alternative communities tend to be at odds with nation states: as a matter of fact, the national state seems to be their nemesis, their inverted image in the mirror. This antagonism is rooted in the very definition of modern nations, which can be described loosely and perhaps restrictedly as collectivities that picture themselves as units of kinship and belonging endowed with a homogeneous territory (a homeland) and a dense sense of history (an ancestral origin), and which may or may not be coupled with a state apparatus that safeguards their claim to identity, unity, and sovereignty. Nations, according to Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities (2006),



are not a matter of objective reality but of perceived or imagined comradeship, and this is why they need to sustain and reproduce themselves through a pedagogical system of history, values, rituals, symbols, and other paraphernalia. Nations, moreover, require the control of a definite space—striated space—in which to remain for a long time, thus generating a sense of continuity between a fabricated beginning, a solid present, and a calculable future. It is therefore easy to gauge the extreme opposition between nation states and alternative communities, the latter defined by the swiftness of war machines, the ensuing lack of a territory, and an ephemeral duration, as well as by an often multicultural and postnational make-up. Alternative communities, on the other hand, could not be readily attached to a bureaucracy, with its structure and hierarchy, without risking self-annihilation. Finally, nations rest on imaginary connections between fellow citizens, whereas alternative communities are more concrete and direct social forms in which agents know each other: presence is, in fact, a prerequisite of their collective experiments in communitas, but it precludes property over land.͹ The tense relationship between alternative communities and nations dates back to the nineteenth century, a time in which most Spanish American nations gained their independence from Spain, and the resulting countries—Spain included—needed to begin thinking of themselves as modern collectivities. In this regard, it has become common in criticism to portray this century as a homogeneous time of nation building, as if there had not existed dissenting voices that questioned the unifying project of the liberal elites. As Doris Sommer shows in her study Foundational Fictions, nation building was a hegemonic ideological current that found its narrative counterpart in the “foundational romance,” a novelistic form in which the trope of the heteronormative wedding embodies the harmonisation pursued by the national community. Thus, reproductive sexuality and (presumed) private happiness become the allegory of a longing—that of unattainable cohesiveness. Notwithstanding this, it is worthwhile to note that the desire of unity presupposes a reality of heterogeneity that is not hidden, but rather exposed by other, more marginal and transgressive genres of fiction since the colonial period: contragoric texts, as Gustavo Faverón-Patriau argues in his book Contra la alegoría [In Opposition to Allegory] (2011), such as The First New Chronicle and Good Government by Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala, or even María by Jorge Isaacs, usually depicted as a textbook example of national writing. Contragoric texts not only illuminate existing social, racial, and cultural rifts in Spanish American nations; they also give literary form, achieved through their own textual fragmentation, to a

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profound criticism of the exclusivist, hierarchical program brandished by the newly-formed lettered cities. In other words, the nation-building projects supported by foundational romances must be put in the context of conflictive literary fields in which other—and othered—formulations took hold. Alternative communities are those imagined outside of the confines of the nation state, and not only in our contemporary world, but also in times when the power of the national is thought of as monolithic, with its illusion of wholeness, sameness, and integration. Exploring alternatives to the nation in the nineteenth century brings us back to the present and to a consideration of denationalisation—the loss of power of nation states—and postnationalism—the upsurge of identities that move beyond the nation. Originally, the postnationalist scholarly paradigm was invoked in the 1980s by political theorists such as Jürgen Habermas (2001), who has used the term constitutional patriotism to connote European citizenship. More recently, sociologist Saskia Sassen (2002) has called attention to global cities in an increasingly denationalised world landscape. Literary postnationalism is a desire to write outside of traditional canons and publish beyond national markets. In non-Euro-American contexts, it is more a utopian project than a reality. Since the Spanish American modernismo movement, there has been a cosmopolitan trend in Hispanic letters to abandon self-definitions of national or regional particularism in order to embrace World Literature, as Mariano Siskind posits in Cosmopolitan Desires. José Martí’s call to transcend oneself in his chronicle “Oscar Wilde” is echoed by Rubén Darío’s fascination with French Literature as a gateway to the globe. Although the novela de la tierra and indigenismo promoted an inward look at modernisation, figures such as Borges and, in the 1960s, the Boom writers were widely translated and consciously self-fashioned themselves as international voices speaking to audiences at home and abroad. In the 1990s, Chilean author Roberto Bolaño was described by critics as a truly global Hispanic author whose fiction maps an interconnected transatlantic world. The past fifteen years have seen an emergence of post-Bolaño Hispanic writers who, despite hailing from Spanish America (or Spain, or both), are not attached to nations and, most importantly, offer artistic performances of the postnational condition, as Héctor Hoyos argues in his recent book Beyond Bolaño (2015). In similar terms, in Aquí América Latina (2010) critic Josefina Ludmer characterises twenty-first century Spanish American literature as a “postautonomous” space—a mixture of fiction, non-fiction, reality, and virtual words—in which old national belongings are anathematised and discarded as useless. In sum, the



alternative communities of the present showcase certain qualities of denationalisation, postnationalism, and postautonomy. In order to better organise this heterogeneous material, this book is divided in three sections: “Marginality and Community,” “Intellectuals: Rethinking Community,” and “The Mexican Case: Counterculture.” We invoke the categories of “marginality” and “intellectuals” because they resonate with secret societies and circles of artists, as discussed in this introduction. In the first section, we analyse seven cases of communities that are marginalised in political, economic, national, gender, and sexual orientation terms; living on the fringe of society, they may resort to criminality. Their situation of oppression and alienation makes their radical project all the more poignant. In the second section, we turn to six other groups that assume an explicit intellectual perspective, in the sense that they are populated by writers and artists who often partake in the circles of cultural hegemony—only to better criticise them. Finally, the third section zooms into a study of Mexican counterculture—a particular form of “alternative community”—focusing on the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. By studying a specific case, this third section complements the broader outlook found in the two previous ones. In “Marginality and Community,” we will begin by looking at the roots of alternative communities in the nineteenth century. In chapter one, Gisela Salas Carrillo suggests that in Argentine writer Eduardo Gutiérrez’s fiction, the interior of the country, traditionally described by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento as the locus of barbarism, offers an alternative nation populated by liberal gauchos. Moving to Cuba and to the twentieth century, Pilar Cabrera Fonte (chapter two) proposes a reading of the work of Virgilio Piñera (a novel and a play) as the site of violent cults and sects that demand social change while cynically denying its possibility. Also in Cuba, Oscar A. Pérez (chapter three) studies the literary workshop “The Magic Mountain,” a community that uses creative writing to question the HIV/AIDS-related stigma under the Castro regime. This first section then travels to South America and to spaces of urban poverty: in Irina Feldman’s analysis of Bolivian writer Víctor Hugo Viscarra’s narrative texts (chapter four), a “community of losers” surviving on the streets of La Paz rebuffs the “good” capitalist life. As Carlos-Germán van der Linde (chapter five) explains for the case of Colombian literature and film, the criminals and gangsters of Bogotá form bands that expose the interstices of the nation state, and even attempt to replace it, like Tlön. Finally, the section discusses alternative communities in present-day Spain through the study of novels where communities of okupas [squatters] (Diana Palardy,

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chapter six) and of immigrants (Ana Corbalán, chapter seven) find their very sense of identity at odds with their origins as well as with their new environment, and are forced to reinvent and redefine themselves. In “Intellectuals: Rethinking Community,” we will present intellectuals that organise themselves in ways that defy social conventions. Thus, Xavier Dapena (chapter eight) provides a new understanding of the Spanish Generación del 98 by paying attention to its margins, where the figure of the anarchist Mateu Morral lurks. Meanwhile, in chapter nine, Federico Fridman studies Macedonio Fernández and his connection to the Argentine avant-garde of the 1920s as an experiment in deindividuation. Moving to Chilean society after Pinochet, Juan García Oyervides (chapter ten) interprets Alberto Fuguet’s novel Tinta roja from a political perspective, by analysing the relationship of writers and journalists to language and authority. In their respective chapters, Luis H. Castañeda (chapter eleven) and Carlos Yushimito (chapter twelve) explore the image of the “writer” in twenty-first-century Latin American literature, a cultural milieu where the globalisation of literary markets reshapes affiliations and self-definitions. Finally, Geraldine Monterroso (chapter thirteen) takes us to the world of popular music and the Hispanic Caribbean, where the Puerto Rican reggae band Cultura Profética cultivates a pro-independence sentiment. Section three pays attention to four different manifestations of the Mexican counterculture, from the Onda of the 1960s to other more “perverse” and recent groups. Thus Javier González (chapter fourteen) suggests that the rock ethos present in Onda authors like José Agustín, Parménides García Saldaña, and Margarita Dalton nourishes a veritable alternative community, defining a new cultural identity in opposition to long-held notions of national identity and literary writing as defined by the ruling PRI party and the cultural establishment, respectively. In Salvador Fernández’s chapter fifteen, dedicated to the novel Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses [Our Gods Lived Silently] by Héctor Manjarrez, we witness the end of utopian discourses and ideologies associated with the 1968 student movement, depicting the contradictions and eventual demise of the counterculture in the 1970s. For his part, John Burns (chapter sixteen) studies the infrarrealista neo-avant-garde poetic movement and highlights how social media and independent publishing have aided its prolongation beyond its initial statements against the Mexican literary elite. Finally, Salvador Luis Raggio’s reading of Alberto Chimal’s novel Los esclavos [The Slaves] (chapter seventeen) sheds light on how violence, pornography, and sadomasochism permeate not only alternative communities, but also society at large.





For a definition of secret societies in the context of Spanish American literature (with a particular emphasis on Roberto Arlt’s The Seven Madmen), see Speck, Paula Kathleen. Roberto Arlt and the Conspiracies of Fiction. Diss. (Yale University, 1978. Photocopy of typescript. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1979). 2 For more about circles of artists in Spanish America, please refer to Luis H. Castañeda’s monograph Comunidades efímeras. Grupos de vanguardia y neovanguardia en la novela hispanoamericana del siglo XX (New York: Peter Lang, 2015). This book explores circles of artists in six canonical novels by Roberto Arlt, Leopoldo Marechal, Julio Cortázar, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Fernando del Paso, and Roberto Bolaño. In this study, the definition of circles of artists as alternative communities is grounded in Peter Bürger’s classical assertion that the historical European avant-garde sought to fuse art and life into a single sphere in order to fight the perceived evils of modern capitalist society. 3 As we know, this group is a fictional version of the one formed by the Catalan writer Ramón Vinyes, and the younger Colombian writers Alfonso Fuenmayor, Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, Germán Vargas, and García Márquez himself: the socalled “cenáculo de Barranquilla,” a circle of writers that, according to Ángel Rama, must be credited with the renovation of Colombian literature by combining popular culture and modernist narrative. See García Márquez: edificación de un arte nacional y popular (Montevideo: Universidad de la República, Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias, 1987). 4 In the introduction to The World, the Text, and the Critic, Said claims that horizontal affiliation is a mode of social belonging that becomes intensified in modernist literature, offering an alternative to filiation and biological reproduction as symbolised by the traditional family. Thus, new institutions, associations, and communities are generated. 5 “It is as though there are two major ‘models’ for human interrelatedness, juxtaposed and alternating. The first is of society as a structured, differentiated, and often hierarchical system of politico-legal-economic positions with many types of evaluation, separating men in terms of ‘more’ or ‘less.’ The second, which emerges recognizably in the liminal period, is of society as an unstructured or rudimentarily structured and relatively undifferentiated comitatus, community, or even communion of equal individuals who submit together to the general authority of the ritual elders” (Turner 1995, 96). 6 “Smooth space is precisely the space of the smallest deviation: therefore it has no homogeneity, except between infinitely proximate points, and the linking of proximities is effected independently of any determined path. It is a space of contact, of small tactile or manual actions of contact, rather than a visual space like Euclid’s striated space. Smooth space is a field without conduits or channels. A field, a heterogeneous smooth space, is wedded to a very particular type of multiplicity: nonmetric, acentered, rhizomatic multiplicities that occupy space without ‘counting’ it and can ‘be explored only by legwork.’ They do not meet the visual condition of being observable from a point in space external to them; an

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example of this is the system of sounds, or even of colors, as opposed to Euclidian space” (Deleuze and Guattari 2010, 30). 7 Furthermore, not only are alternative communities and nations different, but they are also enemies. In “Teoría del complot,” Ricardo Piglia argues that alternative communities such as the one found in Macedonio Fernández’s The Museum of Eterna's Novel are in fact counter-statal conspiracies that attempt to unmask the state’s fictions and lies, and complot against its citizens. This is why such groups and the texts that house them narrate alternative stories, and constitute a countercomplot.

References Books Anderson, Benedict. 2006. Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London and New York: Verso. Borges, Jorge Luis. 1962. Ficciones. Trans. Emecé Editores. New York: Grove Press. Bürger, Peter. 1984. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Trans. Michael Shaw. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Castañeda, Luis H. 2015. Comunidades efímeras. Grupos de vanguardia y neovanguardia en la novela hispanoamericana del siglo XX. New York: Peter Lang. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 2010. Nomadology: The War Machine. (Originally in A Thousand Plateaus. Massumi, Briad trad.) Seattle: Wormwood Distribution. Faverón-Patriau, Gustavo. 2011. Contra la alegoría. Hegemonía y disidencia en la literatura latinoamericana del siglo XIX. Hildesheim, Zürich, New York: Georg Olms Verlag. Habermas, Jürgen. 2001. The Postnational Constellation: Political Essays. Trans. Max Pensky. Cambridge and Oxford: Polity Press and Blackwell Publishers. Hoyos, Héctor. Beyond Bolaño. 2015. The Global Latin American Novel. New York: Columbia University Press. Ludmer, Josefina. 2010. Aquí América Latina. Una especulación. Buenos Aires: Eterna Cadencia. Rama, Ángel. 1987. García Márquez: edificación de un arte nacional y popular. Montevideo: Universidad de la República, Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias. Said, Edward W. 1983. The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.



Siskind, Mariano. 2014. Cosmopolitan Desires. Global Modernity and World Literature in Latin America. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. Sommer, Doris. 1993. Foundational Fictions. The National Romances of Latin America. Berkeley, Los Angeles: California University Press. Turner, Victor. 1995. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Journal article Piglia, Ricardo. 2002. “Teoría del complot.” Ramona. Revista de artes visuales 2 (3): 4–14.

Chapters from edited collections Sassen, Saskia. 2002. “Towards Post-national and Denationalized Citizenship.” In Handbook of Citizenship Studies, edited by Engin F. Isin and Bryan S. Turner, 277–88. London, Thousand Oaks, New Dehli: Sage Publications.

Dissertation Speck, Paula Kathleen. 1978. “Roberto Arlt and the Conspiracies of Fiction.” PhD diss., Yale University. Photocopy of typescript. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1979.



Unlike any other nation-building project from Latin America during the first half of the nineteenth century, the invention of Argentina was imagined from scratch. Since Esteban Echeverría, a patriarch among its founding fathers, Argentina was conceived and represented as a desert, that is, as a barbarised plain to be conquered and settled by civilised pioneers imported from the United States and Europe. For those founding fathers, prominent porteños (natives from the port of Buenos Aires), Unitarists, and members of the Lettered City, Argentina, as it was at the beginning of the Republic, was a blank page. Therefore, they made up the Argentine nation, “as a cohesive political unit derived from the Enlightenment and the founders of the U.S. independence” (González Echevarría 2003, 4). Nevertheless, the Interior, the territory composed of the rest of the provinces, so disdained as the cradle of barbaric forces interfering with the development of the new republic, was neither deserted, unpopulated, and available to be settled by foreigners, nor as savage as they depicted it.2 Despite those facts, it was erased from the national foundational narrative written by those men. By 1880, nobody had ever disputed the monolithic national discourse by the Unitarist lettered founding fathers. However, on the verge of a new crisis, a mirror image of the one at the end of 1820, Eduardo Gutiérrez started at the periodical La Patria Argentina as the most popular Argentine writer of the nineteenth century, and addressed the crisis from an unexpected front. As I intend to demonstrate, in his histori-

An Alternative Nation Building Project


cal works he depicted an alternative national community from the Interior to compete against the one imagined before in order to make sense of the failure of that nation-building project and propose a new one. The purpose of this chapter is to analyse, in the group of folletines devoted to Chacho PeñalozaʊEl Chacho (1884), Los montoneros [The Gaucho Army] (1886), El rastreador [The Tracker] (1886), and La muerte de un héroe [The Death of a Hero] (1886)ʊthe representation of the Interior as a politically organised nation as well as the reservoir of national values before the Generación del Centenario’s [The Centennial Generation] recovery of it at the beginning of the twentieth century. I will present how, in this cycle of serialised books published in newspapers, Gutiérrez revisits the history of Argentina as it was written by the country’s founding fathers to assess their hypothesis about Argentina’s cursed fate. Instead of the traditional porteño approach in the context of the factional conflict, he claims that the actual events are the outcome of Rosas’ two governments as well as the same people who were pursuing Argentina’s desideratum.3 Thus, Gutiérrez presents an alternative way out of factional thinking and represents Argentina as a space populated by patriotic gauchos instead of an emptiness, as in Esteban Echeverría’s works. In fact, as we may see, Gutiérrez’s gauchos are intrinsically liberal, since Gutiérrez reveals coincidences between the republican discourse and the Argentine rural culture’s values. As a result, in his historical folletines, Argentina, as an imagined community, already exists before the establishment of the nation state in 1880, and is separated from it. Gutiérrez (1851–89) began as a folletinista in 1879, when Argentina was at the beginning of an era of modernisation,4 at the end of a long period of civil wars, just before the federalisation of the Buenos Aires province and the definite establishment of the national state. By 1880, he had already become a true mass phenomenon whose second folletín, Juan Moreira (1879), turned him into the most popular writer of that decade.5 In the middle of all this, on one hand, Gutiérrez, as Eugenio Cambaceres, reformed the novel genre (Laera 2004) and, on the other, inspired the Argentine movimiento criollista [creole movement] (Prieto 1989). Despite those achievements, when the Generación del Centenario finally consolidated the canon of Argentine novels, Gutiérrez was excluded. His work is monumental. This stems from the quantity of volumes he published in periodicals, but also because of what is addressed within them and what may be concluded based on his premises. Gutiérrez attempts a comprehensive effort to make sense of the present from an unexpected tribune outside of the circuit of the Lettered City, the traditional lieu where this matter was discussed. In his 30 very diverse folletines, Gutiérrez cre-


Chapter One

ated, for the first time, a narrative world that covers all the dimensions of the entire history of Argentina after the colony (Dabove 2010, 300). Historically, he reviews the history from the May rebellion’s prolegomenon in 1810 to the end of Julio Argentino Roca’s first government in 1886. Geographically, their characters go across the entire Argentine territory controlled by the state. Among that voluminous repertoire, his historical books focus on the history behind the establishment of the national state in 1880, from the fights against Juan Manuel de Rosas’ dictatorship to the resistance to Roca’s federalisation. In doing so, Gutiérrez scrutinises the reorganisational period after the Caseros Battle (1852) between those events.6 This corpus is compounded by his two historical sagas devoted to two prominent caudillos [regional warlords], namely the dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas and Ángel Vicente Peñaloza, also known as el Chacho, warlord of La Rioja province. There is also a volume titled La muerte de Buenos Aires [The Death of Buenos Aires] (1882), dedicated to the defeat of porteño forces by General Roca. Despite the aforementioned texts and the fact that important treatises, such as Adolfo Prieto’s El discurso criollista en la formación de la Argentina moderna [Creole Discourse in the Formation of Modern Argentina] (1988) and Alejandra Laera’s El tiempo vacío de la ficción [The Empty Time of Fiction] (2004), were written about Gutiérrez’s true position and contribution to Argentine literature, since the publication of Ricardo Rojas’ Literatura argentina [Argentine Literature], this author has routinely been studied as the personality who merely links José Hernández’s epic cycle with narrative and theatre about the gaucho. However, even the simplistic style and modest approach of the folletín make sense when one discovers that its episodic and reiterative formula dramatizesʊbecause it emphasisesʊan unresolved situation linked to the fact that Argentina, despite its brand new status as a national state, is not yet a cohesive nation. As a matter of fact, the Argentine folletín phenomenon is not linked to the emerging working class, as it is in Europe, but to the debate about the nation and national identity instead. As a literary project, Gutiérrez’s corpus is a very complex one. In his series of historical books, the author reflects on the state of Argentina during the 1880s while, at the same time, criticising the fate of the liberal project of nation building. In these books, he writes about an unforeseen enemy of the Argentine Lettered City—itself. In his books about Rosas and Peñaloza, he proposes that the nation dissolves inside both the liberal state and Roca’s, since it is disconnected from national history. Surprisingly, he names Peñaloza the as true restorer of the national order opposing Rosas. That comes as a surprise if one considers that Facundo Quiroga’s successor in La Rioja is the last link in

An Alternative Nation Building Project


Rosas’ lineage, according to the literature of the Argentine founding fathers. Gutiérrez’s cycles may be read as a diptych, as each of their protagonists represents a way to construct the nation, and none of them corresponds entirely to what was proposed by the factional historiography and narrative. Gutiérrez’s choice of both Rosas and Peñaloza as the central characters of his historical folletines is very significant. First, one may think of Rosas as having a double origin. This means that Argentine literature developed around his figure (Viñas 1964, 4; Ludmer 1999, 21). The dictator was a motive to think about the country for the men of the Generation of 1837 as well as their starting point to reflect and construct the unitaristʊlater liberalʊnation building project. Second, although the literature around Peñaloza is not as abundant as that around Rosas, this caudillo from La Rioja was an important historical figure since he was one of the most prominent popular leaders who rebelled against the rosismo. Furthermore, Chacho’s character combines both acceptations of what “popular” means in Gutiérrez’s works: on one hand its popular lineage, and on the other its success among the Argentine nineteenth-century mass culture (Laera 2004, 25). As Jorge B. Rivera,7 author of the first comprehensive study about this folletinista, stated, Gutiérrez writes against Roca.8 In fact, he began publishing once Roca’s rise was imminent as his army was encircling Buenos Aires. He was a professional writer from 1879 to 1888; that is, from Roca’s first administration (1880–6) until the middle of the term of his successor Miguel Ángel Juárez Celman (1886–90). In fact, as Josefina Ludmer says, his second folletín Juan Moreira carried on the confrontation and violence to their limits as a way to impose popular justice. For her, his violent hero incarnates the voice of the national opposition from the mitrismo inside the liberalism (229). That political gesture rescued by Ludmer is a trace of what one may find in all his folletines: from his gauchoesque popular serial books to his military dramas such as Juan sin patria [Juan Without a Homeland] or Ignacio Monges, which recount the despairing and sacrificed journey of two veterans from the national army during the military conflicts in the 1860s and 1870s. Nonetheless, that gesture only becomes a project in his historical cycles devoted to Rosas and Peñaloza, and La muerte de Buenos Aires. Each one addresses the crisis that precedes each major decisive moment of Republican Argentine history. For instance, Los dramas del terror [The Dramas of Terror], the four folletines about Rosas and rosismo, are devoted to its gestation during the feliz experiencia, as the happy and prosperous years of Bernardino Rivadavia’s government of Buenos Aires are known, to Rosas’ defeat in 1852. Likewise, Chacho Peñaloza’s books


Chapter One

review that same period plus the years of the Argentine Confederation until the Battle of Pavón in 1861, and the years of the resistance against the national government of President Bartolomé Mitre until Peñaloza’s assassination in 1863. In both series, very important notions such as desierto [desert], gaucho, and caudillo are de-territorialised and revisited. Finally, La muerte de Buenos Aires, his chronicle about Carlos Tejedor’s rebellion, dramatizes the thesis that Roca’s new state established a violent antagonist against the country in the province’s capital city.9 There, Buenos Aires works as a metaphor for Argentina, which is why his pledge for his province’s cause is a truly patriotic sign instead of a secessionist one. Gutiérrez scrutinises those three crucial events in Argentine Republican history during the context of a new foundational moment, 1880. That year is, as Maristella Svampa has argued, a symbolic year—“the political moment” for the Generation of 1880 (2006, 52). In this saga, Gutiérrez transforms Peñaloza into a unitarist hero. Without doubt, it is a curious appropriation that precedes another interesting one: Olegario de Andrade’s poem about Peñaloza, published as a homage to the emblematic unitarist hero Juan Lavalle. It was compiled as part of Andrade’s first collected poems, published in 1887. For Gutiérrez, Chacho represents a sincere republican calling, which, in his folletines, makes Rosas the most prominent member of a lineage represented as ideologically heterogeneous, since it is composed of Bartolomé Mitre, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Nicolás de Avellaneda, and Julio Roca.10 Peñaloza, on the other hand, descends from José de Urquiza’s lineage, broken after Caseros. In addition, as is the case in La muerte de Buenos Aires and Los dramas del terror, where Buenos Aires and the country are also mirror images, in these books La Rioja is another symbol for the port city. Both provinces, La Rioja and Buenos Aires, are synecdochic, and their pillaging represents Argentina’s devastation by what the folletines identify as Rosas’ breed. One may find a clue about these identities suggested by the names of two important titles of this corpus: La muerte de Buenos Aires and La muerte de un héroe, the final volume about Chacho. That coincidence shows how this writer represents the people as a political subject and makes them the other protagonist of the cycle, along with Peñaloza. This is also why it is important to note that Rosas and Peñaloza are the main characters. As a result, when one compares the sides involved in the civil wars that the volumes cover, one finds that the caudillos belong to both of them. Therefore, the opposition between civilisationʊthe lettered menʊversus barbarismʊthe caudillosʊis no longer a functional hypothesis to explain the difficulties around imagining Argentina as a community. On the con-

An Alternative Nation Building Project


trary, Peñaloza’s montoneros [his gaucho army] are civilised warriors fighting the barbarian hordes of the different national governments. Instead, only when one compares Rosas and Chacho may one begin to see the differences. According to Gutiérrez, Rosas represents a state without a nation since it is disconnected from the national history, as happened in 1880 with Roca’s. It is the reason why not only his but also Mitre’s, Sarmiento’s, Avellaneda’s, and Roca’s governments are represented as tyrannies. In Gutiérrez’s version, although Chacho supported Rosas and Mitre, he was actually honouring a principle: the state. In fact, every time he rebelled against both of them, Peñaloza did so because Rosas and Mitre, in their own moments, had betrayed the state.11 Peñaloza’s popular roots and values along with his submission favouring the state as an ideal principle recuperate the relationship between national history and a politically organised nation. When one reads Los dramas del terror and Chacho’s folletines together, it becomes clear that, for Gutiérrez, Peñaloza is an inverted mirror image of Rosas. So it makes sense that Rosas’ biography’s main events imply secession and abandonment, while Peñaloza’s is defined by continuity. It is significant, thus, that his lineage is symbolic since he represents a “desideratum”; that is, a national ideal. There is a very symbolic moment in Juan Manuel de Rosas, the first volume of Los dramas del terror, in which Rosas’ character, after having proven himself as a fine soldier by the side of Santiago de Liniers in 1807, turns his back on the patriotic cause at the very moment in which 1810’s rebellion bursts into being. At 14, the tender age of a main character from a bildungsroman, the young Rosas retires to the country to live as a gaucho. From that moment, his life runs parallel to Argentina’s path. Peñaloza’s fate, on the other hand, is always the same as those of his men and his homeland. In general, Gutiérrez’s folletines are engaged with the education of citizens in a context in which an elevated percentage of the population ignores the formative discourses of the founding fathers. As gaucho is another de-territorialised word, allowing to both articulate contemporary conflicts and be read as a metaphor for integration (Dabove 2010, 307). Therefore, for this excluded population, Gutiérrez’s gauchos work as a symbolic surrogate for their non-political being in the real life. If one reads these historical folletines, along with the corpus of the founding books of Argentine literature that inform them, it becomes clear that Gutiérrez summarises the reflection about what Argentina is and refreshes it within the context of the historical events that determined the outcome of 1880. Indeed, Gutiérrez takes another look over critical issues such as Unitarian-


Chapter One

ism, federalism, liberalism, authoritarianism, Buenos Aires, and the Interior, but mainly gaucho and caudillo. As we have seen, Gutiérrez writes within the context of a new crisis. Therefore, the caudillo, the natural main character of the crisis, reappears now that Argentina has again strayed far from the path of progress. Gutiérrez does not evoke Facundo Quiroga’s terrible spectre this time, but his eyes are firmly nailed on La Rioja, and he rescues and redefines Chacho Peñaloza, Quiroga’s lieutenant. Like Sarmiento decades before during the antirosista time, when the enterprise of the Argentine nation-building project is lost after Roca, Gutiérrez revisits the meaning of the caudillo in 1880.12 Interestingly, at the time of this new crisis, he is not the only one doing so. Sarmiento also published Conflicto y armonía de las razas en América [Conflict and Harmony of the Races in the Americas] (1883), written under the influence of nineteenth-century positivism. Gutiérrez, in its place, follows another path: he looks at the factional literature that defined the collapsed project after Roca’s victory. As in those books, he also focuses on the caudillo, but with a significant twist. While in that corpus caudillo is a disruptive figure, in Gutiérrez’s folletines Peñaloza and his montonera are a righteous mirror image of the state and its army. Moreover, they are an alternative imagined community. In Gutiérrez’s depiction, they do not stand as a parallel power, but as a model that exemplifies the legitimacy that the current state, like that of Rosas and Mitre, and its national army lack. Gutiérrez relies on the caudillo again: Roca, as in La muerte de Buenos Aires; Rosas, as in Los dramas del terror; and Peñaloza. For him, it is a notion that still encodes the mystery of “the hidden life and the inner convulsions that tear at the bowels of a noble people” (Sarmiento 2003, 31). As in Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s Facundo (1845), Gutiérrez proposes that the caudillo is still the needed clue to resolve the puzzle of the Argentine national reality. However, Gutiérrez does not subscribe to Sarmiento’s thesis about the caudillo as the embodiment of barbarism. Instead, while Sarmiento states that he is a criminal outlaw and thinks of himself as a contradiction (Dabove 2007, 59), Gutiérrez argues that Peñaloza holds the secret to resolving the Argentine sphinx’s enigma. This author looks at Chacho as a natural leader whose real and symbolic powers come from the people he leads: gauchos as patriotic and liberal, like Sarmiento’s lettered men. Moreover, as has been argued, a caudillo like Peñaloza embodies the same principles defended by the nation-building project carried on by the Generation of 1837. It is clear, thus, in Gutiérrez’s folletines, that there are two meanings for caudillo: one that is spurious and another that it is considered genuine. 13 On one hand, men like Juan Manuel de Rosas from

An Alternative Nation Building Project


Buenos Aires, Facundo Quiroga from La Rioja, Fray Félix de Aldao from Mendoza, and General Iseas or Colonel Ambrosio Sandes, who served in Mitre’s army, belong to the first group. On the other hand, Chacho, the rosista General Nazario Benavides and mitrista Colonel José Miguel Arredondo are called true caudillos. Naming Rosas or the others is an illegitimate appropriation because it distorts the kind of link it describes among the leader and his followers. A caudillo like Rosas maintains a superficial and utilitarian relationship with the gauchos. All of them are caudillos without what Max Weber calls charisma. But, if it is used to name Peñaloza, Benavides, or Arredondo, then it describes a sincere and empathic link, since they truly are charismatic leaders. Because of the symbolic weight of a word like caudillo, Gutiérrez’s process to give it a new meaning needs to be executed carefully. In order to transform Chacho into the immaculate hero Buenos Aires was lacking, it was also necessary to create a distance from any other criminal affiliation. Also, in order to make Peñaloza a righteous hero and transform the confrontation between the montonera and the national army in a battle that challenges the moral fibre of the opponents instead of the hunt for a criminal horde, Gutiérrez must separate and distance Peñaloza from the outlaws. So, Chacho is a gaucho, but he is not a gaucho malo (that is, gauchos with criminal tendencies) like the characters of Gutiérrez’s gauchoesque serial books. The difference between gauchos malos like Moreira, Hormiga Negra [Black Ant], or Pastor Luna and Peñaloza is that the latter is an exemplary one. Like Sarmiento, who made Rosas an epitome of barbarism, Gutiérrez forges Chacho as a national archetype embodying an idealised gaucho. So, while gauchos malos run their lives as an individual race, Peñaloza’s vicissitudes transcend his biography and become relevant events of the national history instead. Therefore, in the context of this new comprehensive approach to Argentina’s nationbuilding project, Chacho’s character works as an educational role model since Gutiérrez’s folletines are a vehicle to divulge stories and national values to a population that is foreign to the foundational moment of the Argentine nation and its mythology. As Rivera says, Gutiérrez brings this up with the immigrants who are not familiar with them (1967, 37). It should be clear by now that gauchos like Moreira and Peñaloza are not identical, and do not have the same role in Gutiérrez’s corpus. The difference rests on how they both bond with the community (Dabove 2010, 303). For instance, Moreira just belongs to it, while Chacho identifies with it. As Dabove explains, the gauchos malos establish horizontal relationships with others like them: Moreira and Andrade, Santos Vega and Carmona, Pastor Luna and Mataco, and Juan Cuello and his men.


Chapter One

They also establish vertical relationships with their superiors: Moreira with Alsina and Marañón, Luna with Areco, the Tiger of Quequén with Martínez de la Hoz, and Juan Gómez with Galindez. However, the gaucho malo never leads, represents, or functions as a role model. His misfortune comes from his fall off la pendiente del crimen [the cliff of crime] due to a personal problem, a motif that starts all of Gutiérrez’s stories. His causeʊalthough excusable from his community’s point of viewʊis strictly the quest of one lonely man. Chacho, on the other hand, falls off the cliff rebelling against the authority due to solidarity instead of a personal interest, as he summarises his story in front of Quiroga: — If Agenor were a burglar,—he concluded,—I would not have defied anybody on his behalf; but he certainly is a good fellow and a very honorable man that never had any trouble with the authorities: the Major was courting a girl that was in love with Agenor. That was the only reason he has to tie the poor lad under the sun as if he were a criminal. Because of that, I decided that freeing him was the only right thing to do. That is why the Major and the Judge forced me to teach them a lesson. (Gutiérrez 1884, 31)14

He pursues an act of justice because “where would we end up if every mayor had the right to lay a man out to dry in the sun to the stocks every time he needs for favor his private business or for revenge.”15 One may say then that the gaucho malo reclaims an individual resistance, while Peñaloza does what is possible to impart justice within the limits of an extremely precarious official legality. Peñaloza is the undisputed champion of his community that later becomes the La Rioja province (Dabove 2010, 304), which, as we have seen, is also Buenos Aires and Argentina. Because Chacho is a patriotic epitome, Gutiérrez rescues him from the innate paradox related to the social bandit, which is that of a criminal who is at the same time a hero. Therefore, while his Moreira-like characters have the profile of what Eric Hobsbawm called the avenger, Chacho remains an incorruptible figure from any perspective. This attribute of his character is tested first after his daughter’s death, and then after his friend’s. At the beginning of 1840, while Chacho is rising up against Rosas, he is forced into exile after his defeat. Without him, his beloved province is left unprotected and sacked by Fray Félix de Aldao’s men, the ferocious ruler of Mendoza. One of those men, the one-eyed Bárcena, after killing his mother takes Anita, Peñaloza’s only daughter, for himself to the Banda Oriental, modern-day Uruguay. When they are at Oribe’s campsite, a young and noble officer takes pity on her, rescuing her from Bárcena, and ends up marrying her. Once Peñaloza returns to La Rioja and learns of his

An Alternative Nation Building Project


family’s misfortune, he has a chance to test himself for the first time: “They [Aldao’s men] deserved that I take revenge on their women and daughters in the same fashion as they had violated mine, but my spirit is not of a bandit and I will never do that.”16 So, when his moment comes, he does not punish his enemies, seeking justice through an eye for an eye, but imposes upon himself the discipline of a fair fight. Meaningfully, this episode belongs to a chapter called “Caudillo and Father,” where Peñaloza consciously chooses to be a spotless founding father with no other purpose than to serve a superior ideal. Later in that same folletín, Peñaloza again has to make the same decision after he decides to not avenge the death of his friend Benavides to maintain the order imposed by Urquiza in San Juan province. For Chacho, it is clear that personal loyalty and political affiliation are separate: he fiercely fights against Benavides and Arredondo, despite their friendship. We have noted that Peñaloza is not like Quiroga, Aldao, Rosas, or any of the ferocious Iseas or Sandes, two prominent men from the mitrista army. In La muerte de un héroe, the last of Gutiérrez’s folletines about Peñaloza, the montonera chachista is different from criminal associations like Juan Saá’s and Felipe Valera’s: Mainly hordes of outlaws and cattle burglars were attacking the villages, pillaging the shops, and taking prisoners among the men to enlarge their own ranks. They were at war without knowing why and because their instincts of being lazy and errant were gratified. Those forces were not following either Varela or Saá to fight for a somewhat noble cause or following a flag that may or may not have had any meaning.17

It is not a horde or a barbarised rosista or mitrista national army, but that changes when Benavides and Arredondo fight. Under their command, the national army is commensurable to Chacho’s montonera. Within the first two books of his saga, Peñaloza needs to prove himself superior on the battlefield. Besides, once these two enter the scene, he also needs to prove himself in a symbolic fashion against both of them. As a result, Peñaloza ends up engaged in a symbolic duel. Nevertheless, that equivalence between Peñaloza, Benavides, and especially Arredondo may be problematic because that would imply the acceptance of a parallel, alternative government to the state. As I see it, Gutiérrez resolves it using the duel to introduce a hierarchical order whose final purpose is to correct the probable dilemma of thinking of Peñaloza and his montonera as epitomes of the national ideal. But, as I have argued, they are reminders that recover the old pact between the warlords and the lettered men who imagined Argen-


Chapter One

tina in 1810. That forgotten alliance outlined in the gauchoesque poetry that once educated uneducated men to get them to fight along with the righteous side is recovered by Gutiérrez. So, without diminishing Chacho’s symbolic value, Peñalozaʊas he is a charismatic leaderʊfades away as soon as the crisis has passed. Since Gutiérrez is empathetic with Peñaloza, he finds a way to soften the tension associated with this hierarchy. This is represented as an exchange of gifts between Peñaloza and Benavides, and later with Arredondo. As a resource of a symbolic power, from book to book Peñaloza begins to lose his capacity to reciprocate: for instance, there is no way for him to return the favour to Benavides for when he provided refuge to him and his men and opened their way to La Rioja. As Pierre Bourdieu explains, the gift is a generous act and at the same time a way to acquire symbolic power (14). Hence, Chacho must acknowledge that they are both superior to him on the battlefield as well as the symbolic turf on which they also dispute their influence among the paisanos. Benavides’s and Arredondo’s prestige inspires loyalty among their men the same way as Peñaloza: Every prisoner taken was alive and safe from any danger that may have threatened them. No one had any reason to fear. That is how Arredondo acquired his good name in the provinces. A prestige that later grew to the extreme of becoming a caudillo followed everywhere by the same men who had fought him before.18

This episode is especially significant because the prisoners’ treatment is one of the actions separating a civilised warrior from a barbaric one. One of the most dramatic episodes of the saga is the prisoner exchange after the signing of Tratado de la Banderita [the Banderita Treaty]. Despite Chacho returning all his prisoners unharmed, he cannot get his fallen men back: Now I see that it’s all true: an army supposedly organized by principles, chiefs leading men in the name of civilization do not respect the life of the war prisoners and do unspeakable things to them that not even the Indians would do. However, I, the savage gaucho, the ferocious montonero, the assassin, I, the bandit, have preserved the life of my prisoners of an enemy who slit my men’s throats.19

Benavides and Arredondo are both the kind of authority figures whose military rank matches the moral authority of somebody who exercises a just power. Once Arredondo enters the arena, Peñaloza decides it is time to retire. Arredondo’s presence changes everything. Up to this moment, the

An Alternative Nation Building Project


war had been a confrontation between a criminal army and a righteous and moral superior force. The national army was as criminal as any other group of outlaws savaging the homeland. Arredondo corrects the panorama: Only when General Arredondo was appointed chief of the war against Chacho did the army become more tractable and all the horrors perpetrated on the people of the territories occupied by the national army finally cease. The war was no longer one of a savage nature and had acquired its true character.20

Both Arredondo and Peñaloza recognise themselves as equals pursuing the same goal. The mitrista colonel favours the army and alleviates the paisanos after the tortures, pillaging, and forced levy carried out by executioners like Iseas or Linares. Regarding the war itself, his army proves to be superior to Chacho’s forces due to its tactics. Arredondo understands the montonera and adapts his strategy to it. As a result, he gains control of La Rioja and the paisanos spontaneously begin to enlist in his army. As Chacho grows old and the end of the war seems far away, Peñaloza begins to show the first symptoms of exhaustion due to his own old age and diminished resources. The national army is instead stronger because of Luis María Campos, José Inocencio Arias and characters like the young Captain Carlos Mayer, whose heroic fight and death moved the montoneros. Finally, Gutiérrez writes from the margins of the opposition newspapers about a marginalized topic. As soon as he deserts the army, he resumes the battle in a different arena. In this new, darker hour, the federalisation of Buenos Aires and his authoritarian hero confront him with the task to resolve the puzzle of why the nation-building project, cherished since the factional time of the antirosista opposition, had collapsed again in 1880. His conclusion is that Argentina has been trapped in a loop of authoritarian violence since the pact after Caseros was betrayed. President Roca resembles Rosas as his monumental corpus of folletines resembles, in a way, one of the founding fathers. Like Sarmiento, Gutiérrez turns to the caudillo, but he reterritorializes the concept. For him, the caudillo repairs the link between authority and the people. He is a legitimate leader because his interests are the same as those of his own people. Under that leadership, in his corpus, Argentina appears populated instead of deserted. As an imagined community, the Interior, the former locus of barbarism, is a reservoir of national values. Its gauchos are no longer barbarised hordes but citizens whose social practices already contain the seed of a true republican calling. This is why their love of freedom is no longer a sign of an errant practice and detachment, but a liberal drive. However, this thesis


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brings up an important problem. Neither Chacho nor his patriotic montonera can be the literal model for which Gutiérrez is looking. That is why Chacho must acknowledge Arredondo by the end of his saga. Symbolically, once Peñaloza has grown old, Arredondo must carry on his legacy. By that time, he has already proven that he is as righteous as Peñaloza, and even a superior and truly military force. Nevertheless, the main difference between them is that what is just intuition in Peñaloza becomes cultivated and ideological for Arredondo.



All translations from Spanish into English are mine, unless noted. During the nineteenth century, until 1880, Buenos Aires and the Interior were rivals. Immediately after the War of Independence against Spain, the liberated land was disputed by two tendencies: one centralist and another keen on the idea of every free city being ruled by their own leaders. For that reason, once the sovereignty of the country was in the control of its citizens, they had to define its government as either a unitarist or a federalist republic. The first option was fueled from Buenos Aires, while the second was promoted from the rest of the provinces. In 1820, because of the secessionist attempts of the Banda Oriental, Buenos Aires, as the most rich and powerful of the provinces, took provisional control of the national government after it was appointed by the Constituent Congress to keep the Banda under control. However, Buenos Aires failed in its attempt to subdue the secessionists. As a result, the unity of the province was broken by the war and the opposition of the rest of the provinces. The government of Buenos Aires changed several times and, by the end of the decade, Juan Manuel de Rosas, a native caudillo [chief, commander] from Buenos Aires, emerged victorious from the battlefield and easily took control of the province and the country for 20 years. He was the one who finally unified Argentina under one rule. Although he was a federalist, his ruling was unitarist and achieved what the lettered porteños could not accomplish. 3 “Factional,” according to Lelia Area, describes a methodology of the Argentine Lettered City in the decade of 1830 to construct the national identity as the opposite of what is represented by the tyrant Rosas. 4 Argentina enters to the international market as an agro-export country and becomes a very attractive country to invest in. 5 As Adolfo Prieto has argued, because of Moreira, Gutiérrez, instead of José Hernández, was the most quoted author among others folletinistas during the 1880s. In fact, there were a few who attributed Gutiérrez Hernández’s work as it can be read in a stanza from Lamentaciones de un paysano [The Lamentations of a Peasant] by Manuel Cientofante (Prieto 2006, 89). 6 Rosas was dethroned by Justo José de Urquiza after the latter’s victory on February 3, 1852 at mount Caseros, Buenos Aires province. The alliance between federals and unitarians to overthrow the tyrant made this possible after a decade of resistance. Once it was achieved, Caseros made possible, on one hand, the political 2

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unification of Argentina, and, on the other, the strengthening of the Unitarian party inside Buenos Aires. As soon as the San Nicolás Agreement was signed, Urquiza was appointed as a provisional Supreme Director of the Argentine Confederation. Later, he became the president of Argentina. Nevertheless, almost 10 years later, the Buenos Aires army defeated Urquiza in the Pavon Battle (1861) and recovered what it considered to have been taken away by the San Nicolás treaty—its supremacy over the other 13 provinces at the General Constituent Congress. 7 This critic confirms Gutiérrez’s placement inside the Argentine literary canon according to Rojas, and says that, compared to Hernández, his denunciation is close to the common idea about reality that inspired the author of Martín Fierro. However, Rivera admits a certain depth in his folletines’ content. For instance, he pays close attention to how touched the people are by their reading, for whom Moreira’s unwelcome events channel their own, namely immigration, urban growth, or the new kind of economic relationships, and that the nation is represented as broken or called into question. Likewise, writing about Gutiérrez’s historical corpus, Rivera states that his narrator’s retrospective glance is a mechanism to understand the present in the context of a revisionist phase of the historiographic discourse of the time. 8 After six years, Captain Eduardo Gutiérrez left the Guardia Nacional [National Guard], explaining in a letter that this was because of the imminent federalisation of his beloved province of Buenos Aires and the appointment of Roca as former President Avellaneda’s successor. After that, he was a tenacious opponent to roquismo from La Patria Argentina—an opposition newspaper founded by his older brother José María, who had also founded La Nación Argentina—between 1879 and 1883. Later, Gutiérrez continued his task from La Tribuna, El Nacional, La Época, Sud-América, El Orden, El Mercantil, La Patria, El Pueblo Argentino, and La Capital from Rosario. 9 Besides La muerte de Buenos Aires, Ignacio Monges (1886), published the same year that Roca passed the government to Juárez Celman, is another folletín about Roca. Monges, a gaucho from Corrientes abused by the federals all his life, decides, after devoting himself to the homeland, to make an attempt against Roca. Before the sight of Roca, wearing a full-dress uniform, parading along with other important men from his government, he states, “[Roca] had ruined my province as he imposed a barbarized government that had already taken away the fortune of the Liberals and had ended divesting the public liberties” [“que había arruinado a mi provincia, imponiéndole un gobierno de bárbaros que había empezado por arrebatar la fortuna a los liberales y había concluído por arrebatar las libertades públicas”] (102). Monges cannot help feeling betrayed. So, just when Roca is about to enter the Congress, he throws a stone at him and injures the president on behalf of his province and the entire nation, as he declares at the police station. That statement also concludes Gutiérrez’s long and prolific career. 10 Before Gutiérrez, “Sarmiento traced a homogeneous line that went from [Juan Gervasio] Artigas to [Ángel Vicente] Peñaloza” (Dabove 2007, 59), that also includes Francisco Ramírez, Facundo Quiroga, and Ricardo López Jordán. Every name of that teratology, as Lelia Area (2006) called it, was an incarnation of what Sarmiento had named barbarism. Each one of them was an enemy of civilisation,


Chapter One

and hence a nemesis of Argentina. Nevertheless, it is also well known that Sarmiento’s Manichean logic was not infallible, since Rosas was not as primitive as the author of Facundo stated, and Quiroga was not the illiterate he declared. Given this, Gutiérrez recovers that problematic aspect in Rosas’ character and plays it to the extreme. For him, the distinction between civilisation and barbarism is not clean cut. For this reason, it is not a surprise that, at the time he recounts Argentina’s history, that former lineage is no longer functional. On the contrary, for him, the current state of Argentina is the result of the decisions made by the same people that named Rosas and the caudillos monsters. 11 Gutiérrez’s police chronicles, gauchoesque series, and military stories are written following a base plot that is always about somebody who becomes an outlaw because they rebel against an authority whose power is openly at war with what is considered fair by whoever is subordinated to them. Because of that, one may be under the impression that every episode in each of those folletines repeats the same fight with different characters each time. One may read each of Gutiérrez’s volumes of his extensive narrative as a variation of a unique plot as well: a lonely gaucho against a group of law enforcement men. One may even do this with his historical folletines. However, this characteristic of the genre let Gutiérrez dramatize his thesis that Argentina lost track of its progress, and has been trapped in a loop since. 12 In the preliminary study of Historias de caudillos argentinos, edited by Jorge Laforgue, Tulio Halperín Donghi says that caudillo has two definitions. By 1810, it was used to name a rebel warlord fighting against the state to get exclusive control over a territory inside the homeland. It connotes, on one hand, somebody who is contaminated by the native primitivism of the marginalised territory under their control, and on the other somebody considered a very serious obstacle for the development of a national state within the postcolonial fragmented Argentine territory. Later, it was used to describe a local lord, what Halperín Donghi calls the caudillos mansos [docile], who was a mediator as they knew how to maintain their domain based on pacts and alliances with Buenos Aires and their neighbours. 13 The great Argentine historian Bartolomé Mitreʊwhose Historia de San Martín is quoted in El rastreadorʊcalls attention to two lineages of caudillos: the secessionists, as José Gervasio Artigas from the Banda Oriental, and the patriots, as Estanislao López from Santa Fe and Francisco Ramírez from Entre Ríos. These last two are, “truly national caudillos who defend the province’s autonomy among a national context” [“caudillos verdaderamente nacionales y defensores de la autonomía provincial en un marco nacional”] (Gutiérrez 1886, 37). As a matter of fact, Mitre believed that they, as members of the second lineage, cultivated the seed of a rudimentary democracy. Although they were marked by a very strong localism, they also recognised that, for their well-being, their provinces were not supposed to be at war with the entire nation. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that this is a late reflection that belongs to the man who was the president in 1863 and whose authority was quoted by Sarmiento, the Governor of San Juan at that time, when he ordered the execution of the already surrendered Peñaloza. 14 The original text states: “—Si Agenor fuese un pillo,—concluyó,—yo no me hubiera metido con nadie por defenderlo; pero él es un mozo bueno y honrado, que

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jamás dio motivo para que la justicia se metiera en sus cosas: el alcalde pretendía que una muchacha que estaba enamorada de Agenor había de quererlo á la fuerza y este era todo el motivo que había tenido para meterlo al cepo como un criminal. Fue por esto que yo le puse en libertad, y por esto que tanto el alcalde como el juez quisieron llevarme por delante, obligándome á darles una buena lección” (Gutiérrez 1884, 31). 15 The original text states: “¿[a] dónde iríamos á parar si para sus negocios privados ó pequeñas venganzas, cada alcalde de estos tuviera el derecho de secar á un hombre en el cepo?” (Ibid., 22) 16 The original text states: “Ellos [los hombres de Aldao] merecerían que yo me vengara de la misma manera en sus mujeres y en sus hijas, pero mi espíritu no es el de un bandido, y nunca podré hacerlo” (Ibid., 204). 17 The original text states: “Montoneras de bandidos y cuatreros en su mayor parte, tomaban por asalto las poblaciones, saqueando su comercio y aprisionando sus hombres para aumentar sus cuerpos, que hacían la guerra sin saber por qué la hacían y porque veían halagados sus instintos de vagancia y merodeo. Aquellas fuerzas no seguían á Varela ni á Saá para combatir por una causa más ó menos noble, ni por seguir una bandera que algún significado pudiera tener” (Gutiérrez 1884, 5). 18 “Todos los prisioneros tomados estaban allí vivos, sin que ningún peligro los amenazase, ni que tuvieran nada que temer. Así empezó el prestigio que adquirió más tarde en las provincias el general Arredondo; prestigio que aumentó luego al extremo de ser un caudillo que se hacía seguir á todas partes por aquellos mismos que antes lo habían combatido.” (Gutiérrez 1886c, 23) 19 The original text states: “Ahora veo que todo es verdad: el ejército de órden y de principios, los jefes que vienen á pelear en nombre de la civilización y del derecho, no respetan a los prisioneros de guerra y hacen con ellos lo que no hacen las tribus de los indios. Sin embargo, yo, el gaucho salvaje, yo el montonero feroz y asesino, yo, el bandido miserable, he conservado sin faltar uno solo, los prisioneros de un enemigo que degollaba los míos.” (Gutiérrez 1886b, 35–6) 20 The original text states: “Recién cuando fue el general Arredondo á hacer la guerra al Chacho, este [el ejército] se hizo más tratable y cesaron por completo todos los horrores á que eran sometidos los pueblos ocupados por tropas nacionales … Es que la guerra había dejado de ser guerra de salvajes, para tomar su verdadero carácter” (Gutiérrez 1884, 11). That is also acknowledged by Chacho: “[Chacho] was sympathetically looking at all the changes introduced by Arredondo in order to ennoble the war to wipe out every barbarian vestige that had defined the character of the war until that moment” [“Y miraba con simpatía las reformas introducidas por Arredondo con el propósito de ennoblecer la guerra y quitarle todo el carácter de bandalaje que había tenido hasta entonces”] (Gutiérrez 1886c, 29). Arredondo has a good opinion of Chacho: “The caudillo from La Rioja had become a positive character due to his behaviour at war. For that reason, it was a pity to have to fight against a caudillo so prestigious and such a fine warrior, two characteristics that may have been useful to the whole Republic” [“El caudillo riojano había concluido por hacérsele simpático en su manera de proceder y de hacer la guerra. Era lástima que fuera preciso combatir á un caudillo de tanta importancia militar y de tanto


Chapter One

prestigio, cosas que podíam bien haberse aprovechado en beneficio de la República entera”] (Ibid., 41).

References Books Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso. Andrade, Olegario V. 1943. Obras poéticas. Buenos Aires: Academia Argentina de Letras. Area, Lelia. 2006. Una biblioteca para leer la Nación. Lecturas de la figura de Juan Manuel de Rosas. Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo Editora. Bourdieu, Pierre. 2002. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dabove, Juan Pablo. 2007. Nightmares of the Lettered City. Banditry and Literature in Latin America 1816–1929. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Gutiérrez, Eduardo. 1881. Juan Manuel de Rosas. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. —. 1882. La muerte de Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. —. 1884. El Chacho. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. —. 1886a. Los montoneros. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. —. 1886b. El rastreador. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. —. 1886c. La muerte de un héroe. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. —. 1888a. El puñal del tirano. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. —. 1888b. La mazorca. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. —. 1888c. Una tragedia de doce años. Buenos Aires: N. Tommasi Ed. Hobsbawm, Eric. 2000. Bandits. New York: The New Press. Laera, Alejandra. 2004. El tiempo vacío de la ficción. Las novelas argentinas de Eduardo Gutiérrez y Eugenio Cambaceres. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Ludmer, Josefina. 1999. El cuerpo del delito. Un manual. Buenos Aires: Perfil. Prieto, Adolfo. 2006. El discurso criollista en la formación de la Argentina moderna. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI. Rivera, Jorge B. 1967. Eduardo Gutiérrez. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina. Sarmiento, Domingo Faustino. 2003. Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism. Trans. Kathleen Ross. Berkeley: University of California Press. Svampa, Maristella. 2006. El dilema argentino. Civilización o barbarie. Buenos Aires: Taurus.

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Viñas, David. 1964. Literatura argentina y realidad política. Buenos Aires: Jorge Álvarez Editor. Weber, Max. 1958. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. New York: University of Oxford Press.

Dissertation Salas Carrillo, Gisela Inés. “Caudillos, novela y escritura de la Historia: Juan Manuel de Rosas y el Chacho Peñaloza en la obra de Eduardo Gutiérrez.” Dissertation. University of Colorado-Boulder, 2011.

Chapters from edited collections Dabove, Juan Pablo. 2010. “Eduardo Gutiérrez: Narrativa de bandidos y novela popular argentina.” In Historia crítica de la literatura argentina: El brote de los géneros, edited by Alejandra Laera, 295–342. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores. González Echevarría, Roberto. 2003. “Facundo: An Introduction.” In Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism, edited by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. Translated by Kathleen Ross. Berkeley: University of California Press. Halperín Donghi, Tulio. 1999. “Estudio preliminar.” In Historias de caudillos argentinos, edited by Jorge Laforgue, 19–48. Buenos Aires: Alfaguara.


1. Introduction The writings of Virgilio Piñera (Cuba, 1912–79) are full of strange characters and occurrences. He is justly regarded as one of the world pioneers of the theatre of the absurd. But more than falling into a given literary style, his dramatic, narrative, and poetic production is characterised by an intrinsic coherence in the midst of flexibility and experimentation. In the following pages, I compare two of his most famous works, the play Electra Garrigó (1948)1 and the novel René´s Flesh (1952), with attention to the presence of cults and sects. “The cult of blood” is as central in the play as “the cult of meat” is in the novel. Under close examination, they appear to be in fact one and the same, even as certain differences reveal the broadening of Piñera’s reflections from a national to a global scenario. Although these cults are embodied in sects of the initiated, they ultimately represent beliefs and practices extensively held by the broader community. The prevalence of violence in these communities makes patent the necessity of an alternative order—a necessity most pressingly felt by the younger generation. Yet, in Piñera’s negative view, it is not clear that an alternative can exist.

2. The Cult of Blood The play Electra Garrigó was described by Virgilio Piñera as a study in the sentimental education of the Cuban (Piñera 1960). Unlike the novel

Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh


René’s Flesh, the play has clear allusions to Cuba as the place of the drama. This does not mean, however, that it is not also full of cosmopolitan references. These are rooted in the Western tradition—in the many ramifications of the Ancient Greek myth of the Oresteia—and also in contemporary sources, notably film. In the article “Piñera teatral,” which was reprinted as a prologue to the 1960 edition of his misnamed Teatro Completo, Piñera explains his attempt to capture the characteristically Cuban “rupture with seriousness inside quotation marks”2 (Piñera 1960). The play moves between comedy and tragedy, solemnity and ridicule. Piñera’s comments about his play reveal the influence of Jorge Mañach’s (1969) ideas on the temperament of the Cuban. Mañach famously described as choteo the quintessentially national inability to maintain a serious attitude for a very long time, a mode of nihilism and a penchant for a type of humour that seek to erode all authority figures.3 Electra Garrigó can be read as an embodiment of choteo—the very serious and in fact (as he describes them) “bitter” reflections of Piñera when he wrote this play,4 run amidst laughter for the absurd and ridicule of the life of the Greek/Cuban royalty. Piñera’s vision of the theatricality of politics (and specifically Cuban politics) can be found throughout his writings, and it is most certainly an awareness that he shared with Mañach.5 In Piñera’s article “Piñera teatral,” choteo (although he does not use this term) appears unequivocally as a tool of resistance in the face of authoritarianism: “among us, a Hitler, with his theatricality and his Wagnerism, would be deflated in one minute” (10).6 More strikingly for Cuba in 1960, Piñera refers to Fidel Castro as a superb actor. Moving away from any epic tone and perhaps even with an intention to “deflate” him, he refers to Castro’s triumphant entry into Havana as a prime example of a coup de theatre: “salida teatral.” The disparity between the serious and politically committed discourse increasingly demanded by the cultural apparatus of Fidel Castro’s regime and Piñera’s irreverence greatly contributed to his downfall and eventual dismissal from the literary sphere by the beginning of the 1970s. In the early 1940s, when Electra was written, Cuba had recently left behind the years of a revolutionary movement that ended with the deposition of Gerardo Machado in 1933. Hopes of deep social reforms were thwarted, however, by the overthrow of the “Government of the 100 days” of Ramón Grau San Martín by Fulgencio Batista, who maintained open or covert political control of the country until 1944—before, that is, his return by a coup d’état in 1952. The simultaneously comic and tragic (to use Piñera’s description) drama of the Cuban family in attic disguise is infused with the mores and troubles of the Caribbean polis. Most notable in this


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space, where family and nation overlap, is the collusion of violence, generational conflict, and struggle over individual freedom. In classic attic tragedy, the Chorus traditionally functioned as a representation of the moral views and feelings of the community. It is revealing that in this play the Chorus sings its stanzas to Joseíto Fernández’s melody “Guantanamera.” Back then, the “Guantanamera” was not the sweet, typically Cuban song that we know today, with the lyrics from Simple Verses by José Martí. Since 1943, and for the following ten years, it was exclusive property of a CMQ radio program sponsored by the company Crusellas (important producers of soap in the island), which dramatized the most salient criminal events of the day. This radio show was called El suceso del día [The Event of the Day] (López 1998, 143). 7 The song “Guantanamera” was considered a “symbol of tragedy and bad taste [chabacanería]” for its long association with El suceso del día (Ibid., 144). We can imagine El suceso as a radio precedent to the grisly magazine Alarma! in Mexico (the tabloid alluded in the song “Alármala de tos,” interpreted by Botellita de Jerez). So. in the premiere of Electra Garrigó in 1948, when the Chorus makes its introduction to verses sung to this melody, the stage is set for a representation of violence without any attenuating heroism or grandiosity. Quite the contrary, through this melody and its radio resonances at the time, violence was summoned as a spectacle for mindless consumption, inscribed within the realm of domesticity characteristic of the program. Of course, this narrow frame is an appearance, for the family drama of the Garrigós is meant to reflect Cuban society at large. The Cuban Oresteia maintains the main events of the classical myth: Clytemnestra, lover of Aegisthus, plots with him the murder of her husband, Agamemnon. To avenge their father, Orestes and Electra murder Clytemnestra. Orestes then leaves the family house and goes into exile. A remarkable first difference in relation to the Greek model lies in the character of Agamemnon. Piñera’s passive, beer drinking, pathetic figure, who at one point parades disguised as a Greek hero (wrapped in a sheet and crowned with a chamber pot), resembles little the guilty but triumphant warrior who returns from Troy after sacrificing his own daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess Artemis in exchange for favourable winds. The character of Piñera’s Agamemnon makes the foundation of the Garrigó house an extremely precarious one. This character in fact embodies the perception of Cuba’s lack of a rich-enough past, of “historical density.” Such a perception, according to Rafael Rojas, was common to the various writers associated, like Piñera, to the Orígenes group.8 These writers, “new Republican orphans,” 9 developed different ways of dealing with the perceived lack in their heritage. Piñera’s writings are representative of the

Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh


most corrosive and negative tendency: “Piñera remained always in a subversive immanence, perverse and terribly refractive of all authority” (Rojos 2008, 295).10 Indeed, regarding the absence of divinities in his Electra Garrigó, the author remarks: “could we have Gods when we lacked honorable men, to begin with?” (Piñera 1960, 13).11 In contraposition to the “frustración republicana,” the condemnation of the island’s political failures which was characteristic of the generation prior to the Orígenes, Rojas identifies the metaphor of blood (in the first editorial of the magazine Espuela de Plata in 1939 by Lezama Lima) as a symbol of the creative possibilities of the present: In the tropics there is the magical-vegetal … There is abundance of decomposition, but we also say, as a good omen: abundance of blood. Abundance of blood is to pay in money of death. Neither the citizen nor the exquisite one have good taste. Abundance of blood, the steady flame, that is good taste. But when one has blood and lively fire, who cares about good taste? (Lezama 2002, 51; Rojas 2008, 284)12

Just as Piñera’s writings can be described, as Rojas has done, as antagonistic to the current of Orígenes that “believed in the mission of filling the vacuum with memory” (2008, 291),13 the meaning of blood is also a very different one for him. Rather than the filling element, the expression of present possibility that it constitutes for Lezama, in Electra Garrigó blood refers to both violence and the ties of obedience of children to their parents. Blood indeed cements the national community represented in the play, and constitutes the sinister foundation of its beliefs and habits. Electra describes the education she has received from her mother as “the cult of blood” [“el culto de la sangre”] (Piñera 2008, 182). In the first act, Clytemnestra describes to Electra that she witnessed the murder of a young man by a soldier, just outside their house. There is no visible reason for the soldier’s action, and Clytemnestra is horrified and worried about Orestes. Electra coldly replies: “I don’t understand your horror. You were always a brave woman. Didn’t you educate me in the cult of blood?” (181–2). “The cult of blood” represents the habit of crime, the pliancy to the rule of the strongest. Other passages confirm the supremacy of violence in the Garrigó polis. This reinforces the play’s character of a national allegory. 14 In another modern version of the Oresteia, the 1931 trilogy by Eugene O’Neill Mourning Becomes Electra, murder appears confined to a family malediction that consummates itself within an apparently peaceful and innocent society—even more so in contraposition to the distant events of war. Here, in the city where a young man is casually shot dead in the background, it is


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repeatedly shown that violence is the local rule. In fact, the catchy tune of “Guantanamera” is there to remind the audience of the high amounts of crime among them. Electra’s and Orestes’ Tutor (who happens to be a Centaur, to emphasise his difference) converses with Orestes about the art of murder—specifically strangling. In the following dialogue, however, the contraposition that the Tutor establishes between himself and Aegisthus is missed: TUTOR: A conjurer [Aegisthus] never reveals the secrets of his illusions. Even I’d be more likely to teach you the art of strangulation. ORESTES: That is something you have never taught me, and you never will … In our city, the gymnasts and the chatterboxes form the highest caste. That’s not counting people with weapons up their sleeves. Despite your teaching, I couldn’t even strangle myself. TUTOR: Let virtue flow, not blood, just as water, not wine, flows from a fountain, though the Aegisthuses of the world say otherwise.15 (190)

“Gymnasts,” as it is clear from this passage, is Piñera’s curious euphemism for assassins. The comparison of crime to a sport is one that will also be important in René’s Flesh, as we shall see. The pedagogue is not capable of strangling, but this fact strangely reflects in his inability to not only shed blood but also bleed. Virtue, and not blood, is what fills this doubly anomalous body.16 Spectators learn, to the tune of “Guantanamera,” that Clytemnestra and Aegisthus have strangled Agamemnon with a sheet while he was lying in bed: “The whisper of sheets/round the neck of the king” (188). This crime is perpetrated in the most intimate location, yet it is made to resemble the ritual murder of Indian “thugs.” The reference is quite unexpected but unequivocal, as shown in a passage prior to the murder of Agamemnon: ORESTES: Aegisthus, didn’t you learn the art of strangulation in India? AEGISTHUS: That’s absolutely right. Years ago, unfavorable winds blew my ships towards Calcutta. One month was enough to learn to strangle elegantly, using the ten fingers of my hands. (190)

Indian thuggery—on which there is not, according to Kim A. Wagner, consensus among historians—was supposed to constitute, as colonialist lore had it: a fraternity of ritual stranglers who preyed on travelers along the highways of nineteenth century India. Their unsuspecting victims were first deceived into joining the thugs and later at some secluded point strangled, plundered and buried, supposedly assuming the status of human sacrifices to the god-

Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh


dess Kali. Thuggee was said to be an ancient practice sanctioned by Hinduism and the thugs supposedly observed a plethora of religious rules; they relied on omens, performed rituals and spoke a secret language. (Wagner 2007, 1)

Perhaps Fulgencio Batista’s nickname of “el indio” was an inspiration for Piñera’s transnational appropriation. 17 But, most importantly, the thugs’ practice of bloody rituals dedicated to a female goddess went well with the rule of matriarchy that Piñera set to criticise in this play as essential to the “sentimental education” of the Cuban. The depiction of the thugs as murderers at the service of a blood-thirsty goddess was fresh in the public’s imagination thanks to the Hollywood hit Gunga Din, directed by George Stevens and produced by RKO Radio Pictures in 1939 (Cabrera Fonte 2012, 296). In the movie, the thugs use pieces of cloth to strangle their victims. So, Clytemnestra’s ascendancy on Orestes—a motive charged with varying incestuous connotations in many modern versions of the myth—is directly aligned with the figure of Kali and with Aegisthus’s thuggery. She exclaims, after conceiving the idea of the murder of her husband: CLYTEMNESTRA: My beloved Orestes will have whatever he wants, he need only ask. Except for one thing: he is to be eternally celibate! He belongs to me. I don’t want him to leave, I don’t want any woman to enjoy him. I’ll be the one he adores, the one to whom he offers sacrifices— bloody or not! He’ll be king of a city built by my crimes! (188)

Adoration of the mother paired with ruthless violence is the most sombre face of the rule of what the Tutor describes as the “two lice in the head” of the Garrigó city: “the dominance [matriarcado] of its women and the machismo of its men” (190). To be free from the tyranny of their parents, Electra needs first and foremost to destroy Orestes’ bond to Clytemnestra. As in other modern versions (such as O’Neill’s), this is easily done once her adultery is proven to Orestes. In Piñera’s play, the severing of this bond entails the evocation and destruction of another film-inspired image, that of the abnegate mother—so prevalent at the time. Indeed, Clytemnestra tells Orestes that if he were to leave the family house: “I’d search desperately in the neighborhood for movies about a mother who dies because her child has left!” (183).18 Clytemnestra’s death at the hand of her children is carried on by means of a poisoned frutabomba, or papaya— traditionally evocative of the vagina. She dies, thus, by the symbol of her sex, a reminder of her adultery.


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After the deaths of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, and Orestes’ departure, Electra stays at the home. There is an emphasis on the closed door of the house—this is an interesting similarity, again, with O’Neill’s version. But here the door, as numerous objects in the house, is symbolically contaminated by Electra’s body—or more exactly, her blood, since this body is referred to as “a fluid.” Electra seems suddenly endowed with a supernatural power of influence and transformation. This power resembles radioactivity—a quality that greatly stirred the imaginations at the time. TUTOR: [T]his palace is going to be filled with a new fluid called Electra. Everything here will become Electra. Would you like to be part of that infinite multiplication of Electras? CLYTEMESTRA: … An infinite multiplication of Electras … Here everything is Electra. The color is Electra, the sound, Electra, hate, Electra, the day, Electra, the night, Electra, revenge, Electra … Electra, Electra, Electra, Electra, Electra! (193)

Matías Montes Huidobro has called attention to Electra’s asexuality— symmetrically opposed to Clytemnestra’s hyper-sexuality and also linked to her non-human quality at the end—and has seen the dominance and strangeness of her body as a prefiguration of, “the Cuba of Castro, closed to light by force of monstrosity” (1973, 160).19 The prefiguration of Castrism is also apparent, according to Montes Huidobro, in the, “destruction of family and faith, [the] subordination to an implacable totality, [the] cult of a single, omnipresent, personality” (Ibid., 158).20 The omnipresence of the new-fluid-Electra is in direct contraposition to “blood,” the previous source of community and the cult of the polis. Earlier in the play, Agamemnon had tried to command Electra’s obedience with an appeal to family ties based on blood. AGAMEMNON: And when your own blood calls? ELECTRA: Words, just words. In the end my blood must stand up to your blood. My blood is my own business. AGAMEMNON: … That’s blasphemy. You came from my blood and to my blood you must return. (181)

At the end of the play (once the siblings’ freedom is achieved by means of the murders of their parents) Electra’s point is proven. Her blood (her “fluid”) has “stood up” and obliterated blood as understood by Agamemnon: the element that ties individuals to families and families to nations; the representation of national community based on, “family unity … many families forming one big family” (181). But is Electra’s fluid really no longer the staple of murder and violence that is also a part of the cult of

Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh


blood? As far as we can see, the possibilities of this fluid lie mostly on the destructive—although Orestes’ and Electra’s freedom results directly from this destruction. With Orestes walking into exile and Electra secluded in her own supremacy, it is not clear that an alternative community can spring from the new fluid.

3. The Cult of Meat The world of Piñera’s 1952 novel René’s Flesh is unique and bizarre. Whereas the Greek/Cuban atmosphere of the Garrigó household has recognisable tropical elements, like the “Guantanamera” and the frutabomba, the city where most of the action of the novel takes place has a snowy winter and a subway. It resembles the pseudo New York of the novel Pressures and Diamonds, 21 but could also be a pseudo Buenos Aires—Piñera was living in that South American capital when he wrote and published René’s Flesh. It is, in any case, a city designed to be nonspecific, a generic modern metropolis in an equally generic modern nation. In his prologue to the novel, Antón Arrufat refers to this barely described scenario as an “empty space” and “an entirely mental” one (see Piñera 1992, xvii). Its non-specific quality allows for a mixture of strangeness and familiarity that suits well the eyes of its young protagonist, immersed in the process of deciphering the world around him. René is a foreigner, yet he appears strange to others around him for differences in moral views and sensibility rather than accent or national idiosyncrasy. The perception of the lightness of their historical heritage that Rojas singles out as a fundamental common element in the writers associated with Orígenes is physically dramatized in Piñera’s character René. Elsewhere, I have argued that the weight of flesh is, from the beginning until the end of the novel, constituted by absence—absence of attachment, of origins, autonomy, individuality, and soul.22 In the first chapter, René is sent by his father, Ramón, to buy meat at the butcher’s shop—this is part of his education in the cult of flesh. While he waits in a long line, agonising at the sight of bleeding meet hanging in front of his eyes, he thinks of the velocity of his transit, “from one city to another, from one country to another, from one continent to another even more distant” (9). His life with his mother and father has been, “one constant exodus … He couldn’t recall having spent more than one year in the same country” (10). The violence in their escapes was not apparent, “[t]hey wouldn’t leave cities pursued by threatening mobs, nor escorted by squads of soldiers, but there was such violence, anguish, and irritation in those precipitous dislocations”(10). Only two-dimensional images remain from this itinerant life,


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like that of a city visited in winter and from which René kept an “impression of the city … so narrow, so unilateral as to picture it as ‘eternally white’” (11). Directly opposed to the flat and weightless images of René’s uprooted past is the weight of meat and flesh. He recalls the last day when he came back from the butcher’s shop, “weighed down by several pounds of meat” (11), to hear from his father the news of an new and immediate migration. At the end of the novel, the old overseer at the Headquarters of the Hounded Meat confirms that René’s flesh is “coming along … at a quick pace” and that he has “gained five pounds” (256). The praise of this weight gain confirms the success of René’s education, the culmination of the process told in this bildungsroman. Ramón, Marblo—director of the male-only School of Pain—and other characters all try indirectly throughout the novel to make René understand that his role in the world is to offer his flesh for persecution and torture. The reasons for this necessity respond to absurd explanations. René gradually confirms, nonetheless, that this absurdity rules the world around him, and that resistance is futile. So when he accepts that he is, as late Ramón’s son, none other than the Chief of the Cause of the chocolatists (who play the role of escaping in a global-scale persecution), his acceptance entails complete renunciation. Just as the weight of the meat he used to carry home from the butcher’s shop was the only thing that would remain constant while countries and cities vanished behind him, now the weight of his own flesh constitutes his only attachment and destiny. While Electra Garrigó could say to her father “my blood is my own business,” what René has to learn is just the opposite: his flesh is not his own business but must always be at the service of something: at the service of pain and at the service of the cause embraced by his father. René’s final surrender to this law represents a renunciation of all hopes of individuality. Pablo Gasparini observes that the pedagogy of the School of Pain involving “facial cultivation” (65)—the production of smiling and satisfied faces over the extensively tortured bodies of the students—seeks to “fix a collective or generic expression in the face, one which destroys or makes alien—just as the numerous doubles in the novel—all marks of authenticity in the individual” (293).23 Identity in Marblo’s school only exists as each body’s different ability to withstand torture in silence. This is precisely the motto of the school: “to suffer in silence.” The cult of blood described above in relation to Electra Garrigó and the cult of flesh in this novel are similar in that they entail an extensive acquiescence to murder. Electra asks Clytemnestra: “Didn’t you educate me in the cult of blood?” when a man is murdered by a soldier outside

Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh


their home without an apparent reason (Piñera 1960, 181–2). The cult of blood is linked in the play to family ties as well as murder—as practiced, in ritual Indian-Hollywood style, by Aegisthus Don, but also as practiced nonchalantly in the Garrigó city (190). René’s final capitulation to the Cause is partly achieved thanks to his discovery that, for all his neighbours, murder is a completely insignificant occurrence. At the beginning of the chapter “Perfumed Flesh,” René is walking casually down a street. For the first time in the novel, “[h]e had a look of satisfaction” (Piñera 1992, 133). After his failure to “suffer in silence” and submit at the School of Pain, he has finally been left alone by his father. It seems that now he can escape the insane cult of the flesh, the world of torture of Ramón, Marblo, and their like. Then he meets two young men who are killing an old man on the sidewalk with knives. A girl enjoying the spectacle (with the acquiescence of her mother, who calls from a window) informs René that the victim is the men’s father. They want to inherit his money: “we told him to die, but he’s the picture of health. Neither my brother nor I could wait any longer” (136). Shortly after witnessing this scene, a pale and shaken René arrives at the house of Dalia de Pérez—a widow who hosts weekly music and poetry parties at her home, and who cannot wait to personally introduce René to sexual pleasures. René thinks that the tale of the parricide will shock her, but she responds: Ah, I feel so relieved! So, it didn’t have anything to do with girls … Oh, my God! An elderly man murdered. But is that all? … Because if it’s nothing but a murdered elderly man, tomorrow night we are going to have a veritable spectacle: a gentleman to whom exactly the same thing will happen as happened to the elderly man, except that it will be done with machine guns rather than knives. (145)

Her tale of the new crime, already scheduled like a tennis match or a party, does not prevent Dalia from showing René her caring, delicate style with details such as wanting him to sleep (with her) between warm sheets, and have for dinner “cold cuts, ham, eggs [huevitos], and café au lait with toast [tostaditas]” (145).24 If, at the beginning of the novel, René had thought that the cult of flesh practiced in his family and the School of Pain was an anomaly, throughout the second half he discovers that it is actually a most reasonable element of a society for which individual life has no importance. He confirms the veracity of the words of the school’s preacher, Swyne: “In the slaughterhouse, our flesh is nothing more nor less than the flesh of cattle. It is food for people. It resolves one of their problems of subsistence” (117). Accepting that the world is indeed “the slaughterhouse,” it follows that “it is flesh


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that makes the world go round, and the problems arising from all the flesh of the human species combined are greater than the individual flesh of any one person” (117). “Subsistence,” in the examples of assassinations witnessed by René—the old man and Mr Nieburg, killed by machine gun— meant monetary gain for someone. But in the logic of Swyne, any individual interest reflects the universal human necessity of subsistence. We saw that in Electra Garrigó Agamemnon conceives the polis as “many families forming one big family” (Piñera 1960, 181).” “The call of blood” [“la voz de la sangre”]25 ties individuals into families, and these into a community ruled by confrontation against exterior enemies. Thanks to this unity—Agamemnon tells Electra—“this city has withstood our enemies for thousands of years” (181).26 Blood is less important as a binding element in René’s Flesh. Surely, René’s life and education are marked by the fact that he is Ramón’s son, and as such will inherit his father’s position as, “chief of those who are pursued, who pursue those who pursue us” (Piñera 1992, 24). Yet, when Ramón, early in the novel, explains these facts to his horrified son, he also lets him know that if he, René, fails to have a son who inherits his position, then this will be filled by, “the most outstanding member of the party” (25). The existence of the Cause (“[t]he Cause is world revolution”), the party, the polarised division of persecuted and persecutors, refers us to the language of militant socialism as well as the Cold War era. Alan West rightly points out that Piñera’s writings from the period of this novel, the mid-1950s, are highly critical of both Western capitalism and Soviet-style socialism (1997, 70). Whereas in Electra Garrigó the polis coincides with a national community, the circular persecution derived from the confrontational logic in the novel defines a globalised reality. There was a country of origin, but now the, “pursuit takes place in and out of that country” (Piñera 1960, 23), “[w]e began putting land and sea between us,” yet “the earth isn’t boundless” (24). Different governments become allies of one group or the other. His awareness of the endless, circular character of the pursuit between defenders of the cause and their enemies does not cause any hesitation or despair in Ramón. He assumes it with a sporty spirit. He explains the passing of the position of Chief of the Cause as a relay race: “When one of them [runners] lets the torch fall, the next runner immediately picks it up” (Piñera 1992, 25). The same spirit prevails in Marblo’s school, where “facial cultivation” mass-produces in the students, “the faces of athletes who have roundly triumphed on the track” (62). Even as their destiny of tortured flesh is explained to René and his fellow students with a wealth of images and stories from diverse traditions (from Ancient Greece to the

Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh


death of Cuauhtémoc) and especially Catholic imagery (e.g. Saint Sebastian, the Crucifixion), there is an emphasis on the sporty spirit, which figures as the staple of the modern. Swyne (a former Catholic priest, now excommunicated) reinterprets the crucified Christ as a beaming image of the satiated desire for physical pain: “Our age fled from pity at top speed.” The traditional pained and anguished expression of Christ “seemed ridiculous for our sporty spirit” (95). Christ’s new smiling face is the model for the mass-produced face of the students: “ground down, squashed, but … modern, always modern” (95). The male society rule of Marblo and Swyne and the “fraternity of ritual stranglers,” alluded to in Electra Garrigó through Aegisthus, schooled in Indian thuggery, have in common the strangeness and specificity of their cults. They are societies for the initiated, and focus on the cultivation of specific techniques. Yet they also turn out to represent the spirit of the larger societies around them. In Electra Garrigó, “the gymnasts and the chatterboxes form the highest caste” (and the reference to “caste” is telling here, reinstating the allusion to India). In the novel, René is finally forced to recognise the prevalence of Swyne’s view of the world as a slaughter house. The goddess Kali, in the form of the bloodthirsty deity popularised by the film Gunga Din in 1939, could easily be evoked by the dominant queen Clytemnestra. In contrast, Ramón’s wife Alicia is a strangely quiet and submissive figure. The only ritual in which she figures is the cleaning of her husband’s wound. She appears as a defeated “Mater Dolorosa” when the ceremony of René’s initiation at the School of Pain fails completely—René runs away from the burning iron that was supposed to mark his behind like that of cattle. Yet, in spite of her being the reverse of the sensual and dominant Clytemnestra, Alicia is invoked at one point by René as the gateway to the pervasive cult of flesh. This is a scene at the cemetery where Alicia has been buried. Kneeling before his mother’s grave, he asked her what the great secret of the love of flesh was. Since he was now destined for the cult of meat, the least his mother could do was to instruct him; she alone could tell him from what bloody spring the waters flow that turn one into a hyena hungry for carrion and a tigress who makes a shield of her own body to defend her young … But Alicia remained as silent as her bones. (193)

Silence is an appropriate response. According to Víctor Fowler, René´s Flesh paradigmatically represents a “strange religion” in which “there is nothing true or transcendental to express with words … there is only, as transmitter of truth, the language of the bodies” (1998, 81).27 In the disci-


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plined practice of pain in this novel, Fowler has seen the expression of enkrateia (as described Michel Foucault): a limitless struggle for selfdominion (Ibid., 82). In Piñera’s writings, according to Fowler, enkrateia entails the denial of pleasure—and more specifically homosexual pleasure—in favour of the intensification of desire. Electra’s fluid is endowed of limitless transformative power, yet it is forever contained by the closed doors of the family home. At the end of the novel, René’s existence is constrained to the physical space of his body—a containment paradoxically contrasted by the necessity of his endless escaping around the world, and by the intensity of the moving force of that escape: a panic almost indistinguishable from desire.

4. Mourning Becomes Orestes A song in the best tradition of Cuba’s rural music, “Guantanamera” made the first audience of Electra Garrigó in the late 1940s aware of a belief dearly held by Piñera: there is nothing truly painful nor absolutely pleasurable (Piñera 1960, 9).28 Crime had great ratings in El suceso del día, the radio program for which the song was a part, because it was, as in the play, a spectacle. The acceptance of murder is the core of the cult of blood, central in the life of the Garrigó polis. And it is alarming, even when accompanied by laughter or guitar. Electra does not abolish the cult of blood, but does abolish its sentimental aspect along with the destruction of family. She thus transforms it into something unrecognisable—the strange fluid— that is no longer the cementing element of the national community represented in the play. Electra ends, then, with the symbolic destruction of the national order. In René´s Flesh, the nomadic existence of Ramón’s family refers us to the condition of exile. Orestes walks out of the family door of the Garrigó with a promise of freedom. That is something that René always yearns for but that never materialises for him. In the novel, murder is the joyous or, at best, indifferent spectacle that cements a community—but this time beyond national boundaries and, furthermore, beyond ideological ones. The two parties that exist in this globalised scenario of persecution are identical in their thirst for murder, torture, and self-immolation. Murder and pain constitute a spectacle (the father killed by knives, the man massacred by machine guns, the students branded with burning irons) and give a visual centre to the coalescence of an audience, although “audience” is a problematic term for a display based on silence, predicated in fact upon the impossibility of meaningful communication.

Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh


The secretive and sectarian centres of criminal activity in the play and novel ritualise and perfect a practice of violence that is, in fact, extensive. Women (Kali, the centre of worship, or Alicia, the “Mater Dolorosa” who leads “the flesh of her flesh” to immolation in René´s Flesh) have a determinant role in this order. They are the ones who nurture their children with “a glass of blood every morning” (Piñera 1992, 4).29



1948 is the year of the play’s premiere in Havana. In “Piñera teatral,” the author affirms that he wrote it in 1941 (11), yet this early date has been disputed. 2 “[R]uptura con la seriedad entre comillas” (“Piñera,” 10). Unless otherwise specified, the translations are mine. In the case of Piñera’s works, I have used existing English translations when possible. 3 In his 1928 essay “Indagación del choteo,” Mañach asserts that the Cuban “does not take seriously anything of what is usually considered serious.” [“no toma en serio nada de lo que generalmente se tiene por serio” (1969, 18)]. He sees as one of the main characteristics of choteo the ability “to see the comic in the authoritarian” [“para ver lo cómico en lo autoritario” (Ibid., 27)]. 4 “I am not a philosopher, but I do not avoid meditation, and the ones I had were indeed very bitter.” [“No soy filósofo, pero con todo no rehuyo la meditación, y las que yo hacía eran, en verdad bien amargas” (1960, 13)]. 5 In the essay “El Derecho de Nacer,” Rafael Rojas explores the intertwining of political life and mass media narratives, specifically the very pervasive melodramatic ones. In texts from the 1950s (“El drama de Cuba” and the prologue to the 1955 edition of Indagación), “Mañach detected melodrama as the basic structure of public life in the fifties” [“Mañach detectaba [el melodrama] como estructura básica de la esfera pública de los cincuenta”] (2012, 64–5). 6 “[E]ntre nosotros un Hitler, con sus teatralerías y su wagnerismo, sería desinflado al minuto” (1960, 10). 7 For a study of the presence of mass media in Electra Garrigó see Cabrera Fonte, “Moldes melodramáticos y salidas teatrales” (294–300). 8 Discussing the variety of poetics of the writers associated with the literary magazine and the editorial seal Orígenes (1944)—among them, José Lezama Lima, Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz, Eliseo Diego, and Virgilio Piñera—Rojas finds a common point of departure: “Thus an identical premise, the experience of Cuba’s lack of historical density, was broken into different strategies that would become hostile to each other.” [“De modo que una idéntica premisa, la constatación de la escasa densidad histórica de Cuba, se escindió en estrategias diferentes, que llegarían a ser hostiles”] (Rojas 2008, 291). 9 I take the expression from Rojas: “the most alarming thing for those new republican orphans was that such disorientation erased every sign of continuity and fixity in the evolution of the country.” [“lo más inquietante para aquellos nuevos


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huérfanos republicanos era que esa desorientación borrara todo signo de continuidad y fijeza en el devenir de la isla”] (Ibid., 288). 10 “Piñera se mantuvo siempre en una inmanencia subversiva, perversa y terriblemente refractaria a toda autoridad” (Ibid., 295). 11 “¿[P]odíamos nosotros tener dioses cuando empezábamos por no tener hombres probos?” (Piñera 1960, 13). 12 “En el trópico hay lo vegetal mágico … Hay la abundancia de la descomposición, pero también decimos como buena señal: la abundancia de la sangre. Abundancia de sangre es pagar en dinero de muerte. Ni el ciudadano ni el exquisito tienen buen gusto. La abundancia de sangre, la llama fija, eso sí es buen gusto. Pero cuando se tiene sangre y fuego vivaces qué nos importa ya el buen gusto” (Lezama 2002, 51/Rojas 2008, 284). 13 “[C]reyó en la misión de llenar el vacío con la memoria” (2008, 291). 14 In Family and Identity in Contemporary Cuban and Puerto Rican Drama, Camilla Stevens emphasises how the plays in her selection “encourage audiences to draw correlations between the two apparently distinct narratives of family plots and the discourses of national identity” (6). She includes a study of a play by Piñera, Cold Air. In Electra Garrigó, the cult of blood is the fundamental element that links the family drama to the turmoil of recent national history. 15 The original passage in the 1960 edition of Teatro Completo reads: PEDAGOGO: Los ilusionistas nunca descubren sus ilusiones. Primero te enseñaría a estrangular. ORESTES: Algo que tú no me has enseñado, y lo que es peor, que no podrás enseñarme … En nuestra ciudad, los gimnastas y los parlanchines forman la casta superior. Y no cuento las armas disimuladas bajo la ropa. Con tu ciencia, ni yo mismo podría estrangularme. PEDAGOGO: Uno mana virtud y no sangre, como la fuente mana agua y no vino, aunque los Egistos digan otra cosa. (67). It is not the Tutor but Aegisthus who would teach Orestes how to strangle. Also, “Let virtue flow …” misses the Tutor’s reference to his own body as the origin of virtue, not blood: “Uno mana virtud …” Finally, “despite your teaching” in the English version should read “with your teaching.” 16 See previous note. 17 Fulgencio Batista’s son comments, regarding his father, that, “His friends called him el indio [the Indian], and his enemies called him el negro [black man]” (Argote-Freyre 2006, 4). 18 The 1960 Spanish version is in the present tense: “busco desesperada por todos los cines de barrio esas películas que cuentan la muerte …” (Piñera 1960, 45). 19 “La Cuba castrista cerrada a la luz por la fuerza de la monstruosidad” (Huidobro 1973, 160). 20 “Destrucción de la familia y de la fe, subordinación a un todo implacable, culto a una personalidad única, omnipresente” (Ibid., 158). 21 Julio Ortega uses the expression “Nueva York apócrifa” to describe the city where Piñera’s 1968 novel takes place (1972, 82).

Transnational Panic: Criminal Cults in Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh



See Cabrera Fonte, “Ausencia y modernidad …” “[F]ijar en el rostro una expresión colectiva o genérica, y que desvirtúa o extraña—al igual que los numerosos dobles de la novela—cualquier marca de autenticidad en la identidad” (Piñera 1992, 293). 24 I quote the diminutives from the Spanish version (Ibid., 107). 25 In the Spanish version (Ibid., 39). 26 Rafael Rojas explains the process by which Cuban intellectuals moved from a nihilistic subjectivity in the Republican period to the “revolutionary commitment” of the socialist period resorting to Roberto Esposito’s concept of “biopolitical immunization.” This takes place when an enemy is discovered in the social organism (2012, 69). In both Electra Garrigó and René’s Flesh, Piñera depicts communities that function with the presupposition of a lurking enemy. This is even more apparent in the novel than the play. 27 “En la extraña religión que analizamos [en la obra de Piñera] no hay placer, sino ejercicio devoto; en el extraño universo que nos es dibujado no hay nada verdadero o trascendental que expresar con las palabras, pues con vestiduras de un lenguaje vacío, la única verdad será aquella expresada con el cuerpo. Entonces sólo hay, como transmisor de verdad, el lenguaje de los cuerpos. Por tal cosa los veremos sufrir, ser castigados, dañarse, herirse … están buscando comunicación. El paradigma de tales penalidades, propias de la más pura mística, es la novela de Piñera La carne de René” (Fowler 1998, 81) 28 “[N]o existe nada verdaderamente doloroso o absolutamente placentero” (“Piñera,” 9). 29 When Mrs Dalia Pérez sees René standing pale in the butcher´s line, she comments: “If he were my child, I´d give him a glass of blood every morning” (Piñera 1992, 4). 23

References Books Argote-Freyre, Frank. 2006. Fulgencio Batista: From Revolutionary to Strongman. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Arrufat, Antón. 1992. Foreword to René´s Flesh. vii–xxii. New York: Marsilio Publishers. Fowler, Víctor. 1998. La maldición. Una historia del placer como conquista. La Habana: Letras Cubanas. Montes Huidobro, Matías. 1973. Persona, vida y máscara en el teatro cubano. Miami: Ediciones Universal. López, Oscar Luis. 1998. La Radio en Cuba. 2nd ed. La Habana: Letras Cubanas. Mañach, Jorge. 1969. Indagación del choteo. Miami: Mnemosyne. O’Neill, Eugene. 1931. Mourning Becomes Electra: A Trilogy. New York: Liveright.


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Piñera, Virgilio. 1985. La carne de René. Madrid: Alfaguara. —. 1992. René’s Flesh. Trans. Mark Schafer. New York: Marsilio Publishers. Piñera, Virgilio. 1960. Teatro completo. La Habana: Ediciones R. Rojas, Rafael. 2008. Motivos de Anteo. Patria y nación en la historia intelectual de Cuba. Madrid: Colibrí. —. 2012. La máquina del olvido. México D.F.: Taurus. Stevens, Camilla. 2004. Family and Identity in Contemporary Cuban and Puerto Rican Drama. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Wagner, Kim A. 2007. Thugee: Banditry and the British in Early Nineteenth-Century India. New York: Palgrave. West, Alan. 1997. Tropics of History: Cuba Imagined. Westport: Bergin and Garvey.

Chapters from edited collections Cabrera Fonte, Pilar. 2012. “Moldes melodramáticos y salidas teatrales: La cultura mediática en textos dramáticos de Virgilio Piñera.” In Virgilio Piñera: El artificio del miedo, edited by Humberto López Cruz, 290– 321. Madrid: Editorial Hispano Cubana. Piñera, Virgilio. 2008. “Electra Garrigó.” Trans. Margaret Carson. In Stages of Conflict: A Critical Anthology of Latin American Theater and Performance, edited by Diana Taylor and Sarah J. Townshend, 173–95. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.

Journal articles Cabrera Fonte, Pilar. 2012. “Imágenes de carne: Ausencia y modernidad en La carne de René y Raining Backwards.” Revolución y Cultura [Havana] 4: 9–13. Lezama Lima, José. 2002. “Doctrinal de la Anémona (1939).” Espuela de Plata. Cuaderno Bimestral de Arte y Poesía: 53–4. Ortega, Julio. 1972. “Sobre narrativa cubana actual.” Nueva narrativa hispanoamericana 2 (1): 65–87.

Films Stevens, George. Gunga Din. RKO Radio Pictures, 1939. Wagner Home Video, 2004. DVD.


With the arrival of HIV in Cuba during the first years of the 1980s, the entire Cuban health system mobilised to contain the spread of the disease. Starting in 1983, this mobilisation included, for example, a strict ban on the import of blood products, the destruction of twenty-thousand containers of potentially infected blood, the construction of laboratories for diagnosis, and the development of tests to identify the virus followed by their systematic application to high-risk groups (Lantero Abreu et al. 2006, 385–7). Hence, by 1991 almost the entire population of the island had been tested (Leiner 1994, 117). By 1986, the Cuban government had systematically implemented a quarantine with the establishment of a network of sanatoriums for the treatment of AIDS patients and HIV-positive individuals. Such institutions maintained, at least until 1989, a policy of strict isolation. The compulsory seclusion became the target of strong condemnation in years to come, and by 1987 some of the first official comments addressing the criticisms can be found. In the words of Fidel Castro: When the number of carriers is massive [as in the US and Europe], you cannot take the steps we have taken. Some people, having nothing to do or say, have criticized our measures, isolation measures that we have taken, necessary and essential, which tend to protect not only healthy people, but also sick individuals; because it is known that AIDS among those infected becomes a disease at some point of low immunity, poor nutrition, etc., and until an effective drug that radically cures the disease is discovered, preventive care is the fundamental weapon to preserve the life of someone infected with the AIDS virus. (“Discurso pronunciado en el acto de


Chapter Three inauguración;” [Speech given during the inauguration ceremony])1

The details outlined in Castro’s speech would form the rhetorical axis to defend the Cuban strategy. On the one hand, isolation was heralded as a way to protect patients from themselves and from infecting other members of the society. Furthermore, sanatoria would be presented overseas as places full of amenities where patients received the latest medical treatments with plenty of food available—a stark contrast to the shortages faced by the rest of the population. This defensive strategy coexisted with an offensive posture pointing to the United States as the main propagator of the virus, stating at the same time that the spread of the disease was the result of the moral crisis of certain groups and individuals, effectively boosting HIV/AIDS-related stigma on the island (Leiner 1994, 2). This article proposes that, in this context, an alternative creative community allowed for the production of meanings and the contestation of official rhetoric linked to HIV/AIDS—to be exact, the literary workshop La Montaña Mágica [The Magic Mountain], a community within a community of patients, family members, allies, and caregivers in the Santiago de las Vegas sanatorium. With the beginning of the Special Period [Periodo Especial] in 1991, the mandatory seclusion would be eased due to economic constraints, an increase in the number of cases, and the regime’s concern about its image abroad (Smallman 2007, 46–9). The government began to talk about a flexible quarantine, where some patients were free to leave the sanatorium. The transition from a model of complete isolation to one of gradual social reintegration of patients was carried out in stages. At first, patients were allowed to leave the sanatorium under certain circumstances, such as weekends, escorted by an “acompañante,” or companion, who would monitor their actions. Committees to evaluate the behaviour of patients were formed in the sanatoria, and were in charge of deciding whether it was necessary to continue monitoring a patient or if such practice could be eliminated when the patient was deemed morally responsible. In retrospect, the mandatory isolation of patients in sanatoria became the most controversial aspect of the Cuban strategy to fight AIDS, mainly due to its implications in terms of the violation of human rights, an issue that has dogged the regime. It is in this context that the workshop La Montaña Mágica was formed. The workshop was comprised of a group of patients admitted to the Los Cocos sanatorium in Santiago de las Vegas. According to Miguel Ángel Fraga, one of the founding members, the workshop came as a “ragtag” group of “intellectuals, lawyers, rockers, gays, ex-convicts, housewives” interested in expressing themselves creatively. In a recent interview, included as an appendix at the end of this

La Montaña Mágica: Representations of HIV/AIDS from the Sanatorium


work, Fraga recounts his years in the sanatorium and the dynamics of the workshop, describing it as a community driven by its enthusiasm for literature, but also seen as “a meeting point, not only culturally but redemptively” (see Appendix), where participants got together to talk about texts they read and wrote, as well as their own afflictions. And as Fraga describes in the interview, the workshop soon went from focusing on written works to wider forms of artistic expression: “Patients who were painters also joined the workshop. And we got to present small plays, some with a religious theme” (see Appendix). The workshop gained international notoriety with the 1997 publication in Madrid of the collection of short stories Toda esa gente solitaria: 18 cuentos cubanos sobre el SIDA [All the Lonely People: 18 Cuban Stories about AIDS], edited by Lourdes Zayón Jomolca and José Ramón Fajardo Atanes, as part of a series by Spanish publisher Ediciones La Palma. According to the editors, the collection finds its origins in the production of the group of patients that formed the literary workshop La Montaña Mágica. Nevertheless, in addition to the patients, other known writers participated in the anthology, such as Ricardo Arrieta, José Miguel Sánchez Gómez “Yoss,” and Ronaldo Menéndez, all from the “novísimos” generation, a term popularised by Salvador Redonet. The term “novísimos” has been used to describe a group of Cuban writers who were born between 1959 and 1972 that consider the short story a natural form for the renewal of Cuban literary production (Redonet 1993, 20). According to Carlos Uxó (2010), this generation of writers found fertile ground for their texts in marginality, since their “main characters (“friki” rockers, prostitutes, punks, drug addicts, or alcoholics) are now mostly antiheroes,”2 and respond to “the line marked by literary postmodernism.”3 Some critics have been unsympathetic to the motivations behind the interests of these authors. Rubio Cuevas (2001) suggests that the marginality associated with the “novísimos” responds rather to, “a clear editorial maneuver to magnify their marginal character,”4 using Toda esa gente solitaria as an example: The first Spanish edition consisting solely of “novísimos” appears in December 1997, and does so with a loud entrance: its subtitle is Cuentos cubanos sobre el SIDA [Cuban Stories about AIDS]. The back cover, furthermore, places the authors as members of a literary workshop set in a sanatorium for AIDS patients. We need to read the prologue to notice how this description can only apply to five of the eighteen writers included. Which matters little, the effect is already achieved.5


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When questioned about the inclusion of these known writers in the anthology, Fraga sees it as a natural effect of the workshop dynamics, where non-patient guest writers were frequent participants, adding that, “the idea was to not differentiate between ‘them’ and ‘us.’ Everyone involved in the selection was connected to the workshop La Montaña Mágica and to HIV; we all had something to say sincerely and publicly” (see Appendix). Beyond the marketing strategy implemented by the publisher, including a title that alludes to the famous song “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles, it is clear that the anthology responds to stylistic and thematic concerns identified with the “novísimos” generation by literary critics, perhaps as a result of the interactions within the workshop between editors and contributors. The result is a set of stories making an effort to talk about HIV/AIDS from a perspective closer to the experience of those affected by it; experience channelled through works that came out of an alternative creative community that was part of the larger community of patients, providers, friends, and families. The inclusion of non-patients in the collection has not been the only contentious point. Even though no official reactions to the publication of the volume can be found, a direct connection between the workshop and the Castro regime has been suggested by critics. Oscar Fernández proposes that the name of the workshop itself, taken from Thomas Mann’s celebrated novel, points towards an effort to draw transatlantic connections that sustain the narrative of disease promoted by the regime: Naming the Cuban writing workshop after Mann’s novel highlights two integral parts in Cuba’s containment of disease: the state needs to create a metaphoric space to speak about disease as a form of fiction or as inhabiting an other-worldly space separate from the health of the nation; furthermore, the state also needs to legitimize the spatial isolation of diseased patients. (2003, 109)

In fact, Fernández maintains that the state is trying to spread the idea that isolation leads to healing, as in Mann’s novel (Ibid., 110). In this sense, according to Fernández, the collection’s prologue becomes fundamental for the construction of such narrative, since, “it inhabits a liminal space between fiction on AIDS and HIV clinical treatments” (114). Fernández’s assertion comes from the fact that a significant portion of the prologue describes the situation of HIV/AIDS in Cuba, including the control measures taken by the government, generally under a positive light. For example, regarding Los Cocos, it states that, “among its most obvious advantages, it [the sanatorium] provided, and provides, highly-specialized care, the most innovative medications, and living conditions (including

La Montaña Mágica: Representations of HIV/AIDS from the Sanatorium


food) clearly well above the average for a country dealing with (during the current decade) its worst economic crisis.”6 And, although there is a brief discussion of the problems associated with the regime’s strategy to treat the disease, specifically the compulsory hospitalisation of HIV-positive individuals, the prevailing tone of approval seems to reproduce the official discourse, predisposing the reader towards a political reading of both the works included and the selection process—a reading that should also consider the possibility of mimetic reproduction of the official rhetoric as a subsistence tool. But perhaps one of the most polemical issues about the anthology has to do with the representation of characters that could potentially challenge the heteronormative patriarchal order. By the end of the prologue, the editors draw attention to a series of “warnings and omissions,”7 including the lack of female authors in the collection: “It is also missed, and in what way!, the presence of women in the sample. We have no answer for such conspicuous absence, especially when their role is critical—many times— in the life and plot of these and countless other stories.”8 This cautionary statement about the critical role of female authors is even more relevant when exploring the often problematic representations of female figures in the selected stories (Meruane 2014, 73). Eleven out of eighteen short stories describe a heterosexual relationship in which, with some exceptions, female characters are generally presented as the source of the virus and responsible for their partners’ woes, replicating the femme fatale archetype with various levels of misogyny. Stereotypical portrayals include: the unscrupulous seductress (“Ejercicio de la imaginación”), the lover who infects her partner deliberately (“November Rain”), the irresistible young woman whose external beauty contrasts her HIV-positive status (“Masa de coco,” “En el límite,” “Apoptosis,” and “Recuerdos obligatorios del olvido”), the ungrateful partner who prostitutes herself to tourists (“Huitzel y Quetzal”), and the exotic and dangerous African woman (“Anticipación de la nada”). All of these examples are variations of the theme of a man caught in the web of female desire, either voluntarily or involuntarily, leaving heteronormative patriarchy unhampered. Such representations have additional implications within the Cuban context. Despite advances in gender equality brought about by the Revolution, various critics have noted the highly patriarchal nature of the Castro regime. After noting the fundamental role of women in the postrevolutionary transformation agenda, Karina Lissette Céspedes documents how the emergence of the Federation of Cuban Women (Federación de


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Mujeres Cubanas) eliminated the possibility of dissenting feminist voices. In her words: In creating the ideal of the revolutionary woman, images of women as both warriors and maternal figures became popular associations. The image of the Cuban female warrior was one that replaced the Cuban female whore. The ideal of a “new man,” and a “new revolutionary womanhood,” would become translated into a demand for heteronormative propriety. (83)

In this light, the representation of HIV-positive women that threaten healthy men appeals to the moral values implanted by the Revolution, where the “new man” is again haunted by the ghost of the prerevolutionary prostitute that the regime had sought to bury. In this sense, HIV/AIDS in female characters becomes an unquestionable proof of their lack of commitment to the Revolution, symbolising a return to a state of imperialist subjugation. The influence of the Cuban regime’s heteronormative discourse can also be seen in stories that include representations of non-normative sexual identities. Scholars such as Dieter Ingenschay have been extremely critical of the anthology in this respect, noting the presence of internalised homophobia that fails to rise above the official rhetoric. Ingenschay finds especially problematic Yoss’s “En la diversidad,” a story following Leonardo, a self-proclaimed bisexual and HIV-positive individual who is looking to re-establish a relationship with Leyda, a former girlfriend, after spending time in the sanatorium. According to Ingenschay, “[i]t is evident that here a loca’s self-congratulatory staging of self, as in Sarduy and Arenas, has been abandoned in favor of a discourse struggling for a pitifully small amount of social tolerance” (2005, 148). Unlike Ingenschay, Patricia Valladares Ruiz (2004) observes certain discursive possibilities of resistance in the story, precisely because of its reluctance to represent certain stereotypes, in her words, “by portraying and questioning these stereotypes [those associated to homosexuality in Cuba], it breaks the official and socially propagated notions about male sexuality.”9 Furthermore, Yoss’s short story can be read as a testimony of its historical context, when, according to Sierra Madero, “in the homoerotic atmosphere of the nineties, the macho model began to take hold as the ideal homosexual image, to the detriment of the image and prestige of the so called ‘locas.’”10 Nonetheless, an invested reader can easily feel that the story has missed a unique opportunity to challenge many misconceptions related to sexual identity within the context of the AIDS pandemic. Perhaps the short story in Toda esa gente solitaria that is most successful at revealing the nuances of representing HIV/AIDS in Cuba

La Montaña Mágica: Representations of HIV/AIDS from the Sanatorium


would be “¡Ay Virgilio!” by Miguel Ángel Fraga. The story describes the experience of a young man returning from Germany to the island, where he faces an HIV-positive diagnosis. The story is interspersed with texts that provide information about scorpions, their habitat, eating practices, and general characteristics, discursively equating patients and scorpions. Fraga’s text shows the tension between Castroist hegemonic discourse and counter-discourses. For example, when talking about the conditions in the sanatorium, the doctors’ point of view is aligned with the official rhetoric: “Here you have it all; in a serious situation, we can help. In other countries, many people like you pray for other types of assistance. We are in Cuba. Specialists travel abroad, advertise, show statistics, compare casualties, buy goods. Unquestionably, you are better here. Isolated, but safe.”11 The doctors’ emphasis on the statistics of Cuban health at the international level aligns with what Pierre Sean Brotherton calls “statistical fetishism”; that is, “a heightened focus on ideological models and measures of health, in place of more nuanced accounts of the complex interrelationships among the individual practices of health care professionals and ordinary people, health policies, and state power” (2005, 341). Thus, according to Brotherton, using statistics to defend the success of the Cuban model makes most of the interactions between patients, healthcare workers, and State representatives invisible. This discursive strategy is crucial, since the regime has, “used measures of the health of individuals as a metaphor for the health of the body politic, effectively linking the efficacy of socialism and its governmental apparatus to the health conditions of the population” (Ibid., 348). Hence, such statistics reflect the health of not only the population but also the political system itself. The narrator and main character in “¡Ay Virgilio!” is aware of the “statistical fetishism” described by Brotherton, and in fact rebels against it. After the aforementioned doctor’s comment, the narrator voices his opinion about the sanatorium: “Some say it is an ant’s nest, but I only see scorpions around. Give me the choice to die under a bridge.”12 The image of the sanatorium as an ant’s nest, dismissed by the main character, has several implications. On the one hand, it supports the notion of the common well-being above that of the individual, and therefore echoes the health statistics rhetoric. On the other, an ant’s nest implies the ability to come and go at will. Both implications are rejected in the diegesis by replacing the laborious ants by solitary scorpions and demanding control over the character’s own death. One of the interspersed texts describes how to trap and then keep scorpions out of their natural environment: “They need to be captured with


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tweezers by grasping their tails to avoid injury. They can grow up in homes or laboratories with a simple and secure method, contained in medium jars or a tank used as a terrarium.”13 This portrait alludes to the isolation of patients during the quarantine and the “precautionary measures” necessary for their mandatory confinement. Moreover, to rebut the diligence associated with ants and their apparent fragility, the scorpion is proposed as an alternative, identifying their ability to adapt and survive. This characterisation is closely related to the historical context of the Special Period and the shortages faced by an important part of the population. Not surprisingly, the main character’s stay at the sanatorium is raised as an issue that responds more to economic than health needs: “Mother prefers that I stay there. The crisis. Solidarity, solidarity. A pair of shoes for a hundred people.”14 In addition to the state of scarcity referred to in the previous quote, another rhetorical strategy used by the regime comes to light: the infantilisation of patients. When others repeatedly make decisions about his life, the protagonist gradually loses agency, being subjected to a forced transformation: “Now you are a kid. It is not a dream, you simply return to childhood.”15 In this respect, Mirta Suquet Martínez (2011) remarks: An HIV-positive individual is then sentenced to an absolute dependence on the sanatorium regime, which shapes their identity as an “unreliable” child to reaffirm its own as an authoritative father. This implies, as we have noted, the representation of the former as a useless, unproductive subject, even when their HIV status does not clearly pose a disability.16

The infantilisation of patients further complicates their position within the official discursive apparatus. According to Suquet Martínez: “At the same time that this individual is infantilized, depriving them of awareness and action, they are subtracted from the future of the nation. An HIV-positive individual is then an ahistorical subject; focused on their body and future corruption.”17 The protagonist of “¡Ay Virgilio!” is conscious of this process, and as a result he undertakes a self-recognition journey that to some extent allows him to resist such transformation. After leaving the sanatorium, the character expresses numerous questions to assert his identity: “How to insert myself back into the world?, how to explain the slump?; How can I go back to being the same? Do not ask me about the end of the story.”18 This meditation demonstrates the uncertainty faced by those who, in the early 1990s, learned to live with the virus. Continuing the exploration of interpersonal relationships between patients, friends, family, and healthcare workers depicted in “¡Ay Virgilio!,” in 2001 Miguel Ángel Fraga published No dejes escapar la ira

La Montaña Mágica: Representations of HIV/AIDS from the Sanatorium


[Don’t Let the Ire Escape], a collection of 17 short stories informed by his years as a patient in Los Cocos sanatorium. And, unlike Toda esa gente solitaria, here we find a broader spectrum of relationships that go beyond the perspective of the young heterosexual couple following patriarchal norms. The volume also explores some of the relationships established between representatives of the regime and those affected by HIV, for example that between a psychologist and a patient (“En cualquier esquina”). But perhaps the most important relationships for this work are those formed between the sanatorium inmates and their official escorts or “acompañantes” (“En alguna pared está escrito tu nombre” or “Your Name is Written on One of the Walls”), and the interaction between patients and committees evaluating their behaviour once the government decided to gradually phase out the mandatory confinement (“No dejes escapar la ira”). When the government decided to relax the quarantine, it also implemented procedures to evaluate patients in order to determine if they were suitable for reintegration into society. This evaluation was conducted by committees composed of doctors, psychologists, and social workers, among others, who assessed patients’ behaviour and tried to predict the likelihood that they could endanger the community. In practice, such assessments became moral judgments. A patient who was not deemed “morally responsible” could remain in isolation or, if the patient was already authorised to leave the sanatorium, would need an “acompañante.” The story “No dejes escapar la ira” talks precisely about this matter. Here, the protagonist is anxiously waiting to hear from a committee that is considering his case for the third time. The evaluators should determine whether the patient has adjusted his behaviour to no longer need an “acompañante.” While the meeting takes place behind closed doors, the reader is able to witness the discussion where the reasons for the repeated denials are mentioned: “In the first evaluation we rejected him for being maladjusted to the sanatorium regime; he maintained a rebellious attitude during those first moments of his stay; then, we considered him to be promiscuous due to the ease with which he changed partners. He is bisexual, it is clear.”19 The confluence of rebellion and bisexuality, as a deterrent to adapt to the sanatorium regime, demonstrates the impact of medical discourse in all aspects of the patient’s life, as described by Foucault (1976, 203). One of the major points of contention is related to the sexuality of the protagonist, as exposed by the members of the evaluation committee: “He was with a man, now with a woman. Who knows if he is distorting reality to confuse us. But what matters most is that he has a stable partner. Yes, all three share the same room. Talk about


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stability! The three of them could have group sex, since nobody sees them.”20 The threat posed by suspected non-normative sexual activity is rationalised as “the responsibility of a few to protect the entire population.”21 At the end, they choose to deny the patient’s request. Reading bisexuality from a Foucauldian perspective, April S. Callis proposes that, “the medicalization of ‘homosexual acts’ forbids the creation of a bisexual person, because all individuals who were sexually active with others of the same sex were labeled as homosexual” (2009, 225). From this perspective, the refusal of the committee would not be due to the bisexual identity of the character, but due to his latent homosexuality. Critics such as Emilio Bejel (2001, xv) have described how the Cuban regime constructed itself in opposition to homosexuality, creating a dichotomy between (male) heterosexual Cubanness and (male) homosexual otherness, preventing the creation of any identities away from these two poles, bisexuality included. The protagonist in “No dejes escapar la ira” faces this reality, but he also destabilises it by resisting the heterosexual/homosexual binary and exposing a system that feels threatened by an identity that does not fit within the discursive apparatus. One of the most paradigmatic figures during the early years of HIV/AIDS on the island was perhaps the official companion or “acompañante,” an escort assigned by the sanatorium authorities to make sure patients could not spread the virus while being out in the community. Recently, this figure was the subject of a feature film by Cuban filmmaker Pavel Giroud, El acompañante [The Companion] (2015), where we can witness the complicated nature of the relationship between companions and patients. Companions appear several times in No dejes escapar la ira, with one of them being the main character in the short story “En alguna pared está escrito tu nombre.” Here, a witness narrator describes the love affair between a companion and a patient, while giving many details about the duties of the former. According to the narrator, there are companions “that are feared by patients because they act like police officers.”22 Fear that is not surprising, nonetheless, as these state employees represented the omnipresence of the regime and its meddling in the most intimate aspects of the patient’s life. Operating as jealous guardians, companions were responsible for expanding the quarantine from the sanatorium to the streets of Cuban towns and cities. In practical terms, they embodied a “safe zone” containing the disease, a symbolic space that somehow extends the reach of the sanatorium’s physical space. A space created, from the rhetorical point of view, with the purpose to put to rest criticisms coming from overseas with regard to the Cuban policy. A space that, for patients,

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symbolises the extension of the power structures of the regime. A disciplinary space in which, at least in theory, the patient is continuously monitored by an individual observer who is the personification of the “capillary” form of power, described by Foucault as, “the point where power reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes and everyday lives” (1980, 39). In this sense, such symbolic space is delimited by the companion’s gaze. Yet, unlike Foucault's panopticon, here patients always know when they are being watched and are actually able to interact with their keeper, leaving them in a position that is both vulnerable and open to negotiations of power. Paradoxically, after leaving the sanatorium with a patient, a companion plays the dual role of guardian and citizen: “During that time, companions also took the opportunity to solve their problems, man, we all have problems.”23 Hence, companion and patient are positioned on the same level, far from unapproachable doctors, given that both get directly affected by the circumstances surrounding them. In addition to No dejes escapar la ira, Miguel Ángel Fraga also published En un rincón cerca del cielo: Entrevistas y testimonios sobre el sida en Cuba [In a Corner Close to Heaven: Interviews and Testimonials on AIDS in Cuba], a non-fiction text with numerous interviews conducted in Los Cocos. In this text, a companion describes the extent of his involvement with patients: “Many times I was taken handcuffed with patients to the police station. Sometimes they did not even let me speak, I could not identify myself as a sanatorium worker.”24 Hence, the closeness between patients and companions blurs the boundaries between supervisors and supervisees, with the real possibility of both being targeted by the repressive apparatus. It also places these workers on a lower level with respect to other health care workers: The companion is the 2most relegated worker in the institution: they cannot participate in most cultural and recreational activities in the sanatorium since they always have to be on the streets accompanying a patient … when there are problems with patients, certain situations, sometimes our word does not count because they do not trust us, they believe that we are all doing business or being bribed by patients.25

As the interviewee declares, the suspicion that these workers raise among sanatorium authorities stems from the close relationship established between them and the patients, a position also found in Fraga’s “En alguna pared está escrito tu nombre.” Such closeness sometimes affects the companion’s value system, as described by the story’s protagonist


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referring to working as a companion of effeminate male patients: “you get so much exposure to personal experiences that you actually end up forgetting taboos.”26 This change is particularly significant because it illustrates the ability of patients to negotiate power and tangible benefits within the system. As has been suggested, La Montaña Mágica workshop became a space of contestation through artistic expression within Los Cocos sanatorium. The two volumes discussed in this work, Toda esa gente solitaria and No dejes escapar la ira, reveal many discourses of power on HIV/AIDS in Cuba during the early years of the pandemic, sometimes reproducing them, but often turning into counter-discourses that challenge the official rhetoric. It is worth noting that other cultural productions have addressed the lives of the patients in Cuban sanatoria, most notably the briefly mentioned En un rincón cerca del cielo: entrevistas y testimonios sobre el SIDA en Cuba (2008) by Miguel Ángel Fraga; Belkis Vega’s documentary Viviendo al límite [Living on the Edge] (2004), where patients can be seen performing plays with therapeutic purposes; Pavel Giroud’s El acompañante (2015), which has a companion as a main character; Leon Ichaso’s Azúcar amarga [Bitter Sugar] (1996) and Gerardo Chijona’s Boleto al paraíso [Ticket to Paradise] (2010), both about individuals who deliberately inject themselves with the virus, and Jorge Pérez Ávila’s Sida: confesiones a un médico [AIDS: Confessions to a Doctor] (2006) and Sida: nuevas confesiones a un médico [AIDS: New Confessions to a Doctor] (2011), written by the director of the Santiago de las Vegas sanatorium during the 1990s and now in charge of the Institute of Tropical Medicine “Pedro Kourí.” Nonetheless, the two texts studied in this work are unique as they represent an effort to tell the stories of those affected by HIV/AIDS from a community within the institution itself. Such effort can be problematic at times. As discussed, a significant number of stories in Toda esa gente solitaria revolve around the female body as a threat to the Cuban “new man,” a representation rooted in the post-revolutionary official discourse. In addressing the issue of nonnormative sexual identities, depictions of bisexual males can be productive. However, given the historical trend of the invisibilisation of bisexuality by the heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy, various critics have not recognised the true potential of this significant figure in the collection. Admittedly, sometimes the authors themselves fall victim to the official rhetoric, complicating a subversive reading. According to Oscar Fernández, “[i]f the stories [in Toda esa gente solitaria] themselves begin to generate accounts of people with AIDS as victims of their own pleasures, the prologue and the short stories in the

La Montaña Mágica: Representations of HIV/AIDS from the Sanatorium


compendium serve to legitimize in fiction the ‘scientific reasons’ for isolating those with AIDS” (2004, 130). And indeed, despite individual efforts to explore the issue of HIV/AIDS in Cuba critically, the prologue arouses a certain degree of scepticism in the reader. In this regard, Miguel Ángel Fraga’s No dejes escapar la ira offers a more nuanced reading experience. In No dejes escapar la ira, stories that describe the interactions of patients with the power apparatus are of particular interest, since they allow us to glimpse at fractures in the latter, and thus possibilities of resistance. In the story “No dejes escapar la ira,” male bisexuality is treated as a subversive element in the sanatorium system, while “En alguna pared está escrito tu nombre” presents the figure of the companion as a paradoxical character due to the bonds that are created between patients and said workers. In conclusion, both short-story collections, as products of La Montaña Mágica community, are records of an era when the hegemonic narrative sought to homogenise the experience of all those affected by the HIV virus. But they are also texts that recognise the need for multiple perspectives to approach the experience of HIV/AIDS, offering an opportunity to discuss issues that go beyond the disease itself.


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Appendix: Interview with Miguel Ángel Fraga Translated from Spanish by Oscar A. Pérez Miguel Ángel Fraga was born in 1965 in Havana, Cuba. He studied at the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the University of Havana and graduated in 1988 with a degree in Art History. After completing his social service program in Villa Clara, he worked as a museologist at the Municipal Museum of Playa, Havana. He was diagnosed with HIV in September 1991, and was admitted to the Santiago de las Vegas sanatorium in March 1992. He currently lives in Malmö, Sweden. OAP. How did the idea of a literary workshop at the Santiago de las Vegas sanatorium emerge? MAF. Upon my arrival at the sanatorium in 1992, I encountered Eduardo, a patient who liked literature. Eduardo and I had met at a literary event in Regla or Casa Blanca. Since we had common interests, and there was an abundance of Marxist books in the sanatorium’s library, we thought it would be good to receive help from the Casa de Cultura of Santiago de las Vegas. As he was garante (he could leave the sanatorium unaccompanied), during one of the times he left the sanatorium he made contact with Ana María Rojas, who at the time worked as literary adviser at Casa de Cultura. Ana María could not say no, but how many things went through her head, how many stigmas? To get over them, she sought the help of Lourdes Zayón, a friend and literary adviser at the Casa de Cultura of Arroyo Naranjo. Together, they were motivated to go to the sanatorium. After knowing the place and demystifying it, knowing us and discovering our potential, they encouraged others to visit us. Thus came José A. Michelena, Ana María’s husband—who worked or had relationships in the editorial world—and Pepe Fajardo, literary adviser at the Casa de Cultura of Arroyo Naranjo. The word that there was genuine literary material to cultivate in the sanatorium spread quickly. Every week we received new and repeated visits from many of the authors that Salvador Redonet named “novísimos,” including Santana, Yoss, Camacho, and Arrieta. Arrieta came to teach a course in fiction. OAP. Why La Montaña Mágica [The Magic Mountain]? How did you pick the name? MAF. Lourdes was the one who proposed the name of the workshop due to the relationship between the sanatoria, the real, and the fictionalised.

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Lourdes and Ana María were the ones who “fed us” with literature in those years—according to the tastes and interests of the workshop members—providing sometimes clandestine literature. Through them I met Thomas Mann, Günter Grass, Salinger, Bukowski, Kundera, Mario Vargas Llosa, Reinaldo Arenas, Gastón Baquero, Cabrera Infante, Zoé Valdés, Lydia Cabrera … Krishnamurti, and even the I Ching. OAP. What aspects of Thomas Mann’s text resonated among members of the workshop? MAF. I do not remember that everyone in the workshop had read the novel, it is a long and complex book. I do remember that a friend told me that The Magic Mountain was one of those books you read when you have to spend a long time in bed. Maybe that’s why I read it. The Magic Mountain was one of the first books I read in the sanatorium. The novel pulled me away from previous literature I had known, it showed me an unexplored path and the possibility to discover myself. In the workshop sessions, we often drew parallels between the two sanatoria, especially with comparisons in the treatment of time, isolation, illness, and death. OAP. How often did you get together? How many people attended the workshop? MAF. We met once a week, on Tuesdays. At first we were two patients, then three, then four, five, six … Anyone who felt curiosity and interest about literature came to the workshop. It awoke many patients’ dormant creativity. Over time, more and more patients joined in. The workshop was an oasis, also a therapeutic centre. OAP. How was the relationship between the members of the workshop? MAF. We were a motley group: intellectuals, graduates, rockers, gays, exconvicts, housewives … Despite the variety and cultural differences, there were never disagreements, on the contrary, the workshop united us. Through the workshop, I met patients of the sanatorium who I would have never approached otherwise. It was a new life lesson. I learned to respect and be respected; to value and be valued. We divided the workshop into two sessions: morning, between 10 am and 12 pm, and afternoon, between 2 pm and 4 pm. In the morning, we read the new texts of the members. The guest writers also got motivated and read their own work. We discussed and reflected on the reading. Most


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of the time, such discussion was a flattering criticism of the work of the poet or fiction writer. In the afternoon, we were more informal, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes we listened to readings that Lourdes and Ana proposed (extracts from books or newspapers); we commented on books we had read during the week, we talked about religion, and discussed social and sanatorium problems; between thoughts and points of view, we vented. At the end of the afternoon session, Lourdes and Ana visited the patients who were sick, or they met with the director or an employee of the clinic (a psychologist or physician) to intercede on behalf of patients in the workshop. They also requested exit permits for patients to participate in literary activities outside of the sanatorium. In such cases, they served as “acompañantes” (companions). The work of Lourdes and Ana was commendable. A special bond was created among the literary advisers and patients of the workshop. They were not only literary advisers but also psychologists, confidants, and friends. OAP. After reading some testimonies, I have the impression that the workshop was more than literary, is this correct? Were other art forms encouraged? MAF. The workshop was a meeting point, not only culturally but redemptively. Lourdes and Ana became our psychologists, or shoulders to cry on. We went to them to talk about our pains. They often served as mediators in sanatorium conflicts. Lourdes, mainly, assumed the role of companion when there were activities outside of the sanatorium (workshop meetings at Casas de Cultura or other events). Patients who were painters also joined the workshop. And we got to present small plays, some with a religious theme. I wrote a couple of pieces. One of them was presented in the sanatorium and at the Episcopal Church of Vedado. OAP. How long did the workshop last? MAF. The workshop was founded in 1992 and lasted beyond the time I lived in the sanatorium. Ana María moved away after the death of Eduardo. She couldn’t overcome the pain. I left the workshop when I freed myself from the sanatorium regime in 1997 and travelled to Sweden. Lourdes faithfully stayed much longer. The workshop continued beyond the fence of the sanatorium. Most of the members had been “reinserted into society” by 2000—that is, had left the sanatorium—and others, newly diagnosed as HIV positive, had no sanatorium experience but did have an interest in literature. I cannot talk much about this stage of the workshop

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because I did not live it. However, I casually participated in workshop activities outside of the sanatorium during my visits to Havana between 2000 and 2011. Now, I do not remember if those meetings were still part of La Montaña Mágica or the workshop of the Casa de Cultura of Arroyo Naranjo, to which Lourdes remains linked. OAP. How did the idea of the anthology Toda esa gente solitaria: 18 cuentos cubanos sobre el sida come up? MAF. First, we published the plaquette Corazón con Nudos and my short story “Tragar, gustar, tragar” at the Asociación Hermanos Saíz’s Banco de Ideas Zeta, as a printing alternative during the Cuban Special Period. Then Las dos orillas, also at the Banco de Ideas Zeta, in conjunction with Talleres de Escritura de Barcelona. Finally, Toda esa gente solitaria. Lourdes and Pepe were the ones involved in these editions. They were the ones who made the contacts. OAP. What was the process to select the texts in this anthology? MAF. Lourdes and Pepe were responsible for the selection. They considered it appropriate to include the texts of authors who wrote about the subject without being HIV positive. OAP. How did the idea for other writers to participate (such as Ricardo Arrieta, José Miguel Sánchez Gómez “Yoss,” and Ronaldo Menéndez) come up? MAF. Clearly, the idea was to not differentiate between “them” and “us.” Everyone involved in the selection was connected to the workshop La Montaña Mágica and to HIV; we all had something to say, sincerely and publicly. OAP. How did the workshop affect your literary production? MAF. I used to write poems and short stories sporadically and empirically. I became a writer in the workshop. I learned the craft of writing with literary techniques. Similarly, I met writers who were unknown to me or that I had heard about but had never read—I mentioned some before. I also got in touch with workshop participants from other Casas de Cultura: writers, intellectuals, poets. Through the workshop I met Jonhy Ibáñez, Margarita Mateo, Salvador Redonet, Reina María, and others. The


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workshop helped me get immersed in the literary world, learn, network, and write—especially write. The literary workshop was a liberation. Lourdes and Ana encouraged me. Lourdes used to tell me: “cast out your demons through literature.” I used to write non-stop, with passion. The goal was to present or read a short story or text every week, every Tuesday. Writing was my therapy, and what better way to write than writing about what was happening around me. I began a diary the first day, maybe the second. I wanted to leave evidence of what I lived there. It was a way to get revenge, or to make the society accountable. I never published the diary because I considered it my posthumous legacy. In those years I wrote heart-breaking and bitter stories that I later grouped in a volume of short stories titled Cuentos de lo probable, lo posible y lo imposible. The short stories “Tragar, gustar, tragar” and “Lorelays” are representative of this volume. With all those stories, I took out all the anger, all the rage, and helplessness I had. I was angry with everyone and with myself. I had many grudges, a lot of hatred, a lot of fear. Fear, isolation, death … Those of us there were “la cosa sucia” [a dirty thing]. Paradoxically, the sanatorium stories that I ironically titled No dejes escapar la ira are from the same period. OAP. It seems to me that in both No dejes escapar la ira and En un rincón cerca del cielo there is a concern for telling the experience of AIDS from multiple perspectives, giving voice to voices that might otherwise remain silent (for example patients, relatives, companions, psychologists, doctors, etc.). Where does this concern come from? MAF. In both books this concern is present because I did not want my voice to be the one speaking. I wanted to bring together everybody’s feelings, which in essence were also mine. I was careful with the interviews in En un rincón cerca del cielo; I always respected the interviewee’s opinion. Conceiving the book and facing the challenge of the interviews was a great adventure, a phenomenal experience. Even while living in the sanatorium, I never imagined that such interesting stories existed. That is why I made sure that the book collected all the edges of that experimental society. I tried, wherever possible, not to leave out anything important. My books are polyphonic because I invite the reader to have the last word. I think I accomplished it. My pain was not unique: many like me were suffering, and not only those who lived there, but anybody that somehow carried the AIDS stigma. I was one among them, the self-chosen one who gave the testimony of all. The writing workshop La Montaña

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Mágica and my presence in the Santiago de las Vegas sanatorium were useful so I could bear witness to facts that otherwise would have been distorted. OAP. Given that No dejes escapar la ira seems to be strongly informed by your experience, one might be tempted to read stories like “¡Ay, Virgilio!” or “El otro Miguel” as autobiographical. What do you think about this kind of reading? MAF. Somehow, all the stories are autobiographical because they come from my immediate experience: the people I met, anecdotes I heard, and shared emotions. “¡Ay, Virgilio!” was dedicated to a friend who I loved very much. Reading the story in the workshop upset my friend, because he felt that I had revealed personal matters he had entrusted to me. Now that you ask, I am pleased to have developed a story that in the long run seems mine. In the workshop, there were two Miguels, the rocker and I. This tale [“El otro Miguel”] is a game between both, where I unwittingly sense his death. The short story, melancholic and written in second person—in Manuel Cofiño’s style—tells the story of heterosexual love between a rocker and his girlfriend. I face Miguel as if looking at myself in the mirror. Actually, the only autobiographical short stories in the volume are “La noche comienza ahora” and “La noche. Después otra vez la vida.” Is it a coincidence that both include the word “night?” The first story is my traumatic experience facing the [HIV-positive] diagnosis. In the second one, I decided to take the voice of an HIV-negative lover; the story was written to be read during sex education talks. OAP. When did you leave Cuba? Why Sweden? MAF. In 1996, I was introduced to a young Chilean who was visiting Havana. He was HIV positive and promised to help me with retroviral medication. Upon leaving, he gave me all his medicines and told me that he could get more in Sweden. I could not help, but compared him to the good girl of “Los Zapaticos de Rosa,” by José Martí. He kept his promise. I received several packages of medicine by DHL. He often called me from his country of residence. When he returned to Cuba, we became lovers and he was determined to get me out of the sanatorium. He used to tell me that life was outside—that I had to live. For some reason, I was just like the protagonist of The Magic Mountain who, given the possibility to do so,


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refused to leave the sanatorium. He finally got me out by the end of the summer of 1997. In October of that year, we met in Sweden. OAP. Recently, you have been focusing on theatre. Is there any particular reason? MAF. Theatre is a direct—or alternative—way to make my work known. The public does not need to buy a book and read; they just sit, watch, and enjoy. Interestingly, the first play I presented in Sweden with my theatre group (El teatro del Arco Iris) was the monologue “Gunilla,” a Swedish adaptation of my homonymous short story. In theatre, I discovered expression possibilities that literature does not have. Theatre is an ephemeral art; scripts, photos, even a video remain; but the theatrical magic can only be experienced when you are in a dark room in front of the actors. All art forms converge in theatre, and I like to use them all: literature, dance, music, design, visual and decorative arts, cinema. Theatre is the reproduction of our lives, it is like “El otro Miguel” [a short story] when we look at ourselves in a mirror.

Notes 1

“Cuando se masifica el número de portadores [como en Estados Unidos y Europa], no se pueden tomar las medidas que hemos tomado nosotros, porque algunos no teniendo nada que hacer y qué decir han criticado medidas nuestras, medidas de aislamiento que hemos tomado, necesarias e imprescindibles, que tienden a la protección no solo de la población sana, sino de las personas enfermas; porque el SIDA se sabe que entre los portadores se convierte en enfermedad en determinado momento de baja de las defensas, mala alimentación, etcétera, y en tanto se descubre un medicamento eficaz que cure radicalmente la enfermedad, la atención médica preventiva es el arma fundamental para preservar una vida de alguien contagiado por el virus del SIDA.” (“Discurso pronunciado en el acto de inauguración”). All translations from Spanish into English are my own (including quotes from Toda esa gente solitaria and No dejes escapar la ira), unless otherwise indicated. 2 The original text states: “[Los] protagonistas (roqueros friquis, jineteras, punks, drogadictos o alcohólicos) son ahora sobre todo antihéroes” (2010, 190). 3 The original text states: “la línea marcada por el posmodernismo literario” (Ibid., 191). 4 The original text states: “una clara maniobra editorial de magnificar su carácter marginal” (2001, 550). 5 The original text states: “En diciembre de 1997 aparece la primera edición española compuesta únicamente por novísimos y lo hace bajo una ruidosa presentación: su subtítulo es Cuentos cubanos sobre el SIDA. La contraportada,

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además, sitúa a los autores como miembros de un taller literario creado en un sanatorio de enfermos de SIDA. Tendríamos que leer el prólogo para comprobar cómo esto sólo puede aplicarse a cinco de los dieciocho narradores incluidos. Poco importa, el efecto está ya logrado” (Ibid., 549). 6 The original text states: “[e]ntre sus más obvias ventajas, contó, y cuenta, con una atención altamente especializada, el suministro de los medicamentos más novedosos a nivel mundial y unas condiciones de existencia (alimentación incluida) netamente muy superiores a la media de un país abocado (justo durante la década en curso) a la peor de sus crisis económicas” (Zayón Jomolca and Fajardo Atanes 1997, 13). 7 The original text states: “advertencias y salvedades” (Ibid., 23). 8 The original text states: “Se extraña también ¡y de que [sic] forma! la presencia de mujeres en la muestra. No tenemos respuesta para una ausencia tan notoria, máxime cuando su papel es decisivo —muchas veces— en la vida y las tramás [sic] de éstos y otros infinitos relatos” (Ibid.). 9 The original text states: “al inscribir y cuestionar estos estereotipos, fractura las nociones oficiales y socialmente propagadas acerca de la sexualidad masculina” (2004, 186). 10 The original text states: “dentro del ambiente homoerótico de los noventa empezó a tomar mucha fuerza el modelo del macho, como ideal de la imagen homosexual, en detrimento de la imagen y prestigio de las llamadas ‘locas’” (Zayón Jomolca and Fajardo Atanes 1997, 246). 11 The original text states: “Aquí lo tienes todo; en caso de gravedad, podremos auxiliarte. En otros países, cuántas personas como tú ruegan por una asistencia de otro tipo. Estamos en Cuba. Los especialistas viajan al extranjero, realizan su propaganda, muestran las estadísticas, comparan las víctimas, compran sus pacotillas. Indiscutiblemente aquí se está mejor. Aislado, pero seguro” (Ibid., 185). 12 The original text states: “Hay quien dice que es un hormiguero, pero alrededor sólo veo alacranes. Dénme [sic] la opción de morir debajo de un puente” (Ibid., 186). 13 The original text states: “Deben capturarse con pinzas asiéndolos por la cola para no causarles daño. Pueden criarse en casas o laboratorios con un método sencillo y seguro, contenidos en frascos medianos o en una pecera utilizada como terrario” (Ibid.). 14 The original text states: “La madre prefiere que permanezca allá. La crisis. Solidaridad, solidaridad. Un par de zapatos para cien personas” (Ibid., 187). 15 The original text states: “Ahora eres un niño. No es un sueño, sencillamente vuelves a la infancia” (Ibid., 183). 16 The original text states: “El seropositivo es entonces condenado a una dependencia absoluta al régimen sanatorial, que acuña su identidad como niño “no confiable,” para reafirmar la suya como Padre autoritario. Esto implica, como hemos advertido, la representación de aquél por parte del poder como sujeto inútil, improductivo, aun cuando la propia condición de seropositividad no supone evidentemente una incapacidad” (2011, 249). 17 The original text states: “A la vez que se infantiliza a este individuo, privándolo de conciencia y acción, se le sustrae del devenir de la nación. El seropositivo es


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entonces un sujeto ahistórico; centrado en su cuerpo y su futura corrupción” (Ibid.). 18 The original text states: “¿cómo vuelvo a insertarme en el mundo?, ¿explicar la mala racha?; ¿de qué manera puedo volver a ser el mismo? No me pregunten el final de la historia” (Zayón Jomolca and Fajardo Atanes 1997, 189). 19 The original text states: “En la primera evaluación lo planchamos por inadaptado al régimen sanatorial; en aquellos primeros momentos de su ingreso mantuvo una aptitud demasiado rebelde; luego lo consideramos promiscuo por la facilidad con que cambiaba de parejas. Es bisexual, está claro” (Fraga 2001, 87). 20 The original text states: “Estuvo con un hombre, ahora con una mujer. Quién sabe si esté falseando la realidad para confundirnos. Pero lo que importa es que tiene una pareja estable. Sí, y los tres comparten el mismo cuarto. ¡Vaya estabilidad! Entre los tres podrían tener sexo en grupo, como nadie los ve” (Ibid.). 21 The original text states: “la responsabilidad de unos pocos de proteger a la población entera” (Ibid., 88). 22 The original text states: “que son temidos por los mismos pacientes porque son unos policías” (Ibid., 94). 23 The original text states: “Durante ese tiempo también los acompañantes aprovechan para resolver sus problemas, hombre, es que problemas tenemos todos” (Ibid.). 24 The original text states: “Muchas veces me llevaron esposado con los pacientes para la Estación Policial. A veces no me dejaban ni hablar, no podía identificarme como trabajador del Sanatorio” (Fraga 2008, 290). 25 The original text states: “El acompañante es el trabajador de la institución más relegado: él no puede participar en la mayoría de las actividades culturales y recreativas del Sanatorio porque siempre tiene que estar en la calle acompañando a algún paciente...cuando hay problemas con los pacientes, determinadas situaciones, a veces nuestra palabra tampoco cuenta porque nos tienen desconfianza, creen que todos estamos haciendo negocios o somos sobornados por los pacientes” (Ibid., 290). 26 The original text states: “tanto uno va llenándose de vivencias extrapersonales que al final terminamos olvidando los tabúes” (96).

References Books Bejel, Emilio. 2001. Gay Cuban Nation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, edited by Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books. Fraga, Miguel Angel. 2008. En un rincón cerca del cielo: entrevistas y testimonios sobre el SIDA en Cuba. Valencia, España: Aduana Vieja.

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—. 2001. No dejes escapar la ira. La Habana, Cuba: Letras Cubanas. Leiner, Marvin. 1994. Sexual Politics in Cuba: Machismo, Homosexuality, and AIDS. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Mann, Thomas. 1995. The Magic Mountain: a Novel. Trans. John E. Woods. New York: A. Knopf. Meruane, Lina. 2014. Viral Voyages: Tracing AIDS in Latin America. Trans. Andrea Rosenberg. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Pérez Ávila, Jorge. 2006. Sida: confesiones a un médico. La Habana: Editora Abril. —. Sida: nuevas confesiones a un médico. 2011. La Habana: Editora Abril. Redonet, Salvador. 1993. Los últimos serán los primeros. La Habana, Cuba: Editorial Letras Cubanas. Smallman, Shawn. 2007. The AIDS Pandemic in Latin America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Sierra Madero, Abel. 2006. Del otro lado del espejo: La sexualidad en la construcción de la nación cubana. La Habana: Fondo Editorial Casa de las Américas. Zayón Jomolca, Lourdes, and José Ramón Fajardo Atanes (eds.). 1997. Toda esa gente solitaria: 18 cuentos cubanos sobre el sida. Madrid: Ediciones La Palma.

Films El acompañante, directed by Pavel Giroud. 2015. Habanero. Azúcar amarga, directed by León Ichaso. 1996. New Yorker Films. Boleto al paraíso, directed by Gerardo Chijona. 2010. Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos. Viviendo al límite, directed by Belkis Vega. 2004. La línea sinuosa.

Chapters from edited collections Lantero Abreu, Maria Isela, et al. 2006. “Cuba.” In The HIV Pandemic: Local and Global Implications, edited by Eduard J. Beck and LynnMarie Holland, 379–92. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rubio Cuevas, Iván. 2001. “La doble insularidad de los novísimos narradores cubanos.” In La isla posible, edited by Carmen Alemany Bay, Remedios Mataix, and José Carlos Rovira, 547–54. Alicante: Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes. /libros/155192.pdf.


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Suquet Martínez, Mirta. 2011. “Rostros del VIH/sida en la literatura cubana: Construcción de una identidad entre la sujeción y la oposición.” In Cuba: Arte y literatura en exilio, edited by Grace Piney and James J. Pancrazio, 239–51. Valencia: Legua Editorial.

Journal articles Brotherton, Pierre Sean. 2005. “Macroeconomic Change and the Biopolitics of Health in Cuba’s Special Period.” Journal of Latin American Anthropology 10 (2): 339–69. Callis, April S. 2009. “Playing with Butler and Foucault: Bisexuality and Queer Theory.” Journal of Bisexuality 9 (3–4): 213–33. Foucault, Michel. 1976. “Crisis de un modelo en la medicina?” Revista centroamericana de Ciencias de la Salud 3: 197–209. Ingenschay, Dieter. 2005. “Hemispheric Looks at Literary AIDS Discourses in Latin America.” Iberoamericana 20: 141–56. Uxó, Carlos. 2010. “Los Novísimos cubanos: primera generación de escritores nacidos en la Revolución.” Letras Hispanas 7: 186–98. contentParagraph/0/content_files/file12/Uxo.pdf.

Websites Castro Ruz, Fidel. 1987. “Discurso pronunciado en el acto de inauguración del Centro de Inmunoensayo.” Discursos e intervenciones del Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz. /discursos/1987/esp/f050987e.html.

Dissertations Céspedes, Karina Lissette. 2008. “¡Ay Mama Inés!: A Decolonial Feminist Critique of Cuban Nationalism, Tourism, and Sex Work.” PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2007. Ann Arbor: UMI. Fernández, Oscar. 2004. “Proliferation of Disease in Iberoamerican Fiction.” PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University, 2003. Ann Arbor: UMI. Valladares Ruiz, Patricia. 2005. “Subjetividades sexuales y nacionales en la narrativa cubana contemporánea (1990–2003).” PhD diss., Université de Montréal, 2004. Ann Arbor: UMI.


Víctor Hugo Viscarra needs an introduction, if this essay is to be an academic article. His scarce and apocryphal biographical information is useful in two ways: it pins him down genre-wise (although he would have resisted this), and it lends the air of testimonial legitimacy to his narratives (which he very much cared about, this pursuit being quite true to his memory). He lived in La Paz, Bolivia and died in 2006 at the age of 49. I am not sure of how to spell his name (Viscarra or Vizcarra), because it is spelled either way, and the man himself did not carry a passport, so there is nowhere to check. In this chapter, I will follow the spelling of his name on the jacket of his books, with an “s.” He was not widely known, although towards the end of his life his book Alcoholatum was reprinted in Spain and Argentina. His books are few: Coba. Lenguaje secreto del hampa boliviano [Coba. Secret Language of the Bolivian Underworld] (1981), Relatos de Víctor Hugo [Victor Hugo’s Tales] (1996), Alcoholatum y otros drinks [Alcoholatum and Other Drinks] (2001), Borracho estaba pero me acuerdo [I Was Drunk But I Remember] (2003), Avisos necrológicos [Obituaries] (2005), and the posthumously published Chaqui fulero. Los cuadernos perdidos de Víctor Hugo [Bad Hangover. The Lost Notebooks of Victor Hugo] (2007). 1 Among these books, Alcoholatum is the most edited, the least chaotic, and tidiest anthology, while the other collections of tales betray their origins as fragments on napkins and scraps of paper from the midst of a drunken feast. All his books boast a prose of particular


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nervous rhythm and the always conscious management of language that attests to the writer’s virtuosity. Viscarra’s writings are a mix of genres and registers, somewhere in between diary, chronicle, obituary, and participant-observer anthropological text. According to his words in the only transcribed interview I have found, he writes an “un-name-able literature.” 2 He joked that he was an “anthropologist”—a specialist in “antros” (the dives, bars with bad reputations). Indeed, this autodidact lived on the streets since the age of 12. Even after receiving some recognition for his writings and attention from the media, he refused to abandon his chosen path of living on the streets and drinking. This gave him a truly privileged position to write about the individuals from the portion of humanity that could be seen as the radical opposite to the Hollywood ideal of the hero, the winner, the achiever of “the American dream” of bourgeois comfort and happy consumerism. The mass of homeless, diluted on the city streets, stand in opposition to the respectable father of a family, safe in his private residence. They come in many shapes and colours: teenage prostitutes, abandoned brides, mistreated street children, indigenous migrants to the city, gay men, and, above all, drunks. Especially these once able-bodied men, who it would seem willingly reject the option of accumulative, productive work, preferring to escape into alcoholic stupor, present an alternative claim to an authentic and meaningful life. After reading Viscarra, one starts to think, if one is metaphysically inclined, that this might be the honest way of facing the reality of the finite human existence. And if one is rather critically inclined, one might pay attention to the moralist overtones that seep through the fabric of the text. These two big questions will be at the centre of our inquiry here. There has been very little written about Viscarra. One article that has appeared in press is “Las 1001 noches del Bukowski boliviano” [“The 1001 Nights of the Bolivian Bukowski”] by Alex Ayala Ugarte. It narrates how an editor of Correveidile publishers, Manuel Vargas, helps Viscarra collect his disparate pieces of writing to get them ready for press, and sympathetically draws a portrait of the man and the writer, whom the author of the article knows personally and admired. It is an excellent portrait of the man and an honest, insightful homage to him, but it sets a trend of comparing Viscarra to Bukowski, which arguably obscures the force of Viscarra’s own writing. True enough, when asked by a Chilean correspondent with whom he identifies more, Jaime Saenz (a Bolivian poet of the city of La Paz) or Bukowski, Viscarra pronounced himself in favour of the latter for his strong language and provocative attitudes.3 But, after one explores the parallel deeper than the fact that both writers take up

Victor Hugo Viscarra: The Dog Life of the Human Pack


the voice of the drunk in order to pronounce harsh truths—adopting a position of a jester who is allowed to speak what no one else is allowed to even hint at—then it is evident that their relation to the persons inhabiting the margins of the city is divergent. Bukowski’s provocative stance is “I do not care for nothing” and “I stand alone”; while Viscarra specifically continues to live and write for the sake of “his” comrades on the margins, and does so with strong moralistic overtones, attempting—for instance— to give advice to a teenage prostitute to get off the streets. 4 Certainly, Bukowski wrote about the margins in Los Angeles, while Viscarra wrote from the margin (the urban underbelly) of the margin (La Paz in Bolivia, a country that occupies a marginal position in the global capitalist system), making Viscarra’s position marginalised to a second degree.5 Beyond this parallel—that could be illuminating, but limiting—what does it imply to honour Viscarra’s own claim and refuse to classify his writing practice? Viscarra’s writing problematises the category of literature as such, and the category of “good literature” especially, and, through this questioning, the structures that give rise to such categories. Viscarra’s biographical facts are scarce and apocryphal. But one fact, offered by his loyal friend Victoria Ayllón, is that he belonged to the Juventudes Comunistas [Communist Youth] in his adolescence; and during the García Mesa dictatorship helped Ayllón, herself then a Communist, escape the torturers of the dictatorship by hiding her in a basement that only he and his friends knew about. In his tales, though, Viscarra never mentions Marx or Communism, and at no point does he endorse projects that arose in the 1980s and 1990s from the Marxist Bolivian Left—be it arguments for reform, revolution, or an alternative community. So here I must clarify that, although my methodology of approach to Viscarra’s texts is substantially informed by the Marxist critical theory of society, it would be incorrect to read Viscarra as a writer committed to such a critique. Conversely, although tenuously criticising the social reality that places so many urban dwellers in a situation of absolute precariousness, as we will see below, Viscarra’s description of this reality draws a limit to the traditional Marxist proposals, suggesting that the marginalised persons, the heroes of his tragedies, will continue to be marginalised and dispossessed, no matter if they are subject to the supposed “chance” of the free market or to the state-controlled and administered resource distribution of a welfare state or a supposedly socialist alternative. For the persons that matter on Viscarra’s pages, it would all be the same. It is worth noting, however, that in terms of cultural self-positioning and locating his own writing, Viscarra articulates a violent contempt


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towards the “intellectuals” and bourgeois educational institutions— notwithstanding the fact that he certainly boasts of his personal erudition, making bookish references to such figures as Kafka, Freud, Baudelaire, Diogenes, or Saint Francis of Assisi. Raymond Williams explains that the notions of what is understood as “literature” are constructions of the historical processes, especially from between the mid-eighteenth and midnineteenth centuries, and are conditioned by the bourgeois parameters, which draw questionable distinctions between the fact/fiction and objective/subjective categories.6 The reality of the multiplicity of writing, of course, crosses the boundaries delineated by the bourgeois scholarship and apparatus of criticism, which was formed to manage such categories as “taste” in order to judge what is considered “good” or “bad” literature, and what is considered literature at all. Viscarra’s rejection and ridicule of the “intellectuals” can certainly be understood in this context as a conscious effort to escape the constraints of the critical bourgeois apparatus, even if he himself does not formulate this goal in these terms. He ostensibly writes not in order to please: in a reversal of the Hegelian formula, he does not beg for recognition, at least not for the recognition of the establishment. His goal is to “tell the truth,” as we will see below; and his claim is for the recognition of his fellow subalterns and for a reader-outsider who will be taught, through his writing, the truth: that the persons in the most abject state of physical abandonment have what he calls “dignity.”

Location: the Margins Victor Hugo Viscarra theatrically opens his book Alcoholatum y otros drinks, with a mis-en-scène, which defines the place—the stage, “escenario”—for the short stories, “tragedies,” that follow. This really is a perfect introduction for everything that follows, so it is worth quoting in full to appreciate this anti-locus amoenus: Marginal neighborhood in a whatever city. The geographical place that does not figure in tourist guides or city maps. The stage of tragedies, incest, murders and brawl. Culture dish, priced by the university students that visit it sporadically to later speculate in their field reports and investigations. Refuge for humble rural migrants, prostitutes, delinquents and beggars. Winding and eternally dusty streets inhabited by the marginalized, the children, by disease and by death. Permanent zone of infection and social degeneration, stuffed with trash dumps where the homeless and the animals fight over some scraps on which they could feed. Marginal neighborhood, where food shops are null in comparison with the bars, chicha-drinking establishments and dives of bad reputation. Girls about ten or twelve years

Victor Hugo Viscarra: The Dog Life of the Human Pack


old that do not know what prostitution is, but who practice it since some time ago, receiving, in exchange for their efforts to spread their legs, a plate of food, some devalued bills, or a beating.”7

The marginal place that does not exist on maps or in tourist guides; that gets visited by the intellectuals and other members of society only to be preyed upon for the juicy, scandalous, and exotic material; whose inhabitants are the heterogeneous individuals, united by one trait: the extreme insecurity in the fulfilment of their everyday basic needs, yielding an extreme precariousness of their physical integrity and their very existence. As we find out, the “hampa” inhabits not only a designated place, but also has its own cyclical temporality, the most inhospitable hours—the chilly nights of La Paz. The night is central, and acquires a character of its own in Viscarra’s stories; it is not an agreeable personality. What kind of community can emerge from this place and temporality? The claim to universality of the proposal is inscribed in this introduction in the same stroke that underlines the local specificity of this “stage” (theatre of war, I am tempted to say). Although it is defined as the marginal neighbourhood of “any” city, the immediate detailed list of what goes on there—rapes, incest, murders—identifies the narrator as an insider and a legitimate testimonial voice of that one particular marginal locality: the fringes of the city of La Paz. The legitimacy of this voice is rooted in the specific life experience. The use of the locally specific jargon especially further defines the speaker as inalienably paceño and Bolivian, and the texts as the product of life experience on the Bolivian High Plateau (the Altiplano). In an interview, Viscarra underlines this legitimacy. He tells the journalist that a drunk prostitute once came up to him in a dive. She told him, “Writer, I read your book. You did not lie.”8 For Viscarra, this was the best criticism that his writing has ever merited from a reader. The subalterns are often analysed as the “margins” of society, the category that often slides into the social “outcasts,” as if these marginal persons existed in a space completely severed from the rest of society. Yet, calling it the “margins” does not mean that it is “outside”; it only means it is not at the centre, not mainstream, but something on the fringes and the borders. From the Marxist point of view, the underemployed poor play an equally important part in the functioning of the capitalist world system as the CEOs of the transnational companies, because by their very exploitability and their sheer numbers they swell the masses of the available and underused labour force, thereby lowering the wages and playing into the worsening of the working conditions. As Marx laughed at the idea that there may exist an “island” of socialism in the world of capitalism, so it is true that countries like Bolivia still function within the


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capitalist world order, although in a mode of “Andean-Amazonian” marginal capitalist economy, to use the terminology put forward by Álvaro García Linera. Within one local society, similarly, there is nothing outside of capital. But if the “inside” is the society that functions within the logic of capitalism, and if the delinquents and other marginalised persons live on its “borders,” and if there is nothing that can escape the logic of capital, then what is it that constitutes the “outside”? It is as if the only remaining answer is “death.” What this reflection aims to forward is that Viscarra’s narrative voice has to be understood not as a “clamor en el desierto” (cry in the desert), although sometimes this is the feeling that his stories communicate. His texts have to be understood as undeniably Bolivian, and the subjects and characters in his “tragedies” as products of the Bolivian society (more narrowly, La Paz society, and more broadly of the globalised world where Bolivia itself is placed as a country on the margins of the sphere of world capital). Although there is a tendency to read the literature about the marginal subalterns as “outside” of society, the fact of the matter is that these marginal subjectivities and modes of being-in-common that they may practice are also products of society, just as much as a father of a bourgeois family. Viscarra, in one of the interviews, states, “this society has given me nothing!” This declaration is telling because it lets us glimpse a feeble demand, coded as a scornful denunciation from a position of a person who has nothing to lose and nothing to gain because his own mortality already presents itself as an inevitable and immediate enough reality. This demand is, indeed, for a society (for a state? a welfare state? an authoritarian, economy-planning state?—we cannot tell) that would protect its most vulnerable members; for a society where prostitution is not the only option for a prepubescent girl whose mere necessity to get daily food drives her to the position of extreme vulnerability. Viscarra is certainly not the only accusing voice of this state of things, and we need to see his tragedies in context of the other denunciations and proposals, with which he does not necessarily commune. Bolivia, in the first decades of the twenty-first century, has seen an effervescence of political discussion on the meanings and possibilities of community, which have provoked heated theoretical debates and have been tested in the political arena since Evo Morales Ayma assumed the Presidency in 2006. The Grupo Comuna, for instance, has been active since 1999 precisely reflecting that which its name indicates—the ways of being in common in today’s Bolivia and the world. The collective included important sociologists, historians, and philosophers such as Oscar Vega, Raúl Prada and Luís Tapia, and also the current Vice President of the

Victor Hugo Viscarra: The Dog Life of the Human Pack


Plurinational State Álvaro García Linera. The group has systematically studied the experiences of resistance of the Bolivian working class and indigenous peasants and urban dwellers, drawing from the archive of Marxist thought and Indianista experience. For instance, García Linera (2000) uses the concept of “multitude” developed by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri to understand how the workers’ resistance came about and became articulated in the “revolutionary cycle” from the Marcha Minera por la Vida in 1989 and to the Cochabamba Water War in 2000 (Viscarra was born in 1957 and died in 2006, which makes him a direct witness to these political events). Linera shows how the “politics of everyday needs”9 supplanted the party politics in this revolutionary cycle, expanding the sphere of the political and rearticulating what became understood as the common. In the Water War, the demand for the non-privatisation of a vital resource drew together people from every sphere of society and showed the possibility of articulation of a common front that proved effective in ultimately challenging the neoliberal government of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. For Linera, at that moment, the concept of “multitude” neatly fitted the type of community for revolutionary transformation. Other Bolivian scholars, such as Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui from the Workshop of Andean Oral History (THOA, Taller de Historia Oral Andina), in a groundbreaking work, has compiled and studied, in Aymara and Quechua, the testimonies of indigenous organic intellectuals. All these investigations brought about the proposals that were ultimately discussed in the Constituent Assembly of 2007 (the year after Viscarra died) and made it into the new Constitution of the Plurinational State. The concept of “Vivir bien” (the “Good Life”) is one of the precepts in the new constitution. It draws on the indigenous tradition of communal work and indigenous cosmology that understands the interdependence of humans and the environment, distancing itself from the dichotomy between the two implied in the humanist traditions of the European Enlightenment. These proposals seek to marry the emancipatory potential of those European traditions, proposals, and experiences that these Bolivian theorists gather from the histories and accounts on the indigenous rebellions and history of indigenous resistance to the five-hundred years of colonial and postcolonial conditions. These proposals have one goal in common: to think how to be Bolivian while being plurinational, while being indigenous, however fluid this category may be. They address the old question that José María Arguedas, the brilliant Peruvian indigenist writer of the mid-twentieth century, asked: is there a way to be Quechua and Peruvian (Bolivian)? Is there a way to practice the indigenous way of inhabiting the world through language and


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certain habitus while simultaneously participating in a modern world where the state (the nation state, or plurinational state) is still an important horizon to be reckoned with? Arguedas wrote, in the 1960s, about the Chimbote slums in an uplifting, intense, grand prose, in which, from the most abject representations of misery, the reader extracts hope and admiration for the solidity of character that Arguedas’ heroes displayed. Arguedas’ The Fox from Up Above and the Fox from Down Below promises transformation towards a better, somehow post-capitalist society, where the colonial scars would also be sutured. This book showed that an individual death does not matter, because the collective poor go on existing and bettering the lives of their children. 10 I have argued elsewhere11 that the Arguedean marginal subject is akin to the subject of the Bolivian Process of Change. Arguedas, in this way, emerges as a Marxist philosopher who looks to transform the world. Viscarra, like Arguedas, writes about Andean slums. But the pathos of his tragedies is radically different. If Arguedas committed suicide because he saw himself as useless for the continuing struggle (as per “Último Diario” in The Fox from …), Viscarra dies slowly from cirrhosis, which he earns through years and years of non-resistance but bare survival—in large part, though hustling, though escapism—in the slums. Nota bene, Arguedas’s both abject and triumphant look at the Chimbote barriadas and their future, is a look largely from the outside: although he indeed knew and communed with many persons whose daily life was rooted in these neighbourhoods, he himself did not live in one of them. Conversely, Viscarra’s existence was inescapably anchored in these marginal urban spaces. Could it be that the testimonial voice tells us here the harsh truths that the literary voice chooses not to pronounce? Viscarra’s Andean slums are very different, albeit, like Arguedas’s characters, they also present the motley multilingual characters that creatively mix Aymara, Quechua, and Spanish in a jargon specifically moulded to reflect the realities of the world they inhabit, and the narrator is obviously invested in the fate of his subjects. It is so different because Viscarra is not asking the Arguedean question about identity; he is also not looking for the ways of being-in-common that the current Bolivian theoretical and political proposals forward and test in public policies; his writing is doubtlessly denunciatory, but not revolutionary. The narrative voice is too tired and destroyed to call for a transformation of society; he rather strives only to save the crumbs of human dignity from the nightmarish world that the marginalised are seemingly inescapably destined to inhabit.

Victor Hugo Viscarra: The Dog Life of the Human Pack


Viscarra’s characters have an incredibly private, small, un-repeatable dimension to them; as opposed to Arguedean admiration, they elicit compassion, and exude only tiredness and renunciation. His texts do not look to transform the world—either the underworld they inhabit, or the larger social context that bears on their everyday life. The characters are too preoccupied with finding the next meal, the next tube of glue to sniff, the next plastic bottle of ethyl alcohol to warm up, to be thinking about social transformation. If we think about the description of these characters and this world in the context of the Bolivian proposals of living together, one may say that these characters are not interested in vivir bien, or vivir mal (the “bad life”), or whatever. They stand apart while at the same time, tragically, being inextricably caught within the networks of society that knows no outside. Their only possible outside is death—the half-desired, mildly feared outcome, encountered by them all—the outcome that awaits us all, of course. In this sense, what was at first read as Viscarra’s social denunciation acquires a dimension of a philosophical standpoint; an extended reflection on human mortality, absolute finitude, and also the irreplaceability of each individual human. The world that Viscarra shows his readers draws the limit of the political proposals of community, arguably the limit of the political itself, in opposition to the Grupo Comuna or Arguedas. While Arguedean, working though the Quechua cosmology, widens the sphere of the political, as does the “politics of everyday needs” that García Linera analyses, Viscarra’s individuals shrink into the privateness of their existence to such a degree that no political movement is possible from within these atomised subjectivities. In this situation, there is a quixotic dimension to Viscarra’s writing, in his gesture to protect the powerless made by an equally powerless. The solidarity with “his” prostitutes, gays, and criminals is the reason for his existence and his writing, according to his testimonies in that one available newspaper interview and “Victor Hugo’s testament” from the Alcoholatum book.12 He presents himself as a spokesperson for the marginal dwellers of the city who “do not have anyone else who would speak for them.” This solidarity is the fabric that loosely holds together the disparate entries in Viscarra’s books. The community that emerges in this situation is in turn held together by a loosely articulated network of mutual help—in dialectic with betrayal, which is just as present—and shared suffering between its members; and by criminalisation and marginalisation that work to radically separate it from the rest of the Bolivian society and push it into the void. The consciousness of finitude of the human existence is the philosophical dimension of this solidarity; repeated mocking references to


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the life beyond the grave are reduced ad absurdum, making mutual help between the helpless the only meaning of life. “I hope to end up in hell, because there they at least have heating”13 Viscarra declares, in reference to the brutally cold Altiplano nights he continuously endures.

The Inverted Language for the Inverted World Fredric Jameson argues in his essay “On Jargon” that poetry and theory have the same necessity of speaking about their truths and proposals in an oblique language, which requires a constant reinvention of itself. The solidarity in Victor Hugo Viscarra’s world is coded in its own language, the “coba” that Viscarra studied in his first book from 1981. The book, titled Coba, el diccionario de la lengua secreta del hampa boliviana, is a dictionary of terms, many of which come from the Aymara language and linguistically mark the local specificity of the marginal community in question. Viscarra also creatively uses the same jargon to narrate his stories. In a movement akin to that of José María Arguedas in Peru—when he used Quechua in order to introduce his readers to some concepts from the Quechua worldview, as a part of his indigenist agenda—Viscarra uses extensive vocabulary from the language of the underworld to submerge the reader-outsider into the marginal world of La Paz, one of South America’s most indigenous cities. Viscarra’s agenda becomes urbanely indigenist— using this term in quite a classical sense from the beginning of the twentieth century—betraying the fact that, in the Bolivian context, it is impossible to stand by the poor and the marginalised without touching on the issue of ethnicity, language, and the place (or no-place) of the indigenous in the fabric of the streets, the city, and ultimately the nation (or the Plurinational State, as the case may be since 2009). According to the Diccionario de la lengua española 2005 EspasaCalpe,14 hampa is: “(1) f. Conjunto de delincuentes, pícaros y maleantes que viven al margen de la ley. (2) Modo de vida que llevan: el hampa tiene su propio código de honor. En sing. va precedido de los determinantes masculinos el, un, algún o ningún.” The first meaning of the term can be rendered into English either as “riffraff” (contemptuously) or “underworld” (more neutrally) when referring to the social group and the place it occupies in society. The second meaning can be translated as a “way of life” carried on by the aforementioned group. The example reads: “the hampa (underworld) has its own honor code,” which neatly applies to what we see on the pages of Viscarra’s books. In Alex Ayala Ugarte’s opinion, the, “Coba is a creative experience that reflects the hierarchy of classes and divisions of society through

Victor Hugo Viscarra: The Dog Life of the Human Pack


language” (Ayala Ugarte 2012, 57). In this brief quote, the critic seems to refer specifically to Viscarra’s dictionary, but his statement can certainly be extended to Viscarra’s books of short stories and also the practice and use of this jargon in the everyday life outside of the narrative universe. Indeed, the very existence of this dictionary draws a line that separates the linguistic community of users of Coba and their social milieu from the rest of the Bolivian society. The title of the dictionary announces, in a somewhat scandalous tone, that it will acquaint the reader with the “secret” language of that sector of society, where the readers would not otherwise go. As if opening a window into the forbidden world where violence, sex, drugs, and, above all, alcohol rule supreme, the dictionary ceases to be “simply” a dictionary, but a tool for glimpsing this reality without the risk to one’s physical (or moral) integrity, as is the case for the Coba speakers. The anecdote goes—narrated by Ayala Ugarte on the radio program “Contemporáneos”—that Viscarra wrote the dictionary upon request by the police. In fact, the book was first published by this institution without giving Viscarra either credit for his work or royalties from the sales. If we were to trust this anecdote the story of the dictionary becomes one of betrayal, because the writer produces this document in order to facilitate the process of the apprehension of the delinquents by the police. Nonetheless, as we will propose further, the categories of loyalty and betrayal are irrelevant for this world that hinges on circumstantial, fleeting, and multiple associations between persons. The Coba displays a few parallels with other marginal and prison jargons, both in the type of vocabulary it displays and the social implications of the use of this vocabulary. We can think of the lunfardo in Argentina, much of whose vocabulary has become an integral part of the mainstream dialect of the Rio de La Plata, in part thanks to the immense cultural and commercial success of tango. 15 As another example, the prison jargon in the Soviet Union seeped into the vocabulary of the mainstream Soviet citizenry due to the enormous proportion of the population that went through the correctional facilities between the 1930s and 1970s.16 Going back as far as the sixteenth century in in the Hispanic tradition, the studies of the “criminal eloquence” in Cervantes’s Rinconete y Cortadillo show how the lettered expression and orality, high diction, and criminal jargon were not severed from each other but instead permeated the fabric of the city of Seville and the written and oral texts produced in it, marking the hierarchies within society. Similarly, much of the vocabulary collected in Viscarra’s dictionary in 1981 is widely used in the mainstream paceño dialect. And this is due not only to the porous borders between the “criminal” and “decent” portions of society and urban


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geography, but also to an increased visibility and recognition of the indigenous presence in the Bolivian society. Many words that Viscarra catalogues as proper for the hampa world in the 1980s come from Aymara and Quechua languages, and for this very reason form a marginalised vocabulary. Such words as llajtamasi [countryman], t’inkazo [a feeling, a guess], or chaqui [bad hangover] can today be heard in the mass media. The type of vocabulary catalogued in the Coba dictionary is specialised; for instance, the Coba users seem to not have a necessity for a new vocabulary for meteorological events, or for varieties of food or clothing items, for instance: the so-called standard Spanish seems sufficient for these areas of human experience. But, on the contrary, it abounds in words that refer to the means of subsistence of this linguistic community: to the practice of the professional activities, such as stealing of different kinds, with diverse and rich vocabularies for specialists in cars or pickpockets, just to name two. On the other hand, the second vocabulary group is the one referring to the “dura lex”—in Viscarra’s own ironic wording—that represses these very precarious and irregular practices of subsistence: the prison, the police, the tortures suffered by the marginalised at the hands of the official state institutions. The Coba is also rich in terms for the leisure practices, namely for sex, drinking, and drugs—among which sex occupies a central and ambiguous place, since, while it is a leisure activity for most men who populate this world, it is at the same time a profession and means of survival for most women who merit a mention on Viscarra’s pages. The private parts of the body, the sexual act, the varied places for drinking, sleeping, and having sex may be designated in Coba with an array of specialised terminology. One of the main functions of this vocabulary is to simultaneously ridicule the respected social institutions and practices and at the same time valorise and beautify, even for a fleeting moment when the word is spoken, the harsh realities lived by Coba speakers. Let us look at a couple of examples: the drunks are called “artistas” [artists]; while the dives—those “antros” that Viscarra studies as a dedicated participant-observer—are called the “catedrales” [cathedrals]. What kind of prayer can be spoken in such a “cathedral?” In Viscarra’s moralising voice, we can conclude that it is the most honest kind of prayer there is. The prime, politically-tinted example of such an inverted, ironic term is “nacionalizar” [“to nationalise”], meaning “to steal,” in a reference to the “nationalisations” of the National Revolution of 1952 that “magically” enriched many of the new leftist elites and largely frustrated the expectations deposited in the Revolution’s emancipatory project by the truly dispossessed, among them the indigenous peasantry especially. 17 The same ironic effect can be

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observed in the titles of Viscarra’s tales, which precisely invert the direct meaning through the mechanism of irony. For example, “Escuelas de canto” (“Singing academies” in Borracho estaba…) narrates in detail what goes on inside the police torture chambers that force the prisoners to “sing” [cantar], meaning to report on their partners in crime. “Muchachos de linaje” (“The Well-Bred Youngsters” in Borracho estaba…) tell a number of stories of teenagers, almost children, that go down the path of crime and prostitution. Just by way of a final example, one of the texts quotes the hampa remakes of the popular songs that rewrite them from the point of view of the marginal experiences, telling the stories of delinquency and suffering in prison. The songs are typical “Peruvian waltzes” that one would expect to hear in any drinking-and-dancing establishment with a local flare in, say, La Paz or Cuzco. Such songs usually tell stories of abandonment and broken hearts, the result of which the narrative voice is lamenting their condition and seeks a cure in alcohol. While the best examples of the genre tend to universalise the romantic suffering and point to an existential void that could be suffered by a person at any strata of society, the Coba versions of this poetry specifically lament situations that arise from the dangers that stalk the dweller of Viscarra’s nightly La Paz.

Stray Dogs and Humans around the Fire: A Manual to Becoming-Wolf In both Alcoholatum and Borracho estaba …, there are important tales dedicated to the canine friends of the night crowd who generally comprise an important presence in Viscarra’s world. The half-savage dogs and the marginalised share their non-existence for the eyes of the rest of the society; the spaces they inhabit—trash dumps and “descampados”; the time that is theirs—the La Paz nights; and also their preoccupation with the basic items for survival—food and heat. Often, for men as for dogs, it is the immediate and the only meaning of their everyday struggle. The community of the momentary solidarity between men that arises when heat, food, and alcohol are shared is represented, reflected upon, and understood through the parallel between the human packs and the dog packs that inhabit the dumps. The community described by Viscarra can be insightfully analysed by taking as a point of departure the figure of the canine—a stray, half-wild dog, that is almost a wolf. A key element in Deleuze and Guattari's project of becoming-wolf is a move to locate oneself at the periphery of the crowd, but not leaving it. Each member—wolf—defines themselves in relation to the others,


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however, at the same time remaining on the periphery. “In becoming-wolf, the important thing is the position of the mass, and above all the position of the subject itself in relation to the pack or wolf-multiplicity: how the subject joins or does not join the pack, how far away it stays, how it does or does not hold to the multiplicity” (Deleuze and Guattari 2003, 29). Let us remember that the reflection on becoming-wolf in Deleuze and Guattari is a part of the study that posits one big question, which is at the same time a proposal: that the schizoid perception (as opposed to the structured Freudian unconscious) glimpses the true structure of both the molecular and the monadic, of the internal life of a person under capitalism, and also the social structures that influence the formation of this internal life. They pick up where Freud gets scared; for them, the schizoid dream is the key to understanding the subjectivities and the social structures; and the main trait of such a schizoid dream-inspired vision is the multiplicity, fluidity, and lines of flight that crisscross each one of us (once again, thought in opposition to the Freudian concepts of lack and loss). If the Freudian obsession with the father and the phallus is not at the centre of the subjective constitution, but instead the multiplicity of a wolf-pack, then both belonging and loss cease to be the key intensities or shifts for such a subject: one is always belonging and constantly losing, for one is not in love with just that one father figure. This approach to seeing the world is certainly explicable and useful for the characters of Victor Hugo Viscarra’s stories, beginning with the central character that speaks about himself in the first person, and who started living on the streets when he was 12 because his mother abused him with extreme violence that left him with a broken nose, burns, and other marks that the experience of the conventional bourgeois family left on his body. Abandoned by his father and abused by his mother, the “I” of these stories shares similar experiences with the other juvenile characters. But, importantly, the abandoned and prostituted children that populate these pages are not in a search of a lost father figure. They rather, expertly—and hopelessly— navigate their survival within the teeming landscape of the city in a rhizomatic, branched-out manner, relying fleetingly on mutual help, always ready for betrayal and to be betrayed. There is no security in this position, but neither is security something to strive for. I know that the periphery is the only place where I can be, that I would die if I let myself be drawn into the center of the fray, but just as certainly if I let go of the crowd. This is not an easy position to stay in, it is even very difficult to hold, for these beings are in constant motion and their movements are unpredictable and follow no rhythm … So I too am in perpetual motion; all this demands a high level of tension, but it gives me a

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feeling of violent, almost vertiginous, happiness. A good schizo dream. (Deleuze and Guattari 2003, 29)

Or a good alcoholic delusion. Or a paint thinner trip (voladera de clefero). Beyond the animal metaphor, while the schizoid dream is Deleuze and Guattari’s window onto the reality of the multiplicity of becoming-wolf, Viscarra’s delirium tremens that hovers over his texts—drunk he was, but he remembers, as the title of one of his books suggests: Borracho estaba, pero me acuerdo)—is a similar entry point. Although Deleuze and Guattari’s book is subtitled, importantly, “capitalism and schizophrenia,” the next big question for us is whether this apprehension of the reality of capitalism serves the Marxist purpose of overcoming the inequalities implied in the capitalist world order. And my answer here is “no.” The becoming-wolf is a way of coming together for the wounded subjectivities of Viscarra’s stories, and is consequently a way to feebly extend their precarious day-to-day existence. But it is not a recipe, or a work-inprogress towards emancipation. This is the reason Viscarra’s project constitutes a limit to that of José María Arguedas or Álvaro García Linera. This also explains the place of betrayal in this community. When I started thinking about Viscarra, my problem was: how do you understand a community where the betrayal is as equally present as loyalty, where it is not repressed, so to speak? Where to betray is not more dangerous than to not betray, because one ceases to fear the concrete vengeance in the atmosphere of proliferation of random violence to which the characters of this world are constantly subjected. In fact, for the wolf-multiplicity, the category of “betrayal” loses its meaning altogether, because: Among the characteristics of a pack are small or restricted numbers, dispersion, non-decomposable variable distances, qualitative metamorphoses, inequalities as remainders or crossings, impossibility of a fixed totalization or hierarchization, a Brownian variability in directions, lines of deterritorialization, and projection of particles. (Deleuze and Guattari 2003, 34)

This freedom of movement and availability of lines of flight, although inextricably tied to a constant physical suffering from cold and hunger and constant danger from other “wolves,” seems to be the reason Viscarra chose living on the streets until his death. This freedom is mentioned fleetingly, but more than once in David Harvey’s study of the urban experience under capitalism. As Harvey’s studies show, the appropriation of space for expanding capital is what has kept capitalism alive and well. As a result, every piece of land pretty much everywhere “belongs to


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someone,” is made available for development and hence punctuates, marks, and conditions an individual’s possible experience of the city. We all depend on the necessary dynamic of securing our own space (through property rights) and our freedom of circulation through the city—freedom which is curtailed by the other individuals’ properties, of course. Only the tramp, the homeless, escapes this overriding logic of hacking into pieces the cityscape.18 Only these characters can practically appropriate the space through a method that does not obey the capitalist logic of appropriation of space for the purpose of generating value. This is the kind of freedom for which some are willing to sacrifice security—Viscarra being an exponent of this proposal. But is there a promise of emancipation in these lines of flight, escape from the logic of capital, implied in this proposal of community as multiplicity? Deleuze and Guattari conceptualise the schizo wolf-multiplicity position as opposed to the model of the nation state (the corollary of the capitalist order in the economic domain), which they see as structured according to the paranoid model. As we have seen, Viscarra does not work towards emancipation, but he does denounce. The cynic voice of the wolfdog, Viscarra-Diogenes, reads as a diatribe against the Bolivian society, enmeshed within the logic of exploitation and marginalisation supported by the institutions of the nation state under capitalism.

The Cynic “Doctor of Souls”: Denouncing the Vices of Society The final tale of Alcoholatum is titled “Cada hueso con su perro” [“Each Bone with its Dog”]. It is an ironic inversion of the traditional saying “to each dog its bone,” which has an English equivalent: “to each his own.” Since in Viscarra’s world nothing is anyone’s “own,” much less the bones over which famished canines and humans fight at the city garbage dump, the inversion of the saying at once reminds the reader of the smug selfassurance the original implies and shows its glaring inadequacy for the world of the margins. The dogs, in their absolute abject vulnerability combined with ferocity, stand as a reflection of the marginalised humans. “Amigos perros” [“The Dog Friends”] wraps up the Borracho estaba … book, reminding us of Saint Francis of Assisi’s expression “hermanos perros” or “the dog brothers.” In the epilogue to this same collection, Viscarra refers directly to Saint Francis, who appears in the tales a number of times as a sort of model of a way of life practiced by the narrative “I,” 19 in the sense of reducing the everyday necessities to the minimum. We must underline that it is not the joy of looking upon God’s

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creation in all its manifestations big and small that Viscarra adopts from the Franciscan model, but the extreme, even eccentric askesis (from the Greek word “training”), meaning the practical way of life. Viscarra’s Saint Francis is an inspiring character that walks around naked and talks to animals, survives on the bare minimum, and is marginalised by other humans. A parallel figure, equally moving and anecdotal, appears in the story “Cada hueso con su perro,” which is Viscarra’s homage to Diogenes. The narrator first introduces himself as Diogenes’s dog, and concludes the story by hinting that it is actually Diogenes himself who was speaking about his person under the guise of a dog.20 Diogenes was the philosopher of the Hellenistic period known as the founder of a group of ascetics called the Cynics 21 in the fourth century BC. The historian A. H. Armstrong argues that Cynicism was not really a philosophy but a way of life, meaning that the Cynics did not concern themselves with the metaphysics and did not strive to explain the how and the why of the world’s existence, and neither were they concerned with the existence or non-existence of the divinities. Instead, they looked for an “infallible plan” (115) to provide a sense of self-sufficiency and security to the citizens of the Greek citystates at the moment of their dissolution as a result of globalising tendencies brought about by Alexander the Great’s imperial expansion. It was an emergency toolkit for a changing world, albeit the ancient Greeks certainly did not know the degree of change that implementation of neoliberal policies can cause in a country like Bolivia in the 1980s and 90s. But the Bolivians of those years could certainly use such a toolkit as the privatisation of resources caused drastic devaluation of currency and destabilised salaries. No wonder Diogenes and the Cynics inspire Viscarra. Their: chief doctrine was that virtue, or the life according to nature, was the only thing that mattered, and that all else was Tuphos, a magnificent term of contempt which combines the meanings of “mist” or “fog” and “wind (internal)” (sic) with all their metaphorical implications, and may be weakly translated “illusion.” By the life “according to nature” the Cynics meant a life in which all necessaries were cut down to the bare minimum … Such a life made a man utterly proof against the changes and chances of Fortune. It was in complete poverty and detachment from all worldly ties that the Cynics sought imperturbable tranquility. It is easy to see how it differed from the detachment of Socrates, who used things as they came and would feast or fast indifferently as circumstances demanded. Cynic asceticism was deliberate and self-conscious. They laid a great stress on training (askesis) and toil as necessary for the good life.” (Armstrong 1981, 117)


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Viscarra’s and his characters’ “feasting or fasting” may appear Socratean rather than the stubborn self-deprivation of the Cynics, but his following through with the vagabond life to its last consequences—untimely death— suggests in fact that Viscarra made out of his life a sort of ultimate exemplum, an illustration for the life without “Tuphos,” in line with the medieval exempla and Diogenes’ methodology of teaching by example. In fact, Armstrong’s description of Diogenes and the Cynics coincides neatly with the intention cyphered in Viscarra’s narratives and in the practice of everyday life that Viscarra portrays: With Cynic asceticism went a vigorous attack on all forms of convention, all the normal standards of ordinary people, carried on with a strong sense of vocation. The true Cynic felt that he had a mission to wander through the world as a “doctor of souls” or “inspector sent by the gods,” putting false standards out of circulation by his ferocious criticism, dispelling men’s illusions and teaching them the way of truth and virtue. In doing this the Cynics adopted the utmost freedom of speech and, both as advertisement and as a practical example, a deliberate immodesty of behavior, a flouting of all the normal standards of decency, from which they got their name of Cynics, “dog-men” … They developed a remarkable style of serio-comic popular preaching and writing, which has had a great influence on later literature. They were cosmopolitans, regarding the universe as their city, a commonwealth of gods and wise men (the foolish masses of mankind were outsiders in this cosmopolis with no real citizen rights), and extreme individualists. (Ibid., 118)

Criticism of the accepted norms is the reason for Viscarra’s askesis and the reason for his writing. He stands by the marginalised poor, and writes to also change the opinions held by “all of humanity”—“la humanidad entera”—in other words, he is trying to change that which is accepted as common sense. And first of all, in his “testament,” he sets off to show that a person crushed by an addiction is, to quote from his other story, “la basura que no soy” (“trash that is not me”). He literally sets out to dig himself and his wolf-mates out of the trash-dump of public opinion: My thoughts, I leave them for the whole humanity, not so they can benefit from them, but so they learn how in the most complete state of abandonment, a human being can cultivate himself and educate himself without going through schools, universities, symposiums, grad schools, master degrees and all the rest of this stuff (demás tucuymas). (2001, 114– 5)22

Contempt for the world of the “intellectuals” and the institutions that produce the authorised knowledge in society is important because he

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reclaims for himself the authority for production of knowledge despite standing apart from all this institutionality—and, in fact, being removed as far as possible from it. The second trait of the Cynics as wondering teachers is apparent here. We should remember that he claims legitimacy as a testimonial voice speaking for the underworld, who also educates the reader-outsider about the realities of this world otherwise inaccessible to them. But at the same time he lays open the rot in the social body. Let us look at just a couple of examples of his criticism of the “decent society,” penal institutions, and of the bourgeois family to fully appreciate the denunciatory quality of this testimony. The “decent society” tries to isolate itself completely from the geographical places and nocturnal temporalities that the heroes of these tales inhabit. It only shows up in the form of repressive apparatus (prisons, or corrective facilities for juvenile delinquents that sound more like concentration camps). In all three books there is only one relato, whose main character is a young man from the high society of La Paz. The narrative voice, belonging to this anti-hero’s drinking buddy, uses the accusing “tú” throughout the tale, asking him again and again if he remembers the mute prostitute whom he has been regularly visiting in a trash dump of La Paz. The story is parabolic: a school-going youngster from an affluent family has received a sexual initiation and has been involved with the mute woman, while going about his “normal” life during the day, living in his father’s house and planning to marry someone from his own social class, “some future Miss Bolivia” (1991, 105). This goes on until the woman shows up on his doorstep with a baby that looks exactly like the youngster, and his father orders him to marry her. Symptomatically, the tale is entitled “Caramba, ¿no te acuerdas?” (“Damn, Don’t You Remember?”), and forgetting is at the centre of the problem. “If she is mute-dumb by birth, you are forgetful by convenience,”23 denounces the cynically laughing, ironic narrative voice. The woman, the epitome of abandonment and vulnerability, stands for many others who are subjected to all kinds of abuses by the other poor and by the richer in the society, and later relegated to oblivion. This parable accuses the rich of purposively (“por conveniencia”) forgetting those who are the heroes of Viscarra’s world: the marginalised. Viscarra’s voice, of course, is here that of an accuser who uses the direct second person singular to denounce; a “doctor of souls” who makes public the hidden social vices that no one else dares to point out. In fact, the sporadic excursions of those “others” into the world of the margins are mostly predatory and constitute a source of justified paranoia for the narrative voice. As the introduction to Alcoholatum reads, the


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marginal neighbourhoods are a, “Culture dish, priced by the university students that visit it sporadically to later speculate in their field reports and investigations.” 24 The image of the petri dish that harvests bacteria for medical trials appropriately reinforces multiple references to the scavenging of the cadavers of the poor for autopsies and medical studies, which show up in every one of Viscarra’s books.25 Among the general rejection of other social institutions, he especially focuses on the penal institutions and techniques of penalisation. In this regard, and from the point of view of Viscarra’s characters, there is no difference between democracy or dictatorship. Arguably, what we see here are mere bodies that stand outside the law, much like the homini sacri according to Giorgio Agamben’s theorisations.26 For example, “For us, it’s the same if there is a dictatorship or if they preach our rights. The cops anyway beat the shit out of us until they break our soul. You can’t even complain to no one; if you do, and then they get you, then for sure the cops kill you. No one will stand up for you.”27 The other relatos tell of the “normal” and dreadful rapes of women (especially of indigenous, Aymara and Quechua monolingual women, the most vulnerable of all) by the police, random shootings of the incarcerated, constant extortions, and demands for bribes. Finally, the tale entitled “The Mom” presents an open and burlesque critique of the bourgeois family. It opens with a semblance of the conventional family of a single mother and her four children, of what would be called a “poor but decent” family. The older brother tells the reader about his mother and siblings and describes how devotedly they spend their Sundays—with a mass, obligatory bath and a family dinner. “All Sundays are sacred for our family, namely, the mom, my three brothers and me.” 28 The little brothers—in fact, all four brothers—hate bathing, and the older one proudly says that the mom does not dare force him into bathing because, “since I am the oldest brother, I am also the one who brings most money both for the rent and the food.”29 At the end, it turns out that this family is composed of a very poor woman, who takes care of four palomillos—street children that specialise in pickpocketing. The “wages” that the children bring home provide the very bare minimum for the “family”—not luxuries, just the rent of a little room where they all sleep in one bed, food, paint thinner for the two littlest “brothers” who are addicted, and on Sundays a visit to an illegal video salon for the boys, and to the chichería for the mom. The children and The mom take care of each other, and make sure every member survives; the boys bring the mom home when she is so drunk that she is unable to walk. The mom, in turn, saved one of them from being lynched when he was caught in fraganti by

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the crowd at the market. The story stands in glaring contrast with Viscarra’s representation of a conventional bourgeois family, especially of his own mother whose abuses almost left him a cripple and put his very life in danger. The voice of the Cynic doctor of individual souls and the ills of society sports deep moralism. It inverts the common-sense discourse that labels the marginalised as lazy, vice-ridden subjects in stark opposition to the “decent” individuals. Viscarra’s narrative voice leaves the prostitutes and pickpockets be, and holds up the mirror to the supposedly properly employed individuals, like the horridly cruel police officers and supposedly decent women like the narrator’s (and, it just so happens, the author’s) mother who almost kills her little son in a fit of rage. In a story that describes the fauna of one of the dives “Las Carpas,” this “doctor of souls” establishes his own authority against that of another doctor—Freud: “Sigmund Freud tried to establish the limit that exists between reason and madness and could not do it. But there, in the Chijini neighborhood, one can establish the limit between desperation and hypocrisy, between the angst of living the life one does not want and conformism; between existential frustration and alienation, between good and evil.”30 Here, Viscarra claims to know the difference between good and evil— no more, no less. How did he arrive at this ultimate knowledge? Possibly through preserving dignity in abject existence. Possibly by learning to not depend on a secure place or income, living precariously on the bare minimum. Possibly through living dangerously in a wolf pack, the mode of existence that allows some line of flight from the subjection to rules dictated by capitalism and the social institutions it underpins. In the quote above, the moralist voice works, specifically, through the problem of limits, but they are different limits to those drawn by the dominant logic that designates the insertion into the market and society as “good” and the insubordination to this logic as “bad.” Between what categories is it important, in this universe, to draw these limits? The “desperation,” “anguish to live the unwanted life,” “existential frustration,” and “el bien”—the good—stand on one side of the (in)equation; hypocrisy, conformism, alienation, and “el mal”—the evil—on the other side. Viscarra provocatively redefines what it means to live a virtuous life under capitalism: it implies detachment, askesis, and courage to face the truth of human existence, whose finitude and precariousness cannot be covered up by hypocrisy of building one’s comfortable life on the neglect or abuse of the others, or by conformism with the debased order of things. In a surprising use of Marxist terminology in a string of poetic and metaphysical vocabulary, the alienation stands as the dark opposite side of


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the existential frustration equated with “the good.” The narrative voice, without romanticising the vagabond existence, pronounces his preference for running the risk of freezing to death every night and looking honestly into the void, instead of slaving away for the Man and letting the “Tuphos” cover up the true misery of the “decent” existence.

Notes 1

All translations from Spanish into English are mine unless noted. In Arancibia (2005). 3 Ibid. 4 “Muchachos de linaje” in Borracho estaba… (2012, 142). 5 Paulina Arrancibia speaks of a whole generation of urban realists from Peru— namely, Julio Ramon Ribeyro, Oswaldo Reynoso, and later, in the 1990s, Sergio Galarza—that were marketed as “Andean Bukowskis,” the label to which Galarza responded critically. Viscarra gets thrown into the same basket with a generalising gesture. Further, in a radio program from Community Radio in Mendoza, Argentina, the hosts Dario Zangrandi and Pablo Grosso remarked that when Viscarra’s Alcoholatum made it to Spain, right after the author’s death, the critics and publishers marketed the book through the label of the “Bukowski” myth of the “damned poet.” The two Argentinean radio critics voiced their disagreement with the “Bukowski” label, but left a space for elaboration on the matter and for the question of what exactly makes Viscarra stand apart? 6 Raymond Williams (1977, 145–50). 7 “Barrio marginal de una ciudad cualquiera. Lugar geográfico que no figura en guías turísticas ni planos urbanísticos. Escenario de tragedias, incestos, asesinatos y reyertas. Caldo de cultivo social apetecido por estudiantes y universitarios que lo visitan esporádicamente para luego especular en sus trabajos prácticos e investigaciones. Refugio de humildes emigrados del campo, prostitutas, delincuentes y mendigos. Calles sinuosas y eternamente polvorientas transitadas por los marginados, los niños, las enfermedades y la muerte. Permanente foco de infección y degeneración social atiborrado de basurales en los cuales los menesterosos y los animales se disputan algún desperdicio que les sirva de alimento. Barrio marginal donde los puestos de venta de productos alimenticios son mínimos en relación con las cantinas, chicherías y antros de mala muerte. Muchachitas de diez o doce años de edad que no saben lo que es la prostitución pero que la practican desde hace tiempo, recibiendo, a cambio de sus esfuerzos de abrir las piernas, un plato de comida, algunos billetes devaluados o una golpiza.” (Introducción, Alcoholatum, 2001, 11). 8 “Escritor, leí tu libro. No mentiste” (Ugarte 2012, 56). 9 “Contra la extensión de los espacios de la explotación capitalista o el desierto de la expropiación, se ha producido la marea alta de una nueva política de las necesidades vitales, en torno a la cual la gente no sólo se ha organizado para disputar las condiciones de la supervivencia, reproducción y la misma producción en el campo, sino también la recomposición de la vida política. La marea alta ha 2

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modificado los bordes de lo político. Los espacios de la política se han ampliado y extendido, a la vez que este movimiento deja un conjunto de instituciones políticas vacías, como el sistema de partidos. La política plebeya ha desbordado los espacios liberales, donde además el pueblo no está, sólo se dice que está representado” (García Linera, Gutiérrez, and Tapia 2000, 192). 10 Horacio Legrás has shown, however, that the Arguedean project does find its limits in a poem written in Quechua and translated into Spanish by Arguedas himself, titled “Llamado a algunos doctors.” See Legrás (2008). 11 See Feldman (2014). 12 His motto was the following: “There, with my delinquents, my prostitutes, my beggars and my thieves, I feel home.” [“Allí, con mis delincuentes, mis putas, mis mendigos y mis ladrones, me siento en casa”] (Ugarte 2012). 13 “La cosa es que el cielo es frío, en el infierno hay calefacción, prefiero estar abajo” (Arrancibia 2005). 14 15 Prof. Marcos Rohena-Madrazo (Middlebury College) shared with me his reflections on tango and the lunfardo in an informal email exchange. 16 Concise Dictionary of Thieves’ Jargon, 17 For fierce denunciations of the unethical behaviour of the leftist elites in the Revolution of 1952 and the frustrated expectations of the indigenous peasantry, see Reinaga (1979). 18 Harvey (1989). 19 For instance: “we got the point of sharing our solitudes with those whom Saint Francis called brother dogs.” [“Llegamos a compartir nuestras soledades con los que Francisco de Assis llamaba hermanos perros”] (“Epílogo,” in Borracho estaba … 2012, 238). 20 Beginning: “To begin with, my name is Diogenes and, in case you don’t know this, my first owner was such a special philosopher that, faced with a lack of friends, he was used to talking to me.” [“Para empezar, mi nombre es Diógenes, y, por si no lo saben, mi primer dueño fue un filósofo tan especial que, ante la falta de amigos, acostumbraba a charlar conmigo”] (“Cada hueso con su perro,” Alcoholatum, 2001, 97). Conclusion: “In moments like this one, when the shadows of the night remind me of the darkness of my conscience, I think that, even though I insist on walking on four legs and searching for food in the wastelands and markets, I feel more comfortable walking on my two feet. Those who know me must be right when they say that I am the founder of philosophical Cynisim and that I live in an abandoned cask on the outskirts of Athens and that my name, Diogenes, does not belong to just any dog.” [“En momentos como éste, cuando las sombras de la noche me recuerdan el color oscuro de mi conciencia, pienso que, si bien insisto en caminar de cuatro patas y me empecino en buscar alimento en los basurales y mercados, me siento más cómodo caminando de dos pies. Algo de razón deben tener aquellos que me conocen cuando afirman que yo soy el fundador del cinismo filosófico y que vivo en un tonel abandonado en las afueras de Atenas y que mi nombre, Diógenes, no es el de un perro cualquiera”] (Ibid., 98).


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21 Armstrong (1981, 116). Although Diogenes is popularly known as the founding father of the Cynicism, the origins of this philosophy and practice were traced by the later Stoics to Antisthenes, one of Socrates’ companions (a so-called minor Socratic) (Ibid.). The Encyclopaedia Brittannica states that Diogenes himself acknowledged his debt to Antisthenes, but it is unclear how we know what he acknowledged, while none of his writings survive. 22 “Mis pensamientos los cedo a la humanidad entera, no para que los aprovechen sino para que aprendan cómo en el más completo estado de abandono, un ser humano puede cultivarse y educarse sin pasar por institutos, universidades, simposios, congresos, posgrados, maestrías y demás tucuymas” (“Testamento,” Alcoholatum, 2001, 114–5). “Y demás tucuymas” is a hampa expression of Aymara origin, meaning something akin to “and the rest of this stuff.” 23 “Si ella es sordomuda de nacimiento, tú eres olvidadizo por conveniencia” (Ibid., 104). 24 “Caldo de cultivo social apetecido por estudiantes y universitarios que lo visitan esporádicamente para luego especular en sus trabajos prácticos e investigaciones” (Ibid., 11). 25 For instance, “The Morgue and its Departments” [“La morgue y ramas anexas”] in Alcoholatum (Ibid., 206). For a similar symptom of fear of the marginalised Andean dwellers of the urban sprawl in the Peruvian context, see the studies of “pishtakos” and “sacaojos,” the myths of the white organ thieves in the Lima slums (Ansión 1989). 26 See Agamben (1998). 27 “Para nosotros da lo mismo que haya dictadura o se pregone nuestros derechos. Los policías igualito nomás nos sacan la mierda hasta rompernos el alma. Ni siquiera te puedes quejar a alguien; si lo haces, y te agarran después lo más seguro es que los tiras te maten. No habrá quien saque la cara por vos …” (“Singing Schools” or “Escuelas de canto,” in Borracho estaba… 2012, 176). 28 “Todos los domingos son sagrados para nuestra familia, es decir, para la Mama, mis tres hermanos y yo” (“La Mama,” Alcoholatum, 2001, 87). 29 “como soy el hermano mayor también soy el que pone más plata tanto para el alquiler como para la comida” (“The Mom,” Ibid., 87). 30 “Sigmund Freud trató de establecer el límite que existe entre la razón y la locura y no pudo hacerlo. Pero, allá en la zona de Chijini, se puede establecer el límite entre la desesperación y la hipocresía, entre la angustia de vivir la vida que no se quiere y el conformismo; entre la frustración existencial y la alienación, entre el bien y el mal” (“Las Carpas,” Ibid., 43).

References Books Agamben, Giorgio. 1998. Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Ansión, Juan. 1989. Pishtacos de verdugos a sacaojos. Lima, Peru: Tarea.

Victor Hugo Viscarra: The Dog Life of the Human Pack


Armstrong, A. H. 1981. An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams and Co. Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. 2003. A Thousand Plateaus. Schizophrenia and Capitalism. Trans Brian Massumi. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. Feldman, Irina Alexandra. 2014. Rethinking Community from Peru: The Political Philosophy of Jose Maria Arguedas. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press. Harvey, David. 1989. The Urban Experience. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Reinaga, Fausto. 1979. Manifiesto del partido indio de Bolivia. La Paz: WA-GUI. Legrás, Horacio. 2008. Literature and Subjection. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Viscarra, Victor Hugo. 1981. Coba: Lenguaje secreto del hampa boliviano. La Paz. —. 2001. Alcoholatum y otros drinks. Crónicas para gatos y pelagatos. La Paz: Correveidile. —. 2002. Borracho estaba, pero me acuerdo. Memorias del Víctor Hugo. La Paz: Correveidile. —. 2007. Chaqui Fulero. Los cuadernos perdidos de Víctor Hugo Viscarra. La Paz: Correveidile. Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Chapters from edited collections García Linera, Álvaro, Raquel Gutiérrez, and Luís Tapia. 2000. “La forma multitud de la política de las necesidades vitales.” In El retorno de la Bolivia plebeya, edited by Grupo Comuna, 143–95. La Paz: La Muela del Diablo. Jameson, Fredric. 2000. “On Jargon.” In The Jameson Reader, edited by Michael Hardt and Kathi Weeks, 117–18. Oxford: Blackwell.

Journal articles Zuese, Alicia R. 2010. “Criminal Eloquence: The World of Communication in Cervantes’s Rinconete y Cortadillo.” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 44: 7–30.


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Newspaper articles Nisttahuz, Jaime. “Un libro nada fulero.” Fondo negro de la razon™ (La Paz, Bolivia). September 16, 2006.

Websites Arancibia, Paulina. 2005. “El infierno es un buen lugar.” In La Nación (Chile). January 8, 2015. Ayala Ugarte, Alex. 2012. “Las 1001 noches del Bukowski boliviano.” EMEEQUUS, 54–63. This text can also be found in Ayala Ugarte’s book Los mercaderes del Che y otras crónicas a ras del suelo. La Paz: El Cuervo, 2012. “Diogenes.” 2015. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. “Hampa.” Word Reference. Recoaro, Nicolás. 2010. “La última curda.” Página 12.

Other resources on Viscarra Viscarra, Victor Hugo. Borracho estaba, pero me acuerdo. Book tráiler. “Contemporáneos: Víctor Hugo Viscarra.” 2013. Radio Show Contemporáneos, conducted by Dario Zangrandi and Pablo Grasso. FM Comunitario La Mosquitera. El Bermejo, Guaymallén, Mendoza: Argentina. Program #3, 2013.


1. Introduction This chapter examines four decades of film and literary representations of street dwellers and youth gangs. The representations show a gradual transition of the worker, held down by urban latifundia, 1 to street dweller seeking emancipation from mechanisms of control. I will not refer to literature and cinema as storytelling apparatuses that create new reterritorialisations based on previous storytelling (Sánchez-Prado 2004) or as greater engines for telling the nation’s story (Perilli 2002). The corpus set out here falls under what Deleuze and Guattari call “minor literature” (1986), referring to the political action of Kafka’s writing. I propose to observe the literary subjects present in the works I study as members of nomadic communities inside of modern cities. In these communities, gang behaviour is a formula of resistance against the apparatuses of capture of the modern nation state. The main concepts in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (1987) are helpful for reading fictional and documentary texts that reference the complex relationship of an alternative community (machinic societies) within hegemonic society (the nation state). In Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus (1983) the “war machine” concept does not appear, but this book nevertheless sets out important approaches, including the idea that machines are not metaphors but “a continual material flow (hyle)” (36). Likewise, a “body without organs” is an n+1, and the binary connections are much more complex among “organ-machines” (72).


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According to “Treatise on Nomadology,” in A Thousand Plateaus (1987), “The war machine is exterior to the State apparatus” (Axiom I) and seeks to ward off the formation of a state apparatus (problem I). The war machine belongs to primitive communities that, according to Deleuze and Guattari’s political thought, are not proper to the “State of Nature” or “the natural state of mankind,” as described by Hobbes in Leviathan (1994). Nomadic communities lack a state form, not as a defect but intentionally in order to block the formation of state practices in their society. The war machine is just a warlike assembly that the state apparatuses aspire to assimilate as a military institution (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 230). These mechanisms are similar to the unwritten codes of groups (bandits or gangs) and herds (animal or bands). The herd’s battle tactics are part of the war machine’s becoming-animal, adopted from that of the bands of animals.2 Machinic societies are primitive, but not as a declaration of the impossibility of understanding more sophisticated mechanisms such as the power centres of modern states. Deleuze and Guattari follow Clastres’ antievolutionist postulate: primitive societies are not defined chronologically as existing prior to the state. There are two types of societies: those that lack a state-form and others that do not (1977, 169). Primitive societies are exterior to the state and work to prevent state formation using the formula “the leader as servant.” In other words, the machinic communities are not primitive in a “pre-political” sense, rather they prevent the formation of centralised power through the control of the leader’s authority. This supervision is a “collective mechanism of inhibition” that impedes the complete creation of the state. Contemporary street dwellers and young gangs did not ward off the creation of the modern Colombian nation, and yet are nomads who resist the apparatuses of capture. Their strategy of resistance is to become animal-like, making them more like packs. In packs, they exercise collective mechanisms of inhibition: This is easily seen in certain band or pack phenomena. For example, in the case of gangs of street children in Bogota … These mechanisms cannot be understood without renouncing the evolutionist vision that sees bands or packs as a rudimentary, less organized, social form. Even in bands of animals, leadership is a complex mechanism that does not act to promote the strongest but rather inhibits the installation of stable powers, in favor of a fabric of immanent relations. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 358)

The bands do not deny their leader’s authority, but rather oppose its consolidation. Band-like war machines resist any “arborescent” or linear hier-

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archy by institutions of power (Ibid., 16). Below, I suggest a narrative cartography of Colombian street dwellers (known as gamines). It starts from their “prehistory” (the subjection of the worker) and ends with a couple of revolts, through which it is possible to see that bands are a sophisticated social form.

2. Documentary Representations of the Working Class Chircales is Marta Rodríguez and Jorge Silva’s first documentary, and took them five years to produce (1966–71). The documentary exposes the exploitation of the working class in slum brickworks, or chircales. The film begins and ends with a pair of epigraphs: the first is a quote from Marx’s Capital: “Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them” (Marx 2010, 326). The second quotes the priest Camilo Torres: “The struggle is long, let’s start now.”3 Chircales refutes the pro-government speeches, denying the existence of castes, the accumulation of wealth in a few families and socioeconomic stratification, and branding as “ignorant” or “uninformed” those voices that claim otherwise. A line from the end of a speech by a politician states: “The agrarian and economic reality is completely different” (5:37). Subsequently, the film satirises the speech’s theses through short sequences without sound. In them, we see children and women working in the brickworks. Later on, the narrator’s voiceover introduces the family of potters—the protagonists of the documentary—as a symbolic representation of the fifty-thousand families without labour and union rights that the government speeches want to hide. The brickworks are located in Ciudad Bolívar, one of the poorest areas of southern Bogotá. Rereading Chircales from a gender perspective, Deborah Martin (2012) notes that the previous subordinate relationship of the (male) brickmaker with the landowner is duplicated at home between wife and husband. From my own perspective, I will study this documentary through the concept of labour power. I understand that the emancipation of the brickmakers in Bogotá (in the name of the working class) is the necessary stage that serves as a precursor to turning themselves into a war machine. Chircales does not depict their emancipation, rather their circumstances as subjects under the landowners’ control. In other words, the Colombian brickmakers’ lives are the pre-history of their becoming war machines. For that reason, although in Chircales working-class families are far from men of war, their documentary representation is a seminal work in the historical


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understanding of the development of literary representations of street dwellers and juvenile gangs. The historical and social background is a displacement that is not tantamount to nomadism due to the fact that the farmers come to town displaced by the “destitution” or “bipartisan violence”4 without having taken part in it as combatants. In relation to the historical genesis of street dwellers and juvenile gangs, the documentary Gamín explains that those displaced farmers are the parents of the gamines, or street urchins—“enfant des rues” (Meunier 1977, 27). Two decades later, novels such as El sicario [Hitman], La virgen de los sicarios [Our Lady of the Assassins], and Rosario Tijeras reinforce the theme of these same displaced farmers as the parents of the sicarios [hitmen]. From a Marxist perspective, Chircales’ narrator affirms that rural workers transfer their labour power from agrarian latifundia to urban latifundia. In the latter, they acquire new working skills and pass them on to their children who were born in those brickworks. This generation begins working at an early age, as portrayed in repeated shots of 4- to 8-year-old children carrying heavy bricks with extreme difficulty. These scenes are further illuminated by Martin’s (2012) comments that point out how the gender relationship between wife and husband is not the only relationship to reproduce the brickmaker/landlord socioeconomic association. The family relationship between children and parents also mimics this exchange. These generational transitions perpetuate the conditions of production and guarantee the availability of the future workforce. According to Althusser, production requires the reproduction of its own conditions of production, and in the same way the submission of the workers, i.e. control over their productive force, is essential: “the reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order” (Althusser 2001, 89). The end of the documentary addresses the expulsion of the Castañeda family from the brickworks. After 32 years as potters, the family is left with no belongings: neither the means of production, nor goods produced, nor a single monetary asset. Through poor working conditions, Alfredo has contracted diseases that, together with his age, have reduced his ability to work. He and his family provide testimonies of the precariousness of the workers’ lives; however, they never attempt a rebellion. As Sebastian González Montero argues in his reading of Althusser, the state, understood as a legitimate repressive apparatus, not only ensures the submission of its members but also aspires to maintain this subjection, be it by force or ideologically—without violence ( González Montero 2012, 73). The film ends with a wide shot of the family moving away from the brickworks. This may well be the first step on the road to real poverty. As

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one of the women attests during the scenes of the funeral of a potter, “Now when the head of the family is gone, one has to beg. What else can you do?” (37:14–37:18). It is true that begging, socioeconomically speaking, is a condition of extreme poverty; however, it will also be the beginning of a social practice exterior to the capitalist ideology’s bourgeois behaviour. Therefore, the street dwellers will be perceived as outsiders because they roam the streets without participating in the systems of production in a profitable manner.

3. Indigent, Urban Nomad, and “Man of War” Ciro Durán’s documentary Gamín (1977) portrays the daily life of a young gang of street dwellers in Bogotá. The narrator defines a gang of gamines in the following terms, “they gather together as a pack to handle the hard environment in the best way possible and to most easily develop activities characteristic of gamines” (10:27–10:44). The gallada (young gang) is a hierarchic community. The older members shelter themselves overnight in a metal shed, whereas the youngest (called “chinches”) spend the night out in the open. In a voiceover, one 12-year-old gamín describes his begging activities in the following manner: “you ask for coins or food, and people say ‘you look a little too old, faggot.’ Other times, they tell you ‘you should work, steal, or whatever,’ because—according to them—I’m too old to beg” (35:28–35:39).5 Begging is seen by citizens as an anomaly. For them, the solution is to work or to steal. Both options belong to two kinds of apparatus of capture: on the one hand, working ties in with the ideology of capture without violence. On the other hand, stealing risks the legitimate use of force by states. In other words, when citizens tell the gamín to rob, they are turning them into an apparatus of capture, such as the police. Additionally, the pedestrians’ attitude is an attempt to expel gamines (the uncomfortable otherness) from their lives. If that means putting them away in prisons, all the better. After the initial scenes of young street dwellers begging, the Gamín documentary shows them stealing, sometimes food or wallets, other times car parts that other drivers buy. With this money, gamines buy drugs (marijuana, cocaine cigarettes, or basuco, and even gasoline). In some ways, theft is a predator-animal practice that works as an escape route—what Deleuze and Guattari call a “line of flight”—in order to ward off the “form of the worker” (1987, 400). Despite its poverty, the mendicant childhood of a Gamín is a free one. They do not sell their labour power, and they are not subjected to shifts or bosses. Although the


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gamines of Bogotá are portrayed as urban nomads, it’s not a celebratory representation. At the end of Durán’s documentary, the state apparatuses of capture are more efficient than the young nomads’ attempts at becoming a war machine, for example Carmelo6 is arrested for stealing and ends up in jail. Sicario [Hitman] (1991), by Vázquez-Figueroa,7 is a novel about Bogotá gamines who become robbers and, in some cases, hired murderers. This bildungsroman displays Chico Grande’s misfortune as a gamín, beggar, robber, potter, sicario (hitman), raspachín (coca-plant farmer), cocinero (cocaine laboratory assistant), and mula (drug mule). Characters’ mishaps are chronologically linked to the major events in contemporary Colombian history. Chico Grande tells his story as an adult during the 1980s. Chico Grande is the main character of Sicario. His account is a false testimony, which sometimes appears to be a confession. Like Ramón Chatarra in Arturo Alape’s Sangre ajena [The Blood of Others] (2000), Chico Grande tells his life story to an intellectual who records his testimony. Based on this information, the anonymous intellectual will write a book that the reader ultimately recognises as the Sicario novel. As a child, Chico Grande was a member of a “gamines” gang. In the beginning, with the excuse of escaping from the murders of street dwellers,8 the “gamines” established a new world under the city that eluded the state apparatuses of capture. Down there we were unconquerable. Or better, “Untouchables,” given that not even an entire battalion could catch us if we stayed in the core of a “city” that was totally ours. At certain spots we had even managed to connect with the phone network tunnels. Although those passageways were tiny and poorly ventilated, they offered us a backup escape or safety route when problems cropped up.9

“Down there” means the underground sewage system. According to a gamín interviewed by Meunier, hiding is a frequent strategy: “We, the gamines from Bogotá, have always done it this way, running away from eyewitnesses and pedestrians”10 (1977, 30). Down there, gamines created new nexuses, new flows, new paths known only by them. The sewer systems were built to maximise the functionality of the city, yet they were appropriated by young nomads and through their actions became “smooth spaces.”11 Nomads not only inhabit these places, they also reterritorialise them. That is to say, they establish smooth spaces and these constitute them as nomads. In modern cities, there are no steppes. Cities are grooved with streets, pathways, roads, and freeways that lead obedient employees

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to their jobs, and schools. Thus, in order to make streets into a smooth place, the process of becoming-animal is required (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 33–4). According to Deleuze and Guattari, the concept of becominganimal is an unlimited and unending process without a true point of origin and destination. They understand this process as a flux. One should not attribute superpowers to gangs—they do not make the entire city a smooth space. Both processes of becoming-rat and becoming-mole of the young gangs of gamines in Sicario, and also the becoming-dog in Gamín, are strategies against apparatuses of capture, and therefore must be kept secret. The novels and documentaries studied here depict young gangs as packs.12 Here’s how we see them in a scene from Gamín (30:11–34:23): the kids are sleeping on a downtown sidewalk, some of them lying on top of each other. They have a dog standing guard that barks at pedestrians passing nearby. This pet is so integrated with the pack that he is like any other member, occasionally lying on or under them. Mealtimes are the same—the dog is an indistinguishable member of the pack. Certainly, the flux of becoming-animal is not dependent on the presence of animals in the pack or human beings imitating superficial animal behaviours. That flux, according to Deleuze and Guattari, means that the pack behaviour of the war machine must contrast that of domesticated animals. Concerning all the above mentioned, one must realise that the integration of the dog as an intricate member is illustrative of a pack-like gang. As a pack, gamines use violence to counteract the violence coming from the apparatus of capture or from another gang. Taking Sicario into consideration, it is possible to say that becominganimal is an attempt to avoid being vulnerable and fearful children (Vázquez-Figueroa 2012, 1060). Now, “being-rat” does not indicate a lack of humanity or being singled out as a target of the “limpiezas sociales.” Becoming the “locust plague” is a requirement for becoming a war machine (Ibid., 201). Chico Grande’s gang stopped being a youth gang and has turned into a “hardened, fearless gang, one of those gangs citizens of Bogotá really feared whenever they had to go out on the streets.”13 After this passage, the character Ramiro does not continue to transform into a man of war, but Chico Grande does as he avenges Darío, AKA “Pincers” (a member of Chico’s gang). This crime initiates Chico Grande as a delinquent and, later, as a sicario. As I will show hereafter, being a hired murderer does not pertain to pack behaviour. Sangre ajena also portrays gamines from Bogotá. It is very important to distinguish that its kids come from Ciudad Bolívar where the chircales (brickworks) are located. Unlike Vázquez-Figueroa, Alape integrates both the process of data collection and the growing intellectual/everyman rela-


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tionship as an important part of the fiction. The youths’ nomadism is more explicit in Sangre ajena, e.g. they try to walk from Bogotá to Medellín. The decision to stop or go on is a breaking point for the small group integrated by a character known only as “Palogrande,” Nelson, and Ramón (the narrator). The brothers Nelson and Ramón stay in Medellín, which represents the university of murder and sex; whereas Palogrande keeps walking to Santa Marta (in the Colombian Caribbean). Palogrande is a nomad par excellence, about whose fate the readers learn nothing. Such uncertainty is not an oversight; it is just one of the features of the nomadic subject’s roaming. Nomads do not walk according to a plan; their “vector” is not extensive but intensive (or an unstoppable movement). Ramón’s fate is similar to Carmelo’s (in Gamín): the nomadism achieved in childhood is captured by state forces. For this reason, the gamines will be converted into a labour force that roams the streets (striated spaces) looking for recyclable materials. Sicario and Sangre ajena make their characters men of war via the flux of becoming-animal,14 but in these novels they are captured by the Colombian state apparatus. In another example, El Eskimal y la Mariposa [The Eskimo and the Butterfly] (2004) by Nahum Montt, hired murderers are captured by the same state security forces, not to imprison them or recruit them into the regular army, but to convert them into a repressive apparatus of the state (Montt’s novel depicts these facts as state terrorism). A similar account can be found in Andrés Caicedo’s short story “El atravesado” [“The Troublemaker”] (1971), which is not about paid assassins, but rather youth gangs that are either from a rich Cali neighbourhood or are individuals that work for a private army. As Deleuze and Guattari state in “Memories of a Sorcerer II,” any multiplicity, such as a pack, will include as its flipside an exceptional individual (1987, 234). Thus, leaving the gamines gang in order to become a lone assassin is proof of this second principle and underscores the gang leader’s solitary nature. Caicedo’s account is the best fictional work that illustrates the solitary personality of the leader (the dismissed chief or the surviving warrior). In “El atravesado,” the anonymous narrator tells an anonymous character the story of juvenile gangs in Cali. Unlike Gamín, Sicario, and Sangre ajena, in “El atravesado” gangs are not indigent but made up of workingclass teenagers. For example, the main character’s family was bourgeois, but has fallen on hard times. Consequently, for Caicedo poverty is not a necessary condition for being a gangster or man of war. From the beginning, the narrator has tried to be a man of war, as he once managed to do at the rich middle school El Pilar, where he fought against other classmates. After joining the most famous Cali gang, Tropa

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Brava, he tells of how he attended the working-class high school Santa Librada and enrolled at Akira’s martial arts academy. The Tropa Brava gang was an unusual community of warriors, placing cinema and dance before political disputes. That is totally positive, even if Edgar Piedrahita—a cofounder—states that Tropa Brava has social purposes (Caicedo 1978, 38, 41). Actually, this statement is ironic, given that beyond the disturbances at Sears, Tropa Brava is defined by its tendency toward fights, cinema, dance parties, even dance tournaments, and especially by being “bums” (92). This impolite word in English or very informal word in Spanish (“trotacalles”) is now redefined to mean urban nomad. Additionally, the quoted referent or precedent for the account is not bipartisan violence but rather American films, e.g. Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Rock Around the Clock (1956), West Side Story (1961), and A Clockwork Orange (1971). Likewise, Vargas Llosa’s fictions such as Los jefes [The Leaders] (1959) and La ciudad y los perros [The Time of the Hero in English translation; literally The City and the Dogs] (1963) are additional examples. Violence in cinema as a performance appears to be a reference for Caicedo’s works, since it is “both an effect of representation and a system of representation itself”15 (Kantaris 2008, 456). In other words, I do not interpret the violence depicted by Colombian films and narrative as a dispositive external to systems of documentary or fictional representations. In “El atravesado,” the narrator’s friendships are mediated by fights, as can be seen in the friendship between Edgar Piedrahita and Akira Nagasaka— and even with a less important friend like Omar, known as “Curly” in the story. All of the youth gangs are organised hierarchically according to one’s determination and strength to fight. However, it should be noted that courage and fighting skills are equivalent to dance moves and cinematic knowledge. Returning to Deleuze and Guattari, the pack/gang leader’s exceptional nature is the confluence of art and war. “El atravesado” portrays the extinction of an era: a time without state institutions and political ideologies. This period is presented as an urban space inhabited by nomads who do not sell their labour power and refuse to beg because they basically recognise themselves as men of war. Regarding the fate of the most powerful gang from Cali, readers only know that it was wiped out by the Guardia Civil gang after the quarrel with mister Urrea at Sears. This episode is like a “limpieza social” [selective murder] in the setting of class conflicts in a city where northern Cali is designated for rich people while southern Cali belongs to the workingclass. The Guardia Civil did not kill Edgar Piedrahita since he serves as a memory and reminder of the bloodbath. A note left on Rebeca’s inner


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thigh states the following, “We left Edgar Piedrahita alive so he would be reminded of this night and learn. Sincerely, Miguel Urrea Jr.”16 Rebeca was Edgar’s girlfriend and the co-founder of the Tropa Brava gang. Following the night of the massacre, Edgar loses his entire nomadic capacity and warlike strength. He then turns into a typical bureaucratic employee wearing elegant suits and carrying a briefcase. Edgar surrenders his vitality as he is alienated by the working life. The murder of his friends transforms him into a zombie, “The myth of the zombie, of the living dead, is a work myth and not a war myth” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 425). On the contrary, the narrator who is a troublemaker (“atravesado”) remains firm in his becoming a man of war. Towards the end of the tale, the narrator discloses that he himself took part in the student protests on February 26, 1971.17 The state apparatus of capture, under Misael Pastrana Borrero’s presidency, dispelled those protests by force. The “troublemaker” saw: a hail of bullets killing boys, police batons killing girls, shotgun stocks pounding and killing Guillermito Tejada. I will not be able to forget that night. I threw rocks and they answered with shots. When I had to run away, I ran like nobody’s business in Cali. Anyway, my conscience is clean, and because of this I always throw the first stone.18

The narrator ran away at a crucial moment. Maybe this is what Edgar had done on December 7 in a similar fashion, the night when the Guardia Civil eliminated the Tropa Brava. According to Deleuze and Guatarri, leaving a battle does not undermine men of war. Moreover, in war there are several ways to escape, such as the usage of camouflage, which is essential to warrior functions. Therefore, hiding out—as a line of flight– is as acceptable as combat. Proposition IX, Axiom III, declares that the objective of the war machine is not necessarily war. Its positive objective is to inhabit a smooth space, while its negative objective is war: to destroy the stateform.19 Due to its positive objective, “the warrior arises in the infinity of a line of flight” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 277). There are several lines of flight as social activism, such as the Occupy Protest on Wall Street or, on the other hand, the street dwellers in Bogotá (Mendoza). Edgar’s camouflage as a businessman is not a line of flight that resists he state-form, but is the result of a subjection that counteracted Edgar as man of war and turned him into an obedient worker. In other words, the apparatus of capture made him zombie-like and stabilised him, like the families of potters in Chircales. In contrast to Edgar, the narrator (the troublemaker) entirely preserves his warrior’s energy, hence the narrator’s awareness remains calm and he continues to throw the first stone just as Edgar had taught him: “hit first and hit hard”20 (Caicedo 1978, 31). Final-

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ly, both Edgar and the narrator depict two different ends in the story of urban nomads. Edgar is a story about the defeated, while the narrator’s life focuses on the possibility of becoming a man of war.

4. Bands of Street Performers as a Machinic Community La sociedad del semáforo (2010), or The Society of the Traffic Light, is Rubén Mendoza’s directorial debut, which includes an opening scene that is similar to Gamín’s: an open take of the city and then a shot of a street dweller. However, between takes, La sociedad del semáforo introduces the “delirium,” which is an anomaly for the rational logic of modernity: Raúl’s hands serve as hallucinatory stand-ins for the ambulances seen shortly afterwards. Hundreds of ambulances crowd the Seventh Avenue of Bogotá (one of the most important roads of the capital city). Furthermore, they fill the avenue frenziedly with lights and sirens, but contrary to the constant moving speed of a typical ambulance they cause a massive traffic jam. Through this hallucinatory paradox of crisis and speed, the film introduces Raúl’s story—a street dweller who tries to be accepted by the nickname “Cienfuegos” and his band. After a long beginning without dialogue, the movie parodies the common discourse of politicians during an electoral season where they promise to provide homes to voters. Raúl smokes basuco (waste cocaine cigarettes) frequently, and while smoking he uses a can as a puppet, which mimics a politician, stating, “In my administration, Colombians will get their very own cardboard box, son of a bitch!”21 ((6:57–7:00). Translation mine). In Spanish, the words “cardboard box” and “house” sound very similar—caja and casa, respectively. Because of this phonetic play, the irony is clearer to the Spanish-speaking audience. On the other hand, cardboard is one of the most important materials to build cambuches (tiny shelters made with recyclable materials). Shortly before this scene, Raúl cleans his shoes on a sign that includes photographs of Álvaro Uribe—the president of Colombia who, in 2006, wished to be re-elected—and his stellar secretaries Andrés Felipe Arias and Juan Manuel Santos. The spectators should connect this sign with another on Raúl’s cambuche walls. In the second, we can read “Para.” In Colombia, this prefix is widely understood as an adjective and abbreviation for para-militarism and para-politics. 22 While these two scenes are rolling we hear two gunshots in the distance that anyone is capable of relating to the selective murders of homeless and addicted people, or limpiezas sociales. Raúl’s actions (cleaning the mud from his shoes onto their faces and using a can as a puppet of a politician) can be interpreted as an attempt to protest paramilitarism’s ideology


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(pinned to that sign on the cambuche walls). Raúl’s actions are not an articulated speech; his denunciation is outside of rational discourse. The band led by Cienfuegos is a kind of circus society. This alternative community inhabits one of the most important streets in Bogotá’s downtown. This community consists of a heterogeneous group: the elderly, adults, some teenagers, and a kid; mestizos and African-Colombians; males and females, street performers and simple street vendors selling coffee, cigarettes, and roses; alcoholics, drug addicts and ex-addicts as well. The money does not bring them together. After the failed project of altering the traffic light, they stay together even after they have lost all their savings. In the works of Ciro Durán, Vázquez-Figueroa, Alape, Caicedo, and Mendoza, gamines and young gangs gather and stay together out of attachment through their common bond. Additionally, wealth or patrimony leads to a sedentary lifestyle. Although Mansfield states that the theories of nomadology and the war machine reside at the core of economic thinking (2003, 82), they are not restricted to the monetary sphere. It is not wealth but a nomadic force that is essential to machinic communities. Raúl tries to prolong the red flash of a traffic light in Bogotá’s downtown so the street performers and sellers can collect coins for longer. Through the traffic-light project, Cienfuegos and his band try to turn this striated dispositive (the traffic light) into a smooth vector. Raúl has been projecting his imaginary city into a mock-up through the blueprints that hang on his walls. Both the mock-up and the blueprints are not maps of Bogotá because they do not follow the city layout. They are the cartography of a project that attempts to make downtown Bogotá a smooth place. This is referred to as deterritorialisation. Following the completion of this project, the nomads are determined to inhabit it, which is equivalent to a reterritorialisation. This is symbolised by a puff of basuco over the mockup. We should not forget that the cheap cocaine cigarettes (also called papeletas or vichas) at times replace money and function as “foreign currency” (25:03). Raúl wants to contaminate the city with a delirious puff of basuco. The smoke represents the nomadic affects within the striated city. Not all of the affects are in relation to drugs. For example, Raúl says he always betrays people. Betrayal is the name of one of his affects. In the movie, treachery is a line of flight: on the one hand, it creates a fissure in the social contract between lord/boss and servants/employees, while on the other, Raúl and Cienfuegos influence each other, and build a solid friendship. Also, as González says, lines of becoming appear as turns of the lifeworld or the Husserlian Lebenswelt (2012, 85–6). Mrs Amparo, the owner of a bakery, is the only person from the bourgeois society who has a relevant role in the film and Raúl is effectively

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indebted to her. Amparo is the only person from the striated city who has helped Raúl. Thus, the connection between bourgeois and begging worlds is possible through this particular friendship. Raúl and Amparo have established an unprecedented and momentary social space (an in-between). It should not be misinterpreted as an addition of the bourgeois and the mendicant or the triumph of the one over the other: “The life of the nomad is the intermezzo” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 380). However, the film is not suggesting any sort of utopia because the instability of their friendship is recognised by both of them as it becomes infiltrated by Raúl’s treachery. In Mendoza’s film, the most illustrative element of a nomadic inbetween is the traffic light. While this can be interpreted as a striated dispositive, it is also true that the traffic light is a sort of intermezzo between Cienfuegos and Raúl’s nomadic and hierarchical society. The pace of two different cities collides in front of the traffic light, and while the motorised society halts, the circus society acts, and vice versa. That traffic light is a point which, at the same time, joins and separates two types of conscience (wakefulness and delirium) and two kinds of speed (extensive and intensive). The inflammatory tendency of images crescendos while Raúl’s delirious episodes become more frequent.23 Although this is not a causal connection, the transformation of becoming a war machine also arises gradually. La sociedad del semáforo maintains this act of becoming-animal that has appeared in previous works. However, the delirium now replaces the metaphors with animals. It is possible to obtain the delirium while consuming drugs, but this is not the only way. For a long time, the perception of reality has already been a delirious one; e.g. the imaginary building is what moves up and down, not the elevator. Another example is, in the streets, an informal seller is offering CDs that have silence on them. In this case there is not a paused sound—silence is another kind of sound, such that, paradoxically, turning up the volume reduces the sound and thus the audience cannot listen, and body language fills the lack of dialogue. Another example, is the figurative and colloquial idiom “hit myself in the head” (“darse en la cabeza,” which means to use drugs) turning into a literal statement. It is for this the reason that Raúl hits his head against a car window. Delirious episodes and conflicts with the apparatus of capture intensify until the final protest breaks out. The first proof of this conflict appears when Raúl organises an improvised street sketch, which interferes with the green traffic light. Due to this event, policemen come and disperse them in order to secure bourgeois society’s flow. Raúl’s proposal is disruptive but not warlike. For example, when a street vendor in a wheelchair attempts to


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pull out a gun, Raúl stops him (28:15–30:41). Also, this scene hints at an old (maybe deadly) conflict between Ramona’s family and the policemen. Ramona is an Afro-Colombian woman and Martín’s mother. There is also a verbal and physical fight that takes place between Cienfuegos and the police. This scene functions as a precedent for incidents such as Ramona’s disappearance, the (supposed) suicide of Ramona’s son, and Cienfuegos’ death. Ramona’s disappearance functions as an accumulation of dissension among circus band members. However, Martín’s death, which should be viewed as a police crime, is a trigger that is depicted as though it would become a cosmic event: it is raining profusely all night as never before seen in the movie. Both the frenetic voices of kids (in voiceover) and a fade-out make the transition to the other shot: Martín hanging from the pole of the same traffic light that the gang tried to adulterate (1:03:54). The gang’s process of becoming a war machine is consolidated through various affects like love, friendship, and pain. Through this bond, the performers and street vendors are also recognised as members of the pack. The circus band elaborates a sort of rite of mourning for Martín in a separate street performance: the street poet’s recitation gives place to hiphop artists who sing a fusion song that mixes rhythms of afro-rap and lyrics from the Colombian Pacific Coast (where the biggest population of Afro-Colombians lives). Additionally, more street performers come from other places of the city, while Raúl tries to put his red light project into operation once again in order to force the drivers to a stop so that, firstly, the gang’s affect can flow and, secondly, drivers/the bourgeois can attend the gang’s affective performance/rite. Soon after, a new conflict between this alternative community and the state apparatus of capture arises. Cienfuegos launches the following battle cry, “We will stay here!” Then, Cienfuegos accuses the police of killing Martín. The scene ends with the capturing of the gang and the other street performers inside a police truck. As a consequence of this protest, the street artists and vendors are imprisoned and the traffic lights are fixed. Nevertheless, these recent events will not stop this nomadic community from becoming a war machine. The final conflict with the police department ends as an uprising due to the accumulation of tension produced by Cienfuegos’ murder and the disappearances of the alternative community members (limpieza social). Likewise, at the beginning of the film when Raúl blows a basuco puff onto the city’s maps, the red tint used to make up the roses sold on the street is another characteristic element to identify the circus gang. Selling roses on the streets is an intertext with Víctor Gaviria’s movie La vendedora de rosas or The Rose Seller (1998). In Mendoza’s movie, the roses are painted red to make them seem fresher. In Mendoza’s work, the red tint, and

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not the roses, is the metaphoric element for the alternative community led by Cienfuegos and Raúl. I suggest that the red paint works as a supplementation of the failed project with the traffic lights. That tint is used in artistic and also political interventions, which continue to “pollute” the bourgeois society. The bourgeois society must stop and attend the play while the gang deals with its loss (Cienfuegos’ murder). In addition to the basuco puffs and the red tint that covers the traffic light, a street vendor throws cups of hot coffee onto the windows of passing cars—burning the passengers when the windows are open. Another street seller throws cigarettes at drivers while Victoria (a flame-thrower and juggler) uses gas to burn a yellow cab. The climax of this “chaos”—according to the city’s policies—or “working through” (LaCapra 2001, 75)—from the gang’s point of view—is achieved when the traffic light pole is knocked down. In this instant, the movie continues to portray these scenes, and the surrounding sounds are muted. This mutis is broken with background music while the shots of the delirium are going on. At this moment of the story, a new violent conflict with the police is unnecessary because the notion of “working through” has already been achieved. Therefore, flight is now required (just as Caicedo’s anonymous narrator chose to do). This type of escape is really a form of fluidity. Nomads try to remain in places that they have reterritorialised, and when this is not possible they migrate to establish a new smooth space. In reference to the aforementioned red tint, it is thrown away during the escape. Following this scene, we are provided with another shot that focuses on the road pavement. This can be understood as a representation of speed, and it allows us to see a thin stream of red tint that falls over a white line that was drawn by the transit authorities to take control of the people’s movements. Finally, the only remaining action we are presented with is the farewell of the female and male warriors. Cienfuegos and Raúl’s gang no longer exists as we once knew it. The last shot shows nomads looking toward the skyline. There is a similar shot in Chircales, but La sociedad del semáforo leaves its characters on the top of their power and vitality. Mendoza’s characters are not beaten or reduced men and women. They are not zombies since their will has not been subjected to any sort of boss or apparatus of capture. If Chircales, Gamín, El sicario, La virgen de los sicarios, and Rosario Tijeras demonstrate a displacement by force from rural areas into cities, La sociedad del semáforo reverts that direction. The initial delirium incited by smoking cheap cocaine cigarettes is cancelled by the deaths of Martín and Cienfuegos. First, the movie depicts Raúl as a transhumant (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 409), and later as a


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nomad walking home. What is more, the escape from this revolt at the stop light represents the end of the original line of flight, which was the abandonment of the rural town Bajo Baudó, Chocó (Colombian Pacific coast). In the Noanamá language, “Baudó” means “the river that comes and goes.”24 This is an astonishing coincidence between the name of Raúl’s native town and Deleuze and Guatarri’s concepts. It reminds me of some of the principles from the rhizome concept, such as connection, heterogeneity, multiplicity, and cartography. Due to these principles, “The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 7).

5. Provisional Conclusions La sociedad del semáforo is enclosed by a couple of epigraphs that refer to Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina’s mockumentary Agarrando pueblo (1978), or The Vampires of Poverty. The first epigraph (a voiceover of people begging) is from Mayolo and Ospina’s film (Mendoza 2010, 0:08– 0:39); the second is a dedication to “Luis O., and his people” (Ibid., 1:43:03). These paratexts place Mendoza’s film in the debate about the commercial usufruct of images of gamines and young gangs. Mayolo and Ospina produced a mockumentary in an effort to criticise films that make the “culture of poverty” (Lewis 1966) a “fetish” (Kantaris 2008), This critique is made through the very same media under criticism, thus creating a sort of meta-cinema. Mayolo and Ospina refer to “porn-misery” as a regular tendency of documentary and fictional cinema, which aspires to win international awards and obtain financial resources through shots of street dwellers (Faguet 2009, 13–14). The Vampires of Poverty is produced on two different levels: one is a false documentary (in polychromy), and the other a depiction of “vampire-directors” making the documentary (in black and white). Later, Abad Faciolince and Rincón decided to call this tendency an “aesthetic of the Colombian mafia” or “narco-aesthetic,” respectively. The conditions of possibility that allowed Mendoza’s movie to be depicted as a circus band and a nomadic community come from Chircales. Thus, we see that such a documentary promotes a “historical perspective” (Meunier 1977) for the becoming war machine and gamines gangs. This perspective begins with its condition of poverty. Many documentary and fictional representations of poverty and violence have been sold as a mass media commodity. Poverty and violence is a commodity that has become possible through the depiction of eroticism, exoticism, or monstrosity. All of these three focal points attempt to make

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otherness more noteworthy for the audience and readers. Understanding gamines and young gangs as war machines halts the encouragement of “fetishism of the violence” (Kantaris 2008, 462) and introduces a sort of “cut of screen” (Ibid., 458). This new approach is a line of flight which, on one hand, comes from representations of violence and, on the other, alters the violence of representations exerted by those Colombian narratives that point to beggars, gangsters, sicarios, and drug dealers as the enemies of the nation. The communities studied here are not a select and lucid people taken from the bourgeois society. Alternative street communities should not be considered as a fragment of Colombian society, or as a part that represents official society as a whole. The documentary and literary representations we have discussed reveal that the gamines gangs are a particular embodiment of modern society and, at the same time, communities that cannot be integrated into a society that, somehow, generates them: “What becomes clear is that bands, no less than worldwide organizations, imply a form irreducible to the State and that this form of exteriority necessarily presents itself as a diffuse and polymorphous war machine” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 361). Therefore, I do not interpret them as manifestations of counterculture. Nomadic communities transform the striated space of the businessman, the secretary, or the low-paid worker into a smooth space. The city is not the steppe or the sea where a traffic light could be viewed as something meaningless. In Sherman Alexie’s Indian reservation (a smooth space), there is only one traffic light that does not constitute a striated dispositive: “[W]hat’s the point of fixing it in a place where the STOP signs are just suggestions?” (1993, 52; uppercase in original). Alexie’s tale ends while talking about Lucy, a little girl who is basketball prodigy. Undoubtedly, she will be a hero because, “a reservation hero is remembered. A reservation hero is a hero forever” (Ibid., 48). She is called “little warrior” when she is just a young basketball player. “Little warrior” is the same expression used by Victor, the narrator, when he talks about the young gangsters who are looking for, “honor in some twentiethcentury vandalism. Throw a few rocks through Windows, kick a dog, slash a tire. Run like hell when the tribal cops drove slowly by the scene of the crime” (Ibid., 44–5). Similarly, Colombian gamines and street dwellers seek out honour. In their own way, they become heroes. It is true that state apparatuses have handicapped many nomads. In Gamín, Dora becomes a prostitute and Carmelo an inmate, which is a disheartening fate for a man of war. In Sangre ajena, Ramón, who goes by “Chatarra” [“junk”], is retired from being a hired murderer, which implies a setback because now he is a submissive person who recycles materials as


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a job. However, we should remember that each capture does not indicate an elimination of the machinic community, i.e. the Tropa Brava gang. The man of war that Edgar used to be remains as a nostalgic memory of the narrator in “El atravesado.” Likewise, the memory of Cienfuegos survives in the minds of the street performers. Although the state apparatus captures the war machine, it will continue as something exterior to the state form. Additionally, the narrator of Caicedo’s short story retains his warriorvitality entirely, and Raúl looks towards the Baudó River as he goes to see his daughter. In both cases, war machines are portrayed in a positive light because violence is not the main objective of becoming a man of war.



In one of the works studied in this chapter, the documentary Chircales, the concept of “urban latifundia” refers to the circumstances of expansion of Bogotá as a new metropolis. In this modern process of urbanization, the systems of production maintain some archaic and rural practices in relation to the subjection of the workers. And at the same time, they include modern chains of commercialisation that follow the dynamics of capitalism. The chircales or slum brickworks are a complex contact zone of the spatial and temporal concepts, and social and economic practices. In them, the rural and the urban are separated by a hazy border, and likewise the medieval and the modern are mixed. 2 Dabove studies the phenomena of “montonera” and “bola” as cases of war machines and state apparatuses of capture (2007, 70–1). 3 The guerrilla-priest’s life has become a historical and political referent for Colombia’s twentieth century. Camilo Torres is one of the protagonists in the bipartisan struggle called La Violencia. Caballero Calderón wrote one of the most influential novels of that period of violence (1945–66), El Cristo de espaldas [Christ on his Back], which is inspired by Camilo Torres. Calderón’s book is a denunciation of, first, the abuse suffered by the poor in the Colombian countryside under landowners or local warlords, second the silence of the clergy in the face of these injustices, and third the pre-modern behaviour of local governments and the Catholic Church in many Colombian towns where there are no separate powers. 4 The narrator in Gamín (1977) explains the bipartisan war period with the following words: “La Violencia—a kind of undeclared civil war that ravaged the Colombian countryside from 1948 to 1957—meant the stripping of land from thousands of farmers. According to statistics from the Colombian Company Data, the violence triggered these facts: 168,000 dead, 393,000 plots of fertile land left fallow, and the migration of two million people from the countryside to the city.” [“La Violencia, especie de guerra civil no declarada que azotó el campo colombiano de 1948 a 1957, significó para millares de campesinos el despojo de su tierra. Según cifras de la Compañía Colombiana de Datos, La Violencia desencadenó estos hechos: 168.000 muertos, 393.000 parcelas despojadas, dos millones de emigrantes del campo a la ciudad”] (17:50–18:26) (all translations are mine unless specified).

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In relation to citizen attitudes regarding “gamines,” Meunier points out three reactions: “Three attitudes prevalence in the Bogotans: for some of them, ‘Gamins’ signify poverty; for other Bogotans, they mean injustice. A third group just ignores them. Bogotans do not care about Gamins’ opinions.” [“Trois attitudes prévalent chez les Bogotans: pour les uns, les Gamins signifient la misére; pour les autres, l’injustice. Une troisiéme catégorie les ignore. Ni les uns ni les autres—d'où qu'ils pensent où qu'ils votent—ne s'inquiètent, cependant, de connaître le point de vue des Gamins”] (Meunier 1977, 29). 6 When he was a child, he was a gamín. Now he is a cartonero or a person who picks up recyclable materials from the streets. He is called a perrazazo by his friends, as opposed to a chichipato (1:07:23). Whereas chichipatos steal cheap items (1:07:47), perrazazos steal pricey accessories and thus can pay for better clothes and live better. As we can see, there is a sort of hierarchy in these words: the chichipato person is at the bottom and the perrazos have some prestige. In Colombian slang, chichipato also means cheap, worthless, and miserly. Linguistically speaking, Perrazazo’s root is perro or dog. Used as an adjective, “dog” means a person is cunning and clever enough to survive in adverse situations. 7 The author was born in Tenerife, Spain. Osorio includes this novel in the Colombian hitman genre because its diegesis recreates the Colombian reality. One could argue this criterion for inclusion; I accept it because Sicario forms a trinity with El sicario (1988) by Bahamón and El pelaíto que no duró nada (1991) by Gaviria. All three established the literary theme of murderers for hire. For an overview of the “sicaresca” concept, I recommend the books by Jácome (2009), Osorio (2013), and van der Linde (2014). 8 This type of murder is called “limpiezas sociales” and the target is known as “desechable” [dispensable people]. According to Jáuregui and Suárez, “Strictly speaking, ‘dispensable people are the constitutive opposite of citizens. For the case of ‘dispensable people,’ the statement ‘purchasing defines identities’ is deadly exact. Citizens identify them with waste.” [“Propiamente hablando, el ‘desechable’ es el opuesto constitutivo de la nacionalidad. En el caso de los ‘desechables’ resulta fatalmente exacta la proposición según la cual el consumo define identidades. Los ‘desechables’ son identificados por el ciudadano pleno con los residuos”] (2002, 368). Murders of young gangs have been depicted by Alberto Esquivel in La vida de los amigos tiene que respetarse [The Lives of Friends Must be Respected] (1994). 9 Cited from the Kindle Edition. Original text reads: “Allá abajo éramos invencibles. ‘Intocables’ más bien, puesto que ni todo un ejército sería capaz de cogernos cuando nos encontrábamos en el corazón de una ‘ciudad’ que era totalmente nuestra. En ciertos puntos incluso habíamos conseguido conectar con pasadizos de la red telefónica, y aunque solían ser estrechos y mal ventilados ofrecían una segunda oportunidad a la hora de trasladarnos de un lado a otro, o ponernos a salvo si surgían problemas” (Vázquez-Figueroa 2012, 1019–23). 10 The original text reads: “Nous autres, les Gamins de Bogota, on a toujours fait comme ça—échappent aux témoins oculaires et aux passants” (Meunier 1977, 30). 11 Deleuze and Guattari (371) define “smooth space” as, “a field without conduits or channels. A field, a heterogeneous smooth space, is wedded to a very particular


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type of multiplicity: nonmetric, acentered, rhizomatic multiplicities that occupy space without ‘counting’ it and can ‘be explored only by legwork’.” 12 Suffice to say, for the purposes of this chapter, that turning-animal is strongly connected to machinic behaviour: “The pack is simultaneously an animal reality, and the reality of the becoming-animal of the human being; contagion is simultaneously an animal peopling, and the propagation of the animal peopling of the human being” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 242). 13 The original reads: “una ‘gallada’ dura, de las bravas; de las que realmente temen los bogotanos cada vez que tienen que salir a la calle” (Vázquez-Figueroa 2012, 1006). 14 “The man of war has an entire becoming that implies multiplicity, celerity, ubiquity, metamorphosis and treason, the power of affect. Wolf-men, bear-men, wildcat-men, men of every animality, secret brotherhoods, animate the battlefields” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 243). 15 The original text reads: “tanto un efecto de la representación como un sistema de representación de por sí” (Kantaris 2008, 456). 16 Original text reads: “Dejamos a Edgar Piedrahita vivo para que recuerde esta noche y para que aprenda. Miguel Urrea Jr” (1978, 46–7). 17 The newspaper from Cali, El País, states on the front cover of an issue from February 27, 1971 that there were eight dead and forty-seven injured during the protests. Given the commotion, the government declared a state of siege. 18 The original text reads: “matar muchachos a bala, niñas a bolillo, a Guillermito Tejada lo mataron a culata, eso no se olvida. Que di piedra y me contestaron con metralla. Que cuando hubo que correr corrí como nadie en Cali. Que no hay caso, mi conciencia es la tranquilidad en pasta, por eso soy yo el que siempre tira la primera piedra” (Caicedo 1978, 93). 19 It is important to remember that the nomadic war machine and smooth space are correlative concepts conveying different levels of expression (one is the substance and the other is the form). Both war machine and smooth space are in opposition to a level of the content itself. Here, the striated space is the substance and the amalgam is the form. 20 Original text reads: “dar el primer tote” (1978, 31). 21 Original dialogue states: “En mi gobierno los colombianos tendrán caja propia, ¡hijueputa!” (6:57–7:00). 22 After being president of Colombia for two periods (2002–10), Álvaro Uribe has been a senator since 2014. Senators such as Iván Cepeda and Claudia López, among others, often accuse Uribe of paramilitarism during his time as president. The following article, published by Semana (September 17, 2014), describes one of the debates of 2014: arismjo-cronica-de-una-agitada-jornada-en-el-congreso/403136-3. 23 The morally correct space is transgressed by Raúl’s hallucinatory episodes that take place while he smokes cheap cocaine cigarettes (47:00–50:00). It is also emphasised as bottles are thrown to a couple of prostitutes; in a line, beggars wait to have sex with one of these prostitutes, and a man asks a little girl to strip. Moreover, there are disturbing insinuations of paedophilia and bestiality. 24 Source:

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References Books Alape, Arturo. 2000. Sangre ajena. Bogotá: Planeta. Alexie, Sherman. 1993. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. Caicedo, Andrés. 1978. Berenice; El atravesado; Maternidad; El tiempo de la ciénaga. Bogotá: Plaza y Janés. Clastres, Pierre. 1977. Society against the State. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Urizen, 1977. Dabove, Juan Pablo. 2007. Nightmares of the Lettered City. Banditry and Literature in Latin America, 1816–1929. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1983. Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1986. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Trans. Dana Polan. Minneapolis and London: University of Minneapolis Press. Esquivel, Alberto. 1994. La vida de los amigos tiene que respetarse. Cali: Agolparse. Hobbes, Thomas. 1994. Leviathan (with selected variants from the Latin edition of 1668). Ed. Edwin Curley. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing. Jácome, Margarita. 2009. La novela sicaresca. Medellín: Eafit. LaCapra, Dominick. 2001. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Lewis, Oscar. 1966. La vida. A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty—San Juan and New York. New York: Random House. Mansfield, Nick. 2008. Theorizing War. From Hobbes to Badiou. Hampshire, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Martin, Deborah. 2012. “Re-Reading Chircales: Interiority, the Girl and Documentary Desire.” In Painting, Literature, and Film in Colombian Feminine Culture, 1940–2005: Of Border Guards, Nomads and Women. New York: Tamesis. Marx, Karl. 2010. Capital Volumen I. Trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling. Moscow: Progress.


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Meunier, Jacques. 1977. Les gamins de Bogota. Paris: Jean-Claude Lattés. Montt, Naum. 2005. El Eskimal y la Mariposa [2004]. Bogotá: Alfaguara. Osorio, Óscar. 2013. La virgen de los sicarios y la novela del sicario en Colombia. Cali: Secretaría de Cultura—Gobernación del Valle del Cauca. van der Linde, Carlos-Germán et al. 2014. ¡Pa’ las que sea, parce! Límites y alcances de la sicaresca como categoría estética. Bogotá: Ediciones Unisalle. Vázquez-Figueroa, Alberto. 2012. Sicario. Barcelona: Random House Mondadori.

Chapters from edited collections Althusser, Louis. 2001. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus (Notes Towards an Investigation).” In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays [1970], 85–126. Trans. Ben Brewster. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Journal articles Abad Faciolince, Héctor. 1995. “Estética y narcotráfico.” Número 7—Separata Debates de Número “Cultura y Narcotráfico”: II–III. Faguet, Michèle. 2009. “Pornomiseria: Or How Not to Make a Documentary Film.” Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context, and Enquiry 21: 5–15. González Montero, Sebastián Alejandro. 2012. “Devenir, máquina de guerra y movimientos sociales. Consideraciones sobre el comienzo de una vida nueva.” Universitas Philosophica 58: 67–108. Jáuregui, Carlos, y Juana Suárez. 2002. “Profilaxis, traducción, y ética: la humanidad "desechable" in Rodrigo D, no futuro; La vendedora de rosas y La virgen de los sicarios.” Revista Iberoamericana 199: 367– 92. Kantaris, Geoffrey. 2008. “El cine urbano y la tercera violencia colombiana.” Revista Iberoamericana 223: 455–70. Perilli, Carmen. 2002. “La literatura como máquina de narrar la nación, Carlos Fuente y Elena Poniatowska.” Anclajes 6: 137–53. Rincón, Ómar. 2009. “Narco.estética y narco.cultura en Narco.lombia.” Nueva Sociedad 222: 147–63. Sánchez-Prado, Ignacio. 2004. “Reapropiar la ciudad ausente: consideraciones sobre la ‘máquina de narrar’.” Colorado Review of Hispanic Studies 2: 187–200.

Street Dwellers and Youth Gangs in Colombian Literature and Film


Films Durán, Ciro, dir. Gamín. 1977. Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA), SND, Uno Limitada. DVD. Mendoza, Rubén, dir. 2010. La sociedad del semáforo. DíaFragma, Fábrica de Películas, Laberinto Producciones, Ciné-Sud. DVD. Ospina, Luis, y Carlos Mayolo, dir. 1978. Agarrando pueblo. SATUPLE —Sindicato de Artistas y Trabajadores Unidos Para la Liberación Eterna. Rodríguez, Marta y Jorge Silva, dirs. 1972. Chircales. Fundación Cine Documental—Investigación Social. 


As 2016 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), it is a propitious moment to examine manifestations of utopianism in contemporary society, despite a maelstrom of dystopian discourses that threaten to overwhelm all others. Utopianism, not to be confused with the literary genre of utopia, is defined by Lyman Sargent as “a philosophy of hope, and it is characterized by the transformation of a generalized hope into a description of a non-existent society” (2010, 8). While just about any ideology could be labelled as utopian, one that contributes to a vision of society that is drastically different from and better than the one already in existence is more likely to be viewed that way, as it requires more flexing of the imagination. How utopianism translates into utopian practice is one of the primary questions explored in Care Santos’ novel Okupada [Squatted] (1997),1 which also anticipates a number of other important topical issues in contemporary Spanish society. The squatters’ movement, known in Spain as the okupa movement, is perhaps one of the most visible manifestations of utopian practice in contemporary Spain. Squatters, who tend to be strongly influenced by anarchist ideology, must balance their drive for individual autonomy with the challenges and practicalities of living in a communal setting, which often requires compromising with others and working for the common good. In the novel Okupada, the spatial constructions reflect a fissure

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between landscapes of hospitality and landscapes of hostility. The former are imbued with utopian overtones because of their association with pacifism, civil disobedience, cooperation, collaboration, solidarity, mutual aid, and collectivism, which are among the major principles espoused in communalist anarchism. The latter are represented as dystopian spaces associated with aggression, individualism, autonomy, and antiauthoritarianism, which are integral to insurrectionary anarchism.2 Moreover, spaces aligned with the dominant political order of capitalism are portrayed as patriarchal and dystopian in nature. Irina Aristarkhova’s Hospitality of the Matrix: Philosophy, Biomedicine and Culture (2012) provides a theoretical framework for exploring the role of gender in the tensions between spaces of hospitality and hostility, which is particularly relevant to the squatter community in this investigation. Even though there is not necessarily a rigid dichotomy between these ways of thinking, one of the purposes of this investigation is to examine the bifurcation between “feminine” spaces of hospitality and “masculine” spaces of hostility in Okupada, in which this type of division is quite common, and to explore how the squatters in this narrative ultimately reconcile tensions between the needs of the individual and the collective will of the group. Before addressing these questions in depth, it is necessary to first provide some important background information that will help elucidate the analysis. The first section of this discussion will be dedicated to the history of squatting in Spain and will include information about some movements and organisations that intersect with and/or influence this phenomenon. This will be followed by an overview of the secondary criticism related to squatting and manifestations of the okupa movement in Spanish literature and film. This introductory material will be followed by a detailed analysis of Okupada, which will be guided by the abovementioned questions and informed by Aristarkhova’s exploration of the intersections between hospitality and feminine identity.

The Squatters’ Movement at its Intersections Published about a decade before the onset of the 2008 economic crisis, the novel Okupada contains the seeds of some of the major political debates currently taking place on a national scale. While the topic of squatters was once considered a marginal issue, pertinent to only a small sub-sector of Spanish society, it is now relevant to a much larger portion of the population. Major economic depressions in the mid-1990s and the present have taken their toll on Spanish youth, with unemployment rates hovering around 50% on both occasions (though closer to the 45% range in the mid-


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1990s and reaching a record high of 57.7% in November 2013) (Dolado and García Pérez 2014). As more and more mainstream Spaniards have been forced into alternate living arrangements or squatting, sympathy has grown for the squatters’ movement,3 as well as the political motivations behind Spain’s equivalent to Occupy Wall Street, known as “Movimiento 15-m” [“15-M Movement”], alternately labelled as the movement of the Indignados (a term often translated as “Indignants” or “Outraged” and eschewed by some of its participants because of its negative connotations), #Spanishrevolution, “Toma la plaza” [“Take the Square”], and the AntiAusterity Movement.4 Following the Arab Spring, yet preceding Occupy Wall Street, the 15M Movement began with a massive protest on May 15, 2011 (shortly before municipal elections) that involved approximately 130,000 protesters in over 60 cities across Spain ( 2011). It was sparked in part by anti-piracy legislation and disillusionment with proposed austerity measures in the face of growing economic inequality and massive unemployment, and led to an encampment that lasted for months in Puerta del Sol, a plaza in the heart of Madrid (Alcaide 2011). Since that protest, the movement has splintered and taken off in many different directions as a number of Spaniards, mostly from younger generations, have emigrated abroad, affiliated themselves with alternative political parties, continued participating in regular protests, become squatters, or chosen other ways to vent their frustrations. Although squatting in Spain started as a movement in the 1980s (trailing the European squatter movement that burgeoned in the 1970s), it became much more prominent with the fall-out of the economic crisis (Vilaseca 2013, 1). According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) [National Institute of Statistics], even though squatting has been in existence in Spain for decades, it has increased by over 168% since the housing bubble burst in 2008 (“Las condenas por ocupación crecen un 168% durante la crisis” 2015). It has become so commonplace that even families are completely taking over abandoned buildings, such as in the case of Corrala Utopía, a squat that houses 36 families, including nearly 40 children, and is emblematic of the toll that the crisis has taken on the nation’s youth (“Corrala Utopia Squatting” 2013). Although a considerable number of squatters are motivated to occupy abandoned buildings solely out of necessity, and some for exploitation (for drug exchanges, raves, etc.), this investigation will focus on squatting as a political act. The term okupa with a “k” refers to a squatter who illegally occupies a building to make a political statement, whether it be about the injustice of housing speculation, the shortage of affordable housing,5 the

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need for more public spaces for community building, the dearth of gathering spaces for alternative cultural and sociopolitical movements, high unemployment rates, political corruption, and/or the belief in anarchist forefather Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s 1840 proclamation “Property is theft!” (Pruijt 2004, 37, 41). Further justification for their cause comes from Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution, which prohibits speculation and affirms the right of every individual to decent and adequate housing: “All Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. Public authorities will promote the necessary conditions and will establish the pertinent norms to make this right effective, regulating the use of land in agreement with the general interest to prevent speculation.”6 In general, squatting was considered a relatively minor infraction until the Código Penal [Penal Code] of 1995, which criminalised squatting for the first time (Martínez López 2007, 228). With the introduction and enforcement of this law, violent showdowns during evictions became more commonplace, and okupas began to receive a lot of negative attention in the press. A key feature of some squatted residences in Spain is the space created for public gatherings, referred to as the Centro Social Okupado Autogestionado [Self-Governing Squatted Social Centre], or CSOA. In creating these spaces, the residents are often guided by a utopian vision of how the space will be utilised, as it is generally repurposed in a way intended to strengthen relationships among residents, establish ties with the local community, and, in many cases, foster alternative sociopolitical movements founded on utopian values. CSOAs were breeding grounds for the anti-globalisation movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and have provided spaces for political activism in a number of other areas that include but are not limited to immigration, pacifism, environmentalism, and feminism (Martínez López 2007, 232–3; 38). Utopianism in the context of CSOAs implies the collaboration of the residents in the creation of a microcosm of an alternative society founded on principles commonly espoused in many utopian societies, such as egalitarianism, working for the common good, participatory democracy, inclusivity, and free and open access to adequate housing, education, health care, food, and other such fundamental rights. These values also form the foundation of communalist anarchism, which is a term that Martha Ackelsberg, one of the foremost scholars on female anarchists in Spain,7 utilises to describe anarchists who are committed first and foremost to “freedom and community” and engage in direct action to create an anti-hierarchal society in all spheres (race, class, gender, etc.) (Ackelsberg 2010, 102–3). Communalist anarchists are committed to


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diversity and egalitarianism, all the while ensuring that the means by which they accomplish their goals are consistent with their ends (Ibid.). The term “communalist anarchism,” sometimes viewed as synonymous with anarcho-feminism, anarcho-communism, and anarchist communism, is pertinent to this investigation because it emphasises egalitarian lifestyles as forms of political expression and is evocative of communal living, which is key to squatted communities. Albeit indirectly, this also calls to mind the massive collectivisation that took place during the Civil War, as it brought about unprecedented experiments in egalitarianism. Whereas residents in intentional communities choose to engage in utopian practice by “experiment[ing] with their own lives,” others opt for other political and apolitical forms of expressing their utopian impulses (Sargent 2010, 7). In the wake of the 15-M Movement, there has been a groundswell of support for left-leaning, grassroots organisations and movements with utopian underpinnings.8 Many are in favour of participatory democracy, egalitarianism, direct action, transparency, free and open access to education and health care, a minimum and maximum wage, and affordable housing, food and public commodities. The political party Podemos (which translates to “We can,” and is clearly evocative of Barack Obama’s slogan “Yes, we can!”), led by political science professor-turned-politician Pablo Iglesias, quickly rose to power as the “third largest political force in many Spanish regions, including Madrid” in the May 2014 elections, and has captured the utopian imagination of the Spanish public, especially the disenfranchised youth (as has been the case of Podemos).9 Barcelona’s current mayor Ada Colau, who was active in the 15-m protests and grassroots organising with Podemos, ran on a platform that grew out of an organisation she founded called Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca [Platform for People Affected by Mortgages], which advocated for protecting citizens from being evicted from their homes (Colau 2015). Encouraging cooperation and solidarity over competition and individualism, she calls for “feminizando” [“feminising”]10 politics in a way that is evocative of the rhetoric of the Mujeres Libres [Free Women] movement, the female anarchist group from the Spanish Civil War era. It is important to note that Colau does not use the term “feminising” to refer to just the biological sex of the participants in these grassroots movements, but rather to emphasise what she considers “feminised” values like cooperation and solidarity, which are key to participatory politics and are in line with some of the key values espoused in communalist anarchism (Ibid.). Most of the splinter groups that grew out of the 15-M Movement are opposed to the tenets of unregulated (or under-regulated), free-market

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capitalism, and adhere to pacifism, civil disobedience, and non-violent resistance. However, there are those who align themselves with the ideology of Black Bloc,11 which is associated with insurrectionary anarchism. Black Bloc is considered “the spearhead and the most violent group of the wide anti-establishment collective.”12 Individuals who identify with insurrectionary anarchism tend to believe that destroying property (and on occasion injuring people) is sometimes necessary as a form of direct action against the state and its institutions, and that compromise with members of the state is not only a sign of weakness but also a form of treason against the causes for which most anarchists are fighting. For example, in the Marchas por la Dignidad [Marches for Dignity] in Madrid in January 2015, there was a faction of insurrectionary anarchists that carried a sign bearing the image of Pablo Iglesias, stating: “Death to the leader. Fight without authority or hierarchies” (“Podemos, objetivo de los anarquistas más radicales” 2015). Even though these anarchists have many goals in common with members of Podemos, they differ in their interpretation of how to execute them. Common tactics of insurrectionary anarchists include burning trash barrels, vandalising store fronts and banks, destroying public property such as street lights, telephone booths, and bus shelters, looting private property, attacking police officers, protecting protesters from police attacks and arrests, and provoking riots during peaceful protests. By donning black hoods and covering their faces, they can not only maintain anonymity, but also discourage the formation of hierarchies and create solidarity amongst themselves (Peregil and Ximénez de Sandoval 2001). Some of the tactics utilized by okupas during evictions, especially in the cases where they have occupied a building for an extended period, are reminiscent of those adopted by the Black Bloc. However, such tactics undermine the fundamental values espoused by squatters whose ideology is more in line with that of communalist anarchists, who believe that the ends do not justify the means and that individuals should, with their own behaviours and lifestyles, try to model the type of society they would like. There have been a number of recent texts in fields ranging from sociology to urban studies that examine the squatters’ movement in Spain. Stephen Luis Vilaseca’s Barcelonan Okupas: Squatter Power (2013) focuses on the okupa movement in Barcelona from the perspectives of urban studies and spanish cultural studies. A historical perspective of the okupa movement in Madrid, with insights into the sociopolitical implications of the movement, is offered in Okupa Madrid (1985–2011). Memoria, reflexión, debate y autogestión colectiva del conocimiento [Squat Madrid (1985–2011). Memory, Reflection, Debate, and Collective


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Self-Governing of Knowledge] (2014). One of the more general texts dealing with squatting in Spain that is not tied to any specific metropolitan area is ¿Dónde están las llaves? El movimiento okupa: Prácticas y contextos sociales [Where Are the Keys? The Squatter Movement: Practices and Social Contexts] (2004). Of the texts that look at squatting from a transnational perspective, The Squatters’ Movement in Europe: Commons and Autonomy as Alternatives to Capitalism (2014) is the most relevant to this study. Other manuscript-length texts include: La autopercepción de los jóvenes okupas en España [The Self-Perception of Young Squatters in Spain] (1999) by Lorenzo Navarrete Moreno, Okupación, represión y movimientos sociales [Squatting, Oppression and Social Movements] (2000) produced by Asamblea de Okupas de Terrassa [Assembly of Squatters from Terrassa], Okupación de viviendas y de centros sociales: autogestión, contracultura y conflictos urbanos [Squatting of Residences and Social Centres: Self-Governing, Counter-Culture and Urban Conflicts] (2002) by Miguel Martínez López, and Okupaciones en movimiento: derivas, estrategias y prácticas [Squatting in Movement: Impulses, Strategies and Practices] (2010) by Mario Domínguez Sánchez-Pinilla, Miguel Martínez López, and Elisabeth Lorenzi Fernández. Moreover, there has been a proliferation of articles and websites on the topic, as well as several book chapters that focus on the okupa movement.14 In recent years, there has also been an abundance of representations of the squatters’ movement in Spanish films, television shows and popular fiction (especially young adult literature). These include, but are not limited to: Las pelirrojas traen mala suerte (1995) [Redheads Bring Bad Luck] by Manuel Alonso, El okupa (1997) [The Squatter] by Juan Noriega, El taxista ful (2005) [The Taxi Thief] by Jo Sol, Yobbo en 1998 (2008) [Yobbo in 1998] by Mariano More and El kaserón [The Big Old House] by Pau Martínez. A noteworthy documentary detailing the history of the movement from the 1996 Cine Princesa eviction in Barcelona until the present is Okupa, crónica de una lucha social (2004) [Squat, Chronicle of a Social Battle] by Octavi Royo Olazaguirre and Ignasi P. Ferré.

Okupada Care Santos’ young adult novel Okupada (1997) is a fictional recreation of the actual squat Cine Princesa in Barcelona in 1996 (Tadrissi 2009, 75).15 Known best as a journalist for the newspaper ABC and a prolific author of young adult novels, Santos is adept at examining the problems faced by Spanish urban youth, especially those who are socioeconomically

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marginalised. The story, which takes place in the mid-1990s shortly after the introduction of the Penal Code of 1995, begins with the illegal occupation of an enormous abandoned house, jokingly dubbed Bákingjam after Buckingham Palace, by an assortment of young adults aged 18–22. The novel is divided into seven chapters, each from the perspective of a different member of the house and conveying (in somewhat chronological order) a different part of the same story, beginning with their entering the house and ending with their eviction. Alma, narrator of both the first chapter and the epilogue, is the daughter of a real-estate tycoon. She decides to become a squatter because of her disillusionment with the narrow-mindedness of the upper class and their prescribed lifestyles, her drive for complete freedom and independence from her parents, her desire to escape from her dysfunctional family life (as her parents are going through a divorce), and her sense of adventure and romance in accepting an invitation to live in a squatted residence by an attractive, young, diehard okupa named Kifo. The other narrators, in order of narration, are Kike, a friend of Kifo’s who is a law student well-versed in squatters’ rights, Óskar, a homosexual, Mustafá, an Iraqi Kurd who is a squatter more out of economic necessity than for ideological reasons, Beatriz, who is close friend of Alma, Oswi-wan (Oswaldo-Germán), a Cuban poet and also an undocumented immigrant, and Begoña, an artist who is also a deprivation-based okupa. The narrative begins when Alma and Beatriz accept Kifo and Kike’s invitation to become squatters, whereupon they meet the other squatters. As they clean the residence and transform it into a utilitarian space, they are, in squatter rhetoric, “liberando los espacios” [“liberating spaces”], which implies symbolically freeing the spaces from the shackles of capitalism. While they dedicate the second floor of the house to lodging, the first becomes the place where they connect with the local community. One section of the first floor is transformed into a CSOA where they offer a variety of classes for personal enrichment, another area becomes a café/bar, and the remaining space becomes a venue for occasional concerts. Initially, all goes well, as Alma begins to connect with Kifo, the CSOA starts to take off, and they plan and execute the substitution of the Spanish flag in City Hall with their own black flag that represents the squatter movement (108). Tensions flare when Inge, an itinerant German drug dealer who sporadically stays at the house, seduces Kifo and gets him hooked on drugs. Kifo’s addiction causes his behaviour to become increasingly violent, narcissistic, and erratic. In the end, all the okupas are forcibly evicted from the house by the real estate company ironically called Techos para Todos [Roofs for Everyone], of which Alma’s father is


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a major shareholder. A violent showdown with the police ultimately leads to Kifo’s death.16

Casa Leprosa [Leprous House] The landscapes steeped in dystopian undercurrents at the beginning of the novel reflect a profound disillusionment with capitalism and neo-liberal economics. In an epigraph, Santos includes a short fragment of the poem “Últimos días de una casa” [“Last Days of a House”] by Cervantes Award recipient Dulce María Loynaz: I now feel like a sick house, A leprous house. It’s necessary for someone to come To pick the mangos that fall In the patio and go to waste Without anyone tasting their sweetness. It’s necessary for someone to come To close the window Of the dining room, that has remained open, And last night, bats entered … It’s necessary that someone come to clean, to shout, to do anything17

This poem sets the scene for viewing the abandoned house (before it becomes a squatted residence) as bearing the scars of the excesses of housing speculation, patriarchal domination, and privatisation in Spanish society. Although the rest of the poem (which is not cited in this novel) actually focuses on the topics of aging and death, the description of the abandoned house in this fragment emphasises the lack of utility of the space, and therefore resonates with the squatters. Instead of implying an aging body, the wasted land in this context is emblematic of an environment that is unproductive, decrepit, and ultimately hostile. The images of leprosy, rotting mangos, and bats underscore the repulsive nature of this dystopian landscape. While not politicided in the poem, the abandoned house in the novel becomes associated with the negative externalities of neo-liberal economics and their implications for the lives of these squatters, which are emphasided every time the poem reappears throughout the novel. Originally built in 1830, owned by blue bloods and located on Calle Muntaner, one of the wealthiest streets in Barcelona, the house is a testament to a legacy of inherited wealth and evocative of the system of “enchufes” [connections] that contributes to a lack of socioeconomic

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mobility in Spanish society (23). This unoccupied building is emblematic of all houses that have fallen victim to speculation, as the original owner places more value on the potential profitability of the property than on the benefit that it could bring to individuals who could be living in that space and making a meaningful contribution to society. When the house comes under the ownership of the real estate company at the end of the novel, it once again falls victim to housing speculation and is boarded up. Knowing that the company has no intention of doing anything with the property, just before their eviction the squatters hang a sign in front of it that says: “No to speculation. Liberate spaces. Become a squatter too.” [“No a la espekulación. Libera espacios. Okupa tú también”] (141), and recite the poem during the eviction. In this context, the expression “casa leprosa” underscores that the disease being spread is corporate greed, as it is now a company that is taking over the property. As this novel was published in 1997, the appropriation of the metaphor of a leprous house is surprisingly prophetic, anticipating as it does the proliferation of abandoned properties and blight now spreading across Spain like a contagion. Given that it is Alma’s father who pushes for the takeover of the property, corporate and patriarchal control become intertwined. In the same way that it is impossible for anarcho-feminists to disentangle their fight against the state and its institutions from their fight against patriarchy, Alma’s inclination toward rebelling against her father to assert her own sociopolitical autonomy is intrinsically related to her opposition to patriarchal forms of oppression. When Alma problematises the fact that her mother’s identity is contingent upon that of her husband, stating that her only occupation has been that of “señora de” [wife of], she underscores her opposition to the way that patriarchal domination has been integrated into the economic model for capitalism in Spanish society (104). Another negative externality of capitalism is the trend toward excessive privatisation and the disappearance of public spaces for the locals. In the novel, the original owner of the house left it to retire in Martorell, which is where the corporate headquarters for the Spanish car company SEAT is located. SEAT started out as a state-owned company, but is now owned by Volkswagen and exports over three-quarters of its annual production. Thus, this reference to Martorell creates an association between the negative impact of housing speculation and the trend toward privatisation. This suggests that privatisation may be associated with behaviours that are not only selfish, but also potentially destructive to Spanish society as a whole, and beneficial only to wealthy Spaniards (or foreign investors, in the case of SEAT).


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Alma’s observation that the house was utilised for illicit activities like drug use, prostitution, theft, and even a public bathroom before they arrived further emphasises the negative externalities that can result from housing speculation. Óskar’s joke that the people in the neighbourhood found “cultural” ways to use the space draws attention to just how destructive these activities were for the community during the time that the house was abandoned. In the poem, the unpicked, rotting mangos that fall from the tree evoke the notion of waste because the owner is not making use of the house. However, in the context of this novel, not only is the house being wasted, but so also are these Spaniards who are in the prime of their youth and could potentially contribute meaningfully to the advancement of their society, but are limited by crippling levels of systemic unemployment and underemployment. Like the rotting fruit, the vestiges of illicit activities here suggests that the socioeconomic stratification that results from free-market capitalism drives marginalised Spaniards to engage in self-destructive activities that further contribute to their atomisation in contemporary society.

The Aporia of Squatting As the okupas in the novel work toward creating public spaces that are welcoming to a wide variety of people, they must consider how they can make their environment more tolerant and hospitable. Conventionally, hospitality is understood as “either an intimate (private) or a communal (public) welcoming of strangers into one’s house or country or territory” (Aristarkhova 2012, 29). Though generally viewed in a positive light and a way of “keeping the peace or a working out of hostilities,” acts of hospitality place the host in the interstices between power and vulnerability. On the one hand, the host controls the conditions of entry into a house or community, as well as the quality of the visit, such as the length of stay, what is offered, the introductions, and other such details.18 However, Aristarkhova points to Levinas’ emphasis on the vulnerability of the host: “Hospitality is about receptivity and the vulnerability associated with such receptivity. To surrender is to receive all, to be responsible for all. It is a radical passivity. This passivity is responsibility for the Other. It is being able to receive despite all possibilities of hostility … The owner becomes hostage in one’s own house” (Ibid., 32). Citing Jacques Derrida’s phrase “aporia of hospitality,” Aristarkhova encapsulates this inherent contradiction in the position of host as being, “one of owning and being empowered by that ownership and another of giving ownership away and being vulnerable” (35). Of course, this relationship assumes that private

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property precedes hospitality. However, if one does not own property, how can one give it away? Aristarkhova explores a fundamental paradox regarding the role of the feminine in relationships of hospitality. She argues that hospitality derives from the notion of maternity,19 as the ability of a woman to welcome and feed house guests mirrors her capacity to “host” and “nourish” a foetus (24). In these contexts, she utilises the term “matrix” to describe the role of women in generating hospitable spaces and re-inscribes the expression with its maternal origins, as “its connection to the root words for matter and mother reveals the term’s direct relation to the maternal body and its originating role as the source of being and becoming” (11). The contradiction lies, however, in the overall tendency to de-emphasise or negate the role of actual women in generating space, fashioning them instead as “receptacles” or “containers” for gestation (27). Traditionally unable to own property (42), or viewed “as a ‘lack’ in phallologocentric and patriarchal culture” (3), women cannot give away that which they do not own. Likewise, squatters, who are similarly disempowered, struggle to create hospitable environments out of private property that they do not own. This aporia of squatting problematises their ability to create a welcoming, hospitable environment. One way that Aristarkhova suggests reframing this apparent contradiction is by focusing on the role of nurturing and nourishment in an environment of hospitality. In Santos’ narrative, the okupas create an alternative to the detrimental “cultural” activities that took place in the house while it was abandoned. They open up an actual cultural centre (CSOA) on the ground floor, where they offer free classes to the public in painting, music, literature, “Dragqueenismo” (“Drag Queenism”), and martial arts (1997, 51). Symbolically, they are nourishing the community with these classes and helping it grow stronger. Although these activities form part of the informal economy, they are intended for the betterment of society and contribute to their utopian vision of building a stronger community. In line with the values of communalist anarchism, the description of how the okupas create the cultural centre emphasises the cooperative nature of their endeavour, with each individual making an equal contribution (51). Their sense of engagement grows proportionately to the amount of work they invest in the house: “The case is that, be it what it may, that was our home because of our own merit and we were doing fine there. We had given life back to it and we had rescued it from layers of weeds and shit. Now, we had every right to enjoy it.”20 Reversing the trends toward waste, speculation, corporate greed, privatisation, and socioeconomic stratification, the repurposing of this


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space affirms the communalist anarchist values of utilitarianism, working for the common good, altruism, deprivatisation, and egalitarianism. The okupas also generate a nurturing, welcoming environment by fostering tolerance, diversity, and inclusion. While describing the house members, Alma marvels at their diversity, comparing them to the Tower of Babel. Though this reference is to linguistic diversity, the interactions between the squatters that precede the comment also highlight diversity in sexual orientation, gender, vocation, and body type.21 Using environmental terminology, she comments: “I have here the fauna that inhabited our new home. An original and fun ecosystem where I would really like to stay and settle down.”22 Rather than a threat, words such as “fauna” and “ecosistema” [ecosystem] create the impression that Alma is like a scientist or explorer observing wildlife. This creates the sensation that she is on the frontier of a new experience, in unchartered territory. By couching this description in scientific terms, she calls to mind the fact that diversity is known to be healthy, if not vital, for genetic and ecological stability. This atmosphere of tolerance and diversity contrasts sharply with the exclusivity and uniformity of her father’s in-bred, country-club, patriarchal environment. In this way, embracing diversity is not only a move toward creating a nurturing, hospitable environment, but also a way to feel a sense of belonging, and subsequently ownership and investment in this community where she wants to settle down. Also contributing to a nurturing environment is the atmosphere of artistic creativity, as the notions of genesis, gestation, and production, which are inherently related to the concepts of nurturing and nourishing, are also evocative of artistic creation. Santos portrays the creative process as an antidote to the dystopian narrative associated with the abandoned house. Hanging on the wall of the cafe, Begoña’s art, which includes a portrait of Óskar and several collages made from trash and recycled materials, brands the space as theirs. In the same way that they rehabilitate the abandoned house and convert trash into art, they transform themselves into productive members of society, as they become artists, teachers, and coffee-shop workers. Refusing to allow themselves be defined as the waste of society, they become what I’ll call a “recycled generation,” as they have found ways to repurpose themselves. Therefore, even though these squatters do not own the space, their artistic creations become just one of the many ways that they claim ownership of the space. Essential to any nurturing environment is the feeling of security. Negotiation, cooperation, pacifism, and solidarity, all evocative of Colau’s notion of the “feminization of politics,” are often considered cornerstones of a secure, nurturing environment. When threatened with eviction,

Into the Matrix of Contemporary Spanish Squatter Communities


Alma’s first inclination is to attempt to negotiate with her father on behalf of the squatters. Kifo belittles Alma’s intention to serve as a mediator by feminising and subsequently disparaging the process of negotiation: “One must fight, Alma. None of this whining or begging for mercy—he said, in a not-so-friendly, and in my opinion, not very appropriate tone for the occasion.”23 In contrast with his use of bellicose language like “fight” [luchar], the words “whine” [lloriquear] and “beg for mercy” [implorar clemencia] are related to weakness and femininity. Calling her a girl and accusing her of running to her daddy for help, Kifo underscores the association between compromise and stereotypes about feminine weakness. Repeatedly throughout the novel, the females and males naturally inclined toward the “feminization of politics,” especially Óskar, whose gender expression is feminised, strive to work together to create a secure environment. During the eviction, all of the squatters except Kifo opt for pacifism as an alternative to violent resistance. For them, pacifism is not equated with passivity nor peaceful behaviour, but rather represents their endeavour to engage in direct action in a way that does not involve causing physical harm to other people. Their songs, chants, and poetry recitations during the eviction are portrayed as acts of artistic expression that constitute a form of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience, and have the intended effect of uniting them together with a feeling of transcendence. This solidarity is especially evident when Beatriz sings “No nos moverán” [“They will not move us”], and then, one by one, everyone except Kifo and Kike (who is trying to keep Kifo in line) joins in singing as they form a strong, unified chorus (154). Thus, their appropriation of the space manifests itself through their solidarity. When Kifo starts to become violent, Alma proclaims: “We had said that we were pacifists.”24 When verbal rhetoric does not work, Kifo’s attempts to physically harm the police are temporarily thwarted when all of the squatters unite to stop him (154–5). Given that several of the squatters that try to stop Kifo from his attacks are male, biological sex is not a determining factor when it comes to “feminising” politics, as adhering to the values of negotiation, cooperation, pacifism, and solidarity protects them all.

Anarchistic Landscapes of Hostility Although it is easy for the squatters to view the state and its institutions as the common enemy, internal fighting within squatter communities can contribute to landscapes that are equally hostile. All utopian communities must at some point deal with the subject of inclusion. Who to include or


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exclude may be the fundamental question that unites or divides a group. In the context of the novel, Alma’s initial claim that they would welcome anyone into their community is called into question as she recognises the threats to the solidarity of the group posed by a guest (17). When Inge (the German drug dealer) wants to take up residence in the house, Alma votes against her inclusion (101). Whether motivated by her jealousy (because of Inge’s involvement with Kifo), fear of drugs, or desire to maintain the solidarity of the group (or all of the above), Alma’s insistence on excluding Inge from the house is intended to pave the way toward a more nurturing, secure environment. Her actual motivations matter less than the implications of a policy that excludes drug addicts and other such individuals that compromise the cohesiveness of their community. It may seem that for an anarchistic community to be truly effective, individual autonomy should be the primary concern, as that is one of the fundamental values and defining characteristics of anarchism. However, for anarchists to live in a communal setting, a certain amount of autonomy is usually forfeited for the benefit of the common good. Even before Kifo becomes an addict, Alma depicts him in terms that highlight his lack of commitment to the group: “‘And now that we know each other, let’s get to work,’ what Kifo said sounded more like a shout at the starting line of an endurance race than a slogan of solidarity to make the place decent” (27).25 The words “shout” [grito] and “endurance race” [carrera de resistencia”] associate Kifo with authoritarian aggressiveness, individualism, and competitiveness, which contrast sharply with the image of non-violent protesters rallying together, which is evoked with the concept of a “consigna solidaria” [slogan of solidarity]. While the individual choice to engage in recreational drug use may seem like a personal decision and an expression of one’s personal autonomy, drug addiction is another matter, as an individual with an addiction is controlled by the substance and is therefore not completely autonomous. Addicts are generally concerned first and foremost with feeding their own addiction, even when that may entail compromising the solidarity of the community. This tendency manifests itself in the novel when Inge and Kifo begin to sequester themselves away from the rest of the group to do drugs. The more deeply Inge becomes entrenched in their utopian community, the more fractured and dysfunctional it becomes. Instead of staying with the squatters during the eviction in a show of solidarity, Inge leaves the group and eventually ends up alone in a jail in Germany for drug trafficking.26 In my article “Falling Through the Cracks” (2013), I offer a detailed analysis of how the backyard of the house transforms from a hospitable to a hostile landscape as it becomes

Into the Matrix of Contemporary Spanish Squatter Communities


associated with taking drugs, the disposal of drugs, and the symptoms of withdrawal (173–4). Another hostile landscape I analysed is the hole in the roof through which Kifo both enters the house and falls to his death in the end. This space becomes indirectly associated with a form of anarchistic resistance (that eventually undermines the solidarity of the group) and with the role of capitalism in contributing to the socioeconomic marginalisation of a large number of Spanish youth (172). The dichotomy between Alma’s inclination toward communalist anarchism and Kifo’s proclivity toward insurrectionary anarchism becomes even more pronounced when they are evicted. Kifo engages in increasingly more aggressive tactics to directly attack the state. At the beginning, his anti-authoritarian behaviour is rather benign (non-violent), as he merely does things like steal electricity by tapping into the public utilities line. At the end, under the influence of drugs, Kifo engages in much more direct forms of violence that result in the creation of a very hostile environment during the eviction. Unbeknownst to the house members, Kifo had already rallied together some of the neighbours to burn garbage barrels, destroy a telephone booth, and rip out a traffic light and throw it against the sign for a bank to create a distraction for the police. Kifo himself throws Molotov cocktails at the police and gasoline on the stairs, and then lays marbles, nails, broken glass, tacks, and animal faeces on the floor for the police to trip and fall on. Begoña dubs this a “collage” of “mal gusto” [bad taste], playing on the idea that it is like an artwork, but instead of uniting their group in solidarity it contributes to their alienation and atomisation. At the end of the novel, the hope for the future generation lies in the values espoused in communalist anarchism. Whereas Alma’s perspective of the events resonates more strongly because her narrative voice is the first and last one presented in the novel, Kifo’s point of view is notably absent from the text. This absence serves to underscore an implicit disapproval of his tactics and ideology. In this way, Santos creates a type of litmus test for being a “good” squatter, which furthers the divide between those who have differing perspectives about how to most effectively engage in direct action against the state. Like the absence of Kifo’s narration in the novel, his accidental death signifies the futility of engaging in the tactics of insurrectionary anarchists as they are selfdestructive and self-defeating. While Kifo may have gotten more media attention and in this way furthered his cause, ultimately, it is the communalist anarchists in this novel who control both the perpetuation of the anarchist ideology and the narration of the events.


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Notes 1

All translations are mine unless otherwise noted. 2 It is important to note that the characters in this work of fiction are not necessarily politically motivated and that they do not always articulate their ideologies utilising political terminology; nevertheless, their behaviours may still be viewed in a political context because of the way that they conform with these ideologies. 3 Sociologist Julio Alguacil affirms: “The concept of the squatter has always had a negative connotation, but with the crisis, this vision is changing and society will end up coming to terms with it” [“El concepto del okupa siempre ha tenido una connotación negativa pero con la crisis esa visión está cambiando y la sociedad acabará por asumirla”] (“Los okupas discretos”, El paí 2012). 4 According to a poll conducted by Metroscopia in 2011, “Empathy for 15Mʊ66% declare that they like this movementʊis explained because the vast majority (81%) believe that the Indignados are right” [“La comprensión hacia el 15-Mʊel 66% declara que siente más bien simpatía hacia ese movimientoʊse explica porque una inmensa mayoría (81%) considera que los “indignados” tienen razón]” (Garea 2011). 5 Parissa Tadrissi points to some of the primary economic factors that contributed to the squatter phenomenon: In the 1980s and 90s a variety of factors gave way to successive real estate booms which evidenced the most pronounced rise in prices in the history of Spain (a median rise of 124% between 1980 and 2001 and a spike of more than 400% in some urban centers). The introduction of foreign speculative capital, the growing demand for office space, the expansion of the mortgage sector in private banking, and integration into the United Nations are namely a few of the changes that contributed to the brutal price increments. (2009, 73) 6

“Todos los españoles tienen derecho a disfrutar de una vivienda digna y adecuada. Los poderes públicos promoverán las condiciones necesarias y establecerán las normas pertinentes para hacer efectivo este derecho, regulando la utilización del suelo de acuerdo con el interés general para impedir la especulación” (Constitución Española 1978). 7 Ackelsberg is most known for her investigations on the Mujeres Libres (“Free Women”) movement, a female anarchist offshoot of the anarcho-syndicalist organisation Confederación Nacional de Trabajo (CNT) (“National Confederation of Labor”) from the Spanish Civil War era. One of the primary reasons for evoking Mujeres Libres in this context is the emphasis on viewing the personal as political. Acklesberg observes: “Male-dominated organizations continued to analyze women’s situations in terms of what we would now call a public/private split. If they thought about women’s emancipation at all, they understood it to take place within the workplace context. They were effectively blinded to the ways in which women’s domestic roles might impinge on their ‘public’ (i.e., union) participation” (1991, 76). Mujeres Libres felt that the fight for autonomy had to be battled out not

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only in the work place, but also in the privacy of their own homes. In a similar vein, squatters who abide by the principles of communalist anarchism also attempt to live in way that eliminates all hierarchies and deliberately blurs dividing lines between the personal and the political, as well as public and private spheres. 8 Though an exploration of all the grassroots movements/organisations that have grown out of the 15-m Movement is beyond the scope of this investigation, it is worthwhile noting some of the more prominent ones. The web-based group Partido X [X Party], organised horizontally, engaged through Wikilegislación [Wikilegislation]ʊwhich is legislation developed collectively by citizens on the internet, and focused on transparency—was the first official political party to come out of the 15-m Movement in December 2012 [ n.d.]. The political party Podemos [We Can], which formed in March 2014, has gained the most traction and will be discussed at length later in the paper. More recently, yet another citizen-based party Ahora en común [Now in Common], with a philosophy that is difficult to distinguish from those of the aforementioned groups, has been accused of attempting to encompass all of the left-leaning organisations/movements and of being the Trojan Horse of Izquierda Unida (United Left, which formed back in 1986) because of its potential to subvert Podemos (“¿Otro Podemos?” 2015). Proponents of Ahora en común would argue otherwise, as they see themselves as virtually apolitical and as a natural offshoot of the 15-m protests. Add to this mix the growing strength of various regional parties and the cacophony of political voices can seem deafening. Whereas most of the left-leaning groups were able to unite under the banner of Frente Popular [Popular Front] during the Spanish Civil War, despite all their in-fighting and factions, Izquierda Unida has ironically been completely incapable of actually uniting the left, especially since 15-m. 9 Since the transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Spanish politics has typically been dominated by either the leftleaning socialist party Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) [the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party] or the right-leaning Partido Popular (PP) [the People’s Party] (Cruz 2014). However, after Podemos officially registered as a political party in March 2014, it quickly rose in power, winning 1.2 million votes and 5 parliamentary seats in the May elections (Ibid.). 10 Colau affirms: I believe that we also have something more to contribute and that we can learn something from feminist struggles and, in this moment of change that we are in, we can contribute by “feminising” politics. That does not happen just by putting more women in decision-making roles, but also by transforming the values, more than anything, and by, in this moment of change, updating forms of political participation: demonstrating that cooperation is more effective and satisfactory than competition, and that politics, when done collectively, is better than when it is done individually. [Creo que también tenemos algo más que aportar y que de las luchas feministas podemos aprender y, en este momento de cambio en el que estamos, podemos aportar “feminizando” la política. Eso no pasa sólo por


Chapter Six poner más mujeres en los lugares de decisión, sino que también pasa por cambiar los valores, sobre todo por cambiar los valores, y por, en este momento de cambio, actualizar las formas de participación política: demostrar que la cooperación es más eficaz y más satisfactoria que la competitividad, y que la política, si se hace de forma colectiva, es mejor que si hace de forma individualista.] (Colao 2015)


It is difficult to define Black Bloc because there is a range of interpretations of what it exactly is. It is most commonly viewed as an international group of anarchists whoʊdecked out in black and donned with masks or face coverings that serve to hide their identities, protect their faces from pepper spray, and/or unite them in solidarity with others with similar ideologiesʊinfiltrate peaceful protests and fight abuses inflicted by the state and its institutions, often by rioting and damaging property. Though it is often perceived as a group, it is not an organised or cohesive one, but rather a set of tactics utilised by individuals during protests to call attention to social injustice. In his article “The Black Blocs Ten Years after Seattle,” Francis Dupuis-Déri explains: There is no such thing as the Black Bloc; there are, rather, Black Blocs, each of them arising on the occasion of a rally and dissolving when the rally is over. The size of the Black Blocs can vary from a few dozen to a few thousand individuals … The primary objective of a Black Block is to signal the presence within a demonstration of a radical critique of the economic and political system. To help convey their message, the Black Blocs usually display banners bearing anticapitalist and anti-authoritarian slogans, and flags—black or red and black, the anarchist colors, and occasionally red—suggesting that some Black Blockers consider themselves more communist than anarchist. The Black Blocs sometimes resort to force to express their radical critique, which has made them the subject of heated polemics. (2010, 46) Dupuis-Déri goes on to explain that the phenomenon originated in West Berlin in the 1980s, when a group of squatters, dressed in black and armed with helmets, shields, and makeshift weapons, defended themselves and their residence during an eviction. Looking further back, “this current was itself an extension of the Italian Autonomia movement of the 1960s and 70s, whose members were far-left working-class and youth activists critical of the official Communist Part” (Ibid., 51). In more recent times, Black Bloc has appeared regularly during international meetings, such as those involving the IMF, World Bank, G8, and G20. I can personally recall the moment when Black Bloc made its resurgence during the 1999 WTO Summit, as I saw small groups of young adults in all blackʊwith black bandanas covering their faces and with purposeful, penetrating, calculating eyesʊweaving in and out of the crowds. In contrast with the peaceful protesters, whose chants and speeches were inflected with humour, passion, and hope, the Black Bloc had a chilling presence. Only when I returned home and saw the rioting

Into the Matrix of Contemporary Spanish Squatter Communities


on the news did I realise their intent. The fact that the nightly news coverage was monopolised almost entirely by Black Bloc rioting sparked many discussions about whether their actions ultimately benefitted the cause or not. In an effort to destigmatise this type of violence, Black Bloc sympathisers like Randall Amster pose the following rhetorical questions: “Is it violent when slaves crush their shackles in an attempt to escape captivity? Is it violent to dismantle a tool of genocide? Is it violent to protect oneself and/or others from an ongoing (not merely imminent) assault?” (2012, 44). 12 “la punta de lanza y el grupo más violento dentro del amplio colectivo antisistema” (Chicote 2014). 14 Among the articles about okupas that have not been mentioned yet, but are relevant to this study, are: “Los estudios sobre culturales juveniles en España (1960–2003)” [“Studies about Youth Culture in Spain (1960–2003)”] by Carles Feixa; “Okupas: Culturas de contestación” [“Squatters: Cultures of Contestation”] by María del Carmen Costa; “En los márgenes de la ciudad transitada: el movimiento ‘Okupa’ como disidencia social” [“In the Margins of the Mobile City: The Squatter Movement as Social Dissidence”] by Raúl Molina Recio et al.; and “Proceso de regeneración en el espacio urabano por las iniciativas de autogestión y okupación” [“The Process of the Regeneration of Urban Spaces through Initatives of Self-Governance and Squatting”] by Jorge Dieste Hernández and Ángel Pueyo. 15 In addition to the article by Tadrissi cited above, other literary criticism that addresses Okupada includes Jason Klodt’s study “Strangers in a Strange House: Spanish Youth, Urban Dystopia, and Care Santos’s Okupada,” “Las novelas juveniles de Care Santos” by María Teresa Barbadillo de la Fuente, and “Drogas, adolescentes y familia: La prevención contra las drogas en la literatura juvenil española” by Jorge González del Pozo. My article “Falling through the Cracks: Anarchistic Resistance and the ‘Generación perdida’ in José Ángel Mañas’ Historias del Kronen and Care Santos’ Okupada” also examines the novel Okupada in considerable detail; however, it is focused more on the contrast between Historias del Kronen and Okupada and less on the internal struggles within the squatter community. 16 In real life, the eviction of the Cine Princesa squat was followed by a series of street protests that resulted in “48 arrests and 15 injured” (Tadrissi 2009, 75). 17 Me siento ya una casa enferma, una casa leprosa. Es necesario que alguien venga a recoger los mangos que se caen en el patio y se pierden sin que nadie les tiente la dulzura. Es necesario que alguien venga a cerrar la ventana del comedor, que se ha quedado abierta, y anoche entraron los murciélagos … Es necesario que alguien venga a ordenar, a gritar, a cualquier cosa. (9) 18 “Derrida points out that etymologically the term hospitality is related to the notion of ‘hostility’ since the root of the former, hospes, is allied to an earlier root


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of the latter, hostis, which interestingly meant both ‘stranger’ and ‘enemy.’ Thus, hospitality, as in hostilis (stranger/enemy) + potes ([having] power), originally meant the power the host has over the stranger/enemy” (Aristarkhova 2012, 35). 19 Although discussions about females, femininity, and maternity in the context of hospitality can very easily smack of essentialism, Aristarkhova goes to great lengths to create a nuanced interpretation of these constructs, and I will attempt to do the same in my analysis of the works. The purpose of this investigation is not to argue that women have exclusive domain over acts of hospitality or that representations of femininity should necessarily be tied to maternity. Instead, it is important to note the connection between hospitality and the anarchist affinity toward mutual aid, regardless of gender, and to acknowledge the agency of both males and females in creating welcoming spaces. 20 “El caso es que, fuera como fuera, aquél era nuestro hogar por méritos propios y allí estábamos muy bien. Nosotros le habíamos devuelto la vida y lo habíamos rescatado de capas de maleza y mierda. Ahora, teníamos todo el derecho a disfrutarlo” (95). 21 Notably absent is any type of meaningful engagement with the issue of regional diversity, as all the Spanish characters are from Barcelona and they do not discuss the topic of regional autonomy. The lack of attention to this issue could be due to limitations of the scope of the narrative, disinterest on the part of the author, or any number of other reasons. Nevertheless, it is clearly a topic that is relevant to many real-life squatters, particularly those who live in Catalonia and the Basque Country. 22 “He aquí la fauna que habitaba en nuestro nuevo hogar. Un ecosistema original y divertido en el que me apetecía mucho quedarme a echar raíces” (27). 23 “ʊHay que luchar, Alma. Nada de lloriquear ni implorar clemenciaʊle dijo, en un tono nada amistoso y, a mi juicio, no muy apropiado para la ocasión” (98). 24 “Habíamos dicho que éramos pacíficos” (153). 25 “ʊY ahora que ya nos conocemos todos, a trabajarʊlo de Kifo sonó más a grito de salida de una carrera de resistencia que a consigna solidaria para adecentar aquello” (27). 26 In González del Pozo’s (2008) article, he criticises Santos’ tendency to moralise drug usage in her novels oriented toward a youth market.

References Books Ackelsberg, Martha. 1991. Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ackelsberg, Martha (ed.). 2010. Resisting Citizenship: Feminist Essays on Politics, Community, and Democracy. New York: Routledge.

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Alonso, Manuel. 1995. Las pelirrojas traen mala suerte. Madrid: Alfaguara. Amster, Randall. 2012. Anarchism Today. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. Ardell Argilés, Ramón, and Miguel Martínez López (eds.). 2004. ¿Dónde están las llaves? El movimiento okupa: prácticas y contextos sociales. Madrid: Libros de Catarata. Aristarkhova, Irina. 2012. Hospitality of the Matrix: Philosophy, Biomedicine, and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Asamblea de Okupas de Terrassa. 2000. Okupación, represión y movimientos sociales. Madrid: Traficantes de sueños. Cattaneo, Claudio and Miguel Martínez López (eds.). 2014. The Squatters’ Movement in Europe: Commons and Autonomy as Alternatives to Capitalism. London: Pluto Press. Domínguez Sánchez-Pinilla, Mario, Miguel Martínez López, and Elisabeth Lorenzi Fernández. 2010. Okupaciones en movimiento: derivas, estrategias y prácticas. Madrid: Tierradenaide. Martínez López, Miguel, and Ángela García Bernardos (eds.). 2014. Okupa Madrid (1985–2011). Memoria, reflexión, debate y autogestión colectiva del conocimiento. Madrid: Diagonal. Martínez López, Miguel. 2002. Okupación de viviendas y de centros sociales: autogestión, contracultura y conflictos urbanos. Barcelona: Virus. More, Mariano. 2008. Yobbo en 1998. Madrid: Lulu Enterprises. More, Thomas. 1965. Utopia. 1516. Middlesex: Penguin Books. Navarrete Moreno, Lorenzo. 1995. La autopercepción de los jóvenes okupas en Espana. Madrid: Instituto de la Juventud. Noriega, Juan. 1998. El okupa. Zaragoza: Edelvives. Santos, Care. 1997. Okupada. Barcelona: Alba Editorial. Sargent, Lyman. 2010. Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Vilaseca, Stephen Luis. 2013. Barcelonan Okupas: Squatter Power! Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Films El kaserón, directed by Pau Martínez. 2008. Just Films. Okupa, crónica de una lucha social, directed by Octavi Royo Olazaguirre and Ignasi P. 2006. Ferré. Nous Projectes Audiovisuals. El taxista ful, directed by Jo Sol. 2005. Media Luna.


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Chapters from edited collections Pruijt, Hans. 2004. “Okupar en Europa.” In ¿Dónde están las llaves? El movimiento okupa: prácticas y contextos sociales, edited by Ramón Ardell Argilés and Miguel Martínez López, 35–60. Madrid: Libros de Catarata.

Journal articles Barbadillo de la Fuente, María Teresa. 2000. “Las novelas juveniles de Care Santos.” Didáctica 12: 55–66. Costa González, María del Carmen. 2004. “Okupas. Culturas de contestación.” Revista de Estudios de Juventud 64: 117–21. Dieste Hernández, Jorge and Ángel Pueyo Campos. 2003. “Proceso de regeneración en el espaciourbano por las iniciativas de autogestión y okupación.” Scripta Nova: Revista Electrónica de Geografía y Ciencias Sociales 7 (146). Dupuis-Déri, Francis. 2010. “The Black Blocs Ten Years after Seattle: Anarchism, Direct Action, and Deliberative Practices.” Journal for the Study of Radicalism 4 (2): 45–82. Feixa, Carles and Laura Prozio. 2004. “Los estudios sobre culturas juveniles en España (1960–2003).” Revista de Estudios de Juventud 64: 9–28. González del Pozo, Jorge. 2008. “Drogas, adolescentes y familia: La prevención contra las drogas en la literatura juvenil española.” Espéculo: Revista de Estudios Literarios 39. Klodt, Jason. 2007. “Strangers in a Strange House: Spanish Youth, Urban Dystopia, and Care Santos’s Okupada.” Letras Hispanas 4 (2). Martínez López, Miguel. 2007. “El movimiento de okupaciones: Contracultura urbana y dinámicas alter-globalización.” Revista de Estudios de Juventud 76: 225–43. Molina Recio, Raúl et al. 2015. “En los márgenes de la ciudad transitada: el movimiento ‘Okupa’ como disidencia social.” Ámbitos: Revista de estudios de ciencias sociales y humanidades 4: 100–11. Palardy, Diana. 2013. “Falling through the Cracks: Anarchistic Resistance and the ‘Generación perdida’ in José Ángel Mañas’ Historias del Kronen and Care Santos’ Okupada.” Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies 17: 81–100. Tadrissi, Parissa. 2009. “Filthy Squatters: The History and the Novel of Okupas in Spain.” Cuaderno Internacional de Estudios Humanísticos 11: 69–108.

Into the Matrix of Contemporary Spanish Squatter Communities


Newspaper articles Alcaide, Soledad. “La chispa del movimiento 15-M.” El Paí, May 17, 2011. Chicote, Javier. “Los antisistema imponen ‘técnicas de guerrilla’ en los acto pacíficos.”, May 31, 2014. “Las condenas por ocupación crecen un 168% durante la crisis.”, January 29, 2015. “Corrala Utopia Squatting: Spain’s Evicted Families Squat in Squalor of Abandoned Buildings.”, June 5, 2013. Cruz, Marisa. “Podemos, primera fuerza.”, November 24, 2014. “España registra un nuevo récord de paro juvenil”, January 8, 2014. Garea, Fernando. “Apoyo a la indignación del 15-M.” Elpaí, June 5, 2011. Gutiérrez, Bernardo. “Un frente en red para la nueva era de partidos.”, June 1, 2014. “Los okupas discretos.” Elpaí, February 19, 2012. Peregil, Francisco, and Pablo Ximénez de Sandoval. “El oscuro origen del Bloque Negro.” El paí, July 29, 2001. “Podemos Hopes to Cement Rise of Citizen Politics in Spain after Election Success.”, May 27, 2014. “Podemos, objetivo de los anarquistas más radicales.” Diarioinformació, February 17, 2015. “El PP ganaría las elecciones y Podemos se convierte en el segundo partido, según el CIS.”, February 4, 2015.

Websites Colau, Ada. 2015. “From Occupying Banks to City Hall: Meet Barcelona’s New Mayor Ada Colau.” Interview by Amy Goodman., September 14, 2015. ty_hall. Constitución española. 1978. “Título I. De los derechos y deberes fundamentales. Capítulo 3. De los principios rectores de la política social y económica. Artículo 47.” October 1, 2015. Democraciarealya! 2011. November 15, 2012.


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Dolado, Juan José, and José Ignacio García Pérez. 2014. “Las claves del paro juvenil en España (I).” “¿Otro Podemos?: Ahora en Común, un nuevo partido que revoluciona la política española.” 2015. Actualidad.rt. /actualidad/179983-podemos-ahora-comun-partido-revolucionarespana. n.d.


Community is a “warm” place, a cosy and comfortable place. It is like a roof under which we shelter in heavy rain, like a fireplace at which we warm our hands on a frosty day. (Zygmunt Bauman 2001, 1)1

The district of Lavapiés in Madrid has become a multiethnic topography in which transnational migrations and intercultural encounters are promoted. This locality symbolises the centre of multiculturalism in the city, because between 1991 and 2006 its foreign population increased from 4.90% to 35.16% (Barañano et al. 2006, 61). Thus, Lavapiés exemplifies an economic, cultural, and political convergence of Spaniards and immigrants that can be understood as a synecdoche for the global movements that characterise our contemporary society. Indeed, alternative communities from different nationalities coexist in this urban space, configuring a hybrid mosaic of people and places that renegotiate sociocultural relations and interethnic dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. The inhabitants of Lavapiés distance themselves from the boundaries that originated in the underlying preconceptions of an exclusively homogeneous national paradigm, and instead open up spaces for multicultural transformations. This iconic space symbolises a microcosm of Madrid, which then becomes a city that resembles a mosaic defined by cultural hybridity where the local and the global meet and coexist. As Alicia Castillo rightly posits, the interaction of immigrants, artists, and locals creates a kaleidoscopic view of a unique multicultural area in Madrid. Therefore, this neighbourhood, “should be understood as a glocal space comprised by the local, the national, and the global communities” (2014, 93). By


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problematising the notion of hegemonic power, this chapter delves into insightful representations of the encounter with the “Other.” It also depicts the transnational communities that have crossed geopolitical borders and contribute to the cultural and economic strengths of globalisation while concurrently transforming the imaginary of national identity.2 In light of the above, I will analyse the responses to multiculturalism found in Maldita Danza [Cursed Dance], published in 2002 by Cuban author Alexis Díaz Pimienta.3 This novel does not depict the Eurocentric and paternalistic discourse that defines many migration narratives, because a Cuban writer and narrator give voice to a self-representation of the “other,” which eliminates the traditional hierarchy of power between the Spaniards and the diverse international communities that share the Spanish geopolitical spaces. Maldita danza narrates, with the use of a personal diary, the experiences of a young Cuban woman pursuing a Master’s Degree in musicology while living in Lavapiés for two years. In the text, the main character, whose name remains unknown to the reader, writes her personal thoughts and feelings during a period of one hundred weeks, and by adopting a leading role in which she, a foreigner, vividly shares with the reader her inner reactions to the city and people she encounters, she blurs the boundaries between centre and periphery. In this sense, the novel echoes Arjun Appadurai, who asserts that, “the new global cultural economy has to be seen as a complex, overlapping, disjunctive order that cannot any longer be understood in terms of existing center-periphery models” (1996, 32). By using Maldita danza as a relevant case study, this chapter will feature the interconnected relationships between global public spaces, local encounters, and the struggle for what Henri Lefebvre has called “the right to the city”; that is, the right of its inhabitants to participate and appropriate the urban spaces by restructuring their power relations in the topography of the city. Based on Parvati Nair’s definition of community identity as something, “constructed at collective level from a shared imagination of the past and a shared project for the future, presenting the impression of temporal durability and attachment to place,” which is also a “drive for political empowerment” (2004, 17), I will first reflect upon how Maldita Danza draws attention to the abundance of clichés and stereotypes that characterise the depiction of both Spaniards and Cubans who coexist in the geopolitical space of Lavapiés. In fact, the streets of this neighbourhood are shared by all its characters who establish their social interactions there, renegotiating the meanings of this iconic space. Next, I will analyse the bonds that are formed among immigrants in Spain, scrutinising the mechanism in place that leads foreigners to seek out companionship and

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form communities. I will also examine how these foreign communities claim their own space in Lavapiés, and how this territorialisation shapes their identity, sexuality, and subjectivity. Finally, the stability of these contemporary community-formations will be problematised. Throughout these pages, the chapter also questions the moralistic view of communities proposed by Gerard Delanty, who considers these groups to be built upon solidarity, trust, and autonomy (2000, 118).4 As will be demonstrated, the specific communities that are depicted in Maldita danza are not based on any moral values, but on temporal arrangements made against alienation and loneliness. Hence, this study will determine how the creation and dissolution of communities are symptomatic of the displacement and mobility of people, which also characterises our times of globalisation.5 Although Carlos Uxó strongly believes that Maldita danza revolves around the problems that result from the double condition of being a woman and a mulatta (2011, 123), my analysis goes further: I argue that the novel explores deeper topics as diverse as multiculturalism, stereotyping, and the creation of alternative communities in the city. Following this line of thought, Avtar Brah conveys that these politics of diaspora and location are key concepts in the understanding of, “contemporary trans/national movements of people, information, cultures, commodities and capital” (1996, 181).

Approaches to Cuban and Spanish Stereotypes Maldita danza is a book whose main protagonist is constantly fleeing the stereotypes that permeate her life in both Havana and Madrid. Her actions are justified because she claims the right to be different by moving away from any preconceived ideas based on national origin.6 In this regard, Rosi Song refers to the use of stereotypes that portray female immigrants in Spain as a tool, “to analyze the way the subject of the immigrant is constructed … how the articulation of difference through stereotypes reflects the way the subject is perceived, varying depending on the power position he/she occupies” (2008, 49). In the novel, the narrator constantly attempts to break from the exoticised Caribbean preconceptions that surround her, and her apparent resistance becomes paradigmatic of her marginal life in a foreign country. In order to contest stereotypes, Maldita danza begins with these words, in which the main character acknowledges why she does not fit within a Spanish society: Being mulatta, being young, being Cuban and living in Spain is annoying … Everything is fine as long as, undefined, you let yourself be carried away by the tide of Eurocentrism, by the aseptic Spanishness, by the


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insular stardom and by the clichés. Oh, the clichés. Cuba is a tropic of clichés. And here we are, the swaying Caribbean women, elevated to the unwavering category of goddesses of sex and dance. (11)7

Clearly, from the very first page, the narrator recognises the tropicalisation that Cubans experience everywhere they go. This tropicalisation, according to Frances Aparicio and Susana Chávez-Silverman, is a way of characterising the social construction of the exotic Caribbean other: “To tropicalize, as we define it, means to trope, to imbue a particular space, geography, group, or nation with a set of traits, images, and values” (1997, 8).8 The protagonist of the novel is self-aware of her tropicalised condition when she notes that: “they won’t stop staring at me, flirting with me. I suppose it is my skin, more than my body. Over here there is a lot of morbid curiosity about chocolate.”9 Fully conscious of the differences, the narrator negotiates her approach to the Spanish others. Consequently, the main character rejects those labels, implying her voluntary association with other communities who distance themselves from the typical autochthonous population. In fact, her preconceived vision of Spain becomes a reality the moment she arrives in Madrid, when she reflects upon the frequent Spanish stereotypes that she encounters, such as bullfighting, soccer, the Spanish omelette, paella, the siesta, the bar culture, Iberian ham, flamenco dances, and ETA. In an effort to resist this epitome of clichés, her friends and lovers are foreigners who are also marginalised and in no way exemplify those Spanish stereotypes. For the most part, stereotypes of Cubans and Spaniards are intertwined in Maldita danza. These perceived obstacles to her integration into the city are constant throughout the pages of the novel. Indeed, the narrator continues to emphasise the repetitive conversations that occur every time she encounters other people: “each conversation would have a hint of those isms which made her life in Madrid a nuisance: mulattism, socialism, Castrism, prostitution.”10 By refusing to fit within the exoticised Caribbean other, the protagonist reflects upon the difficulty of counteracting monolithic categories. Consequently, Maldita danza functions on the prevalence of negative cultural stereotypes, showing the dangers of the illogical rationale of stereotyped thinking. The narrator even develops a “Cuban-Spanish dictionary of lexical incompatibilities” in which she shares the main differences in the vocabulary of both countries, admitting that, although she rejects anything related to Spain, she has opted to use several Spanish expressions in order to make herself understood for two specific reasons: half mimicry and half linguistic survival. Despite the foregrounding of multiculturalism in Lavapiés, the narrator constantly displays an aversion toward the Spaniards and Cubans that

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surround her, which can be understood as a defence mechanism against being labelled a certain way. In so doing, she reinstates an insurmountable wall between herself and the “Others.” This wall serves as a protective device for her. For example, one of the preconceptions she tries to evade is the association of young Cuban women with exotic sexual entities, a categorisation strongly rejected by her: “I will be mulatta but not a good lover, I will be young but not a prostitute, I will be Cuban but not a dissident, I will graduate in Musicology, but I will not become a Professor of Tropicology.”11 By consciously positioning herself as an outsider, she reinforces autonomy as the main defining characteristic of her identity. According to Carlos Uxó, her resolution is clear, and as a way of responding to the different clichés imposed by society the narrator creates a new costume that disguises her previous one and makes her look like a matryoshka doll who is hiding her true self. Mostly, in order to avoid these labels, she decides to remove the many fake identities that connect her to Cuban stereotypes (2011, 123). She also refuses to maintain contact with the other Cubans she meets in Madrid, reinforcing the aforementioned wall that separates her from the rest of the world. Moreover, she claims throughout the novel that everybody is constantly looking at her, but nobody can really see her. In fact, her attempt to escape the established clichés becomes an obsession during the two years that she resides in Madrid. Such escapism is the main reason why she builds a shielding fence between her body and Lavapiés, between her mind and Madrid, and between her soul and Spain. The creation of this invisible barrier clearly defines her as an outsider, and although she finally joins an alternative community, this alliance is temporal, and as such by the end of the novel she has returned to her hometown feeling as lonely as the day she first left Cuba. In an attempt to overcome this strong feeling of alienation, the protagonist does eventually become a sensual being. Remarkably, in order to strengthen her resistance against the exploitation of gender-based myths about Caribbean sexuality, she openly refuses to have a Spanish boyfriend or a Spanish lover. Rather, she embarks on a journey that unites her with a series of ethnic and international loversʊa Moroccan, an Equatorial Guinean, an Indian, a Kosovan, a Gipsy, a Chilean, and a Russianʊwith whom she attempts to create an alternative community based on difference that transcends the immediate symbolic belonging to a nation. Her desire for exotic men makes her join this heterogeneous community of foreigners in which she feels a strong attraction to sociocultural strangeness. Accordingly, Ron Shapiro asserts that the exotic is associated with the construction of the unfamiliar other that can be fetishised (2000, 48).


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Indeed, one of the narrator’s favourite pastimes is to observe the Gypsies, the Chinese, the Moroccans, the Saharauis, and the Africans. With these strategic deployments, she realises that the minority groups are not marginal within Lavapiés, hence forging with them a strong sociopolitical bond. It can be argued that this character lives in a “contact zone” where Spaniards and people from all around the world coexist in a common area. While the contact zone is considered by Mary Louise Pratt to be another approach to postcolonial relations in which there is a clear hegemony of one group towards the other, it can also be defined as, “the space in which peoples geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish ongoing relations … [the] ‘contact zone’ is an attempt to invoke the spatial and temporal co-presence of subjects previously separated by geographic and historical disjunctures, and whose trajectories now intersect” (6–7). As such, it is in this intersection where the protagonist will join an international community in order to decrease her sense of alienation in a foreign country and increase her drive for political empowerment as an outsider in Spain. Furthermore, by belonging to these alternative communities the main protagonist makes her life more endurable while adapting to her new life in a strange land.

Merging in the Streets of Lavapiés: Space as a Living Entity Through the reflective form of a personal and intimate diary in which the narrator transcribes a weekly fragmented selection of her experiences in Lavapiés, the reader discovers how this character perceives the space where she dwells. With these transcriptions, the protagonist takes a position of objective detachment and writes down what she sees in the neighbourhood, how the inhabitants live, how they move, how they walk, how they breathe, and how they act. She appropriates this topography and enunciates her differentiated position, as de Certeau rightly claims in “Walking in the City” (98). She even attempts to go unnoticed among people walking around town, but only achieves her desired invisibility when she leaves the neighbourhood and moves to other areas of Madrid where no one looks at her, because there everyone can become a real stranger while wandering in the big city. Likewise, when this character has been living in Lavapiés for a month she confesses in her intimate reflections that she is lonely and maladjusted. This alienation gradually fades as she reinforces her sense of belonging to a community of outsiders. As Parvati Nair states, “The concept of

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community, as bound by shared values and self-perceptions, is clearly central to multicultural articulations of identity, themselves attempts to preserve traditions and cultural difference in the face of modernity’s migratory flows and movements” (2004, 94). Nevertheless, I argue that the community joined by this protagonist has a propensity for temporality and dispersal. Rather than fitting in, she never stops feeling like an outsider, and she is constantly dumping her exotic boyfriends. In this sense, one of the main reasons she fails to integrate into her new environment is because she consistently compares the neighbourhood to her hometown in Havana, and longs for her native Cuba. In fact, her first impressions of Lavapiés are plagued by the negativity associated with the space she inhabits while she wanders around: “What meaning does Lavapiés have for me? None. I also walk back and forth in the neighborhood, seeing new faces around, dirty, sad, strange faces. Exactly like the buildings: dirty, sad, and strange.”12 According to Michel de Certeau, “To walk is to lack a place” (103). As a result, her way of blending into the neighbourhood remains consistent throughout the novel, especially when she inextricably merges with the landscape and admits that even if only one of the locals from Lavapiés left or died, it would be as if a building had collapsed, or as if a big tree had been cut down (45). This connection with her surroundings compels her to criticise the coldness of maps, which cannot portray the true qualities of the places that make up the city: “No sentimental or sensory references appear on any of the streets. It is as if we, the readers, were made of stone like the city, or of paper like the maps themselves.”13 Her reflections on these city guides are repeated later when the narrator complains that: “they miss the visual and sensory experience, whoever travels around the city … regardless of the daily routes taken, the routes and uses that make the city an inhabited, living space.”14 Her relationship with Lavapiés becomes very personal, and consequently the district comes alive for her. This personification of a space is observed on numerous occasions, such as when she is about to return to Cuba and recognises that the only thing she will miss is its narrow streets because they remind her of Old Havana. Perhaps due to this association made between Lavapiés and her hometown, the protagonist becomes more emotionally identified with this district of Madrid. This connection can be observed in different ways that depict how the narrator integrates herself in the cosmopolitanism that characterises Lavapiés: “At first, I was scared of Arabs, drug addicts, drunkards. Not anymore.”15 During her process of adaptation, she always describes her neighbourhood as the perfect mixture of races and cultures. As Barañano et al. suggest, Lavapiés is a multicultural neighbourhood because of the


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coexistence of different national and ethnic groups in a common space as well as the cultural exchanges among their residents (115). Consequently, the novel centres on the interaction and dialogue with the Other, compelling the reader to rethink the connections in the existing relationship between Cuban immigrants and Spanish residents, and reinforcing Appadurai’s claim that we cannot understand our global system with the traditional distinction between centre and periphery (1996, 23). This notion of intercultural encounters is also analysed by Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism, when he suggests that cultures, histories, and literatures are interdependent among themselves: “all cultures are involved in one another; none is single and pure, all are hybrid, heterogeneous, extraordinarily differentiated, and unmonolithic” (1993, xxv). As a result, this heterogeneity contributes to the redefinition of national identities, which are progressively changing through their intercultural relations. Quoting Nair again, it is appropriate to claim that the contemporary Spanish resurgence of community “constructs a place for it not in a local or national imaginary, but in a shifting, unreliable transnational and global reality” (2004, 21).

Foreign Communities Claiming Their Own Space As mentioned above, once the narrator has been living in Madrid for two months, she starts configuring a sense of community with other outsiders who also share the common space of Lavapiés. Her loss of security promotes a search for alternative and tangible communities in the neighbourhood. This community makes her feel welcome and is fundamental in helping her adapt to the foreign city. Together, their lives intertwine while developing an intercultural space in the district. In this regard, Maldita danza criticises the implied Spanishness, the ethnocentric point of view, and the concurring myth of Madrid as a cultural centre, since the protagonist mainly interacts with an elderly Spanish man, an Arab woman, and other immigrants. This multicultural group pursues what Donna Gillespie names, “subcommunities as they are formed outside the dominant culture, and are shown to be single-, multi- or inter-cultural. These groups coalesce and function in the city, yet very seldom mix with the autochthonous population and therefore remain outside the hegemonic culture” (2014, 144). This space of intersection constitutes a bond among diverse communities, challenging the exclusionary discourse that emphasises the racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious incompatibility that has traditionally defined an ethnocentric Spanish view of the encounters with Others. Accordingly, Nair posits that the Spanish context, “is also

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exemplary of the impossibility of community as totality or cohesive unit” (2004, 21). Whereas her full inclusion into the social community is denied, her sense of belonging should be seen in the context of contemporary lifestyles. However, she distances herself not only from the Spaniards, but also from her fellow Cuban citizens. For example, the notes she takes on her 46 week are particularly appealing to the reader, since this is the only time during the novel in which five Cubans coincidentally meet in a bar. As can be expected, their first reaction is one of effusive cordiality, but this joy gradually transforms into a reinforcement of stereotypes that characterise their “cubaneo” and megalomania, concluding that: Cubans, I'm sure, will never be able to form a community in Spain … No, because we introduce each other and five minutes later we believe we know each other, and we demand that everyone be honest, not lie, recognize that he or she is here for the same reason as everyone else. And then the simple jokes begin, the contemptuous nuance of nostalgia, the ironic undertone of questions and the damn clichés. (159)16

As can be inferred from this quote, whereas other communities unite forces to forge a defined political empowerment, the narrator criticises the Cubans, who cannot escape their own stereotypes and therefore are unable to configure a real community. Furthermore, she even refuses to establish any type of contact with the only two Cubans who are studying musicology with her, because she considers them to be too Spanish. Hence, again, her negative reaction toward anything related to Spain, which makes this novel even more interesting since the foreigner is the one that shows open rejection of the autochthonous population. Bearing in mind her condition as an outsider, this character establishes contact with other foreigners, with whom she starts a community-building enterprise that allows her to become part of that neighbourhood. It could be asserted that the text articulates the conceptualisation of space defined by Doreen Massey as the sphere “of the potential forging of new relations,” which produces “new spaces, new identities, new relations and differences” (1998, 38). Indeed, while the narrator joins this alternative community of ethnic lovers and foreign friends, she begins to lose the sensation of non-belonging that permeates the pages of the novel. Accordingly, Julia Kristeva points out that the adaptability of our ability to live with others requires us to live as others, recognising our strangeness within and acknowledging our condition as foreigners (1991, 1). Yet, as I stated before, the community of Lavapiés only constitutes a temporal and superficial stage for the protagonist. Among other factors, there is some


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friction among her diverse group of friends. For example, on one occasion she invites everyone over to her house to eat and this meeting ends up being a disaster because, as she explains, “I tried to make the friends I had separately become friends with one another, and they ended up becoming permanent enemies.”17 As a result, when she decides to return to Havana after finishing her Master’s degree in musicology, she chooses to leave Lavapiés without saying goodbye to any of the few friends she had, which demonstrates the superficial relations that result from a global and fragmented citizenship. In fact, she goes back to Cuba without having established any strong ties with anyone in Spain during her two-year stay. It is noteworthy that the construction of her community identity poses both possibilities and contradictions, as it is constructed upon the fragmentations of time and space, the absence of a shared system of values, and the disembedding of people. Similarly, the mobility associated with contemporary communities is shown by Arjun Appadurai’s definition of ethnoscapes as, “the landscape of persons who constitute the shifting world in which we live: tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, guest workers and other moving groups and persons constitute the essential feature of the world, and appear to affect the politics of and between nations to a hitherto unprecedented degree” (1996, 297). What becomes clear from the above statement is that human motion prevents stable communities from forming. Given the ambivalences that result from this deterritorialisation, I wholly agree with Nair’s problematisation of the nation as a “definer of the limits of identity.” According to her, the nation is instead a powerful space that, “embraces hybrid encounters with alterity that exceed the national as routes of travel and engagement with the other. As a consequence, the concept of citizenship, formerly limited to the nation-state, now exceeds the latter and the imagined belonging that is inherent to it becomes equally applicable to cross- and supra-territorial, discursively invented communities” (2004, 15). In this sense, we could consider the main character of Maldita danza a citizen of the world who temporarily joins a community of other citizens. Nair also highlights the propensity for dispersal conveyed by this postnational concept of citizenship (Ibid., 17). Nevertheless, instead of a global subject, the protagonist of the novel seems to be more of a loner, a person lost in the city, someone who wanders its streets and merges with her neighbourhood. As de Certeau claims, “The moving about that the city multiplies and concentrates makes the city itself an immense social experience of lacking a place” (103). This condition of non-belonging and lacking a place is what alienates this character from the rest of the community, a point that will be developed in the following pages.

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Longing for Home Notwithstanding her apparent integration into Madrid, the narrator continues to maintain fond recollections of her neighbourhood La Timba in Havana, and thus her loneliness is often transmitted to the reader: “I have not spoken to anyone for three days.”18 This feeling of alienation becomes more explicit toward the end of the novel, when she shares her disenchantment and disillusionment, her broken dreams, her revulsion of Spanish men, and her demystification of Spain. As she explains, “I have gotten to know a world that ignores me, one that deep down does not want to get to know me. It would have been interested in me if I had reshaped my way of being.”19 Regarding this supposed cultural homogeneity, Stephen Castles and Alistair Davidson argue that, “Globalization, the increased mobility of people and the burgeoning of new forms of communication make myths of homogeneity unsustainable. Cultural diversity has become a feature of virtually all modern societies. Assimilation is no longer an option because of the rapidity and multidirectionality of mobility and communication” (2000, 127). With the intercontinental journey that the main protagonist experiences, Maldita Danza centres on the notion of space, movement, and return to an original place. This space of intersection between Lavapiés and Havana constitutes a bond among several communities, challenging the exclusionary discourse that emphasises the racial, ethnic, and cultural incompatibilities that have traditionally defined the encounters between Cuba and Spain. The novel depicts how identities are shaped by means of interrelations with one another and by mutually reconfiguring stable notions of national origins. In a world where the boundaries between centre and periphery are blurred, Madrid stops being considered the ideal metropolis, and the protagonist, after her brief incursion in an alternative community, defines herself as an outsider in both Cuba and Spain. Moreover, after living in the city for two years, she embarks in a journey of return to try to find her roots, where she thinks she may belong. However, this return demonstrates the impossibility of avoiding the stereotypes she was trying to evade, because as soon as she sets foot in Havana she has a sexual encounter with a Spaniard. In fact, Maldita danza has a circular structure in which the main character feels trapped in many ways and constantly complains about the preconceptions that shape her identity. Thus, the novel mirrors the wording found at the beginning: “the annoyance of being Mulatta, being young, being Cuban, and having returned to live in the same city as before.”20


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Final Remarks: Dissolving Communities In conclusion, alternative communities and sub-communities are powerful tools of agency and resistance against the dominant society and homogeneity. By integrating into a community, an individual finds ties and common goals with other people and no longer feels like a stranger. However, these communities are not permanent or stable, instead epitomising a temporal solution to one’s alienation, because, paraphrasing Kristeva, we can attest that strangeness is universal now (1991, 1). Although national boundaries have been blurred, if somebody feels like a foreigner regardless of where he or she lives, by joining a sub-community, this person can experience certain therapeutic effects, but the affiliation to this group will never eliminate the open injury of non-belonging, which is symptomatic of our times of disengagement. As Bauman rightly asserts, “‘community’ stands for the kind of world which is not, regrettably, available to us” (2001, 3). To sum up, we could argue that some alternative communities like the ones that appear in Maldita danza are not really successful, because on the one hand they help people navigate social spaces, but on the other they are incapable of completely healing the rootless sense of non-belonging that impregnates this global world.

Notes 1

I would like to acknowledge the help of Sara Finney, who proofread this chapter excellently. 2 With regard to this concept of national identity, Homi Bhabha’s asserts that, “the very concepts of homogeneous national cultures, the consensual or contiguous transmission of historical traditions, or ‘organic’ ethnic communities —as the grounds of cultural comparativism—are in a profound process of redefinition” (1994, 7). 3 Alexis Díaz Pimienta is one of Cuba’s foremost repentistas. He is a renowned novelist, poet, and essay writer. He has published 28 books, and won several international prizes for his work. He is not a Cuban exile, because he lives half the year in Spain and the other half in Cuba. 4 In his own words: “Community implies: (1) solidarity, in the sense of a feeling of togetherness, a feeling of collectivity and mutual attachments; (2) trust, as opposed to the secrecy and distance that characterized life in the social; and (3) autonomy, in that community involves the recognition of the value of the person as a social being” (2000, 118). 5 This cultural hybridity is what Bhabha considers to be the contemporary paradigm of our existence. Bhabha highlights the need to focus on the convergent “in-between” spaces that, “provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood—singular or communal—that initiate new signs of identity, and

Alternative Communities in Lavapiés


innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself” (1994, 2). 6 Echoing Bhabha’s statement, a stereotype is, “an arrested, fixated form of representation that, in denying the play of difference … constitutes a problem for the representation of the subject in significations of psychic and social realities” (1994, 75). 7 The original text states: “Ser mulata, ser joven, ser cubana y vivir en España es un fastidio … Todo está bien mientras, indefinida, te dejas arrastrar por la marea del eurocentrismo, del españolismo aséptico, del vedetismo insular y de los tópicos. Oh, los tópicos. Cuba es un trópico de tópicos. Y ahí estamos nosotras, las cimbreantes mujeres del Caribe, elevadas a la categoría inamovible de diosas del sexo y del baile” (11). 8 They add that these discourses are distributed among official texts, history, literature, and the media, thus circulating these ideological constructs throughout various levels of the receptor society. According to them, to tropicalise from a privileged, First World location is undoubtedly a hegemonic move (1997, 8). 9 The original text states: “No dejan de mirarme, de vacilarme. Supongo que es la piel, más que el cuerpo. Aquí hay mucho morbo con el chocolate” (95). 10 The original text states: “Cada conversación tendría salpicaduras de aquellos ismos que habrían de convertir su vida madrileña en un fastidio: el mulatismo, el socialismo, el castrismo, el jineterismo” (191). 11 The original text states: “Seré mulata pero no buena amante, seré musicóloga pero no bailadora, seré joven pero no jinetera, seré cubana pero no disidente, seré Licenciada en Musicología, pero no Catedrática en Tropicología” (178). 12 The original text states: “¿Qué sentido tiene para mí Lavapiés? Ninguno. Yo también ando y desando por el barrio, mirando rostros nuevos cada día, rostros sucios, tristes, extraños. Como los edificios: sucios, tristes, extraños” (26). 13 The original text states: “En ningún callejero aparecen referencias sentimentales, sensoriales. Como si sus lectores fuéramos de piedra como la ciudad, o de papel como los propios mapas” (27). 14 The original text states: “Desaprovechan la experiencia visual, sensorial, de quien se desplaza por la ciudad … sin tener en cuenta los recorridos diarios que uno hace, recorridos y usos que convierten a la ciudad en un espacio habitado, vivo” (56). The protagonist’s words echo Michel De Certeau, who also criticises the coldness of maps: “Surveys of routes miss what was: the act itself of passing by. The operation of walking, wandering, or ‘window shopping,’ that is, the activity of passers-by, is transformed into points that draw a totalizing and reversible line on the map.” (1984, 97). Likewise, Iain Chambers highlights the contradictions found on a city map: “It permits us to grasp an outline, a shape, some sort of location, but not the contexts, cultures, histories, languages, experiences, desires and hopes that course through the urban body” (1992, 188). 15 The original text states: “Al principio, me daban miedo los árabes, los yonquis, los borrachos. Ya no” (41). 16 The original text states: “Los cubanos, estoy segura, no lograremos nunca formar una comunidad en España … No, porque nos presentamos y a los cinco minutos ya creemos conocernos, y ya le estamos exigiendo al otro que sea sincero, que no


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mienta, que reconozca que está aquí por lo mismo que todos. Y vienen el chiste fácil, el tonillo desdeñoso de la nostalgia, el tonillo irónico de las preguntas y los jodidos tópicos” (159). “Cubaneo” is a popular term that refers to those customs, gestures, vocabulary, speech, and behaviour that characterise Cubans, such as “the informality, the humor, the exuberance, the docility” (Pérez-Firmat 4). 17 The original text states: “Traté de hacer amigos a los amigos que tenía por separado, y terminaron siendo enemigos para siempre” (239). 18 The original text states: “Llevo tres días sin hablar con nadie” (129). 19 The original text states: “He conocido un mundo que me ignora, al que en el fondo no le interesa conocerme. Le hubiera interesado si yo hubiese moldeado mi manera de ser” (249). 20 The original text states: “El fastidio de ser mulata, ser joven, ser cubana, y haber vuelto a vivir en la ciudad de siempre” (245).

References Books Aparicio, Frances, and Susana Chávez-Silverman (eds.). 1997. Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad. Hanover: University Press of New England. Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Barañano Cid, Margarita, et al. 2006. Globalización, inmigración transnacional y reestructuración de la región metropolitana de Madrid. Estudio del barrio de Embajadores. Madrid: Fundación Sindical de Estudios, Ediciones GPS. Bauman, Zygmunt. 2001. Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bhabha, Homi. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge. Brah, Avtar. 1996. Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. New York: Routledge. Castles, Stephen, and Alistair Davidson. 2000. Citizenship and Migration: Globalization and the Politics of Belonging. London: Macmillan. De Certeau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven F. Rendall. Los Angeles: University of California Press. Delanty, Gerard. 2000. Modernity and Postmodernity: Knowledge, Power and the Self. London: SAGE. Díaz-Pimienta, Alexis. 2002. Maldita danza. Barcelona: Alba. Gómez Peña, Guillermo. 1996. The New World Border: Prophecies, Poems and Loqueras for the End of the Century. San Francisco: City Lights.

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Kristeva, Julia. 1991. Strangers to Ourselves. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press. Massey, Doreen. 1999. Power-Geometries and the Politics of Space-Time: Hettner-Lecture 1998. Heidelberg: University of Heidelberg. Nair, Parvati. 2004. Configuring Community: Theories, Narratives, and Practices of Community Identities in Contemporary Spain. Leeds: Maney Publishing. Pratt, Mary Louise. 1992. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: Routledge. Said, Edward. 1993. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Alfred Knopf. Santaolalla, Isabel (ed.). 2000. “New” Exoticisms: Changing Patterns in the Construction of Otherness. Atlanta: Rodopi.

Chapters from edited collections Castillo Villanueva, Alicia. 2014. “Madrid as a Glocal Enclave in El otro lado: un acercamiento a Lavapiés by Basel Ramsis.” In Toward a Multicultural Configuration of Spain: Local Cities, Global Spaces, edited by Ana Corbalán and Ellen Mayock, 85–95. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP. Chambers, Iain. 1992. “Cities without Maps.” In Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change, edited by Jon Bird et al., 188–98. London: Routledge. Gillespie, Donna. 2014. “Spaces Occupied, Literal and Metaphorical, in Contemporary Spanish Fiction and Film: 1997–2011.” In Toward a Multicultural Configuration of Spain: Local Cities, Global Spaces, edited by Ana Corbalán and Ellen Mayock, 139–52. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Shapiro, Ron. 2000. “In Defense of Exoticism: Rescuing the Literary Imagination.” In “New”Exoticisms: Changing Patterns in the construction of Otherness, edited by Isabel Santaolalla, 41–9. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Song, Rosi H. 2008. “Migration, Gender, and Desire in Contemporary Spanish Cinema.” In Border Interrogations: Questioning Spanish Frontiers, edited by Benita Sampedro and Simon Doubleday, 42–64. New York: Berghahn Books.

Journal articles Mica Nava. 2002. “Cosmopolitan Modernity: Everyday Imaginaries and the Register of Difference.” Theory Culture Society 19 (1–2): 81–91.


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Uxó, Carlos. 2011. “Negras y mulatas en el siglo XXI: Una visión racializada del género en novelas cubanas.” Revista Brasileira do Caribe XII 23: 117–40.

Websites Pérez-Firmat, Gustavo. 1997. “A Willingness of the Heart: Cubanidad, Cubaneo, Cubanía.” Cuban Studies Association Occasional Papers. Paper 8, 1997. December 2015. /csa/8.



May 31, 1906. An avid crowd is witness to the pomp of King Alfonso XIII of Bourbon and Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg’s wedding procession, which wends its way through the streets of Madrid. As the procession approaches 88 Calle Mayor, Mateu Morral peeks out from the third floor of a rooming house. The anarchist throws a device, a homemade inversion bomb, popularised under the name of the “Orsini bomb,” which causes the deaths of 20 soldiers and civilians. The royal couple survives the attack. Also miraculously saved is a young American who is on his first solo trip to Europe, having just completed his studies in Spanish at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been working in the National Library and the Royal Library of Madrid on his thesis on the role of humour in the plays of Lope de Vega. This young man immediately flees to Paris because, in the face of confusing initial reports, “anarchist suspects and uncatalogued foreigners began to be confused in the eyes of the law” (Pound 1906, 91). This young man is Ezra Pound. Morral’s failed attempt at regicide had significant repercussions both politically and literarily. The anecdote related by Pound is proof of the important national and international impact of an event that is inscribed in the logic of revolutionary violence at the turn of the century. In this paper, I outline the relationship of the Catalan anarchist Mateu Morral with the “sociability network” of Madrid in that era. Morral configures his “anarchist” device, which appears in various cultural artifacts of the intellectual field at the turn of the century, in particular those of the movement popularised as the “Generation of ’98.”2 Morral participated in the emerging institutions of the most popular cafes and tertulias, whose communities

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


were profoundly affected by the events that occurred on the occasion of the King’s wedding. My argument is divided into two phases. First, I point out the politicisation of contemporary Spain and situate the libertarian movement and the figure of Mateu Morral within that milieu, in a historical cartography of 1906. Miguel de Unamuno, Azorín (José Martínez Ruiz), Ramón del Valle-Inclán and Pío Baroja himself participated in the libertarian ideology. I consider that Morral was part of an ephemeral community composed of a circle of contemporary intellectuals and writers, who after the assassination attempt distanced themselves from the common desire to destabilise state structures. This reflection is crossed by three historical moments: the adoption of the Law of Jurisdictions, the attack against the King during the celebration of his wedding, and Morral’s funeral a few days later. In the second phase of my investigation, I analyse the novel La dama errante [The Wandering Lady] (1908) by Pío Baroja, which was inspired by the events of 1906. This novel offers insights into Morral’s impact on this ephemeral community of fin-de-siècle intellectuals, while also reflecting Baroja’s progressive alienation from the anarchist ideology. The fin-de-siècle community of intellectuals is configured on the basis of an alternative institutional framework based on fleeting encounters that create a network of sociability, in which: the main venues were cafes, editorial offices, artists’ workshops, and sometimes offices. There were tertulias, cafe conversation clubs that showcased odd types who came one after another: writers, journalists, adventurers, policemen, army priests, comedians, anarchists; all the most baroque members of Madrid made an appearance at them. (Baroja 1954, 65–6)3

Such meetings encouraged and underpinned the formation of an “ephemeral community.” This ephemeral community should not be understood as an object of philosophical-political discourse, as a certain kind of subjectivity, as an identifiable body or as a property, as has been commonly assumed, but rather as an, “alternative type of encounter between subjects, an organization of their interactions and shared feelings” (Castañeda 2015, 15).4 This idea of ephemeral community exists because of its transitory nature, its spontaneity and experience, its configuration as a network of sociability. That is, these communities are not “permanent social groups with institutionalized structures,” because “institutionalization involves persistence and repetition, while the community … is always a unique and transient experience” (Turner 1988, 142).5 Turner describes this contingent idea of community experience based on three phases or types of configuration of


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“communitas.” “Spontaneous community” describes a first stage marked by a reluctance for standards and utopian impulses, while at the same time prioritising its liminal character of spontaneity and immediacy (138). On the other hand, Roberto Esposito links the idea of community and violence through the opposition of “immunitas” and “communitas.” For Esposito, the “communitas” is that intersubjective connection that unites people through “a duty” (Esposito 2003, 30). Faced with this communitas, the immunising project of modernity, within which we can locate fin-desiècle tensions, is based on the individual’s violent release of all debt to the community. According to Esposito, modern individuality is born and configured through the elimination of all reciprocity. On the contrary, then, the community takes shape, not as a “principle of identification,” a fulfilment, or territory, but as “a radical impropriety that coincides with an absolute contingency” (Ibid., 31).6 Undoubtedly, this community belongs to a specific intellectual “field” that is replicated in works of art (in this case La dama errante), and in which each social agent takes a position, even the author Pío Baroja. We therefore consider the work of art, particularly the literary work, as, “a manifestation of the field, in which all the powers of the field are deposited” (Bourdieu 1990, 11). 7 In this sense, Pierre Bourdieu places the emergence of the intellectual field in the late nineteenth century, because “it is the condition for the emergence of the autonomous intellectual” (1978, 139).8 Therefore, the ephemeral community as I understand it is related to this ductile community configuration based on the contingency of a spontaneous and immediate meeting of subjects, a brief intersubjective connection based on the physical interaction, and a certain degree of sociability that took place in the intellectual field between writers and intellectuals in 1906. For this approach and to understand the “extraordinary impression” that Morral makes on the community of writers of the era, we must understand the duality he represented (Baroja 1945, 337). First, Morral’s attack on the King was part of the cycle of attacks that attempted to subvert state structures in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. Secondly, Morral participated in the pedagogical movement of Catalan anarchism. In this sense, in the Catalan context state tensions arose between the emerging Catalan movement and the military regime. These tensions fed the problems of the time regarding anarchy and “Spain,” and both writers and intellectuals had to choose a position.9 In the final decade of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, the international scene was marked by the successive actions of the anarchist movement through the doctrine of “propaganda by deed.” For Ángel Herrerín López, Spain represented a special case in the last dec-

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


ade of the nineteenth century, mainly because of the lengthening of the cycle of violence motivated by “political and socioeconomic issues, and especially questions of repression” (2011, 81).10 The constant labour mobilisations throughout Spain, often answered with repressive measures by the authorities, resulted, given the failure of the expectations of claims against the state, in a logical escalation of violence. This escalation graduated from occupations or strikes to new kinds of attacks. Starting in 1893, the cycle of actions related to anarchism focused on Barcelona, where the industrial infrastructure had facilitated favourable outcomes for workers from the various social movements. In the same year, Paulí Pallàs threw two Orsini bombs in his attempt to kill Field Marshall Martínez Campos. Exactly one month after Pallàs’s execution, Salvador Franch attacked “the representation of the bourgeoisie” in the Liceo Theater, and killed 20 people (Termes 2011, 151). In response to this attack, the state passed the Anti-anarchist Act of 1894 in an attempt to close the gap in the criminal code of 1870. While this law was very similar to those enacted in Europe, as Herrerín López argues, “the State's actions in European countries were completely legal,” while the legal proceedings in the Spanish state were characterised by irregularities in the form of torture of detainees or unjustified applications of military jurisdiction (2011, 110). In 1896 there occurred another violent attack “commonly called anarchist,” in Unamuno’s words, against the Corpus Christi procession in Barcelona, in which a dozen people were killed. The subsequent course of judicial repression, known as the Montjuïc Trials, whose sentences were based on evidence obtained through torture, claimed to be an orchestrated crackdown against Barcelona’s proletarian anarchism. During this period, they arrested more than four-hundred people, executing five of them, while others were given disproportionate sentences and finally banished. Rafael Pérez de la Dehesa has studied the opinions of the Spanish writers, including Unamuno, regarding this “shameful period of the Montjuich atrocities” (Unamuno 2007, 836).11 Unamuno wrote a letter to Prime Minister Cánovas del Castillo to intercede on behalf of Pere Coromines, one of the detainees, asking that he not fall into the, “natural desire to serve a public opinion that, as justly alarmed as it is greatly misled, asks that some intellectual go down” (Pérez de la Dehesa 1970, 688). 12 A year later, Michele Angiolillo assassinated the Prime Minister. This attack would be the last until 1903. In 1905, two attempts were made against Alfonso XIII in Paris, and both, as with Morral’s attempt, were unsuccessful. The anarchist-inspired violence did not discredit the many other anarchist-inspired projects, since anarchism is not only characterised by direct action and violent tactics. On the contrary, much of the anarchist discourse


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highlights the importance of educating the proletariat regarding civil disobedience, denial of authority, and general opposition to the conventional practices of bourgeois society (Avilés and López Herrerín 2008, 103). Into this opposition to the state, capitalism, and the Church were incorporated quotidian practices of resistance, such as refusing to serve in the military, non-payment of rent, civil unions, and alternative rituals for celebrating births and deaths. In 1903, Morral was a Catalan teacher, translator, and librarian from a petty bourgeois family from Sabadell, who worked at Francesc Ferrer i Guardia’s Modern School. Ferrer i Guardia’s educational project, inscribed in the anarchist tradition, was based on a rationalist education and was characterised by the centrality of natural reason, secularism, and antiauthoritarianism, and was linked to neo-Malthusianism. The coeducation of sexes and social classes was prioritised, along with the game against exams that “don’t prove anything, and if they do, it is generally harmful” (Ferrer i Guardia 1960, 64).13 Neo-Malthusianism was a “protoecologist, anticapitalist and feminist movement of the first order” that advocated “limiting births among the working class” by using contraception to promote a woman’s right to decide. It also opposed forced emigration and militarism. This movement was introduced in Spain by Morral, Pedro Vallina, and Ferrer i Guardia (Masjuan 2002, 64–6). The years 1905 and 1906 saw particular upheaval in the political landscape in both Madrid and Barcelona. Pedro Laín Entralgo notes the agitation of the “intellectual world” in the year 1906 for various reasons: five successive governments, the growing Catalan and Basque nationalism against Spanish nationalism, Morral’s attempt against the King, the Jurisdiction Act, labour unrest, and the military assault on the editorial office of Cu-cut (1987). A few months before the attack in that same year, the Jurisdiction Act was drafted by the new liberal government of Segismundo Moret and was finally put to a vote on March 23, 1906. This law endowed the army with the ability to judge any insult, oral or written, against national unity, the flag, the country, or the army, an issue that especially stirred up Catalan society. This law, passed by Alfonso XIII, was a response to the growing Catalanist movement. In November 1905, in the euphoria of the Lliga party over its victory in the municipal elections, the army had raided the editorial offices of the Catalan magazine Cu-Cut and the newspaper Veu de Catalunya and had ended up, “with an expanded jurisdiction over offenses against it [the army], a significant increase in its strength in the State” (Romero Maura 2000, 141).14 In this sense, the Jurisdiction Act of 1906 is another element to understanding the context surrounding Morral and

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


growing state pressure. The law increased the pressure on nationalist sectors of Catalan society and ceded conflict resolution to military authorities. In the words of Santos Juliá, “with that law, the militarization of public order had taken a giant step” (2003, 31).15 As we shall see, Baroja deals with the national question of the so-called “problem of Spain” and antimilitarism in La dama errante. This law provoked a significant response from intellectuals, who called on figures like Unamuno to voice that response. Unamuno is one of the most prominent critics against the Law and wrote a number of pieces between 1905 and 1906, including “The Current Crisis of Spanish Patriotism,” “The Country and the Army,” and “More on the Crisis of Patriotism.” In these texts he goes into detail on his idea of antimilitarism and the subordination of the military to civilian authority, as well as the defence of “freedom of conscience” (880), because, says Edward Inman Fox, the Jurisdiction Act placed any crime against the Fatherland under military jurisdiction (1989, 102). At the urging of Junoy and Azorín, Unamuno organised a conference to protest the law in the Zarzuela Theater. This conference was held on February 23 with many attendees, such as Benito Pérez Galdós, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Julio Camba, Manuel and Antonio Machado, Ramón Gómez de la Serna, José Ortega y Gasset, and Ricardo and Pío Baroja. This community—this “ghost generation” of ’98, as Ortega y Gassett (1969, 227) referred to it at the first appearance of the controversial term—was mobilised. The journalist Fernando Soldevilla, in his book El año político 1906 [The Political Year 1906], described the most important events of the year and emphasised the expectation that this conference raised. Even the Minister of War, General Luque, sent two chiefs of staff and two stenographers, “in case, which I do not expect, Mr. Unamuno should utter sentences or concepts punishable by law” (Soldevilla 1907, 107).16 However, far from starting a revolt among the attendees, Unamuno's speech was disappointing in its restraint. This act would remain in force until the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931. The social protests, the cycle of insurrectionary violence in which the Morral episode was key, and the Jurisdiction Act dominated Spanish public life. The communities and networks that formed in the intellectual field in the Spanish State arose from these events in 1906. Morral and Baroja both moved in this same society in turmoil to which Unamuno sought to respond with his texts and lectures. Based on the strong impression these events made, and on his reflections on the idea of Spain and anarchism, Baroja wrote La dama errante (1908). This novel allows Baroja to achieve two purposes: to problematise the situation of “old Spain [that is] collapsing” (1908, 80), and position and “immunise” himself with respect to the


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libertarian movement, and Morral in particular. Throughout the novel, the author offers his personal vision of Spain and Spaniards and his position against the anarchism “in action” professed by various theorists like Errico Malatesta, whom he met in London, as he noted in his memoirs, and Pyotr Kropotkin (Baroja 1945, 296). The signifiers “Spain” and “anarchism” become, if we look at the anxieties of the fin-de-siècle literary field, signifiers of the sociopolitical situation that enabled Baroja to problematise the Spain of the early twentieth century in particular. Such tensions and anxieties, heightened by episodes like the Jurisdiction Act, and which are manifested in the characters in the novel, are a reaction to the ideological dissent within the intellectual field that tries to encapsulate the constant problems of the Spanish Volksgeist. This anxiety also responds to national tensions that Baroja, through Iturrioz, one of the characters in the novel, seems to reduce to questions of race. La dama errante (1908) is the first in a trilogy entitled La Raza [The Race]; the other two novels are La ciudad de la niebla [The City of Fog] and El árbol de la ciencia [The Tree of Knowledge], published between 1908 and 1911. The story is projected, as Baroja himself points out, over the events that surrounded the attack on Calle Mayor during the royal wedding and the subsequent escape of a young Catalan anarchist. In the preface to the trilogy, Baroja elaborates on the meaning of his trilogy, and in particular sets the novel La dama errante in the contemporary historical context. Throughout the prologue, he highlights the documentary value of the novel, its “ephemeral” (1914, xiv) and “rather more psychological than documentary” nature (1914, v).17 Baroja asserts: La dama errante is inspired by the assassination attempt on Calle Mayor against the king and queen of Spain. This attack caused a huge sensation. On me [the impact] was enormous, because I knew several of those who participated in it. Mateo Morral, the instigator of the attack, used to go to a cafe on Alcala Street, where several of us writers got together … I don’t think I ever talked to Morral. The man was dark and silent; he was part of the circle of listeners who, for years, held the tables of the cafes where the 18 literati chatted. (1914, xi)

From this paragraph on, Baroja articulates the idea of the ephemeral community. This “circle of listeners” already denotes the communitary and ephemeral nature of the meeting. Morral is described as “dark and silent,” and Baroja immunises himself: “I don’t think I ever talked to Morral.” Through these two gestures the writer creates a distance, although he does confirm the existence of this community. And he later adds that the events weighed on him greatly because, “he knew several of those involved in it.”

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


He confirms these meetings again in writing his memoirs, in which he recounts his impression of Morral and the attack, while he accuses Nicolas Estévanez of collaborating in the attempted regicide (1945, 338). To Estévanez, former minister and soldier of republican and revolutionary militaries, are attributed the, “first attempts at a theoretical negotiation of the republican insurrectional pathos and the ‘propaganda of the deed’ anarchist” (González Calleja 1998, 356).19 In the book of interviews attributed to Morral himself, Pensamientos revolucionarios de Nicolás Estévanez, ex-ministro, Brigadier del Ejército Español (1978) [Revolutionary Thoughts of Nicolás Estévanez], the young Catalan makes known a series of interviews originally carried out and written in 1906. In this text based on a sequence of encounters between the military man and the young anarchist, Morral maintains an ironic distance from the interviewee, and intersperses brief notes about the figure, a “crackpot,” and the thinking of the interviewee, marked by his military and revolutionary radicalism and his flirting with anarchism (Morral 1978, 35). With a foreword by Joan Montseny (signed with his pseudonym Federico Urales), the main themes of Morral’s questions are the situation of Spain and its relationship with Catalonia, and its violent revolutionary and insurrectionary response in a clear precedent of the strategies and repertoires of the urban guerrilla. These questions focus on the “Catalanist dissidence” (Ibid., 27), or the event in February 1906 in Paris when he asked about the events of the CuCut, and the “issue of jurisdictions”: “But Estévanez, my friend, does it seem right to you, in the military, to brutally beat up unarmed journalists?” Estévanez responds, “No, it doesn’t; but it seems logical, inevitable and useful” (21). These interviews were promoted by the, “Ferrer Guardia friend [who] gave me a letter of recommendation” (11).20

The emergence of the theme of anarchism and the figure of Morral is not strange to the community of intellectuals. Inman Fox shows, through a look at some periodicals, that: anarchism, in its various forms, attracted more than a few intellectuals, and by the 1890s anarchist terrorism as we know it had become a social and political factor throughout Spain. The ideological evolution of most of the then-young writers has tended, until recently, to be avoided or ignored in the comments on the juvenile ideas of some of them, such as Unamuno, Azorín, Baroja, Maeztu. (1988, 28)21

In La dama errante, Baroja proposes a story of acceptance of an ephemeral anarchist community, which he mocks and to which he belongs. The


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contingency and spontaneity of this other community is characterised because, “they are men of coffee, of street, of open forum” (Villacorta 2001, 479), for whom coffee, as Ricardo Baroja maintains, “was the working cabinet of the writers” (1952, 17).22 In 1935 Ricardo Baroja, in a series of articles entitled “Gente del 98” written for Diario de Madrid, runs through different personages of contemporary society. In it he acknowledges chance encounters with Morral, with whom he interacts: “we greeted each other with a slight nod” (Aguiar 1999, 107).23 Morral, as both brothers indicate, “used to go to the brewery on Alcalá Street where several of us writers met back then,” including Azorín, Gómez de la Serna, the Baroja brothers, and Valle-Inclán (Baroja 1945, 337).24 Ricardo Baroja describes the Catalan anarchist as having a, “swarthy face, bright eyes, [and a] thin mustache” (Aguiar 1999, 107).25 It is not only the intellectual community who shares cafes, or territories; they are also traversed by the anarchist politics in which they participate through publications of a libertarian bent such, as the newspapers El Rebelde in Madrid and Revista Blanca in Barcelona. After Morral’s attack, sympathy among the community of intellectuals decreased at the same time the libertarian movement increased the intensity of the attacks. However, Valle-Inclán describes Morral as a hero figure in a process of mythification parallel to his own ideological about-face. The Galician author offers two later examples: the poem “Rosa de llamas” which gives an account of Morral’s escape, and the self-same reference to an anarchist named Mateo in Luces de Bohemia [Bohemian Lights] (Monge 2007). In Ricardo Baroja’s 1924 novel El pedigree, Valle-Inclán writes in his preface: “peer to peer, we are voyeurs to royal weddings and executions. Mateo Morral, fleeting to the end, was at our tertulia that last night. We met him together, and together we went to see him dead” (1998, 450–1).26 Ricardo Baroja also remembered the burial when he wrote the portrait of the young Catalan anarchist in “Gente del 98,” just as Pío did in the preface of La dama errante in 1914. That air of detachment he exhibits towards the Catalan anarchist is feigned, since he confesses that he went to the Buen Suceso Hospital as an admirer or simply out of curiosity, but was not allowed to enter. He says his brother was able to approach the body and even made a drawing and an etching. What Baroja highlights in the prologue, and seems to feed the same egomania of which he accuses Morral, is that there was a, “military doctor on duty to control access, and I saw him reading a novel of mine, Aurora Roja, [which was] also about anarchists” (1914, xii).27 The theme of anarchism appears somewhat earlier in Baroja’s works. In the previous trilogy Lucha por la vida [The Struggle for Life] (1904),

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


with the titles La busca [The Quest], Mala hierba [Weeds], and Aurora roja [Red Dawn], Baroja addresses the “detritus of civilization.” Particularly in Aurora roja, anarchism is found at the very centre of Madrid society. In fact, from the first novel of the trilogy, La busca, to the last, Aurora roja, a shift seems to occur from the depoliticised mentality of the marginal lumpenproletariat in the first book, passive and indifferent to any kind of social recognition, to the labourers in the last who debate anarchist and socialist positions and weigh the merits of the violent actions of the “propaganda of the deed.” There is no doubt that, early on, Baroja is acting as an intellectual to “influence the cultural course of the country” and “change the political and social system in Spain” (Inman Fox 1988, 18).28 In its first part, La dama errante presents the peaceful life of Doctor Aracil, an anarchist dilettante in the cafes of Madrid who likes to discuss politics in particular. He is fond of surprising his companions at the Café Suizo, in Alcala Street, “where he brings his singing voice” to feed his “fundamental egotism” (1914, 24). The narrator describes the character of Doctor Aracil as benevolent, and through his actions we perceive a natural innocence. The cafes serve him as a, “testing ground; he tossed out his ideas there and saw them come and go” (29), which help him to develop more deeply his “not very original”—according to the narrator—ideas.29 In the plot of the play, Aracil professes some sympathy for the Catalan anarchist Nilo Brull.30 After Brull’s attack, he hides in the doctor’s house. The story of Morral’s escape coincides roughly with that of Brull. In his escape from the scene of the bombing, Morral seeks shelter for a few hours in the editorial office of El Motín of the anarchist sympathiser José Nakens, who will later be brought to trial. In the novel, Brull seeks refuge in the home of Aracil, who for his complicity will be forced to flee with his daughter to England. The novel takes us through the open landscape of Madrid, which is contrasted with the “inaccessible” Madrid (Litvak 1980, 91) that appeared in La lucha por la vida. The pace of La dama errante seems to have a turning point in the episode “Anarchism and rhetoric.” This chapter’s narrative pace is accelerated when Doctor Aracil gives a presentation entitled “Anarchism as a system of social criticism,” in which he sets out his ideas, punctuated by comments and judgments from the subjective narrator: Aracil was an anarchist, but a rhetorical anarchist, an anarchist in manner; he did not have that apostolic tendency, that enthusiasm for the new life that some Russian and Scandinavian writers have incarnated so well. His anarchism was essentially antiformulaic; he was outraged by the absurdity of the sanctioned formulas; but on the other hand, he was not hurt by a 31 great absurd scientist or a great moral aberration. (28)


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As we see, the narrator emphasises Aracil’s commitment, but only at a rhetorical or theoretical level. The narrator distorts his platonic commitment, and treats him kindly for not participating in the violence, unlike Brull. This ideological difference, which Baroja promotes and endorses, derives from his belief in the natural goodness of people, which delegitimises the use of violence. Our Basque author elaborates on this by calling anarchism a purely literary phenomenon. Baroja had already anticipated this analogy between the literary and the anarchic when some of the characters of Aurora roja shouted, “Long live anarchy! Long live literature!” (277), and a little later when another character asks, “Is anarchy a literary thing?” (278). The narrator mocks this rather literary anarchism, which allows absurd scientific and moral aberrations, but censures sanctioned formulas. The narrator reduces anarchism to “capricious ways with none of the value of utopian socialism” (54).32 Baroja used Brull, Morral’s counterpart, to theoretically criticise libertarian thought and thus problematise the dominant ideology of the work. The narrator establishes an ideological triangle of characters: the protagonist Aracil is a rhetorical anarchist; Brull a practical anarchist; and Iturrioz, Baroja’s alter ego, believes in socialism, “as a critical system for the transmutation of economic values, and anarchism as a critical system for the transformation of moral and religious values” (62).33 With this triangle, Baroja replicates the ephemeral community of the intellectual field at the turn of the century. This intersubjective connection is defined by the dominant ideologies. The conversations between Iturrioz and Aracil serve as a counterpoint and take on an expository tone regarding the public life of cafes and tertulias. Baroja performs an operation that will become common in his poetics, as the author also uses the conversations of Iturrioz with Andres Hurtado in El árbol de la ciencia (1912), to address the problems of the nation. In La dama errante, in the chapters entitled “Anarchism and Rhetoric” and “The End of Romantic Society,” the narrator continues this expository, dialogic, and conversational tone that seems to approximate Baroja’s own thoughts. In the former chapter, the memoir “Anarchism as a system of social criticism” is brought into play; this is the talk that Aracil plans to give at the Ateneo and which he comments on in a prior dialogue with Iturrioz. The contradictions of anarchism are then exposed. Iturrioz considers that, “anarchy is nonsense, a ridiculous and humanitarian utopia, unworthy of a researcher” (66), despite the fact that, “anarchy, or something almost like a stateless society, may come someday, and may come from the culture of democracy and from weakness” (56).34 That is, for Iturrioz, and it seems also for Baroja, anarchy is an alternative for the future, although it is not feasible in the contemporary so-

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


ciety of 1906. From Baroja’s perspective, Spanish life “is like a mummy wrapped in bandages, or, perhaps better, like one of those figures in an orthopedic showcase, lame, maimed, covered in splints, bandages and equipment” (57).35 Thus, the author reinforces pessimism about the idea of Spain, in the face of the decline of nation states in which the Jurisdiction Act further exacerbate tensions. On the other hand, in the same novel Baroja elaborates on individualism and its relationship with patriotism. Baroja’s narrator says, “Here there are only three things: a false, bureaucratic patriotism for Madrid; a tacky regionalism; a disgusting provincialism, and then the natural barbarism of the race. This is what it means to be Spanish” (59).36 If, for our author, “Spain as a nation is in danger” (62), Iturrioz, Baroja’s supposed counterpart, offers his own eclectic solution. But this theoretical form of anarchist tension reaches its turning point after the bombing. We come to the crucial question of this dialogue, in which Aracil and Iturrioz repudiate the, “propaganda of the deed.” Aracil asks, “What would you say of active anarchism, of anarchism with dynamite?” And Iturrioz responds, “I would say it has shaken anarchism. Just the idea destroys; just the idea creates. The bomb as revenge, it seems absurd, and as a means of protest, too … But killing a few people is horrible” (63).37 Aracil says, “Sometimes those attacks have an air of exemplarity,” and even, “Someone who uses dynamite seems like an artist” (62), with which Aracil again extols, perhaps rhetorically, anarchism as a form of literature or art.38 Baroja’s “anarchism in slippers,” as Ricardo Gullón described it (1969, 10), is characterised by an aesthetic and moral distance from the anarchist movement, mainly in its violent version. The next step is the peripatetic introduction of the anarchist characters as “the dangerous frauds.” Although the portrait of Brull is profoundly negative, Baroja’s ambiguity was already evidenced in one of his first statements on Morral. In an article in El Mundo published on November 17, 1908 entitled “La juventud ante el Bloque. Mi opinión,” Baroja writes: Spain today is a dark, stinking room; but poor young people in every corner of Spain want to escape the misery and since they cannot, from time to time they give way to desperation. That is where Mateo Morral is; mad, sick, angry but young, the only young man who has been in Spain for a long time. (Gil Bera 2001, 206).39

If Spain is “a stinking room” and the gesture of desperation on the part of Spanish youth is Morral’s action, Baroja sides with the Catalan anarchist. Yes, like Brull in La dama errante, Morral is “mad, sick and furious,” but is he not redeemed by his youth? Morral, as ideologeme, as signifier, is


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articulated as the “only young man” in a dark Spain, a Spain that is being destroyed. In the prologue, Baroja admits to being the result of a strange mix of dynamism and turbulence, and “a fanatic enemy of the past, therefore, an antihistorical, antirhetorical and antitraditionalist type” (1914, vii).40 This seems to contradict what I said above about the meaning of “documentary” in this work. Throughout this “self-analysis” in the preface, Baroja notes that the Spanish past is particularly “dark” and “not very human” (x). For him, the subject of his novels is “present-day Spanish life,” and every reader “will notice that almost all the important events of the past fifteen or twenty years appear in my novels” (xi).41 The structure of the novel seems divided between the attack, which we do not see, and when Nilo Brull comes to Aracil for help in Aracil’s story. This event divides the novel into two parts. The first part is characterised by the introduction of the main characters (Doctor Aracil and María) and a series of secondary characters (such as Cousin Venancio and Nilo Brull), as well as giving the narrator the opportunity to expound on the political aspect of the work through his expository tone in the narrative. In the realm of politics, we must not overlook Brull’s real-life counterpart, Mateu Morral, “or all the Catalan anarchists arrived in Madrid,” according to Baroja in the prologue of 1914 (xii). Baroja also seems to allude to José Nakens, Aracil’s real-life counterpart, and Francesc Ferrer i Guardia: The character of Nilo Brull, who appears in La dama errante, is not the counterpart of Morral, with whom I had nothing to do. This Brull is like a synthesis of [all] the anarchists who came from Barcelona to Madrid after the Montjuïc trials, and had somewhat similar characteristics of arrogance, 42 rebellion and bitterness. (xii)

In Baroja’s eyes, Brull is a trope of different subjects, of the anarchists who arrived after the Montjuïc trials, as I explained above, not as a transfiguration of Morral. However, because of the similarities between the novel’s plot and the real-life events, he seems to contradict himself. Brull, like Morral, was to some extent an ideologue of anarchism who had moved to Madrid to carry out the attack. In the days preceding the attack, Brull frequents the cultural circles of the city, as did Morral. According to the descriptions, Brull’s physical appearance is presented as, “a young man of twenty-three or twenty-four, medium height, dark with high cheekbones” (68), again like Morral. 43 He commits an assassination attempt against the King and Queen and kills significant numbers of people, yet again like Morral. He began his escape by taking refuge in the home of a known anarchist sympathiser, as Morral did with José Nakens. After a

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


few days, Brull committed suicide, like Morral. Perhaps, in the psychological character description, Baroja has incorporated more elements related to the group of Catalan anarchists in general, but there is no doubt that the main source of the trope, the ideologeme that is Brull, is Mateu Morral. Then Baroja again gives us more clues to follow the organic relationship of the characters, because he says, “in the rest of the book, almost everything is based on reality” (1914, xii).44 The construction of the actual person of Morral is mediated by the narrative process of La dama errante and proposes a reading of the character through a psychological description that is egocentric, paranoid, and bordering on parody. But other counter-figures appear that also point to reallife people, like the pedagogue Ferrer i Guardia. The Catalan educator’s counterpart, as Juan Aviles says, and Baroja seems to suggest in the 1914 preface, could be the briefly appearing character named Suñer. Baroja describes him thus: “Mr. Suñer, a man of about fifty, of apostolic figure, thought himself a lynx but was a mole. He wanted to make libertarian propaganda and all who heard him forever repudiated anarchism” (1908, 75).45 The character description leaves no doubt as to the narrator’s opinion, and to some extent is logical, as Ferrer i Guardia has been accused as the instigator of Morral’s attack. Throughout chapter five, entitled “Dangerous Frauds,” the narrator makes a number of references to this character as “vulgar,” a “bigwig of rationalism,” a “simpleton,” and “Kant from little Barcelona,” which shows, according to the narrator, how, “pedantry can go hand in hand with anarchism” (76).46 This correlation to Ferrer i Guardia increases with the reference, “as he was rich, the good man gave himself the great pleasure of publishing a small library” (75), referring to the Catalan educator’s Modern School project. 47 The character is introduced to Doctor Aracil by Brull, and they start talking, together with a Russian lady, “about direct action” (76). The librarian asks the doctor for a book on medical advice, although Suñer warns, “This does not make you one of us,” to which Aracil replied “I am.” They seal their deal, which the narrator highlights as, “solemn and theatrical, lacking only music” (77).48 Baroja is fully aware that the implied reader of his story will draw a series of parallels between the characters that populate the novel, and seeks to explain or cancel certain associations. Faced with riskier aesthetic proposals, Baroja tones down his rhetoric with a clear, concise, sometimes careless style, in which we as readers are permitted to infer his position, and with a taste for adventure, to entertain the reader. This is manifested through a tendency to introduce the characters through their actions rather than specific descriptions or judgments from the narrator. In this sense, La dama errante allows us to ensure the settings of life in the society of the


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time, the settings of the ephemeral, contingent community that is being formulated and arranged both in the cafes of Madrid and in the novels. Thus, in this double dimension emphasised by La dama errante, Baroja encodes tensions and political conflict in his own community of intellectuals, which is crossed by innumerable characters who could be the ghost of Mateu Morral. Throughout these pages, I have tried to show the connections in the sociohistorical context of Mateu Morral and Pío Baroja, as well connecting them to an ephemeral community. I have also attempted to show these same coordinates in the novel La dama errante, which is seen as a response to the 1906 intellectual field. Morral’s presence, his influence, and ability to inspire ephemeral communities can still be felt today. He is like a recurring spectre in the fiction about the Spanish state. The construct Mateu Morral becomes a hero and a martyr, especially during the Second Spanish Republic, while at the same time consolidating the accounts that denounce state terrorism. He inspires an idea of inalienable anarchism as a trope, as an ideologeme, which increases this appropriation as a motif, corresponding to what Piglia called “state fiction,” a construct that binds themes, motives, and symptoms. On October 3, 2013, a handmade device exploded in Pilar Cathedral in Zaragoza with no casualties. An anarchist “comando” took credit for the attack through a communiqué. “These are no longer safe places,” warned the statement. “The Pilar is one of the most significant places of worship for those in power,” the statement further said, because of its “historical complicity with the capital-State” (Montañés 2013). 49 Following police investigations, Mónica Caballero and Francisco Solar were detained as suspects and accused of being part of a supposed terrorist organisation. After more than two years, the detainees remain in custody awaiting trial. The anarchist cell calls itself Comando Insurreccional Mateu Morral. As Baroja says, “Brull did not convince [anyone], but he did have an effect” (1914, 84).50

Notes 1 This work would not have been possible without the support of the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship from the University of Pennsylvania. Many thanks to the editors of this volume for their kindness and patience, to my professor Ignacio J. López and my classmates of the seminar “La novela modernista,” to Linda L. Grabner for the revision of this text, to the whole community of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and especially to Natalia. 2 The term and the concept “Generation of ’98” has been criticised almost from its first use by Azorín and Ortega y Gasset, and sometimes is more a totalising, essentialist construct based on a biological interpretation of history with regard to na-

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


tional identity rather than a historiographical category. This “group” was perceived and retrospectively formed from different perspectives and narratives, with different features and compositions. Among critics its relevance has been proposed (Salinas, Diaz Plaja, Shaw, Perez de la Dehesa, Blanco Aguinaga, etc.), and its invention problematised and denounced (by Gullón, Inman Fox, Ramos-Gascón, and Mainer, among others). 3 All translations, unless noted, are by the author. The original text states, “los principales puntos de reunión eran los cafés, las redacciones, los talleres de pintor y, a veces, las oficinas. Había tertulia de café que era un muestrario de tipos raros que se iban sucediendo: literatos, periodistas, aventureros, policías, curas de regimiento, cómicos, anarquistas; todo lo más barroco de madrid pasaba por ellas” (1954, 65–6). 4 The original text states, “tipo alternativo de encuentro entre sujetos, de organización de sus interacciones y afectos compartidos” (2015, 15). 5 The original text states, “persistencia implica institucionalización y repetición, mientras que la comunidad … es siempre una experiencia única y pasajera” (1988, 142). 6 The original text states, “una impropiedad radical que coincide con una absoluta contingencia” (2003, 31). 7 The original text states, “una manifestación del campo, en la que se hallan depositadas todas las potencias del campo” (1990, 11). 8 “es la condición para la aparición del intelectual autónomo” (1978, 139). 9 The study of anarchism in the early years of the century, of the figure of Mateu Morral, and of the libertarian movement in general has produced a vast bibliography. On the one hand we must highlight the book by historian José Álvarez Junco, La filosofía política del anarquismo español (1868–1910) [The Spanish Political Philosophy of Anarchism (1868–1910)] (1970), which analyses in detail anarchist thought, its philosophical bases, the idea of freedom, faith, morality, how criticism of the existing society is articulated, and in particular the violent actions of insurgents and the rationalist teaching of Ferrer i Guardia’s Modern School. Also worth mentioning is the more recent Cultura e ideología en el anarquismo español, 1870–1910 [Culture and Ideology in Spanish Anarchism, 1870–1910] (2002) by Manuel Morales. On the other hand, in the aesthetic sphere, Lili Litvak has authored the significant volume Musa libertaria: arte, literatura y vida cultural del anarquismo español 1880–1913 [Libertarian Muse: Art, Literature and Cultural Life of Spanish Anarchism 1880–1913] (1981) and La mirada roja: estética y arte del anarquismo español, 1880–1913 [The Red Look: Aesthetics and Art of Spanish Anarchism, 1880–1913] (1988), which addresses in depth the main aspects of the anarchist aesthetic and its influence on other cultural artifacts, such as the role of nature, the development of the capitalist character, the point view of the disinherited, and the incipient emergence of the militant proletariat. It also explores phenomena through different media such as the anarchist press of the time—both the stories and illustrations—and libertarian theatre. Florencio Rafael Nuñez wrote, among other things, El terrorismo anarquista, 1888–1909 [Anarchist Terrorism, 1888–1909] (1983), while Juan Aviles wrote El nacimiento del terrorismo en Occidente: anarquía, nihilismo y violencia revolucionaria [The Birth of


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Terrorism in the West: Anarchy, Nihilism and Revolutionary Violence] (2008). As for specific biographies of Mateu Morral, we have Eduard Masjuan’s Un héroe trágico del anarquismo español [A Tragic Hero of Spanish Anarchism] (2009) and Mateo Morral, el anarquista: causa por un regicidio [Mateo Morral, Anarchist: Cause for Regicide] (2001) by José Esteban. Contemporary with the failed regicide are both a biography by Rafael Salillas, Morral el anarquista [Morral the Anarchist] (1914), which clearly assumes the presumption of guilt of not only of Morral but of Ferrer i Guardia, and several volumes on the trial case, published a few years after the trial in 1911: Causa contra Mateo Morral, Francisco Ferrer, José Nakens, Pedro Mayoral, Aquilino Martínez, Isidro Ibarra, Bernardo Mata y Concepción Pérez Cuesta, 1906–1909: regicidio frustrado, 31 mayo 1906 [Case Against Mateo Morral, Francisco Ferrer, José Nakens, Pedro Mayoral, Aquilino Martinez, Isidro Ibarra, Bernardo Mata and Concepción Pérez Cuesta, 1906– 1909: Frustrated Regicide, May 31, 1906], which untangles the intricacies of the case and the various testimonies that led to the execution of Francesc Ferrer i Guardia. With respect to the particular case of anarchism and literature, and focusing on her relationship with Mateu Morral, we must highlight the work of Susana Sueiro, “El terrorismo anarquista en la literatura española” [“Anarchist Terrorism in Spanish Literature”] (2008), as well as Jesús M. Monge, “La rosa en llamas: Valle-Inclan and Mateo Morral in the journal Los aliados” (2007), and “Pío Baroja and Anarchism” by Juan Aviles (2011), which provides an analysis focused on Aurora roja (1905) and offers a seminal approach to La dama errante (1908). 10 The original text states, “cuestiones políticas, socioeconómicas, y, principalmente, de represión” (2011, 81). 11 The original text states, “vergonzoso periodo de las atrocidades de Montjuich” (2007, 836). 12 The original text states, “el natural deseo de servir a una opinión pública, que, tan justamente alarmada como grandemente extraviada, pide caiga algún intelectual” (688). 13 The original text states “no dan resultado alguno, y si lo producen es en el orden del mal” (1960, 64). 14 The original text states, “con una jurisdicción ampliada en los delitos contra él [el ejército], acrecimiento considerable de su fuerza en el Estado” (2000, 141). 15 The original text states, “la militarización del orden público había dado con esa ley un paso de gigante” (2003, 31). 16 The original text states, “por si, cosa que no espero, el Sr. Unamuno pronunciara frases ó conceptos castigados por la ley” (1907, 107). 17 The original text states, “más bien más bien psicológico y documental” (1914, v). 18 The original text states, “La dama errante está inspirada en el atentado de la calle Mayor, contra los reyes de España. Este atentado produjo una enorme sensación. En mí la hizo grande, porque conocía a varios de los que intervinieron en él. Mateo Morral, el autor del atentado, solía ir a un café de la calle de Alcalá, donde nos reuníamos varios escritores … Yo no creo que hablé nunca con Morral. El hombre era oscuro y silencioso; formaba parte del corro de oyentes que, todavía hace años, tenían las mesas de los cafés donde charlaban los literatos.”

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


19 The original text states, “primeras tentativas de concertación teórica del pathos insurreccional republicano y de la ‘propaganda por el hecho’ anarquista” (1998, 356). 20 The original text states, “Pero amigo Estévanez, ¿Le parece bien, en los militares, apalear brutalmente a inermes periodistas?” “No, no me parece bien; pero me parece lógico, inevitable y útil” (21), and “amigo Ferrer Guardia me dio para él una carta de recomendación” (11). 21 The original text states, “el anarquismo, en sus diversas formas, atrajo a no pocos intelectuales, y hacia la decada de 1890 el terrorismo anarquista como es sabido, había llegado a ser un factor social y político en toda España. De la evolución ideológica de la mayoría de los entonces jóvenes escritores, se ha tendido, hasta últimamente, a evitar o ignorar el comentario a las ideas juveniles de algunos de ellos como Unamuno, Azorín, Baroja, Maeztu” (1988, 28). 22 The original text states, “era gabinete de trabajo de los escritores” (1952, 17). 23 The original text states, “nos saludábamos con ligero movimiento de cabeza” (1999, 107). 24 The original text states, “solía ir a la cervecería de la calle de Alcalá donde nos reuníamos por entonces varios escritores” (1945, 337). 25 The original text states, “cara trigueña, ojos brillantes y fino bigotillo” (1999, 107). 26 The original text states, “par a par, hemos sido mirones en bodas reales y fusilamientos. Mateo Morral, pasajero hacia su fin, estuvo en nuestra tertulia la última noche. Le conocimos juntos, y juntos fuimos a verle muerto” (1998, 450–1). 27 The original text states, “médico militar que estaba de guardia a solicitar el paso, y le vio leyendo una novela mía, también de anarquistas, Aurora Roja” (1914, xii). 28 The original text states, “influir culturalmente en el rumbo del pais” and “cambiar el sistema político y social de España” (1988, 18). 29 The original text states, “un campo de experimentación; lanzo allí las ideas y las veo ir y venir” (29). 30 The name Brull should be related to the case of Joan Rull, arrested in 1907, who “had turned bombs into a family business” (Romero Maura 2000, 47). 31 The original text states, “Aracil era un anarquista, pero un anarquista retórico, un anarquista de forma; no tenía esa tendencia apostólica, ese entusiasmo por la vida nueva que han encarnado tan bien algunos escritores rusos y escandinavos. Su anarquismo era esencialmente antiformular; le indignaba el absurdo de las fórmulas sancionadas; pero no le hería, en cambio, un gran absurdo científico ni una gran aberración moral” (28). 32 The original text states, “formas caprichosas y sin ningún valor del socialismo utópico” (54). 33 The original text states, “como sistema crítico para la transmutación de los valores económicos, y en el anarquismo como sistema crítico para la transformación de los valores morales y religiosos” (62). 34 The original text states, “la anarquía es una necedad, una utopía ridícula y humanitaria, indigna de un investigador” (66) and “la acracia, o algo parecido a una sociedad casi sin estado, puede venir algún día, y puede venir de la cultura de la democracia y de la debilidad” (56).


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35 The original text states, “es como una momia envuelta en vendas, o, mejor quizá, como una de esas figuras de un escaparate ortopédico, cojas, mancas, llenas de férulas, de vendajes y de aparatos” (57). 36 The original text states, “aquí no hay más que tres cosas: un patriotismo de Madrid, burocrático y falso; un regionalismo, que es una cursilería; un provincialismo infecto, y luego la barbarie natural de la raza. Esto es lo Español” (59). 37 The original text states, “¿Y qué dirías del anarquismo activo, del anarquismo de la dinamita?” Y responde Iturrioz: “Diría que ha perturbado el anarquismo. Sólo la idea destruye; sólo la idea crea. La bomba como venganza, me parece absurda, y como medio de protesta, también … Pero matar unas cuantas personas, es horrible” (63). 38 The original text states, “a veces esos atentados tienen un aire de ejemplaridad” “un dinamitero me parece un artista” (62). 39 The original text states, “España hoy es un cuarto oscuro que huele mal; pero la pobre juventud de los rincones españoles quiere salir del ahogo y, como no puede, de cuando en cuando se entrega a la desesperación. Ahí está Mateo Morral; rabioso, enfermo, furioso pero joven, el único joven que ha habido en España desde hace tiempo” (2001, 206) 40 The original text states, “ser un enemigo fanático del pasado, por lo tanto, un tipo antihistórico, antirretórico y antitradicionalista” (1914, vii). 41 The original text states, “notará que casi todos los acontecimientos importantes de hace quince o veinte años a esta parte aparecen en mis novelas” (xi). 42 The original text states, “El tipo de Nilo Brull, que aparece en La dama errante, no es la contrafigura de Morral, a quien no traté; este Brull es como la síntesis de los anarquistas que vinieron desde Barcelona, después del proceso de Montjuich, a Madrid, y que tenían un carácter algo parecido de soberbia, de rebeldía y de amargura” (xii) 43 The original text states, “joven de veintitrés á veinticuatro años, de regular estatura, moreno, con los pómulos salientes” (68). 44 The original text states, “lo demás del libro, casi todo está hecho a base de realidad” (1914, xii). 45 The original text states, “El señor Suñer, hombre de unos cincuenta años, de figura apostólica, se creía un lince y era un topo. Quería hacer propaganda libertaria y todo el que le oía renegaba para siempre del anarquismo” (1908, 75). 46 The original text states, “los farsantes peligrosos” “vulgar”, “santón del racionalismo”, “papanatas”, “Kant de la Barceloneta” “juntos mano a mano pedantería con anarquismo” (76). 47 The original text states, “como era rico, el buen señor se daba el gustazo de publicar una pequeña biblioteca” (75), 48 The original text states, “esto no le hace a usted solidario con nosotros” “solemne y teatral al que no le faltaba más que música” (77). 49 The original text states, “Esos ya no son lugares seguros” “El Pilar es uno de los templos significativos para los detentadores del poder” “complicidad histórica con el Estado-capital” (Montañés 2013). 50 The original text states, “Brull no convencía, pero hacía efecto” (1914, 84).

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


References Books Avilés, Juan, and Angel Herrerín López. 2008. El nacimiento del terrorismo en Occidente: anarquía, nihilismo y violencia revolucionaria. Madrid: Siglo XXI De España. Baroja, Pío. 1908. La dama errante. Madrid: Caro Raggio. —. 1910. Aurora roja. Madrid: Renacimiento. —. 1914. La dama errante. París, Londres, Nueva York: T. Nelson and Sons. —. 1945. Desde la última vuelta del camino: Memorias. Vol. 3. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva. —. 1976. Obras completas V. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva. Baroja, Ricardo. 1952. Gente del 98. Barcelona: Editorial Juventud. Bourdieu, Pierre, Maurice Godelier, and Marc Barbut. 1978. Problemas del estructuralismo. México D. F.: Siglo XX. Castañeda, Luis H. 2015. Comunidades efímeras: grupos de vanguardia y neovanguardia en la novela hispanoamericana del siglo XX. New York: Peter Lang, 2015. Esposito, Roberto. 2003. Communitas: origen y destino de la comunidad. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu Editores. Ferrer I Guardia, Francisco. 1960. La escuela moderna. Montevideo: Ediciones “Solidaridad.” Gil Bera, Eduardo. 2001. Baroja, o, el miedo: biografía no autorizada. Barcelona: Ediciones Península. González Calleja, Eduardo. 1998. La razón de la fuerza: orden público, subversión y violencia política en la España de la Restauración. Madrid: Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Científicas. Gullón, Ricardo. 1969. La invención del 98 y otros ensayos. Madrid: Gredos. Herrerín López, Angel. 2011. Anarquía, dinamita y revolución social: violencia y represión en la España de entre siglos (1868–1909). Madrid: Los libros de la catarata. Inman Fox, E. 1988. Ideología y política en las letras de fin de siglo (1898). Madrid: Espasa Calpe. Juliá, Santos. 2003. La España del siglo XX. Madrid: Marcial Pons, Ediciones de historia. Litvak, Lily. 1980. Transformación industrial y literatura en España, (1895–1905). Madrid: Taurus.


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Morral, Mateu. 1978. Pensamientos revolucionarios de Nicolás Estévanez, ex-ministro, Brigadier del Ejército Español. Barcelona: J.J. de Olañeta: Distribución, Les Punxes. Ortega Y Gasset, José. 1969. Obras completas. Vol. 10. Madrid: Revista de Occidente. Romero Maura, Joaquín. 2000. “El ejército español y Cataluña: el incidente del Cu-cut! y la ley de jurisdicciones, 1905–1906.” In La romana del diablo: ensayos sobre la violencia política en España, 1900–1950, 110–42. Madrid: Marcial Pons. Soldevilla, Fernando. 1907. El año político 1906. Madrid: Imprenta de Ricardo Rojas. Termes, Josep. 2011. Historia del anarquismo en España (1870–1980). Barcelona: RBA Libros. Turner, Victor. 1988. El proceso ritual. Estructura y antiestructura. Trans. Beatriz García Ríos. Madrid: Taurus. Unamuno, Miguel. 2007. “La crisis actual del patriotismo español.” In Obras completas, Vol. IX, 831–48. Madrid: Fundación José Antonio Castro. Valle-Inclán, Ramón. 1998. Varia: artículos, cuentos, poesía y teatro. Madrid: Espasa Calpe.

Journal articles Avilés, Juan. 2011. “Pío Baroja y el anarquismo.” Bulletin D’Histoire Contemporaine De L’Espagne 46: 259–68. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. “El campo literario. Prerrequisitos críticos y principios de método.” Criterios 25–28: 20–42. Inman Fox, Edward. 1989. “Turrieburnismo y compromiso: Unamuno y la política.” Actas del congreso cincuentenario de Unamuno: 29–38. Masjuan Bracons, Eduard. 2002. “Procreación consciente y discurso ambientalista: anarquismo y neomalthusianismo en España e Italia, 1900– 1936.” Ayer 46: 63–92. Monge, Jesús M. 2007. “La rosa en llamas: Valle-Inclan and Mateo Morral in the journal Los aliados.” El Pasajero. Revista para navegantes. UAB, Departament de Filologia Espanyola, 23. Online. Pérez De La Dehesa, Rafael. 1970. “Los escritores españoles ante el proceso de Montjuich.” In Actas del tercer congreso internacional de hispanistas: 685–94. México D. F.: Asociación internacional de hispanistas. Villacorta Baños, Francisco. 2001. “Madrid, 1900. Sociabilidad, ocio y relaciones sociales.” Arbor CLXIX (666): 461–93.

Mateu Morral, Pío Baroja, and the Ephemeral Community of 1906


Other sources Aguiar Bauxauli, Silvia. 1999. “La obra literaria de Ricardo Baroja.” PhD diss., Universidad Complutense De Madrid. Laín Entralgo, Pedro. 1987. “Unamuno en 1906.” El país (Madrid), August 20, Tribuna sec. Montañés, E. 2013. “¿Qué es el comando Mateo Morral y qué buscan sus insurrectos activistas?” ABC, October 3, 2013. Pound, Ezra. 1906. “Burgos, a Dream City of Old Castille.” Books News Monthly XXV: 91.


Macedonio Fernández walked through the city of Buenos Aires while it was changing radically. His literature mapped out how the centralised power that was based in the city codified the national territory, trapped individuals in its domain, and administrated a system of inclusion and exclusion, all while projecting the illusion of founding a national community. Through his writing, Macedonio traced how the liberal state and its juridical structure, the political party and its charismatic leader, and the free market and its advertising techniques each weaved fictional narratives that moulded individuals’ subjectivities. For Macedonio, notions of the self or subject, and ideas about the social world and the state as its political representative, all functioned within these narratives to perpetuate the power of institutions and the establishment. However, he thought it was possible to dwell within the fissures of these fictional narratives, and, by drawing lines that moved outward from the territories that these narratives codified, he created a contiguous space to inhabit: Museo de la novela de la Eterna (primera novela buena) [The Museum of Eterna's Novel: The First Good Novel].1 The process of state formation and nation building at the turn of the nineteenth century had consolidated Buenos Aires into the visible head of a centralised power that combined the economic and political interests of the local oligarchy and the upper-bourgeoisie with the expansion of the global trading system. As the industrialised countries sought to open new

Deciphering Macedonio


markets and thus needed to absorb raw materials to feed their expansion, Argentina’s economy boomed. Buenos Aires, a city-port that monopolised the use of physical force to subsume the rest of the country, administrated the agro-export production matrix and was the hub of a British-built railway system installed to support the extractive economy. It was rapidly transformed into a modern and cosmopolitan city. During the first decades of the twentieth century, the public electric light and transportation system, innovations in the architecture of public and private buildings, and the incessant flow of immigrants from Europe created a new physiognomy for the metropolis on the pampas plains. The small city in which the political decision-making process had been the exclusive prerogative of members of the elites rapidly became a complex and fragmented community. The modernisation process that they had fiercely imposed on the country, wiping out indigenous populations and subjugating the caudillos from the provinces and their armies of gauchos, fostered the emergence of both a middle class and an incipient urban proletariat in Buenos Aires.2 The narratives of organic intellectuals, such as Domingo F. Sarmiento, imbued with the principles of liberalism, positivist philosophy, and social Darwinism, provided this process with a cultural and ideological framework. These intellectuals showcased Buenos Aires as a civilised beacon that would guide the rest of the nation. They also advocated for public policies that would attract immigrants from European countries, whom they thought would infuse their own cultural traits into the national identity and cultural-formation process. However, they would rapidly change their minds as they realised that many immigrants, rather than coming from industrialised cities, were from poor rural regions of Europe.3 Many immigrants from Europe, who not only carried with them their hope, fear, and hunger, but also socialist and anarchist ideas (some of them had even experienced the revolution that sparked the Paris Commune of 1871), were forced to remain in the city, piled up in boarding houses and working under harsh conditions. By 1910, the year of the centenary of the Independence Revolution, socialist and anarchist workers’ movements had already organised several protests and strikes. They could actually threaten the establishment’s interests, and thus suffered violent repression exerted by the Federal Police and nationalist groups. 4 The rising social and political tensions prompted the elite to enact the Sáenz Peña Law, which in 1912 established a mandatory, secret, and universal vote, and provoked a deep change in the country’s processes of cultural and national identity formation. Finally, in 1916, the free and democratic presidential election


Chapter Nine

won by Hipólito Yrigoyen, candidate of the Unión Cívica Radical, marked the beginning of a new political era in Argentina.5 There is an intimate connection between Museo de la novela de la Eterna and politics that resonates within this changing historical process and illuminates the consolidation of the power of the state, as well as the formation of other centres of power that pivoted around Buenos Aires and extended to the rest of the country. Horacio González has analysed Macedonio’s concerns regarding the new mechanisms of attaining power that were configured during the first decades of the twentieth century, and discusses how Macedonio’s interventions were conceived as a strategic response to these mechanisms. 6 Ricardo Piglia, in particular, draws attention to the relationship between Museo and the idea of conspiracy. In Crítica y ficción [Criticism and Fiction], he writes: “The novel keeps ciphered relations to the mechanisms of power, it reproduces them, it uses these forms of power, as it creates its utopic counter figure.”7 Piglia argues that as the novel embodies a plot to capture, through a fictional story, the individuals who are exposed to its narrative, it reproduces the machinations that political power uses to exert its domination over the populace. The novel is conceived to unveil this plot. It is a conspiracy against another conspiracy that projects the utopian counter image of a community ruled by a centralised power.8 As I articulate Macedonio’s political thought and his theory of the state, his literature and literary theory, and his fundamental metaphysical assumptions, I will shed new light on the characteristics of the alternative community he imagined and analyse how his literature illuminates questions about community and its relation to the political realm. I will first introduce Macedonio’s early writings, dating from the turn of the century, in which he expresses the seeds of his political thought. I will then analyse his relationship during the 1920s with a younger generation of avant-garde writers who gathered around him, viewing him as almost a mythical figure. In the second section, through Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s notion of “minor literature,” I will analyse the narrative strategies that Macedonio developed in Museo to provoke the decentring of the reader’s self, and unveil how power moulds individuals’ subjectivities to make them converge under illusions such as the idea of the social, the market, the state, or the nation. In the final section, by addressing Macedonio’s metaphysical understanding of the individual subject and following Jacques Derrida’s reflections on the notions of the secret and friendship, I will propose the notion of anchoritic community in order to think about the alternative community that I believe can be derived from Museo.

Deciphering Macedonio


I Macedonio graduated from law school at the University of Buenos Aires in 1897. This school had traditionally produced statesmen who ruled the country, as well as lawyers who occupied the centres of power in the state apparatus and advisors to prominent businessmen from Buenos Aires who traded in worldwide markets. However, Macedonio followed an alternative path. After his graduation he embarked with two friends, Julio Molina y Vedia and Arturo Múscari, on a ship going up the Paraná River to Paraguay. Their plan was to found an anarchist utopian community, an experiment in Spencerian socialism that was intended to exist on Molina y Vedia’s family’s land. The plan allegedly failed due to the inclemency of the jungle. Macedonio and his friends never denied their participation in this project; on the contrary, they contributed to spreading the legend of their journey.9 By the end of the nineteenth century, the young Macedonio had already written and published poems and short essays in which it is possible to identify the seeds of ideas about literature, politics, and metaphysics that he will later develop. In the essay “La desherencia” (1887) [“The Disinheriting”], published in the socialist and anarchist journal La montaña [The Mountain], edited by Leopoldo Lugones and José Ingenieros, Macedonio invokes the anarchist principle that rejects the right to inherit goods in order to question the legacy that the nineteenth century had bequeathed to the twentieth century for the development of society. Even though he was opposed to the predominantly positivist approach to history that existed in prominent intellectual circles, he acknowledges the contributions that the nineteenth century made to the twentieth century when he writes, “I believe that socialism provides a satisfactory answer to the economic question of the social problem.”10 In 1925, however, he will rectify this position in an editorial note, “At that time I was a socialist and materialist, I am today a Spencerian anarchist and mystic.”11 During the first stage of his intellectual production, Macedonio proposed a radical critique of a cornerstone of positivist law: the legal person. In his doctoral thesis, De las personas (1897) [Of the People], Macedonio criticises the Civil Code, pointing out crucial distinctions between the “natural and visible person” and the “legal person.” As he articulates another crucial anarchist principle—equal rights for men and women—he asserts that although the Civil Code, as elaborated by Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield in 1869, was inspired by the principle of universal equality, it did in fact establish arbitrary distinctions among men,


Chapter Nine

women, workers, and immigrants, investing them with different rights and duties.12 In a collection of essays written before the 1920s, and published posthumously under the title “Para una teoría del Estado” [“For a Theory of the State”], he advocates for a state that will reduce to a minimum all restrictions on individual liberties. 13 For Macedonio, the democratic system is a symbol of equality that should be accepted temporarily, because it promotes fraternity, but abandoned as soon as those who are in power guarantee that they will hand over their power to individuals. Macedonio posited a radical defence of the individual against the power of the state, and this basically expressed his anarchist and libertarian individualism. Nevertheless, as will be analysed later, in his metaphysical ruminations and literary explorations of the notions of person, subject, and individual he proposed something deeper than a radical critique of the state. He addressed fundamental questions about the relationships among the individual, the community, and the political in a historical context darkened by the rising shadows of totalitarian regimes in Europe and, on a global scale, the expansion of capitalism, which, through the democratic liberal state and its juridical structure, as well as new developments in technology and communications, had created unprecedented mechanisms of power and control. Macedonio contributed essays to La montaña and other journals that reflected the turbulent social and political events taking place at the turn of the century in Argentina and beyond. He had a close relationship with prominent intellectuals and politicians, and participated in various intellectual circles. Nonetheless, he decided to remain on the margins of cultural institutions and the literary market, only publishing a few essays and poems until the 1920s when he became a mythical figure around which a younger generation of avant-garde writers gathered. In 1921, after seven years in Europe, Jorge Luis Borges returned to Argentina and forged an intellectual friendship with Macedonio. 14 Borges became an active member of an avant-garde literary group in Buenos Aires and assumed a leading role in staging a collective intervention in the cultural scene. This new generation of writers—Oliverio Girondo, Raúl González Tuñón, and Leopoldo Marechal, among others—challenged the previous generation of intellectuals and their cultural institutions which were influenced by Lugones, who had now assumed a conservative position, and his modernista aesthetic. The journal Martin Fierro articulated the most virulent attacks on the older generation, and Borges contributed to it frequently. He also promoted Macedonio’s work and made him more visible on the literary scene by publishing his work in this journal. 15 The martinfierristas

Deciphering Macedonio


believed that Macedonio could be opposed to Lugones. His thinking, which he preferred to transmit through oral communications containing subterranean, secret narratives, and only within a limited circle, fostered the young writers’ belief that a conspiracy hatched on the periphery of the cultural milieu could assault the fort of the traditional intellectual elite and subvert its hierarchies. Macedonio personified the figure of an absent author writing from the margins, who threatened established literary institutions with a revolutionary aesthetic. Viñas points out that there was a deliberate practice of secrecy among the members of the group, and Piglia asserts that a close relationship was forged between the group and the idea of conspiracy.16 At the beginning of the 1920s, Macedonio conceived a conspiracy to become the president of Argentina; his intimate circle of friends actually considered this a possibility and spread the idea. He argued that it was easier to become a president than a pharmacist, since statistically there were more people who wanted to become the latter than the former. This presidential scheme sought to achieve only a minimal material effect, but the machination was a powerful caricature that served to criticise the social and political system. In the anthology Macedonio Fernández (1961), Borges writes that the group’s project also consisted of collectively writing a fantastic novel set in Buenos Aires, titled El hombre que será presidente [The Man Who Will be President] (18). He says that in the story there are two arguments. One is visible: the curious steps that Macedonio took to become the president of the republic; the other is secret: a conspiracy planned by a sect of neurasthenic and crazy millionaires to achieve the same goal. Supposedly, the group sketched the first two chapters and the denouement of the story; however, the novel itself is apparently lost. The young writers’ attitudes challenging cultural, social, and political institutions finally became an irreverent gesture against the old intellectual elite. They did not provoke radical ruptures in the field of aesthetics or in the social or political realms either. 17 Beatriz Sarlo explains that they assumed a moderate position that was more focused on establishing an alternative genealogy within cultural and literary traditions, and that while they certainly attacked some of the modernistas writers, they also strengthened the idea of cultural continuity 18 The martinfierristas reconfigured the literary system of canonisation and recognition. They undermined the established tradition and its intellectual lineages, and introduced authors such as Macedonio, who were ignored by cultural and literary institutions, but did not actually subvert the roles or functions that cultural expression played in bourgeois society.


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Macedonio was engaged with the idea of forming a circle of artists and intellectuals.19 But he did not identify with the group’s belligerent tactics, and he questioned how the young writers aimed to gain more visibility in the public sphere. While the martinfierristas tried to manoeuvre their names into the spotlight of the cultural scene, and introduced their own work within the alternative genealogy that they articulated, Macedonio advocated for the dissolution of the notion of the author as the origin of any enunciation that could be referred back to an actual individual subject. His rupture was more radical than of the martinfierristas. 20 He thought that, through the performativity of literature, it would be possible to provoke a reconfiguration of individuals’ subjectivities that would induce them to participate in the formation of an alternative community. He sought to dislocate the notion that a singular identity is the expression of a person’s self, and to replace it with the idea of an individual who is ethically connected to other individuals through a process of subjectivation that cannot be institutionalised. By the beginning of the 1930s, as his relationship with Borges and the martinfierristas grew more distant, Macedonio was already focused on the elaboration of Museo de la novela de la Eterna. He believed that this novel would integrate art and praxis, and radicalise art as a political act. The locus of this attempt was Buenos Aires; his utopic dream of founding an alternative community unfolds there in the novel, but extends beyond the literary text.

II Macedonio wrote Museo de la Novela de la Eterna intermittently between 1925 and 1950, and it was published posthumously in 1967.21 Fifty-six prologues, twenty chapters, four final sections, and one dedication compose Museo. The novel’s plot is simple. The main character, el Presidente, gathers together a community of friends at his country house, “La Novela,” which is located some hours from the city. The other characters are the members of this community. El Presidente meets them when he goes out for a ramble or travels back to the city. Other characters approach his house and, as they inspire his sympathy, he invites them to stay at “La Novela.” They live with him for some time, but el Presidente, feeling unhappy, decides that it is time for action; he then motivates the community to carry out a conspiracy that will invest the city with beauty and mystery. He incites the other characters to make clandestine incursions into Buenos Aires to infiltrate the citizens’ daily lives and provoke their perplexity. Finally, this operation is completed, but the mission fails to achieve its ultimate goal.

Deciphering Macedonio


The formation of a community of conspirators that intervenes in the daily life of a city in order to change its destiny is one of the visible narrative threads that Macedonio intertwines in the novel. Nevertheless, Museo is composed of a narrative structure that orbits certain zones of non-understanding. Macedonio exposes the reader to these zones, opening spaces of indeterminacy in his text that engender a silence, a secret that cannot be totally penetrated by sense or meaning. By placing zones of non-understanding within the narrative structure the novel compels readers to participate in recreating the plot. As the text seems to be unfinished and disjointed, readers are called on to actively intervene in the story by redrawing the connections between its fragments. The far-fetched scenes represented in the novel and the abstruse depiction of the characters underpin the opening of a fictional territory that casts off any pretence of representing reality. The characters are certainly individualised, but they exist in a continuous process of being created throughout the novel without ever receiving clear contours that define them; it is only possible to catch a partial glimpse of them. The heterogeneity of the 56 prologues that precede Museo provokes the initial fractures that crisscross the novel’s heart to open a space for fiction. Each of the prologues is an independent sequence that intersects at some point with another prologue to drive readers into different corners, from which they can approach the voids of the story. The prologues set in motion a spiral that encircles these voids in the novel. Macedonio believed that as his readers gained access to the novel’s territory, clinging to the gaps and hanging in the voids that form it, they would lose themselves, becoming new characters within the story. The prologues are articulated within the novel to realign readers’ planes of reality. But, rather than creating an accurate representation of reality that can trick readers into perceiving themselves as being represented in the novel, Macedonio aims to situate his readers precisely within the blurred boundaries that distinguish fiction from reality. Museo is designed to expose continuities between the narratives that invest readers’ planes of reality with sense and a literary narrative that projects a fictional story. The writer believed that a reader who is thus submerged in his novel will perceive the continuum between the “real” and the “fictional” world. Macedonio imagined that his readers would experience the novel as if they were in a dream and, as happens when one is dreaming and is affected by the dream’s imaginary story, would then release themselves from their actual worlds to become characters within his novel. In Museo, he writes, “We are a limitless dream and only a dream. We cannot, therefore, have any idea of what not-dreaming may be.” 22 We are


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dreaming constantly and we only think that we are in a state of wakefulness because somebody has told us that we are awake. It is not possible to distinguish the dream world from the real world because there is not an ontological difference between the two. Reality is not a mystery to be deciphered, but is rather a continuum that cannot be differentiated from dreaming, just as it cannot be distinguished from fiction.23 Macedonio’s rhizomatic writing deterritorialises the stratification that codifies the readers’ actuality. Julio Prieto has already drawn attention to the high coefficient of deterritorialisation that affects Museo. He claims that Macedonio’s writing “is characterised by an unstable dwelling in a liminal space, [and] aims for a deterritorialization that is not linked to any program of reterritorialization.”24 According to Deleuze and Guattari, this is a main characteristic of a minor literature. There are three main features that distinguish a minor literature: “the deterritorialization of language, the connection of the individual to a political immediacy, and the collective assemblage of enunciation” (1986, 18). 25 In the following pages, I will address these characteristics of a minor literature to analyse Museo. Macedonio pushes language to such an extreme that nothing remains but new intensities, vibrating. His writing swings through a liminal space that exists between a centre in which words convey their rigidified meanings and margins, beyond which they are released from these meanings. As he draws connections between words that are no longer codified by the dominant language, he evaporates codified territories and opens up a space in which all forms can be made and remade, a dimension in which he believed that even readers’ perceptions of their own identities could be reconfigured.26 He reduces the sense in language, but he does not advocate for an incomprehensible polysemy of words. He seeks to portray language as an unreliable vehicle for a subject of enunciation to communicate a rational message. In this sense, as Naomi Lindstrom points out, language becomes a target of, “Macedonio’s massive campaign of irrationalism” (1981, 86). Nonetheless, this attack not only aims to target the communicative function of language, it is also an attempt to sabotage the power of any person who believes that it is possible to define themselves through the use of language. As Todd Garth suggests, “Macedonio aims to eradicate the sense of the self constituted with the performative use of language. By denying human beings the constitution of themselves as subjects in their use of language, he attempts to eliminate the very concept of the subject” (2005, 80). Macedonio believed that we cannot apprehend our own identities. Representation of ourselves is only possible through definitions that other people provide us with. Thus, he considered that such representation

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should be dislocated and discarded. Foucault expresses a similar thought when explaining the scope of his own research project in the first volume of History of Sexuality: "[W]hat I want to show is how power relations can materially penetrate the body in depth without depending even on the mediation of the subject's own representations” (186). 27 Facing the narratives that had already infiltrated Buenos Aires and given shape to the country’s national identity and cultural formation process, Macedonio aimed to strike at readers’ selves in order to liberate them from their own enthrallment. Museo works as a literary machine that is determined to dismantle the forms of power that constrain individuals’ lives. As readers experienced the ways that the novel, its characters, and its dialogue affected and reconfigured them, Macedonio believed that they would also perceive the ways in which power imposes other fictional narratives on their “reality,” assigning specific functions to individuals and regulating their interactions. As Deleuze and Guattari point out, in minor literature everything is political because individual problems are revealed as being connected to juridical and bureaucratic structures.28 Even though there is the figure of a president, the story destabilises the logic of a sovereign power that structures collective life as it illuminates the formation of a community that is founded on the principle of horizontal reciprocity and solidarity among members. Museo opens an alternative territory in which the members of the community of conspirators, including the actual author and the readers (who have themselves become characters within the story), are reconfigured through collective assemblages of enunciation. Characters, author, and readers all constitute themselves through and by the presence of all of the other entities and express themselves in a mutual becoming. There is a beautiful passage in Museo that illustrates how collective assemblages function in the text. Dulce-Persona [Sweet-Person] and Quizagenio [Maybe-a-genius], two characters and members of the community of conspirators, are heard talking about their feelings. Quizagenio says: “I’m heartbroken. I feel the dizziness of existing only in writing, when I could be here not in writing but in reality.”29 He yearns to be alive because he is in love. However, he asks Dulce-Persona to request the author to write about them only when they are suffering. He is terrified that the author may cease writing while he is feeling love and that he will then vanish, as when movies end with the lovers kissing and the scene fades away. But Dulce-Persona does not talk to the author. Instead she addresses the reader: “Reader, I need you to breathe on this breathless page. Lean in more; all existence is so sad.” 30 The “fictional” reader


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answers: “I’ll trade my leaden earth for your levity … That my life was worth sharing, was character-worthy!” 31 As Dulce-Persona asks for the reader’s intervention, she seems to plead for the reader’s breath to inspire her to come alive. She also gives life to the reader as a character in the novel, as if the readers are the ones who, ultimately, must illuminate the sequence. The community of conspirators in Museo has a revolutionary plan: to conquer Buenos Aires and provoke a cultural re-foundation of society at large. One night, after two years of living together in his country house “La Novela,” el Presidente tells his friends that it is time for action. He has been ruminating for a long time about how to save Buenos Aires.32 He thinks that first a cultural purge will be necessary to change the attitudes of the people toward their past, because, rather than living with passion in the present, they have become numbed by resting on the legacy of the founding fathers. He asserts that when a city lives historically it does not leave room for passion, which cannot be felt as long as it is circumscribed by a specific space or time. Buenos Aires, on the contrary, could become a city absolutely immersed in its present. The conspirators carry out various incursions within the city. These interventions aim to provoke an alteration of the people’s experiences and perceptions, and to nourish in them a new aesthetic sensitivity. For instance, all statues are removed and the city’s system of nomination (the names of geographical features such as streets, squares, and monuments), which evokes the founding fathers’ names, their struggles for independence, and their battles against one another to seize power of the state, is changed to express different affections, feelings, and thoughts. In this way, the people’s relationship with their past is modified. The city is released from its own ugliness and its painful history is suppressed. The city now lives solely in a flowing present. The ultimate goal of the conspiracy is political: el Presidente intends that the people, living in constant perplexity, will yearn for his help to save them. Nevertheless this machination is not intended to subjugate the people, but rather help them to achieve utopian salvation and cosmic manumission.33 El Presidente bears witness to the fact that Buenos Aires has now been conquered by beauty and mystery, and that the axis around which the city was structured has been dislocated. As the members of the community of conspirators deterritorialise the city’s space to express different affections, feelings, and thoughts, they reconfigure the citizens’ subjectivities and open up a new dimension in which an alternative community can be created. However, after this operation has been completed, el Presidente wakes up one day in “La Novela” and realises that the city’s ugliness is

Deciphering Macedonio


irreversible. He concludes that the conquest of Buenos Aires has not changed the city’s soul. He gathers his friends at the country house, and informs them that he has decided to leave “La Novela.” He also asks them to dissolve the community, which is then scattered so that nothing will be known about its members.

III The communal life depicted in Museo echoes Macedonio’s project to found an anarchist community in Paraguay, and the community of conspirators that, during the 1920s, planned a conspiracy to intervene in the presidential elections in Argentina. But aside from these political experiences, Macedonio’s utopian dream of forming a fraternity of kindred spirits was circumscribed to a literary realm. In this sense, Prieto asserts, “Macedonio’s extreme questioning of reality, and of any subjective or objective entity, certainly does not seem to contribute to any form of escaping from reality that can be aligned with a revolutionary praxis.”34 José Isaacson stresses Macedonio’s revolutionary power, but he also points out the difficulty of translating this from writing into concrete political action.35 It seems that Macedonio’s sabotaging of the power of the individual to define themselves, because it implodes notions of the subject and its agency, also renders impossible a subversion of the material world. There is not a dialectical swing connecting his literary work to a political intervention in history. Nevertheless, Museo as a conspiracy in itself provoked actual effects in the real world by creating a specific group of readers who become members of the community of conspirators that the novel gathers together. Museo deterritorialises one terrain as it maps another alternative space that readers can inhabit, going through a process of “subjectivation,” that is no longer regulated by the state. However, as I will try to demonstrate in the following pages, Museo in turn is reterritorialised on a deeper level. As Macedonio displaces the notion of the individual subject in his novel or in other literary texts and essays to a metaphysical reflection, he enacts a kind of opening that transcends the immanent plane on which people can converge to form an alternative community. For Macedonio, the question of how to found an alternative community is rooted in a metaphysical understanding of the notion of the individual subject. Macedonio dismisses the notion of an autonomous individual identity. In No todo es vigilia la de los ojos abiertos [We Are Not Always Awake When Our Eyes Are Open], he asserts that we can only envision the self in a state of dreaming. He writes, “The dreaming alike style is the only


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possible form for the Being; it is its only thinkable version. I name the dreaming alike style to all that come to us as an integrated state of our subjectivity, without pretending external correlatives, and thus I call the Being an almismo ayoico, because it is always full in all of its states.”36 The Being is “ayoico,” because what the Being feels does not correspond to an individual or personal subjectivity. The experience of feeling is both unique and ubiquitous. Rather than a plurality of sensitivities, only one’s feeling exists. But the Being is one essence complete in all of its states, which neither refers back to an archetypical substance, projecting images onto the external world, nor is confined to a singular subjectivity. It can only be conceived through a revelation induced by dreaming. Macedonio sought to induct the readers of Museo into this experience. He thought that those readers who would become characters in the story could glimpse the idea that they did not actually exist as individual subjects. They would inevitably revert to their previous belief that they existed, but Macedonio thought that they would forever retain their understanding that the idea of non-being, i.e., death, is also merely a belief. In Museo he writes, “This is what I imagine here: non-death; also the artistic work involved in the transformation of the self, routing the stability of each person in his self.”37 La Eterna, who is a central character in the novel and stands on a different plane from the others, seems to convey this understanding. She embodies an ineffable experience that dwells in the novel’s heart, which also constitutes the community that el Presidente gathers together. She also particularly moves el Presidente. Sometimes she inhabits the shadows of “La Novela” and hides from the other characters, but at other times she guides the community in its mission. In certain passages, she emerges with a similar consistency to other characters and participates with them in their incursions into the city. Macedonio dedicates his novel to this character, and says that he met her in the most intense momentum of love, friendship, and compassion. He asserts that it is not possible to use words to understand the fulminous, total impulsiveness of la Eterna’s act of mercy. In his dedication, he writes about the experience that she illuminated for him: Reality and the I, or principally the I, the Individual (whether or not the World exists) only gives itself fully in the altruistic moment of mercy (and of satisfaction) without fusion, that is, in plurality. The end point of What Is, of World, and is its only ethic is the non-instinctive act of Mercy, keeping for itself the lucid discernment of plurality, without confusing the Other with itself: to still be other, while living for another. (Schwartz, 3)38

La Eterna communicates a secret, and to apprehend it one must participate

Deciphering Macedonio


in an ethical transcendence. One who perceives her is first decentred, then brought back to oneself, back to solitude, to reaffirm oneself. The “self”— without fusing with others or losing itself in plurality—is reconfigured ethically, now devoted to doing everything for a radical Other. The “I” that recognises the infinitely Other reaffirms itself through this act, which compels the individual to continue to be Other while living for another. Hence, rather than the implosion of the notion of the self, it seems that Museo aims first to strike at the individual identity’s stability and then to reconfigure it. La Eterna provokes a dislocation of a self that is then reassembled based on the ethical and transcendental experience that her presence engenders. An encounter with La Eterna involves a relation to a future that remains undetermined. In one prologue, the author says that all of his being has been defined by the act of waiting for her arrival, but he explains that she is impossible to conceive of beforehand.39 Her presence “presses” upon the present, but it is not possible to describe it as being the present. She is neither given in advance nor possible to interpret. She opens up the present, going beyond the continuity of time. Following Jacques Derrida in A Taste for the Secret, it would be possible to argue that La Eterna “enacts a kind of opening,” leaving an empty space for who is to come: the arrivant, someone absolutely indeterminate (2001, 31). She provokes an irruption of a future that is not possible to announce beforehand or to appropriate. Derrida might say that she, “overflows everything that is and that is present, the entire field of being and beings, and the entire field of history—is committed to a promise or an appeal that goes beyond being and history” (Ibid., 20). La Eterna does not work on the present of the individual who apprehends her. Instead, it is within a kind of hollow that cannot be located in a specific point of time or space in which her presence resonates. She reaffirms a relationship with a future that must have the shape of the Other who is always still to come and is impossible to appropriate. The relation to the Other should not be understood as a closed structure, but rather as a relationship to a multiplicity and a plurality that cannot be fused into unity. Derrida asserts that multiplicity and alterity are revealed “as the absolute solitude of the existent in its existence” (89).40 La Eterna illuminates the Other’s radical exteriority and suspends one’s ability to appropriate it. The individuals who perceive her, without confusing themselves with the Other, liberate the Other from any violent constrictions. At the same time, they release themselves from any form of reduction and are brought back to themselves, back to their solitude. It is from the depth of this solitude and separation that the relationship to the


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Other emerges as a primordial secret. Emmanuel Levinas writes: “[I]f one could possess, grasp, and know the other, it would not be other. Possessing, knowing, and grasping are synonyms of power” (2003, 51).41 It is precisely the encounter with the radical Other that can liberate it from violent constrictions, such as the boundaries of space or of language, but this encounter must also be understood as a form of separation, which maintains distance and interrupts all totalities. Macedonio’s dedication configures this encounter with the absolute plurality of the radical Other as a primordial secret that interrupts all forms of social constrictions and births the ethical act of being Other while living for another: an Other always still to come as an undetermined future. It is precisely here, Derrida claims, “in that which ties together as nonreappropriable the future and radical otherness—that justice, in a sense that is a little enigmatic, analytically participates in the future. Justice has to be thought of as what overflows law [droit], which is always an ensemble of determinable norms, positively incarnated and positive” (21).42 The ethical and transcendental experience that an encounter with la Eterna engenders can only affect a singular entity that experiences the radical Other’s exteriority in a sort of mystical union. But as it apprehends the ungraspable plurality of the Other, the “I” reaffirms itself in its solitude. Hence, the transcendental ethic that this encounter brings to light cannot create any form of social bond, normativity, or written law. In fact, it can only function to dissolve the social pact that undergirds modern societies and radically question any form of power that imposes external relationships on individuals and regulates them. In this sense, it is interesting to consider whether the conspiracy to imbue Buenos Aires with mystery is intended to not save the city but rather dissolve it. For this reason, perhaps, the conspiracy fails to change the city’s destiny. It is able to dislocate the city’s axis, but cannot create for the citizens the ineffable experience that La Eterna conveys, which unties social bonds. Had this experience burst upon the city, it could have provoked a dispersion of the people. Francisco L. Bernárdez, who was a member of the martinfierristas, sheds some light on this possibility with his claim that Macedonio’s political thought relied on a Rousseauian matrix from which emanated his Spencerian anarchism. Since, for Macedonio, modern society is a trap for individuals, Bernárdez posits that the writer proposed a great return to nature. 43 Nevertheless, German L. García writes that, although a Rousseauian spirit certainly inspired Macedonio’s dream of founding an anarchist community in Paraguay, and nature never ceased to be a magnetised reference for him, from the progression of Macedonio’s political thought to his literary writing

Deciphering Macedonio


emerged an imagination that, rather than postulating an alternate social pact capable of merging individuals’ wills under a common or general will, sought to dissolve the very reality against which he rebelled.44 The members of the community of conspirators in Museo deterritorialise the city’s space to configure a new dimension in which an alternative community can be imagined. However, as mentioned before, at the same time it should be also observed that this space is reterritorialised on a deeper level. The individuals who can glimpse the absolute plurality of the radical Other can be released from power relations and brought back to their own solitude with a higher understanding of their own being, but in a state of solitude that cannot be shared. Hence, the alternative community that the novel projects, one that works against the urban/modern society codified by the power of the state, is an anchoritic community. In Politics of Friendship, Derrida explains that this type of community is formed by those, “who can love only at a distance, in separation,” as is the case with the group of friends in Museo that finally scatters at the end of the novel (2005, 35). He writes that this is, “a community of solitary friends, friends ‘jealous of solitude,’ jealous of their ‘proper and profound solitude of midday-midnight’ who call other friends to come” (Ibid., 37). In this vein, it is also interesting to think about Macedonio’s particular relationship with his own circles of friends.45 The community formed in Museo does not a have familial bond, and among its members there is not an original proximity or common horizon, as would be the case in the formation of a national community. Furthermore, there is not a secret pact in the story that fuses them into the conspiracy. Only fantasy and friendship could bring them together at “La Novela” and incline them to participate in the plot of conquering the city, but the ethical experience that inspires both the novel and their utopian dream does not fuse their individual singularities into a unity. On the contrary, it preserves and defends their singularities. Thus, their plot over-politicises the space of the city because it consists in cutting the social bonds on which the power of institutions and the establishment rely to justify the violence that they exert on individuals in forcing them to conform to the modern/urban community. The disaggregation of the city that the conspiracy seeks to provoke is intended to imagine an alternative community based on other forms of ethical commitments among individuals, such as love, friendship, and compassion, which cannot be regulated by normativity or imposed by any written law.


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Notes 1 Macedonio wrote Museo de la novela de la Eterna (primera novela buena) intermittently between 1925 and 1950. His son, Adolfo de Obieta, a poet and essayist, then undertook the enormous task of deciphering his father’s manuscripts and assembling the novel, which was published posthumously in 1967. Jo Anne Engelbert points out that a previous short text, “Una novela que comienza” [“A Novel that Begins”], which was published in 1921, “is a clear precedent for the radical experimentation undertaken in Museo” (Engelbert 1978). Translations from Museo de la novela de la Eterna are by Margaret Schwartz. Unless otherwise indicated, translations of all other texts are mine. 2 I would like to acknowledge my debt to David Viñas’ fundamental book De los montoneros a los anarquistas [From The Montoneros to The Anarchists]. His study of how the modernisation process imposed on the Argentinean populace by the urban elite during the nineteenth century, which gave birth to its own intrinsic contradictions in the entrails of the city, as the urban proletariat became radicalised by fighting against the brutal working conditions imposed by the same modernisation process, has provided me with the historical background that I discuss in these pages, as well as crucial information to situate the beginning of the development of Macedonio’s political thought in his historical context. 3 Carl Solberg points out how the Argentinean oligarchy perceived the European immigrant workers and the potential conflict that they represented, specifically the anarchists. Solberg writes: “Long accustomed to servile laborers, the Argentine ruling classes after 1890 suddenly had to confront militant urban workers determined to improve their economic position. Most skilled workers entered socialist-oriented unions, but the anarchists, who controlled much of Buenos Aires’ unskilled laboring class, quickly became the most powerful element in the Argentine labor movement” (Solberg 1970, 108). 4 The bloodiest repression that the police enacted, on May 1, 1909, and extended during a week now known as la semana roja [red week], escalated and provoked the workers’ movement reaction. On November 14, Simón Radowitzky, an anarchist Ukrainian immigrant working in Argentina, killed the chief of police Ramón L. Falcón, who had been responsible for the massacre, with a homemade bomb that he threw into Falcón’s carriage. 5 Graciela Montaldo points out that in this historical context should also be included the university reforms of 1918, which placed at the centre of this changing historical process a new generation of intellectuals (2006, 25). For a further analysis of the social, political, and economic processes that led to the enactment of the Sáenz Peña Law, see Rock (2002). 6 See González (2004, 92). 7 “La novela mantiene relaciones cifradas con las maquinaciones del poder, las reproduce, usa sus formas, construye su contrafigura utópica” (204). 8 See Piglia (1993). 9 Álvaro Abós, however, asserts that during their excursion to Paraguay they probably evoked the experience of the French anarchist Eliseo Reclus, who tried to found an anarchist commune in Colombia in 1851, and imagined that they were

Deciphering Macedonio


carrying out a similar mission (39–51). Todd Garth also quotes and endorses this theory (2005, 93). 10 “[C]reo que el socialismo responde muy satisfactoriamente a las pregunta económica del problema social …” (66). For a further analysis of Macedonio’s essay “La desherencia,” see Mónica Bueno (2000, 60–3). 11 “[E]n aquel tiempo yo era socialista y materialista, hoy soy anarquista spenceriano y místico” (45). The note was first published in the Journal Oral, and then in Papeles de recienvenido (1929) [Papers of The Newcomer]. See Macedonio (1989, 45). 12 For a further analysis of Macedonio’s thesis, see Marisa A. Muñoz (2010). 13 See Macedonio (1990). 14 After returning to Buenos Aires from Europe, Borges says about his encounter with Macedonio: “Nobody has made such deep and longstanding impression on me as he did … I ended up inheriting his friendship from my father” [“Nadie me ha dejado una impresión tan profunda y duradera como Macedonio … terminé heredando de mi padre su amistad” (Borges and Giovanni 1990, 70). Bruno Bosteels points out that Borges also inherited from both his father and Macedonio a political ideology: an anarchist and libertarian individualism, which essentially relies on Herbert Spencer’s The Man versus the State (See Bosteels 2008). 15 Until the 1920s, Macedonio had published only a few poems and essays. In 1928, he published his first book, an essay on metaphysics, No toda es vigilia la de los ojos abiertos [We Are Not Always Awake When Our Eyes Are Open] (1928). His friends were also able to snatch from him some pages of his work, and these are the pages that finally provided the bulk of the material included in Papeles de Recienvenido [Papers of a Newcomer] (1929). 16 See Viñas (2006) and Piglia (2007, 21). 17 The younger group of writers rejected the more radical European avant-garde movements. According to Claudia Gilman, the literary texts that this generation of writers produced cannot be considered avant-garde literature. She asserts that the Argentinean writers lagged behind their European counterparts in terms of both aesthetic and political innovation (2006, 47). 18 See Sarlo (1983, 127–71). 19 In a letter to Borges (undated, probably 1926), Macedonio tells his friend that he has rented a house in the suburbs at which he is looking forward to gathering together his group of friends from Martin Fierro, along with other intellectuals such as Raul Scalabrini Ortiz. See García (2000, 6–7). 20 Julio Prieto claims that Macedonio’s writings, “embody a discursive mode more faithful to the avant-garde ‘spirit,’ regarding his criticism of the literary tradition, than the critique of his contemporary rioplatenses, and relatively unfaithful to their local demonstrations and manifests, which wave, as a group, the flag of avantgardism and move it toward a ‘moderate’ direction.” In the Spanish original, “representan a la vez una encarnación discursiva en cierto modo más fiel al ‘espíritu’ de vanguardia, en la realidad de su crítica de la tradición literaria que la de su contemporáneos rioplatenses, y relativamente infiel a las manifestaciones y manifiestos locales que detentan, como grupo, la bandera del vanguardismo y la llevan en una dirección ‘moderada’” (2002, 25). Todd Garth writes, “Macedonio’s


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poetics in many ways coincide much more closely with the principle of the historical avant-garde in Europe, at least when viewed retrospectively. That kinship with European movements is a result of Macedonio’s faith in the relationship between art and daily life more than an adherence to aesthetic programs” (2005, 48). 21 Macedonio’s original plan was to publish two novels: Adriana Buenos Aires (última novela mala) [Adriana Buenos Aires (The Last Bad Novel)], which he finished writing in 1938, and the first good novel: Museo. Noé Jitrik explains that Macedonio’s attempt to create the first good novel does not imply that he discarded all the elements of the old novel, but rather that he transformed these elements in order to create a new novel. This leap, from a bad to a good novel, entailed a negation of previous artistic expressions and, in turn, an affirmation of their literary elements necessary to create a new literary invention. Jitrik explains that it is, “As if the old novel [the bad one], which is the whole Novel, had covered up a truth that lies at its own origin and that it is necessary to rescue” [“(E)s como si la novela vieja (mala), que es toda la Novela, hubiera tapado una verdad que está en su propio origen y que hay que rescatar”] (see Jitrik 1973, 49). 22 “Somos un soñar sin límite, y sólo soñar. No podemos, pues, tener idea de lo que sea un no-soñar” (24; Schwartz 21). 23 See Macedonio (1989). 24 “se caracteriza … por su inestable residencia en un espacio liminar por un afán de ‘desterritorialización’ ajeno a todo programa de ‘reterritorialización’” (55). 25 See Deleuze and Guattari (1986). 26 The dominant language is the language of power, which homogenises, centralises, and standardises other languages. However, there are not merely two kinds of languages, a major language and a minor language, but rather two possible treatments of the same language. A minor language is not opposed to a major language. Rather, lacking any definitive boundaries, it moves through “transitional and limitrophe zones, zones of indiscernibility” (see Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 101). Power defines constant relations among the various elements of a major language, whereas a minor language is characterised precisely by continuous alterations in the relationships among the variables that compose it. The distinction between a major and minor language is a question of becoming. The becoming of the minor language consists in deterritorialising the major language and making it minor. 27 See Foucault (1980). 28 See Deleuze and Guattari (1986, 18). 29 “[E]stoy triste … siento el desmayo de ser sólo escrito, cuando pudiera no escrito sino real estar así” (168; Schwartz 158). 30 “[L]ector, necesito tu calidez, tu aliento sobre esta página de desaliento” (169; Schwartz 158). 31 “Cómo cambiaría yo mi pesadez terrena por un ser de tu levedad … ¡Valiera la vida para prestar su hálito a un personaje atribulado!” (169; Schwartz 158). 32 As el Presidente conceives his plan, he also pays close attention to a conflict that has been sparked in the city between two groups: Eternecientes and Hilarantes. Each of these groups aims to dominate the other by imposing its literary and

Deciphering Macedonio


artistic style. He is forced to intervene and finally persuades them to abandon their conflict, and direct their forces toward a common effort. It is after he succeeds in this mediation that he organises his own group to conquer Buenos Aires. The groups in the novel may allude to two actual avant-garde groups of writers that, during the 1920s, clashed in Buenos Aires: Florida, which was mainly composed by martinfierristas, and Boedo, which included other young authors who were more engaged with politics and the workers’ movements. For an interesting analysis of the profound ideological and political differences between the two groups, see Barletta (1967). 33 See Horacio González (2004, 123). 34 “Macedonio con su extremo cuestionamiento de la realidad de toda entidad subjetiva u objetiva, no parece, ciertamente, contribuir a ningún tipo de ‘salida’ alineable en una praxis revolucionaria” (206). 35 See Isaacson (1981). 36 “[E]l estilo de ensueño es la única forma posible del Ser, su única versión concebible. Llamo estilo de ensueño a todo lo que se presenta como estado íntegramente de la subjetividad, sin pretensiones de correlativos externos, y llamo por eso al Ser un almismo ayoico, porque es siempre pleno en sus estados …” (243). 37 “[S]oy el imaginador de una cosa: la no muerte; y la trabajo artísticamente por la trocación del yo, la derrota de la estabilidad de cada uno en su yo” (32; Schwartz 28). 38 “La Realidad y el Yo, o principalmente el yo, la Persona (haya o no Mundo) sólo se cumple, se da por el momento altruístico de la piedad (y de la complacencia) sin fusión, en pluralidad. El acto no instintivo de Piedad, reteniéndose el lúcido discernimiento de pluralidad, sin confusión del Otro con el Nosotros, es la finalidad de Haber Algo y es lo sólo ético: ser todavía en el hacerlo todo por otro” (5). 39 See Macedonio (1993, 20–1). 40 See Derrida (1978). 41 See Levinas (2003). 42 See Derrida (2001). 43 See Obieta et al. (1969, 85). 44 See García (1969, 107–8). 45 Federico G. Pedrido recounts an anecdote of his first encounter with Macedonio in 1948 that could provide us with an interesting image of Macedonio’s relationship with his friends. Pedrido says that he was going to be introduced to Macedonio by a mutual friend, Carlos Coldaroli, who had an appointment at Macedonio’s home. However, he asserts that once they were inside his apartment, Macedonio, as he did every time he had an appointment, was late. Pedrido depicts the scene: “[h]abía una cortina hasta abajo (a un costado) y se lo oía arrastrar los pies y parecía que iba a aparecer y no aparecía, se alejaba” [“there was a curtain reaching the floor (on the side [of the living room]) and it was possible to hear that he was dragging his feet, and it seemed that he was going to appear but he did not, instead he moved away”] (see Obieta et al. 1969, 40). Macedonio finally showed up later on, and Pedrido says that they developed an intense friendship.


Chapter Nine

References Books Abós, Alvaro. 2002. Macedonio Fernández: la biografía imposible. Buenos Aires: Plaza & Janés Editores Barletta, Leónidas. 1967. Boedo y Florida: Una versión distinta. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Metrópolis. Borges, Jorge L. 1961. Macedonio Fernández. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Culturales Argentinas. Borges, Jorge L, and N. T. Di Giovanni. 1999. Autobiografía: 1899–1970. Buenos Aires, Argentina: El Ateneo. Bueno, Mónica. 2000. Macedonio Fernández, un escritor de fin de siglo: genealogía de un vanguardista. Buenos Aires: Corregidor. García, Carlos et al. 2000. Correspondencia, 1922–1939: Crónica de una amistad. Buenos Aires: Corregidor. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1986. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. —. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Derrida, Jacques. 2005. The Politics of Friendship. London: Verso. Derrida, Jacques, and Maurizio Ferraris. 2001. A Taste for the Secret. Malden: Polity. Engelbert, Jo A. 1978. Macedonio Fernández and the Spanish American New Novel. New York: New York University Press. Fernández, Macedonio. 1993. Museo de la Novela de la Eterna. Edited by Ana Camblong, and Adolfo de Obieta. Trans. Margaret Schwartz. Nanterre: ALLCA XX. —. 1989. Papeles de recienvenido y continuación de la nada. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1989. Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977. Edited and translated by Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books. Garth, Todd S. 2005. The Self of the City: Macedonio Fernández, the Argentine Avant-Garde, and Modernity in Buenos Aires. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. González, Horacio. 2004. Filosofía de la conspiración: marxistas, peronistas y carbonarios. Buenos Aires: Colihue. —. 1995. El filósofo cesante: gracia y desdicha en Macedonio Fernández. Buenos Aires: Atuel.

Deciphering Macedonio


Isaacson, José. 1981. Macedonio Fernandez, sus ideas políticas y estéticas. Buenos Aires: Editorial Belgrano. Jitrik, Noé. 1973. La novela futura de Macedonio Fernández: con un retrato discontinuo, una antología y una bibliografía. Caracas: Ed. de la Biblioteca de la Universidad Central de Venezuela. Lévinas, Emmanuel. 2003. “Time and the Other.” In The Levinas Reader, edited by Seán Hand. Cambridge: Blackwell. Lindstrom, Naomi. 1981. Macedonio Fernández. Lincoln: Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies. Obieta, Adolfo et al. 1969. Hablan de Macedonio Fernández. Buenos Aires: Atuel. Piglia, Ricardo. 1990. Crítica y ficción. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Siglo Veinte. —. Teoría del complot. 2007. Buenos Aires: Mate. Prieto, Julio. 2002. Desencuadernados: vanguardias ex-céntricas en el Río de la Plata (Macedonio Fernández y Felisberto Hernández). Rosario: B. Viterbo Editora. Rock, David. 2002. “The Fall of the Oligarchy.” In State Building and Political Movements in Argentina, 1860–1916. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Solberg, Carl. 1970. Immigration and Nationalism: Argentina and Chile, 1890–1914. Austin: University of Texas Press. Viñas, David. 1971. De los montoneros a los anarquistas. Buenos Aires: Carlos Pérez.

Chapters from edited collections Bosteels, Bruno. 2008. “Manual de conjuradores: Jorge Luis Borges o la colectividad imposible.” In Jorge Luis Borges: políticas de la literatura, edited by Juan P. Davobe, 251–70. Pittsburgh: Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana, Universidad de Pittsburgh. Derrida, Jacques. 1978. “Violence and Metaphysics.” In Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Fernández, Macedonio. 1981. “La desherencia.” In Papeles antiguos (1892–1907). Obras completas. Vol I. Buenos Aires: Corregidor. —. 1989. “No todo es vigilia la de los ojos abiertos.” In Obras completas. Vol. 8. Buenos Aires: Corregidor. —. 1990. “Para una teoría del Estado.” In Teorías. Obras complets. Vol. III. Buenos Aires: Corregidor.


Chapter Nine

García, Germán. 1969. “Desvivirse de Macedonio Fernández.” In Hablan de Macedonio Fernández, edited by Adolfo Obieta et al. Buenos Aires: Atuel. Gilman, Claudia. 2006. “Florida y Boedo: Hostilidades y Acuerdos.” In Literatura Argentina Siglo XX, edited by David Viñas, Gabriela García Cedro, Graciela R. Montaldo, and Guillermo Korn. Buenos Aires: Fundación Crónica General. Montaldo, Graciela. 2006. “El Origen de la Historia.” In Literatura Argentina Siglo XX, edited by David Viñas, Gabriela García Cedro, Graciela R. Montaldo, and Guillermo Korn. Buenos Aires: Fundación Crónica General. Piglia, Ricardo. 1993. “Notas sobre Macedonio en un diario.” In Museo de la Novela de la Eterna by Macedonio Fernandez, edited by Ana Camblong and Adolfo de Obieta. Nanterre: ALLCA XX. Sarlo, Beatriz. 1983. “Vanguardia y criollismo: la aventura de Martín Fierro.” In Ensayos argentinos: de Sarmiento a la vanguardia, edited by Carlos Altamirano and Beatriz Sarlo. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina. Viñas, David. 2006. “Algunos Protagonistas, Nudos y Crispaciones.” In Literatura Argentina Siglo XX, edited by David Viñas, Gabriela García Cedro, Graciela R. Montaldo, and Guillermo Korn. Buenos Aires: Fundación Crónica General.

Websites Fernández, Macedonio. “De las personas.” Dissertation, University of Buenos Aires, 1897. In “Macedonio Fernández: su tesis inédita De las personas” by Marisa Alejandra Muñoz. /scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1853-31752010000100007. Muñoz, Marisa. 2010. “Macedonio Fernández: su tesis inédita De las personas.” _arttext&pid=S1853-31752010000100007.


This essay explores the various relationships that exist between the selfrepresentation of a journalist narrator and the emancipatory capabilities of writing as a form of art. By reading the novel as a cultural artifact, it is possible to identify its claims for renewal regarding the socio-political state of apathy from where it emerges. The image of the journalist is highly relevant because of its political implications as a historical mediator between the official discourse and the society it addresses, but also because of the protagonist’s waking consciousness of the effects of writing. When the image of the mediator is put into question, there arises the problem of the configuration of society as a whole. Published during the second half of the 1990s in Chile, Tinta Roja [Red Ink]1 expresses the immanent critique of a system of media-driven cultural production that looms over an impassive Chilean society during the Transición period that followed the military rule of Augusto Pinochet. The abundance of metafictional tropes signals the relevance of creative action, such as writing, in the formation of a modern community where media development comes at the expense of social mobilisation. The crisis of authority comes forth as a pivotal issue arising from the symbolic relation between authorial figures, their work, and their spheres of influence. This interplay suggests a crisis of traditional figures of authority, such as authors, parents, and masters, and their given roles as organisers of the social experiences over which they preside. Ultimately, the portrayal of a journalist narrator in the novel articulates the paradoxical value of writing as a means of societal restraint with emancipatory attributes.


Chapter Ten

The essay participates in a theoretical discussion about the relevance of art and writing as means for social change by focusing on a member of the journalistic society who displays a characteristic self-awareness, through which the protagonist weaves together his professional and personal experiences. Critical theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno set the starting point by defining “culture industry” as a system of cultural production that operates at the expense of social individuality, but still harbours the possibility for art to break free from the totalitarian cycle perpetuated by mass media. More-recent theoreticians have contended that the negative effects of such forms of social alienation are effected by different forms of mass media by moving the focus from the format of the works to the more-relevant aspect of how a given work responds to established forms of discourse and social organisation. Therefore, it is important to recognise the ways in which the novel abolishes the common distinction between literature and journalism as essentially different forms of writing. Furthermore, Tinta Roja emphasises the distance mediating between the represented authors, their readers, and the effects of their works as it problematises the paternalistic approach to artistic production and its relevance for social development. I will argue that the metafictional properties of the novel show the common instability to all forms of social relationships based on a principle of authority, such as parenthood, tutelage, and readership. This particular exploration of the crises of authority highlights the social flexibility of the journalistic community represented in the novel, where Alfonso Fernandez experiences the various limitations of his own individuality. Lastly, I come back to the problem of cultural consumption by addressing the way in which the novel negates the passivity of the spectator, contending what Jacques Rancière has called the “embodied allegories of inequality.” The effect of such a procedure is the recognition of a multiplicity of circuits of cultural production and consumption that struggle to make sense out of the totalitarian forms of discourse that are continuously administered through them. In this regard, we may understand the represented journalistic figure as a member of a number of communities that do not conform to a cohesive and well-defined group in themselves, but rather a transient form of society based on their members’ interests in the moment. This approach brings together the small group of reporters constituted by Alfonso Fernández, Saúl Faúndez, Lizardo Escalona, and el Camión, which originates as a work-related structure, and the larger group formed by the journalists and their readers. Both groups originate in a particular articulation of public discourse, its origins, and subsequent circulation. However, the nature of such relationships is not

Transient Communities: Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja


given but is always subject to a dynamic struggle that finds its locus in the journalistic enterprise of El Clamor [The Clamor]. The immanent critique present in Tinta Roja signals the contradictions within the cultural system of representation that settled in Chile during the 1980s and 1990s. It expresses the possibility for change latent within what Adorno and Horkheimer called the culture industry. Instead of representing the cultural devastation effected by mass media, Fuguet’s novel renders a problematic construction of subjectivity where traditional forms of selfaffirmation are displaced by the performative action of reading and writing, and the discursive negotiation for meaning that they entail. For the founders of the Frankfurt School, this totalitarian mode of cultural production was the result of a discursive transposition of the alienating logic of capitalist exploitation into the cultural spheres of society and leisure. Within this all-encompassing system, art still conformed to a destabilising cultural phenomenon that resisted total homogenisation and directly opposed other industrialised forms of culture: The moment in the work of art by which it transcends reality cannot, indeed, be severed from style; that moment, however, does not consist in achieved harmony, in the questionable unity of form and content, inner and outer, individual and society, but in those traits in which the discrepancy emerges, in the necessary failure of the passionate striving for identity. Instead of exposing itself to this failure, in which the style of the great work of art has always negated itself, the inferior work has relied on its similarity to others, the surrogate of identity. (Adorno and Horkheimer 1972, 103, emphasis added)

Adorno and Horkheimer originally inscribed this dialectical relationship of different forms of cultural production within the socio-historical development of art. By doing so, they assigned different qualities to the effects that such forms produced on the fabrication of social paradigms of beauty and truth. One of the ways in which the German authors explain this difference is by emphasising the products’ relationship to appearance; that is, the equivocal relationship between materiality and meaning: Thus, the omnipresent and impenetrable world of appearances is set up as the ideal. Ideology is split between the photographing of brute existence and the blatant lie about its meaning … It exploits the cult of fact by describing bad existence with utmost exactitude in order to elevate it into the realm of facts. Through such elevation existence itself becomes a surrogate of meaning and justice. Beauty is whatever the camera reproduces. (118–9)


Chapter Ten

Appearance became the core principle of the culture industry as a mode of thought. For the critics of the Frankfurt School, this ideological use of technology had an alienating effect on the public (readers, moviegoers, radio audience, etc.), and at the same time foreshadowed the problematic relationship between the material fact and the imaginative fictive use of language. Precisely because cultural agents cannot operate outside this matrix, photography, art, language, and other forms of cultural production emergedʊsimultaneouslyʊas the means for social emancipation and the instrument of administered subjection. Guy Debord continued to work on the alienating effects that such forms of violence produced on the general population, the spectators. For Debord, the spectacular forms of representation and production that settled in the West after World War II further alienated the individuals of societies where they emerged. When Debord affirms that, “The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images” (1994, 6), he highlights the disparity of the given relationship between de-humanised cultural producers and everyday spectators-consumers. More recently, Rancière has contended this pessimistic view of the spectacle as a paternalistic view of the dynamics of present-day cultural production. Rancière contends that the “distance” between the work of art and the spectator is, “the normal condition of any communication” (2009, 10). Such a definition defies the paternalistic preconception of pedagogy and its relation to knowledge acquisition. Instead of regarding “distance” as a synonym for separation and loss … every distance is a factual distance and each intellectual act is a path traced between a form of ignorance and a form of knowledge, a path that constantly abolishes any fixity and hierarchy of position with their boundaries” (Ibid., 11). Rancière continues to define “emancipation” as a constructive process of self-determination that begins by questioning the “embodied allegories of inequality” (12) that emerge from the prejudice that declares active and passive as complete opposites. “Emancipation begins when we challenge the opposition between viewing and acting; when we understand that the selfevident facts that structure the relations between saying, seeing and doing themselves belong to the structure of domination and subjection” (13). Rancière’s ideas aim to end the hierarchical understanding of the spectacle as a paternalistic form of expression. They do not refute the separation between the spectator and the spectacle, but he insists on their mutual recognition as participants and on the significant mediation of the text (performance, work of art, or spectacle) between them. “It is the third thing that is owned by no one, whose meaning is owned by no one, but

Transient Communities: Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja


which subsists between them excluding any uniform transmission, any identity of cause and effect” (15). By understanding the inherent distance to artistic production in such terms allows us to elucidate Tinta Roja’s critique of modern structures of cultural production and consumption. Fuguet’s novel presents us with the double reading of textual mediation as part of the mediatised “logic of dispossession” and as the egalitarian “power of associating and dissociating” (17). It incorporates these forms of representational and linguistic distance in order to lay out the ways in which writing sustains or undermines a given community. The novel poses a question within this framework as it sets out to challenge a school of thought that acknowledges “appearance” as the mere reduction of society “to nothing more than life lived in the violent struggle for survival” (Hullot-Kentor 2008, 144–5). Tinta Roja appeared during the second half of the 1990s in Chile, but a great part of the novel takes place during the 1980s in the city of Santiago. Both periods are linked by the systematic use of media as an instrument of administered ideological repression. According to Rosalind Bresnahan, both decades witnessed a decline regarding the freedom of expression that went from the overt repression and censorship of the military regime to the decline of media diversity that “consolidated a consumerist, entertainment model” (2003, 40) that marked the neo-liberalisation of the country’s public sphere. The Spanish term Transición signals the Chilean state’s process of demilitarisation; namely, the transition from a military government to a democracy. In socio-economic terms, the period was a continuation of the neo-liberal doctrine instated by Augusto Pinochet. As a result, the breach between social classes widened, setting up the basis for a growing cultural differentiation between the various socio-economic strata. Those who had profited from the economic “miracle” of the authoritarian period mimicked wealthy North American lifestyles and consumption patterns, while those who had become more marginalized by the process remained in poverty in the poblaciones … of the capital, and similarly poorly serviced urban and rural settlements throughout the country. (Barton and Murray 2002, 334)

It was under these circumstances that macro-economic growth came at the expense of an equitable development plan, and social antagonism rose between the elites and the general population with the continuity of the military’s social pragmatism (Ibid., 337). However, this form of social discomfort had limited political repercussions, as the country went through a process of continuous de-politicisation. After the successful campaign


Chapter Ten

that ended the military rule of Pinochet, Chile became a “low-intensity” democracy during the Transición. Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser claims this was an aftereffect of the “agreed transition,” in addition to the “economic miracle” that benefited the political and economic elites. From a sociological perspective, this situation entailed a loss of self-determination for civil society, at the expense of freedom of political engagement and social organisation (345). In addition to the apparent difference of wealth distribution, the Chilean society’s lack of self-regulation made way for an administered form of government that mimicked that of the military regime. In Chile, the apparent advent of democracy during the Transición provides the context for the crisis of authoritarian forms of discourse. The development of modern journalism in Western history serves as a social precondition for the emergence of a liberal and democratic society.2 However, for Nelly Richard, the administered striving for consensus during the 1990s also meant the prevalence of a particular mode of public speech. Practical reason and “direct forms of language” served as guidelines for the official discourse that privileged a “denotative form of realism” (2004, 13–4). This created a linguistic matrix against which art had to be considered, as it aimed to deconstruct the formulaic exchange of political and media discourse (2004, 31). Furthermore, the political dissidence of the journalistic community of the Transición was forced into silence by the predatory effect of the military tribunals that continued to exercise their influence on civil society throughout the 1990s and at the turn of the century. This made journalism a dangerous enterprise, but it also made it a historical example of the ideological manipulation of the media by the military regime. The historical configuration of the journalistic community during the 1980s and 1990s presents us with a phantasmagorical society that faces not only political and military persecution but also a process of de-professionalisation. According to Hernán Uribe, the military suspended journalism as a formal profession soon after the coup d’état in 1973, and in 1981 it disbanded collegiate journalism (1999, 45–6). This process entailed a de-regularisation of the profession and ultimately led to a pauperisation of the media and a domestication of the public opinion, where the journalist enterprise was entirely sustained by the whims of the market and the will of the military. Tinta Roja stages the decay of authoritarian forms of discourse as well as its relationship to individualistic figures of authority. From the outset, the novel presents us with the narrative voice of a troubled writer and paterfamilias, whose relationship with his pupil is mediated by resentment, admiration, and envy. All spheres of sociability in the novel share a

Transient Communities: Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja


common downfall structured by the personal crisis of the central male figure. Within this downfall, the represented journalistic community presents a particular form of social organisation in which the notion of a given identity is displaced by a performative and temporary form of common recognition. Christian Opazo understands this effect as a part of an intricate fictional schema that Fuguet uses to shape male formative narratives (2009, 81). However, the particular form of alienation experienced by the narrator also expresses the collapse of his personal experience and authority as the organisational principle of the novel. This explains why the second part is supported by a scenic composition, fragmentary and abundant in dialogues, with little use of Alfonso’s narrative voice. The opening conflict of the novel deals with the possibility/impossibility for the narrative voice to self-style an image of its own: I was born with ink inside my veins. That is at least what I would like to believe. Or what some enthusiasts used to say about me when my name still meant something. I have never known for sure what is it that runs through my veins (my ex-wife has made sure to spread the rumour that it’s a sort of cold and thick serum), although I am convinced that ink has been a decisive element in the construction of my personality, my life and my career. (11) 3

The biological constitution of the narrator and the means that allow for his self-representation are aligned narratively, echoing the identity principle of autobiographic narratives (Alberca 2007, 90). However, the narrator’s self-styled image is readily contended by his wife’s opinion. This interruption of the narrative self-determination inaugurates a series of confrontations that defy the unilateral construction of the narrator’s subjectivity. The opening image of the narrator’s blood replaced by ink also inaugurates a delusive interplay of mirroring images where oppositions and similarities are taken apart. The narrator’s failed intention to assimilate both forms of liquid brings about the impossibility of a continuity between his biological and professional experiences. This crisis of the narrative voice extolls the struggle for identity as the novel accepts the interplay of appearances that renounces any given truth that may support autobiographical and historical narratives. On a symbolic level, this initial set of paragraphs prefigures the collapse of identity regarding personal and cultural histories. The voice of the narrator announces its own dismissal as a principle of identity between expression and interpretation. The external voice signalled by the use of reported speech, and reinforced by the use of parenthesis, readily defies


Chapter Ten

the narrator’s self-styled image. The confrontation of both experiences mimics the basic dynamics of a spectacle, where the director and the public fail to find a common ground for their interpretation. This structure foregrounds the inherent distance between the protagonist, his work, and the public that receives it. The structure of the novel continues to emphasise the interplay of disconnections that drives it. The second part of the novel abandons the intimate tone and use of the first person singular, generating a notorious contrast between the framing and framed narrations. This chapter begins the story of the summer when Alfonso Fernandez started working as an intern for El Clamor. It is a fragmentary bildungsroman structured by “cinematic” representations of violence (Summers 2006, 64). As the narration becomes more impersonal, the protagonist abandons the role of narrator and becomes a spectator of his own life. It is also possible to understand this alienated state of the protagonist in relation to the political struggle in Chile, which also contextualises the actions in the novel. Although there is no immediate correlation between the types of violence perpetuated on each given instance, the manifold crises of the narrator are predicated on the coercive and ideological repression administered during the harshest years of the dictatorship and its prolongation toward the 1990s. In 1977, the military government announced the implementation of a “protected democracy,” which established a strict censorship for the press. The 1970s were marked by an increasing number of protests against the regime and political dissent. The economic crisis and the general unrest of the population paralysed the country between 1983 and 1984 (Ibid., 461). Although Tinta Roja “offers a sense of presence to this past” (Hutcheon 1988, 125), such relation to history is also fictional and is represented as such. Following the postmodern procedure of the historiographic metafiction posited by Linda Hutcheon, the novel provokes a paradoxical relationship to its sociopolitical context, “it exposes all contextualizations as limited and limiting, arbitrary and confining, self-serving and authoritarian” (Leitch 1983, 162). Such a procedure falls in line with Fuguet’s early lack of interest in politics (Palaversich 2000, 60; Fuguet and Gómez 1996, 10), as it provides a textual marker for the author’s interest in exploring the ethical and aesthetical restrictions of a modern Chilean society. Tinta Roja problematises the self-centred notion of the author as the locus for textual meaning. The novel enacts the dissolution of the narrator’s individual autonomy by establishing the origin of his subjectivity within a framed narrative that consists of fragments and a multiplicity of voices. The formal distance between these two narratives

Transient Communities: Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja


evidences the fragility of the protagonist’s self-image, as much as it contends the collapse of the administered cultural discourse of modernity. “The great figure of the author has been replaced by the uncertain figure of the writer … But most of all what has been lost is the rhetoric of fiction” (González Echevarría 1985, 69–70). Once the novel sets up this deconstructive perspective, it goes on to address the problem of media as the modern locus for socialisation. Later in the novel, we find a group of journalists that drive around Santiago looking for all kinds of social transgressions to fill up the pages of El Clamor. It is their cumulative and decentred experiences that continue to drive the second and longest part of Tinta Roja. However, the novel goes back to the unresolved issue of the spectacular society, as it constantly dwells on the disparate relationship between the journalists and their readership. It is within this context that we find the episode of Aliro Caballero, a former pimp and drug dealer who appears in front of the group of journalists. The arrival of Caballero spurs a prolonged conversation between the members of the circle. However, the topic of their discussions is the character’s history in the media, and the abundant series of chronicles that had him as a protagonist. Caballero’s description allows us to understand the disconnection that exists between his mediatised personae and physique: “The Little Man walks to the bar. His skin appears to melt over his bones. He’s shaking, no doubt about that.”4 He appears to be, as Roxana Aceituno says, “a skinny guy who has never beaten anyone.”5 The disproportionate relationship between the textual and the physical body of Aliro is indicative of the alienating nature of a particular form of journalistic representation. When Chico Quiroz recognises Caballero, he does not call him by his name. Instead, he shouts the title of the first chronicle that made him known in the papers: “Gentleman acts like a jackal!”6 A different member of the journalistic cenacle continues to undermine Aliro’s individuality by recalling the greatness of the fictional construct, overshadowing the character’s personal presence: “A great title, great cover, great chronicle.”7 This series of comments is followed by a conversation among the journalists, who recall Aliro’s crime: the rape and murder of an old woman. What the group continues to discuss is the reified version of Aliro’s life, filtered and processed by the modes of production of the society of spectacle: life as a simulacrum of itself. “What human beings contemplate in the spectacle is the activity they have been robbed of; it is their own essence become alien, turned against them, organising a collective world whose reality is that dispossession” (Rancière 2009, 7).


Chapter Ten

Recent criticism has pointed out the forms in which Tinta Roja reproduces the oppressive conditions of the military regime on a symbolic level. Jason Summers states that there is a correspondence between the torture practices that occurred during Pinochet’s dictatorship and the form in which journalistic representation operates within the novel. “The newspaper’s portrayal of daily life in Santiago is just another means by which the military-economic elites 'deconstruct the voice' of those who dissent in Chile” (2006, 67). Patrick L. O’Connell further states that, “Fuguet’s characters are metaphors representing the conflict between past and present in Chile, and … part of the legacy of Chile’s military dictatorship” (2001, 186). Both readings of Fuguet’s oeuvre dwell on the negative effects that a cultural system based on consumerism provokes in the protagonists and other characters, “ultimately distorting their perceptions of reality and of themselves” (Ibid., 187). However, it is also necessary to consider Tinta Roja’s account of the unachieved harmony of totalising forms of discourse. At the end of the episode regarding Aliro Caballero, the character meets Saul Faúndez, the author of the chronicles that made him famous. The meeting of the author and his character is a common trope throughout the history of metafiction. In the case of this particular novel, the meeting calls for the collapse of the logic of dispossession that presupposes any form of hierarchy between the participants. It brings to the fore the possibility of textual mediation as an instrument for communion. What happens upon their encounter reveals a blatant difference in the way these characters relate to the chronicle: Caballero looks at Faúndez and his eyes fill up with tears. He struggles to take out his old crocodile leather wallet from his jacket. He goes through his documents and takes out a dry, yellow paper that’s about to break … as he begins to spread it out, the red letters of a title appear. Gentleman acts like a jackal! (275)8

Aliro’s emotional reaction exposes not only a different interpretation of the article, but also a real distance between two divergent forms of reading. Aliro remembers Faúndez’s work as a significant event in his own life. He even thanks the author for writing it: “It made me a character and one does not forget that. They respected me in the joint because of this. It saved me from being ganked. By the time I got there, I was already a legend.”9 The mediation of the text allows the characters—author and readerʊto share a common ground from where they can project different associative frameworks based on their own socio-cultural realities. The actual distance

Transient Communities: Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja


between the lettered world of the journalists where the text originated and the jail culture that received it stands as the condition of possibility for the text’s circulation—the necessary precondition for the text to have any effect on the world. This episode is an example of the novel’s use of metafictional tropes to challenge the hierarchical scheme in a cultural system of production and circulation. Caballero’s representation recognises and at the same time transcends ideological subjection within the logic of the culture industry. There exist notorious differences in the power given by the socioeconomic circumstances of the journalists and their readers. However, the novel also negates the authoritarian relationship between the cultural producers and their work. For Latin American literary history, journalism and literature have always maintained a close relationship based on mutual interdependence and formal influence.3 Aníbal González suggests that during the final decades of the twentieth century, the use of journalistic tropes and language replaced religious discourse as the preferred vehicle for selfreflection in Latin American narratives (1993, 110–1). He goes on to affirm that this particular substitution introduces “the ethics of writing” as a textual marker of the authors’ critical self-reflectivity. Such description suggests the use of ethics as part of a metafictional structure for criticism: “Instead of commandments and principles this ethics of writing formulates questions … for which there are no simple, dogmatic answers” (Ibid., 111).10 The representation of journalistic communities shapes the discourse on ethics by providing a metanarrative structure that undermines private forms of authority and morality.11 My approach to ethics deals with the rhetorical and formal characteristics that the novel displays during the characters’ reflection on the value of their own writing within a larger system of cultural circulation. Consequently, ethics relate to the form in which any text is processed by the public, but also with the mode of production where it originates. In Tinta Roja, this entails the integration of journalistic and literary discourses as interwoven forms of writing. According to Stephanie Decante, this mutual relation between the genres has an effect on the narrative structure of the novel that supports the critical endeavour while presenting an aesthetical program of its own (2005, 187). Metafictional discourse is the basis for the crisis of ethics because it provides a self-reflexive composition that foregrounds the inconsistencies of the ethical and discursive positioning of the characters. Tinta Roja takes the construction of the writers’ rhetorical ethos12 as a problem by itself, hence denying the prevalence of any given form of


Chapter Ten

ethical paradigm that may arise from a distinctive narrative order. Moreover, it constantly confronts different paradigms that operate simultaneously within the novel, as the reporters constantly reflect on their own views of the social effects of their writing. Within the represented group, it is not uncommon to see struggles about the moral quality of the pieces they put together. Both Fernández and Faúndez argue constantly about the meaning and purpose of their work. Those discussions are not limited to the actual practice of writing, but also include the processes through which they obtain information and its particular employment in the service of the tabloid. Tinta Roja’s use of journalistic discourse frames an intricate discussion on the limits and potentialities of art as an instrument for social change. Such discussion takes place within a narrative structure that denies all forms of hierarchy regarding lower and higher forms of culture. As such, the chapter titled “Los tomates asesinos” [“The Killer Tomatoes”] takes its name from a radical fiction: a low budget comedy film where giant tomatoes wage war on humanity. On the novel, it serves as a title for one of Alfonso’s more dramatic chronicles. In it, an old woman loses her only son because of a gang named “Los tomates.” In this chapter, we find the leader of the “Cuarteto de la muerte” praising the work of his photographer: Escalona is an artist … I want you to be clear on that, and respect him as such … Who else but Lizardo Escalona is able to reveal the soul of the underworld and its victims through his lens? … Because Escalona’s portraits express all that the victims and perpetrators are unable to express. Escalona can see beyond that and really understand. (1996, 147)13

Saúl Faúndez associates Escalona’s name with that of a great artist whose authority is based on the technical mastery of his camera. Such view also credits Escalona with the capacity to appropriate and shape the collective experiences of the dispossessed. Soon after, the photographer instructs Fernández on the basic composition principles of his work: Everyone has to appear attractive because that is what lures the audience … Unattractive people need to have something extra. Like that old lady. Now, if we add tears and sorrow, and pain, she becomes attractive. Different. It moves you. You look at the picture and something happens. (148)14

The styling described by Escalona perpetuates the homogenisation of individuality formerly attributed to Horkheimer and Adorno’s culture

Transient Communities: Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja


industry. This spectacular form of representation continues to reproduce “the structures of social coercion” (1972, 103), as it presents Alfonso with a set of rules that rests on the technical capabilities of the producer to make the represented subjects appear as something other than themselves. Human emotion becomes quantifiable. Through Escalona’s lenses, it becomes the reified version of itself. “The poor do not exist. That’s where we come in. The crime section is the only place where the poor have a picture, name and last name. It’s where we give them a tribune and listen to their problems” (Fuguet 1996, 150).15 Indeed, such depiction recalls the dialectics of cultural production and artistic representation described by the German theorists. However, Fuguet’s representation of the artistic enterprise further negates any oppositional scope based on the immanent attributes of a given piece of writing, and instead offers a wider reflection on the instrumentality of art. What this perspective brings to light is the critical view of the means of control and subjection implicit in every act of representation and the ethical value of journalism as a public service. It readily questions the ethical grounds of the aesthetic reconfiguration of a given encounter with alterity.16 As the novel continues to blur the differences between journalistic writing and literature as a form of art, it brings to the fore the act of writing itself as an exercise of control and authority. When Faúndez and his apprentice meet to discuss their impressions of the different forms of writing, they ultimately agree on their understanding of their own writing as a means to shape their own desire for control. For Alfonso, “to write literature. Short stories, novels. When I write … I also feel that I am in control.”17 Shortly after, Faúndez responds by presenting his own idea of control regarding his journalistic experience as a writer: I’ll give you that, but to each his own. I have control and plenty of it. I know that a single extra line or a missing adjective may mean a whole life to someone. It’s clear to me and I like that, to know that there’s people that have committed suicide because of me, and on the other hand, that by omitting something I have saved families, marriages, jobs, or whatever. (239)18

With the naïve idealisations of the young Fernández and the overtly egotistic position of Faúndez, there appears an indisputable relationship: both aspire to gain a certain form of control—individual or social—from their practice.


Chapter Ten

Beyond the characters’ pretentions, the novel insists on the collapse of personal authority as an inherent principle to creative action. At the end of the second part of the novel, Faúndez’s son dies. This causes him to abandon both his wife and his job at El Clamor. At the end of the novel, the narrator informs us of Alfonso’s disciple Martin Vergara’s suicide. These two personal losses for the main characters highlight the interplay of mirrored relationships as it reinforces the analogy between the factual distance inherent to the work of art and the interpersonal isolation that exists between the authorial figures and their subordinates. What ends is a narrative structure based on a parody of arbitrary oppositions: master/apprentice, work/family, fact/fiction. Instead, what emerges from this narrative is the proposition for a renewed relational configuration that allows textual mediation as a principle for intellectual and social emancipation. Regardless of the given desires of Alfonso or Saúl, their writing can only go so far as to express their own individual struggles with their personal histories. Although their positions as reporters and enforcers of the public opinion do have an impact on their readers, the outcome is not the actualisation of their particular desires but a problematic form of writing that sustains and undermines their own paternalistic worldview. Every time, such a worldview is contended and sometimes directly questioned by the represented readers that show a cultural history of their own. As a whole, Fuguet’s novel presents a structure that negates the privilege of any given point of view. The abundance of metafictional tropes in the novel recognises the pervasiveness of a manipulative intention within the media and other forms of social propaganda, but it also acknowledges the distance that mediates between the media apparatus and the different audiences it addresses. The novel takes the problematic relationship of affinity between strangers as a principle for a given community. In the journalists’ case, the interactions between them and with the greater public lack any form of idealisation; they readily pose the conflict of interests as the pivotal element within the group’s dynamic while emphasising the disparities among the writers’ and readers’ hermeneutic structures. What Tinta Roja foregrounds is the possibilities projected by different modes of interpreting public speech. It also points out the dialectical relationship that supports a particular form of publicity embodied in the equivocal practices of social representation and image manipulation. Up to this point, I have shown the forms in which Tinta Roja uses a journalistic narrator as a self-reflective platform. The represented journalists that join Fernandez in the novel constantly question the social and aesthetical qualities of their work in order to address their own ethical

Transient Communities: Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja


positioning in relation to their oeuvre and the public. This characteristic form of self-reflexivity is accentuated by the narrative structure of the novel that denies the univocal understanding of the narrative voice. Such procedure extends to the characterisation of the authorial figures in the novel, Fernandez and Faúndez. It is in their presentation as mirroring images and the subsequent collapse of their relationship that we find the problematic and meaningful sense of a transient form of community. Similarly, the conversations of the two journalists bring to the fore the collapse of the differentiation between fictional and non-fictional forms of writing. The problematising of the two forms of speech arises from their capability to represent and socialise human affections as a form of alterity. This structure relates to its sociopolitical context by foregrounding the aesthetic and ethical limitations imposed by the authoritarian discourses of the military regime and its neoliberal legacy.

Notes 1

The novel remains untranslated into English up to this date. Therefore, all translations are my own. 2 When Jurgen Habermas talks about the transformation of “the public sphere,” he refers to the rise and fall of a bourgeois category that had its apex at the end of the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth. This category presupposes a literate bourgeois public whose political role was defined by their conflictive relationship with the state (1989, 27). As their private interests came to be regulated by the public authorities, the bourgeoisie endeavoured to influence civil society and the political realm (Ibid., 52). In Habermas’ historical account, this literate public emerged with the development of economic liberalism that brought about a shift in social structure. 3 “Nací con tinta en las venas. Eso, al menos, es lo que me gustaría creer. O lo que algunos entusiastas decían de mí cuando mi nombre aún poseía cierta capacidad de convocatoria. Nunca he tenido muy claro qué fluye exactamente por mis venas (mi ex mujer se ha encargado de esparcir el rumor de que no es más que un suero frío y gelatinoso), pero sí estoy convencido de que la tinta fue un factor decisivo en la construcción de mi personalidad, mi vida y mi carrera” (11). 4 The original text states, “El hombrecito se acerca al bar. Su piel es cerosa y no esconde sus huesos. No hay duda de que tirita” (268). 5 The original text states, “[un] flaco que no le ha ganado a nadie” (269). 6 The original text states, “¡Caballero se comporta como chacal!” (268) 7 The original text states, “Gran título, gran portada, gran crónica” (268). 8 The original text states, “Caballero mira a Faúndez y sus ojos comienzan a llenarse de lágrimas. Con esfuerzo, extrae una vieja billetera de cuero de cocodrilo del interior de su chaqueta. Revisa sus documentos y saca un trozo de papel amarillento, seco, resquebrajadizo … mientras lo despliega, comienzan a aparecer las letras rojas de un titular. ¡Caballero se comporta como chacal!” (275).


Chapter Ten


The original text states, “Me transformó en personaje y eso no se olvida. En la Peni me respetaban por eso. Me salvo de que me dieran capote. Antes de entrar, ya era leyenda” (276). 10 See González (1993) and Calvi (2010). 11 See Christopher S. Weinberger (2012) for a longer discussion on the relation between metanarrative and ethical reflection. 12 Fernando López Pan follows Aristotle in proposing that the “rhetorical ethos” comprises the intratextual image of the represented ego. 13 The original text states, “Escalona es un artista … Quiero que te quede claro y que lo respetes como tal … ¿Quién sino Lizardo Escalona es capaz de revelar el alma del hampa y de sus víctimas a través de su lente? … Porque los rostros de Escalona expresan todo lo que las víctimas y los victimarios son incapaces de expresar … Escalona es capaz de ver más allá y entender” (147). 14 The original text states, “Todos tienen que verse atractivos porque eso es lo que atrae … La gente que no es atractiva necesita tener algo más. Como esa vieja. Ahora bien, si a la vieja le agregamos lágrimas y sollozos y dolor, se vuelve atractiva. Distinta. Te engancha. Miras la foto y algo te pasa” (148). 15 The original text states, “[Los pobres] No existen. Ahí entramos nosotros. La sección policial es la única parte donde los pobres aparecen con foto, nombre y apellido. Donde les damos tribuna y escuchamos sus problemas” (150). 16 Martha Nussbaum assigns part of the ethical value of literature to the possibility that it presents its reader an encounter with different types of emotions. “novels … engage readers in relevant activities of searching and feeling, especially feeling concerning their own possibilities as well as those of the characters” (in Hale 2007, 316). 17 The original text states, “Escribir literatura. Cuentos, novelas. Cuando yo escribe … también siento que estoy en control” (239). 18 The original text states, “Te concedo que puedes tener razón, pero cada uno a lo suyo. Control tengo y bastante. Sé que una línea más o un adjetivo menos le pueden significar a alguien la vida. Tengo claro, y me gusta, eso de saber que hay gente que se ha suicidado por culpa mía y, por otro lado, que por omitir o callar he salvado familias, matrimonios, empleos, lo que sea” (239).

References Books Chillon, Luis Albert. 1999. Literatura y periodismo: una tradición de relaciones promiscuas. Valencia: Universitat de Valencia. Debord, Guy. 1994. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books. Fornazzari, Alessandro. 2013. Speculative Fictions: Chilean Culture, Economics, and the Neoliberal Transition. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Fuguet, Alberto. 1996. Tinta Roja. Santiago: Alfaguara.

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Fuguet, Alberto and Sergio Gómez (eds.). 1996. McOndo. Barcelona: Mondadori. González, Aníbal. 2001. Abusos y admoniciones: Ética y escritura en la narrativa hispanoamericana moderna. México, D.F.: Siglo XXI. —. 1993. Journalism and the Development of Spanish American Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. González Echevarría, Roberto. 1985. The Voice of the Masters: Writing and Authority in Modern Latin American Literature. Austin: University of Texas Press. —. 2000. Mito y archivo: Una teoría de la narrativa latinoamericana. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Habermas, Jürgen. 1989. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: MIT Press. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. 1972. Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Herder and Herder. Hullot-Kentor, Robert. 2008. Things Beyond Resemblance: Collected Essays on Theodor W. Adorno. New York: Columbia University Press. Hutcheon, Linda. 1988. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge. Leitch, Vincent B. 1983. Deconstructive Criticism. An Advanced Introduction. New York: Columbia University Press. Rancière, Jacques. 2009. The Emancipated Spectator. London: Verso. Richard, Nelly. 2004. Cultural Residues: Chile in Transition. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press. Uribe O., Hernán. 1999. La invisible mordaza. El mercado contra la prensa. Santiago: Editorial Cuarto Propio.

Chapters from edited collections Summers, Jason. 2006. “Media-portrayed violence in Alberto Fuguet’s Tinta Roja.” In Novels of the Contemporary Extreme, edited by AlainPhilippe Durand and Naomi Mandel, 64–76. London: Continuum.

Journal articles Alberca, Manuel. 2007. “¡Este (no) soy yo? Identidad y autoficción.” Pasajes 25: 88–101.


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Barton, Jonathan R. and Warwick E. Murray. 2002. “The End of Transition? Chile 1990–2000.” Bulletin of Latin American Research, 21 (3): 329–38. Bresnahan, Rosalind. 2003. “The Media and the Neoliberal Transition in Chile: Democratic Promise Unfulfilled.” Latin American Perspectives, 30 (6): 39–68. Calvi, Pablo. 2010. “Latin America’s Own ‘New Journalism’.” Literary Journalism Studies 2 (2): 63–84. Decante Araya, Stéphanie. 2005. “Del valor material al valor simbólico: Tensiones y negociaciones con el horizonte de expectativas en el Chile de los 90. El ‘Caso Fuguet’.” Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies 9: 181–91. Hale, Dorothy J. 2007. “Fiction as Restriction: Self-Binding in New Ethical Theories of the Novel.” Narrative 15 (2): 187–206. O’Connell, Patrick L. 2001. “Narrating History through Memory in Three Novels of Post-Pinochet Chile.” Hispania 84 (2): 181–92. Opazo, Cristián. 2009. “De armarios y bibliotecas: masculinidad y tradición literaria chilena en la narrativa de Alberto Fuguet.” Revista Chilena de Literatura 74: 79–98. Palaversich, Diana. 2000. “Rebeldes sin causa. Realismo mágico vs. realismo virtual.” Hispamérica 86 (29): 55–70. Pan, Fernando. 2003. “Breve historia de las relaciones entre la lengua y la redacción periodística.” Español Actual 79: 99–108. Rovira Kaltwasser, Cristóbal. 2007. “Chile: transición pactada y débil autodeterminación colectiva de la sociedad.” Revista Mexicana de Sociología 69 (2): 343–72. Weinberger, Christopher S. 2012. “Critical Desire and the Novel: Ethics of Self-consciousness in Cervantes and Nabokov.” Narrative 20 (3): 277– 300.


1. National Discourse and Literary Dissidence In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the health of the Peruvian literary field is a matter of contention. Conflicting discourses originating from cultural journalism and literary texts portray national literature as experiencing a commercial “Boom,” or as suffering from exclusion and invisibility in the international Spanish-reading market.1 As a sample of the first trend, a 2013 article in the Spanish newspaper El país is enthusiastically titled “The New Peru conquers Cartagena” [“El nuevo Perú literario se lanza a la conquista de Cartagena”], a reference (with imperialistic overtones) to the Colombian literary festival La mar de letras (July 2014), in which Peru was the guest of honour. In the article, Alfaguara Prizewinner novelist Santiago Roncagliolo links the “effervescence” of Peruvian literature, manifest in the appearance of new writers and tendencies, to the country’s economic upturn that has occurred in the past twenty-five years. This discourse of national exaltation, articulated by one of the country’s most prominent writers, mimics similar voices in various sectors of the economyȄfrom literature to copper miningȄweaving a neoliberal narrative of ever-growing success and prosperity driven by the private sector and foreign investment, and promoted institutionally by the state entity Promperú.2 At the centre of this nation-branding narrative lies Lima, conceived as a global city connected to the world, promoted as the gastronomic capital of the Americas, and recently selected to host the 2019 Pan-


Chapter Eleven

American Games.3 In this context, the prospect for Peruvian authors writing their way from Lima into global cultural networks seems brighter than ever. One example of this national narrative can be seen in the governmentsponsored “Marca Perú” [“Peru Brand”] campaign to promote the Peru brand and, particularly, in its popular 2011 commercial “Peru, Nebraska.”4 In this publicity spot, a bus filled with celebrities recast as cultural ambassadorsȄa chef, a surfer, an Afro-Peruvian musical ensemble, an athlete, most of them from LimaȄreaches the small town of Peru, in the state of Nebraska, and teaches the locals, “Peruvians” in their own right, about the rich culture that a curious nominative coincidence entitles them to enjoy. The ad’s multi-layered pedagogical message is one of spreading the national brand in markets such as the United States, but also modernising the peripheries of rural Peru, likened to the godforsaken towns of Nebraska, so that they may partake in the country’s newfound affluence (Gomero 2013). The agents of this process, or cultural ambassadors, are identified by the Peruvian public as successful entrepreneurs in their respective business sectors. Despite the fact that toward the end of the spot, a voiceover invites all Peruvians to become ambassadors of the national brand, only a few selected faces are invited to participate. In general terms, global mobility is paramount, as suggested by the allegory of the bus painted in the colours of the national flag and capable of traversing the Americas from South to North. Significantly, no writers ride on the “Marca Perú” bus, a statement on the banality of literature for mainstream audiences as well as on the exclusion from its official discourse. Even though a Peruvian version of Horacio Castellanos Moya’s antinational diatribe against El Salvador—the novel El asco [Revulsion]—remains to be written, there are some critical voices that contest such triumphalist narratives of economic buoyancy and global connectedness. In contrast to the perspectives described above, it is possible to locate a counter-discourse that puts under scrutiny the optimistic language of spots like “Perú, Nebraska.” This chapter focuses on a particular criticism emanating from two meta-literary novels in which an alternative story of national literature is narrated. In these texts, contemporary Peruvian writers (and artists) appear as conflicted subjects who desire and reject participation in global literary networks. Some of them wish to “internationalise” by traveling and attending events abroad, only to discover their true home in the aesthetic realm of authorial myths and fiction. Others ostracise themselves and live a destiny of creative and/or political exile in Lima, a capital portrayed as isolated, disconnected from the world and rife with the violence of political turmoil, though paradoxically hospitable

Two Peruvian Circles of Artists


to marginal projects of art and literature. I study two exemplary cases from contemporary Peruvian literature—the novels La disciplina de la vanidad [The Discipline of Vanity] (2000) by Iván Thays and Sueños bárbaros [Barbarous Dreams] (2010) by Rodrigo Núñez Carvallo—to argue that this counter-discourse finds its locus of enunciation in a particular alternative community: the circle of artists. I will offer close-readings of relevant passages in the texts and move from the concrete to the abstract, trying to pay attention to what individual books and authors have to say about largescale geopolitical, ideological, and literary phenomena.5 It might seem far-fetched to compare Thays and Núñez Carvallo, two writers of quite different profiles. Author of seven novels, university professor, former host of the literary television show Vano oficio [Vain Trade], and one of Hispanic literature’s most popular bloggers, it is fair to say that Thays has built an international reputation. Not only is he a familiar presence at festivals such as La mar de letras, but some of his books have also been published in Spain, distributed widely in Spanish-speaking markets, and translated. For instance, his most successful novel, Un lugar llamado Oreja de Perro [A Place Called Dog’s Ear] (2008), was a finalist in the Premio Herralde and released by the well-regarded Anagrama press. His novel La disciplina de la vanidad (2000) portrays the anxieties of a young aspiring writer, very much an alter ego of Thays, in his struggles for inclusion within a global community of writers similar to the one in which the author is inserted. Thays can be included in a tradition of cosmopolitan Peruvian writers along with such canonical authors as Clemente Palma, Abraham Valdelomar, and Martín Adán.6 At the other end of the spectrum, Núñez Carvallo has built his literary capital by fashioning for himself a marginal persona. Anti-academic in his poetics, distant from official institutions, politically sympathetic to the radical left but ultimately independent, Núñez Carvallo’s literary self is close to that of a “savage detective,” to borrow Roberto Bolaño’s term for peripheral intellectuals dwelling in the cultural underground. Núñez Carvallo is a writer and also a painter; he has published two novels, both released in Lima by an established press with limited international circulation. Sueños bárbaros (2010), which saw significant local acclaim, depicts the exact opposite of Thays’ cosmopolitan community: its collective protagonist is a group of marginal filmmakers based in Lima who produce an avant-garde amateur film that will never reach the theatres. It is clear, then, that Núñez Carvallo’s identity as a national writer is reflected in the perspective adopted by his novel, while Thays’ cosmopolitan outlook as an author shapes his text. Despite their different positions in the literary field, it is worthwhile comparing the communities depicted in these novels because they both engage in dia-


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logue with the motif of the circles of artists: Sueños bárbaros offers a community of filmmakers and in La disciplina de la vanidad the reader finds a community of young writers struggling to achieve success. While Núñez Carvallo presents a fully-fledged circle of artists, Thays creates a slightly different group that first parodies and then recasts the idea of community itself. In both cases, there is an appropriation and reworking of a traditional Spanish American collective character.

2. The Circle of Artists in Spanish America As portrayed in the twentieth-century Spanish American novel, the classical circle of artists can be described as a marginal and transgressive community. It is a persistent motif in a number of modern narrative texts from diverse national traditions, mainly from Argentina, Cuba, and Mexico.7 Some of the influential authors who have explored the trope of the circle of artists are Macedonio Fernández, Roberto Arlt, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Carlos Onetti, Julio Cortázar, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and Fernando del Paso, among others. The circle of artists is a small and internally heterogeneous group of individuals. Its members are not exactly friends, although sometimes conventional friendship, as a means to shared enjoyment, forms part of the equation. In other cases, they are colleagues in the same profession, for example young poets of the same generation. However, it strikes me as more accurate to qualify them as comrades plotting together: this word “comrade” addresses the secret nature of their bond. All of these individuals share the modern Latin American city—Buenos Aires, Havana, or Mexico City—as the theatre of their operations. Some of them might be artists in the conventional sense of the profession: writers, poets, painters, and musicians, who are official and practicing affiliates of artistic institutions. But other members of the circle cannot boast an explicit connection with art; in fact, they are linked with an underground world of secret societies: for instance, we can think of the delirious revolutionaries who appear in Arlt’s diptych Los siete locos/Los Lanzallamas [The Seven Madmen/The Flamethrowers]. Despite the obvious differences between artists and terrorists, the common ground that brings all of these subjects together is their self-imposed, and shared, marginality. If they are artists, they are not successful or accomplished; quite the contrary, they are outsiders who reject all possibility of institutional affiliation. They also withdraw from the ties of natural filiation, avoiding such private spaces as the bourgeois family and the modern home. After eschewing such conventional settings, these characters long for each other’s company. Moving in the shadows like conspirators, perhaps reminding us of the Russian nihilists

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who populate the novels of Dostoevsky or Turgenev, they form cenacles where they can devote themselves entirely to their dark endeavours. They aspire to transform their liminal and often dubious status into a radical cultural project. Combining art and life, this project is not a work of art, nor an ideology, nor any kind of intellectual product: it is praxis. We could best explain this practical project as a collective adventure that implies designing a social space and co-constructing a lifestyle, an aesthetic way of life organised according to three main principles: performance, presence, and intensity. In general terms, we could then say that these cenacles of underground aesthetes are self-conscious communities that strive to build themselves as sites of socio-aesthetic experimentation. The ultimate goal of the circle of artists is to bridge the gap between art and life. Using the main concepts of the classic volume Theory of the Avant-Garde, Peter Bürger would depict their communal adventure as avant-gardist in nature. Indeed, the European historical avant-garde of the 1920s, particularly as represented by Tristan Tzara and Dadaism, sought to accomplish a similar deed. The first step was destroying the institution of art as the avant-gardists knew it: that is, as an autonomous sphere, detached from the economy and from society; as a realm of pure aestheticism or, in the words of Herbert Marcuse, an “affirmative culture” that had no connection at all with the daily lives of modern citizens under capitalism. Secondly, certain values and principles usually associated with art, such as beauty, and harmony, had to be massively transferred from art to the sphere of life, giving rise to a social revolution by which the general population would gain access to those positive values and principles. In this context, art and life can be seen to fuse into a single dimension. According to Argentine critic Beatriz Sarlo, most Latin American avant-garde movements were moderate and less ambitious than their European counterparts. They strove to bring artistic modernity to Latin America: in other words, they engaged in a constructive, institutional enterprise. True as this may be, it is no less accurate to claim that the Latin American avant-garde had a revolutionary spirit that fully embraced the urge to change life and modify urban experience at a basic level. Some circles of artists could be presented as avant-gardist in their own right: for example, the group of martinfierristas who Leopoldo Marechal describes in Adán Buenosayres. Other circles, such as the ones that appear in Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela, render more contemporary, neo-avant-garde reinterpretations of the ethos of the historical avant-garde. These examples testify to the enduring legacy of the avant-garde as a life-transforming cultural phenomenon. In spite of this enduring legacy, the particular circles of artists I am trying to describe do not wish to introduce long-term or large-scale socio-


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economic transformations. That project would imply edifying new institutions able to perpetuate themselves in time. In the hands of these radical aesthetes, time itself becomes the matter of an ephemeral experiment, which can only take place here and now, in the context of repeated group performances not meant to travel into the future. These group performances are common, everyday experiences, like walking around the city, chatting with friends, or listening to jazz music, which are systematically submitted to a process of ritualisation and intensification. When practiced by circles of artists, these activities are reworked as happenings. The happening, as defined by Susan Sontag, is a hybrid of art exhibit and theatrical performance that fosters spontaneous cooperation between multiple authors/actors collaborating in real-time. Within circles of artists, communal life becomes a permanent preparation for intense and short happenings. These happenings are, actually, the only measure for true presence and existence. According to Catherine Gallagher, who studies a comparable phenomenon in English Romantic poetry, this quest for exaltation is now the crucial ethical principle: “Getting from one such intense moment to another with the greatest celerity becomes the task of the aesthetic life” (2000, 241). The aesthetic life not only erases the past but also cancels the future, selecting from the present only certain moments, a few valid instants when an actual feeling of communitas may be achieved. And communitas, according to anthropologist Victor Turner, can be defined as an almost sacred experience of community, by which individuals temporarily abandon their social roles and share a moment of direct, unmediated closeness. Communitas involves, “the happiness of a communicative experience which is not subject to the imperatives of means-end rationality and allows as much scope to the imagination as to the spontaneity of behavior” (1995, 25). When reflecting on community, Maurice Blanchot makes analogous statements. For instance, in his essay The Unavowable Community, Blanchot argues that a true community is radically different from any other conventional social gathering in terms of its relationship to the ethics of capitalism: thus, a community, “differs from a social cell in that it does not allow itself to create a work and has no production value as its aim” (1988, 11). The aim of a community is not to work, but to “unwork”; that is, to promote an active form of idleness open to collaboration, creativity, and freedom, a utopian collective life of multiple happenings, filled with never-ending moments of sacred communitas. Nevertheless, it is obvious that, by their ephemeral nature, these events and performances that the circle of artists likes to create must eventually reach a closure. In the absence of the desire to establish long-lasting social structures able to persist and endure

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the test of time, circles of artists end up consuming themselves in the fleeting instants of their rituals. Blanchot points out that death and separation form the paradoxical essence of community, which is deeply antistructural. In confirmation of this idea, it is almost a rule that in every Spanish American novel that portrays a circle, one of the characters, typically the protagonist, must die at the end, leaving behind the memory of a better, brighter past. This apparently sombre conclusion should not, however, distract us from the fact that the cultural project of these social organisations entails challenging tradition, blurring national boundaries, decentring fixed social identities, and questioning the ethical and ideological foundations of capitalist modernity in Latin America.

3. World Desires and Artistic Circles in Iván Thays Thays’ novel La disciplina de la vanidad was published in 2000, a time in which Peru was leaving behind Alberto Fujimori’s authoritarian regime and the economy was undergoing significant and sustained growth. At the end of the 1990s, since the Spanish literary market controlled the circulation of Hispanic fiction, it was desirable for up-and-coming SpanishAmerican writers from the Crack and McOndo generations to relocate themselves to Spain and/or publish their work under Spanish presses in order to earn international visibility.8 This was the time when, due to the globalisation of the literary market, a particular strand of post-Boom Latin American literature was born, characterised by a departure from magical realism, an erosion of national identity, and a general standarisation aimed at creating a form neutral writing in Spanish, lacking in regionalisms and particularity. The diminishing of national and continental traits was, to some of its protagonists and contemporaries of Thays (like Mexican novelist Jorge Volpi), a multi-faceted phenomenon, because it implied on the one hand outgrowing the shadow of the BoomȄwhich Volpi, in his book El insomnio de Bolívar [Bolivar’s Insomnia] identifies as his generation’s burden (Pera 2012)—and on the other the danger of losing all identity to the demands of the market. As Bernat Castany (2007) argues, the mandate to produce post-national literature, “has led many authors to adapt the form and content of his/her writing, in order to be read/purchased by an implicitly global worldly reader who does not ascribe to one particular culture.”10 In current literary criticism, post-national writers from Latin America are studied from two main perspectives (and in different combinations): the traditional Latin Americanist approach, and the World Literature approach that challenges both national and continental belonging. Partially,


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at least, the World Literature approach is justified because it is appropriate to locate Thays, a cosmopolitan writer from Peru, in a group of contemporary post-national writers who share what Mariano Siskind has termed a “desire for the world,” a utopian cosmopolitan drive present in modern Latin American literature since Rubén Darío to transcend all markers of particular identity and reach out to the horizon of universal modernity (2014, 3–22). According to Carlos Yushimito in his chapter “Towards a Cellular Literary Model,” included in the present volume, writers like Thays no longer experience a desire for the world but an actual insertion into its networks. This insertion does not imply the fixation of identity, but rather the openness of flux. For Héctor Hoyos, these authorsȄhe analyses, among others, Ignacio Padilla, Diamela Eltit, Fernando Vallejo, César Aira, and Mario BellatinȄare producing the “global Latin American novel,” characterised by a dual inscription in, “both the world and Latin America as their chambers of resonance” (2015, 7), a double identity not devoid of friction that bespeaks a multi-polar planet with many centres. Indeed, Thays’ La disciplina de la vanidad captures the desire to partake in an international literary system that transcends the Hispanic world and resembles Pascale Casanova’s “world republic of letters.” This foray into the centre of a universal literary space has, nevertheless, a transatlantic layover. Assuming the form of a diary written by a young aspiring author, the novel narrates the trip made by 90 young authors from all over Spanish America and Spain who are invited by a Spanish cultural foundation to a literary congress in the Andalusian town of Morillo. Ironically, we are talking about the periphery of Spain, which could be considered semi-peripheral in the world literary market. It is clear that La disciplina de la vanidad explores its protagonist’s world desire as an ambivalent object, worthy of admiration and derision: the dream of a naïve young man as seen from the viewpoint of an older self. Rumours circulate that the mythical literary agent Carmen Balcells, a key promoter of the Latin American Boom of the 1960s, roams the fictional Centro de Escritores Jóvenes (CEJ) [Center of Young Writers] in search of new faces.11 Balcells’s ghost underscores one of the novel’s main themes: a perceived crisis of creativity in modern Spanish American literature and nostalgic feelings for a glorious past. The writers’ thirst for recognition and blind self-confidence in their talent create an atmosphere of suspicion, rapidly transforming what was supposed to be a cultural event into a farcical confrontation where ambition and competitiveness lead to violence, murder, and disbandment. Thus, the group of young writers that initially resembles a classic avant-garde circle of artists becomes a parody of community, a neo-liberal space of individualism and competition where

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communitas is not accomplished nor desired, but invoked as a ghost of the past. Even the way in which the group disintegrates reminds the reader of a humorous happening, with writers running to save their lives from a rhinoceros. In this sense Thays’s novel is akin to—though less delirious than—El congreso de literatura [translated into English as The Literary Conference] by Aira, certain passages from the first book of 2666 by Bolaño, and, more recently, Arno Schmidt (2014) by Mariano Dupont. The novel criticises the impossibility of community and the degradation of the original circle of artists. It construes the literary event and the space where it occurs as a transparent allegory of the market’s destructive influence over the writers’ intimate connection with their colleagues and with literature. Significantly enough, the CEJ where they stay is a prison camp of sorts, with shacks for the invitees and, curiously, a chained rhinoceros that symbolises literary toils but also harnessed creativity— perhaps symbolic of the standardisation of post-Boom literature. Instead of community, what we find is incarceration. The Peruvian narrator of the novel needs to flee in order to preserve his physical and artistic integrity. It comes as no surprise that, right before the disintegration of the literary community, he has an epiphany about his future, in which he conceives his next book project. After Cameroonian author Mboma—inspired by the Nigerian Wole Soyinka—is murdered by one of the young writers, the CEJ is shut down and the narrator returns to his home city, where he will write the book he has been dreaming about. Implicitly, and in contrast to the CEJ, Lima is fantasised as a shelter far from the madding crowd, a pastoral city of the mind where, the young writer dreams, he could devote himself entirely and permanently to his craft and forget the hassles of the literary field: publication, circulation, prestige, struggle. The return to the native city, depicted as small and secluded, is understood as a triumphant “back-to-basics” approach. The young writer’s desire for solitude and concentration can only be fulfilled by renouncing all forms of transnational editorial affiliation and ambitions of global readership, thereby placing him in a solipsistic utopia interestingly located in the capital city of Peru. It is important to emphasise that this literary city of pure writing is not a physical space identified with the capital as a whole, but a selective and nostalgic image that focuses on a fragment of the city, an urban island totally disconnected from other neighbourhoods: the coastal bohemian district of Barranco, traditionally associated with literature and the arts. In the novel, Barranco can be seen a textual reconstruction that the narrator produces and envisions as home by linking the actual place to the memory of admired insular writers who lived there—mainly José María Eguren and Martín Adán, who never sought literary fame—and to passages from their


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works. It is significant, in this regard, that Rodrigo Núñez Carvallo currently resides in Barranco, where he keeps his studio. The narrator of La disciplina de la vanidad does not feel bound to this home nor does he believe it is the only place in the world where he could write, but he does cast it as an idyllic location of comfort and ease that offers the possibility to avoid the late twentieth-century Spanish American literary field, represented by images of loss and nostalgia for the Boom of the ’60s and other literary myths in the irreverent and militant final paragraph of La disciplina de la vanidad: It is curious, but every young writers’ festival ends up like a Wailing Wall, a long handkerchief capturing the tears and snot caused by the death of the Boom, by publishers’ disregard for young writers, by the end of engaged literature, by the fact that we, Latin Americans, can only self-publish our work in our countries of origin. Nonsense! No writer here understands the true meaning of discipline, the authentic exactitude of vanity. Amateurs, nothing but amateurs. Because I, the vain one, am not a pilgrim of that Wailing Wall. Because of vanity, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space. (2000, 367)12

Lima, specifically a fragmentary memory of it, is that Shakespearean “nutshell” where writing can unfold. This “nutshell” is best imagined as a literary space where the writer seems to be alone initially, but then starts building a new alternative community. Unlike the CEJ, this second circle of artists is not populated by their contemporaries but by the imagined presence and writings of World Literature authors from the past and the present. The narrator may return to Peru, but this does not imply that he abandons the project of transcending the nation: in fact, the project is transformed. The cited paragraph suggests that physical location is meaningless in a globalised, interconnected world, which the novel maps and recreates through a complex, proliferating structure that resembles the rhizomatic form of The Savage Detectives (Hoyos 2015, 12–22). Along with the Morillo plot, the novel features another textual space definable as a “utopian enclave,”13 constituted by a loosely organised network of interpolated notes and fragments: quotations, author profiles, anecdotes, and book commentaries made by the narrator of the novel. This network is not arranged in a linear way: it is a chain of signifiers that demands the active participation of the reader to construe a potentially endless series of connections and meanings. In principle, this array of fragments introduces an essayistic and meta-literary dimension that aims to comment on issues of style and good writing, literary vanity and artistic ego, literature and the market, and the diary that the narrator is writing. Even though these notes

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do not amount to an explicit program, it is possible to extract from them a strikingly transgressive definition of “World Literature.” In La disciplina de la vanidad, World Literature is defined as a muddled, non-hierarchical construct produced by an eclectic and voracious reader—the narrator himself—constrained by neither national identity nor exclusive aesthetic attachments, who questions the Euro-American assumptions of canonical World Literature systems such as those of Moretti or Casanova (SánchezPrado 2006, 7–46). The narrator/reader moves away from a centreperiphery logic and places all literatures, Peruvian (Loayza, Adán, Valdelomar), Latin American (Borges, Saer, Onetti), Spanish (Javier Marías), North American (Poe, Faulkner, Hemingway), and European (Walser, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Lampedusa) on the same levelled field, from which a revamped geoliterary map emerges, and on it authors with disparate levels of symbolic capital like Vladimir Nabokov and Luis Loayza establish unprecedented egalitarian dialogues facilitated by empowered reading acts: those of the narrator and those of the readers of La disciplina de la vanidad. The narrator even dares to include his own opus, the novel itself, within the dialogue and network he has created, an operation that inscribes his literary persona in the resulting planetary map: transfiguring himself, in a subversive act, into an aesthetic being with no national belonging. Thus, a second alternative community emerges, a heterogeneous circle of artists rooted in the utopian space of World Literature generated within the novel. A fleeting communitas of post-national authors that vanishes not long after it is conjured.

4. Núñez Carvallo: Artistic Circles as Political Machines The ethereal realm of texts and authors that Thays imagines in his novel is not to be found in the concretely situated world of Sueños bárbaros. In Núñez Carvallo’s novel, Lima is also the headquarters of a different project, this time collective, artistic, and political: the coming together of an artistic commune formed by a would-be screenwriter, a film student, a young actress, a musician, and other bohemian types who occupy a rundown, abandoned house that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is worth mentioning that this house is located in the district of Chorrillos, adjacent to Thays’ Barranco and peripheral to the city’s economic and political centres. Inside it, the artists intend to produce an indie film titled “Sueños bárbaros,” in which daily routine and political context intertwine and blend. In contrast to the short-lived, antagonistic group of writers described by Thays, Núñez Carvallo’s filmmakers coexist as a tight-knit and, in many ways, utopian community for twenty years, witnessing and sur-


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viving the country’s difficult times of internal conflict (1980s) and dictatorship (1990s). In this sense, this is an atypical long-lasting circle of artists. The film is shot during that two-decade period, and its creators, who work at their own expense, have to endure all kinds of financial hardship. They receive no support from universities or cultural institutions, suggesting that the film industry in Peru only exists thanks to the tenacity of independent producers, and denouncing it. By blurring the limits between life and art, work and play, the members of the community generate a performance of everyday politics in which the collective practice of art criticises both the ideological zealotry of Sendero Luminoso [The Shining Path] and the authoritarian violence of the Fujimori regime.14 Near the end of the novel, the community opens its house and itself to mix with the multitude of protesters who take to the streets demanding an end to Fujimori’s rule. Remarkably, what began as an alternative neo-avant-gardist enterprise gains social breadth and becomes significant, albeit in a modest way, in Peru’s transition to democracy. The novel reiterates the country’s centralist tradition by suggesting that only Lima has the necessary political agency to channel widespread discontent and steer national life in a democratic direction. In the fictional film Sueños bárbaros, Lima is represented not only as an active community of citizens who succeed against the powers of violence and corruption, but also as a utopian space in which the old dream of merging the two avant-gardes—the aesthetic and the political—can materialise. Significantly, as the novel reaches the year 2000 and the fall of Fujimori, the artists’ house is transformed into a campsite that gathers demonstrators hailing from all over Peru. The allegory is clear: the house, this artistic site of togetherness, undergoes a process of politicisation that enables it to become a national symbol of resistance. In Sueños bárbaros (the novel), Lima may well be the national city, but it is not—perhaps should not be—a global city capable of or willing to negotiate artistic penetrations into cultural markets beyond national borders, and in this regard Núñez Carvallo and Thays concur. Indeed, in spite of the political significance of the film “Sueños bárbaros,” it seems destined for oblivion, as does the young writer’s new book in Thays’ novel. To be more precise, publication and circulation are not necessarily cancelled out altogether, but relegated to the background. However, this destiny of marginality is not lived as a failure by the inhabitants of the house. Value and success concentrate in the long production process, understood as a heroic period of daily struggle to survive and create art in a degraded context. What comes after, the finalised product and its dissemination, is less significant than the experience of living and filming. The novel ends with the deaths of

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Claudio Bronsky and Rafael Delucchi, the film’s main screenwriters, and with the news that in 2001 Fujimori is accused of being a co-conspirator in the death-squad killings at Barrios Altos in 1991 and La Cantuta in 1992. Despite the fact that they pass away before the film is ready, it is unfair to say that Bronsky and Delucchi’s work is left unfinished, if one interprets the political events after 2000—the true work of the community—as a result of the social activism in which the community of artists is directly involved. The future of the film “Sueños bárbaros” after its completion is, as its title indicates, just a dream that stresses community-building even after death, which is, according to Blanchot’s well-known definition, the true meaning of community, not capitalist production. After Delucchi’s passing, one of the filmmakers named Pipo Gallo daydreams that the film wins an award at the Sundance Film Festival of 2002. This is, of course, ironic, considering that Sundance entails the institutionalisation of indie success. The truth is that, when the plot ends, the film is yet to be completed. What I want to highlight is that the novel’s implicit comment that Gallo’s daydream is a wild personal fantasy, indeed a “sueño bárbaro,” and could not become a viable project of international dissemination through a venue like Sundance, which contradicts, at the basic level of expectations, the official national discourse of expanding cultural capital, growing exports, and international recognition of the Peru brand. The significance of this particular scene cannot be emphasised enough, since Peruvian cinematography is an especially sensitive area of cultural production due to its level of “internationalisation.” It is well known that a small number of national movies and directors have gained international esteem in the past few years, the most prominent being filmmaker Claudia Llosa, whose second film The Milk of Sorrow (2000) won the Golden Bear award and was nominated for an Oscar in 2010. Ironically, Llosa’s debut, Madeinusa (2006), did in fact premiere at the Sundance Festival in 2006, unlike the film “Sueños bárbaros.” If one looks closely at Gallo’s rendering of the ceremony, however, it becomes evident that the core of the filmmaker’s desire is not exclusively to gain prestige, but perhaps, more importantly, to create an intimate, discursive and affective ritual of remembrance and reunion between the living and the dead, so that the old community that shared the house for twenty years can come together once again and celebrate its accomplishment: I set my imagination free and allow myself to be swept by daydream. We have been nominated for the best Latin American First Feature Award at the Sundance Film Festival of 2002. At the university’s film library they have the footage of the ceremony, I have seen it. Robert Redford delivers


Chapter Eleven the awards. The pale actor and director opens an envelope. And the winner is Sueños bárbaros, by Pipo Gallo, he says in his terrible Cuban accent from Havana. Barbarian Dreams. Congratulations, Peru … I thank him in Spanish. This film wouldn’t have been possible, this metafilm wouldn’t have been made without the participation of two people who are absent today. I am referring to Rafael Delucchi and Claudio Bronsky, scriptwriter and producer respectively, who have left us forever. (455–6)15

Sueños bárbaros should be read against the backdrop of what Josefina Ludmer has termed the “antinational tone” of Latin American literature produced in the 1990s, a decade of rampant neo-liberalism, denationalisation (Sassen 2002, 286–8)16 of the nation state and privatisation of public companies (Ludmer 2010, 157–78). In this respect, it is necessary to remember that Peru’s current economic success is, in many respects, a continuation of Fujimori’s neo-liberal policies, which created wealth and reduced poverty but institutionalised widespread corruption and did little to curtail persisting levels of high inequality.17 According to Ludmer, in texts such as El asco by Castellanos Moya, La virgen de los sicarios [translated as Our Lady of the Assassins] by Fernando Vallejo, and Contra o Brasil [Against Brazil] by Diogo Mainardi, it is possible to locate an imperialistic discourse of diatribe and profanation against the nation that parallels its economic weakening and penetration by foreign capital in the age of globalisation. Anti-national texts are not necessarily allies of denationalisation, but are symptomatic of its process. According to Ludmer, “They register contemporary antinational voices, assign them low and visceral affects (scorn, disgust, abomination) and then they stage them in a performance” (2010).18 It is clear that Núñez Carvallo’s novel moves away from the antinational tone and returns to the nation as a frame of reference and meaning. Rather than attacking the nation, Núñez Carvallo assumes the role of a public intellectual engaged in the collective task of rebuilding it and reclaiming its political institutions after the demolition that they suffered during the neo-liberal 1990s. Again, it is particularly interesting that this task is carried out by a peculiar social actor, a marginal community of politicised filmmakers that fully inserts itself in the tradition of avant-garde circles of artists and also resembles but transcends those forms of assembly that Ludmer (2010) would call fragmented “urban islands”: “The inhabitants of the island … seem to have lost society or something that represents it in the form of family, class, labor, reason, and law, and sometimes, nation.”19 Significantly, the only actual international trip that Delucchi takes is to Cuba, to study film at the famous International Film and TV School. This episode highlights the artistic community’s sentimental attachment to the

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Cuban Revolution and its anti-capitalist ideology: to these amateur filmmakers, their craft is an aesthetic and political enterprise, not a commercial one. In this way, Sueños bárbaros suggests the possibility of an alternative Pan-American channel of cultural exchange that is, nevertheless, subordinated to the national framework. By the same token, Núñez Carvallo seems to scoff at the thought of his books crossing the borders of Peruvian national literature. This is true in Sueños bárbaros and, to a certain extent, in La disciplina de la vanidad—two novels that can be read as loci of interconnected scenes of rejection, in which the possibility of disseminating a work of art—be it a novel or a film—in a global or at least international market is entertained and declined, contemplated and dismissed. On the one hand, in Thays’ novel a young writer opts out of the post-Boom literary field and instead returns to his utopian home in Lima, where he creates a new, horizontal map of “pure” World Literature. This character rejects the “real” literary field, but uses the city—actually, a district or fragment of it—as a platform for a textual post-national experiment. On the other hand, in Núñez Carvallo’s novel an independent filmmaker chooses to understand the celebration of an international award as a private dream of community. In both cases, Lima is depicted not as a city of linkages that transcend national borders, but as an enclosed space of community, a retreat into post-national writing fantasies or the political struggle for democracy. As a conclusion, however, the idea of outright rejection is unsatisfactory and perhaps simplistic, because the element of desire present in both scenes described above has to be accounted for: the writer travels to Spain driven by an initial project, even though he is later disillusioned, while Gallo daydreams of Sundance and, one could argue, is bold enough to imagine success at the festival. The dynamic of attraction and repulsion, with its suggestive abject overtones, is part of the ultimately ambivalent counter-narrative analysed in this chapter. Generally speaking, circles of artists tend to be alternative spaces that, due to their small size, fleeting duration, and marginal quality disrupt the wide-reaching, territorial, and durable standing of nations. This abstract definition, however, expands when it is confronted with particular circles of artists that form in the Peruvian cultural field of the twenty-first century.


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1 I use the term “literary field” following Pierre Bourdieu’s (1993) definition, but focus on its aspect as a space of struggle between cultural agents competing for prestige and visibility. 2 Promperú’s official mission is defined as, “to promote Peru’s image in matters of tourism and exports” (Promperú website, all translations in this chapter, including titles, are my own). The discourse of growth and success is grounded in economic reality: for an overview of Peru’s economy, see the article “Peru Has the Formula: Keys to an Economic Boom” [“Perú tiene la fórmula: las claves de un ‘boom’ económico”] by Goyo G. Maestro (2014). In a 2013 article, The Economist highlights the country’s “virtuous circle of economic growth.” 3 Regarding gastronomy, Carlos Yushimito has published a satirical short story about Peru’s obsession with the uniqueness of its cuisine titled “Rizoma” in his 2014 collection Los bosques tienen sus propias puertas [Forests Have their Own Doors]. A novel that, rather than criticising, reproduces the nationalistic discourse of gastronomy in Gustavo Gutiérrez’s novel Cocinero en su tinta [Chef in its Ink]. See Thays’ negative review of this novel on his blog Vano oficio, hosted by El país (“Con la tinta aún húmeda,” February 1, 2012). 4 The spot can be found here: 5 In World Literature criticism, a dichotomy is often created between close reading and distant reading. Direct attention to individual texts is opposed to data aggregation and abstraction, a model championed by Franco Moretti. I adopt close reading in order to capture the subtleties, nuances, and conflicts that specific texts can illuminate, thus striving to avoid the illusion of clear-cut conceptualisations. My approach is similar to Héctor Hoyos’ reading program in the introduction of his book Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel (2015, 1–32). 6 In the Peruvian narrative of the twentieth century, what I call “national realism” enjoyed hegemonic status. Literature—in particular, the novel—was understood by Mario Vargas Llosa, José María Arguedas, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, or Julio Ramón Ribeyro—the country’s most notorious writers—as a tool to represent, interpret, and shape social reality from different ideological positions, but always within an identitarian and nation-building project. Despite national realism’s centrality, there is a parallel literary discourse that melds cosmopolitanism, postnationalism, and anti-realism, with subgenres such as the fantastic, the strange, and metafiction. Thays is part of this second lineage that includes portions of the work of Clemente Palma, Abraham Valdelomar, César Vallejo, Luis Loayza, and Jorge Eduardo Eielson, to name the most representative. See my article “Por las grietas del realismo nacional” (2015). 7 In the present volume, similar groups are explored by John Burns, Salvador C. Fernández, Federico Fridman, and Javier González. In my monograph Comunidades efímeras: círculos de artistas en la novela hispanoamericana del siglo XX, I study such circles in six novels by Roberto Arlt, Leopoldo Marechal, Julio Cortázar, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Fernando del Paso, and Roberto Bolaño. 8 Néstor García Canclini claims that by the year 2000 the Hispanic literary field was centred in Spain, mainly due to Spanish presses—albeit transnational in their

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structure, because they had German and Italian capital—controlling the book market. García Canclini goes back to the 1970s to explain how Argentina and México, the strongest Latin American countries in terms of editorial muscle, lost their leadership. On the one hand, prestigious presses such as Grijalbo in México and Sudamericana in Argentina were absorbed by groups like Mondadori and Bertelsmann (García Canclini 1999, 151); on the other, the transnational presses based in Spain began to penetrate the different Spanish-speaking markets, selecting and recruiting local authors (Ibid., 154). 10 “Ha llevado a muchos autores a adaptar la forma y el contenido de su escritura para poder ser leídos-comprados por un lector implícito mundial no adscrito a una cultura particular” (166). 11 Even more ironically, this fictional situation came true in the case of a real young Peruvian writer, Jeremías Gamboa, who was recruited by Balcells. Gamboa’s first novel, Contarlo todo [Telling it All] (2013), became a roaring commercial success in the transnational Hispanic world. 12 “Es curioso, pero todo encuentro de escritores jóvenes termina siendo una verónica, un muro de los lamentos, un largo pañuelo en el que se plasman las lágrimas y el moco de la muerte del boom, las editoriales que desprecian a los escritores jóvenes, el fin del compromiso social, los latinoamericanos que no podemos publicar más que en nuestros países y con dinero de nuestros bolsillos. ¡Bah! Ninguno de estos escritores entiende el verdadero sentido de asumir una disciplina, el rigor auténtico de la vanidad. Aficionados, simples aficionados. Y es que, por vanidad, no participo de aquella verónica. Por vanidad puedo vivir en una cáscara de nuez y sentirme el rey del universo” (367). 13 “Utopian space is an imaginary enclave within real social space, in other words, the very possibility of Utopian space is itself a result of spatial and social differentiation. But it is an aberrant by-product, and its possibility is dependent on the momentary formation of a kind of eddy or self-contained backwater within the general differentiation process and its seemingly irreversible forward momentum” (Jameson 2005, 15). 14 For a longer discussion on how this alternative community questions political power embodied in the state and in its main opponent, Sendero Luminoso, see Castañeda and Marambio (2015). Many of the ideas in this chapter are more fully developed in that article. 15 “Dejo libre mi imaginación y me dejo arrastrar por el ensueño. Hemos sido nominados por el Festival de Sundance, versión 2002. Premio a la mejor opera prima de un latinoamericano. En la cinemateca de la universidad hay una filmación de la ceremonia, yo la he visto. Robert Redford es el encargado de entregar los galardones. El desteñido actor y director abre un sobre. Y el ganador es Sueños bárbaros, de Pipo Gallo, dice en un pésimo castellano con acento habanero. Barbarian Dreams. Congratulations, Perú... Agradezco en castellano. Esta película no hubiera sido posible, esta metapelícula no se hubiera podido rodar, sin la participación de dos personas que no están aquí. Me refiero a Rafael Delucchi y a Claudio Bronsky, guionista y productor respectivamente, que partieron para no regresar.” (455–6) 16 Saskia Sassen offers two key terms to discuss the contemporary phenomena


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challenging the traditional nation state: post-nationalism and denationalisation. “Their difference is a question of scope and institutional embeddedness. The understanding in the scholarship is that post-national citizenship is located partly outside the confines of the national. I argue that in considering denationalization, the focus moves on to the transformation of the national, including the national in its condition as foundational for citizenship” (2002, 286). Perhaps Sueños bárbaro’s revamping of the national points to a denationalisation of sorts; that is, a transformation of the nation via its interaction with smaller communities such as circles of artists. 17 As Peter Low indicates, “the country still registers a Gini coefficient—a measure of inequality where 1 is totally unequal and 0 totally equal—of around 0.6. Furthermore, inequality between groups has actually increased over recent years, thereby reinforcing traditional ethnic and geographical divisions. Poverty in rural areas remains high and reaches up to 60% in some regions.” 18 “Registran las voces antinacionales contemporáneas, las cargan de afectos bajos y viscerales (desprecio, asco, abominación) y las ponen en escena: les montan una performance” (2010, 166). 19 “Los habitantes de la isla … parecen haber perdido la sociedad o algo que la representa en la forma de familia, clase, trabajo, razón y ley, y a veces de nación” (2010, 131).

References Books Aira, César. 1999. El congreso de literatura. Buenos Aires: Tusquets. Blanchot, Maurice. 1988. The Unavowable Community. Trans. Pierre Joris. New York: Station Hill Press. Bolaño, Roberto. 2004. 2666. Barcelona: Anagrama. Bürger, Peter. 1984. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Trans. Michael Shaw. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Casanova, Pascale. 2004. The World Republic of Letters. Trans. M. B. DeBevoise. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. Castany Prado, Bernat. 2007. Literatura posnacional. Murcia: Editum Signos. Castañeda, Luis H. 2015. Comunidades efímeras. Grupos de vanguardia y neovanguardia en la novela hispanoamericana del siglo XX. New York: Peter Lang. Dupont, Mariano. 2014. Arno Schmidt. Buenos Aires: Seix Barral. Gamboa, Jeremías. 2013. Contarlo todo. Barcelona: Mondadori. García Canclini, Néstor. 1999. La globalización imaginada. Buenos Aires: Paidós. Gutiérrez, Gustavo. 2012. Cocinero en su tinta. Lima: Editorial Planeta.

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Hoyos, Héctor. 2015. Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel. New York: Columbia University Press. Jameson, Fredric. 2005. Archaeologies of the Future. The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London and New York: Verso. Ludmer, Josefina. 2010. Aquí América Latina. Una especulación. Buenos Aires: Eterna Cadencia editora. Núñez Carvallo, Rodrigo. 2010. Sueños bárbaros. Lima: Peisa editores. Siskind, Mariano. 2014. Cosmopolitan Desires. Global Modernity and World Literature in Latin America. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. Thays, Iván. 2000. La disciplina de la vanidad. Lima: Fondo Editorial de la PUCP. Turner, Victor. 1995. The Ritual Process. Structure and Anti-structure. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. Volpi, Jorge. 2009. El insomnio de Bólivar: Cuatro consideraciones intempestivas sobre América Latina en el siglo XXI. Buenos Aires: Debate. Yushimito, Carlos. 2014. Los bosques tienen sus propias puertas. Lima: Peisa editores.

Chapters from edited collections Bourdieu, Pierre. 1993. “The Field of Cultural Production, or: The Economic World Reversed.” Trans. Richard Nice. In The Field of Cultural Production. Essays on Art and Literature, edited by Randall Johnson, 29–73. New York: Columbia University Press. Marcuse, Herbert. 1968. “The Affirmative Character of Culture.” In Negations. Essays in Critical Theory, 88–158. Trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro. Boston: Beacon Press. Sánchez-Prado, Ignacio. 2006. “‘Hijos de Metapa’: un recorrido conceptual de la literatura mundial (a manera de introducción).” In América Latina en la “literatura mundial,” edited by Ignacio Sánchez-Prado, 7– 46. Pittsburgh: Biblioteca de América, IILI. Sassen, Saskia. 2002. “Towards Post-national and Denationalized Citizenship.” In Handbook of Citizenship Studies, edited by Engin F. Isin and Bryan S. Turner, 277–88. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications. Sontag, Susan. 1969. “Happenings: An Art of Radical Juxtaposition.” In Against Interpretation and Other Essays, 263–74. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


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Yushimito, Carlos. 2016. “Towards a Cellular Literary Model: Globalization and Transnational Flows in Latin American Contemporary Fictions.” In Alternative Communities in Hispanic Literature and Culture, edited by Luis H. Castañeda and Javier González. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Journal articles Castañeda, Luis H. and Victoria Marambio. 2015. “Batallas cotidianas en Sueños bárbaros de Rodrigo Núñez Carvallo: cine independiente, peformance comunitaria y resistencia ¿democrática? en el Perú de Sendero y Fujimori.” Chasqui 44 (2): 33–49. Gallagher, Catherine. 2000. “Formalism and Time.” Modern Language Quarterly 61 (1): 229–51. Pera, Cristóbal. 2012. “¿Nación? ¿Qué nación?: La idea de América Latina en Volpi y Bolaño.” Revista de estudios hispánicos XLVI (1): 99– 113.

Websites Castañeda, Luis H. 2015. “Por las grietas del realismo nacional: Poéticas “otras” en la narrativa peruana del siglo XX.” Revista virtual de literatura El hablador. _castaneda.html. Low, Peter. 2012. “Peru and the Persistence of Inequality.” Peru Support Group. Maestro, Goyo G. 2014. “Perú tiene la fórmula: las claves de un «boom» económico.” La razón. The Economist. 2013. “Peru’s roaring economy.” Promperú. Comisión de Promoción del Perú para la exportación y el turismo. Sucasas, Angel Luis. 2013. “El nuevo Perú literario se lanza a la conquista de Cartagena.” El país. /actualidad/1374153327_498086.html. Thays, Iván. 2012. “Con la tinta aún húmeda.” El país. Blogs cultura.

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Conference presentations Gomero, Giancarlo. 2013. “Perú-Nebraska: superar al ‘pueblo’.” Presentation, Seminario Buscando un Inca: Nuevas subjetividades en el Perú contemporáneo, Lima, Perú, November.


1. Introduction In an essay published in 2008 entitled “Narrativa Hispanoamericana INC.,” the Mexican writer Jorge Volpi wondered if at the beginning of the twentyfirst century we would keep talking about the existence of the Latin American narrative. His previously expressed statements about the “end” of Latin American literature (Palabra de América [Word of America]) (2006, 206– 23) were expanded upon in a further analysis of the places where, in his view, an essentialist and uniformising model of literature of the subcontinent was being imagined and consumed. These places were the national tradition itself, the academy, and the international markets. To stop interrogating Latin America as a “self-explanatory framework,” according to Jean Franco, could be seen as a symptom of the effects that globalisation has had on recent literary history (2006, 24). Volpi’s texts, in tune with those of others of his generation, did nothing but engage with the heart of the debate of the last two decades about the need to relocate peripheral literatures within the framework of a more equitable global literary system.1 From a Latin American perspective, Volpi’s question, of course, reopened the familiarity of certain anxieties produced by the old epistemological itineraries around the cultural identity of the Latin American writer, and the “legitimate” use of certain universal references or thematisations (such as “The Argentinian Writer and Tradition” by Jorge Luis Borges, a precedent of Jorge Volpi’s speech). Moreover, his essay allowed for imagining a

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new materiality associated with the production, promotion, and circulation of literary texts as a result of economic and cultural flows generated and accelerated by global processes. This formulation invited a review of the genealogy of the national and the cosmopolitan, whose tension impregnates debates in Latin America since its entry into modernity in the nineteenth century. While examining the problem from its obvious and intensified global dimension, Volpi also noted the changes in cultural policy that took place in Latin America, which moved from a national development model—typical of modernising projects of the 1960s and 1970s—to a globalised one in the 1990s, and the contradictory consequences that this economic shift has had on trade and cultural consumption.2 Indeed, Jorge Volpi is interested in seeing how the publishing industry in the Spanish language, when centralised in Spain and disarticulating its former transregional relevance, in well-established publishing countries like Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela, tended to exacerbate the isolation of national literatures, reducing its limited circulation. As a consequence, this turned Latin America into a kind of archipelago of domestic markets, segmented and insulated from each other. Along the same lines as Iwasaki (Bolaño et al. 2004, 104–22) and Gutiérrez Giraldo (2006), he concludes that the current sub-continental interconnection is necessarily articulated through new peninsular “customs” that determine not only the material but also the symbolic flow of their narratives. This same contradictory compression of territory and culture in a global context, Volpi believes, has also operated in the academic field, especially in the United States where the critical representation of Latin America is reduced to an epistemological device that tends to be interpreted as a “national allegory” (Jameson 1986) or a rural “spectralized” space (Spivak 2013). At this point, the criticism of the academic reception made by Volpi goes directly to summarise, in accordance with the famous prologue of McOndo (1996), the protean and denatured traffic suffered by magical realism, a subgenre that became the unanimous target of a generational demystifying campaign. The cultural horizon proposed by Volpi, therefore, is certainly inserted into a post-national rationality that implies, on the one hand, the end of a Latin American hegemonic affiliation linked to the nation as a frame of required reference, and on the other the uselessness of an “exoticising” external representation made by academic criticism and the publishing industry. As he observes, both are still functional sources of the old nationalist paradigm that generates a “brand” that facilitates standardisation and consumption of Latin America. Volpi advocates the incorporation of Latin American literature into a kind of “World Literary Space” close to that suggested by


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Pascale Casanova (2013): a reading space without labels or prescriptions, in which the aesthetic value governs classifications, political debts, and geographical judgments. In other words, a symbolic dimension of reading, where something could take place analogous to what his fellow contemporary Rodrigo Fresán had ingeniously pointed out five years ago during the Encuentro de Escritores Latinoamericanos [Latin American Writers’ Conference] held in Seville, Spain: There and then, on that furious morning of July, I will stop being a young Latin American writer to become nothing more than a Latin American writer. The next step—with the patience and dedication with which a snake discards its own skin, if all goes well—I will strive to lose the adjective “Latin American,” in order to become just a writer. (Bolaño et al. 2004, 74)3

Amid the still-existing discursive confrontations in the literary field, the category of the “Latin American” exists for Volpi as an “entelechy,” given that, like any affiliation to tradition, it “is not a corpus or a canon, but a belief” (2008, 110). Being a Latin American writer thus becomes the result of an act of faith—an “empathy,” in the words of Alberto Fuguet4 —which allows them, just like any of their peers from the hegemonic literary spaces, to assume a performative and strategic identification. Volpi metaphorically compares this model of subjectivity with the “nature of the light”: As I said, it seems that sometimes light behaves like a wave and sometimes as a particle. Which one is its true nature? Something similar happens to Latin American authors: sometimes they behave as Latin Americans (when they feel themselves part of that long and rich tradition) and sometimes simply as writers (that is to say, voluntarily linked to any other literary tradition, regardless of their place of birth). (2008, 112)5

At first glance this nature coincides exactly with Pascale Casanova’s ideas about the dual situation that subsumes every writer in practice.6 However, here we recall that in referring to his contemporaries,7 Volpi emphasises the reluctance of them to be “listed” as well as the “distancing” that they adopt as a result of such classificatory disputes. For Casanova, on the other hand, that lack of communication is unacceptable, given that, “contrary to the conventional view, the national and international spheres are not separated; they are opposed stances, struggling within the same domain” (2013, 282). The virtues of diversity (resistance to being listed) and indifference (distance from the controversy) brought forth by Jorge Volpi as a conclusion reveal an elitist gesture already present in the Crack Manifest (Castillo 2006, 84), and also seem to correspond with that harmonious “bastardy”8 designated as the cultural specificity of contemporary Latin America proposed by Alberto

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Fuguet and Sergio Gómez in the preface to the anthology McOndo. They thus establish the coordinates of a common generational sensibility.9 Both the “distancing” proposed by Volpi and the notion of “bastardy” of Fuguet dislocate the structural logic of Casanova, for whom tensions and divisions between the local and the global are precisely that which explain and invigorate aesthetic innovations and literary forms (282). In this regard, although Volpi seems to propose a world literary space in which the “global” Latin American literature is incorporated without friction—far from politics outside the texts—actually he still sees this symbolic space as a system rather than a structure; that is to say, from an opposition of “stances” (centre and periphery) where an existing confrontation doesn’t share the same domain. In other words, if for Casanova international battles necessarily end up resolving in domestic spaces (281), on the contrary, for Fuguet and Volpi local tensions are resolved—or rather, are abandoned—at the global level. It seems that for this generation that grew up under intensifying global exchanges,10 Latin America acquires the nature of an empty signifier that is projected, according to Mariano Siskind, on a “horizon of abstract universalism”: a “strategic direction” that historically has allowed cosmopolitan writers, from their own marginality, to escape national cultural structures (2014, 3). Renewed generationally in the 1990s,11 this cosmopolitan subjectivity articulated a new agency interested in mass culture, networks of large cities, and unprecedented communication technologies. In particular, it assimilated new consumption practices of global capitalism, thus transforming a universalist “desire of the world” (Ibid., 3) into a “consciousness of the world” or “globality” (Hoyos 2015, 23). If something characterises the fin de siècle writers in Latin America, it is precisely the path from desire to consciousness, a different way of relating to the world literary space. As observed by Francine Masiello, this facility to circulate and be integrated into a broader commercial dynamic owes much to the benefits derived from the Latin American Boom of the 1960s, which prompted their authors to, “a multinational phase of translation and distribution of texts that led to new modes of competition in markets across the Americas and abroad” (2002, 61–2). We must add, however, that the cosmopolitan processes of the 1990s eventually turned the rural eccentric—the real opposition behind the demonisation of the “patrimonial” paradigm suffered by magical realism—pushing it beyond any scope of legitimacy and prestige, not only as a space of representation but also as an “anti-modern” practice. 12 To the extent that this scheme has been discursively “mythologised”—that is to say, lost in its need to be explained—it can be said that it has become part of a social system and, consequently, an ideology (Barthes 2012, 222). The denial of Latin America as a place of exoticising or mythical fantasies in favour of a conti-


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nent of ample rural environments and communities installs a certain ahistorical dichotomy by a unilateral exclusion, which largely ends replicating the inequitable logic of globalised economics. The contradiction we have indicated here reveals tensions produced by globalisation that need to be observed, as I will discuss in this paper, from the discourses that arose in the orbit of the multipolar changes of 1990 (Bourriaud 2013; Hoyos 2014) as well as from the spread of neo-liberal rationality, and in particular the strategic discourses of liberal multiculturalism and consumer citizenship, from which cultural practices such as the Crack or McOndo seem to have emerged in the same period. Hybridisation in the context of the world literary space imagined by the cosmopolitan Latin American writer responds to a celebratory status of the diversity and eclecticism as a result of freedom of choice, in which the inertia of the market (initially in the Spanish semi-periphery and later in the hegemonic space, for example once translations into English or German become available) finishes resolving local disputes and cultural frictions that necessarily carry all literary practice. A symbol of that falsely harmonic balance is the idea of “bastardy” arising from McOndo, emptied of its traumatic continental inscription as graft (Ortega 2010) and historical rape (Paz 1997), as otherwise occurs with multiculturalist speeches disseminated by neo-liberal thinking (Friedman 1997; Jacoby 1999; Bauman 2011). I agree that in a globalised context in which “mestizaje” creates its own mythology as a product of freedom of consumption and away from the violence of history, a generation gap was opened, exactly at the point at which some scholars have identified the break with the utopias of the Left in the 1960s.13 Following Nicolas Bourriaud, I will argue that the end of a utopian demand has not also meant a loss of political participation but an ideological reposition to literature, and that it is therefore necessary to understand this new politics of writing and reading from its own contingent singularity. As Bourriaud noted in the world of the art in the 1990s, today the new creators try to “inhabit the world” rather than build or transform it (2013, 12). In that sense, it can also be said that Latin American literature is not intended to create goals or utopian realities, but to build modes of existence or actions within the existing reality. Observed from their involuntary or voluntary contradictions, precisely these “disjunctures” (Appadurai 1996) indicate changes in Latin America in the context of cultural globalisation, and the way writers understand their position in the “Lettered City” (Rama 1984). In what follows, I will propose that this approach to reading—seen from multiple loyalties, world traditions, cosmopolitan subjectivities, transnational landscapes, and multiple interconnectivities—can describe a large group of contemporary writers born in the

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1960s and most of them near or directly linked to McOndo and Crack.14 I call this model of inscription in the global literary field “cellular,” as opposed to another “vertebrate” linked to the structures of nation states. The conceptualisation of both systems (vertebrate and cellular) was developed by Arjun Appadurai in his book Fear of Small Numbers (2006) as a possible mapping for reading global tensions, not as cultural clashes (systematic, geographic), but as a dispute between “world models” (116). The quality of cellularity adapted to the literary field can be seen as an alternative practice in its relationship with a reading community that was the dominant model well into the twentieth century. In the current multipolar landscape, in which the cultural idea of the nation as a horizon of meaning assumes an increasingly residual position, a cellular system is configured as a mode of relating (that is to say, reading) the symbolic and the material space of the text and the ways in which subjects learn to narrate their own “imagined worlds.” Delineated through multiple networks and transnational circuits, cellularity locates contemporary authors in an inbetween space of flows and negotiations, describing Latin American literature more as “a network” than as a “set of works” (Damrosch 2003, 3). This turn has defined not only a crisis in the image of the “lettered man” before the emergence of mass and audiovisual culture, but also offered different ways to interact with digital archives (Gutiérrez Mouat 2002), to dialogue with neoliberal realisms (Noemí 2008), to represent the urban spaces from “extraterritoriality” (Noguerol 2008) or “nomadism” (Ainsa 2012), and to insert their new social anxieties in the flow of the present.

2. Genealogies of the Twentieth-century Fin de Siècle As a term used to describe the literature produced in the 1990s, beyond its nominal accuracy the phrase Fin de Siècle is aware of its own historical heritage. It refers, of course, to a chronology fascinated with the terminal (both in Volpi’s posthumous allegories and the formal “decadentism” of the Crack) and with what Homi Bhabha evoked as a “tenebrous sense of survival” (2013, 17); that is, the ideology of the post, as in McOndo’s discourse. Such consciousness is also related to the turn-of-the-century anxieties caused by uncertainty, novelty, and the nervous imminence of the future. In addition to the transformation that operates on the level of the historical subjectivity, the modes of production and distribution of material and cultural wealth must be taken into account. At least since the nineteenth century, these changes have been affecting the evolution of capitalism, accelerating its development especially through technological advances. In Latin America, the end of the last dictatorships and political crises of the 1980s initiated—with the opening of its


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national markets—a decade of regional optimism that fit with a global context that paradoxically boasted about having replaced utopias with economic pragmatism.15 As recently periodised by Hector Hoyos, Latin American literature after 1989 can be seen as representing a world opened to the possibility of “modeling” an alternative global stage (2015, 21). The end of the strong ideological duality imposed during the Cold War 16 meant an expectant opening for Latin American writers who faced the possibility that this new landscape would give rise to multiple centres or nodes where they could inscribe, more symmetrically, certain peripheral proposals (Ibid., 189). This “promise of multipolarity,” according to Hoyos, was thus a capitalisation of the global wave that allowed its resignification and the development of a “consciousness” of the global or the world as a whole (192). As noted above, Volpi’s “groundbreaking” view must be located in a temporal node specifically linked to the beginning of the spread of capitalism in its “late” or “liquid” phase (Bauman 2013), as well as to the neoliberal rationalities accelerated after the fall of the Communist bloc in the late 1980s.17 Extended as an emerging and unique subjectivity in relation to previous generations, that look crosses both the narrative works and public discourses of a broad group of Latin American authors born mostly in the second half of the1960s; a group that, as we will observe, has obvious generational affinities that exceed not only their transitory affiliations (expressed through anthologies, manifestos, meetings and literary dialogues) but also their proclivity to a systematic collective denial.18 This last feature simply does not respond to an exacerbation of the individualism of neoliberal rationality, which occurs on the level of narrative representation as replacing major national accounts for private stories. 19 Such tendencies to refer to “plurality” or “eclecticism” in order to describe Latin American narratives also reveal contemporary forms of negotiation with a modernity at large, as Arjun Appadurai describes it, produced as effects of diasporic migration and new forms of audiovisual and digital communications. In the context of globalisation, imagination as a “social practice” has played a vital role in redesigning the sense of belonging of individuals to localities and communities formerly narrowly defined by geographic boundaries and national loyalties (1996). As a direct result of the loss of influence of the vertebrate model of nation states—eroded by the integration of markets and flows of information and technology—the contemporary cultural field must, according to Appadurai, be rethought from the relationships generated in the deterritorialised locations of exchange where partnerships and affiliations, as well as multiple disjunctures, take place (1996, 23). Appadurai calls these dimensions gener-

A Cellular Literary Model


ated by globalisation “scapes,” and groups them into five different variables: those associated with migration (ethnoscape), media (medioscape), technology (technoscape), ideologies (ideoscape) and capital flows (financialscape). Each scape is built from particular perspectives and by social actors who no longer imagine “communities” (Anderson 2006) but “worlds,” both real and symbolic, that overflow a physical location and outline sensibilities in constant transformation. A shift as such from “imagined communities” to “imagined worlds” is only possible in a framework reconfigured by contemporary transnationality, which has modified dynamics of cultural reproduction and subjectivities through the deterritorialisation of subjects. Far from uniform common narratives and sensibilities as processes of national vertebration (as has happened since the nineteenth century), scapes now multiply the realities people communicate with, since ideas and images change the context depending on the spectator. New perspectives offered by scapes thus contribute to mediate the production of identities and to give shape to the global exchange of ideas and information, always fluid and in constant flux. As a result, our reality is no more real than somebody else’s, destabilising traditional structures of nation and giving room to multiple cellular sceneries, where mobile narratives and images form several opinions about a place or a culture. These imagined worlds, as alternatives to physical communities, depend on the public spheres (or “virtual neighborhoods”) where they are generated and on the advantages that their members may take of transnational mobility and modern communications, as Aihwa Ong has sharply observed (1999, 11). By studying the cultural habits of Mexico City in the 1990s, Néstor García Canclini had anticipated this transnational way of generating public spaces, observing the existence of a “segmented participation” in the consumer culture. For example, while the middle and upper layers of society base their cultural practices on audiovisual media such as the internet, videotapes, and films, a parallel network, with no access or less connectivity, generates connections through different technological media like television, radio, and local newspapers. This segmentation restructures the subjectivities of the population to the extent that, “the main method of identification, which is consumption, brings together the elites of each country with a transnational circuit and the popular sectors with another” (1995, 51). The latter, Canclini concludes, designs international networks, in which the dominant sector of a nation has, for example, “more affinities with the dominant sector of another country than with the subalterns of its own country” (Ibid., 50).20


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It is obvious, therefore, that the study of this turn-of-the-century generation in Latin America should consider the place of enunciation shared by its members: a sensibility interconnected by the mediascape (mass culture mediated by digital and audiovisual platforms), the ideoscapes (discourses of neoliberal rationality), and the ethnoscape (configured in major cities of Europe and the United States), from which several of these authors have developed their discursive practices. The sum of these transnational scapes and their articulation, thanks to material and telecommunicative flows in the global arena, have not only transformed the Latin American “Lettered City”21 but also the practices through which the deterritorialised writer now places himself in a literary world space imagined to be much more compressed and inclusive than before. Such interconnectivity and mobile affiliations have generated structured identities and subjectivities from which a model of “cellularity” emerges. Studying the political tensions of the early twenty-first century, Appadurai defines two conflicting world systems that are also dialogic. The first of these systems, “vertebrate,” has been organised by states and national groups through a centralised hierarchy and internationally agreed rules and signs. The second system is “cellular,” delineated through multiple networks and transnational circuits, creating relationships that are multiplied by association and opportunity rather than by legislation or design (2006, 24–65). For Appadurai, this cellular model of representation and global relationship, in its positive aspect, is an alternative, a “third space” outside the logic of the state where it is possible to imagine the civil relations in the context of global deterritorialisation.22 One of the characteristics of a literary cellular system, given the fluctuating nature of its interrelationships, is the intensified changes to reading tradition. As David Damrosch has observed in the context of world literature, the tradition—that is to say, an historical perspective that traces a trajectory for reading—has become a sort of “translation” in which the dialogue with texts no longer occurs from an “identification” or “closeness” to the language or culture from which they are generated, but from “distance” and “difference” (2003, 300). Thus, the old affiliations associated with the vertebrality of local and regional traditions come to be articulated through a “force field” generated as “a resonance in the reader’s mind,” and among literary works to which the reader has access (Ibid., 298–9). This deterritorialised “resonance” of texts is referred to by Volpi and Fuguet when both reduce, respectively, local or regional traditions to the “beliefs” or “empathy” among authors and readers. For a peripheral space like Latin America, reading is a new nexus with the world.23 Therefore, the practices of reading and writing, and the amplified circulation of both thanks to the market of global transla-

A Cellular Literary Model


tion, constitute stable mediators of global imagination for the cosmopolitan Latin American subject. One could argue, of course, and not without reason, that this relationship between the Latin American author and tradition has always been deterritorialised. However, it is also true that the quantitative change and the establishment of commercial connectivities generated in the context of globalisation in Latin America have also been radical in the last three decades. As we will see, the subjectivity that interacts through this globalised cellular system emerged in a context of an advanced neo-liberal penetration in the hemisphere. And this could only happen with the multinational establishment of the publishing industry in the Spanish language, which, as a result of the Boom of the 1960s and the subsequent strengthening of the post-Franco Spanish economy, allowed for the consolidation of Spain as a literary “semi-periphery” (Moretti 2013, 245).

3. From Semi-Periphery to Globality Francine Masiello has noted that the opening of the Latin American Boom to the multinational markets in the 1960s was the result of a “paradoxical and superficial” unification of literary texts of very different features and origins (2002, 63). Going back to Jorge Volpi’s initial text, the Latin American “brand” (2008, 123) that facilitated the circulation of regional texts thanks to the establishment of a modern publishing industry in Spanish symbolically came into existence as a result of a business strategy, mediated by certain actors (agents, editors, and critics) immersed in the process of “modernizing their own literary practices” (Casanova 2013, 280). Such unity was additionally facilitated by transnational networks established by exiled writers in cities like Barcelona or Paris, as well as by internationalist politics linked to the Latin American liberal left. The discursive practices of the authors of the Boom, according to Masiello, extended the nationalisms to a regional model, thanks to a literature, “conceived as a way to achieve the unity of Latin American people and to force a crisis of conscience” (2002, 62). This revolutionary gesture marked the entry of utopias of the left into the hemispheric narrative project, matching its internationalist opening— which, moreover, has been a Marxist cosmopolitanism principle—with another collective project associated with the nascent and growing publishing market. This allowed the authors to find a viable platform for their aesthetic fulfilment and commercial circulation, without losing the representativeness of a ideologically and formally modernised Latin America. After two decades, this same international-regional paradigm was accused of having lost its capacity for critique in favour of a pattern functional


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to the exoticism of Latin American reality. In the 1990s, criticism of the “macondismo literario” by José Brunner held that there was a “nostalgia” for a civilisation newly defeated by nature (1996), while García Canclini, as opposed to critics like Fredric Jameson, argued that ethnic and nationalist movements were trying to “survive as (a new) Latinoamericanism” (1995, 13). When this model finally reached its most discredited stage, the discourse of McOndo’s authors was ready to simply “proclaim its death” (Padilla, in Bolaño et al. 2004, 139). The McOndo and Crack movements claims, as such, did not insert their novelty into the critique of magical realism as a patrimonial aesthetic model, but in the expiration date of the latter in a context in which new “brands” of Latin America (one modern and urban) were now emerging in the international and multicultural market of representation. As Mariano Siskind wrote: Fuguet has no problem with the circulation of literature as commodity; what concerns him is that Euro-American readers and literary institutions are buying antiquities, relics, without any current exchange value. Fuguet’s rejection of magical realism is a Latin American symptom of a worldhistorical neoliberal break. (2014, 99)

Despite the criticisms raised about the corporatisation of the publishing industry at the hands of the Spanish conglomerate, the truth is that the latter, while isolating many local novels, at the same time generated an even wider circulation of trans-nationalised texts, accelerating the flow opened by the narrative Boom of the late 1960s.24 Fuguet and Gómez (1996) noticed the commercial value of this new Latin American “brand” early on when they mention in the McOndo prologue the growing importance that the Spanish language was acquiring in the globalised cultural horizon: “Just now some publishers are realizing that to write in the same language increases and does not reduce the market” (11).25 The consolidation initiated in the 1990s and radically expanded with the Spanish economic growth at the beginning of the new millennium allowed Spain to become what Moretti has called a “transitional space” (2013, 172) for Latin American texts. Inequities in the world literary system, almost always coinciding with material inequalities as Moretti has observed, hardly allow for the crossing of narrative models and aesthetic forms from peripheral locations to the centre, although it is possible to see a flow from the semi-periphery to the centre.26 Despite its uneven dissemination, one of the inevitable effects of globalisation on the publishing industry in the Spanish language was to naturalise the material framework in which the Latin American cellular authors inscribed their “cosmopolitan desire,” giving shape to a more diverse and less exceptionalist dimension, as was the case of the Latin American Boom

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in the 1960s.27 The generation of authors who began publishing in the 1990s is now part of a “synchronised” integration, not only as textual producers but also as consumers (readers) of a more interconnected and fluid book industry. De Rosso has used this “synchrony effect” to point out how homogenisation creates a situation where, “throughout Latin America many readers end up reading the same books,” which ultimately generates, “the emergence of Latin American writers instead of national writers” (my emphasis).28 The same can be said about the flow—quantitatively greater than in the past—of world literature volumes translated into Spanish, which are now spread unequally through the same semi-periphery. 29 Thanks to the enlargement of the Latin American market and the new consumption habits of their population, this fact has facilitated the reconfiguration of a world literary space more dynamic and accessible than previous decades. Regarding the sensibility shift towards a cellular literary model, previously noted in the discursive practices of Crack and McOndo, it was not shown or drastically reflected at the level of form. If for the authors of the “New Latin American Novel” of the 1960s, as expressed by Mario Vargas Llosa in his famous essay “Novela primitiva y novela de creación en América Latina” [“Primitive Novel and Novel of Creation in Latin America”] (1965), the ideological disruption with respect to earlier Latin American writers was expressed through a formal renovation, in the 1990s, and the break with magical realism was only confined to a new dynamic related to global circulation and consumption patterns. 30 “Magical realism” is replaced, as in other commercial transactions, by other functional brands: “Magical Neoliberalism,” “Virtual Realism,” “Crack,” or “McOndo” (Hoyos 2015, 345). The demand for a more equitable multicultural market, under the logic of a consumer citizenship, doesn’t imply, as claimed by Colombian writer Santiago Gamboa, an aesthetic distancing but, on the contrary, “an imperturbable continuity” [“una imperturbable continuidad”] (Bolaño et al. 2004, 134). The new geopolitic of texts at the beginning of the new century explains why this generation can develop “distant” or “indifferent” discourses about imaginary and rural worldviews, as these are not set from the Latin American peripheral location but instead from the Spanish semi-periphery. Transnational publishing houses displace, as a public deterritorialised sphere, the previous centrifugal/centripetal tensions in Latin America, which in the region opposed the city to the countryside, as two historically conflicting entelechies constantly in balance since the nineteenth century. What is today called the global Latin American novel is actually the result of a reconfigured transition between the semi-peripheries and the centre: an international circuit of translations where their national contexts, in which the “con-


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sciousness” of the world is necessarily consumed through conditions that make a transnational flow viable, have already been filtered.31 Drawing possible global maps of recent Latin American narratives must be focused not only on the impact that globalisation has had on the circulation and reception of the most successful novels—as is the case of Roberto Bolaño—but also on the analysis of different subjectivities that enable or hinder such international dissemination.32 Since the 1990s, changes in processes of publishing and circulation worldwide have materially complemented the introduction of a neo-liberal rationality to Latin America. The latter not only consequently produced alternative ways of reading thanks to the design of networks and transnational connectivities that articulated new deterritorialised spaces, but also modified daily practices and sensibilities. As a consequence, the critical and detailed study of cellular narratives must also consider their own epistemological singularity and historical and social framework in order to participate in a more appropriate and objective dialogue.



Since 2000, proposals for the need to replace or amend the study of Comparative Literature for a World Literature have increased significantly, as can be seen in the latest volume of World Literature. A Reader (2013). Especially influential is the work of Pascale Casanova, Franco Morettim and David Damrosch. For an assessment of their respective proposals, see Gupta (2009, 133–50). The Latin Americanist field also has incorporated itself into this inevitable methodological dialogue, examples of which are the recent books by Mariano Siskind (Cosmopolitan Desires, 2013) and Héctor Hoyos (Beyond Bolaño, 2014), not to mention interdisciplinary advances previously undertaken through hemispheric studies, transatlantic studies and comparative literature. 2 As observed by Néstor García Canclini, the developmental model of a nationalistic character of the 1960s and 1970s—opened to a progressive internationalisation—was replaced by another globalised model, with a production shifted from the capitals of Latin America to a, “system with many centers in which (now) the speed to go across the world is more important than the geographical positions from which people act” (1995, 16). If, in the past, “most of the messages and goods we consumed were generated in the society itself, and there were strict customs, laws that used to protect what each country produced,” now “what is produced in the world is here and it is difficult to know what belongs to us” (Ibid., 16). (Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Spanish to English are my own.) 3 “Allí y entonces, esa furiosa mañana de julio, yo dejaré de ser joven escritor latinoamericano para convertirme en nada más que un escritor latinoamericano. El siguiente paso—con la paciencia y la dedicación con que una serpiente va

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descartando pieles, si todo va bien—será esforzarme por perder el adjetivo latinoamericano para quedarme en escritor a secas” (Bolaño et al. 2004, 74). 4 See “Magical Neoliberalism”: “This new artistic sensibility-to-be is less about nationality and more about empathy” (Fuguet 2001, 68). 5 “Como he dicho, todo parece indicar que a veces se comporta como onda y a veces como corpúsculo. ¿Cuál es su verdadera naturaleza? A los autores latinoamericanos les ocurre algo similar: a veces se comportan como hispanoamericanos (cuando se sienten pertenecientes a esta larga y rica tradición) y a veces como simples escritores (es decir, voluntariamente ligados a cualquier otra tradición literaria, independientemente de su lugar de nacimiento)” (2008, 112). 6 “At the same time, each writer’s position must necessarily be a double one, twice defined: each writer is situated once according to the position he or she occupies in a national space, and then once again according to the place that this occupies within the world space” (Casanova 2013, 281). 7 “What seems to distinguish new Latin American novelist from their predecessors is the ease with which they distance themselves from this controversy. The best I can say when I see them together is that their affinities are as profound as their differences and that they are not willing to be listed plainly” [“Lo que parece distinguir a los nuevos narradores hispanoamericanos de sus predecesores es la naturalidad con que se distancian de esta polémica. Lo mejor que puedo decir al verlos en conjunto es que sus afinidades son tan grandes como sus divergencias y que no están dispuestos a dejarse catalogar con simpleza”] (Bolaño et al. 2004, 112). 8 We read in McOndo: “And the bastard, the hybrid? For us, the Chapulín Colorado, Ricky Martin, Selena, Julio Iglesias and soap operas are as Latin American as candomble or vallenato … Fear the bastard culture is to deny our own mestizaje” [“¿Y lo bastardo, lo híbrido? Para nosotros, el Chapulín Colorado, Ricky Martin, Selena, Julio Iglesias y las telenovelas (o culebrones) son tan latinoamericanas como el candombe o el vallenato … Temerle a la cultura bastarda es negar nuestro propio mestizaje”] (Fuguet and Gómez 1996). Fuguet stated during an interview: “For me, McOndo is all the indigenous, all the bastard, is the past and the future mixed. Semi-literate young guys playing electronic games in the high mountains, that is for me McOndo” [“McOndo para mí es todo lo indio, todo lo bastardo, es pasado y futuro mezclados. Jóvenes casi analfabetos jugando con juegos electrónicos en la alta montaña, para mí eso es McOndo”] (Esquirol Ríos 2005). 9 A comprehensive study of the specific differences between both literary “movements” has been recently developed by Ezequiel De Rosso (De Rosso and Nemrava 2014, 71–133). 10 Authors I am considering in this article as part of a same generation are, among others: Sergio Gómez (1962), Jorge Franco (1962), Rodrigo Fresán (1963), Alberto Fuget (1964), Jaime Bayly (1965), Santiago Gamboa (1965), Edmundo Paz Soldán (1967), Ignacio Padilla (1968), Jorge Volpi (1968), Iván Thays (1968), Leonardo Valencia (1969), and Álvaro Enrique (1969). 11 Regarding this point I will agree with Gutiérrez Mouat who proposed the term “post-macondismo” as opposed to the idea of “macondismo” introduced by


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Brunner (1992) to refer to a generational batch articulated through different “literary and cultural platforms” in the 1990s (4). 12 I mention here “anti-modern,” connecting it to Casanova, for whom the aesthetic modernity determines an imaginary border, a sort of “literary Greenwich meridian.” Thus, “modern” becomes a unit of measurement—a criterion for comparison with subsequent productions—creating in this way a chronology of literary history and, among other things, allowing for the circulation of works through deterritorialised cultural spaces (278–9). 13 The idea of a celebratory “bastardy” drawn up by Alberto Fuguet, that is to say, a “mestizaje” without trauma or political friction, seems to be part of the “cult” of the liberal multiculturalism that has been criticised by Russell Jacoby (1999, 33), among others. Many of the discourses about “diversity” or “eclecticism” as common qualities, enunciated by various members of this generation, are generic definitions that have the effect of silencing possible debates. In this regard, as stated by Jacoby, “the rise of multiculturalism correlates with the decline of utopia, an index of the exhaustion of political thinking” (Ibid.). The virtues of “distancing” or “indifference” pointed out by Volpi seem to be taking part in the debates on the negative effects of multiculturalism especially associated with social and cultural relativism. As Bauman says, “When mutual tolerance combines with mutual indifference, cultural communities may live in close proximity but they will rarely speak to one another” (2011, 55). 14 If we have paid special attention here to the critical production of Volpi, this is not only because he is one of the authors of this generation who, from a critical framework, has thought more insistently about themes of globalisation related to the literary practice in Latin America. Along with the Mexican writer Ignacio Padilla (Bolaño et al. 2004, 136–7), he also seems to have assumed a generational voice on public platforms that both Crack and McOndo opened since the late 1990s. 15 According to Slavoj Zizek, this affirmation is a paradox, since the only utopia that emerged after the fall of the Soviet bloc was the capitalist utopia (Bourriaud 2009, 11). One feature of the “neoliberal utopia”—viewed metaphorically through its economic “miracles” —is that it has never been mentioned as such. Regarding this point, the fact resembles what Barthes said about the mythology of bourgeois society, also a rationality and a model of society that “has some difficulty in acknowledging itself,” working more comfortably anonymously. “The bourgeoisie has obliterated its name,” Barthes said, “in passing from reality to representation, from economic man to mental man” (2012, 249–50). More contemporarily, Dardot and Laval affirm that, “Capitalist relations are imposed on the consciousness of workers as ‘self-evident laws’” (2013, 7). 16 Hoyos notes that 1989 can be seen as a temporary node from which we can link globalisation to the emergence of a Latin American multipolar writing (2015, 21). This historical year serves to establish a new “global” turning point; likewise, it can be argued, due to its historical repercussions, 1959 was relevant in modelling a leftist sensibility, an internationalist program and a commitment to social mobilisation.

A Cellular Literary Model 


17 Here we will follow Dardot and Laval (2013), for whom neo-liberalism, rather than an ideology or economic system, must be understood as a rationality: that is to say, as a totality of social practices and discourses: “Neoliberalism can be defined as the set of discourses, practices and apparatuses that determine a new mode of government of human beings in accordance with the universal principle of competition” (4). One of the characteristics of the rationality of neo-liberalism caused the subject to internalise the normative logic of the market: competitiveness and business methods modulate subjectivisation processes of individuals and design a “global regulatory framework,” in which individual responsibility, selfgovernment, and freedom of choice guide not only behaviors but also communal practices (see also Rutherford 2007). 18 The denial of a generational self-referentiality represented in the 1990s has usually been accompanied by a detachment from McOndo and Crack. Rodrigo Fresán, for example, reduced McOndo to a “great slogan” and Crack to a “cluster of great friends.” He pointed out that McOndo and Crack are tags that may be used by a cultural journalist, but are dangerous for writers and publishers (Bolaño et al. 2004, 58–9). 19 Recall McOndo’s preface: “I feel that the great literary theme of ‘Latin American identity’ (who are we?) must now take a back seat to the theme of ‘personal identity’ (who am I?). McOndo tales focus on individual and private realities” [“El gran tema de la identidad latinoamericana (¿quienes somos?) pareció dejar paso al tema de la identidad personal (¿quién soy?). Los cuentos de McOndo se centran en realidades individuales y privadas”] (Fuguet and Gómez 1996, 14). 20 See Volpi: “Nowadays a Latin American writer can feel himself much closer to an Anglo-Saxon author—or a Spanish, or a Japanese or a Turkish writer—from that of another Latin American writer” [“En nuestros días un escritor latinoamericano puede sentirse mucho más cerca de un autor anglosajón—o español o japonés o turco—que de otro escritor latinoamericano”] (2006, 92). 21 Although not the main focus of this essay, it seems pertinent to return to Françoise Perus’ question regarding if, under the “Neoliberal globalism and the industrialization of popular imagination,” there has been a real, “democratization of culture and under that concrete modalities” (2005, 364). García Canclini has already observed that inequality comes in terms of the value of the consumption of cultural goods, especially with regard to the timeliness of the information that forms part of the integrated cultural flow (1995, 14), which, of course, in recent years has been exacerbated. For example, nowadays only 40% of the population in Latin America have access to the internet (Organization of Ibero-American States 2013). Referring to the “exchanges” that occur within the overall framework, Perus wonders about the type of exchange and notions of “value” established from a, “commercial perspective that moves towards the publishing market the former central role of public institutions in the social configuration of written sphere” (2005, 364). In the field of World Literature, the principle of translation of peripheral texts to hegemonic languages, for example, can be problematic as a regulatory criteria of the inequality of the literary system, since the “translatability” of the text is by principle associated with its ability to travel outside a “frame of


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reference” (Damrosch 2003, 291–7), which is also subject of its ability to adapt to the cultural industry. 22 Although in Fear of Small Numbers Appadurai mainly studies a negative cellular system (which articulates global terrorist groups such as al-Queda), he also refers to a positive model represented by social movements that use the same structure to not disrupt but propose different ties among the civilian population. 23 Jeffrey Lawrence recently observed the obsession of several contemporary authors in the Spanish language, such as Roberto Bolaño, Ricardo Piglia, or Juan Villoro, for making of their writing practice a “larger programmatic defense of the role of reading” (2014, 537). As Lawrence points out, these “collective anxieties” could be related to, “the disappearance of the book and statistics that indicate a precipitous drop in global readership in our increasingly digital age” (Ibid.). But the legacy of Borges’ humility registered in the, clearly intertextual, gesture is also a debt of Enlightenment ideals with respect to knowledge and tradition. I wonder at this point if, as a contemporary appropriation of this universal desire, this anxiety is not also associated with a perception that reading —rather than writing—is an act of inscription on a more equal condition in a globalised literary space. After all, as David Damrosch has said, World Literature is not an infinite canon of texts but the form in which they circulate and we read them (2003, 5). 24 As Angel Rama noticed, this homogenisation not only increased consumption in Spain but also worked as a novelty in the subcontinent that received and assembled Spanish production. This same phenomenon in the 1990s, denominated by Jorge Fornet and subsequently employed by Ricardo Piglia as a “balkanization of the literary market,” allowed “the image of literature in Spanish language to transcend markets and national identities” thanks to platforms such as festivals, anthologies, and awards sponsored by transnational publishing houses (De Rosso and Nemrava 2014, 72). 25 “Recién ahora algunas editoriales se están dando cuenta de que eso de escribir en un mismo idioma aumenta el mercado y no lo reduce” (Fuguet and Gómez 1996, 11). 26 That said, this transit does not resolve the inequality of the system itself: “an inequality which does not coincide with economic inequality, true, and allows some mobility, but a mobility internal to the unequal system, not alternatity to it” (Moretti 2013, 173). When Fuguet explains his exclusion in the prologue of McOndo he is not complaining about his position in the Spanish semi-periphery but in the US centrality. The entry of authors like Roberto Bolaño and more recently César Aira at the head of other authors of the Spanish publishing semiperiphery should lead us to not forget that this admission is only a fraction of a translation market that represents less than 5% of the total published in the United States. See Fernando Iwasaki (2014) and more recently Winston Manrique (2015). 27 Brunner in fact identifies Macondismo with, “the last aristocratic gesture of a semideveloped continent that is finally obliged to recognise itself in modernity” [“El último gesto aristocrático de un continente semidesarrollado que finalmente se ve enfrentado a reconocerse en la modernidad”] (2002, 234). 28 “Esta sincronía sera uno de los factores que redundará, en el largo plazo, en la aparición de escritores ‘latinoamericanos,’ antes que de escritores ‘nacionales’” (72).

A Cellular Literary Model



In the 1990s, the inequality of this transnationalisation could be observed in the percentage of publishing imports between Spain and Latin America: “While 70% of Spanish bookseller’s product is exported to Latin America, Latin American’s book importation only reaches 3% of the total” [“Mientras el 70% del producto librero español se exporta a América Latina la importación de libros latinoamericanos solo alcanza un 3% del producto total”] (B. Pohl, in De Rosso and Nemrava 2014, 72). 30 Note, however, that in this essay Vargas Llosa is close to Jorge Volpi’s formulation about the, “end of the narrative in Latin America” when he attacks the “primitive novel” as opposed to the “novel of creation”: “The novel stops being ‘Latin American,’ is released from this bondage” [“La novela deja de ser ‘latinoamericana,’ se libera de esa servidumbre”] (31). 31 Damrosch has schematised these conditions considering: (a) its translatability; (b) its double refractory nature—which allows globalised texts to continue affecting local readers due to their “private labels of origin”; and (c) the freedom, intuitive or associative, to articulate a new literary tradition that may well be located, as we have seen so far, in a global logic of the book industry to a large extent adapted to a deterritorialised consumption (Damrosch 2003, 281). 32 In Beyond Bolaño, Hector Hoyos glimpses such a generational break when comparing the approach by Roberto Bolaño and Jorge Volpi to the Nazi imagery represented in their novels (33–58). As Hoyos’ conclusion points out, while Volpi “reclaims the surface of Nazism” mediated by “mainstream visual cues,” Bolaño “examines the roots of fascism as a global phenomenon” (2015, 58, my emphasis). This opposition clearly notes a different way of reading a global archive, but most importantly how vertebral and cellular systems contribute to create particular subjetivities and identities. In this case, the duality superficiality/depth shouldn’t be read in terms of value, but simply as two specific world-visions or worldmodels. Since the same can be said about Diamela Eltit’s and Alberto Fuguet’s novels and their respective positions on consumption practices (Hoyos 2015, 96– 116), we believe that both Bolaño and Eltit remain models of a cosmopolitaninternationalist left sensibility linked more to the pivotal year of 1959 than to 1989’s multipolarism, necessarily connected to neo-liberal rationalities. Not for nothing has Jorge Volpi emphatically defined Bolaño as the “last Latin American writer” (2006). Comparing Bolaño’s last statements at the Encuentro de Escritores Latinoamericanos held in Seville (2004) with those of the other participants, most of them cellular authors, can be extremely illustrative.

References Books Ainsa, Fernando. 2012. Palabras nómadas. Nueva cartografía de la pertenencia. Madrid: Iberoamericana. Anderson, Benedict. 2006. Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London and New York: Verso.


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Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large. Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Appadurai, Arjun. 2006. Fear of Small Numbers. An Essay on the Geography of Anger. Durham: Duke University Press. Bhabha, Homi. 2013. El lugar de la cultura. Buenos Aires: Manantial. Barthes, Roland. 2012. Mythologies. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Bolaño, Roberto et. al. 2004. Palabra de América. Barcelona: Seix Barral. Bauman, Zygmunt. 2011. Culture in a Liquid Modern World. Cambridge: Polity. —. 2013. Modernidad líquida. Mexico D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica. Bourriaud, Nicolas. 2009. Radicante. Buenos Aires: Adriana Hidalgo. —. 2013. Estética relacional. Buenos Aires: Adriana Hidalgo. Brunner, José Joaquín. 1992. América Latina: cultura y modernidad. México: Grijalbo. Damrosch, David. 2003. What is World Literature? Princeton: Princeton University Press. Dardot, Pierre and Christian Laval. 2013. The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society. London/New York: Verso. De Rosso, Ezequiel and Daniel Nemrava. 2014. Entre la experiencia y la narración: Ficciones latinoamericanas de fin de siglo (1970–2000). Madrid: Verbum. Fuguet, Alberto and Sergio Gómez (eds.). 1996. McOndo. Barcelona: Mondadori. García Canclini, Néstor. 1995. Consumidores y ciudadanos. Conflictos multiculturales de la globalización. México D.F.: Grijalbo. Gupta, Suman. 2009. Globalization and Literature. London: Polity. Hoyos, Héctor. 2015. The Global Latin American Novel. New York: Columbia University Press. Jacoby, Russell. 1999. The End of the Utopia. Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy. New York: Perseus Books. Ong, Aihwa. 1999. Flexible Citizenship. The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Durham: Duke University Press. Paz, Octavio. 1997. El laberinto de la soledad y otras obras. New York: Penguin Books. Rama, Angel. 1984. La ciudad letrada. Hanover: Ediciones del Norte. Rutherford, Jonathan. 2007. After Identity. London: Lawrence and Wishart.

A Cellular Literary Model


Siskind, Mariano. 2014. Cosmopolitan Desires: Global Modernity and World Literature in Latin America. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Chapters from edited collections Casanova, Pascale. 2013. “Literature as a World.” In World Literature. A Reader, edited by Theo D’haen, César Domínguez, and Mads Rosendahl, 275–88. New York: Routledge. Friedman, Jonathan. 1997. “Global Crisis, the Struggle for Cultural Identity and Intellectual Porkbarrelling: Cosmopolitans versus Locals, Ethnics and Nationals in an Era of De-Hegemonisation.” In Debating Cultural Hybridity, edited by Pnina Werbner and Tariq Modood, 70– 89. London/New Jersey: Zed Books. Moretti, Franco. 2013. “More Conjectures.” In World Literature. A Reader, edited by Theo D’haen, César Domínguez, and Mads Rosendahl, 170–5. New York: Routledge. Noemí, Daniel. 2008. “Y después de lo post, ¿qué? Narrativa latinomericana hoy.” In Entre lo local y lo global. La narrativa latinoamericana en el cambio de siglo (1990–2006), edited by Ángel Esteban and Jesús Montoya Juárez, 83–98. Madrid: Iberoamericana. Noguerol, Francisca. 2008. “Narrar sin fronteras.” In Entre lo local y lo global. La narrativa latinoamericana en el cambio de siglo (1990– 2006), edited by Ángel Esteban and Jesús Montoya Juárez, 19–33. Madrid: Iberoamericana. Spivak, Gayatri. 2013. “Planetarity.” In World Literature. A Reader, edited by Theo D’haen, César Domínguez, and Mads Rosendahl, 207– 17. New York: Routledge. Volpi, Jorge. 2008. “Narrativa hispanoamericana, INC.” Entre lo local y lo global. La narrativa latinoamericana en el cambio de siglo (1990– 2006), edited by Ángel Esteban and Jesús Montoya Juárez, 99–112. Madrid: Iberoamericana.

Journal articles Brunner, José Joaquín. 1996. “Tradicionalismo y modernidad en la cultura latinoamericana.” Revista del Centro de Ciencias del Lenguaje 13–14: 301–33. Castillo, Alberto. 2006. “El Crack y su manifiesto.” Revista de la Universidad de México 31: 83–7.


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Esquirol Ríos, Miguel. 2005. “Breakfast in Barcelona. Entrevista a Edmundo Paz Soldán y Alberto Fuguet.” The Barcelona Review 48 (January). Franco, Jean. 2006. “Globalization and Literary History.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 25 (4): 441–52. Fuguet, Alberto. 2001. “Magical Neoliberalism.” Foreign Policy 125: 66– 73. Gutiérrez Giraldo, Rafael. 2006. “Ficciones literarias latinoamericanas en la época de las multinacionales del libro.” Estudios. Revista de Investigaciones Literarias y Culturales 14 (18): 31–60. Gutiérrez Mouat, Ricardo. 2002. “Literatura y globalización: tres novelas postmacondistas.” Inti. Revista de Literatura Hispánica 55–6: 3–28. Jameson, Fredric. 1986. “Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism.” Social Text 15: 65–88. Lawrence, Jeffrey. 2014. “I Read Even the Scraps of Paper I Find on the Street”: A Thesis on the Contemporary Literatures of the Americas.” American Literary History 26: 536–58. Masiello, Francine. 2002. “La insoportable levedad de la historia: Los relatos best sellers de nuestro tiempo.” Cuadernos de Literatura 8 (15): 59–75. Ortega, Julio. 2010. “La abundancia americana. Un modelo de lectura trasatlántica.” Revista de la Universidad de México 76: 19–27. Perus, Françoise. 2005. “¿Qué nos dice hoy La ciudad letrada de Ángel Rama?” Revista Iberoamericana 211: 363–72. Vargas Llosa, Mario. 1969. “Novela primitiva y novela de creación en América Latina.” Revista de la Universidad de México 10: 29–36. Volpi, Jorge. 2006. “La literatura latinoamericana ya no existe.” Revista de la Universidad de México 31: 90–2.

Websites “Encuesta latinoamericana de hábitos y prácticas culturales 2013.” 2013. Organización de Estados Iberoamericanos para Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura. Madrid: OEI. /LatinobarometroWeb.pdf. Iwasaki, Fernando. 2014. “La Mancha Extraterritorial.” El Mercurio 17. Manrique, Winston. 2015. “El sueño americano de la literatura en español no logra despegar.” El país. 7823.html.


1. Introduction In 1998, Cultura Profética—a reggae roots band that originated in the metropolitan area of San Juan, Puerto Rico—released their first studio album Canción de alerta [Song of Alert]1 to the public. As the title states, their musical project begins with a warning, and though the title refers to a singular “alert,” all 12 songs that compose the album are an exclamation of their current situation. As they publish on their official website2 and their Facebook webpage—the few and seldom places where we can find the group’s biography—Cultura Profética emerges from a conscious desire to bring awareness to the public of the pressing issues of our time: “conscious of the socio-political realities of their native Puerto Rico and of geopolitics in general, they decided to elevate their inspiration in favor of freedom, equality, nature and love through inspiring and motivational songs”3 (Rodríguez Saavedra n.d.). But it is also the sentiment of most of Canción de alerta (I will discuss this later on) and is explicitly stated in their lyrics, pronouncing themselves in allegiance to a community that has a long legacy with the revolutionary movements on the island—starting with el grito de Lares—that have been pro-independence, pro-nationalist, and anti-imperialist.4 As a reggae roots band, Cultura Profética has also implicitly—and explicitly through some of their lyrics—adhered to the traditional philosophies of the oppressed Jamaican communities who have fought against the place they refer to as Babylon—the name given to the city or those who hold the power of oppression. On the other hand, Cultura Profética belongs to a different kind of alternative community; writing


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“between the lines,” the band incites its community to a creative internal struggle—la lucha interna—of self-creating subjects through art. It is in this multiple and yet not-contradictory narrative that I will look at the band’s relationships and movements with these alternative communities through the interpretation of its lyrics in order to understand the operations of this “prophetic culture.”

2. Communities of Resistance As I mentioned before, from the very beginning, from Canción de alerta, Cultura Profética places itself within a community or “culture” of resistance. It is on this album that we mainly and more explicitly find that the band is trying to create a culture that becomes aware of a history of revolutionaries and a community that understands the complexities of its own culture. However, it is also on this album that we encounter three songs that don’t follow this same narrative, and propose something that “el grito”5 alone cannot do. But first, on the side of resistance, 11 of the 12 songs are without a doubt explicitly linked to the project of a revolutionary Puerto Rico and to Jamaican reggae. The first song, “Enyoyando,” which has only a few lyrics, is sung in Jamaican Creole. As the first “Canción de alerta,” [“Song of Alert”], it signals that their message has nothing to do with their geographical place of origin: “Yeah, this is Enyoyando, Rasta beats you know. Straight out of Jamaica, Jah.6 they do know. Yes. Irie bless. Jah, the almighty, irie bless.” It is interesting to note that although Cultura Profética make an alliance with previous revolutionary movements on songs like “Despertar” [“Awakening”], “Protesto” [“I Protest”], “Lucha y Sacrificio” [“Struggle and Sacrifice”], and “Pasiones, Guerrillas y Muerte” [“Passions, Guerrillas, and Death”], which are pro-nationalist, pro-independence, and antiimperialist, the first warning comes in creole and straight out of Jamaica, meaning that the revolutionary project would have to redefine and expand itself not only geographically but also linguistically. Their message, the first alert, indicates that they come straight out of Jamaica—not the geopolitical Jamaica, but the community of the Rastafarians, who believe in Jah and in irie bless, a place in opposition to the capitalist oppressions imposed by Babylon.7 Juan Otero Garabís writes about the importance that music has had in the construction of national imaginaries, especially in the Caribbean: “To study the construction and formulation of national imaginaries of this region it is indispensable to consider not only its reproduction in literature— like it was in the novels in Latin-American of the nineteenth century—but

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also in other popular discourses, especially in music” 8 (1998, 20). Although he recognises that this imaginary is composed of a “counterpoint” or “contamination,” there is no doubt that he still wante to enclose these imaginaries within the idea of the nation-building process. The case of salsa became a particularly interesting phenomenon, as it somehow desperately wanted to create that sense of unity in a moment of massive migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States, though the question became: “about what was the nation that ‘invented’ salsa and what is the nation ‘invented’ by salsa”9 (Otero Garabís 1998, 88). For Otero Garabís, Willie Colón10 expresses the particular complex case of salsa, which is not exclusively Puerto Rican but rather the expression of a pan-national identity marked by the increasing immigration of people from the Caribbean to New York and their experience of resistance to cultural assimilation: “it can be affirmed that salsa served as a vehicle of Puerto-Rican, Caribbean and Latin-American identities with which assimilation was being resisted, but was also different to the one defended by the nationalistic movements of each of the countries of the regions since they also incorporated the niuyorican experiences”11 (Ibid., 89–90). Cultura Profética is no stranger to salsa, and in many of their songs we can hear the influences of the genre, but their project “straight out of Jamaica” is quite different from that of the salseros who, like Willie Colón, wanted to create a bond with the Caribbean experience from the New York ghettos. Interestingly, with the appropriation of reggae there is a dissolution of this necessity of a geopolitical identity, since the aesthetic allows for a translation from culture to culture, into a community that does not necessitate a geopolitical space nor a language to unite them. “Despertar,” the third song of Canción de alerta, which deals with the situation in Puerto Rico, begins by saying: “Feeling of homeland. Thing that is being lost. In this small island. Special victim of the empire. Capitalist interest. Strategic Point. Washing the brain, they want to create a new people.”12 The song then goes on to tell its listeners to “wake up” and defend the values “de tu tierra” [“of your homeland”], but there is a sense—as we will see later—that the old idea of patria or nation can no longer be recovered. In this sense, Cultura Profética’s music cannot be seen as representing a nation—in the way that salsa wanted to recover a Puerto Rican or Caribbean identity, or in the way that Otero Garabís discusses—but rather, they translate the principles of the reggae community against Babylon, meaning communities fighting against an “empire” and other structures of oppression. Their point of departure is without a doubt the nationalism born at el grito de Lares, where on September 23, 1868 the cry of independence first began, and was celebrated for only 48 hours:


Chapter Thirteen El grito de Lares and el grito de Yara in 1868 were the first significant insurrectionary feats in Puerto Rico and Cuba during the nineteenth century … In Puerto Rico the revolution would not go beyond being an attempt that was violently repressed in 48 hours. The revolutionary leadership was imprisoned or exiled. But in this failed insurrection we find the historical roots of Puerto-Rican nationalism of the twentieth century. (Manuel Maldonado 1976, 799–800)

And Cultura Profética—like other pro-nationalist or pro-independence movements of the twentieth century—sums itself up in the tradition born of that cry: “If your struggle is born in Lares. And it enshrines at Pepino. Your blood will be of a martyr. And your courage will be ignited. From here the proclamation will depart. The nation will emerge. Shining in the new dawn. Glorious in their liberty”13 (“Lucha y Sacrificio”). But as they sing to the verses of Mario Benedetti’s “Por qué cantamos,” [“Why do we sing?”], the answer to this question is: “we sing because the cry is not enough” (“Por qué cantamos”) [“Cantamos porque el grito no es bastante”]. For them, it is necessary to understand the history of Puerto Rico, and bring awareness to their listeners of the “strategic” place that they have held and hold in relation to their colonisers—Spain, The United States, and capitalism. Canción de alerta does precisely this, communicating to its listeners the history of Puerto Rico and its struggles for independence from oppression, while also making a special mention of the racial question, where the song “Advertencia” [“Warning”] warns its listeners to never again dare to speak poorly about black people: “Whoever dared at any moment. To speak poorly of black people. Should abstain today. Because boriken. Has a flavor in the blood. Inheritance of the sacred earth, Africa.”14 With Canción de alerta, the band is making a call as well as recalling the old struggle for independence, and is also exploring other temporalities and possibilities within this history. There is no doubt that history and exposure to it are necessary, but this is not enough, and for that the album presents three songs that don’t fit the same narrative of history and the old struggle. “Enyoyando” establishes that their reggae roots do not come from the corrupted and capitalist cities of Babylon, but rather from the “irie bless,” the happiness that is found outside of Babylon. In the last song with lyrics, “Fruto de la tierra” [“Fruit of the Earth”], the band expresses one of the main philosophies of the Rastafarians and alerts its listeners to the use of ganja—marijuana—as a mode of freedom of the mind. It also critiques the prohibition of ganja by stating that it is Babylon’s way to control and abuse nature in the name of “progress”: “Emancipator of the mind is ganja. Some say that it harms you. And now I understand what I heard in my

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childhood, ignorance is presumptuous. That one who looks for glory in the guts of Babylon. That one that grabs progress keeps shortening the hours”15 (“Fruto de la tierra”). Here, the band is referring to not only the social oppression but also the mental and individual oppression that exists in Babylon, where one is not even allowed to explore with one’s one modes of consciousness. The other alternative to the culture of resistance, or to the old struggle, is the song “Con truenos hay que hablar” [“With Thunder One Must Speak”], which is a song on how Nietzsche’s philosophy, or better yet Zarathustra’s philosophy, became influential for the band: “I find myself with my soul between the books of yesterday, of the virtuosos, the studious of themselves. And I look at the words that paint the sky, my uncertainty, my condition. With thunder one must speak. At the dormant senses one must speak. Thus spoke Zarathustra, whom with few words guessed correctly, what my mind constantly looks for”16 (Cultura, “Con truenos hay que hablar”). “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”—these words are literally being quoted in the lyrics to this song. It is in Zarathustra’s teachings that they have found what they have been looking for—a creative becoming. In the study of one’s being and in the teachings of Zarathustra, as well as in the communities of Babylon, is that Cultura Profética will offer an alternative community to the long legacy of revolutionaries and resistance.

3. From the Streets to the Books By 1998, Cultura Profética had established itself as a cult band, having sold more than sixty thousand albums in Puerto Rico alone.17 The band found a strong following mostly amongst the reggae and pro-independence community in Puerto Rico, especially after such a powerful and explicitly political album as Canción de alerta. But as mentioned, the band’s allegiances to other communities—though perhaps less ubiquitous—were there from the very beginning. It is important to make this clear, because it is not that the band will “progress” or “digress” to a different idea or position, but rather that the conditions of possibility will make it more conceivable for other ideas to be expressed. In other words, the allegiance with the historical Puerto Rican revolutionaries allows Cultura Profética to connect to a community that already shares some of their values, and so become the platform or common ground on which they can create and experiment with this prophetic culture. The title of their second studio album, Ideas nuevas [New Ideas], gives us an indication that the band is separating, even if only slightly, from the


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old revolutionary ideas. In the song “Suelta los amarres” [“Let Go of Ties”], the band calls for a different kind of struggle, and tells its listeners to forget the old one: “Let’s not love the old struggle. Let’s not be postwar. We represent a new age. This is it! Ours’ is an inner struggle. Everyone has their one endeavor”18 (“Suelta los amarres”). This old struggle of war refers to the one in which the pro-independence revolutionaries have engaged, starting with el grito de Lares and so on. Armed violence is something that is found in Babylon and therefore is not in tune with the beliefs of the Rastafarians or Cultura Profética. Although the band believes in many of the philosophies of the Rastafarians like peace, the use of ganja, and the fight against Babylon, in this Hispanic appropriation of the movement there is an abandonment of the Rastafari religion. As Elysabeth Senra de Oliveira writes in Moviendo los Engranes, “the PuertoRican band believes that the solution isn’t ‘Jah’ but Bob Marley” (2007, 18).19 The band here abandons the notion of God, Jah; however, they place a form of transcendence on the use of ganja and other psychotropic substances, as we see in songs like “Fruto de la tierra” and “Sube el humo” [“Smoke Goes Up”]. Also interesting is that who replaces Jah, or the godly figure, is Bob Marley, the artist, the maximum expression of reggae, who comes “straight out of Jamaica.” In their new era, with this new internal struggle, Cultura Profética is looking for those figures who can create and move the masses—like Bob Marley—rather than the old struggle of resistance. It is not coincidental that in “Suelta los amarres” the lyrics are full of images from Nietzsche, especially from Zarathustra, from the tightrope walker20 to the re-evaluation of values: I’m tired of walking over a thin rope. I’m an unstable tightrope-walker, for this fleeting race … Reevaluate, reinvent. Give thunder the elegance that asphyxiates. To the wickedness that hesitates in the chest, show it life. At the hill bury the bad guts with limestone. And at the swing made of notes, rock life into its new age. (“Suelta los amarres”)21

It is in the death of Jah and the deification of Bob Marley that we see what Cultura Profética’s project proposes. Instead of persisting in a community of resistance and armed struggle, the band—now fighting the internal struggle—decides to go to the masses by means of music, though through a self-creative project, and perform it, meaning the struggle: “I want to take risks, sing to life. My song does not intend to distinguish me, I just want to understand myself. I would like to sing to love, passion, happiness, dance and laughter. But I find myself from where, I can’t find from where”22 (“Rompiendo letargo”). But the band hasn’t found the dónde, the place from which they can write what they wish to write.

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Ironically, perhaps, the place from where Cultura Profética most prolifically writes is San Juan—Babylon. This is to say that they do so because, in shifting their focus from resistance to creation, they are also shifting towards the internal struggle and is able to perform within a different imaginary. In his book Donde [Where], Eduardo Lalo considers this donde a space from where to write, speak, and think, that does not entail the old struggle for independence that wants to establish the old categories that we have been given. He wants to look at those who stayed back or who never wanted to leave instead of glorifying the figure of the exiled: “I propose another one: the stayed, the returned, the one who can’t (or doesn’t want to) go anywhere … I bet for the relevance of these beings, for their domiciliary heroism” (2005, 95).23 The donde that is proposed is in a localised subject that may not even have the possibility for exile, a donde that disturbs the old conception of location and geography and forces a new imaginary from where to think the communal space. Cultura Profética started experimenting more and more from these different spaces through their trajectory, but this didn’t come as an easy task for them. The band speaks about how some of their songs would have gotten them incarcerated some twenty years before,24 considering their proindependence views, but also criticises the “freedom of speech” from these so-called liberal democracies: “And the routine of your life overpowers. Pupils get contaminated by blindness. Real histories/stories are being hidden from us. At the convenience of the system, of schools. Freedom of speech with a gagged tongue, since the media keeps our consciousness anesthetised. Editing the news, who disputes them? It is for this that is not convenient that people become educated”25 (“Canción de despojo”). Instead of political and ideological persecution, what Cultura Profética finds is political ideological adoration from its cult-followers as a cult-band. But, on the other hand, censorship does occur, now no longer from the empire but from the market and the mass media, whenever something remotely affective in their lyrics opposes their anesthetised consciousness. In an interview, Omar Silva—guitar and bass player in the band—tells Elysabeth Senra de Olivera that the song “De antes” [“From before”] is a romantic song and could easily fit with a radio station that plays ballads, and was rejected for being “too complex.”26 They may not suffer from political persecution—in the traditional sense—but say they live under a Gag Law27 in a world where freedom of speech rules. Cultura Profética gained popularity in a time when a good amount of Puerto Ricans were interested in the old struggle for independence within the old ideologies. In other words, they were able to become a cult band but were still a minority pro-independence community. However, by this


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time these ideologies had already lost some power, evident in the band’s lack of suffering from political persecution. The meant that neither Puerto Rican authorities nor the United States cared that this band was rapidly gaining followers, being played on the radio, and playing concerts in Puerto Rico and the continental United States while singing lyrics like those from “Boriken”: “And why endure? Why go back? If it is known that the game is lethal and that it affects us. We’re going to sing! We’re going to kill! We will grip the truth with our fists until they realize … The voice of truth does not keep quiet. Neither with gas nor with macanas. The voice of truth does not keep quiet. Neither with money nor with poisoned justice.” 28 Cultura Profética’s message to their public in relation to Puerto Rico and US relations is very clear. This message, delivered to the masses through the radio and concerts, and which is against the status quo, no longer poses any threat to the state. The doors are however closed to them on the side of the market because their songs don’t “sell,” or since their music is not easily consumable, as we hear from the interview. Other than becoming a cult band on the side of political activists, the band certainly gained followers from the streets from those who believed in the Rastafarian movement that started in the poor neighbourhoods of Kingston, Jamaica and who believed—among other things—that the consumption of ganja is a way to open the mind to other ways of consciousness and communicate. But as Willy Rodríguez—lead singer and bass player—tells Senra de Oliveira, smoking ganja is a way of “peace” in la lucha urbana [the urban struggle]. He speaks about the way in which different alternative musical communities that had disagreements could temporarily resolve them: “according to the group, the plant [cannabis] was experimented with as an alternative way that allowed the establishment of a space where disagreements between these groups would dissolve temporarily”29 (Senra de Oliveira 2007, 129). Here, Cultura Profética finds that donde, a space where they can experiment. However, it is neither accepted by the state nor taken seriously by revolutionaries, for, as we will see, the idea of the consumption of ganja also has to do with the stopping of time and progress—with the creation of idleness. This space for idleness also opens the possibility for the creative performance that will allow Cultura Profética’s most abrupt aesthetic transformation.

4. From M.O.T.A to La Dulzura In 2005, Cultura Profética released their fourth studio album, M.O.T.A.— the acronym “mota” means “weed,” which is slang for marijuana. However, as the lyrics for the song “Sube el humo” say, the initials stand for the

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phrase “Moments of Idleness at the Ajusco Temple” [“Momentos de Ocio en el Templo del Ajusco”], which signifies the moments of idleness experienced with mota while creating their new album in “Templo del Ajusco,” México. The album is composed of a variety of themes, but there is still a performance of the balance between the old struggle for independence, the allegiance to the Jamaican communities, and the imperative for a selfcreative and creating subject. In songs like “Revolución en estéreo” [“Revolution in stereo”], we can see a coming together between the self-creating subject and the revolutionary idea: For the first time. Tied to the mystery of your intensity. Sincere song. In your verses you bring a profile of truth. At the bottom of myself. In route to the abyss. At the bottom of myself. Inventing myself, trying myself. I stumble upon you. I close my eyes but I look inside. And I feel a wind that goes through my body. Ancestral spirit of knowledge. Feeds thought … That the song is the heart of a mass that screams. Sings and incites when they harmonise in their reason. Provokes connection, mobilisation. Insuppressible music, a revolution. ( “Revolución en estéreo”)30

The band is no longer looking at history, at the revolutionary past in order to copy it, and will discover the means to find that “place” from which to create. For, as I have mentioned before, the band is trying to reconcile the old struggle with the new inner struggle. With this “honest song,” the band is able to discover the verses of the “revolutionary song,” meaning that the “writing between the lines” occurring since the beginning of their trajectory is not something that it has been purposely hiding from others, or addressed to others, but rather it has been written in such a way because the creative process doesn’t happen all at once. Also with it is the “ancestral wind”—mota—which feeds thought and creates this music that will not only make a connection and form a community but also start this revolution. The song continues: “Revolution in stereo, listen. It is not a joke, it’s serious. Mobilisation to elevate criteria. Here a concoction, for me a remedy”31 (“Revolución en estéreo”). This is the revolution for Cultura Profética, one that is on the radio, mobilising the masses, getting them to think on their own, to critique and re-evaluate. In plain and simple language, Cultura Profética is saying that revolution will happen through the mass media, and they are serious about it. Other songs like “Canto en la prisión” [“Song in Prison”], “Qué será” [“What Will Be?”], and “No me interesa” [“I’m Not Interested”] are clearly in tune with the old struggles and ideals, but the band is certainly letting its other influences seep to the surface and take over the project. In the


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process of self-creation, “daring-to-do” is crucial, which means not only resisting the status quo but also the creation of alternative spaces of thought and movement, as well as the remembrance that body and desire are imperatives in this process of revolution. In the song “Nadie se atreve” [“Nobody Dares”], the band once again takes a stand on the side of “real music,” or authentic music in comparison to popular music, referring to the music that is commercial and easily digestible, and makes a call for those listeners who do not dare to do what they want. Here, the band is not daring the public to do something specific except take the risk of wanting, and more specifically of wanting to do and say something. This way, they find alternatives to the machinery of consumerism of Babylon. Willy Rodríguez asserts himself as being on the side of those who he has admired who are authentic to his art—to the legacy of Bob Marley and Nietzsche. He sings: “And what do you think? What did you expect to hear from me? I’m not one of those people who sings and doesn’t think, or feels, or sees. No. I know how to do it, know how to express myself, my muse is my reason for being. I only know how to create being faithful to my feelings. Nothing commercial”32 (“Nadie se atreve”). But in this song, we also start hearing that the band is discontented with what is happening as well as with its own community—after all, “nadie se atreve.” They do make an exception for those who make “real music,” but it is evident that the band has become disenchanted with those who do not and who engage in the consumption of popular “art”: Because nobody wants to be. Nobody wants to say. It’s not good to generalise but I can’t stand this feeling. That there is so much good music, and that what is listened to everyday. No. It’s not worth it. No. It’s not worth it. And that is what is selling. It makes me embarrassed for others. That real music has to screw itself and sweat. And meanwhile the ones who pose and only pose, squander since they are full of themselves to show off and pretend … There is a need for real music. (“Nadie se atreve”)33

In this album, we encounter a different engagement with the question of the consumption of marijuana. Not only is the project named mota, but this word is made to become synonymous with the moments of idleness that allow for the creation of music, since the effects of weed slow down time. “The smoke goes up at the edge of my lips. And it breaks the schedule, there are no more seconds. And the seconds go up, personifying … My dream and my song, as one. And I think of the future … Enough of the rush, moments of idleness are necessary for creativity, this is how music is created this is how life is created”34 (“Sube el humo”). It is imperative that the schedule is broken, that our conception of “doing,” of progress and

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time, gets rearranged, first by slowing down, because we are living in the time of Babylon. In the song “Insomnio,” [“Insomnia”] from Diario [Diary], the band explains how creation occurs in Babylon—the city of consumption: I sit to fish images by the window, but everything is in a hurry. The cars roar with their step and attempt to copy the breeze. But it doesn’t feel fresh here, it doesn’t feel fresh here. I’m losing myself here in a journey of a truck’s smoke. And it is so hot, hot from cement, there is need of fresh air. Because I’m losing myself, I’m losing myself. In the city of hurry. The city of consumption. The city of bars, of blockage, of taxes. The city that is a bottleneck. (“Insomnio”)35

Everything moves so fast in the city of Babylon that it is nearly impossible to see anything. This is the modern city, Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle” where everything moves all too quickly, where goods are taxed, people are incarcerated, and of course marijuana is prohibited. In this context, the prohibition also means that idleness, creativity, and other modes of consciousness are prohibited. It is important to note that the song “Sube el humo” begins with Willy Rodríguez saying: “I want to be able to freely exercise my right to explore my own consciousness” [“Quiero poder ejercer libremente mi derecho a explorar mi propia conciencia”] (“Sube el humo”).This is the desire—to be able to think and experience the revolution in other modes of consciousness, without restrictions. For this it is necessary to place oneself outside of the confines of the city of Babylon, and for that Cultura Profética, in community with the Rastafarians, break with the schedule of the city to smoke and think. Undoubtedly, smoking marijuana is only one way of slowing down time, allowing for a different temporality in order to rearrange thought, but this is their prerogative. In “Sube el humo,” the band also makes explicit what “M.O.T.A.” means. In the song, they spell out the acronym followed by an explanation: “M. O. T. A. Clearly it says weed but it is something more profound. Moments of idleness in the temple of Ajusco. Touching world, creating together. Smoke goes up, tracing the path to follow. And now it’s time to go up. We come to distribute … Smoke goes up, like if it were dancing. And I, devising, come again and smoke. And I think of future”36 (“Sube el humo”). Smoking is then presented as an activity of the community and in community, a form in which the band thinks and creates together—music, poetry, thought, but also friendships and what we know as “Cultura Profética.” We have seen already that it was also used as a sort of peace treaty between different groups in la lucha urbana as a form of truce. Furthermore, the band introduces in this album three different songs: “Mo-


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mento de Ocio (Parte 1)” [“Moment of Idleness Part 1”], “Momento de Ocio (Parte 2)” [Moment of Idleness Part 2”] and “Momento de Ocio (Parte 3)” [“Moment of Idleness Part 3”], which are the presentation of these “moments of idleness.” In the first and third moments of leisure, we hear what seems to be a jam session, and in the second we hear the band members’ laughter and unspecified chatter. What we are listening to here are the products of the moments of creativity but also three moments of idleness, which are all one and the same—the moments for M.O.T.A. The three songs named “momentos de ocio” are not the representation but the presentation of those moments of just jams, of laughter, of no-language that accompany the moments of creation and smoking weed. What the band is presenting are those moments usually stripped out of the “final” versions of creative projects. After M.O.T.A., the transition to their new and latest album, La dulzura, [The Sweetness], appears to be their most abrupt to date. Just from the title of the album we can sense that the high “alert” pronounced in their first album has softened and that perhaps the band is beating a different rhythm. In fact, Cultura Profética anticipates the resistance its devote followers will have towards the movement from the more obviously political album M.O.T.A. to a more personal or individual project. In songs like “Verso terso” (“Smooth Verse”), Willy Rodríguez sings what appears to be a sort of explanation to the followers of this daring move into “sweetness,” where he has not lost view of his project: “They call me the verse. Clean and without wrinkles I come smooth. Adverse to those who want to see me converted. If you know that I don’t let myself go by those things. I continue patient in the process”37 (“Verso terso”). The lyrics of this song appear to be the mirror opposites of those presented in “Nadie se atreve,” where the band was singing its disillusionment before those who don’t dare to do what they desire. There are, in “Verso terso,” lyrics that are defensive of those who may see this move to “la dulzura” as a form of treachery against the cause. Furthermore, the band tells its listeners, especially those who have made them the cult band they are, that they have not listened and that the message has not been understood: They say that the lyrics of my songs are very strong. For a mass that doesn’t listen, only dances. Only moves, moves. They want me to follow that model. A lot of promotion but a very pop sound. To press on the gas, everyone is good. But only few know how to press on the brake. It’s not good. That today everyone wants to be first. But in every test I give them they get a zero. They praise so much that they need a bib. So that they don’t stain from the drool of their ego. (“Verso terso”)38

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These words are reminiscent to Zarathustra’s: “They do not understand me: I am not the mouth for these ears” (Nietzsche 1978, 16). Every time Zarathustra wants to share one of his teachings he is misunderstood, and this is the sentiment here in Cultura Profética’s lyrics. First of all, the band has gained followers, something that their teaching or “message” is already against. They want to build a community of creators, of musicians, of thinkers, but they never wanted to lead the herd.39 Here, in a way, they are resenting the imposition that their listeners put on them to continue the old struggle, and are challenging them to analyse their role in this. In “Rimas pa’ seducir” [“Rhymes to Seduce”], the opening song on the album, the band states that the impositions on the band by its followers to continue with the old struggle are not only a way to not act, but another call to reason: “They want me to speak. They want me to spit. What I observe under this magnifying glass. They want me to throw for consciousness. Another call for reason. They want me to speak, to deaf ears. That I lift them up, that they touch bottom. To stubborn ears, deaf words. If they have resigned, why insist?”40 (“Rimas pa’ seducir”). But the band finds itself exploring other aspects of their consciousness and will not abide to the desires of even their loyal followers. They will assert themselves once more, through the voice of Willy Rodríguez, by reminding listeners that their ideals are the same: “And what comes out of this mouth. Never expires, or gets confused. That which I have said in the trajectory. Is still the ideal”41 (“Rimas pa’ seducir”). In the lack of expiration and mistakes there is no progress. The ideals have been the same all along but not all of them have been able to be presented with the same force at the same time. Or perhaps the conditions of possibility have not quite been made possible for this language to be expressed. Cultura Profética’s desire was always to reach that place where language had not yet reached them, “llegar donde no alcanza mi verso,” and in “Rimas pa’ seducir” they are finally able to enunciate: “In these days I look for love. To think about things that make me laugh. I have too many rhymes of pain. That is why today I look, I look to invest. Time in my rhymes to seduce”42 (“Rimas pa’ seducir”). These verses for seduction serve Cultura Profética to challenge their listeners and move on, to allow themselves to go beyond reason into a different kind of language. La dulzura did little more for Cultura Profética than garner criticism from their followers, who—as they see it now—are being presented with simple love songs. On the other hand, the band acquired a whole new following, and received more exposure when they produced more ballads and “love songs.” Though the album still contains songs like “Verso terso” and “Rimas pa’seducir”—which may seem more obscure to the new fans—


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songs like “La complicidad” [“The Complicity”], “Me faltabas tú” [“I Was Missing You”], and “Ilegal” [“Illegal”] proved to be successes. One song may be an exception to the whole album and stand as evidence that the old struggle in some way still remains. The song “Somos muchos” [“We Are Many”] speaks to the manipulative mechanisms of colonialism, especially regarding information: “They have always told the story backwards, they lie to us without our permission. And how dare they violate all of our history, anxious to manipulate. Creating treaties full of illegalities, they display their flatware. And their colonial banquet bleeding their people, drying it to its very root”43 (“Somos muchos”). The way in which the empire can manipulate is through the “main lie,” which is to tell us that we are just a few, that we are a minority: “It is not true that all of us are just a few. It’s not true that we are little. The truth is that they squeeze us little by little. Our true story deserves a scream”44 (“Somos muchos”). Although Cultura Profética has taken a more individual stance with this project, this song reminds us that there is still a communal project at its base. The “main lie” is that “we” are a minority—we who believe that the internal struggle will collectively be significant. But here, Cultura Profética is asserting that we are in fact many, that this community is formed of many. Though there isn’t a nationalistic subjectivity at place here, there is something happening with subjects and communities precisely stemming from Puerto Rico’s particular political history. As Eduardo Lalo writes in Países Invisibles: Puerto Rico lived globalisation before the concept existed and, for this, when it was impossible to think about it. From there, that it would experiment it as a sort of violent muteness, from a gagged state, with the rawness of a shady mixture of industrialisation, modernity and colonialism. In this sense, Puerto Rican culture is a survivor of globalisation avant la lettre … we carry an extreme handicap and we don’t occupy any place in the world. Not only has globalisation not allowed us visibility, but this worldly form of consumer society has ensured that—in the same way that other societies acquire traces of our process—we lose ourselves in a disturbing generic image. This way an illusion is created, born out of our condition of inexistence, that it can be thought of us as copies of what we were announcing to the world with decades of anticipation. (2008, 52)45

As Lalo says, Puerto Rico’s case is particular because it is that place that almost had “the thing,” never had “the thing,” and then surpassed “the thing” as it went through globalisation before many other of its LatinAmerican counterparts. This is what grants Puerto Rico its invisibility, its place as a “país invisible” (invisible country), but it is also the space from

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which a different aesthetic, based on inner consciousness, idleness, seduction, and creativity can be reimagined other than resistance, militancy, progress, migration, and exile. In the presence of an invisible country and colonisation, Cultura Profética—through its multi-layered values, stemming from all sorts of communities ranging from the intellectual to urban philosophies—cannot adhere itself to a narrative of national identities. At least not in the same way that previous musical imaginaries have, according to Otero Garabís, since the nation-imaginary would constitute a part of Babylon. This is why Cultura Profética, since its very beginnings, has always, in a more esoteric or implicit way, called for an individual revolution of the self. In fact, as I mentioned before, this project becomes less esoteric and more exoteric or explicit in their move from their album M.O.T.A to La dulzura, where it appears as if they have drastically changed from their politically and socially-aware lyrics to a more personal and romantic project.

Notes 1

Unless otherwise noted, all translations are by the author. 3 The original text reads, “conscientes de las realidades socio-políticas de su Puerto Rico natal y la geopolítica en general, deciden levantar su inspiración en favor de la libertad, la igualdad, la naturaleza y el amor, a través de canciones motivadoras y originales” (Rodríguez Saavedra n.d.). 4 For more information of the history of nationalistic movements in Puerto Rico, see Denis (1976). 5 The word “grito” literally translates into “scream” or “cry.” In this context, “grito” refers to the “cry for independence” as was used commonly in the nineteenth century. In the case of Puerto Rico it was “el grito de Lares” (the cry of Lares). I will discuss this more later in the chapter. 6 Jah refers to God in Rastafari: “The movement emerged in Jamaica in 1930, the year Ras Tafari was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Many Rastas regard Haile Selassie as God (Jah) and it is after him that the movement is named. The Rastafarian ideology is characterized by three main themes: the philosophical tradition of Ethiopianism; a Biblical fundamentalism, including both the Old and New Testament; and an appeal to such universal values as love, truth and justice. In Jamaica its orientation is also profoundly Afrocentric and the collective repatriation of black people to Africa has been a major aim” (Hansing 2006, 82). 7 It is important to note that the place opposite to Babylon—this ultra-capitalist city—is not necessarily a socialist state, although their values sometimes appear to be similar. The opposite of Babylon for the Rastafarians is the idea of Zion. In her article “Rastafari in a Different Kind of Babylon: The Emergence and Development of the Rastafari Movement in Socialist Cuba” (2006), Katrin Hansing devel2


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ops this idea of how the socialist state is just another example of the city of Babylon using the case of “el período especial” in Cuba. 8 The original text states, “Para estudiar la construcción y formulación de los imaginarios nacionales de esta región es imprescindible considerar no sólo su reproducción en la literatura—como en las novelas latinoamericanas del siglo diecinueve— sino también en otros discursos populares, muy en especial la música” (1998, 20). 9 The original text states, “sobre cuál fue la nación que se ‘inventó’ la salsa y cuál es la nación ‘inventada’ por la salsa” (Ibid., 88). 10 “Willie Colón is the emblematic example of the creation of salsa and of its expressions of affirmation of Puerto-Rican, Caribbean and Latin-American identity in the neighborhoods of New York. Colón, besides being a native of a New York neighborhood, was musically born with the salsa experiments and with the rise of the salsa industry” (Ibid., 92). 11 The original lyrics are, “se puede afirmar que la salsa sirvió de vehículo de identidades puertorriqueñas, caribeña y latinoamericana con las que se resistía la asimilación, pero también diferente de la defendida por los movimientos nacionalistas de cada país de la región ya que incorpora las experiencias niuyorquinas” (Ibid., 89–90). 12 The original lyrics are, “Sentimiento de patria. Cosa que se está perdiendo. En esta pequeña isla. Víctima especial del imperio. Interés capitalista. Punto estratégico. Lavando el cerebro, quieren crear un pueblo nuevo” (“Despertar”). 13 The original lyrics are, “Si tu lucha nace en Lares. Y se consagra en Pepino. Tu sangre será de mártir. Y tu valor encendido. De aquí saldrá la proclama. La nación emergerá. Brillando en la nueva aurora. Gloriosa en su libertad” (“Lucha y Sacrificio”). 14 The original lyrics are, “Quien se atrevió en algún momento. A hablar mal de la raza negra. Que se abstenga hoy. Pues boriken. Tiene un sabor en la sangre. Herencia de la tierra sagrada, África” (“Advertencia”). 15 The original lyrics are: “Libertadora de la mente es la ganja. Algunos dicen que te daña. Y ahora comprendo lo que escuchaba en mi infancia, atrevida es la ignorancia. Aquel que busca la gloria en la entrañas de Babilonia. Aquel que coge progreso sigue acortando las horas” (“Fruto de la tierra”). 16 The original lyrics are, “Me encuentro con mi alma entre los libros del ayer, de los virtuosos, estudiosos de su ser. Y miro las palabras que pintan en el cielo, mi incertidumbre, mi padecer. Con truenos hay que hablar. A los sentidos dormidos hay que hablar. Así habló Zarathustra, quien con pocas palabras acertó, en lo que mi mente tanto busca” (“Con truenos hay que hablar”). 17 See Senra de Oliveira (1998, 100). 18 The original lyrics are, “No amemos la lucha vieja. No andemos en pos de guerra. Representamos la nueva edad. ¡Así es! Nuestra lucha es interna. Cada cual tiene ya su brega” (“Suelta los amarres”). 19 The original text states, “la banda puertorriqueña [Cultura Profética] cree que la solución no es ‘Jah’ sino Bob Marley” (118). 20 “‘Behold, I teach you the overman: he is the lightning, he is this frenzy.’ When Zarathustra had spoken thus, one of the people cried: ‘Now we have heard enough about the tightrope walker; now let us see him too!’ And all the people laughed at

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Zarathustra. But the tightrope walker, believing that the word concerned him, began his performance” (Nietzsche 1978, 14). 21 The original lyrics are, “Estoy cansa’o de caminar, sobre una fina cuerda. Soy inestable equilibrista, para esta efímera carrera … Reevaluar, reinventar. Dar a un trueno la elegancia que asfixia. A la iniquidad que vacila en el pecho, mostrarle vida. En el mogote inhumar la mala entraña con cal. Y en un columpio hecho de notas mecer la vida es la nueva edad” (“Suleta los amarres”). 22 The original lyrics are, “Yo quiero arriesgarme, cantarle a la vida. Mi canción no intenta distinguirme, sólo quiero entenderme. Quisiera cantarle al amor, la pasión, la alegría, al baile y la risa. Mas me encuentro desde donde. No encuentro desde dónde” (“Rompiendo letargo”). 23 The original text states, “Hasta hoy en la literatura y en la historia, el exiliado ha sido un personaje protagónico. Propongo otro: el quedado, el regresado, el que no puede (o no quiere) ir a ninguna parte … Apuesto por la pertinencia de estos seres, por su heroísmo domiciliario” (95). 24 See “The U.S. Invasion of Puerto Rico: Occupation and Resistance to the Colonial State, 1898 to the Present” for more information on the mechanisms of repression used by the state (especially 17, 8). 25 The original lyrics are, “Y la rutina de tu vida se apodera. Se contaminan las pupilas con ceguera. Se nos ocultan las historias verdaderas. A conveniencia del sistema las escuelas. Libertad de expresión con la lengua amordazada, pues los medios nos mantienen la conciencia anestesiada. Editando las noticias ¿quién les discute? Por eso no conviene que el pueblo se eduque” (“Canción de despojo”). 26 See Senra de Oliveira (1998, 107). 27 “Enacted in Puerto Rico from 1948 to 1957, it was an overt political attempt to legislate speech and thought in public as well as private spheres. The so-called ‘Gag Law’ dictated, among other things, that it was illegal to raise the Puerto Rican flag, speak patriotically about Puerto Rico or to otherwise make proclamations that could be characterized as being against El gobierno insular (Acosta 1987, 72). In other words, as Ronald Fernández puts it, “La mordaza presented Puerto Ricans with a contradiction in terms” (1992, 177). According to Waldron, “they could do whatever they wanted as long as it was not something that could be interpreted as being against the U.S.—appointed governor or the U .S.—controlled government” (2009, 98). 28 The original lyrics are, “¿Y por qué aguantar? ¿Por qué ir hacia atrás? Si se sabe ya que el juego es letal que nos afecta. Vamos a cantar, vamos a matar, vamos a empuñar la verdad hasta que se den cuenta… La voz de la verdad no calla. Ni con gases ni con macanas. La voz de la verdad no calla. Ni con dinero ni con justicia envenenada” ( “Boriken”). 29 The original states, “de acuerdo con el grupo, la planta [cannabis] era experimentada como una vía alterna que posibilitaba el establecimiento de un espacio donde los desacuerdos entre estos grupos se deshacían temporeramente” (Senra de Oliveira 1998, 129). 30 The original lyrics are, “Por vez primera. Atado al misterio de tu intensidad. Canción sincera. En tus versos llevas un perfil de la verdad. En ruta hacia el abismo. Al fondo de mí mismo. Inventándome, intentándome. Tropiezo contigo. Cier-


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ro los ojos pero miro hacia adentro. Y siento un viento que atraviesa mi cuerpo. Espíritu ancestral del conocimiento. Alimenta el pensamiento…Que la canción es corazón de una masa que grita. Canta y se agita cuando entonan en su razón. Provoca conexión, movilización. Música incallable una revolución” (“Revolución en estéreo”). 31 The original lyrics are, “Revolución en estéreo, ’cucha. No es en broma es en serio. Movilización pa’ elevar el criterio. Aquí un mejunje pa mí un remedio” (“Revolución en estéreo”). 32 The original lyrics are, “¿Y tú qué crees? ¿Qué es lo que esperabas de mí escuchar? No soy de esa gente que canta y no piensa, ni siente, ni ve, no. Yo lo sé hacer, me sé expresar, la musa es mi razón de ser. Sólo sé crear a mis sentidos fiel, nada comercial” (“Nadie se atreve”). 33 The original lyrics are, “Porque ya nadie quiere ser. Nadie quiere decir. Generalizar no es bueno pero ya no aguanto este sentir. Que haya tanta música buena y lo que se escucha a diario no, no vale la pena, no vale la pena y que eso se venda. A mí me da vergüenza ajena que la música real tenga que joderse y sudar. Y mientras los que posan y sólo posan se la guillan de derrochar pa’ presumir y aparentar. Hace falta música real” (“Nadie se atreve”). 34 The original lyrics are, “Sube el humo del margen de mis labios. Y rompe el horario, ya no hay segundos. Y sube el humo, personificando mi sueño y mi canto como uno. Y pienso en futuro. Basta de la prisa momentos de ocio son necesarios para la creatividad, así se hace la música así se crea la vida” (“Sube el humo”). 35 The original lyrics are, “Me siento a pescar por la ventana imágenes, pero todo está de prisa. Los autos rugen con su paso e intentan copiar la brisa, pero no se siente fresco acá. No se siente fresco acá. Me estoy perdiendo en un viaje de humo de camión. Y hace tanto calor, calor de cemento, hace falta aire fresco. Porque me estoy perdiendo, me estoy perdiendo. En la ciudad de la prisa, la ciudad del consumo. La ciudad de las rejas, del bloqueo y del impuesto. La ciudad que es embudo” (“Insomnio”). 36 The original lyrics are, “M. O. T. A. Claro dice mota pero es algo más profundo. Momentos de ocio en el templo del Ajusco. Palpando mundo, creando juntos. Sube el humo, trazando el rumbo a seguir. Y ahora nos toca subir. Venimos a repartir. Sube el humo, como que bailando. Y yo ideando, vuelvo y fumo. Y pienso en futuro” (“Sube el humo”). 37 The original lyrics are, “Me dicen el verso. Limpio y sin arrugas vengo terso. Adverso a esos que me quieren ver converso. Si saben que no me dejo llevar por eso. Yo sigo bien paciente en el proceso” (“Verso terso”). 38 The original lyrics are, “Dicen que las letras de mis temas son muy fuertes. Para una masa que no escucha, sólo baila. Sólo mueve, mueve. Quieren que siga aquél modelo. Mucha promoción pero un sonido bien craquero. Pa’ meterle el pie a la gasolina to’ son buenos. Pero pocos saben darle al freno, que no. Bueno, y es que hoy todos quieren ser primero. Pero en cada examen que doy se van con cero. Alaban tanto que hay que ponerle un babero pa’ que no manchen de baba el ego” (“Verso terso”). 39 “Companions, the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators, the creator seeks—those who write new values on new tables. Compan-

Cultura Profética


ions, the creator seeks, and fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the harvest. But he lacks a hundred sickles: so he plucks ears and is annoyed. Companions, the creator seeks, and such as know how to whet their sickles. Destroyers they will be called, and despisers of good and evil. But they are the harvesters and those who celebrate. Fellow creators, Zarathustra seeks, fellow harvesters and fellow celebrants: what are herds and shepherds and corpses to him?” (Nietzsche 1978, 24). 40 The original lyrics are, “Quieren que hable. Quieren que escupa. Lo que se observa bajo esta lupa. Quieren que tire por la conciencia. Otro llamado a la razón. Quieren que le hable, a oídos sordos. Que los eleve, que toquen fondo. A oídos necios, palabras sordas. Si se conforman, pa’ que insistir” (“Rimas pa’ seducir”). 41 The original lyrics are, “Y lo que sale, por esta boca. Nunca expira, ni se equivoca. Eso que he dicho en el trayecto. Aun sigue siendo el ideal” (“Rimas pa’ seducir”). 42 The original lyrics are, “En estos días busco amor. Pensar en cosas que me hagan reír. Me sobran rimas al dolor. Por eso hoy sólo busco, busco invertir. Tiempo en mis rimas pa’ seducir” (“Rimas pa’ seducir”). 43 The original lyrics are, “Nos habían hecho siempre el cuento al revés, nos mienten sin permiso. Y cómo atreverse a violar toda nuestra memoria, ansiosos por manipular. Creando tratados llenos de ilegalidad despliegan su vajilla, y su banquete colonial desangrando a tu pueblo secándolo hasta la raíz” (“Somos muchos”). 44 The original lyrics are, “No es verdad que to’ nosotros somos pocos. No es verdad eso de que somos pequeñitos. La verdad es que nos exprimen poco a poco. Nuestra historia verdadera exige un grito” (“Somos muchos”). 45 The original lyrics are, “Puerto Rico vivió la globalización antes de que existiera el concepto y, por lo tanto, cuando era imposible pensarla. De ahí que la experimentara desde una suerte de mudez violenta, desde un estado amordazado, con la crudeza de una turbia mezcla de industrialización, modernización y colonialismo. En este sentido, la cultura puertorriqueña es una superviviente de la globalización avant la lettre … cargamos una minusvalía extrema y no ocupamos lugar alguno en el mundo. No solamente la globalización no nos ha permitido la visibilidad, sino que esta forma de mundialización de la sociedad de consumo ha hecho que, en la medida en que otras sociedades adquieren rasgos de nuestro proceso, nosotros nos perdemos en una inquietante imagen genérica. Se crea así la ilusión, nacida de nuestra condición de inexistencia, de que puede pensársenos como copias de lo que anunciáramos al mundo con décadas de anticipación” (Lalo 2005, 52).

References Books Acosta, Ivonne. 1987. La mordaza: Puerto Rico, 1948–1957. San Juan: Editorial Edil.


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Fernández, Ronald. 1992. The Disenchanted Island: Puerto Rico and the United States in the Twentieth Century. New York: Praeger. Lalo, Eduardo. 2005. Donde. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Editorial Tal Cual. —. 2008. Los países invisibles. 1st edition. San Juan, P.R.: Editorial Tal Cual. Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. 1978. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin. Oliveira, Elysabeth Senra de. 2007. Moviendo los engranes: discurso, música y política a partir de los 90. San Juan, P.R.: Editorial Isla Negra.

Dissertation Otero Garabís, Juan. 1998. “Naciones rítmicas: la construcción del imaginario nacional en la música popular y la literatura del Caribe hispano.” Dissertation, Harvard University, 1998.

Journal articles Denis, Manuel Maldonado. 1976. “Las perspectivas del nacionalismo latinoamericano: el caso de Puerto Rico.” Revista mexicana de sociología 38 (4): 799–810. Gonzalez-Cruz, Michael. 1998. “The U.S. Invasion of Puerto Rico: Occupation and Resistance to the Colonial State, 1898 to the Present.” Latin American Perspectives 25 (5): 7–26. Hansing, Katrin. 2006. “Rastafari in a Different Kind of Babylon: The Emergence and Development of the Rastafari Movement in Socialist Cuba.” Caribbean Studies 34 (1): 61–84. Waldron, John V. 2009. “Writing and Bare Life: Locura and Colonialism in Matos Paoli’s Canto de La Locura.” Revista hispánica moderna 62 (1): 93–106.

Websites Rodríguez, Saavedra Dalia. n.d. “Biografía.”

Albums Cultura Profética. Canción de alerta. Tuff Gong, 1998. CD. —. Diario. Luar Music, 2002. CD.

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—. Ideas nuevas. Luar Music, 2000. CD. —. La dulzura. La Mafafa Inc., 2010. CD. —. M.O.T.A. Luar Music, 2005. CD.

Songs “Advertencia.” On Canción de alerta by Cultura Profética. “De Antes.” On Diario by Cultura Profética. “Boriken.” On Diario by Cultura Profética. “Canción de despojo.” On M.O.T.A. by Cultura Profética. “Con truenos hay que hablar.” On Canción de alerta by Cultura Profética. “Despertar.” On Canción de alerta by Cultura Profética. “Enyoyando.” On Canción de alerta by Cultura Profética. “Fruto de la tierra.” On Canción de alerta by Cultura Profética. “Insomnio.” On Diario by Cultura Profética. “Lucha y sacrificio.” On Canción de alerta by Cultura Profética. “Nadie se atreve.” On M.O.T.A. by Cultura Profética. “Por qué cantamos.” On Canción de alerta by Cultura Profética. “Revolución en estéreo.” On M.O.T.A. by Cultura Profética. “Rimas pa’ seducir.” On La dulzura by Cultura Profética. “Rompiendo letargo.” On Ideas nuevas by Cultura Profética. “Somos muchos.” On La dulzura by Cultura Profética. “Suelta los amarres.” On Ideas nuevas by Cultura Profética. “Sube el hubo.” On M.O.T.A. by Cultura Profética. “Verso Terso.” On La dulzura by Cultura Profética.



1. Introduction This chapter will look into two different aspects of the literature of the Onda as an alternative community, referring back to an alternative community as a circle of artists, in this case functioning outside of the recognised confines of literature as defined by the Mexican intellectual elite while also espousing alternative visions of national and personal cultural identity moving forward. First is an overview on how it has been viewed historically, as an alternative community, by critics and the Mexican literary establishment. Second, adopting aspects of rock culture and ethos, I will observe how the works of three Onda writers, José Agustín, Parménides García Saldaña, and Margarita Dalton, add to and strengthen the creation of an alternative, imagined community within the Mexican counterculture. These works cross national borders by suggesting inclusion in an imagined community connecting them not only as Mexicans to the international counterculture, but also as Mexican members belonging to a continuum within literary and cultural history drawn from an alternative canon. This is a canon that, save for the inclusion of notable figures from the Boom like Julio Cortázar and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, or perhaps the French Cursed Poets of the nineteenth Century, was unrecognised by the international literary establishment or other intellectual elites at the time. I will argue how the set of names and references forms a fundamental background for a closer, deeper reading of their works and understanding of them as artists—though their project ultimately had mixed results.

The Literature of the Onda


2. The Writers and Literature of the Onda: The Alternative Literary Community of the Mexican Counterculture of the 1960s Soon after it came to be recognised as a phenomenon, the “literature of the Onda,” the name bestowed to a generation of counterculturally-oriented writers in Mexico that was at the time younger than 30, has been a moniker that has both identified the group and been questioned. Its parameters, characteristics, and even constitutive corpus have been a matter of debate for critics and the authors themselves for nearly five decades now, though there is a general agreement among critics about some of its broader aspects. Some of these include: a unique fusion of different vernaculars drawn from polyglot sources from high and low cultures to create its own hip, exclusive, hybrid language; an affinity for foreign media-driven culture, including rock music and culture as well as Hollywood films; a rebellious, “bad boy” stance towards accepted norms regarding Mexican culture and identity; an affinity for the Beat Generation and Cursed poets; and a parricidal disposition towards their Mexican literary predecessors, among others. The accepted critical consensus, proposed by Carlos Monsiváis, is that the Onda existed as a cultural phenomenon from 1966 to 1972. It faded away after the 1971 Avándaro Festival—Mexico’s version of Woodstock—due to generational disillusionment and apathy fostered by burnout from the countercultural lifestyle as well as even harder governmental crackdowns on dissidence following the festival, as Monsiváis, Eric Zolov, and Parménides García Saldaña, among others, have documented. José Agustín, Onda literature’s most recognised exponent, proposes a slightly different timeline, as the first and last novels typically identified with the movement were published by him in 1964, La tumba [The Grave], and 1973, Se está haciendo tarde [It’s Getting Late]1 (Agustín 2004, 10) . In 2004, to once again put the categorisation of Onda into question, Agustín went so far as to publish an essay titled “La Onda que nunca existió” [“The Onda That Never Existed”] in an to attempt to set the record straight from his other authors’ perspectives, arguing against its existence as a movement and the implicit notions of collectivity such a categorisation carries with it. More than 30 years after their initial publication, Agustín’s critical aim is taken most specifically at critic Margo Glantz’s two still oft-cited works, Narrativa joven de México [Young Narrative in Mexico] (1969) and Onda y escritura en México [Onda and Writing in Mexico] (1970). Here Glantz, in his eyes, makes a lax, reductionist reading of the young writers’ works in question, creating a false dichotomy between literary writing (escritura) and the writing of the then-contemporary genera-


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tion (Onda), and fails to discern and appreciate the poetics, nuance of discourse, and ethos employed by the authors, categorising vastly different works with very distinct artistic and stylistic intentions under one far-toobroad category. He also notes that the writers René Avilés Fabila, Gerardo de la Torre, and Juan Tovar, in particular, were furious about their portrayal in Glantz’s work (Agustín 1968, 78). To be sure, Agustín’s point is well taken as there are vast differences in comparing works like Avilés Fabila’s roman à clef titled Los juegos [The Games] (1967) with its literary games, the psychedelic excursions of Margarita Dalton’s Larga sinfonía en D y había una vez [Long Symphony in D and Once Upon a Time] (1968), the nihilistic undertones of Orlando Ortiz’s En caso de duda [In Case of Doubt] (1968), the more politicallyoriented work of Gerardo de la Torre, the science fiction of Carlos Olvera’s Mejicanos en el espacio [Mexicans in Space] (1968), and quintessential Onda works like Agustín’s own De perfil [Profile View] (1966) or Gustavo Sainz’s Gazapo (1965), among many others. Also, as Carol Clark D’Lugo notes, even Glantz herself vacillates on which authors belong, changing the list of included authors in Narrativa joven and those in Onda y escritura, adding that, “The fluctuation in names is indicative of the disagreement among critics as to who should be included as Onda writers. The only three about whom there appears to be complete accord [among critics] are Agustín, Sainz and [Parménides] García Saldaña” (1997, 245). 2 Nonetheless, Glantz’s basic scheme from both works has been applied in the subsequent decades as a launching point in research on the Onda writers and remained a touchstone for dialogue (whether in agreement or not) in studies done by Inke Gunia, Juan-Bruce Novoa, Luis Leal, Jorge Ruffinelli, and, more recently, Brian Price and myself, among others. Of course, as the dates for the movement’s presence in the public conscience indicate, it is clear that Onda literature existed and was viewed as an alternative literary community whose artistic contributions presented a fresh, youthful, rebellious perspective well before Glantz’s first recognition and critical evaluation in 1969. As early as 1966, Agustín and Sainz had been recognised as up-and-coming 20-something writers and were featured in the series “Nuevos escritores mexicanos presentados por sí mismos” [“New Mexican Writers Introducing Themselves”], which included decidedly non-Onda figures such as Monsiváis, Sergio Pitol, and Salvador Elizondo.3 Perhaps most importantly for the publishing houses that brought the works to the public (like Joaquín Mortiz—“la editorial de los jóvenes” [“the publishing house for youth”], as their adopted slogan noted—and Editorial Diógenes), these young writers associated with the

The Literature of the Onda


Onda had a product that was marketable to a potentially new, not fully exploited demographic of reader, attracted to the new literature via a shared background and worldview with the Onda authors. Beginning in 1967, Editorial Diógenes published six novels by these young authors in its “first novel” competition in a series that included Parménides García Saldaña’s Pasto verde (1968) and several of the aforementioned texts, including Dalton’s.4 Nonetheless, as Inke Gunia explains, the reception of the Onda works from most of the literary establishment—the so-called mafia—was negative. The initial reaction of critics and some of the reading public accused the writers of producing obscene, pornographic content with anti-literary language that, in turn, supposedly exposed the writers themselves as being true dilettantes (1994, 11) while extolling the corruption of morals, broaching taboo subjects (such as incest and abortion), abandoning proper grammar, and displaying the low level of mass-media informed culture of the newer generation (Ibid., 148). In the eyes of the state subsidised literary and intellectual elite, who exercised power over the traditional and “respected” outlets for publication, awards, and “proper” recognition, this immediately relegated the Onda-associated writers to an alternative literary community whose place was outside of the establishment and should remain so. The establishment’s response to marginalising the young writers was predictable, as were the insults and general derogatory rhetoric that accompanied such judgments. This followed what Luis Britto García describes as the general process of cultural marginalisation by the establishment that denied the diversity of their cultural environment, erecting boundaries within their world (1991, 20). He adds that in emphasising their own cultural uniformity, the marginalising establishment forces exaggerated the difference of those who were marginalised, converting them into an Other, a dissident, barbarian, pagan, heretic, or any number of disparaging, diminishing categories (Ibid., 21). In the case of the Onda, this included dilettantes, frauds, superficial pseudo-intellectuals, cultural foreigners born on Mexican soil, and devotees to the cult of rock music, free love, and marijuana, among others. Furthermore, as Jean Franco notes about establishment writers in Latin America, “for two decades, writers were more important arbiters of taste, especially among the younger generation, than critics or academics and more important monitors of political correctness than politicians” (2002, 5). As such, the encroachment of a group of writers like those of the Onda changed the situation, intending for the younger generation to participate as “contemporaries of the rest of the world”—a role previously performed by the aforementioned writers to which Franco refers (Ibid., 5).


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It was this hermetic, exclusive intellectual environment of what was acceptable that was an important defining factor in the work of the Onda generation writers. For instance, René Avilés Fabila notes in an interview from 1988: “we were—like it or not—a group that saw things differently from those pretentious people [the establishment, the Mafia] who still supposed that Europe was unique and incomparable,”5 adding that the generation did share many aspects, including a deep individualism. Nonetheless, whether they recognised themselves as part of the same alternative community or not, an overarching ethos was present that set them apart. As the literary voice for youth in Mexico, Onda literature struck a nerve in exposing cracks in the facade of the national family propounded by the ruling PRI party while dispensing with the paradigms of the literary establishment. The marginalised role of youth within Mexican culture and the idea of Mexican culture propagated by the PRI helped play a key role within the beginnings of youth rebellion, along with the expanding influence of rock music and models of rebellion drawn from imported Hollywood films. While the process began, as it did worldwide, in the late 1950s, by the mid-1960s the growth of an extant counterculture had become an undeniable phenomenon in Mexico.6 Those who identified with the Onda generation did indeed feel marginalised on a larger scale, and their suddenly having a literary voice, well established in the market place of books as well as ideas, was an unwelcome turn of events for the PRI and the literary establishment. For the Díaz Ordaz regime, it was indeed one of the many elements of the counterculture that needed to be curbed to maintain and foment appearances of national order within the metaphorical national family, particularly with the world spotlight that would shine on the nation in 1968 with the coming of the Olympics, and again in 1970 with the World Cup. García Saldaña explains in his essay En la ruta de la Onda [On the Road of the Onda] (1972) that urban Mexican youth had no connection to the national symbols elevated and perpetuated by the PRI; the professed “love of country” was only empty words in a world where they no longer had meaning within the modernising, evolving urban context (1974, 81). Furthermore, as Zolov (1993) explains at length, youth in the Mexican culture of the 1960s had little, if any, agency within the scheme of the PRI’s metaphorical national family, where the father (and by extension the president in the nation) ruled in absolute terms, buttressed by complete respect for authority within roles inculcated by the buenas costumbres or “proper upbringing” regarding the family and society, and by extension the nation. The PRI’s intent was to follow the US model of passive consumerism as a selling point and sign of modernity, working in conjunction with more

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traditional symbols of national identity like the Virgin of Guadalupe, heroes from the revolution and conservative Catholic morality—particularly when regarding the behaviour of (young) women. As Agustín explains in La contracultura en México [The Counterculture in Mexico]: Taking the step from the traditional, atavistic Mexico to the modern nation that the regime promised was not easy. Although the context was no longer exactly the same, a large portion of society continued on with old prejudices and pleased itself in conventionalisms, in farcical moralism, in the energetic exercise of machismo, sexism, racism and classism, and in the predominance of paternalistic authoritarianism that stank wherever one went. Gossip and el qué-dirán—what other people think—gave hypocrisy the rank of the great national mask.” (1996, 15)7

The allusion to the “great national mask” adds to the inventory set forth by Octavio Paz in his essay “Mexican Masks” from 1950’s Labyrinth of Solitude that was so influential in attempting to define Mexican culture. As Agustín adds, many of these precepts and ways of the buenas costumbres operated only in theory as a desire for money, status, and power took hold due to the new contexts made possible by the improving economic reality. There was no room for dissidence within the scheme of the “Mexican miracle” overseen by the PRI from the 1940s to the 1970s, and in the 1960s, repression of young people and non-conformists was a daily occurrence (Ibid., 16). Ironically, as Zolov explains, some of the very cultural products that inspired some of the non-conformist ways of the counterculture and the Onda were part of a vaster government program of importing and promoting “modernity” in Mexico in the 1950s and 1960s that brought in a wider array of Hollywood films, rock records, and television programs. With these models, the writers and characters in the texts broke free of the accepted notions of cultural and national identity, and roles within the nuclear and national families, attacking the inherent hypocrisy and dispensing with continuing down the path of their literary forefathers. Their marginalisation and derogatory depiction within the literary and cultural establishment was, of course, a state of affairs that was relished by some like the rebellious García Saldaña, whose public outbursts and propensity to make a scene at public literary gatherings made him a notorious persona non grata for many, including many of his ondero cohorts. Nonetheless, it was also a source of anger for others like Agustín, who sought to be respected as a literary figure beyond the counterculture, as he was Mexico’s first published rock critic and a screenwriter aside from his literary endeavours. For him, it was of utmost importance to not be perceived solely as a writer of youth-oriented paraliterature.8 Feeling alienated, some of


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the comments by writers including Sainz and Agustín towards established writers such as Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, and Juan José Arreola were wantonly aggressive, disrespectful, and viewed as parricidal—widening the rift and, in some senses, further defining the alternative nature of this literary community.9 Ironically, Fuentes, amidst his publicly known disagreements with Agustín, had recognised both he and Sainz for their contributions to linguistic modernisation in La nueva novela hispanoamericana [The New Latin American Novel] (1969), presenting them as a variant of certain innovations already put forth by Cabrera Infante, whom he credits for creating his own variant of the Spanish language.10 While Agustín and Avilés Fabila,11 among others, have openly rejected the notion of the Onda writers constituting some sort of movement, Agustín himself makes clear that there are a number of shared characteristics amongst the authors of “the youth-oriented novel”: In Mexico, some of us as young writers in the 1960s narrated our environment. Some recounted growth with traditional means, but others of us used colloquial language and referred directly to what was immediate and concrete: specific places, happenings, people, customs, styles or personalities. Some of us also incorporated references or narrative tools from film, rock, television, comics, fantasy, dreams, hallucinations, crime novels and science fiction. In general, there was a reinsertion into the Mexican popular culture, although this took some time before being noticed, since at one point it was seen as denationalization or transculturation. Between 1964 and 1973 there was writing on the search for identity, the discovery of love and the body, the generation gap and the conflict between individuality and society or politics and religion; but also about drugs, guerrillas, communes and para-religious spirituality. As was to be expected from young people, eroticism was explored. In the end, whether they admit it or not, it had to do with a change of skin, a cultural revolution and the beginning of a demythification and revitalization of culture in Mexico. The youth-oriented novel not only started the country on the path of postmodernity but also proceeded to define the spirit of the new times. (2004, 10)12

The acknowledged influence of the American Beat Generation by Onda writers underscores their own status as an alternative literary community, evolving from and incorporating recognisable aspects of Beat poetics and ethos. The fact that some of the main exponents of Onda literature read English facilitated this influence, as these texts were not translated into Spanish at the time, and many still are not.13 The Beats’ dissatisfaction with the expected conformity of post-war society was experienced a decade later in Mexico by the Onda generation. As noted above, Mexico itself

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was attempting to adopt aspects of the consumeristic post-war American dream within which simply being or desiring to be different in any way, shape, or form was frowned upon. Artistically speaking, the selfreferential, semi-autobiographical nature of many of the texts, the copious consumption of drugs and alcohol, the brazenly unapologetic, sometimes graphic sexual content, the assault on previous notions of national and individual identity, and the will to free themselves from restrictive cultural norms practiced by both characters and writers present much common ground between the movements. This common ground took a number of different forms, from interjecting phrases in other languages (as Burroughs often did with Spanish during the 1960s), to inventing neologisms, playing with grammatical and syntactical structures, experimenting with typography, and using improvisational rhythms—some fluid, some choppy— within the texts. As Agustín himself puts it, García Saldaña was, among the Onda writers, a scholar of Beat literature and a Beat himself before the emergence of the Onda (1996, 29). The Beat influence is perhaps strongest in his novel Pasto verde, where numerous passages develop his own variant of the textual rhythms of both Kerouac and Ginsberg while delving into the types of nightmarish realities painted by Burroughs portraying the dark side of addiction and sexual alterity.14 Like the Beats, a criticism levelled against the Onda writers is that they lacked a cohesive economic or political philosophy, even after the tragic events of Tlatelolco in October 1968. Allan Johnston explains of the Beats, “While they were not so intent on defining a political or economic position as they were of escaping from one, the Beats regularly joined values of awareness with a ‘detachment from the existing society’,” demanding liberation from a culture where ideas, bodies, and identities were restricted (2005, 103). With this in mind, the following quote from Carlos Monsiváis further outlines the alternative nature of the Onda community (not the writers exclusively) and its evolution from some of the tenets of the Beat Generation: What distinguishes the members of the Onda is the seriousness of their rejection of prevailing morals, and the intensity of their commitment to musical, literary and pharmacological experiences. In the course of their diverse endeavours, a confused desire that they will slowly and always only partially clarify will unify them; to create something similar to what occurs in the United States, a society apart, a nation within the nation, a language of their own from language. (1977, 227)15

The language of the Onda is a vernacular all its own, comprised of phrases from rock music, chilango (Mexico City) slang, phrases from English,


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French, and other languages, as well as a wide gamut of intentionally dropped names of references. This language, as Victoria Carpenter explains in some detail, created an exclusive space for those privy to it, marginalising the more typical reader of elite, erudite literature via its use of its own vernacular and vast set of cultural references. As she explains: “By placing English slang and popular song quotations within the realm of an elitist vocabulary, the Onda text reverses the cultural hegemony and places subculture in the position of dictating the norms of transcultural contextualization” (2009, 207). As such, the presence of the alternative community begins to establish itself within the cultural imaginary. In essence, Onda literature demands an “ideal reader,” to use Umberto Eco’s term, whose cultural pedigree has strong affinities with those of the writers themselves in order to fully engage with the references, jokes and “vibe” conveyed. The Onda movement as a whole, again not limited to the writers but including them, in taking its language into a written form further expanded the possibility of the imagined community of the counterculture, the nation within the nation. Indeed, the movement as a whole fulfilled the requisite steps for nation building outlined by Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities, connecting disparate individuals with not only the Onda literature but also underground publications like Piedra Rodante, the short-lived Mexican bootleg version of Rolling Stone magazine, and the mass and private ceremonies that revolved around listening to rock records and marijuana or LSD consumption. As Anderson puts it, “These fellowreaders [and listeners], to whom they were connected through print, [and in the case of the Onda, rock records] formed in their secular, particular visible invisibility, the embryo of the nationally imagined community” (1991, 44). In addition, Onda writers like Agustín and García Saldaña, who had strong ties to rock music, and its culture and ethos, served what Anderson describes as the role of, “a small segment of literate bilingual adepts drawn from each vernacular community [performing] the unifying rites, interpreting to their respective followings the meaning of their collective motion” (Ibid., 54). The fusion of disparate cultural worlds and disciplines within the works of Agustín, García Saldaña, and Margarita Dalton points to the creation of an expanded imagined community within which they can be situated alongside both their literary and extra-literary influences in a vaster cultural continuum that naturally combines the Beats and the Beatles, Julio Cortázar and Aldous Huxley, the I Ching and the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath LP, among many others to forge a uniquely period-specific cultural identity and alternative community.

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3. Onda Literature and the Ethos of Rock While Onda literature is often closely related to rock music and its culture, not all the writers who are (correctly or not) included as part of the literary movement used rock as a cultural signifier within their work. One need look no further than Gustavo Sáinz, who Agustín describes as being more of an intellectual with technocratic tendencies and not even a fan of rock (1986, 78). There are others, of course, and the various themes and tropes that they explore, while still perhaps being youth oriented in a larger sense, do not employ rock as an important component in the way that Agustín, Margarita Dalton, and García Saldaña do. These three authors delve deep into rock and the various offshoots of its culture as it stood in the late 1960s, and adopt its ethos in their work while also connecting to their literary influences. More than four decades later, we can see them as part of the (in some senses nearly forgotten) Mexican contingent within the larger, international, imagined countercultural community that was fomented by rock and its ethos in the 1960s. This is particularly true when considering their work from the period as a key influence in other writers, such as Colombian Andrés Caicedo and the McOndo movement of the 1990s. While much has evolved in rock culture since the 1960s, opening the door to the emergence of numerous subgenres with accompanying alternative communities internationally, the rock culture that is the touchstone for these three authors, while being fluid and multi-faceted, draws from a common cultural contact zone brought forth by the greater reach of the mass media and the ubiquitous voices of international countercultural icons. These icons include, but of course are not limited to, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Doors, and other rock superstars from the late 1960s. Through these icons came greater exposure to some of the cultural and extra-musical influences that they had adopted into their own alternative lifestyles and worldviews, such as the adoption of Eastern philosophies and meditation, consumption of marijuana and LSD, and an alternative musical and cultural canon comprised of mostly underrecognised musicians, thinkers, and authors unfamiliar to the vaster rock audience, among others. It was through the relationship that these iconic rock figures had with their influences that artists like Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar (through the Beatles), seminal Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters (through the Rolling Stones), legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie (through Bob Dylan) and philosopher/writer Aldous Huxley (through the Doors, who took their name from one of his works) went from being wellrespected and revered in their respective fields and less publicised environments to being international names amongst youth practically over-


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night. Their names became attached to forms of more accessible mass art as described by Theodore Gracyk, the post-war phenomenon in which mass produced popular art reaches the masses and engages them on an immediate level that thus becomes part of the larger cultural backdrop (2001, 18–22). Many of these musical and cultural facets are noted by Mario Rojas in his assessment of Agustín’s adoption of a poetics of rock within his work, a point to which I believe a more flexible and encompassing category of ethos is more appropriate, especially given Agustín’s own status as a minor celebrity living the rock-star life that Juan-Bruce Novoa describes. We can consider these rock icons as the creators of this new social reality, the keepers of knowledge, the arbiters of taste and modern cultural leaders paving the way towards the future—and at that point, the future was now. The authors at hand—in being deeply immersed within the rock culture, having what they perceived as an intimate familiarity with the work of these icons, being literate in the international countercultural musical, political, and linguistic vernaculars as well as English—can serve as the uniquely qualified adepts whose works help to define the parameters of the Mexican component of the alternative countercultural community. In a modern sense, they highlight Anderson’s point on their being the conduits for performing unifying rites and interpreting the actions of the international collectivity, not only through their texts but also by living lives not far removed from those of their readers and characters—including all their inherent flaws, errors, contradictions, and issues of all sorts. There is no ivory tower to speak of here, and that is, in many ways, one of the main factors. Instead, it is a direct and authentic connection to the greater imagined community of the counterculture at the time. There was no one more qualified to do this than José Agustín. Agustín, as mentioned above, was Mexico’s first published rock critic, with columns on rock and literature in the culture section of the El Día newspaper, and articles in a variety of other publications on rock and culture. He also worked as an active screenwriter and playwright, as well as publishing some of his best-known work like the short-story collection Inventando que sueño [Inventing that I am Dreaming] in 1968. In 1968, Agustín also published La nueva música clásica [The New Classical Music], the first extended piece of rock journalism in Latin America and one of the first in the world. Regarding this work, Brian L. Price establishes a key point that is a cornerstone of the alternative community to which the Onda writers belonged: “Through rock journalism [Agustín] creates an audiotopia, or a community of music listeners and producers that transcended the postrevolutionary familial metaphors employed by the state to lend cohesive-

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ness to the [official national] imagined community” (2015, 245). The work, with its plentiful reiterations about the importance of the then-new music, overtly elevates its status as an art rhetorically, with numerous bold declarations like the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” being, “perhaps the masterpiece of modern music” [“quizá la obra maestra de la música moderna”] (1968, 21), while also laying out a number of tenets on rock aesthetics and production. Such declarations were considered outrageous in higher cultural circles at the time, and in some even today—with many classically trained musicians openly disdaining rockers for their lack of ability to properly read or write music, a distinction not far removed from some of the more caustic critiques of Onda writing and the Onda vs. escritura debate. The work could also serve as a resource for readers on the references found in Agustín’s literary work, one in a long line of establishing a vast network of cultural connections. Price argues that the work, in including contemporary Mexican artists like Los Dug Dug’s and Javier Bátiz, makes the case for creating a Mexican niche within the grander scheme—a point that I see further extended in the literature to include Onda writers’ works. The project ultimately failed on an international level, as Rachel Adams notes, specifically because of the unique “model reader” that the works demanded (2004, 82). Furthermore, the work establishes a summary of just what the rock ethos was and what it stood for in the eyes of Agustín. Clearly, the title itself and the bold declarations within (like the one above, of which there are many in the text) portray an individualistic, iconoclastic brashness and self-confidence that demand attention. This coincided with Agustín’s and other Onda writer’s public personas, which often dispensed with decorum. In describing the purpose and power of rock songs and the ethos contained therein, one can glean connections with his own Onda-era work and that of García Saldaña and Dalton. He says: Every song of this type is a stick of dynamite for conventionalisms and for the sacred customs of the social systems that we suffer. One can generalise a bit and say that good rock, in its lyrics, protests against hypocrisy, stinginess, selfishness, sanctimoniousness, fanaticism, puritanism, jingoism, war, exploitation, social and intellectual poverty; and fights for peace, love, creativity and changing all things obsolete. (1968, 6)16

To different degrees, the texts written by the authors echo the sentiments expressed in this quote. In La nueva música clásica, Agustín demonstrates a deep admiration for a wide range of rock artists, praising and admiring the genre’s ability to evolve. Indeed, rock’s evolution from its inception as a combination of


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blues, folk, rhythm and blues, and country influences to the time of La nueva música clásica in 1968, the heyday of psychedelia and experimentation in rock, is amazing in its depth and fleetness. Agustín makes this clear in noting the evolution of bands like the Rolling Stones, who established themselves performing covers of the blues artists they admired before transforming into the worldwide phenomenon they were to become. The importance of cover versions was fundamental in the evolution of rock music, as all bands in their beginnings relied on versions of earlier material to establish who they were. The cover is a variant on intertextuality, but carries with it at times deeper, more identifying signs. As Gabriel Solís explains, “a cover is a new version of a song in which the original version is a recording, and for which musicians and listeners have a particular set of ideas about authenticity, authorship, and the ontological status of both original and cover versions” (2010, 298). While it seems counterintuitive today, according to Solís and critic Michael Coyle, the function of covers in the 1960s was to establish artists’ individual authenticity and credibility by tapping into extant cultural capital (2010, 300). This was accomplished by drawing immediate links with their influences, which not only aided in the establishment of musical identity but also created a network of associations with which the covering artists wished to link themselves. Covers were a key component of homegrown Mexican rock music in the 1950s and 1960s. The first type was known as the refritos (refried versions), defined by Zolov as, “closely matched renditions of the original compositions and Spanish lyrics that often had little to do with the original” (1993, 72). The other was fusiles or el arte de fusil. Zolov explains the arte de fusil as being, “literally ‘the art of projection’ (from the verb fusilar, ‘to take aim’), putting greater emphasis on the original English versions of songs as the authentic versions that carried the full weight of rock’s message” (Ibid., 94). Agustín, Dalton, and García Saldaña in their intertextual undertakings lean more towards el arte del fusil to an important extent, projecting their own roots upon the influences they adopt while maintaining many original quotations in their source language as a nod to the original source texts’ semantic authenticity. Of course, in literature there are countless reworkings of previously written material. Jorge Luis Borges was a master of imbuing older texts with his own aesthetic, imposing his authorship and authority upon the text to transform it into his own. Another clear example is Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s own imitations of Cuba’s most renowned writers in Tres tristes tigres [Three Trapped Tigers] (1967), that not only display a virtuosic “performance” of his ability to imitate writing styles, but also aid in firmly establishing him within that tradition at a relatively

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early stage in his career. The Onda writers here find a different set of references to draw from that are beyond their Mexican roots, including Cabrera Infante for Agustín. Their approach to intertextuality, added to the notable presence of countless artists, musicians, and songs, as well as the autobiographical aspects that can be gleaned from their works, makes their approach to intertextuality conceptually closer to that of the cover. To this we can add that some the texts themselves, whether novels or story collections, also follow the burgeoning logic of the time: that of the album where the songs are not simply a collection of previously released singles, but are presented in a very specific order to evoke different moods and, in some of the more grandiose cases, create whole narratives or concepts.17 With this in mind, portions of the text or specific short stories can be seen as covering different material from different authors or musicians. Agustín’s story collection Inventando que sueño is a case in point. From that collection, “¿Cuál es la onda?” is perhaps his best-known and anthologised short story as it encapsulates much of the ethos and the poetics to which I have referred. It recounts the wanderings of a young couple through different parts of Mexico City in search of the right hotel room to consummate what has all the appearances of being a one-night stand. The couple, consisting of Oliveira (a rock drummer) and Requelle (a young girl from a formerly rich family with a renowned name), develops an unexpected bond along the way, engaging in ludic exchanges that touch upon a wide range of topics. The unnamed ancillary characters encountered along the way comment from the position of society’s norms, disapproving of the couple’s apparently promiscuous foray. The story itself provides a strong metafictional component employed by the author and linking it to the concept of the cover, asserting his presence and self-awareness as part of his aesthetic, engaging the reader and addressing his critics within the text itself. The resistance to and mockery of societal norms are not only inescapable elements regarding any criticism of the Onda, but also a presentation of the shared values of the imagined community to which the authors and the “model readers” belong. As is always the case with Agustín, there is a plethora of carefully chosen intertextual and extratextual references from high and low culture. The assemblage of references can be related to the auto-referentiality of the author, who, through their use, iterates his cultural pedigree as an authenticating tool for himself as an artist and the intellectual/cultural company he wishes to be perceived as keeping. His character, Oliveira, perhaps serving as a textual avatar for Agustín himself, possibly says it best when referring to himself as a rock drummer: “You know who the boss is, sillygirl … well none other than Moustache Starr [of the Beatles] and this dude Char-


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lie Watts [of the Rolling Stones] and Keith Moon [of the Who]; I swear I would like to play in a band with that vibe” (2007, 70).18 The bands with that vibe to which he refers are none other than three of the top rock bands of all time. In essence, being in a band with that vibe is being among the absolute best. In the story, Agustín does the same with none other than Julio Cortázar and Guillermo Cabrera Infante. He uses an epigraph from Cabrera Infante’s Tres tristes tigres (1967) along with one from the Doors to begin the story, giving his main character the same name as one from Cortázar’s Rayuela [Hopscotch] (1963) and “covering” key aspects from both of these renowned Boom novels within his story, as well as in others in the collection. Evoking the names of these authors coincides with a literary practice of the cover. The rhythmic dialogues, plays on words, and unorthodox use of typography inspired by Cabrera Infante and the imitations of Cortázar’s syntax and word choices are certainly Agustín’s own, although they openly recognise the sources of inspiration by referring to the works they draw from very directly. Knowing the inspirational source is an important component on how covers function in rock and for Agustín in perhaps attempting to educate a new community of rocker hipsters unfamiliar with the literary side of things, incorporating them into the imagined community in the making. Solis stresses the proximity of the cover to the original version, and how it can ironically seem to be a completely new work. More importantly, the cover shows fragments of the personal history of a rocker that connects him to a lineage of other artists, while imbuing his own version of it with a personal stamp of authorship and authority. The onomastic element in the story is an extension of the cover concept from rock, as it takes better-known source material and transforms it into something all its own, in the process establishing a whole network of names and references that enriches the reading with inside jokes, plays on words, and elements that aid in creating the ethos, aesthetics, and even poetics of the new imagined alternative community. Cabrera Infante, at the beginning of Tres Tristes Tigres, states that the novel is written in cubano. Agustín does not offer any such warning in his story, though he utilises the same modus operandi: the exclusive, almost secret, ultra-modern language of the youth of Mexico City—a language steeped in references and the influence of rock music and Hollywood. The plays on words are a constant in which the tigres communicate with each other and the world, and like them, Agustín’s Oliveira and Requelle make plays on words, occasionally interjecting phrases taken and transformed from French, English, and German, inventing neologisms and making fun of Mexican idiomatic expressions. Victoria Carpenter notes that the use of

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the foreign phrases, like the quotes made by the characters in the story, are incorrect. This is a reminder of the false intellectualism found in the long diatribes about any given topic put forth by Cabrera Infante’s tigres. Carpenter adds that this also serves to parody and mock the supposed infallibility of high culture, one of the Onda’s more overt elements. The addition of quotes that appear to be legitimately erudite but that are in fact fabricated or incorrect creates a division amongst the readers: those who understand the dynamic at play and the joke it brings with it, and those who don’t. This ludic dynamic is established with the reader, the interactive lector macho suggested by Cortázar for Rayuela. On the other hand, Carpenter alludes to the references to rock, mostly represented by the names of famous figures, but through the use of song lyrics or word games rooted in those lyrics that would present semantic obstacles to readers unfamiliar with that cultural environment. It is of course important to note that both Cortázar and Cabrera Infante use names to weave a complex cultural context within their works. In Rayuela there are vast and multiple literary and extra-literary references that include poets, painters, international writers, and jazz, blues, and classical musicians. The explicit mention of Cortázar in Agustín’s story is reiterated in a variety of ways in the text: (1) using “Oliveira” as the main character, but as an ondero instead of an existentialist; (2) transforming the female character Requelle’s name into “rayuela”: “Requeya, Reyuela, Rayuela, hijo de Cortázar” (2007, 79); and (3) the couple finding each other at random, their immediate connection and their fortuitous wanderings through a city in search of an unfulfilled goal—an obvious parallel with Cortázar’s Oliveira and la Maga in Rayuela. To these references we can also add a number of rock songs such as the Doors’ “Light My Fire” and “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar),” as well as the Beatles’ “Michelle.” The story establishes a seamless link between the worlds of rock and literature, with Agustín as the gatekeeper between both. In a more subtle fashion, the presence of Cortázar and Cabrera Infante can be found in the stories that follow “¿Cuál es la onda?” in Inventando que sueño. The dark uncertainty and paranoia that arise in “La casa sin fronteras (Lluvia)” [“The House without Borders (Rain)”] echo the confused reality that Cortázar weaves in one of his lesser-known stories “Instrucciones para John Howell” from Todos los fuegos el fuego [All Fires the Fire] (1966), while perhaps also alluding to the Beatles’ cryptic lyrics in their song “Rain” (“If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads/They might as well be dead”), also from 1966. The last part of the collection, the Cuarto Acto (the Fourth Act), is titled “Juegos de puntos de vista” [“Games with Points of View”], and once again invokes the spirit of


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Cortázar’s ludic sense, and also explores the telling of the same sequence of events from different points of view as Cabrera Infante does with the story of the American tourist couple and the stolen (or lost) cane in Tres Tristes Tigres. This further suggests an intent and awareness of “covering” the influences that have been explicitly cited in “¿Cuál es la onda?” by Agustín, clearly suggesting with whom he wishes to be associated in the grander scheme of literature. The dynamic of the cover is also at work in Margarita Daltons’19 Larga sinfonía en D y había una vez, a practically unknown novel that also exemplifies much, if not all, of the Onda rock ethos and poetics. The book is notable for being the only Onda novel by a female author and the fact that some appropriations that the novel “covers” are drawn from the recently published works of José Agustín (using his propensity for witty neologisms) and Parménides García Saldaña (employing his expansive, rhythmic diatribes), as well as rock musicians (quoted practically in full) and, most notably, Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (1954). The Doors took their name from Huxley’s work, and the phrase itself was borrowed from British poet and printmaker William Blake’s oft-quoted, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” 20 Huxley’s book chronicles the British author’s experience of taking mescaline, as he describes in detail the various effects of the drug throughout a day on his vision and other senses. In his subsequent work Heaven and Hell (1956), he reflects on how his perception of the world opened up by his going to the other side of reality, which at times entered the realm of madness but also reconfigured how he saw and conceived of the world after returning to his normal state of mind. From the experience, he concluded that knowing that another side of reality exists makes clear that all things within existence as we normally perceive it are never completely what they seem. Dalton’s novel answers the question of Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 psychedelic anthem “Are You Experienced?,” having no qualms as to what the novel is about: LSD. The acronym is clear from the title, just as the Beatles had done with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” in 1967. She then offers instructions to the reader in the form of a rhythmic, typographically formed visual poem that states, “above all this book must be read with your eyes open,” referring to the new mental eye opened up by the psychedelic experience, and that it is, “For you with the dilated pupils” (1968, 10), one of the first and most obvious physical effects of being under the influence of the drug.21 The novel follows three friends (two male and one female) who are involved in a free-love triangle through their day after taking LSD. Unlike other Onda novels, the setting is swinging ’60s Lon-

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don, and only one of the characters, the sceptical, politically left inclined Roberto Dávila, is Mexican. The female character, Ana Fisherova, is of Eastern European descent, and is a quintessentially liberated woman of the ’60s, uninhibited in seeking out and realising the experiences she desires. Though not a direct avatar for Dalton herself, there are references to her experiences in 1968 Paris and her time in Africa, lending an element of autobiographical authenticity to the work, as is the case with several Onda texts. The third character, Martin Carven, is an Australian artist, an expatriate and idealist who introduces the other two to the LSD experience and has not yet given up on the idea of the psychedelic revolution being an evolutionary step for society, as many would in Mexico a few short years later in the aftermath of the Avándaro Festival of 1971. Carven even assumes the role of a Timothy Leary type LSD guru, appearing on one of the underground pirate radio stations that were such a key conduit to alternative culture in Britain in the late 1960s. The novel is arguably an Onda “cover” of Huxley’s psychedelic reportage, updated to include all the contemporary references of rock songs—with the Beatles records Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), and Magical Mystery Tour (1967), as well as several mid-’60s songs from Bob Dylan serving as the main intertexts— for the lives of the liberated youth of the late 1960s, with their hopes, fears, and ideals for change, as well the tumultuous, helpless political reality of Mexican youth at that time. The book was published only two short months after the massacre at Tlatelolco in October 1968, and it is unclear if anything was added or modified to the text to reflect these events—though Roberto Dávila’s political disappointments in Mexico potentially suggests just that. The text as it stands offers no direct reference to those events, but, like the bulk of Onda texts, its political engagement lies largely in its simply being, a statement and challenge in itself from its existence as a reflection and reminder of the fact that an alternative imagined community of youth did not subscribe to previous roles within national, social, familial, or, for that matter, political schemes (the character of Dávila himself can be seen as an outsider in this sense as well). Dalton strays further from literary references than both Agustín and García Saldaña, while recognising techniques used by both and making allusions to Plato, Marshall McLuhan, and other thinkers. The reference to Plato is worth noting, given that, in its literary form, the use of the dialogues amongst the characters in discussing different sides of the new realities offered by LSD distance the novel from the reportage tone of Huxley’s work, while reminding us of the Beats and the Rayuela, both of which theorise and philosophise through the give and take of their charac-


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ters’ discussions. Another familiar nod to Cortázar’s Rayuela is that the novel is structured in ten chapters that narrate the occurrences of a certain hour of the day but are reordered, replicating and, like Huxley’s text, underlining the uncertain, flexible nature of time under the influence of psychedelics, while also individually entering the conscience of the different characters in different chapters. Also like Rayuela, though on a much more basic level, the novel offers a metafictional commentary on the structure of the text within the conversations among the characters: “You, [Martin] would say, and I did not know why, that books are too linear, the thoughts in books are too linear, there are no jumps”22 (1968, 133). This occurs during a long diatribe regarding the potential nature of an entire world altered by LSD, and reaffirms the novel’s own poetics while reflecting the neo-avant-garde’s presence in the ’60s and the flood of experimentation that the psychedelic years would bring to all realms of art. Furthermore, there is plentiful use of typographic experimentation hearkening back to Cabrera Infante’s, García Saldaña’s, and Agustín’s use of this resource, while also echoing the work of Brazilian concrete poets like Haroldo, Augusto de Campos, and Décio Pignatari of the 1950s and 1960s, and the scene of visual poets like Jesús Arellano in Mexico itself.23 Unlike that observed in the work of Agustín, as is also the case for García Saldaña, the literary references, aside from Huxley, are not named. This matters little, however, in viewing the author as putting into practice some of the freedoms and reconfigurations of perception suggested in the text itself. Indeed, Dalton’s use of typography is put to use in innovative ways, simultaneously narrating the consciousness of all three characters using columns in the tenth chapter, thus reflecting a confusing totality within reality that the consumption of LSD brings about—bringing together multiple perspectives side by side on a single written page. Huxley himself is specifically mentioned several times, including a direct allusion to The Doors of Perception (Ibid., 117). Also, numerous passages in the text echo the descriptions from The Doors of Perception, accentuating the previously unperceived details, the marvellous within the mundane, the beauty (and terror) within the quotidian, the aforementioned fluidity of time, and other topics explored by Huxley in his work. An underlying theme within Larga Sinfonía is that of the paradoxical unity and infinity of all things, reminding us of the quote from Blake that inspired Huxley’s title, while also working in the more cosmic side of the Beatles by using songs like “Within You, Without You,” “Here, There, and Everywhere,” and “She Said, She Said” as epigraphs to the chapters or interjections within the text. Indeed, the text closes with one final visual poem whose final lines are “Soon I will arrive/ I will arrive to the place/ where

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yesterday/ today and tomorrow/ ARE ONE IN AN AWAKENING” (170).24 I should note that, as in most Onda texts, the English lyrics are not translated. They are left intact, preserving their original authenticity that will also separate those in the know, those who belong to the imagined alternative community for whom the text is ostensibly written, from those who would be alienated by any number of its facets, such as its drugoriented themes, the liberated, iconoclastic culture it represents, and the rejection of accepted social norms on any number of levels. The text’s authenticity lies in its author having lived these experiences first hand and her presenting herself as an authentic voice of the counterculture, exercising the seemingly paradoxical process of lending herself that authenticity through the process of covering Huxley. Later, as Agustín notes, Dalton led a commune in Oaxaca (1996, 81) before moving on to a distinguished career in academia. Dalton’s text serves as an updated, Mexican “cover” of Huxley’s work, offering various perspectives on the idealism and doubts of an alternative community shaped by psychedelic experiences. Parménides García Saldaña takes the cover concept one significant step further by adopting the identity of an ondero literary Rolling Stone, attempting to embody everything they represented at the time within a different realm, seemingly permeating every facet of his being. As his friend and mentor Emmanuel Carballo noted, Parménides was the first writer to keep records instead of books on his nightstand, after his aforementioned Beat period (1990, 240). In his earliest writings in the story collection El Rey Criollo (written between 1964 and 1966, but not published until 1970), named after the 1958 Elvis Presley film King Creole, he directly uses the songs of his musical idols as the launching point for his narratives. Each story is preceded by a translated version of the Rolling Stones song that will serve as the thematic backdrop for the story at hand. Unlike the refritos covers that did Spanish versions of English songs, often changing the lyrics, García Saldaña is faithful to the originals, and has to be given their purpose for inclusion. As such, an understanding of the Rolling Stones, their music between 1964 and 1967, and what they symbolised is fundamental to any reading of both El Rey Criollo and also Pasto Verde. The Stones were rock’s bad boys: they didn’t want to hold girls’ hands like the Beatles, they wanted to make love to them like Muddy Waters and said so directly, decorum be damned. Their disdain for social norms became a part of their identity early on, and they reinvigorated the sexual energy of early rock at a time when, in the early ’60s, it had lost its status as rebellious, dangerous, or subversive. Under the guidance of their producer and manager Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones embraced the man-


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tra of any publicity being good publicity, no matter what was being reported. This grew the Stones’ reputation for disdain of decorum, giving them a brash image of authenticity unheard of for virtually all pop stars, and it inspired rebellion in a whole legion of followers worldwide, including the young García Saldaña who adopted this stance into his own identity.25 The Stones also developed a reputation as misogynists in their music, with songs like “Under My Thumb,” “Complicated,” and “Stupid Girl” taking aim at the middle- to upper-class debutantes of British society. They went further in defining male sexual power in music than any other rock band before them, though this was an aspect they drew from their idols in blues music directly. In Pasto verde the music and the attitude permeate throughout, as Epicuro’s challenges with women and the extremes with which he views them are not far removed from the those presented in rock of the girl being the cause of all the man’s troubles, or, at the other extreme, the panacea for all his troubles. While it is clear that García Saldaña takes aim at the same aspects of fresa (conservative, square, upper middle class) culture as the Stones, his objectification of women and the misogynistic diatribes are inescapable. Indeed, the Onda literature can be seen as falling well short of challenging traditional Mexican machismo on any level. Zolov (1993) notes that the Mexican counterculture had a hypocritical stance towards sexually liberated women. On the one hand, the freedoms they propounded, omnipresent in all of García Saldaña’s work, strive for a freer woman with the goal of having her be easier to seduce into a sexual encounter, while hypocritically not valuing her as a person afterward.26 In the end, adopting the stance of a Rolling Stone is also adopting the fact that they helped steer rock into being music about men’s feelings and stances (especially about women), as Theodore Gracyk proposes (2001, 16). For García Saldaña, the entire scope of female liberation never fully enters into consideration, superseded by the struggles with women throughout his narrative that also point to his own shortcomings in that realm, as Agustín notes in La contracultura (1996, 142). This stance of the rocker who rejects the woman on his own terms before even giving them the opportunity to reject him is a dynamic of 1960s’ punk rock, for which the Stones were also idols, as Seth Bovey (2006) notes, and displays again the depth to which García Saldaña embodied the rock ethos. Textually, the presence of the Beat Generation and the Cursed Poets is also detectable in Pasto verde (1968). Like Agustín and Dalton, García Saldaña makes very clear who the other influences are, again placing an importance on names with which he wishes to be associated. The list includes all of the above-named musicians and writers, as well as Bob Dyl-

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an, Che Guevara, funk/soul icon James Brown, Plato, and Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael. Bringing this mélange of ideas together creates a challenging, at times chaotic, text, whose formal and linguistic complexities confront the reader on a variety of levels. José Colin (2011) summarises some of the challenges the reader encounters in attempting to establish a continuity within the temporal and spatial displacement conveyed by the text: (1) the manipulation and alteration of grammar to fit his own aesthetic ends, including paragraphs consisting of words strung together without any guiding punctuation; (2) in other cases, even when the words are not forming one long sentence or paragraph, the punctuation arbitrarily appears and disappears; (3) numerous examples in which capitalisation is conspicuous by its absence; (4) in the narration itself, the alternation between states of consciousness, whether they be dreams, drugor alcohol-induced hallucinations, or “actual” experiences juxtaposed with adjacent paragraphs on the same page; (5) and the aforementioned experimental use of language that freely interjects terminology from the ondero slang of the times and English phrases, which most often draw from but are not limited to rock lyrics (24–5). The alternation of states of consciousness, varying degrees of inebriation, and the juxtaposition of rhythms and types of text echo some of Burroughs’ most experimental work from his cut-up period during the 1960s and the novels of The Nova Trilogy (1961–7) on its own terms.27 Adding to this is the copious use of palabrotas [foul language] and slang, making Pasto verde precisely the type of text that displays García Saldaña’s position as a literary iconoclast, relishing his position outside the mainstream and basking in affronting the “buenas costumbres” of the literary establishment, and perhaps even an extreme example of alterity within the alternative community.

4. Conclusion These texts, along with a few others like Agustín’s Se está haciendo tarde, all display the direct influence of rock ethos and poetics and how the authors’ use of such, along with names, to create networks of associations of which they are part, work in conjunction to place these authors within the continuum of the larger counterculture as its Mexican literary representatives. The autobiographical auto-referentiality gives the text the same immediacy and authenticity to the readers that are also responsible for rock’s enduring ability to connect to listeners generation after generation: it speaks to them instead of at them in a vernacular the same as their own. The authors also achieve their goal of inserting their names into the conversation as counterculture figures through their texts for the people


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familiar with them—the alternative community towards which they are directed. The texts provide a first-hand reflection of an era that would change the course of youth worldwide—in Mexico carving out a counterculture comprised of a subset of imagined alternative communities that came to be within the new urban, media-centred realities that define the evolution of culture in the post-war era. In a real sense, the authors’ gestures in the texts echo Eric Burdon and the New Animals song “Monterey” from 1968, in which Burdon recounts the events of the historic Monterey Pop Festival. Burdon gives a first-hand account of the weekend that helped to define 1967’s “Summer of Love” and the dawn of the hippie era that so influenced the Onda, while enumerating most of the iconic participants by name. Notably, he leaves himself and his band off the list. Though not as well remembered as many of the other iconic acts at the festival, such as the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, or notable attendee Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones (and perhaps practically forgotten by those who aren’t ardent music fans), Burdon and the Animals were indeed there, contributing their own music, presence, and vibe to the festival and the era, carving out their own little niche in the kaleidoscopic tapestry of the late ’60s. In the end, the strongest association with Monterey for Burdon and his band turns out to be this song, the name of the Animals becoming associated with those names dropped in its lyrics. Yes, these Onda writers lived and contributed to the era, forming a part, albeit small, in the grander scheme, but setting in motion a process in literature and culture that is still evolving now. Beyond Agustín, who has also taken it upon himself to make certain that the contributions of the era are not forgotten, much obscurity has followed for the authors mentioned here. The ethos, the language, and the references used in their unique way still require the type of “model reader” that they did when they were created, still limiting their reception to a small number of readers and scholars—an irony considering that their inspiration and underlying ethos and poetics were so deeply informed by mass art. Nonetheless, the ideals suggested by the counterculture of the worldwide cultural revolution were embraced, and to those “in the know” like the readers of the era, the names of Agustín, Dalton, and García Saldaña do indeed belong within the continuum they sought, yet are still an alternative community within the more mainstream parameters defined for Latin American literature and culture. The countercultural dream and its accompanying alternative communities were soon quashed in Mexico, as mentioned before, but the influence of this particular alternative community has continued, as the presence of the McOndo movement as Latin American literature informing mass media

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and mass art in the late twentieth century into the twenty-first century attests.



All translations, unless otherwise noted, are mine. D’Lugo (1997). In the extensive and essential study of Onda literature ¿“Cuál es la onda”?: La literatura de la contracultura juvenil en México de los años sesenta y setenta [“What is the Onda?”: Mexican Countercultural Literature in Mexico of the ’60s and ’70s], Inke Gunia establishes more specific parameters relating back to the earliest examples of Onda literature: José Agustín’s La tumba [The Grave] (1964) and Gustavo Sainz’s Gazapo (1965), extensively analysing other works associated with the movement with these parameters in mind, explaining why and how—again in dialogue with Glantz—certain works fit the Onda moniker and others do not. 3 Agustín published his first autobiography in this series at the age of 22. The text was later republished as an addendum to his second autobiography El rock de la cárcel [Jailhouse Rock] in 1985. 4 From late 1967 to late 1968, Editorial Diógenes published a series of novels in competition called “Seis primeras novelas en competencia, de jóvenes escritores mexicanos” [“Six first (initial) novels en competition by young Mexican writers”]. Soliciting participation from the readers, the first pages of each novel were colourcoded to correspond to the work at hand, explained the premise of the competition—attracting the largest number of readers possible to participate in the editorial process by voting for a winning novel with the attached ballot of the corresponding colour. The winning writer would win the “Martín Luis Guzmán” award that would remunerate them with the stipulation that they wrote their second novel during the following year. The six novels, in order, were Julián Meza’s El libro del desamor [The Book of Indifference], Carlos Olvera’s Mejicanos en el espacio [Mexicans in Space], Parménides García Saldaña’s Pasto verde [Green Grass], Manuel Farill’s Los hijos del polvo [The Children of the Dust], Orlando Ortiz’s En caso de duda [In Case of Doubt]—the winner of the competition—and Margarita Dalton’s Larga sinfonía en D o había una vez [Long Symphony in D or Once Upon A Time]. 5 The original text reads, “nosotros éramos—guste o no—un grupo que veía las cosas de manera diferente de aquellos pretenciosos [la Mafia] que todavía suponían que Europa era única e irrepetible. Parménides García Saldaña fue el punto extremo. Es verdad, éramos distintos a la generación anterior, pero hay algo peor: fuimos incapaces de ser tan amigos y solidarios” ( 6 For a detailed explanation see the first two chapters of Eric Zolov’s essential work Refried Elvis (1993). 7 The original text reads, “[E]l paso del Mexico tradicional, atávico, al país moderno que prometía el régimen no era fácil. Aunque el contexto ya no era exactamente el mismo, gran parte de la sociedad continuaba con los viejos prejuicios ye se 2


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complacía en los convencionalismos, en el moralismo fariseico, en el enérgico ejercicio de machismo, sexismo, racismo y clasismo, y en el predominio de un autoritarismo paternalista que apestaba por doquier. Los chismes y el qué-dirán daban a la hipocresía el rango de gran máscara nacional” (1996, 15). 8 Understanding paraliterature as detective novels, romance novels, spy novels, and melodramas geared at a specific audience (youth or otherwise). In her work on paraliterature, Myrna Solotorewsky defines it as a text that fully satisfies the expectations of the reader and has a maximum degree of readability, having a model reader in mind that is eminently passive and receptive (as opposed to the reader of literature who is capable of discovering the multiple semiotic layers of a given text); a metaphoric text correspondent to the melodramatic imagination that is in search of an allegorical sense in the text or an overall central meaning; and a text for which one reading suffices—as opposed to a literary text in which multiple readings are the launching point for their study and comprehension on multiple levels (1988, 14). Solotorewsky’s argument on paraliterature concurs with the Onda vision of cultural evolution—that paraliterature is a necessary component for the evolution of literature itself, citing the cases of Vargas Llosa, Borges, and Manuel Puig, among others. 9 The disparaging of Arreola recounted by Agustín in El rock de la cárcel (1986, 10) is particularly notable because it was Arreola who aided Agustín in pulling together all the loose ends and eventually publishing the first Onda novel La tumba in 1964, and who had been instrumental in Agustín’s development as a young writer. Ironically, one of Arreola’s suggestions that Agustín followed was to make some grammatical corrections (53). 10 Fuentes describes Cabrera Infante’s variant as a language that, “punishes Castillian Spanish with all the quirks in which it can be renewed, recognized and contaminated; but at the same time destroys the inevitable univocal nature of our prose.” [“castiga al castellano con todas las extrañezas en las que puede renovarse, reconocerse y contaminarse; pero al mismo tiempo destruye la fatal univocidad de nuestra prosa”] (1969, 31). 11 Fabila notes in the same interview quoted above that, though there were many shared tastes and experiences, one of the Onda generation’s failures, in comparison to the previous generations, was the fact that they were not as tight knit a group of friends and lacked solidarity. 12 The original text reads: “En México algunos de los escritores jóvenes de los años 1960 narramos nuestro entorno. Algunos contaron el crecimiento, pero otros utilizamos las hablas coloquiales y nos referimos a lo inmediato y concreto: lugares, hechos, gente, costumbres, modas o personalidades específicos. Algunos también incorporamos referencias o herramientas del cine, rock, televisión, “comics”, fantasía, sueños, visiones, novela negra y ciencia ficción. En general, hubo una reinserción en la cultura popular mexicana, aunque esto tardó en notarse, pues en un principio se vio como desnacionalización o transculturación. Entre 1964 y 1973 se escribió sobre la búsqueda de la identidad, el descubrimiento del amor y del cuerpo, la brecha generacional y el conflicto individualidad-sociedad o políticareligión, pero también sobre drogas, guerrilla, comunas y espiritualidad parareligiosa. Como era de esperarse en gente joven, se exploró el erotismo. En el

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fondo, lo admitan o no, se trató de las primeras manfestaciones de un cambio de piel, una revolución cultural y el inicio de toda una desmitificación y revitalización de la cultura en México. La novela juvenil no sólo inició al país en la postmodernidad sino que procedió a definir el espíritu de los nuevos tiempos” (Agustín 2004, 10). 13 For a more detailed analysis on this see José Vicente Anaya’s “Lo que se ignora de la generación beat” [“What is not known about the Beat Generation”] in the digital literature magazine Círculo de poesía, /01/lo-que-se-ignora-de-la-generacion-beat/. 14 For a detailed view on the Beats’ influence in the 1970s, see the following chapter in this volume, and John Burns’ article in “From Manifesto to Manifestation: The Infrarrealista Movement on the Margins of Mexican Literary Culture.” 15 The original quote reads, “Lo que distingue a los participantes de la Onda de sus contemporáneos es la gravedad de su rechazo a la moral imperante, la intensidad de su compromiso con las experiencias musicales, literarias, farmocológicas. En el transcurso de sus diversas empresas, los unificará un deseo confuso que aclararán con lentitud y siempre parcialmente; crear a semejanza de lo que ocurre en Estados Unidos, una sociedad aparte, una nación dentro de la nación, un lenguaje a partir del lenguaje” (1997, 227). 16 The original text reads, “Cada canción de este tipo es un cartucho de dinamita para los convencionalismos y las sagradas costumbres de los sistemas sociales que padecemos. Se puede generalizar un poco y decir que el buen rock, en sus letras, se manifiesta contra la hipocresía, la mezquindad, el egoísmo, la mojigatería, el fanatismo, el puritanismo, el patrioterismo, la guerra, la explotación, la miseria social e intelectual; y lucha por la paz, el amor, la creatividad y el cambio de todo lo obsoleto” (1968, 6). 17 The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP from 1967 was originally conceived as a concept record, though the idea was discarded during the recording process. The vestiges of the idea are still evident on the record, particularly at its beginning and end. It was one of the most influential records of the 1960s. There were, however, two rock operas composed in the late 1960s that did follow through on the narrative concept, The Pretty Things’ S. F. Sorrow (1968) and The Who’s Tommy (1969). 18 The original in Spanish reads, “Sabes quién es el amo, niñadespitada…nada menos que Bigotes Starr y también este muchacho Carlitos Watts y Keith Moon; te juro, quisiera tocar en un grupo de esa onda” (2007, 70). 19 Margarita Dalton (b. 1943) is the sister of renowned poet Roque Dalton, was briefly married to José Agustín in the early 1960s, and spent much time abroad working first in the literacy initiatives in Cuba (in which Agustín also briefly participated), then Africa, and was in Paris during the uprisings of May 1968. 20 The quote is taken from Blake’s poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” which was a direct influence on the title of Huxley’s second reflection on psychedelic experience, Heaven and Hell from 1956. Later printings of The Doors of Perception include this work in conjunction with the text from 1954. The entire poem and the bulk of Blake’s work is available at: /exist/blake/archive/transcription.xq?objectid=mhh.c.illbk.14.


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21 The original text reads, “ante todo este libro debe leerse con los ojos abiertos” (1968, 8), and, “Para ti de pupilas dilatadas” (10). 22 The original text reads, “Tú (Martín) decías, y yo no sabía por qué, que los libros son demasiado lineales, los pensamientos de los libros son demasiado lineales, no hay saltos” (1968, 133). 23 For an introduction to this topic see “Exploring the Concrete Labyrinth” by Willard Bohn published in Ciberletras: /v17/bohn.htm, and Bohn’s book-length study Reading Visual Poetry (Teaneck, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson, 2011). 24 “Pronto voy a llegar./ Yo llegaré al lugar/ donde el ayer,/ el hoy y el mañana/ SON UNO EN UN DESPERTAR” (170). 25 That the Stones were García Solana’s idols in rock is a partial explanation for his often outrageous public and private behaviour, as he played up his role as the Onda’s “bad boy” within and outside his texts. His volatile personality, coupled with his well-documented bouts with mental illness and substance abuse, made him an unpredictable, potentially dangerous presence at social gatherings and eventually led to an early death in 1982. Ironically, his life path is not dissimilar to several rock artists who showed great potential early on, but whose lifestyles burned them out young, leaving them either dead or shadows of their former selves. These points are relevant given the strong autobiographical nature of his novel Pasto Verde and the reckless abandon with which its main character, Epicuro—a clear avatar for Parménides himself, given the other details offered in the novel— experiences everything. He plays in a band that covers Rolling Stones songs and, like Oliveira in “¿Cuál es la onda?,” wants to reach that level and fully live the rock and roll life, though that is an existence that reveals a darkness within the character that also further identifies him with the biographical García Saldaña and links him with the dark existence experienced by some of the Beats, like William S. Burroughs. On one level, it seems like he would not have had it any other way, despite the fact that he, and many of those around him, suffered for it. 26 It is important to note here that this specific struggle of hypocrisy is at the centre of José Agustín’s La tumba [The Grave], the very first Onda novel published in 1964. 27 As Edward S. Robinson explains about the cut-up method in Shift Linguals: Cutup Narratives from William S. Burroughs to the Present: “The fundamental premise of this method is the creation of new texts by cutting up at least two existing texts and recombining the fragments, at random. Hence the old texts are literally cut up and the end product is a new composite text” (2011, 1). According to letters exchanged between García Saldaña and critic Emmanuel Carballo, who helped him enter his rock phase as a writer, Pasto verde in an earlier form was well over 500 pages (Carballo 1990, 242). Without the original manuscript, it is impossible to know what the editing process of the novel was, but given the affinities that García Saldaña has for Burroughs it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he followed this concept through, though that is still conjecture at this point.

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References Books Agustín, José. 1968. La nueva música clásica. México: Cuadernos de la Juventud. —. 1986. El rock de la cárcel. México: Editores Mexicanos Unidos. —. 1996. La contracultura en México. México: Grijalbo. —. 2007. Cuentos completos. Mexico: Debolsillo. Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. Britto García, Luis. 1991. El imperio contracultural: del rock a la postmodernidad. Caracas: Editorial Nueva Sociedad. Burroughs, William S. 1998. Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader. Edited by James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg. New York: Grove. Carballo, Emmanuel. 1990. Notas de un francotirador. Tabasco, México: Gobierno del Estado de Tabasco. Dalton, David. 1981. The Rolling Stones: The First Twenty Years. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Dalton, Margarita. 1968. Larga sinfonía en D (o había una vez). México: Diógenes. Eco, Umberto. 1979. The Role of the Reader. Bloomington, IN.: University of Indiana Press. Franco, Jean. 2002. The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Fuentes, Carlos. 1969. La nueva novela hispanoamericana. México: Cuadernos de Joaquín Moritz. García Saldaña, Parménides. 1970. El rey criollo. México: Diógenes. —. 1974. En la ruta de la onda. México: Diógenes. —. 1975. Pasto Verde. México: Diógenes. Gracyk, Theodore. 2001. I Wanna Be Me: Rock Music and the Politics of Identity. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Gunia, Inke. 1994. ¿“Cuál es la onda”? La literatura de la contracultura juvenil en el México de los años sesenta y setenta. Frankfurt: Iberoamericana/Vervuert. Huxley, Aldous. 2004. The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell. New York: Harper. Monsiváis, Carlos. 1977. Amor perdido. Mexico: Ediciones Era. Robinson, Edward S. 2011. Shift Linguals: Cut-up Narratives from William S. Burroughs to the Present. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.


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Solotorewsky, Myrna. 1988. Literatura, Paraliteratura: Puig, Borges, Donoso, Cortázar, Vargas Llosa. Gaitesborough: Hispamérica. Zolov, Eric. 1993. Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Journal articles Adams, Rachel. 2004. “Hipsters and jipitecas: Literary Countecultures on Both Sides of the Border.” American Literary History 16 (1): 58–84. Agustín, José. 2004. “La Onda que nunca existió.” Revista de crítica literaria latinoamericana 30 (59): 9–17. Bovey, Seth. 2006. “Don’t Tread on Me”: The Ethos of ’60s Garage Punk.” Popular Music and Society 29 (4): 451–9. Carpenter, Victoria. 2009. “‘Me cae que no me entiendes’: MultiLanguage Text in the Mexican Onda.” Romance Studies 27 (3): 199– 210. Clark D’Lugo, Carol. 1997. The Fragmented Novel in Mexico: The Politics of Form. Austin: University of Texas Press. Colin, José. 2011. “Paradigmas de ‘la onda’ mexicana: Pasto verde, el libro maldito o el maldito libro de Parménides García Saldaña.” Confluencia 26 (2): 21–30. González, Javier. 2012. “Parménides García Saldaña: Like a Rolling Stone.” Filología y Lingüística 37 (2): 43–53. Johnston, Allan. 2005. “Consumption, Addiction, Vision, Energy: Political Economies and Utopian Visions in the Writings of the Beat Generation.” College Literature 32 (2): 103–26. Price, Brian L. 2015. “José Agustín and the New Classical Music of Counterculture.” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 49: 243–65. Solís, Gabriel. 2010. “I Did it My Way: Rock and the Logic of Covers.” Popular Music and Society 33 (3): 297–318.

Chapters from edited collections Rojas, Mario. 1981. “José Agustín y el ‘Rock’ como poética.” In Literature and Popular Culture in the Hispanic World: A Symposium, edited by Rose S. Minc, 143–51. Upper Montclair, NJ; Gaithersburg, MD: Ediciones Hispamérica. Montclair State College.


Introduction Michel Foucault, in an interview entitled “Revolutionary Action: Until Now,” examines the ideological link between political power and cultural knowledge. Foucault sees a direct correlation between the production of political powers and the creation and reproduction of cultural knowledge. Consequently, two distinct types of cultural knowledge emerge from this ideological correlation: an official one, representing the dominant political elite, and a non-official one that belongs to the subordinated classes. Thus, for Foucault, the official cultural knowledge and its methods of dissemination not only produce authoritative cultural forces to control the representation of the public sphere, but also, as agents of hegemonic cultural producers, manipulate the creation and interpretation of historical archives.1 On the other hand, the dominated classes develop alternative discursive methods in order to participate in the narration and interpretation of historical events, as well as integrate themselves into the public sphere. This political and discursive dichotomy between official and unofficial cultural forces characterises the emergence and value of the Mexican counterculture movement, as exemplified by the works of the Mexican writer Héctor Manjarrez, a prolific novelist, essayist, poet, and cultural critic.2 Literary critics typify Héctor Manjarrez’s narrative as experimental, a body of work that relies on the use of metafiction with clear links to the counterculture movement that emerged in 1960s’ Mexico. Often critics,


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such as John Brushwood in “A Comparative View of Mexican Fiction in the Seventies” and Reinhard Teichmann in De la onda en adelante: Conversaciones con 21 novelistas mexicanos [From the Onda Moving Forward: Conversations with 21 Mexican Novelists] (1987), identify his work Lapsus (1971) as a novel that successfully combines both the experimental narrative techniques and the representation of the counterculture movement in Mexico, as influenced by the youth movements in the United States and Europe.3 The earlier works of Héctor Manjarrez follow the literary and thematic parameters of the Onda movement, with its experimental narrative practices and central themes that describe the counterculture and youth movement of the period, as typified by José Agustín, Parménides García Saldaña, and Gustavo Sainz. However, in his work Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses [Our Gods Lived Silently] (1987), Manjarrez distances himself from the use of experimental narrative techniques, such as metafiction, stream of consciousness, unreliable narrator, nonlinear plot, and fragmentation of the narration to construct a more conventional work in order to criticise the hegemonic political structures of the 1970s under the Echeverría administration and to represent the Mexican counterculture movement as a political dystopian social force.4 I use the term dystopian to evoke a social imaginary that criticises the utopian notions of a state and nation as projected by a uniformed and dominant social and cultural narrative. Ruth Levitas in Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society (2013) contextualises the notion of utopia from a sociological point of view to underscore, “the changes, forms and contents of utopian desire and the historical and social conditions” (107). Furthermore, as Theodore Roszak observes in his classical work The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youth Opposition (1969), countercultures, “revert to a style of human relations that characterizes village and tribe, insisting that real politics can only take place in the deeply personal confrontations these now obsolete social forms allow” (54). In constructing a more neo-realistic novel, Manjarrez centres his story on a commune that he calls Los Malvones in order to represent a traditional counterculture social unit that functions as a cultural sign; that is, the social, political, and cultural values that Los Malvones embodies. With the representation of Los Malvones, Manjarrez not only integrates an unofficial discourse into the public spheres, but also provides a sociopolitical critique of the period. Manjarrez’s sociopolitical critique in Pasaban en silencio los dioses focuses on different narrative nuclei, such as the reinterpretation of public and private places (the socially constructed entities where an interaction takes place between people, institutions, and language) and spaces (the physical landscape defined by the relationship

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between spatial—buildings, neighbourhoods, cities, and nations—and temporal lines). In the reading of these places and spaces, Manjarrez emphasises the reconstruction of sociopolitical reactions against hegemonic practices, and the recreation of public events that function as discursive devices to typify the complexities of the Mexican counterculture movement during the 1970s.

Countercultural Places and Spaces Héctor Manjarrez opens Pasaban en silencio los dioses with Lucas, a Mexican hippie, narrating his personal experiences and social conflicts associated with the Los Malvones commune. Lucas’ personal narration and his characterisation of the Los Malvones commune, originally known as La Casa de los Hombres, illustrate the social places and spaces that identify the cultural registers and political discourses of the Mexican counterculture movement of the 1970s. More specifically, Lucas, as a narrator and protagonist, highlights the importance of specific locations that he and the Malvones commune occupy in Mexico City, such as locales that they frequent and the homes where they live. For example, the novel identifies El Pesebre, a bohemian bar and coffee shop, as a symbolic location that plays a social role in the counterculture movement of Mexico City, and provides a physical space for this social movement to gather and interact. Socially, El Pesebre as a cultural sign denotes a place and space with multiple roles that describe the spectrum that forms the Mexican counterculture movement of the 1970s. First, it serves as a place to reunite diverse social groups that emerge as a resistance movement to the Echeverría government’s cultural practices. Second, alternative political and military forces against the Mexican state also frequent this space. The narrator identifies a series of social groups that integrate different cultural and political forces of the period, from intellectual to guerrilla movements. They also include other groups such as communists, Marxists, bohemians, and semi-beatniks. Third, El Pesebre transforms itself into a mythical place because even José Revueltas, the countercultural icon and thinker of the period, frequents this locale.5 El Pesebre as a social space becomes a counter-hegemonic place that challenges the official discourse of the Mexican government as well as a social sign that harvests an intellectual community unable to function openly in the public sphere because of the possible physical retaliation threatened by the Echeverría government. For Lucas, El Pesebre also plays an important role in his intellectual development. In this place, Lucas and his friend establish el Grupo de los


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Hombres, a group of men that seemed lost and unable to either find a concrete identity or support a social cause. As the narrator recounts: In El Pesebre, Pedro and you would have talked about how both of you personally felt. Both of you felt lonely and drifting. The women, who were the lovers, wives, colleagues, and antagonists, were taking giant steps, while the men—after 1968, idealising the hippies, dismissing the guerrilla movements—, if not they were not attached (as Lalo) to an institution, they were living totally lost, full of uncertainties that they were unable to name. (1987, 82–3)6

The citation critiques the social division between men and women of the Mexican counterculture movement because the narrator notices that the women, who traditionally play a secondary role as lovers, wives, friends, and antagonists, play a pivotal role in the changing of Mexican society.7 Thus, through El Grupo de los Hombres’ intellectual engagement, Manjarrez introduces an alternative narrative that deconstructs the patriarchal narrative ascribed to the political movement of the 1960s and 1970s. However, the narrator also presents a political alternative to the counterculture movement with the integration of some of the members of the commune into hegemonic governmental institutions. The citation in this context anticipates the social and political development of the Malvones commune members as they manage their roles in the Mexican society. Some members rebel against the traditional integration into hegemonic social structures, while others see the need to belong to official or institutional agencies. The bifurcation of the personal development of the Malvones commune resonates with Peter Burger’s exploration of the role of theatre in the avant-garde movement, as exemplified by Brecht’s notion of epic theatre, because, “he [Brecht] intends to change rather than destroy the theater as an institution” (1984, 89). In the case of the Malvones commune, some wish to destroy the dominant hegemonic institutions while others integrate into them. The Grupo de los Hombres uses the feminist movement as a benchmark to examine men’s role in the Mexican counterculture movement.8 The narrative shows an awareness of the difference in social developments between masculine and feminine subjects. The text states: Contemptuous because of the masculine consciousness whose only interest is power, you like Pedro (and Pedro and Nestor and Carlos and Dario and others) searched for ideal relationships—egalitarian, fraternal, lucid, what do I know, but more—with women … but these relationships were impossible at that time. History weaved its threads in other corners. (1987, 83)9

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The male characters critique an ideology whose primary concern is the acquisition of power. The narrator acknowledges the privileges that his male friends experience in Mexican society. What is more, some male characters in the novel demonstrate an admiration for the political value linked to the feminist movement and the role that women play in making a difference in the counterculture movement and in Mexican society in general.10 They also point out that the hierarchical differences between men and women project distinctive social relationships between men and women in relation to hegemonic political groups. The text clearly notes the construction of different historical discourses that traditionally build hierarchical powers. It alludes to the emergence of the feminist thought that begins to occupy the public sphere, as Elaine Carey documents in her study entitled Plaza of Sacrifices: Gender, Power, and Terror in 1968 Mexico (2005). In the chapter “La nueva ola: [The New Wave] Gender Rebels,” she foregrounds the intellectual contributions that Rosario Castellanos and Marta Acevedo published in Excélsior and Siempre’s cultural supplement, La cultura en México. Carey also stresses the importance of activist groups of the period, such as Mujeres en Acción Solidaria, that organised manifestations against the Mexican government. Moreover, similar to the trajectory of music of the counterculture that Eric Zolov establishes, Carey in Plaza of Sacrifices also sees a clear social relationship between the Mexican and Chicana feminist movements as they call for the development of a feminist consciousness to end with the traditional gender roles and the reproduction of its social binaries. For Lucas and his male comrades, women play a more significant role than men in the Mexican counterculture movement. Traditionally, Mexican society viewed the social participation of women in the counterculture movement as breaking away from the social norms and moral values that a hegemonic discourse produced to control dress codes and personal and leisure activities, as noted by Eric Zolov in Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture (1999, 195). Moreover, under the Echeverría government, the Tehuana image, as used by the Sanborns Restaurants, provided the dominant public feminine image that Mexican women should emulate. However, Manjarrez, in the novel, diverges from the reproduction of this feminine social model. As the narrator affirms, “From the leftist legal ideologies of the period, for you, feminism seems more passionate and truthful than reformism, the incipient ecological movement, and the moribund hippie movement, as well as others” (1987, 83).11 The novelist establishes a contrast between masculine social movements that define the Mexican counterculture (ecological, hippies, and political reforms) and the feminist movement. Lucas believes that the Mexican feminist movement


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provides a unified alternative and a politically active movement in comparison to the men’s activism in this social revolution. He observes that: While women challenged patriarchy, they keenly met, developed journals, manifested against laws, and projected a fruitful future for themselves, you thought that the harsh realities of life in this period can only be expressed, could only be expressed, with a few vague and complicated glimpses, and with a few allusive phrases, only allusive, to that poison that burned them inside and felt that you could not fight because you felt that it was your own. (Ibid., 84)12

This social and literary positionality of the counterculture deviates from the feminist activist movement that the narrator recovers in the novel. The critique and deconstruction of a patriarchal system acknowledges Mexican women’s agency, and they also illustrate forms of cultural capital gained by women in the Mexican counterculture movement. The text also alludes to the writing of the counterculture as an apolitical narrative when the narrator refers to “frases alusivas” (allusive phrases), a reference to some of the prominent novels associated with the counterculture movement, such as De perfil [Profile view] (1966) by José Agustín and Gazapo (1965) by Gustavo Sainz, where a historical discourse predominates, distancing itself from the violent student movement of 1968 as well as other social engagements. As Agustín reflects in “Mis viajes por la contracultura,” [“My Trips through the Counterculture”], “Yes, my virtue, I was a fucking rebel without cause, and I enjoyed it, but I suffered because of it too” (2000, 14).13 In Pasaban en silencio nuestro dioses, Manjarrez also shows how women participated in other political and cultural activities, such publishing journals, organising demonstrations, and challenging laws that restricted them as a social group. Eli Bartra, in her article “El movimiento feminista en México y su vínculo con la academia” [“The Feminist Movement in Mexico and its Link with Academia”], documents that the journals La revuelta and Cihuat served as models for feminist publications that later culminated with Fem. The Mexican women’s movement was also aided by the 1975 United Nations Women’s Conference hosted in 1975 in Mexico City, where women issued a declaration demanding gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination. In the novel, in contrast to the vitality and importance of the women’s movement, Lucas and his male friends see the masculine participants of the Mexican counterculture as individuals who obsess over their own personal identity and interact with an allusive language that creates a distance between them and the communities that they encounter, such as women and working-class people. The

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re-evaluation of women’s role in the counterculture movement in Mexico demonstrates another case where Manjarrez examines an archaeology of knowledge to critique a hegemonic discourse, a masculine discourse that historically has diluted feminine archives. El Pesebre now becomes an intersectional cultural space that provides a convivial place where different ideologies examine the hegemonic hierarchies in order to deconstruct the traditional boundaries of masculinity and femininity, as well as personal and political discourses. From the point of view of Michel Foucault, El Pesebre metaphorically represents a physical structure, both spatial and political, that allows the members of the Malvones who feel suffocated by a social political system that curtails their personal and public development to critique and produce an archaeology of knowledge.14 Moreover, as Foucault states in The Archaeology of Knowledge, the archive not only breaks the traditional boundaries of discursive silos questioning the subjectivity of a subject, but also establishes that our cultural formation derives from a foundation of heterogeneous personal identifiers, cultural discourses, and historical markers (1976, 131). El Pesebre, as a commercial place and space, houses, engages, and produces a cultural discourse characterised by heterogeneity rather than uniformity, contradicting the hegemonic discursive practices; that is, the cultural archaeology under the Echeverría administration.

The Cultural Politics in the Casa de Los Malvones The characterisation of the Casa de Los Malvones as a spatial symbol stresses social and personal contradictions that exemplify the counterculture movement in Mexico City. The commune’s members convey an idealist notion of Mexican society by breaking down the traditional gender norms and expressing the power of free love; they are generous with each other as they share their lovers. The sharing of sexual partners as a utopian social expression contrasts with other personal behaviours associated with the members of the commune, especially those dealing with basic living needs such as their eating habits. Specifically, Lucas sees the commune’s philosophy of life as “semibárbara” [“semi-barbaric”] and “semiexquisita” [“semi-exquisite”] (1987, 14). As he states, “We, the inhabitants, were capable of producing the most fraternal and generous gestures, yet with a great moral and mean insensibility. We were united because of ideology, the lack of economic means, a labyrinth effect, as intense as it was frightening.”15 There are several social and personal characteristics that the narrator observes about the commune. On the one hand, the commune expresses a sense of care and generosity with each other at the personal level


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that provides a feeling of belonging, yet they also express a psychological detachment as the Malvones sometimes become unaware of the emotional state of the commune. The detachment and insensibility that Lucas expresses correlate with the economic status of the commune. They do not have the economic means to a comfortable life in this living arrangement. In fact, Lucas notices that lack of money alters the ideological, social, and personal ideals of the commune, especially as they fight for the food available in the house. In this context, the vibrant social spirit and political passion that possess them to change and save the Mexican state and nation contradict the Malvones’ search for food at home as they try to survive their economic crisis. As Lucas indicates, “The war about food threatened to be the gravest of all—the most open—of all that were free, dull and transiently, in that informal institution” (14).16 Manjarrez’s description of the Casa de los Malvones portrays a form of carnivalisation as presented by Mikail Bakhtin in Rabelais and His World (1984) to satirise the social relationships associated with the counterculture movement.17 Given that the members of the Malvones, a middle-class social group, fight for the food in the commune, the carnivalisation that Manjarrez presents in this novel critically infers the economic disparity of the modernisation processes (economic investment, industrial growth, and social stability) that the Mexican government highlights both inside and outside the nation. The Malvones as a countercultural space and place symbolically exemplifies a metaphor for the social and economic disjunctures that Eric Zolov documents in Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Countercuture to show the implications of Mexican society’s integration into a consumer society.18 Furthermore, the Casa de los Malvones alludes to the novel of El Lazarillo de Tormes and denotes a critique of the public and private space associated with this commune. Manjarrez’s use of El Lazarillo de Tormes to describe the action in the Casa de los Malvones constructs a satire that deconstructs both the private and public spheres. In fact, the narrator sees the Casa de los Malvones as similar to Mexican society, as a fragile crystal, because, “We, Mexicans, were living behind a crystal glass, each new step registered: more gradual, more hushed, much less bloody” (15).19 Lucas’ view of the Mexican society as living in a crystallised life projects two divergent identities, one internal and another external, that represent two different symbolic social and personal values associated with the members of the Casa de los Malvones. Moreover, the metaphor of crystal characterises both the social fragility of Mexican society as Mexico integrates into a modern sociocultural and economic system and the instability of Mexico as a state,

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given the political events of 1968 that serve as the historical background of Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses. The binary opposition between free love and the food wars accentuates other important social and personal conflicts that characterise the Casa de los Malvones. As a protagonist and narrator of the novel, Lucas examines the role of memory as a central issue in the portrayal of the commune as a living and social place and space. Lucas evokes the Casa de los Malvones as a memorial symbol. Lucas’ memory associated with this commune oscillates between stressing the importance of personal and social values that emerge from the Casa de los Malvones and noticing how the hegemonic Mexican society attempts to erase an alternative living space as a social experiment. Mexican society’s erasure of the Casa de los Malvones’s importance metaphorically represents the suppression of a historical narrative, critical of the construction of a story that deals with the social representation of 1970s Mexico. The narrator recounts the importance of remembering, memory, and history associated with the Malvones as a repressed utopian sentiment. The personal and social values connected with Los Malvones capture a Mexican social imaginary of the youth movements of the 1970s that feels the effects of hegemonic political forces in the private and public spheres. For example, Sergio Monsalvo C., in his crónica [chronicle] “Avándaro es la memoria de la especie” [“Avándaro is the Memory of the Species”], reflects on the repressive pressures the Echeverría government used to discredit and censor the Avándaro music festival, a pivotal artistic event of the Mexican counterculture movement. In addition, Zolov in Refried Elvis affirms that the Echeverría administration, “turned its administrated and repressive forces against the native rock movement at the levels of production, distribution, and consumption” (1999, 217). In a parallel way, the narrator’s observations recall the political and historical discourse associated with the Massacre of Tlatelolco of 1968. Similar to the massacre at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, the narrator sees the historical and social value of the Casa de los Malvones as the death of utopian ideals, just like when the Mexican military forces massacred the students on October 2, 1968. In the representation of the commune, Manjarrez symbolically captures the political conflicts that affected the characterisation of the public sphere in Mexico City during the 1970s. Thus, in Pasaban en silencios nuestros dioses he establishes a parallel between the social life of the Casa de los Malvones and the public life of Mexico as a state and nation—the competing views between an official and unofficial discourse. The representation of the Casa de los Malvones as “otra utopia enterrada” [“another buried utopia”] converges with the sadness that Lucas feels


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after his departure from the commune. The narrator sees Lucas’ departure as a personal relief, because he no longer feels the pressure to carry out and live the social ideals that embody the commune. His sadness also implies a personal failure in this social experiment that potentially would have altered the norms of Mexican society. The protagonist’s sadness intensifies, especially as the narrator suggests the possibility that the Casa de los Malvones will socially dissolve, symbolising another type of “utopía enterrada” (1987, 77). In addition, the narrator also expresses a paradoxical view regarding Lucas’ personal life after he leaves the commune, when he states, “For you, death was a metaphor, not a threat” (Ibid., 77).20 Once again, the metaphor of death linked to the Casa de los Malvones underlines the descending social trajectory of Lucas as a representative of the Mexican counterculture movement. However, the narrator also expresses an optimistic view of Lucas’ personal future associated with his own family. After he moves out of Los Malvones, Lucas senses a feeling of familial unity with his son and daughter (Seb and Let), because he values his children more than belonging to the commune. Ironically, the fragmentation or dismemberment of the Casa de los Malvones strengthens Lucas’ role as a father for his own children and reinforces a traditional parental role for a male character belonging to the middle class. Ironically, the protagonist’s love for his children diverges from the representation of Mexico as a state and nation that Manjarrez constructs in Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses. After he leaves the commune, Lucas begins to experience public anxiety and feels emptiness in the streets of Mexico City. These personal and public feelings express a sense of alienation that Lucas’ generation, as members of the counterculture movement, were then experiencing because of the repressive practices implemented by the political hegemonic powers, such as the use of political retaliation and the continuous attack of para-militarist forces. The narrator notices that the suffering of the country, the corruption of the politicians, the inability of communities to defend themselves, as well as the omissions of sociopolitical roots cause these negative feelings. For the Mexican counterculture movement, Lucas’ feelings of alienation suggest a social and political failure of the Mexican miracle because the state and nation fail to integrate Lucas’ generation into the new state’s social plan. The protagonist’s negative outlook regarding the political development of Mexico as a state and nation denotes a history of sociopolitical failures that Mexican politicians are unwilling to recognise. The Echeverría government’s inability to identify these failures and the state’s ineptitude in integrating Lucas and his countercultural peers into the new social fabric establish a critical encounter between the counterculture movement as

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represented by the Malvones commune and Mexican political structures. For Lucas’ generation, this problematic and hierarchal relationship suggests the continuation of an emblematic and pathological symptom of a society unwilling to rebel against the deceptive sociopolitical acts that had by that point become a way of life and modus operandi for the government. The political deception that Lucas and the members of the Malvones commune experience reverberates in the protagonist’s observation that Mexican society lives a crystal life; that is, fragile and unstable. Moreover, the narrative also associates the notion of living a crystal life with the commune. For Lucas, the Malvones also live a crystal life because there is neither a social nor collective cohesiveness between their historical and personal realities that the commune embraces. In this context, the physical structure of the house embodies the historical presence of the nation, and life in the commune marks its day-to-day status. The lack of social and personal uniformity that typifies the Casa de los Malvones symbolises a generational crisis that conveys an ambivalent feeling regarding the status and future of Mexican society during the 1970s. The Casa de los Malvones and the daily activities that the work narrates become a form of political and personal expression. For Lucas, the commune lives parallel the present and future of the state/nation: What was intolerable was that the world was coming to an end, each day it was more unthinkable to imagine that the world and the country (and the commune) would change for the better; the external reality, an immense and frightening background, would cover us, would fence in all of us from all sides. (16)21

In this quote, Lucas reads the commune as a metaphor for the nation, where its utopian vision and the vitality of social changes associated with the Mexican counterculture movement of the 1970s contend the hegemonic military forces of a historical era that silences dissident political activism in Mexico. Thus, in Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses, two divergent social identities are present: one internal and the other external. They depict two distinct communal and personal realities associated with the members of the Casa de los Malvones. These realities embody the many faces of Mexico that make up a state and a nation. Internally, Manjarrez further critiques the commune for its inability to provide a politically united front and for putting greater emphasis on individual desires rather than societal values. As the narrator states, the day-to-day living practices of the Casa de los Malvones demonstrate a way of life full of “personal exasperations”


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[“crispamientos personales”] (15). The fragmentation of the commune in its quotidian activities serves as an indication that the members that occupy the Casa de los Malvones are not able to create or manage a unified familial space. Ironically, this social vision expresses one of the criticisms by the official discourse against the counterculture movement of the 1970s in Mexico. Externally, Lucas expresses disillusionment with the social and political development of the Mexican counterculture movement. He senses that the youth movement experiences more whippings, anguish, and political destruction than the intimate and personal emotions that they hear from country and romantic songs. Lucas establishes a contrast between the political realities of the Echeverría government and the happy images that rancheras and boleros project as the vision of the nation. This political and social contrast also parallels the bipolarisation between the nationalism as projected by boleros and rancheras and the message to resist authority associated with the Onda Chicana music movement that belonged to the Mexican counterculture movement. In other words, there is a discrepancy between the violent political climate and the joyous and peaceful hegemonic images of Mexico as a new economic power; a contrast between dominant and subordinated narratives that define the state and nation. Similar to the feelings of alienation that the nation felt after the 1968 student massacre in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, Los Malvones also experiences a political defeat. Similarly, for the Mexican counterculture movement, the Avándaro music festival can be considered the historical and cultural marker of a downfall because of the social and political repercussions carried out by the Echeverría administration. In the novel, Lucas, who represents the Mexican counterculture movement, senses a loss because he is not capable of affecting the sociopolitical direction of Mexico as a nation. Therefore, as a consequence of the commune’s internal personal practices and the political contradictions of Mexico during the 1970s, Manjarrrez portrays Los Malvones as an example of a dystopia rather than a utopia. With the representation of Los Malvones as a dystopian social and cultural sign, the novel also emphasises the heterogeneity of commune life in Mexico City as well as the ideological and political diversity that typifies this historical period. In a way, Manjarrez creates a dynamic space (the physical landscape) and place (socially constructed entity) that is in constant flux, emulating the physical and psychological vitality of the Mexican youth and counterculture movements. With this representation, the author contradicts the uniform and hegemonic ideology and discourse of the state and nation that Echeverría portrayed with his guayaberas, playing folkloric music to achieve political functions, and the theme of economic growth for all social classes.

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The critical representation associated with the Mexican counterculture movement that Manjarrez postulates in Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses distances itself from some of the sociopolitical concerns that other Mexican cultural critics, such as Carlos Monsiváis, have identified. Monsiváis, in his crónica “La naturaleza de la onda,” published in Amor perdido [Lost Love] (1977), critiques the social, cultural, and political role that the Mexican hippie movement (jipitecas) played in Mexico City. For Monsiváis, the Mexican counterculture movement does not represent exaltation nor does it recover the sociopolitical history of a colonised subject or community, such as the African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American communities. He states: In the United States or in England, the use of the term counterculture clarifies a minority intention: to see the dominant culture as partial or mutilated … In Mexico, counterculture as a possibility or even as a cultural heading for the Onda will be a posthumous discovery. (1971, 203)22

In contrast, Manjarrez sees the Mexican counterculture movement as a social reaction to historical hegemonic institutions that the Mexican Revolution established and the state and nation propagate as part of a narrative of national unity.23 Finally, Monsiváis’ comments reflect a post facto analysis of the cultural politics of the counterculture movement, while Manjarrez renders the day-to-day living experiences that show the social and political failures resulting from the ruling of the PRI as a political hegemonic power. In comparison to the United States, the Mexican counterculture movement lacks the political bases that emerged as part of the civil rights movement. However, Monsiváis also affirms that the political events of 1968 in Mexico, that culminated with the Massacre of Tlatelolco, demarcate a new and critical sociopolitical vision of the counterculture movement that attempts to influence a political change in the state and nation. Monsiváis stresses that, “The Tlatelolco massacre mobilizes and freezes, intimidates and radicalizes. It buries … the culture of the Mexican Revolution, with a liberal determination to obtain places for all the sons of the bourgeoisie if they accept the minimum and tyrannical decrees” (Ibid., 237).24 The dual and sometimes contradictory effect of the Massacre of Tlatelolco on the counterculture movement reveals the fragile social development of the nation state and embodies the political concerns of the movement. On the one hand, the student massacre radicalised the counterculture groups, but on the other opened the door for the integration of the young Mexican middle class into hegemonic political institutions. In a way, both Monsiváis and Manjarrez convey what Foucault calls in The


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Archaeology of Knowldege “the mapping of transformations” of the history of ideas in order to convey an archaeological analysis that brings many points of divergence (1976, 138).

Critique of the Echeverría Government In the characterisation of the Casa de los Malvones as a cultural expression of a dystopia, Manjarrez examines the political ideologies that typify the Mexican counterculture movement of the 1970s in order to critique the Echeverría government and deconstruct the hegemonic discourse of the state and nation.25 Lucas and his friends characterise the Mexican president as not only an authoritarian figure who physically represses the nation, but also an individual who lacks an intellectual capacity to govern the nation. Lucas illustrates his points when he asks a series of rhetorical political questions: “Was the president a half educated despot? Were we living under bonapartism? Was corporatism falling down piece by piece? How long would the people take it?” (1987, 56). 26 With these questions, the protagonist constructs a critique of President Luis Echeverría as a political figure and the policies and practices that he employed to rule Mexico. For example, in the first question he frames the Mexican president as an authoritarian and hegemonic figure. Yet, as an intellectual figure, Echeverría lacks the mental capacity to lead the nation. The second question emphasises the concentration of power in a political figure and a ruling party, because the protagonist delineates the Mexican government as a centralised one that dilutes the traditional shared governance between the executive and legislative branches that govern the nation state. In this context, “el bonapartismo” refers not only to the role of the president as the executive figure, but also to the administrative function of the PRI as the ruling political party of the period. For this historical period, bonapartismo stresses the authoritarian forces that the PRI employs to control any type of political movement and resistance, and refers to the censorship of any emerging discursive practices that produce alternative stories to the Echeverría government. I also read bonapartismo as a political practice that runs the state and nation using the repressive state apparatuses. Consequently, the governing of Mexico using a bonapartismo system grounded an economic system that the narrator calls “corporativismo;” that is, the Mexican president, Echeverría, was able to control the power relations between the workers, businesses, and unions in order to avoid social movements that alter the traditional relationship between workers and businesses. Ironically, according to Eric Zolov in Refried Elvis, this economic relationship pro-

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duced the fall of the counterculture movement when the Echeverría government negated the economic participation of businesses that foregrounded the movement, such as record companies, music producers, distributors, and radio stations. Finally, in the final question, the narrator also critiques the passivity of Mexican society and calls for a revolutionary action to force political changes on how the Mexican government runs the state and nation. Lucas proposes the development of a consciousness to alter the hegemonic cultural narrative and political practices of the period. These rhetorical questions examine critical points that critique the political development of Mexico as a state and nation, especially those associated with the dominant image that emerges in the 1960s and 1970s of Mexico as an economic miracle. Lucas’ questions project an alternative history of the effects of the Echeverría government and its political centralisation. These rhetorical questions define the dominant ideology of the Mexican government and try to raise social consciousness within Mexican society. However, the questions also document the importance of a political philosophy that dominates the Malvones commune. Philosophically, these questions resonate with André Gunder Frank’s Capitalismo y subdesarrollo en América Latina [Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America] and other texts dealing with the political theory of the evolution of underdevelopment. From this point of view, André Gunder Frank affirms that the contemporary economic development of underdeveloped countries, such as those of Latin America, depends on the socioeconomic independence of the historical relationship between the satellite and the metropolis. In a way, Manjarrez uncovers an ideological archive that dominates in México during this historical period and produces a “regularity of a discursive practice,” as Foucault discusses in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1976, 145). Lucas’s personal feelings parallel the political activities that Manjarrez’s novel documents in order to explore the instability and fragmentation that the nation suffers, a representation that differs from the official discourse that the Echeverría government produces. The narrator recalls how the Mexican government decimated the guerrilla movements, censored the mass media, put pressure on the universities, and tried to control the unions. These references focus on social and physical disjunctures that the nation state experiences as a consequence of the hegemonic political forces that govern Mexico. The description of the guerrilla as “diezmada sanguinariamente” [“bloodily decimated”] projects an image of dismemberment that damages and both physically and socially curtails the body of the nation state (1987, 81). This image becomes central to reading Mexico both as a state and a nation, given the suffering and trauma caused as a


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result of the Massacre of Tlatelolco. In addition, the Echeverría government systematically carried out the military plan of The Corpus Christi Massacre or El halconazo (hawk strike) of June 10, 1971 to eliminate and destroy the urban and rural guerrilla movements that emerged as a political challenge to the central government. Moreover, the narrator notices the violence and disintegration that the guerrilla movement suffers because of Echeverría’s military engagement with rural and urban movements. The violence and dismemberment that the government causes lead the guerrillas to appear unnecessary, given that the narrator classifies the guerrilla movement as absurd. Intellectually, the government also intervenes with the university movements and interferes with the local and national press. The political activities alternate between an active movement, such as the action of the electrical union, or a weakening one because “se estaba agotando” [“they were worn out”] as a consequence of the repressive practices of the Mexican government.

Political Memories in José Revueltas’ Burial At the end of Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses, Manjarrez also stresses the dystopian representation of the Mexican counterculture movement, especially when he narrates José Revueltas’ funeral in 1976. The novelist appropriates Revueltas as a literary and political figure to allude to the relationship between the 1968 student movement and the counterculture movement in Mexico. This also shows how these social movements influence Mexican society on different strata. For example, when Lucas engages in a conversation with a taxi driver, he informs him that he is going to a funeral of a political prisoner from 1968. Lucas identifies Revueltas in several ways that distance this public figure from members of the student and counterculture movements. He defines Revueltas as a defunct individual, as a former political prisoner, and as a mature man during the 1968 student movement. This initial characterisation demystifies Revueltas and dilutes his importance as an intellectual and political figure. In addition, Manjarrez also examines the complicity associated with the representation of José Revueltas where dominant and alternative discourses portray him as a polyphonic figure, ranging from a common to mythical figure. The novelist captures the complicity and contradictions of Revueltas’ description in the following way: “Already, José Revueltas is an illustrious dead man, not an illustrious drunk nor an illustrious subversive” (1987, 116).27 The use of the adjective “ilustre” to typify Revueltas conveys three ascending traits that become part of his persona: drunkard, subversive, and now venerated. Manjarrez’s depiction captures the dynam-

The Representation of the Mexican Counterculture Movement


ic transformation of how Mexican society views Revueltas as he evolves as a public figure. In addition, the novel also illustrates Revueltas as an alternative political figure. Lucas states: He loved to fuck the government … He was a professional instigator, a motherfucker. The first time that he went to prison because he was a communist he was 18 years old. They sent him to the Islas Marías. They sent him twice to the Islas Marías. (116)28

Finally, he adds that Revueltas is, “a little communist with red bones” (Ibid.). 29 The protagonist’s dialogue with the taxi driver presents the political activism associated with Revueltas. However, Lucas employs a colloquial discourse to bridge the gap between Revueltas’ role in the 1968 student movement, the counterculture movement, and Mexican society. In fact, his use of this type of discourse makes Revueltas a common individual. This typology that Manjarrez creates to depict Revueltas as a figure of and for the people is reaffirmed by the taxi driver who takes Lucas to Revueltas’ funeral. He tells Lucas, “Was he an old man that blamed himself, or they accused him of causing the ’68 chaos, sir? Was he a man with long hair and a goatee beard?”30 Then, he asks, “For sure, was he the one who organized all the movement?” (Ibid.).31 The demystification of Revueltas continues with the taxi driver’s comments. His characterisation of Revueltas as a little old man and his physical observations de-emphasise the pivotal political role that he acquires as a political leader. From another point of view, Manjarrez also presents the idea that Revueltas plays the role of a sacrificial figure in order to spare the political persecution of other leaders in the student movement. 32 The narrator compares Revueltas to Jesus Christ as he accepts the blame for the social and political disturbances that Mexican society encounters. The narrator ironically equates Revueltas with Christ in order to critique the absurdity of the Echeverría government for blaming him for the emergence and development of the 1968 student movement. The analogy between Revueltas and Christ does not mystify him but rather diminishes his authority as a political figure, given that the narrator recreates a farce from the idea that Revueltas was responsible for leading the entire social movement in México. Indeed, Lucas as a narrator questions Revueltas’ acceptance of his culpability for leading these social and political disturbances, and critiques the leadership values of the 1968 Mexican counterculture movement. Manjarrez’s inclusion of the representation of Revueltas’ funeral in the last part of the novel symbolically inscribes a political crisis in the counterculture movement, because his death marks the end of an intellectual foundation and the passing of a historical


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figure that became emblematic for his sociopolitical critiques of the construction of the Mexican state and nation. Furthermore, Revueltas’ death leaves a vacuum in the cultural leadership of the counterculture movement, given that his literary and political work forms an intellectual platform to understanding Mexico’s transition into a democratic state after the defeat of the PRI in 2000.33

Conclusion Héctor Manjarrez’s Pasaban en silencio nuestros dios represents the sociocultural contradictions that emerge as a result of the Mexican counterculture movement. Manjarrez, in the recreation of these contradictions, stipulates the conflict between the production of a hegemonic political power, as exemplified by the Echeverría government, and the creation of an alternative cultural discourse that challenges an archaeology of knowledge dominating the construction of a state and nation. 34 Consequently, in the representation of the Mexican counterculture movement, Manjarrez emphasises the value of alternative commercial locales, such as El Pesebre, that acquire symbolic meanings as place and space. In the novel, El Pesebre transforms itself into a polyphonic sign that serves as a spatial unit that houses social and intellectual communities that come under the umbrella of the counterculture movement in the 1970s. In fact, some of the characters see El Pesebre as a mythical place, but I read it as a spatial sign that provides an opening for the production of a counter-discourse that critiques, challenges, and alters traditional notions of Mexican society, including those dealing with gender roles. Another important spatial sign that the novel examines deals with the social and personal contradictions that characterise the Casa de los Malvones. The Casa de los Malvones represents a Mexican commune as a social entity that struggles between the utopian ideal and dystopian realities of the Mexican counterculture movement in the 1970s. Manjarrez, in his narrative, highlights these conflicts with the carnivalisation of Los Malvones commune. The carnivalisation of Los Malvones shows the social artificiality that typifies the characters who inhabit the novel. In this context, the representation of Los Malvones as a symbolic space and place not only recreates the living and daily activities of the counterculture movement in Mexico City, but also shows how the members of the commune criticise the traditional Mexican society, as well as themselves, demonstrating an awareness of the Malvones commune’s personal and collective failures. Finally, Manjarrez establishes a socio-cultural and ideological link between the counterculture movement and the 1968 Mexican political student movement. In Pasaban en silencio

The Representation of the Mexican Counterculture Movement


nuestros dioses, the novelist establishes a parallel between the future, the counterculture, and the student movement as political entities, which is highlighted at the end of the novel when Lucas attends José Revueltas’ funeral. The representation of José Revueltas’ funeral symbolises the end of utopian discourses and ideologies associated with the 1968 student and Mexican counterculture movements. The reference to Revueltas’ funeral stresses a sense of historicity that grounds the Mexican counterculture movement within the social groups that suffer from the political repression of 1968, and also contradicts some historians and cultural critics who see it as an ahistorical and apolitical movement whose core social values only express a desire for free love and spiritual liberation.



The relationship between the production of cultural knowledge and the reproduction of political hegemony constitutes an important inquiry in the work of Michel Foucault, as documented by Gilles Deleuze in Foucault (1986) and Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics (1983) by Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. 2 In addition to Lapsus and Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses, he has published the following novels: El otro amor de su vida [The Other Love of his Life] (1999), Rainey, el asesino [Rainey, the Assassin] (2002), La maldita pintura [The Damned Painting] (2004), Yo te conozco [I Know You] (2009), and París desaparece [Paris Disappears] (2014). 3 This novel exemplifies the themes of the 1968 Mexican narrative and the concerns of the Mexican counterculture movement. See Reinhard Teichmann’s interview, “Héctor Manjarrez” in De la onda en adelante: Conversaciones con 21 novelitas mexicanos (1987). John Brushwood, in “A Comparative View of Mexican Fiction in the Seventies,” also notices the importance of drugs, rock and roll music, and the references to Vietnam as essential themes for the creation of the narrative. Finally, Carol Clark D’Lugo in The Fragmented Novel in México; The Politics of form (1997) examines the relationship between the Onda literary movement, the themes of 1968, and the counterculture movement. 4 Christopher Domínguez, in Servidumbre y grandeza de la vida literaria [Servitude and Greatness of the Literary Life], reads Héctor Manjarrez’s narrative as producing leftist works that, “repudiate injustice and critically tolerate errors. Including the tragic ones, from the left, the left of which sometimes, unfortunately, Manjarrez had been a companion” [“repudia la injusticia y tolera críticamente los errores, inclusive los trágicos, de la izquierda, esa izquierda de la que Manjarrez ha sido un a veces desafortunado de compañero de viaje”] (1998, 149) (all translations into English are mine, unless otherwise indicated). 5 For a study of the historical role of commercial locales, such as cafes, in the Mexican counterculture movement see “La Onda Mexico’s Counterculture and the Student Movement of 1968” in Zolov (1999, 93–132).


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6 The Spanish text reads, “En El Pesebre, Pedro y tú habían hablado de lo que sentían. Se sentían solos y a la deriva. Las mujeres que eran las amantes, esposas, compañeras y antagonistas estaban dando pasos que parecían de gigantes, mientras que los varones—pasado el 68, idiotizado del jipismo, descartada la guerrilla—, si no se aferraban (como Lalo) a alguna institución, vivían totalmente extraviados, llenos de incertidumbres a las que ni siquiera sabían dar nombre” (1987, 82–3). 7 For a study of the examination of the gender roles in the Mexican counterculture movement see Zolov (1999, 123–5). 8 Elaine Carey documents and examines the political empowerment of women that emerged from the Mexican Student Movement of 1968 in Plaza of Sacrifices: Gender, Power, and Terror in 1968 (2005). 9 The original text states, “Llenos de desprecio por la conciencia masculina que solo se interesa en el poder, tanto tú como Pedro (y Pedro y Néstor y Carlos y Darío y demás) buscaban relaciones ideales—egalitarias, fraternas, lúcidas, qué sé yo qué más—con las mujeres … pero esas relaciones eran imposibles en aquellos momentos. La historia tejía sus hilos en otros rincones” (1987, 83). 10 Elena Poniatowska’s crónica, “Diario de una huelga de hambre” [“Diary of a Hunger Strike”], about Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, demonstrates the political role that women played in challenging the Mexican government during the 1970s. 11 The original text states, “De las ideologías de la izquierda legal de entonces, el feminismo les parecía a ustedes mucho más apasionante y verdadero que el reformismo, el ecologismo incipiente, el jipismo moribundo, y demás” (1987, 83). 12 The original text states, “Mientras las mujeres desafiaban al patriarcado, se unían apasionadamente, planeaban revistas, protestaban contra las leyes y vislumbraban un fértil futuro para sí mismas, ustedes pensaban que la dura realidad de esos tiempos sólo se expresaba, sólo podía expresarse, en algunas miradas vagamente cómplices y en algunas frases alusivas, sólo alusivas, a ese veneno que los quemaba por dentro y sentían que no podían atacar, porque sentían que era suyo” (Ibid., 84). 13 The original text states, “Sí, mis buenes, yo fui un canijo rebelde sin causa, y la gocé pero también padecí por ello” (2000, 14). 14 In another context, Carlos Fuentes in París: La Revolución de Mayo (1968) also observes the social and political functions that locales acquire. He states, “On the corner of Café Dupont, in front of Gare de Montparnasse, a group of thirty people had gathered. It is not the only one: throughout this warm night of June, on corner after corner, the activists from the revolutionary action committees cause spontaneous debates” [“En la esquina del Café Dupont, frente a la Gare de Montparnasse, se ha reunido un grupo de unas treinta personas. No es único: a lo largo de estas cálidas noches de junio, en esquina tras esquina, los activistas de los comités de acción revolucionaria provocan estos debates espontáneos”] (29). 15 The original text states, “Los habitantes éramos capaces de los gestos más fraternales y generosos, y de la insensibilidad más mezquina y moralista. Nos unían la ideología, la falta de medios económicos y un efecto laberíntico, tan intenso como espantadizo” (1987, 14). 16 The original text states, “La guerra de los alimentos amenazaba con ser la más grave—la más abierta—de todas las que se libraban, sorda y fugazmente, en aquella institución informal” (14).

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17 For Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson in Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of Prosaics (1990), the concept of carnivalisation also implies a de-mystification of its subject because it loses its structural base and privileged state. 18 This image that Manjarrez narrates in the novel echoes Luis Buñuel’s Los olvidados [The Young and the Damned] (1950), where the young pícaros are constantly fighting for food. 19 The original text states, “Los mexicanos vivíamos, como a través de un cristal, cada nuevo paso de la nuestra: más gradual, más silenciosa, mucho menos sangrienta” (1987, 15). 20 The original text states: “La muerte era una metáfora para ti, no una amenaza” (1987, 77). 21 The original text states, “Lo inaguantable era que el mundo en general se venía abajo, que cada día era más impensable imaginar que el mundo y el país (y la comuna) podían cambiar bien; la realidad externa, inmenso y amenazante talón de fondo, se nos venía encima, nos cercaba por todos los lados” (1987, 16). 22 The original text states, “En Estados Unidos o en Inglaterra, el término ‘contracultura’ aclara una intención minoritaria: desechar la cultura existente por parcial y mutiladora … En México, la contracultura como posibilidad o incluso como membrete será para la Onda un descubrimiento póstumo” (1971, 229). Furthermore, Patricia Cabrera in “Contracultura, onda, y literatura” [“Counterculture, Onda and Literature”] traces the relationship between the Onda literary movement and the Mexican counterculture movement where she identifies the onderos as “outsiders” (1997, 203). 23 Rachel Adams, in “Hipsters and jipitecas: Literary Couterculture on Both Sides of the Border” (2004), confirms this idea: “The Onderos embrace an aesthetic of youth spontaneity that is forged, in part, through their rejection of literary predecessors, although they draw on many established tropes and narrative concerns” (72). 24 The original text states, “El golpe de Tlatelolco moviliza y congela, amedrenta y radicaliza. Se sumerge … la cultura de la Revolución Mexicana, con un empeño liberal de obtener sitios para todos los hijos de la pequeña burguesía si se aceptan las mínimas y tiránicas ordenanzas” (1971, 237). 25 For a study on the effects that the Echeverría government produced, see Politics, Gender, and the Mexican Novel, 1968–1988: Beyond the Pyramid (1992) by Cynthia Steele, especially her first chapter, “Of Pyramids and Fleas: Mexican Narrative and the Crisis, 1968–1985” (1–27). 26 The original text states, “¿Era un déspota medio ilustrado el presidente? ¿Vivíamos el bonapartismo? ¿El corporativismo se nos venía abajo a pedazos? ¿Cuánto más aguantaría la gente?” (1987, 56). 27 The original text states, “José Revueltas ya es un muerto ilustre, no un ilustre borracho e ilustre subversivo” (Ibid., 116). 28 The original text states, “—Le encantaba chingar al gobierno—responde el pasajero—. Era una ladilla profesional, un desmadroso. La primera vez que fue al tambo fue a los dieciocho años, por comunista. Lo mandaron a las Islas Marías. Lo mandaron dos veces a las Islas Marías” (Ibid., 116). 29 The original text states, “un rojillo de hueso colorado” (Ibid., 116).


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30 The original text states, “¿Qué no era un viejito que se echó la culpa, o se la echaron de los desmadres del 68, oiga? ¿Un señor de pelo largo y barba de chivo?” (Ibid., 116) 31 The original text states, “¿a poco fue él el que organizó todo aquello?” (Ibid., 116). 32 The image of the sacrificed figure dominates representations of the 1968 Mexican Student Movement such as Octavio Paz essays published in Postada (1970) or Gustavo Sainz’s novel A la salud de la serpiente [Cheers to the Serpent] (1991). 33 Jaime Marroquín, “Reinventing Nationalism: Mexico in the Works of José Revueltas,” TRANS 5 (2008), 34 Carlos Fuentes in Tiempo mexicano (1971) reads these social and political contradictions as “La disyuntiva mexicana,” where, “The schizoid discontent of a social and cultural country divided into two worlds, where the industrial and urban world exploits the peasant and indigenous world using multiple forms of colonialism” [“El malestar esquizoide de un país social y culturalmente dividido en dos, en el que el mundo industrial y urbano explota con múltiples formas de colonialismo interno al mundo campesino e indígena”] (147).

References Books Aguilar Camín, Héctor. 1989. La guerra de Galio. México: Cal y Arena. Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1984. Rabelais and His World. Trans. Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Burger, Peter. 1984. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Trans. Michael Shaw. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Carey, Elaine. 2005. Plaza of Sacrifices: Gender, Power, and Terror in 1968. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico. Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. Foucault. Trans. Sean Hand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. D’Lugo, Carol Clark. 1997. The Fragmented Novel in México; The Politics of form. Austin: University of Texas Press. Domínguez Michael, Christopher. 1998. Servidumbre y grandeza de la vida literaria. México: Joaquín Mortiz. Dreyfus, Hubert L. and Paul Rabinow. 1983. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Foucault, Michel. 1976. The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Harper and Row. Fuentes, Carlos. 1968. París: La Revolución de Mayo. México: Era. —. 1971. Tiempo mexicano. México: Cuadernos de Joaquín Mortiz. Lara Zavala, Hernán. 1995. Charras. México: Alfaguara.

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Leñero, Vicente. 1978. Los periodistas. México: Joaquín Mortiz. Levitas, Ruth. 2013. Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Manjarrez, Héctor. 1971. Lapsus (Algunos actos fallidos). México: Joaquín Mortiz. —. 1987. Pasaban en silencio nuestros dioses. México: Era. —. 1999. El otro amor de su vida. México: Era. —. 2002. Rainey, el asesino. México: Era. —. 2004. La maldita pintura. México: Era. —. 2009. Yo te conozco. México: UNAM/Era. —. 2014. París desaparece. México: Era. Monsiváis, Carlos. 1971. Días de guardar. México: Era. —. 1977. Amor perdido. México: Era. Morson, Gary Saul and Caryl Emerson. 1990. Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Paz, Octavio. 1970. Postada. México: Siglo XXI. Poniatowska, Elena. 1980. Fuerte es el silencio. México: Era. Roszak, Theodore. 1969. The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youth Opposition. New York: Doubleday. Sainz, Gustavo. 1991. A la salud de la serpiente. México: Grijalbo. Steele, Cynthia. 1992. Politics, Gender, and the Mexican Novel, 1968– 1988: Beyond the Pyramid. Austin: University of Texas Press. Teichmann, Reinhard. 1987. De la onda en adelante: Conversaciones con 21 novelitas mexicanos. México: Posada. Zolov, Eric. Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Chapters from edited collections Agustín, José. 2000. “Mis viajes por la contracultura.” In CulturaContraCultura, edited by Carlos Martínez Rentería, 13–17. México: Plaza Janés. Brushwood, John S. 1978. “Mexican Fiction in the Seventies: Author, Intellect, and Public.” In Proceedings: Comparative Literature Symposium. Ibero-American Letters in a Comparative Perspective, edited by Wolodymyr T. Zyla and Wendell M. Aycock, 35–47. Lubbock: Texas Tech Press. Cabrera, Patricia. 1997. “Contracultura, onda, y literatura.” In La otredad: Los discursos de la cultura hoy: 1995, edited by Silvia Eguea Véjar,


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195–205. México: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana y Casa Lamm. Foucault, Michel. 1977. “Revolutionary Action: 'Until Now'.” In Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, edited by Donald F. Bouchard, 218–33. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Monsalvo, Sergio C. 2000. “Avándaro es la memoria de la especie.” In CulturaContraCultura, edited by Carlos Martínez Rentería, 111–17. México: Plaza Janés.

Journal articles Adams, Rachel. 2004. “Hipsters and jipitecas: Literary Counterculture on Both Sides of the Border.” American Literary History 16 (1): 58–84. Barta, Eli. 1990. “El movimiento feminista en México y su vínculo con la academia.” Ventana abierta 10: 214–34.


The essay situates the infrarrealista movement as a neo-avant-garde literary community that emerged in Mexico City in the 1970s. As the prefix “infra” implies, the group was interested in mining the possibilities of the grittier reality hidden beneath representations of Mexico in what they viewed as elitist, state-sponsored modes of writing. They defined themselves, in fact, as an alternative to those very modes of writing. They were assiduous readers of earlier twentieth-century avant-garde writing (particularly the estridentistas), but two literary groups closer to them in time served more directly as models for the infras as they attempted to articulate their dissidence: the Beats in the US and Hora Zero in Peru. To situate the infras as an alternative literary community, I will first analyse their relationship to the Beats and then move on to Hora Zero in order to trace the root causes of their dissatisfaction with the Mexican state and its relationship to the literary world, particularly in the mid-1970s. This essay will also explore the ways in which the infrarrealista movement’s selfimposed marginalisation, with certain incursions from the periphery into the centre of Mexican literary culture, has grown and evolved with the advent of social media and independent publishing initiatives in subsequent decades. The infrarrealistas began as a loosely organised group of young writers living in Mexico City in the 1970s. The two most famous writers to emerge from the group were Chilean-born Roberto Bolaño (1953–2003), who would go on to be an international publishing phenomenon, and Mex-


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ican Mario Santiago Papasquiaro (1953–1998), a poet’s poet whose work, while still largely unknown, is highly regarded in certain circles in Mexico and throughout Latin America, particularly by younger generations of antiestablishment poets. In one of the infrarrealista manifestos, 1 “Déjenlo todo, nuevamente” [“Leave it All, Once More”] written in 1976, Roberto Bolaño states that the movement had as a goal to subvert “la realidad cotidiana de la poesía actual” [the daily reality of current poetry] (381). Additionally, the manifesto emphasises the importance of the ethical commitment to writing as being valued above the commitment to publish. The premise of this reluctance to publish followed this logic: by engaging in the contemporary literary power struggles of Mexico, the infra writers would inevitably force them to distance themselves from the greater priority of living and writing in a more purposeful and meaningful way. They preferred to eschew dominant publishing paradigms altogether. As an anti-establishment group of young, largely male, writers rebelling against the norms and standards of consumerism and conformity in the 1950s United States, the appeal the Beats held for the 1970s Latin American group of equally young, mostly male, and similarly rebellious writers is entirely understandable. While in recent years it is not unusual to find the work of Beat writers studied in US universities, at the time the Beats were relatively marginal figures in terms of the academy in their native country. In Mexico, the Beats were even further on the margins of what was considered to be legitimate intellectual activity. As such, there were relatively few translations of their work, though some were included in the magazine El corno emplumado [“The Plumed Horn”] edited by Margaret Randall and Sergio Mondragón, which published, for example, Ernesto de la Peña’s translations of Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” in 1966. For the most part, translations of Beat literature into Spanish were few and far between in the 1970s when the infras began collaborating. In subsequent years, one of the pioneers in translating the work of the Beats on a systematic level was, not surprisingly, a founding member of the infrarrealistas, José Vicente Anaya, who would publish his translation of “Howl,” “Kaddish,” and other poems in 1978, as well as an anthology of Beat poetry in 1998 titled Los poetas que cayeron del cielo: la generación beat comentada y en su propia voz. [“The Poets who Fell from the Sky: The Beat Generation Commented in its Own Voice”]. When he revisited his earlier work for a new edition of his translation of Howl and Other Poems that was published by Laberinto Editores in 2006, Anaya reemphasised the degree to which the Beats remain marginal for most readers of poetry in Mexico:

From Manifesto to Manifestation


Before finishing the presentation, Anaya made note that in reality there are very few Beat poets who are known in Mexico, a handful (three or four), while he has counted over sixty, half of them women. (Hernández 2006)2

In 2012 Rubén Medina collaborated on an extensive anthology of Beat poetry titled Una tribu de salvajes improvisando a las puertas del infierno: antología Beat [“A Tribe of Savages Improvising at the Gates of Heaven: A Beat Anthology”], which is dedicated to Mario Santiago and includes some of the women poets that José Vicente Anaya had signalled were missing from most Spanish-language accounts of the group.3 In the introduction to the anthology, Medina discusses Mario Santiago’s interest in and knowledge of the Beat generation in a description of a meeting in 1975 where Medina “finds a great connoisseur of Beat poetry as well a rather creative translator” (19).4 Critic Heriberto Yépez, in a telling piece of psychoanalytical speculation, suggests the ways in which these two infra poets map their own experiences onto their construction of the Beat generation. He labels the anthologies by Anaya and Medina as “infra-testimonios” [“infra-testimonials”]. With respect to Anaya, he points out how the introductory photo from the infra period in his anthology establishes a link between the infras and the Beats. In regards to Medina, he notes in particular how the Beats, characterised as belonging on the continuum of avant-garde writers of the twentieth century in the introduction to Una tribu de salvajes improvisando a las puertas del cielo, were perhaps less radical in some ways: The Beats, in reality, do not stand out for a systematic re-reading of the avant-garde. The infras, on the other hand, were re-readers not only of the Surrealists and also the Estridentistas and Contemporáneos. (Yépez 2012)5

It is entirely possible that these Spanish-language Beat anthologies projected certain ideas about the infras onto the Beats. Although some stylistic similarities in their writings can be found, the similarities in the way they demarcated themselves as an alternative literary community are more pronounced, as are the notable differences between the two groups. Mario Santiago once said to Bolaño, crashing his apartment at 4 am after a night of drinking and wandering through Mexico City: “You are Ginsberg, the Ginsberg of Mexico, and this [Ramón Méndez] is Corso!” (Madariaga Caro 2010, 36).6 In the broader view of his work, Bolaño is perhaps closer to Jack Kerouac than Allen Ginsberg, given his prolific production as a novelist. Like Kerouac, who would turn Neal Cassady into Dean Moriarty in On the Road or Gary Snyder into Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums, Bolaño made a personalised mythology of his network of

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friends. The inspiration for the character Ulises Lima in Mario Santiago is well known and was documented in Juan Villoro’s 1999 article for the national Mexican newspaper La Jornada in which he wrote:

 Ulises Lima, absolute protagonist of the story, is the poet Mario Santiago. The Visceral Realists represent the Infrarrealists, the group that stirred up our republic of letters in the seventies.7

Other members of the group were also attributable to characters in the novel. In fact, almost all of the real-life homologues for Los detectives salvajes (1998) are identified by Madariaga Caro in her book Bolaño Infra 1975–1977: Los años que inspiraron Los detectives salvajes. The comparisons of their prose could probably stop there. Kerouac’s prose, inspired by Thomas Wolfe’s maudlin writing style in novels such as Look Homeward, Angel (1929), developed into a stream-of-consciousness that mimicked the improvisational possibilities and energy of jazz. As critic Ann Charters puts it: “the most important quality of On the Road was the energy of its affirmative tone” (1992, 7). Bolaño’s preferred genre during his direct involvement with the infras from 1975 to 1977 was still poetry, and when he emerged as a novelist he developed a dense but lucid representational prose, characterised by intricacies and symmetries that, while appearing improvisational, are on occasion typically more in line with the literary artifice of Jorge Luis Borges than the high-energy excesses of Jack Kerouac. In fact, critic Daniela Omlor, noting the inspiration Bolaño drew from Borges, notes that, “He recreates the literary space of Borges’s ‘Total Book’ by making his novel an all-encompassing mirror of literature itself, reclaiming the importance of literature for representing the ambiguities of human existence” (2014, 659), highlighting the elements of a careful, methodical writing style that are very different, in both substance and form, from Kerouac’s work. Mario Santiago is another figure who, at first blush, shares some similarities with Kerouac. In short, Mario Santiago’s personal eccentricities were altogether worthy of the Beat Generation’s non-conformist attitudes. He, like Kerouac, experimented with both stimulants and, in literary terms, the format of writing. In an approach similar to the way On the Road was written during a Benzedrine-fuelled marathon on a single ream of paper, Mario Santiago constantly wrote on any surface he could find. As documented by Luis Felipe Fabre in the introduction to the anthology of Mario Santiago’s poetry titled Arte y basura: The poetry of Mario Santiago is not just poems, or rather, the poems of Mario Santiago are not just texts: they are actions, gestures, interventions.

From Manifesto to Manifestation


But they are also text, but they are also poems that Mario Santiago wrote endlessly on napkins, coasters, bills, and above all else, books, in the margins of other people’s books. (2012, n.p.)8

Following Ginsberg’s maxim of “first thought, best thought,” Mario Santiago improvised his writing on just about any surface up to the task. Or, as a Joseantonio Suárez noted in his introduction to Respiración del laberinto (2008), “He would write at all hours and everywhere. His obsession with writing in the margins of his own books and those of others has become legendary. Who knows how many books, supposedly mine, he ended up defiling with his verses.”9 Mario Santiago’s tendency to write on any scrap of paper at his disposal, be it a napkin or the margins of a book that belonged to somebody else, is in some ways indicative of the infrarrealista attempt to bridge the gap between art and life. This is, of course, a goal that was put forth by the historical avant-garde and which the neo-avant-garde continued to attempt to articulate. For Peter Burger, the deinstitutionalisation of art was a necessary condition for the avant-garde to pursue the utopian project of rejoining of life and art. He writes: the failure of the avant-garde utopia of the unification of art and life coincides with the avant-garde’s overwhelming success within the art institution. One could almost say: in their very failure, the avant-gardes conquer the institution. (2010, 705)

For the neo-avant-garde, the fact that revolutionary praxis itself could be institutionalised is apparently an insuperable paradox. Edward Lintz succinctly restates Peter Burger’s theorisation of the neo-avant-garde as follows: the neo-avant-garde cannot possess even the historical avant-garde’s intention to de-institutionalise art and integrate it into the praxis of life, because having transformed that protest against institutionalizing art into art itself, the neo-avant-garde can offer only an inauthentic gesture. (2000, 199)

Institutionality, as I will argue in more detail later, is perhaps less intertwined with notions of authenticity for the infras than it is with matters of state resistance: the cultural figures and institutions they would interact with in the 1970s were, for them, inseparable from the violence of the Mexican state. In that way, their anti-institutional stance may be less “inauthentic” than it initially appears. It certainly repeats the gesture of the avant-garde, but the context has shifted toward a protest that cannot limit itself to strictly aesthetic concerns. Nevertheless, this resistance would


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never translate into a programmatic political stance. While, as Medina points out in his introductory essay to the anthology Perros habitados por las voces del desierto [“Dogs Inhabited by the Voices of the Desert”], the infras emerged in the “euphoria over the Cuban Revolution” [“euforia por la revolución cubana”] and the resulting utopic zeitgeist on the Latin American left in the 1960s and 1970s, and quickly became “disenchanted with local modernity” [“desencantados de la modernidad local”] (Bolaño 2014, 13). As a group, they were entrenched in a marginal critique of power that did not account for an articulation of a shared, clear, and active political stance. As evidenced in their manifestos, the articulation of their overall project was originally far more clearly marked by what they were against than what they were in favour of. If we move away from broad categorical considerations and return to the comparisons to Ginsberg and Kerouac for a moment, Mario Santiago’s improvisation would seem to carry the Beat writing style to its next logical step. Beats wrote in a style that, for all its (at the time) taboo and subversive content, was fairly straightforward, rarely questioning the coherence of the lyric “I” or experimenting formally like some of their contemporaries, such poets of the New York School (e.g. Frank O’Hara, John Ashberry) or Black Mountain (e.g. Charles Olson, Robert Creeley), were doing. “Howl,” for example, is driven by the anaphor “who” and produced paraphrasable verses that create small narratives in each verse describing the madness of the greatest minds of Ginsberg’s generation: who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts. … who went out whoring Colorado in myriad stolen night cars … who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried. (128–9)

Other major Beat writers also tended toward a more declarative rather than openly experimental style (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, or Michael McLure exemplify this tendency, but the list could be more extensive). While the Beats were not homogeneous in their writing style, they were nowhere near as heterogeneous as the infras. I will move now to a few examples of work by three infras, Bolaño, Méndez, and Mario Santiago, to give a brief but by no means exhaustive account of the group’s heterogeneity.

From Manifesto to Manifestation


Bolaños’s early poems shared some of the frenetic qualities of Mario Santiago’s work. For example, in “Generación de los párpados eléctricos/ Irlandesa no. 2 constelación Sanjinés” [“Generation of Electric Eyelids/ Irish Woman Number 2 Constellation Sanjinés”], published in the 1979 anthology Muchachos desnudos bajo el arcoiris de fuego [“Nude Boys Under the Rainbow of Fire”], Bolaño creates a poem that is driven by a narrative backbone, the lyric “I” imagining different women moving through different stages of their lives who could have been great poets. However, that narrative is displayed in a lyrical flow that lacks capitalisation, punctuation, and, at times, clear causal links between verses: that 30-year-old woman will never have a child, that 35-year-old woman will go to the supermarket with a blue-flower-print dress —but, will my poems sell in the books section and my dismembered flesh in canned goods, in the vegetables, in winterclothing that 40-year-old woman blaspheming and laughing incredulous look, menstruation is over, it’s over oh multitudes of grand funerals, children of the grand sporting events children of the future concentrations in the camps of rock a red woman fragments herself for you. (140–2)10

The poem describes fragmented identities (“una mujer roja se fragmenta”) and enacts that fragmentation with verses that blur their own narrative. The seemingly unrelated jumping between different women and instances in their biographies is brought to coherence by the loose relationship between those instances: in some measure or another, they all relate to the domestic sphere, such as not having children, visiting the supermarket, and ceasing to menstruate. Additionally, they are punctuated at regular fiveyear junctures (at 30, 35, and 40 years of age). The repetition of the sentence that she could have been a great poet throughout the text (“pudo haber sido una gran poeta”) implies that the circumstances of these women have made that reality impossible. Again, the relationship between the literary and material, lived experience, so central to Bolaño’s own manifesto “Déjenlo todo nuevamente,” such as when he writes “nuestra estética [es] la Vida” [“our aesthetic [is] Life”] (384), is brought to the fore in this poem. Ramón Méndez, the above-mentioned Corso to Bolaño’s Ginsberg, writes more in the declarative Beat vein, but also blurs that apparent declarative nature by including verses written in Nahuatl, thus making present the indigenous realities of Mexico that are typically absent in mainstream literature. In “I KUIK OME KUETZPALLI (Fragmentos del Canto


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de Dos Lagartijas)” [“Fragments of a Song of Two Lizards”], a poem about the indigenous past and origins of Mexico City, Méndez writes thirteen verses in Nahuatl with no translation or footnotes before shifting to Spanish: Along this path I go lost, along this silence, over the course of tied tongue, of tied hands, of powerless arms. (Medina 2014, 195)11

The shift to Spanish begins with the lyric “I” being lost and tied up, much the way the indigenous subjectivities, lacking official cultural recognition, have been marginalised and ignored. As Guillermo Bonfil Batalla writes, indigenous subjectivities in Mexico have been converted into the terrain of debates on the goals of the state, relegating them to the status of an obstacle to modernity: the nature of colonial domination over the original peoples was confused little by little with a cultural problem whose solution must be sought, as a consequence, in the proposal of acculturation (“education,” “training,” “change”) that implies the illegitimacy of the Indian and his character as living fossil. (1979, 99)12

The juxtaposition of the Spanish and Nahuatl languages and the mention of powerlessness create an intersubjective, bilingual political text that, for all its declarative nature, ventures further into experimental textual territory than most Beat writing. Mario Santiago’s frenetic scribbling translated into a feverish style of writing that not only imitated the fragmented thought process of the poet, but also imitated the boundless rhythms of Mexico City itself (among many other cities walked through for hours at a time). Mario Santiago’s attempts at certain kinds of boundlessness (both referential and tonal) display a playful and intense dialog with the history of ideas. His poems are palimpsests that show layers of physical and mental motion against a backdrop of references to philosophy, history, and literature. For example, the poem “Everything with love/ against lover nothing” [“Todo con el amor/ contra el amor nada”] (Papasquiaro 2012, n. p.) clearly references Fidel Castro’s famous words in his 1961 speech “Palabras a los intelectuales” [“Words to Intellectuals”], in which the Cuban leader said, “With the Revolution, everything, against the revolution, nothing” [“con la revolución, todo, contra la revolución nada”]. The poem begins with the affirmation of the title, “Todo con el amor/ contra el amor nada,” and then plunges the reader into a forward-marching whirlwind of ambiguities and refer-

From Manifesto to Manifestation


ences. “[Q]ué risa” [“How funny”] he writes after this broad opening statement, cuing the reader in immediately to the fact that sweeping narratives are not to be taken seriously in this poem. The first stanza concludes with the image of a faith (“la fe”) painting a walker with a squab’s wings: “pintándole alas de pichón a su andadera.” The poem shares characteristics of being written by a poete maudit, showing the margins of Mexico City with an “alambre de cerca de jardín” [“wire of a yard fence”], a “densa retumbante garrapata” [“dense booming tick”], the page itself sinking into its own membranes: “esta página se hunde en sus membranas.” Instead of spleen, there is the liver: “Better not put a date/ to the verses of this liver” [“A los versos de este hígado/ mejor no ponerles fecha”]. Like Bolaño measuring women’s lives in increments of five years in the poem referenced above, here Mario Santiago measures the orchestrated chaos of the poem in traffic lights. The lyric “I” asks himself what he did “two traffic lights ago” [“hace dos semáforos”], and connects the advancing of the poem to his peripatetic advancing through the city: “if this page moves forward/ do I move forward?” [“si esta página avanza/ ¿avanzo yo?”]. The distance between page, poem, poet, and lived/read experience collapses in this text. In fact, his work in general is of such a literary and philosophical density that, while sharing some of the references to the dangers of modernity that the Beats were fond of making (Ginsberg’s best minds of his generation “starving, hysterical, naked” comes to mind), its clashing juxtaposed images and continuous flirtation with the irrational are clearly the heir of many of other twentieth-century poetic traditions, such as surrealism, Dadaism, and estridentismo. With their multiple borrowings and dialogues with myriad traditions, his poems follow the notion that Charles Olson put forth in “These Days”: “Whatever you have to say/ leave the roots on,/ let them dangle” (1997, 106). If the greatest similarities between the Beats and infras are not strictly literary but rather attitudinal, the historical pressures that facilitated their rebellious attitude, while in some ways similar, were also markedly different. Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs emerged in the post-war US context of McCarthyism and a booming economy. The violence of the US state at the time was overt, in the form of foreign wars and racial policies that directly oppressed people of colour. Violence was also at times more of a hushed matter, happening in mental institutions that Ginsberg or Ken Kesey documented in “Howl” and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, respectively. In a word, conformity in the context of prosperity was the rule of the day. Ginsberg himself was put on trial for lack of societal conformity on charges of obscenity, and he and the entire Beat Generation came out the more famous for it. In fact, the Beats’ persecution paradoxically may


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have turned into a means of economic survival. As one of Ginsberg’s early biographers Barry Miles notes: Back in the States, Life magazine ran a big article on Howl and the trial. Soon the book was a best-seller. The subsequent publication of On the Road led to enormous interest in the “Beats,” and Allen began to consider that he might actually be able to live off his literary activities. Royalty checks were arriving with regularity. Howl was in its fourth printing and showed no signs of abating. (1989, 234)

Other than the posthumous international publishing phenomenon that Bolaño became after his death in 2003, the infras have not achieved mainstream publishing transcendence. Unlike the Beats, the infras emerged in the 1970s in a period when the state directly and repeatedly assaulted its citizens in broad daylight. Their suffering at the hands of the state did not bring about fame or notoriety because, unlike the Beats, they were not specific scapegoats but rather formed another anonymous fragment of the nation that felt the ill effects of the state’s policies. The murder of hundreds of students on October 2, 1968 was a spectacular instance of the historical oppressive tendencies of the state that can be traced from the colonial period onward. As Carlos Monsiváis writes in Parte de Guerra: Tlatelolco 1968: Tlatelolco is not an isolated event, the day in which barbarity, without warning, affronted the students and their voluntary or circumstantial allies; Tlatelolco is, on the contrary, the logical response of a political apparatus grown and formed in impunity, which sees nothing wrong with its pedagogy: “Obedience is learned through blood.” (1999, 237–8)”13

Beats and infras were marginal groups, but their marginalities were different, as were, logically, their literary responses to their social, cultural, and economic contexts. In short, the infra marginality, with the exception of Bolaño’s later fame long after separating from the group, was more marked and intentional than that of the Beats. I suggest that this is in some measure because the establishment that the infras saw themselves as an alternative to was directly associated with the Mexican state, and part of the urgency they felt at keeping the state at a considerable distance had to do with the fact that it was openly violent and repressive. Perhaps one way to consider this urgency is to turn now to the Peruvian neo-avant-garde group, Hora Zero. They likewise had a problematic relationship with officialist culture in Peru, and, like the infras, were a group of loosely related writers—among them Jorge Pimentel, Juan Ramírez Ruiz, and Enrique Verástegui—that also found inspiration in the Beats.

From Manifesto to Manifestation


Hora Zero came together, in similar fashion to the infras, to establish a voice that bore witness to the underside of Peruvian reality and its literary world that was not elitist but rather aimed for inclusivity. In his manifesto, Bolaño records the esteem in which the infras held their older literary “brothers” by writing, simply: “HORA ZERO comes before us” [“Nos antecede HORA ZERO”] (2014, 383). In fact, there are a number of instances of cross-pollination between the two groups, with figures like horazerianos José Rosas Riberyro and Tulio Mora staying in Mexico and interacting with infras for years at a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While there is much in common between the two groups, their attitudes toward publishing and the forms of authority they rebelled against were different to some degree, particularly in the 1970s. In his extensively researched anthology Los broches mayores del sonido, Mora characterises the struggle for visibility of the poets of Hora Zero in terms of producing poetic language that does justice to the variety of linguistic expression in Peru, as well as in terms of casting off colonial traditions of poetic language and incorporating a variety of forms of popular speech, particularly that of immigrants from the provinces to Lima, that other forms of conversational poetry, such as that of Antonio Cisneros, did not incorporate. Mora writes: Urban transformation is consolidated in those years with the appearance of Morales … And with the local interests that begin to take on a national form, a common language can begin to be seen: paradigmatic slang (and modes) of criollos, tools which allow the migrant, if not to hide his most evident border markings, then to at least attenuate them.” (2009, 18)14

The language of the criollo enters urban modernity as the migration to the city grows. Likewise, the horazerianos engage in the freeing up of poetic norms that Mora traces back to colonial origins when he asks, “And how to describe 500 years of colonial normativity if not as ‘archaic’?” [¿Y cómo calificar los 500 años de normativa colonial si no de ‘arcaica’?”] (Ibid., 20–21). Later in the introduction to his anthology, Mora situates the Hora Zero movement in terms of the vision that Mariátegui put forth as he imagines the literary future of his nation: Towards the end of the twenties of last century, in “Seven essays on the interpretation of Peruvian reality,” Mariátegui maintained that our literature can be explained by the aesthetic monopoly of the colony, which had to forcibly fall with the contributions of cosmopolitanism in order for a robust national literature to bear fruit … In any case, the prophesy of Mariátegui, who has Vallejo as his great and until now unsurpassable forerunner, is ful-


Chapter Sixteen filled with HZ because this movement expresses poetically the long process of social, ethnic and cultural democratisation (but still not political and economic), which at this stage is showing signs of an irreversible concretion.” (51)15

In broad strokes, the Peruvian state sponsorship of cultural production is less systematic than in the case of Mexico. As José Joaquín Blanco once wrote, “it is difficult to conceive of Mexican literature without the Mexican state” [“difícilmente se puede pensar en literatura mexicana sin Estado mexicano”] (1983, 94). The Mexican state sponsorship of publications, awards, and writer employment is notably stronger for having benefited from stable state support for most of the twentieth century following the Mexican Revolution. This was not as much the case in Peru, which for the better part of the twentieth century suffered through “chronic political instability” (Solimano 2006, 74). Additionally, there was no popular revolution in Peru that would bring about state-sponsored publishing initiatives that could give rise to the figure of the state-associated intellectual to the degree that it did in Mexico. While Mora situates Hora Zero in the literary future imagined by Mariátegui that never came to fruition, the infrarrealistas situate themselves rebelling against the literary future imagined by state-sponsored intellectuals such as José Vasconcelos or Alfonso Reyes that, to some degree, did. The horazerianos were willing to publish more systematically because their antagonism was to a greater degree with the forces of aesthetic exclusion (poetic registers, colonial traditions) than identifiable state apparatuses, as would be the case for the infrarrealistas. The infras were, by and large, more certain that a dearth of publications held greater dignity and ethical commitment than engaging directly with the state through publications. If the members of Hora Zero imagined the nation through the historical lens of Mariátegui’s essays, as Mora suggests, for the infras it was more difficult to imagine their place in the nation. Perhaps for that reason so many of the infras who lived in Mexico City in the 1970s would live the better part of their lives elsewhere, in other parts of Latin America, in the US and Europe, making the historicising of the group difficult and contentious due to its lacking a single shared geography. Their community was, as Medina repeatedly points out in the introduction to Perros habitados por las voces del desierto, nomadic: The diaspora offers other spaces of action and survival. Less authoritarianism, less cultural centralism, less autocratic government and parasitism, albeit with the same amount of indifference, marginalization, violence, racism and condition of schizophrenia. (2014, 41)16

From Manifesto to Manifestation


Several members of their far-flung community, such as Mexican Rubén Medina, living in the US since the late 1970s and publishing in Spanglish, or Chilean Bruno Montané who established the small press Ediciones Sin Fin in Spain, are hard to isolate in one national tradition, much as Bolaño’s later prose is hard to situate in the confines of one nation, peppered as it is with phrases from Chile, Spain, and Mexico. While the group was functioning in the shared geography of Mexico City, the infrarrealistas saw the officialist literary institutions as constituting a mafia, and the don of the poet wing of that mafia was, undoubtedly, Octavio Paz for most of the twentieth century. In his prose, Paz dictated the characteristics of Mexican-ness both for domestic and international audiences with his hugely famous work El laberinto de la soledad. He also defined the qualities of poetry in the opening sentence of his classic book El arco y la lira: “Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment” [“La poesía es conocimiento, salvación, poder, abandono”] (2006, 1). In general terms, the figure of Octavio Paz can be traced in the genealogy of the intellectual born of the modernising efforts of the Mexican state since the Mexican Revolution. The Revolution that triumphed sought to create, in the words of Aureliano Ortega Esquivel: political institutions capable of steering the country through the profound changes that were required in every aspect of its makeup, especially those of such fundamental importance as the need for social justice, economic equality and educational and cultural development for the majority, all demands that only a few short years before had been thrown together in the armed struggle of peasants, industrial workers, university-educated professionals and the urban middle classes. (2010, 247–8)

Much in the same way that the institutional Revolution of Franciso I. Madero or Venustiano Carranza left the Revolution of Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa in the shadows, with their hopes for land reform and a return to traditional pre-porfiriato farming policies, the institutional public intellectual also left other forms of intellectual discourse by the wayside. As infrarrealista Rubén Medina contends, Octavio Paz became a force for legitimation of modes of writing and, by extension, a force of delegitimation: Given that Paz represents a figure of power and authority in the field of literature (owing to the seduction of his rhetoric and his power to convince, his privilege in naming and classifying, as well as “authorising” or legitimating publications, interpretations and works by other authors), I explain this figure of the writer in the sign chain of author, authority and authorisation. (1999, 18)17


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In short, infrarrealista reluctance to engage the Mexican state publishing apparatuses is not just a matter of negotiating literary styles. For them, it is also a matter of resisting the oppressive hand of the Mexican state that has historically been inseparable from the publishing world. The resurgence of the awareness of the infras, while undoubtedly owing to the popularity of Los detectives salvajes in which they were portrayed, is also a function of online media and independent publishing initiatives that did not exist at the time the group was originally founded. The attempted subversion of “la realidad cotidiana de la poesía actual” is evidenced by the ways in which the group’s work has historically circulated (or, better put, not circulated). To some extent, it is also evidenced by the way it currently circulates both in standard print and in virtual and nonstandard print formats. Through the 1970s, 1980s, and most of the 1990s, their publications are, at best, sporadic. As Medina notes in the introduction to his anthology Perros habitados por las voces del desierto: The assault on the little heaven of literary magazines of Mexico City (Plural, second run), according to the phrase of little old Marx, that two infrarrealismo members took on in 1976, was sporadic and strategic, like that of the Zapatista guerrillas, hit and run. (1999, 19)18

Current publishing efforts, both print and virtual, are decentralised and maintain an ethics of marginality that is largely in keeping with the spirit of the infrarrealista movement. Some infra work has circulated via cartonera publishing, which is a phenomenon that began in Argentina in 2003 during a deep economic crisis. The founders of the first editorial cartonera, Eloísa Cartonera, would purchase cardboard from cardboard collectors— cartoneros—in order to make covers for books. As Paloma Celis-Carbajal writes in Akademia cartonera: A Primer of Latin American Cartonera Publishers: In the case of cartonera publishers, not only does language help them to shape the complexity of contemporary Latin American culture, society and literature, but it is also literally through paper and cardboard that they accomplish this. By means of the use they make of these materials they are making global ideas concrete, such as recycling, at the same time as they encourage reading and love of literature, freedom of expression and the simple pleasure of being without following any established pattern. (2009, 12)19

As the movement spread throughout Latin America, more and more wellknown Spanish- and Portuguese-language authors permitted their works to be published in the cartonera format. The cartonera phenomenon in some

From Manifesto to Manifestation


ways parallels the countercultural stance of the infras: they began squarely on the outside of standard literary culture in an attempt to democratise and demystify literature. Maintaining their ethical commitment to their publishing endeavour, they have also made some inroads from the periphery into the centre. For example, cartonera publishers were given a panel at the 2012 Feria Internacional del Libro in Guadalajara, Mexico, a normativising cultural institution par excellence, and the panel was covered in a piece for titled “Cartoneras, from Trash to the Production of Books” [“Las editoriales cartoneras, de la basura a la fabricación de libros”] (Zapata 2012). In 2008 cartonera publishers, who worked entirely independently, despite often having a mutual awareness of one another, coordinated an effort to publish a volume of Mario Santiago’s work titled Respiración del laberinto [“Breathing of the Labyrinth”].20 The initiative was spearheaded by Raúl Silva, the principal editor of the La Ratona Cartonera in Cuernavaca. The introductions were written by different authors for each cartonera:

 the Chilean poet Bruno Montané (Animita Cartonera, from Chile), Diana Bellessi (Eloísa Cartonera, from Argentina), Mexican novelist Juan Villoro (Yiyi Jambo, from Paraguay), Peruvian poet Tulio Mora (Sarita Cartonera, from Perú), Bolivian writer Erika Bruzonic (Yerba Mala Cartonera, from Bolivia), Bolivian writer Horacio Carvhalo (Mandrágora Cartonera, from Bolivia), Brazilian poet Camila do Valle (Dulcinéia Catadora, from Brasil), and Mexican poets Joseantonio Suárez and Pedro Damián (La Cartonera, from México). (Friera 2008)21

This initiative added to the slow-but-steady cultural legitimation of Mario Santiago by means of a collaborative network of publishers and writers working squarely outside the realm of state sponsorship. Perhaps the only form of publication that could come nearly as close to being a perfect metaphor for the infrarrealista movement would be online publishing, being accessible from multiple points, malleable by many, and a network with no fixed centre. It is fitting that one of the most notable sources of information on the infras in recent years is the audiovisual blog “Nomedites,” run by the same Raúl Silva of La Ratona Cartonera. Yépez undoubtedly refers to Silva’s exceptional blog when he writes that, “stemming from the literary success of Bolaño another Infrarealism emerged. We might call it retro Infrarealism or neo-Infra with its headquarters on the Internet” (2009, 511).22 On Silva’s blog one can find an impressive repository of documents, including rare interviews and videos of readings by infrarrealista poets. One can also find a description of the


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absence of the infras in Mexican literary history: “For Mexican literary history, Infrarealism does not exist” [“Para la historia de la literatura mexicana, el Infrarrealismo no existe”] (Silva 2007). Curiously, the statement that they are not a part of history, which certainly rang true when it was written in 2007, is no longer nearly as tenable an argument less than a decade later. The increased visibility of the infras in recent years is in part due to the growth of relatively decentralised online spaces for the infrarrealistas’ work to circulate. Large historical repositories of Mexican poetry have grown online, in part because traditional mediators of cultural capital, such as the magazines Letras Libres or Proceso, have created their online platforms that essentially reproduce their print presence as legitimisers of culture in cyberspace. Alongside these longstanding legitimisers of culture, new and relatively marginal online presences such as “Nomedites” or the Beat-centric and infra-friendly blog “Barbas poéticas,” with its thousands of followers on Facebook, have sprung up alongside their more traditional predecessors. What these traditional and marginal platforms have in common is not their scale but their interactivity. Like Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads, readers can form a community by responding to posts, easily and instantly sharing links and asynchronously communicating across thousands of miles. Researchers of virtual communities, particularly those of an overt commercial nature, refer to “participation costs” with regard to how well a platform fosters community coherence and participation (Butler et al. 2014, 716–17). Without entering into the particularities of participation in the blogs and Facebook pages where infras and infra followers can interact, the “participation costs” are infinitely lower than they were for the marginal, rebellious poets and their handful of readers in the 1970s who had essentially two options: embrace the state, or embrace anonymity. Virtual community-affinities can exist without excessive centralisation or hierarchies, all the while blurring the distance between artist and spectator (several infras themselves maintain Facebook pages in which they post photos of their readings and links to their own work). Social media, for all the contentions that it isolates individuals in front of computer screens, holds at least some promise of making possible the avant-garde utopia of integrating life and praxis, as well as reader and poet. As Lintz points out, referring to Tzara’s instructions for making a Dadaist poem, “the avantgarde poem works to eliminate the gap between active producer and passive recipient by giving the recipient access to their own mode of production” (2000, 199–200). The same could be said of the potential of social media in this context.

From Manifesto to Manifestation


In 2014, the print text that has given the most visibility to the infrarrealista movement was Perros habitados por las voces del desierto, edited by Rubén Medina. The anthology includes work by founding members of the group as well by figures who became involved in later years, and includes poems from the 1970s to the current decade. In other words, the anthology opens the movement up from its historical anchoring in the 1970s and includes ample evidence of its continuation. Yépez writes in the pages of Laberinto, by way of Medina’s introduction to the volume, “This text is one of the most complete essays that a Mexican poet has written in the last forty years; its combination of urban and theoretical language, testimonial and literary criticism sets it apart” (2014).23 Shortly thereafter, a critic wrote for the pages of Letras libres that, “The project of an active Infrarealism is a tempting possibility. Nevertheless, it barely withstands the test of minimum common sense” (Medina Portillo 2014).24 Not only do critics in some of the most culturally normativising periodicals in the country engage in superlative reactions to the text, negative and positive, surviving members of the group do so as well, for example in the pages of Proceso. Although the anthology acknowledges that the limits of the group are in constant dispute (as is the case with virtually any literary movement), José Vicente Anaya would call it “exclusive and censoring” [“excluyente y censora”], although many other members of the group find Medina’s criteria perfectly acceptable (Ponce 2014). I mention the debates and controversies that the anthology has stirred up not for their own sake, but to draw attention to the anxieties that seem to bubble up as the infrarrealistas (re)gain a certain amount of visibility. These debates are not only about the limits of inclusion and exclusion from the group, which are certainly not free of simple personal enmities, but also about the notion of literature itself, particularly the limits of literature that employs a countercultural stance. As José Luis Herrera Zavaleta writes, “Counterculture does not seek a new system, it is just lucidity in the face of dominant systems throughout history. That is why it will always be alternative and, if you will, submerged” (2009, 79).25 The infras have indeed maintained a strong measure of lucidity before dominant systems, almost always remaining on the margins of state sponsorship, and to this day that stance can elicit critical dismissals or admiration with little middle ground between. Furthermore, for that lucidity to cohere and become articulate it must be at least loosely organised, but even those forms of organisation tend to de-emphasise their hierarchies: the very material form of their expression is unsettling for those entrenched in the literary hierarchies most of the group have attempted to avoid. The network of cartonera publishers managed to produce eight distinct editions of Mario


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Santiago’s work in a concerted effort. The blog “Nomedites” offers a hypertextual account of the infras, in which the reader constructs a unique path toward the information on the group by following links. Even Perros habitados por las voces del desierto, it is worth remembering, was published by Aldus, a respected but small independent publisher in Mexico City whose books are not frequently mentioned in the pages of normativising publications like Letras Libres or Proceso, with no help from institutional funding. The early dearth of publications of the infrarrealistas was, in a seemingly paradoxical fashion, a way of forming a community around the resistance to the state and its control of publishing options, a way of staying on the periphery by choice. The recent publications of the infrarrealistas turn that absence into a presence by means that were, by and large, not available to them in the mid-1970s. Working through decentralised publishing modes, their past and their present are able to provoke, question, and perplex the literary establishment of Mexico, to subvert, as Bolaño would have it, the daily realities of current poetry.



Other manifestos were written by Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, titled “Manifiesto Infrarrealista” and by José Vicente Anaya, titled “For an Art of Vitality without Limits” [“Por un arte de vitalidad sin límites”]. Tonally, they were relatively similar, reminding readers of the limitations of contemporary Mexican cultural institutions. 2 Antes de concluir la presentación, Anaya hizo notar que en realidad son muy pocos los poetas beat que se conocen en México, unos cuantos (tres o cuatro), cuando él ha llegado a contabilizar más de 60; la mitad, mujeres (Hernández 2006). 3 While many women writers, such as Diane DiPrima or Joanne Kyger, could be associated with the Beats, the core of the Beat Generation was men who often expressed misogynist attitudes. As Ann Charters writes, “The Beat Generation did less well for its women. Reflecting the sexism of the times, the women mostly stayed on the sidelines as girlfriends and wives, like the novelist Joyce Johnson in her memoir Minor Characters” (1992, xxxiii). 4 The original text states, “encuentra a un gran conocoder de la poesía Beat a la vez que a un traductor bastante creativo” (19). 5 The original text states, “Los beats, en realidad, no se distinguen por una relectura sistemática de las vanguardias; en cambio, los infras fueron relectores no sólo de los surrealistas sino de estridentistas y Contemporáneos.” 6 “¡Tú eres Ginsberg, el Ginsberg de México, y este [Ramón Méndez], este es Corso!” (Madariaga Caro 2010, 36). In the interview included in Bolaño Infra, Ramón Méndez points out that the comparison to Corso stems from their common experience of falling afoul of the law: “He gave me the role of Corso

From Manifesto to Manifestation


because I had been to jail” [“A mí me dio el papel de Corso porque estuve en la cárcel”] (36). 7 The original text states, “Ulises Lima, protagonista absoluto del relato, es el poeta Mario Santiago. Los visceral realistas representan a los infrarrealistas, el grupo que alborotó nuestra república de las letras en los setentas” (Villoro 1999). 8 The original text states, “La poesía de Mario Santiago no es sólo poemas, o, mejor dicho, los poemas de Mario Santiago no son sólo textos: son acciones, gestos, intervenciones. Pero también son textos, pero también son poemas que Mario Santiago escribió sin cesar en servilletas, portavasos, facturas, y sobre todo, libros, en los márgenes de libros ajenos” (2012, n. p.). 9 The original text states, “Escribía a todas horas y en todo lugar. Se ha vuelto legendaria su manía de escribir en los márgenes de los libros propios y ajenos. Quién sabe qué cantidad de libros, dizque míos, pasó a macular cons sus versos” (2008, 12). 10 The original text states, esa mujer de 30 años nunca tendrá un hijo, esa mujer de 35 años irá al supermercado con un vestido de flores azules --¿pero venderán mis poemas en la sección libros y mi carne destazada en conservas, en verduras, en ropas-para-el-invierno? esa mujer de 40 años blasfemando y riendo incrédula mira, se acabó la menstruación, se acabó oh multitudes de los grandes funerales niños de los grandes acontecimientos deportivos muchachos de las futuras concentraciones en campos de rock una mujer roja se fragmenta por ustedes (140–2). 11 Nehuatl nonawal nik notza azteka tlahtokopa: nik ilwi ma walaz. Nehual tonawal aztekah nik notza Ma tech palewiz yowaltzinko. … Por este camino voy perdido, por este silencio, transcurso de lengua atada, de manos atadas, de brazos impotentes (Medina 2014, 195). 12 The original text states, “la naturaleza de la dominación colonial sobre los pueblos originales se confundió poco a poco con un problema cultural cuya solución debía buscarse, en consecuencia, en los postulados de la aculturación (“educación,” “capacitación,” “cambio”) que implican la ilegitimidad del indio y su carácter de fósil sobreviviente (1979, 99). 13 The original text states, “Tlatelolco no es un acontecimiento aislado, el día en que la barbarie, de improviso, afrentó a los estudiantes y sus aliados voluntarios o circunstanciales; Tlatelolco es, por el contrario, la respuesta lógica de un aparato politico crecido y formado en la impunidad, que no ve nada de malo en su pedagogía: “La obediencia con sangre entra” (1999, 237–8). 14 The original text states, “La tranformación urbana se consolida en aquellos años de la aparición de Morales … Y con los intereses locales que empiezan a adquirir forma nacional ya se atisba un idioma común: la jerga pardígmatica (y los modos)


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del criollo, instrumental que permite al migrante si no esconder sus huellas fronterizas más evidentes, por lo menos atenuarlas” (2009, 18). 15 The original text states, “A fines de los años 20 del siglo pasado, en “Siete ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana,” Mariátegui sostenía que nuestra literatura se explicaba por el monopolio estético de la colonia, que forzosamente debió derribarse con el aporte del cosmopolitanismo para fructificar un arte nacional robusto … En todo caso, el vaticinio de Mariátegui, que tiene a Vallejo como su grande y hasta ahora insuperable adelantado, se cumplió con HZ porque este movimiento expresa poéticamente el largo proceso de democratización social, étnica, cultural (pero aún no política y económica), que a estas alturas ya muestra signos de una concreción irreversible” (51). 16 The original text states, “La diáspora ofrece otros espacios de acción y supervivencia. Menos autoritarismo, menos centralismo cultural, menos caudallismo y parasitismo, aunque igual monto de indiferencia, marginación, violencia, racismo, y condición de esquizofrenia” (2014, 41). 17 The original text states, “Visto que Paz representa una figura de poder y autoridad en el campo de la literatura (por la seducción de su retórica y su poder de convencimiento, su privilegio de nombrar y clasificar, así como de “autorizar” o legitimar publicaciones, interpretaciones y obras de otros autores), explico esta figura del escritor en la cadena sígnica de autor, autoridad y autorización” (1999, 18) 18 The original text states, “El asalto al cielito de las revistas literarias de México DF (Plural, 2da época) según la frase del viejito Marx, que emprendieron dos miembros del infrarrealismo en 1976 fue esporádico y estratégico, como el de los guerrilleros zapatistas, de hit and run (1999, 19). 19 The original text states, “En el caso de las editoriales cartoneras, no sólo el lenguaje les ayuda a plasmar la complejidad de la cultura, la sociedad y la literatura latinoamericana contemporáneas, sino que es también, literalmente a través del papel y del cartón que lo están logrando. Por medio del uso que están dando a estos materiales están concretizando ideas globales, como el reciclaje, al mismo tiempo que fomentan la lectura y el amor por la literatura, la libertad de expresión y el simple goce de ser sin seguir ningún patrón establecido” (2009, 12). 20 This was done to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Mario Santiago’s death. That same year, an anthology of his work, Jeta de santo, was also published by the Fondo Cultura Económica, edited by his widow Rebeca López and Mario Raúl Guzmán. 21 The original text states, “el poeta chileno Bruno Montané (Animita Cartonera, de Chile), Diana Bellessi (Eloísa Cartonera, de Argentina), el narrador mexicano Juan Villoro (Yiyi Jambo, de Paraguay), el poeta peruano Tulio Mora (Sarita Cartonera, de Perú), la escritora boliviana Erika Bruzonic (Yerba Mala Cartonera, de Bolivia), el escritor boliviano Horacio Carvhalo (Mandrágora Cartonera, de Bolivia), la poeta brasileña Camila do Valle (Dulcinéia Catadora, de Brasil), y los poetas mexicanos Joseantonio Suárez y Pedro Damián (La Cartonera, de México)” (Friera 2008). 22 The original text states, “a partir del éxito literario de Bolaño surgió otro infrarrealismo más. Le podríamos llamar infrarrealismo retro o neo-infra con sede en Internet)” (2009, 511).

From Manifesto to Manifestation



The original text states, “Ese texto es uno de los ensayos más completos que haya escrito un poeta mexicano en los últimos cuarenta años; su combinación de lenguaje urbano y teórico, testimonio y crítica literaria lo pone aparte” (2014). 24 The original text states, “El proyecto de un infrarrealismo activo es una posibilidad tentadora. Sin embargo, apenas resiste la prueba de un sentido común mínimo” (2014). 25 The original text states, “La contracultura no busca un nuevo sistema, es sólo la lucidez frente a los sistemas dominantes a través de la historia. Por eso será siempre alternativo y si se quiere, también a veces sumergido” (2009, 79).

References Books Bolaño, Roberto. 1979. Muchachos desnudos bajo el arcoiris de fuego. Mexico City: Extemporáneos. Celis-Carbajal, Paloma. 2009. Akademia cartonera: A Primer of Latin American Cartonera Publishers. Madison: Parallel Press. Charters, Ann. 1992. Portable Beat Reader. New York: Viking Press. Ginsberg, Allen. 1988. Collected Poems 1947–1980. New York: Harper Collins. Madriarga Caro, Montserrat. 2010. Bolaño Infra 1975–1977: los años que inspriraron Los dectectives salvajes. Santiago, Chile: RIL editores. Medina, Rubén. 1999. Autor, autoridad, autorización. Mexico City: Colegio de México. —. 2014. Perros habitados por las voces del desierto. Mexico City: Aldus. Medina, Rubén and John Burns (eds.). 2012. Una tribu de salvajes improvisando a las puertas del infierno: antología beat. Mexico City: Aldus. Miles, Barry. 1989. Ginsberg: A Biography. New York: Harper Perennial. Monsiváis, Carlos and Julio García Scherer (eds.). 1999. Parte de guerra: Tlatelolco 1968. Mexico City: Nuevo Siglo Aguilar. Mora, Tulio (ed.). 2009. Los broches mayores del sonido. Lima: Fondo Cultural Editorial Peruana. Olson, Charles. 1997. The Collected Poems of Charles Olson: Excluding the Maximus Poems. Berkeley: University of California Press. Papasquiaro, Mario Santiago. 2012. Arte & Basura: una antología poética de Mario Santiago. Oaxaca: Almadía. Paz, Octavio. 2006. El arco y la lira. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica.


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Solimano, Andrés. 2006. Vanishing Growth in Latin America: The Late Twentieth Century Experience. Northampton, Massachussetts: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2006.

Chapters from edited collections Blanco, José Joaquín. 1983. “Medio siglo de literatura en México.” In Política cultural del Estado mexicano, edited b