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Masquerade and Social Justice in Contemporary Latin American Fiction
 0826358152, 9780826358158

Table of contents :
Front Cover
Title Page
Introduction: Masquerade and Literature
1. Disguise and Distributive Justice: "La comparsa" by Sergio Galindo and "El paraíso en la otra esquina" and "Travesuras de la niña mala" by Mario Vargas Llosa
2. Postmodern Justice: Ethical Feminism in Isabel Allende’s "Hija de la fortuna," Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s "Mujer en traje de batalla," Marcela Serrano’s "Nuestra señora de la soledad," and Sara Sefchovich’s "La señora de los sueños"
3. Postcolonial Structural Justice: Isabel Allende’s "Zorro" and Carmen Boullosa’s "Duerme"
4. Allegories of Transitional Justice: Masquerade in "Novela negra con argentinos" by Luisa Valenzuela and "Máscara" by Ariel Dorfman
5. Historical Justice: Masquerade and Trauma in Augusto Roa Bastos’s "El fiscal," Mayra Santos-Febres’s "Fe en disfraz," and Fernando del Paso’s "Noticias del imperio"
Conclusion: Why Study Masquerade?
Works Cited
Back Cover

Citation preview


Literary Criticism  •  Latin America

—Víctor Figueroa, author of Prophetic Visions of the Past: Pan-Caribbean Representations of the Haitian Revolution

“In discussing the dialectics between disguise and social justice in fourteen novels by writers from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, and Peru, Weldt-Basson has succeeded in deepening the cultural, historical, and literary understanding of Latin America. Her insights transcend a particular field of study by expanding the notion of historicity into a more inclusive one, whose polyphonic and creative ambience embraces a vast array of genres, narratives, and discourses.” —Fernando Burgos, editor of Antología del cuento hispanoamericano Helene Carol Weldt-Basson is a professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of Subversive Silences: Nonverbal Expression and Implicit Narrative Strategies in the Works of Latin American Women Writers and Augusto Roa Bastos’s I The Supreme: A Dialogic Perspective. She received an honorary doctorate for her work on Paraguay from the Universidad del Norte in 2012.

ISBN 978-0-8263-5815-8 90000


9 780826 358158


Masquerade and Social Justice in Contemporary Latin American Fiction

“Helene Weldt-Basson’s work offers valuable insights on some of the most significant works of contemporary Latin American fiction. The book masterfully traces the importance of masquerade and disguise as important tools in the literary exploration of questions about social justice in Latin America, and it lucidly examines the many dimensions and forms that the search for social justice can take.”

Helene Carol Weldt-Basson

Masquerade and

Social Justice in

Contemporary Latin American Fiction


ontemporary Latin American fiction establishes a unique connection between masquerade, fre­ quently motivated by stigma or trauma, and social justice. Using an interdisciplinary approach that combines philosophy, history, psychology, literature, and social justice theory, this study delineates the synergistic connection between these two themes. The author examines how masquerade and disguise aid in articulating the theme of social justice, why this is important, and how it relates to Latin American history and the historical novel. She further considers whether this literary motif inspires readers to social action. The author examines fourteen novels by twelve different Latin American authors: Mario Vargas Llosa, Sergio Galindo, Augusto Roa Bastos, Fernando del Paso, Mayra Santos-Febres, Isabel Allende, Carmen Boullosa, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Marcela Serrano, Sara Sefchovich, Luisa Valenzuela, and Ariel Dorfman. She elucidates the varieties of social justice operative in the plots of contemporary Latin American novels: distributive, postmodern/ feminist, postcolonial, transitional, and historical. These ­distinctions are not merely descriptive but also help the reader to comprehend how masquerade interfaces with history and social justice in Latin America to the extent that novels of masquerade may also be considered a subcategory of the contemporary Latin American historical novel.

Masquerade and Social Justice in Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Masquerade and

Social Justice in

Contemporary Latin American Fiction Helene Carol Weldt-Basson

University of New Mexico Press  • Albuquerque

© 2017 by the University of New Mexico Press All rights reserved. Published 2017 Printed in the United States of America 22 21 20 19 18 17    1 2 3 4 5 6 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Weldt-Basson, Helene Carol, 1958– author. Title: Masquerade and social justice in contemporary Latin American fiction / Helene Carol Weldt-Basson. Description: First edition. | Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016031607 (print) | LCCN 2016049216 (ebook) | ISBN 9780826358158 (hardback) | ISBN 9780826358165 (electronic) Subjects: LCSH: Latin American fiction—21st century—History and criticism. | Latin American fiction—20th century—History and criticism. | Masquerades in literature. | Disguise in literature. | Social justice in literature. | BISAC: LITERARY CRITICISM / Caribbean & Latin American. Classification: LCC PQ7082.N7 W43 2017 (print) | LCC PQ7082.N7 (ebook) | DDC 863/.70998—dc23 LC record available at

Cover illustration created by Freepik for Flaticon Designed by Felicia Cedillos Composed in Sabon 10.5/14.5

In loving memory of my mother, Lucille Weldt (1927–2015), whom I miss every day


Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. Masquerade and Literature  1 1. Disguise and Distributive Justice La comparsa by Sergio Galindo and El paraíso en la otra esquina and Travesuras de la niña mala by Mario Vargas Llosa  23 2. Postmodern Justice Ethical Feminism in Isabel Allende’s Hija de la fortuna, Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s Mujer en traje de batalla, Marcela Serrano’s Nuestra señora de la soledad, and Sara Sefchovich’s La señora de los sueños 53 3. Postcolonial Structural Justice Isabel Allende’s Zorro and Carmen Boullosa’s Duerme 87 4. Allegories of Transitional Justice Masquerade in Novela negra con argentinos by Luisa Valenzuela and Máscara by Ariel Dorfman 117



Contents 5. Historical Justice Masquerade and Trauma in Augusto Roa Bastos’s El fiscal, Mayra Santos-Febres’s Fe en disfraz, and Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del imperio 147 Conclusion. Why Study Masquerade?  179

Notes 191

Works Cited  199

Index 211


I would like to thank Dean Debbie Storrs of the University of North Dakota, who arranged a semester of research leave so that I could complete this book. Thanks also go to Dr. Dianna Niebylski, editor of Letras Femeninas, for allowing me to use the material from my article “Zorro by Isabel Allende: Masquerade, Identity, and Postcolonial Justice,” Letras Femeninas 40, no. 2 (Winter 2014): 129–40, which is an earlier version of part of chapter 3 of this book. I would also like to thank the publication team at the University of New Mexico Press for their hard work on this project, especially my editor, Elise McHugh, designer Felicia Cedillos, and copyeditor Norman Ware. Finally, as always, I would like to thank my family and friends for their unfailing support.


Introduction. Masquerade and Literature

Overview of Masquerade in Literary Criticism Masquerade, loosely defined as the wearing of a disguise or the adoption of an identity other than one’s own, is a characteristic motif in Latin American literature that typically serves either to aid in the fight for social justice or to expose the lack of social justice in Latin America. This book examines this important link between masquerade and justice by analyzing five types of social justice: distributive, postmodern, postcolonial, transitional, and historical. Although much has been written about masquerade and disguise in other literatures and cultures, this function related to social justice is chiefly found in Latin American fiction because of the region’s social and historical reality. Latin American history has been characterized by such problems as social stigma suffered by individuals owing to racism or poverty and psychological trauma provoked by torture, disappeared bodies, and other abuses of dictatorship. Since psychological disorders are a chief motivating factor of disguise, the intertwining of masquerade and social justice is something unique that is repeatedly depicted in Latin American literature. In order to appreciate this difference from other regions and contextualize my subsequent discussion, I will briefly review what has previously been written about masquerade and disguise in other literatures. I will then touch upon what has been written about masquerade in Latin American literature largely with regard to male transvestism, which is different from my focus here because those studies center on issues 1


Introduction of gender and sexuality. Finally, I will trace the roots of the connection between masquerade and social justice that I establish here to the practice of Carnival celebrations and the figure of the comic book superhero. The social practices of masquerade and disguise and their corresponding motif in fictional narrative are broad topics that have been studied in varying degrees in different countries with regard to their customs and literary works. Most material on the subject relates to England and Russia, with select texts that examine the topic in Africa, France, and Latin America. Given the impossibility of discussing the topic of masquerade worldwide, below is a brief overview of some of the most important and pertinent books and book collections on the topic. Little has been written about masquerade in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century novel. Most books on masquerade have focused on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with an emphasis on masquerade in theatrical texts and performances. Lloyd Davies, in his book Guise and Disguise: Rhetoric and Characterization in the English Renaissance, published in 1993, examines literary texts from the Renaissance (late fifteenth to early seventeenth century) in England. Davies’s thesis is that during this time period, the motif of masquerade is intertwined with character development, rendering the motif “problematic, since either ‘ethos’ or ‘poiesis’ may determine its meaning” (6). “Ethos” implies that a certain spirit or controlling force is behind the character, while “poiesis” suggests that a character undergoes a process of development and is free to form himself in any direction. Thus, disguise makes character development more ambiguous because it presents “an opposition between essentialist [ethos] and representational [poiesis] notions of selfhood” (6). Davies develops his idea of the link between character and masquerade, indicating that there are three major functions of disguise: (1) disguise “foregrounds the interplay and conflicts between vision and language in the production of self and persona. . . . Disguise depicts a semiotics of characterization” (9); (2) disguise establishes hierarchies between primary, secondary, and other characters and reproduces the dialectic between essentialist and nonessentialist character development; and

Masquerade and Literature

(3) disguise posits character development as a dialogic process between the one who masquerades and other characters and thus represents an ideology of characterization (9). Davies undertakes an analysis of these three functions through an examination of pairs of opposite figures in Renaissance literature: the king versus the courtier, the subject versus the traitor, and man versus woman. According to Davies, these pairings allow literary works to treat political, sexual, and subversive topics (11). Another pioneering book on masquerade is Terry Castle’s Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction (1987). Castle’s history explores numerous aspects of masquerade balls and Carnival, including masquerade as a “kind of collective mediation on self and other, and an exploration of this mysterious dialectic” (4). Moreover, Castle emphasizes how masquerade enacted a “reversal of ordinary sexual, social and metaphysical hierarchies. The cardinal ideological distinctions underlying eighteenth-century cultural life, including fundamental distinctions of sex and class, were breached” (6). Castle stresses that these two aspects of masquerade (the questions of identity and equality) respectively reflect interpretation of the phenomenon on two levels: the psychological (the meaning of masquerade to the individual) and the anthropological (masquerade’s meaning in eighteenth-century culture and society) (72). With regard to the cultural impact of masquerade, Castle indicates that different kinds of costumes disrupted different kinds of traditional dichotomies or social divisions. For example, foreign costume disturbed the distinction between Europe and the Orient and the light versus the dark races. Occupational costumes destroyed the division between masters and servants, and transvestite masquerades overthrew the opposition between masculine and feminine. In other words, “[t]he potent transformations of the masquerade implicitly challenged those hierarchical valuations built into a system of cultural oppositions” (78). After studying masquerade/Carnival’s subversive nature, Castle analyzes the demise of public masquerade in England after the eighteenth century. Citing Mikhail Bakhtin’s link between the “rise of rational epistemologies” during the nineteenth century and the demise



Introduction of Carnival, Castle explains that with the advent of advanced civilization, collective activities such as Carnival were replaced by “games of competitive struggle or chance” that are associated more with the individual than the collectivity (102). In the second half of Masquerade and Civilization, Castle emphasizes the decline of this motif in English literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which is seen as a result of masquerade’s disappearance from the cultural scene. Castle asserts that “[t]he carnivalesque has lost virtually all immediacy and power in twentieth-century life” (105) and signals the difficulty of finding masquerade episodes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature (338). Finally, she indicates that in the twentieth century, the masquerade motif can only be found in minor subgenres such as Harlequin romances and detective novels (341). Castle’s observations have important repercussions for my study of masquerade in Latin American literature. First, her emphasis on the anthropological aspect of masquerade, the element of social equality inherent in Carnival, is an important precursor to the relationship between masquerade and social justice developed in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Latin American fiction. Second, although her insistence on the disappearance of the motif in English literature may well be accurate, we can observe the antithesis in contemporary Latin American literature, where the motifs of masquerade and disguise are pervasive. Castle’s book is not only an important introduction to the concept of the socially subversive quality of masquerade but also a significant counterpoint to the theme in Latin American literature, where the motif is monumentally different in its development from 1 that in other countries. Catherine Craft-Fairchild’s Masquerade and Gender: Disguise and Female Identity in Eighteenth-Century Fictions by Women (1993) takes an opposing stance to Castle’s landmark book. Craft-Fairchild deals only with female masquerade and argues that “masquerade conformed to patriarchal structures” and led to “more sophisticated forms of oppression” (3). She claims that the writers studied in her book (Aphra Behn, Mary Davys, Eliza Haywood, Elizabeth Inchbald, and Frances Burney) “recreate and thereby promote ideologies of

Masquerade and Literature

female subordination within their works” (22). Finally, she argues that these writers both “construct and deconstruct ideologies of female identity” (22). Thus, Craft-Fairchild connects masquerade to both female oppression and identity. Just as masquerade balls were an important cultural activity in eighteenth-century England, such masquerades were popular in late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Russia. This is the topic of Colleen McQuillen’s The Modernist Masquerade: Stylizing Life, Literature, and Costumes in Russia (2013). McQuillen, like Castle, stresses the important difference between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, noting that in the former century, masquerade was an occasion for anonymity (and thus equality), while in the latter, modernist era, masquerade was a form of individual personal expression. Much like Craft-Fairchild, McQuillen ties masquerade to the concept of identity, noting that “the social practices and artistic representations of costume balls reflected the evolution of identity from an essentialist trait to a fluid construct during the final days of tsarist Russia” (6). According to the author, masks signified a reconfiguration of one’s relationship to the public sphere and thus led to “a new found sense of political and artistic agency” (6). In other words, although McQuillen focuses on the concept of identity and its relationship to masquerade, larger questions of political power and influence that are also related to the act of masquerading are also studied. The strength of this book is that McQuillen, like Castle, examines masquerade both as a sociocultural phenomenon and a literary motif. McQuillen summarizes her findings thus: The evolution of masquerade practices and imagery over the years that bridge the nineteenth and twentieth centuries illuminates the changing aesthetic priorities and the political tensions that defined late Imperial Russia. In particular, the masquerade motif in Russian modernism points out how the destabilization of essentialist paradigms of social identity and the consequent privileging of subjectivity ramified in the literary, visual and performing arts as well as in the emergent field of fashion design. It also foregrounds performative strategies for wielding political agency



Introduction that the monarchy and its challengers used, such as wearing a national costume and manipulating national identity. (205) Masquerade in nineteenth-century literature is also the main focus of Françoise Ghillebaert’s Disguise in George Sand’s Novels (2009). Ghillebaert offers us a glimpse into masquerade in French literature. Her study resembles those of Craft-Fairchild, McQuillen, and even Davies, in the sense that she focuses on the relationship between masquerade and identity (which is linked to character evolution). Ghillebaert posits that cross-dressing in Sand’s works “allows heroes to experience both feminine and masculine traits in their original and constructed identities in order to find a balance between the two and hence proceed with their objectives” (4). Disguise “is used to reinforce the heroine’s existing feminine identities and is linked to the birth of a new type of independent and self-assertive female protagonist” (9). Ghillebaert hypothesizes that disguise helps to bring to the fore traits in the female characters that would otherwise not have been disclosed (10). Thus, the author emphasizes the “psychological and spiritual function of disguise” (10) rather than gender per se as the focus of her study. A very recent collection of essays on masquerade titled Masquerade: Essays on Tradition and Innovation Worldwide (2015), edited by Deborah Bell, is one of the few studies available on masquerade in the 2 twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In her introduction to the collection, Bell stresses a more modern interpretation of forms of masquerade that includes masquerade in art forms other than literature, such as photography, fashion, music, and film, among other media (3). Bell points out that there has been an explosion of masquerade as a result of the Information Age, which has provided us with a wealth of imagery, and that thus the contemporary era could well be considered “the age of Masquerade” (3). Bell’s study does not include literary texts but rather a multitude of cultural phenomena in different countries. Bell makes a striking connection between masquerade and heroism in her article. She states that the democratization of masquerade “encourages each of us to imagine ourselves as heroes, artists, and

Masquerade and Literature

magicians” and that current masquerades “champion heroic qualities of down-to-earth fictional characters like Harry Potter” (8). Thus, Bell connects the concept of masquerade to heroism, which is a precursor to its association with the fight for social justice. We will revisit this connection below with regard to the link between comic book superheroes and social justice. Other important articles in Bell’s collection establish a relationship between social protest (the fight for social justice) and masquerade, notably “Behind the Mask: Guerrilla Girls and Others Exposing Unfair Practices and Voicing Protest” by Mary Robinson. Robinson studies groups who have adopted masquerade “as an effective tool for protest and reform” (56), focusing mainly on the Guerrilla Girls but also mentioning numerous other groups such as the Zapatistas in Mexico and Pussy Riot in Russia. According to Robinson, “[e]ach mask style [of these groups] . . . symbolizes intent. While the mask is worn to fight a cause, it also serves to visually represent that very cause. Consequently, masquerade allows for reaction and resistance. . . . As visual signifiers of the problem, the symbolism helps compel people to think” (160–63). Robinson also analyzes the use of masquerade in the graphic novel V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, noting how masquerade has transformed from safety valve in eighteenth-­century society to a revolutionary, subversive political force in contemporary society (167). Thus, Robinson, like Bell, implies a possible connection between masquerade and the fight for social justice. Bell’s collection contains many other interesting articles, but these are the ones most pertinent to this study. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, much has been written about a particular form of masquerade in Latin America—transvestism. In addition to two landmark books on male transvestism—Ben Sifuentes-Jáuregui’s Transvestism, Masculinity, and Latin American Literature (2002) and Vek Lewis’s Crossing Sex and Gender in Latin America (2010), there is one on female cross-dressing: Del travestismo femenino (2013) by José Ismael Gutiérrez. Numerous articles have also considered the topic of cross-dressing in Latin America, particularly male to female cross-dressing.



Introduction Sifuentes-Jáuregui’s book explores the theme of transvestism in various literary texts, including those by Alejo Carpentier, Severo Sarduy, and José Donoso. Sifuentes’s book is about “sexualities and queer subjectivities” (4). He examines the works of important Latin American writers in terms of how transvestism relates to notions of identity (self and other) and gender (the performance of what has historically been termed “masculinity” and “femininity”). Sifuentes writes that transvestism in Latin America is “inseparable from the self-figuration of the homosexual” (7), and this “self-figuration” is essentially the main focus of his study. Similarly, Vek Lewis in Crossing Sex and Gender is concerned with what he terms “nonnormative sexualities and genders in Latin America,” which he studies in various literary and cinematic texts produced between 1985 and 2005. While Sifuentes focuses on writers from the Latin American Boom period, Lewis examines works from the subsequent time frame, which is “a period of cultural emergence of sexual and gender minorities as distinct political identities” (8). Lewis also emphasizes his concern with how these representations of “locas,” “travestis,” and “transformistas” relates to social realities in Latin America. He relates all of the works analyzed in his study to the political effects of the presence or absence of subjectivity for transvestite figures. I have chosen to omit male transvestism from the present study because there is already a considerable body of work on this topic in Latin American cultural studies and literary criticism and because this specialized form of masquerade fulfills unique functions different from what we will describe in the rest of Latin American literature. The books by Sifuentes and Lewis are masquerade studies that focus on identity and gender, and thus clearly take a different approach to the topic of disguise than the present study. Nonetheless, I believe that if the arguments in these books were taken one step further, they would actually imply a fight for social justice (social and political equality) that is achieved through the masquerade of locas, transformistas, and travestis. Female transvestism in Latin America has been studied in numerous articles, as well as in the abovementioned Del travestismo

Masquerade and Literature

femenino by Gutiérrez, but it is by no means as popular a topic as male transvestism. Gutiérrez’s book may be the only full-length study of the topic, in which he focuses on four novels: Hija de la fortuna (Daughter of Fortune) (1999) by Isabel Allende, Mujer en traje de batalla (Woman in Battle Dress) (2001) by Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Lobas del mar (Sea Wolves) (2008) by Zoé Valdés, and Historia del rey transparente (Story of the Transparent King) (2014) by Rosa Montero, who is actually a Spanish (not Latin American) novelist. Gutiérrez, like Sifuentes and Lewis, approaches the topic through the lenses of gender and queer theory, citing such theorists as Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Linda Garber, and Jack Halberstam as his inspiration. More than half of Gutiérrez’s text is dedicated to discussing the concept of transvestism and establishing its typology. He divides transvestism into different modes: religious, recreational, erotic, and so forth. Gutiérrez arrives at many of the same conclusions as his predecessors: that transvestism disrupts the gender dichotomy male/female, and that female transvestism in particular is a form of resistance against patriarchy (33–82). In the second half of the book, Gutiérrez offers textual analysis of the four aforementioned novels. His approach to Hija de la fortuna turns on the now familiar link between masquerade and identity. Masquerade is conceived as a means by which the protagonist, Eliza Sommers, defines her ultimate identity: “Mas que desechar de plano su identidad de mujer, lo que hará el personaje femenino es apropiarse de una idea entonces inédita de lo que debería ser una mujer. . . . La mujer que descubre y define Elias/Eliza no es otra que la New Woman que reivindica sus derechos que se incorpora al mundo laboral, que no ejerce de sierva de su marido” (Rather than flatly disregarding her identity as a woman, what the feminine character will do is enact an atypical idea of what a woman should be like. . . . The woman that Elias/Eliza discovers and defines is none other than the New Woman who vindicates her rights, who incorporates herself into the work force, and who is not a servant to her husband) (174) (my translation). Gutiérrez’s analysis of Mujer en traje de batalla takes two fundamental directions. The first is an interpretation of Henriette Faber, the novel’s protagonist, as an example of neofeminist thought, whose



Introduction masquerade “intenta deslegitimar el orden social y jurídico” (attempts to delegitimize the social and juridical order) (179). Gutiérrez hints here at a possible link between masquerade and the fight for social justice but does not develop this thought, rather focusing on Henriette’s masquerade as a feminist strategy that allows her to do what men do. Gutiérrez’s second direction concentrates on a link between masquerade and Cuban culture. He views disguise as a cultural symptom, citing James Pancrazio’s idea that “el motivo de la máscara, el simulacro y el artificio siempre han formado parte del debate sobre la cultura cubana” (the motif of the mask, the simulacrum, and the artifice have always formed part of the debate on Cuban culture) (193) (my translation). Gutiérrez argues that Henriette’s successive disguises reflect “ese gusto tropicalista por el transformismo” (that tropical taste for transmutation) (194). Gutiérrez’s analyses of these two texts are of particular interest for the present book, which also examines Hija de la fortuna and Mujer en traje de batalla from a feminist perspective. However, I will focus on how these novels attempt to achieve a form of postmodern feminist justice rather than on notions of gender, female, and cultural identity. One other book dedicated to the topic of masquerade in Latin American literature is Brent Carbajal’s The Veracity of Disguise in Selected Works of José Donoso: Illusory Deception (2000). Unlike the other studies on Latin American masquerade, Carbajal’s book does not deal with the theme of transvestism (although this is present in such novels as El lugar sin límites [Hell Has No Limits]) but other types of disguise in Donoso’s El obsceno pájaro de la noche (The Obscene Bird of Night), Casa de campo (House in the Country), El jardín de a lado (The Garden Next Door), and Dónde van a morir los elefantes (Where Elephants Go to Die). All of these novels are discussed as examples of the basic premise that Donoso paradoxically employs masquerade to reveal the truth in his fiction. As the above overview illustrates, most of the previous work on masquerade focuses on the relationship between disguise and identity, characterization, or gender. With regard to Latin American literature, transvestism in particular is the only topic that has been explored, other than the work of a specific author (José Donoso). This volume,

Masquerade and Literature

Masquerade and Social Justice in Contemporary Latin American Fiction, approaches the theme of disguise in an entirely new manner. Through the examination of a variety of twentieth- and twenty-first-­ century Latin American novels (ranging from 1964 through 2009), this book explores the link between disguised characters and the fight for social justice, understood in a variety of forms (elaborated below), in Latin America. Carnival in Latin America Before outlining the distinct forms of social justice that are developed in the contemporary Latin American novel, we must examine the roots of this relationship in two important phenomena: the practice of Carnival celebrations and the figure of the comic book superhero. These are two media that connect the motif of masquerade to the concept of justice, and which I posit have influenced the representation of this connection in Latin American literature of the current and past centuries. We have already noted how Terry Castle associated Carnival celebrations with social equality in her book Masquerade and Civilization. In addition to Castle’s observations, the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin explores this relationship in his landmark book Rabelais and His World. In this important piece of literary criticism, Bakhtin studies folk culture and its impact on Rabelais’s writings. Bakhtin identifies Carnival festivities as a key element of folk culture during medieval times. In strict, hierarchical medieval society, Carnival was a vehicle of temporary freedom and equality for the masses. Bakhtin repeatedly emphasizes this connection between equality and Carnival in his study, stating that “[o]nly in the Carnival . . . the people . . . entered the Utopian realm of community freedom, equality and abundance” (8–9). Carnival is an important festival in Latin America, especially Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba. In her article “Colliding Cultures in the Carnival of Cuba and the Philippines,” Laura Crow describes how Carnival has been associated with social freedom and revolution (social equality) in the history of Cuba. In the seventeenth century, when slaves in Cuba were granted liberty to celebrate Carnival in the streets, this festivity



Introduction began with wealthy landowners in Santiago carrying the effigy of Saint James through the streets on their way to the cathedral to celebrate Mass. Their slaves followed behind them, singing and dancing. However, eventually, the slaves began to wear their masters’ cast-off clothing, a form of masquerade, and led the parade down the street. Thus, the divisions between the rich landowners and slaves were temporarily obscured (Crow 65–67). Crow also describes two contemporary Cuban Carnival celebrations that are linked to Fidel Castro’s revolution for social and economic equality. The first began to celebrate the departure of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. The second commemorates Castro’s July 26 revolution in Santiago. According to Crow: The parades in Santiago de Cuba are complete with white wigged Granmas and Granpas who represent the cabin cruiser named Granma that brought Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Che Guevara among 82 revolutionaries from Tuxpan, Veracruz in Mexico two years after the 26th of July attack. . . . Those white wigged “Granmas” and “Granpas” are a mainstay of the celebration. They represent not only the revolution, but also the slaves wearing hand-me-down clothes and white wigs from their 18th century masters. (65) Thus, masquerade (both the seventeenth-century adoption of the role/identity of the landowners by the slaves, and the contemporary disguise as “Granmas” and “Granpas” wearing white wigs) links disguise to social equality (both through the equality of slaves and masters in the seventeenth-century celebration and the social equality aspired to by Castro’s revolution in the contemporary Carnival activities). Similarly, in “Fiestas, Dances and Masks of Mexico: Community Masquerade and Ritual Art,” Marta Turok examines the use of masquerade by indigenous groups of the preconquest. Turok notes that mask wearing was a widespread practice whose function was not always clear. She identifies eight different categories of masquerade dance, among which figure dances during Carnival. According to Turok, these dances fostered role reversal: “The 365 day solar

Masquerade and Literature

calendar was divided into eighteen months and twenty days and the last five were the ‘lost days’ where the reversal of roles and order marked the beginning of the solar cults, a festivity that paralleled European Carnival in time, but not meaning” (95). Carnival role reversal, as we have already seen in the Cuban case, implies a leveling of differences and a temporary social equality between different groups of the social hierarchy. Moreover, Turok also discusses that in addition, there were “dances of the Conquest” and “historical events celebrated by dances,” each of which also involved an equalizing role reversal. Although the Conquest dances, such as the dance of Moors and Christians, served to remind the local population that they had been conquered, in reality “the masks and their wearers would turn history upside down and the vanquished would have the last word—and in a sense revenge the conquerors and other exploiters by means of satire and mockery” (95). In a similar vein, the historical dances by the Mexicans and Indians transform exploitative and difficult historical events “into forms of mocking the landlords that kept them in virtual slavery” (95). As the Cuban and Mexican examples show, there is a history in Latin America of carnivalesque celebrations that offer a temporary social equality to their participants. Thus, a connection is established through these events between social equality (justice) and masquerade. Latin America and the Superhero Understanding the genesis of the relationship between masquerade and social justice also requires us to consider comic book superheroes who fight for social justice. Superheroes traditionally have a secret identity and thus wear masks and costumes that disguise their true selves. In some cases, when there is no secret identity, they wear special costumes that to some degree serve the same purpose as masquerade. Thus, superheroes connect the themes of masquerade and justice in ways that prefigure this association in the Latin American novel. The classic superhero model derives from the figure of Superman and thus from comic strips in the United States. According to Ron Naverson: “Contemporary America’s most prevalent exposure to



Introduction masks and masquerades is in the form of fictional superheroes. The appearance of Superman in Action Comics spawned a wave of costumed mystery men, women, children (even pets) as gaudily clad, masked defenders of the weak and oppressed” (215). The imitation of the US superhero by Latin American cartoonists is complex. Some comic strips clearly model themselves on Superman (such as Kalimán 3 and Fantomas in Mexico), while others implicitly reject what this model represents through parody (e.g., Fantomas contra los vampiros multinacionales by Julio Cortázar and the Mexican strip El Bulbo). The parodic comic strips are a reaction to the ideology behind the Superman (and other superhero) comic strips. Bruce Campbell notes that during World War II, there was a shift in the representation of the Superman figure from “iconoclast individualistic liberal reformer to mainstream liberal organizational man” (190). In other words, Superman came to represent a “status quo vision of modernity,” of “the American Way” and “capitalist democracy” (Campbell 190). Moreover, the parodic comic strips rebel against the US culture of mass consumerism, or what Campbell terms “free market globalization as a corrosive force” (192). Whether the Latin American comic strip furthers the US superhero vision or controverts it is to some degree irrelevant for the topic at hand. In either case, the reader is presented with an elaborately costumed or disguised superhero (his true or other identity hidden through masquerade) who is associated with some form of justice. The main difference between the traditional heroes and the parodic heroes is that figures like Kalimán and Fantomas normally fight against criminals and thus achieve a form of criminal justice, whereas the parodic heroes fight other types of injustice, such as corporate imperialism (in Cortázar’s version of Fantomas) or cultural injustice (the effects of globalized mass culture) in El Bulbo. The discussion of comic strips is relevant insofar as they relate to literary works. I will briefly trace how disguise links to social justice in the stories of the two aforementioned parodic superhero strips: Cortázar’s Fantomas (1975) and the more recent El Bulbo (2000– 2001). In Fantomas contra los vampiros multinacionales (Fantomas against the Multinational Vampires), books are being globally

Masquerade and Literature

destroyed and famous intellectuals (Cortázar, Susan Sontag, Gabriel García Márquez) attempt to get to the bottom of the crime. Fantomas is called to the scene, but his individualistic efforts to punish those guilty of the crime are unsuccessful for two reasons that are clearly spelled out by the Susan Sontag character. First, Sontag indicates that the real crime is not the destruction of the books but other global issues such as mass hunger from which the book burning has distracted Fantomas. Second, Sontag criticizes the ability of any one person, even a superhero like Fantomas, to bring justice to world. She states: Fantomas es admirable y se juega la vida a cada paso, pero nunca le va a entrar en la cabeza que los otros son legión y que solamente con otras legiones se les puede hacer frente y vencerlos. Además, Fantomas es un justiciero solitario, si no fuera así nadie le dibujaría las historietas te das cuenta. No tiene vocación de líder, nunca será un jefe de hombres. (Fantomas is admirable and risks his life at every step, but he is never going to get it into his head that the others form a legion and that only with other legions can we face and conquer them. Moreover, Fantomas is a solitary avenger; if it were not that way no one would draw his comic strips, you realize. He doesn’t have the vocation of a leader, he will never be the boss of men.) (57) (my translation) Cortázar’s comic book suggests that social justice is a collective endeavor, and thus, to a certain degree, Fantomas, although a figure associated with justice, is a failed superhero. Although his disguises (he masquerades, among other things, as a paralytic to gain entry to the board meeting of the Kennecot Corporation) aid in his fight for justice, ultimately this justice is not achieved in Fantomas contra los vampiros multinacionales. El Bulbo (The Bulb), a comic strip by Sebastián Carrillo, reinforces the connection between justice and the superhero through its parody of the superhero figure. The character El Bulbo is essentially a TV tube that comes to life and acquires superhuman powers. However, El Bulbo’s supernatural abilities are tempered by his daily, real-life



Introduction trials, such as his inability to earn a decent living as a superhero. Carrillo uses his comic strip to criticize elements of globalization and commercialization in contemporary society. His mix of the mundane and the extraordinary result in a comical interpretation of the superhero that is frequently reinforced through El Bulbo’s various disguises. Nonetheless, whenever El Bulbo disguises himself, whether as a secret detective or by acquiring hair and a different color to upgrade his public image, he simultaneously achieves justice in these superhero episodes. In the collection of strips (gathered into a graphic novel) titled El Bulbo Bipolar, two episodes stand out in this regard. The first is “DET: Detective Experto en Todo,” in which El Bulbo dons the classic outfit of the American detective: a trench coat and wide-brimmed hat. El Bulbo employs this disguise to earn money, since he cannot do so in his superhero capacity. Using the detective disguise, El Bulbo proceeds to solve a murder that takes place in the circus. The bullet swallower is killed by a bullet that he should have been able to intercept by swallowing but failed to do so. El Bulbo discovers that the killer, the circus owner who is in love with the bullet swallower’s wife, drew a tortoise on the bullet, causing it to move more slowly than a normal bullet. This magic trick resulted in the miscalculation by the bullet swallower that caused his death. The episode is comical, but criminal justice is achieved through El Bulbo’s actions in disguise. Carrillo parodies detective fiction as a commercialized popular genre. A second episode in which disguise is important revolves around El Bulbo’s attempts to earn money as a superhero. He hires an agent who insists on giving El Bulbo a makeover to improve his image. He provides hair in the form of a mop and gives him a red suit to cover his yellow skin (which to the agent suggests hepatitis). Then the agent makes El Bulbo charge fifty dollars for his superhero services when he is called upon to save the city’s historic district from destruction by a gigantic woman who is hanging from the top of a tower. When El Bulbo arrives on the scene, he is laughed at for his “disguise.” Nonetheless, dressed in this ridiculous manner, El Bulbo solves the problem, determining that the woman grew in size when she was revived by emergency workers who activated her diet pills in the

Masquerade and Literature

wrong direction (making her grow bigger rather than smaller). He reverses the process and removes her from the tower. At the episode’s end, the commercialization of society is criticized and rejected when El Bulbo discovers that his entire paycheck must go to the agent, whom he ultimately has arrested and sent off in a police car. Although El Bulbo, like Fantomas contra los vampiros multinacionales, critiques the role of the superhero (as a commercialized figure), in this process it reinforces the traditional inherent connection between the superhero and social justice. This connection between the superhero and justice is pervasive and has its roots in philosophical thought. According to Jeff Brenzel in “Why Are Superheroes Good?,” the teachings of Plato and Aristotle illustrate that moral goodness and the desire for justice are not the result of the fear of punishment but rather the recognition that people cannot abandon “good health in the soul” and seek the common good because they are rational beings who recognize the need for “virtue ethics” (158). Brenzel claims with regard to superheroes that “their unusual powers simply make it less possible for superheroes to duck the questions we all need to face about our role and potential goals in life. . . . Great superhero stories are therefore riddled with personal quests to determine how a person can best live with great powers” (158). In “Heroes and Superheroes,” Jeph Loeb and Tom Morris add: “The depiction of the heroic in superhero stories is of moral force. . . . Superman gives us an ongoing example of what a commitment to truth, justice and not just the American way but the genuinely human way should look like. Many other superheroes show us as well” (16). As this brief introduction to the topic of masquerade illustrates, previous work has largely focused on issues of identity, characterization, gender, and male/female cross-dressing. To a large degree, these aspects of masquerade are intertwined. Only in discussions of the role of Carnival in medieval times through the eighteenth century and with regard to superheroes has justice previously been linked to the masquerade motif. To address this absence, each chapter of this book focuses on a distinct type of justice achieved or alluded to through the use of disguise in various Latin American novels from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. I illustrate how disguise is



Introduction frequently motivated by psychological disorder that occurs as a reaction to abuse, depression, social stigma, trauma, dictatorship, or bearing witness to torture and political murder. Through this impor­ tant connection between disguise and the fight for social justice in Latin America, I illustrate how masquerade disguises the true historical character of the contemporary Latin American novel. Overview of the Book Chapter 1, “Disguise and Distributive Justice: La comparsa by Sergio Galindo, and El paraíso en la otra esquina and Travesuras de la niña mala by Mario Vargas Llosa,” examines the way in which distributive justice models (e.g., those of Karl Marx and John Rawls) underlie these narratives and are brought to the fore through the various disguises of the characters. Distributive justice is defined as equity or fairness in the sharing of the benefits and burdens (especially the economic ones) of society. The chapter examines the application of John Rawls’s concept of “original position” during the Carnival celebration in Galindo’s La comparsa (Mexican Masquerade). “Original position” is the notion that if one does not know the position he or she should occupy in society, one would be able to adopt a totally impartial viewpoint with regard to reasoning about principles of justice. Galindo’s novel functions as an early precursor (1964) to the topic, employing the Carnival motif to expose the lack of social equality in Mexico and alluding to important historical events in the fight for social justice, such as the Cuban revolution and the Mexican Gasca rebellion. Vargas Llosa’s El paraíso en la otra esquina (The Way to Paradise; 2003) is a historical novel that recreates the figure of Flora Tristán, who fought for workers’ and women’s rights in the early nineteenth century and whose ideas prefigured those of Marx. The novel reinforces a Marxian socialist model based on the transformation of the prevailing capitalist mode of society, in which the workers are unionized and receive the same benefits as everyone else. In addition, three years later, Travesuras de la niña mala (The Bad Girl; 2006), Vargas Llosa’s alleged love story about a poor Peruvian woman, is actually an overview of social injustice in Peruvian history that is brought to light precisely through the protagonists’ various roles and

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masquerades. The so-called bad girl (Lily/Otilia) adopts these disguises precisely to climb the social and economic ladder and escape her impoverished origins. Chapter 2, “Postmodern Justice: Ethical Feminism in Isabel Allende’s Hija de la fortuna, Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s Mujer en traje de batalla, Marcela Serrano’s Nuestra señora de la soledad, and Sara Sefchovich’s La señora de los sueños,” explores the question of justice for women in the postmodern era. The chapter examines two primary and opposing models of feminist justice known as the Portia and Persephone models (Heidensohn 293). The Portia model stresses that women should have rights that are exactly equal to those of men, while the Persephone model suggests that women are different from men and should thus have rights that are equivalent, but not necessarily identical to those of men. I explore the notion of women’s difference as one of socialization, not essence. Using the ideas of the leading feminist justice theorist Drucilla Cornell and the concept of ethical feminism as a form of universal justice outlined by the psychologist Carol Gilligan, I examine how women’s masquerade is employed to achieve ethical feminist justice in four very different novels by both male and female writers. Cornell argues that speaking of “the feminine” in a metaphorical sense does not reduce all women to the same condition in an essentialist manner, thereby bridging the gap between postmodern and cultural feminists. Cornell endorses the concept of feminine difference, a concept that Gilligan takes one step further, illustrating that women are not born different but rather are socialized differently than men, leading to a stronger upholding of ethical humanitarian principles in women. Gilligan then proposes these ethical humanitarian principles as a model of social justice for all. Chapter 3, “Postcolonial Structural Justice: Isabel Allende’s Zorro and Carmen Boullosa’s Duerme,” examines the concept of postcolonial justice as a structural issue. In other words, there are currently inequities in Latin American countries that arise from the structural inequities inherent in the process of colonization that characterizes Latin America. Using the ideas of Catherine Lu and Iris Marion Young, I explore how the novels Zorro (2006) and Duerme (Sleep; 1993) expose the marginalization and exploitation of the indigenous



Introduction populations of Latin America as a result of colonization by the Spanish, and combat such unfair treatment by seeking postcolonial justice through the masquerade of their respective protagonists. In particular, I apply Young’s idea that structural injustice is caused by domination and oppression, which result in five potential injustices: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. Such effects can be observed in both Zorro and Duerme. Chapter 4, “Allegories of Transitional Justice: Masquerade in Novela negra con argentinos by Luisa Valenzuela and Máscara by Ariel Dorfman,” examines the concept of transitional justice (the transition from authoritarian governments to democratic ones) by novelists in two of the countries that went through this process in the 1980s and 1990s (Argentina and Chile, respectively). Valenzuela’s novel was published a few years after Argentina’s democratic transition (1990), which followed the country’s “dirty war” (1976–1983), while Dorfman’s novel was published just before Augusto Pinochet’s exit (1988), after a military dictatorship of seventeen years. However, both texts reflect on the dilemma implied by the choice between punishment and forgiveness of the officials of repressive governments in the transition to liberalizing regimes. They also consider issues of collective memory and collective amnesia of violent events through the use of allegorical structures, which I examine using Angus Fletcher’s theory in Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode. Both texts employ masquerade as a motif that aids in the contemplation of how transitional justice can be achieved during difficult historical moments. Chapter 5, “Historical Justice: Masquerade and Trauma in Augusto Roa Bastos’s El fiscal, Mayra Santos-Febres’s Fe en disfraz, and Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del imperio,” examines how these three novels attempt to achieve historical justice by filling in the gaps of official histories through an analysis of the trauma experienced by their protagonists. Ron Eyerman defines three types of trauma useful for this analysis: personal, cultural, and national. In El fiscal, the protagonist has been tortured during the Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay and goes into exile in France with a new identity. He eventually decides to return to Paraguay to assassinate the dictator,

Masquerade and Literature

thus illustrating how a form of personal trauma (his previous torture) results in an attempt to achieve historical justice. In Fe en disfraz, the protagonist, Fe Verdejo, suffers the historical trauma of slavery by donning the dress of the ex-slave woman, Xica da Silva. She suffers from both personal trauma (she was raped) and cultural trauma (the historical enslavement of blacks), while her lover, Martín, who does not belong to the traumatized group, illustrates how other members of society can internalize cultural trauma so that it extends to the nation as a whole (and becomes a national trauma). Finally, in Noticias del imperio, Del Paso examines the perpetrator trauma suffered by Maximilian and Carlota. As the foreign-born monarchs imposed on Mexico after the French invasion in 1861, these figures are the perpetrators of the deaths of many Mexicans, but at the same time they attempt to identify with the country, become Mexicans, and thus suffer for the crimes they committed. The rather complex vision that the author presents of these two historical figures is an attempt to achieve a form of historical justice, as are the filling in of gaps in the historical record with regard to the Stroessner dictatorship in Roa Bastos’s novel and the female slave testimonies presented in Santos-­ Febres’s Fe en disfraz. The conclusion, “Why Study Masquerade?,” unifies my analysis, delving into the relationship between masquerade, social justice, and the genre of the historical novel in Latin America. It illustrates how the literary motif of masquerade ultimately serves as a “disguise” for historical novels. These novels superficially appear to belong to the romance novel, detective fiction, or other genres, but through their association with social justice are ultimately historical in nature. The conclusion also explores the relationship between novelistic characters who are authors and their connection to the potential influence of the writer to effect social change by motivating readers to action.



Disguise and Distributive Justice La comparsa by Sergio Galindo and El paraíso en la otra esquina and Travesuras de la niña mala by Mario Vargas Llosa

Distributive Justice Distributive justice may well be the first type of justice that comes to mind when the topic of social equality is mentioned. According to Loretta Capeheart and Dragan Milovanovic, distributive justice “has to do with notions of fairness in the distribution of the benefits and burdens of society” (29). In their book Social Justice: Theories, Issues, and Movements, Capeheart and Milovanovic discuss various distinct theories of distributive justice, including those of Durkheim, Weber, Hobbes, Marx, John Rawls, and David Miller. Distributive social justice models serve as an important departure point for comprehending the role of masquerade in the novels La comparsa (Mexican Masquerade; 1964) by the Mexican writer Sergio Galindo and both El paraíso en la otra esquina (The Way to Paradise; 2003) and Travesuras de la niña mala (The Bad Girl; 2006) by Peru’s Nobel Prize–winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. Despite the forty years between the publication of Galindo’s and Vargas Llosa’s novels, they surprisingly share a number of important elements and have elicited similar critical reactions. La comparsa, Travesuras de la niña mala, and El paraíso en la otra esquina have been little studied by 1 critics compared to these authors’ other works. La comparsa is largely seen as a social satire on bourgeois mores of Mexican society, while Travesuras de la niña mala is viewed, with counted exceptions, as a piece of romantic fluff. For example, José Miguel Oviedo, a noted Vargas Llosa scholar, claims that Travesuras de la niña mala is “una 23


Chapter 1 narración ligera, de entretenimiento y de tema amoroso o erótico” (a light narrative for entertainment whose theme is romantic or erotic) (185). El paraíso en la otra esquina has perhaps had an even worse fate, deemed an “uneven” and unsuccessful historical novel. Sabine Köllman states: There is a noticeable imbalance in the novel. While Vargas Llosa has stated that his original intention was to write a book about Flora Tristán, and that of the two protagonists of the final novel, his personal sympathies are more with the feminist activist and her relentless fight for social justice, he also admits that he finds Gauguin’s life story more seductive. This results in the book’s unevenness which is palpable beneath the symmetrical narrative structure. (245) Critics have largely failed to examine the acerbic criticism of the lack of distributive social justice in Mexico and Peru, respectively, that La comparsa and Vargas Llosa’s novels artistically achieve through the connection established between masquerade and social justice. La comparsa by Sergio Galindo The distributive justice model that serves as the basis for Galindo’s novel La comparsa is that of John Rawls as espoused in his groundbreaking book, A Theory of Justice. According to Karen Lebacqz, who interprets Rawls’s theory in Six Theories of Justice, Rawls’s ideas have roots in two places: the social contract theories of Locke and Rousseau and the deontology of Kant. The basic idea is astonishingly simple, though its working out in theory is very complex. Rawls’ aim is to use the concept of a social contract to give a procedural interpretation to Kant’s notion of autonomous choice as the basis for ethical principles. Principles for justice . . . are to be the outcome of rational choice. (33) In other words, Rawls posits that in order to make fair justice principles, people in the “original position” must make choices from behind a “veil of ignorance” in which they are unaware of what place in society they will occupy or what their goals will be. The “original position”

Disguise and Distributive Justice

is the idea that one does not know yet what position one will occupy in society, and thus one can adopt a totally impartial viewpoint with regard to principles of social justice because one judges from a “veil of ignorance” with regard to one’s own social status. People are thus devoid of the knowledge that would make the bargaining process unfair and that would lead them to make choices that would favor their own personal situation (Rawls 11). Lebacqz states: “Social and economic inequalities . . . are just only if they result in compensating benefits for everyone, and in particular, the least advantaged members of society. Called the ‘difference principle,’ this principle becomes the core of Rawls’ substantive theory of justice” (Lebacqz 36–37). Rawls’s notions of the “original position” and the “veil of ignorance” are, to a certain degree, the same principles operative during Carnival as represented in Sergio Galindo’s novel La comparsa. The story takes place in Xalapa, Mexico, during three days of Carnival in 1959. As José Luis Martínez Morales notes in his prologue to the novel, Carnival is “un tiempo de excepcionalidad” (a time of exception) (12) that is allowed to occur only once a year, so that its participants can enjoy a sense of transgression. Dressed in masks and hoods, the social actors temporarily lose their social status at the same time that they are unable to assess the social status (whether superior or inferior) of the other social agents with whom they interact. Although they are ultimately aware of their place in society, owing to the equalizing effect of the Carnival masquerade, social difference is eradicated, and all participants find themselves in the equivalent of the “original position” in which the playing field is leveled and everyone interacts on the same plane. This is reflected through the choices they make during the Carnival period as depicted in the novel. Although the focus of the novel and its critical reception emphasize the sexual freedom associated with the event, this question of sexual taboos obscures a larger issue that the novel also addresses and alludes to through various narrative strategies throughout the text. These strategies include allusions to the Cuban revolution, dialogues regarding social equality, and implicit social commentary, especially regarding an automobile accident in which a prominent architect and several prostitutes are killed.



Chapter 1 The title of the novel is the first element that suggests a connection to Cuba. Although, in a more general sense of the word, a comparsa refers to a “Conjunto de personas que desfilan en una fiesta popular” (A group of people who parade during a popular celebration) (Ediciones Larousse 269), it is also a word intimately connected to Cuban Carnival celebrations. According to Thomas Anderson, “many middle class Cuban blacks and mulattoes felt that these Afro-Cuban carnival bands whose masqueraded participants traditionally danced through the streets of Havana playing various African derived instruments during pre-Lenten festivities, were damaging to a nation striving for racial equality since they reinforced stereotypes and justified racial prejudices. From the earliest years of the Republic[,] comparsas had been targets of public condemnation and official criticism” (50). Moreover, the connection to Cuba is further reinforced by the actual songs sung by the comparsa. Instead of singing a traditional Mexican song, “[a] media calle una comparsa de rumberos empapados de tequila y lluvia Zum zum zum zum zum ba, bae, zum zum zum, zum zum ba, pájaro lindo de la madrugá, pájaro linda de la . . .” (“In the middle of the street some revellers dampened by tequila and rain Zum zum zum zum zum ba, bae, zum zum zum zum zum bae, pájaro lindo de la madrugá, pájaro lindo de la . . .”) (La comparsa 113; Mexican Masquerade 69). “Zum zum ba bae” is a traditional Cuban song. In addition, the novel specifies in the words of the character Luis: “Singular empiezo del carnaval . . . del año de gracia de 1959, en la hermosa ciudad de Xalapa” (50) (“A singular beginning to Carnival, . . . in the year of our Lord, 1959, in the beautiful city of Jalapa”) (24). The year 1959 has a definite resonance for the Hispanic world, as it is the date of Castro’s communist revolution in Cuba. Galindo has specifically set his novel in 1959 (although the novel was published in 1964), perhaps to concretely allude to the connection between his novel’s events and the revolution that was alleged to bring social justice and economic equality to Cubans. Finally, toward the end of the novel, someone dressed as Fidel Castro enters the Carnival celebration: “¡Es Castro Ruz!—¡Arriba Cuba!—¡Mueran los gringos!—¡Arriba Cuba!—Arriba. Una comparsa: Castro Ruz y un grupo de milicianos y milicianas hacían su

Disguise and Distributive Justice

entrada triunfal. Un mismo grito intenso, uniforme, auténtico se escucha:—¡arriba Cuba, arriba Cuba, arriba Cuba!” (138) (“‘It’s Fidel!’ ‘Viva Cuba!’ ‘Down with the gringos!’ ‘Viva Cuba!’ ‘Viva!’ A group of masqueraders—Fidel and his militia (male and female) were making their triumphal entry. A single cheer, intense, authentic, in unison, ‘Viva Cuba, viva Cuba, viva Cuba!’”) (87). The Fidel Castro disguise during the Carnival celebration seals the connection to the Cuban revolution that Galindo makes in the novel and reinforces the association between Carnival disguises and the fight for distributive justice that lies behind masquerade in La comparsa. The established connection between the Xalapan Carnival and the concept of an equitable distributive justice encapsulated by the Cuban revolution allows the reader to comprehend both the initial events that open the novel and the numerous fragmented comments that appear throughout. Several of the characters offer what appears to be an isolated social or political criticism, bringing up topics such as communism and the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The fact that these comments are expressed while the characters participate in the Carnival masquerade suggests a linkage between disguise and the fight for distributive justice. At the beginning of the novel, Bartolomé, one of the seventy characters who appear in the Carnival sequences, reads the following article in the newspaper: “Terrible tragedia. Muere horriblemente el arquitecto Falcón en unión de cuatro mujeres . . . Anoche después de una desventurada orgía, el conocido arquitecto Julio Falcón pereció en un accidente automovilístico.” Saltó líneas, leyó: “Y lo acompañaban cuatro mujeres de la mala vida, efímeras rosas que encontraron su fin.” (44) (“Terrible tragedy. Falcón, local architect, suffers horrible death in company of four women. Last night after an ill-fated orgy, the well-known architect, Julio Falcón, perished in an auto accident.” He skipped some lines and read, “He was accompanied by four women of doubtful reputation, fading flowers who came to their end . . .”) (20)



Chapter 1 It is interesting that the bourgeois characters in the novel convert the death of the prostitutes (but not that of the architect) into the butt of their jokes by saying that the day of their death should be called “El Día de las Putas” (the Day of the Whores) and that in their honor, a monument with four tall crosses and four lights should be made that tourists might observe from their ships (La comparsa 50). This discourse points toward the marked difference in attitudes toward the upper and lower social classes in Mexico. There are numerous other episodes and characters that underscore the inequalities bridged by the temporary period of Carnival, notably the portrayal of Clementina Pereda. Clementina is represented as phobic regarding mingling with the masses: “Clementina Pereda sintió palpitaciones . . . Odiaba las fiestas populares, las aglomeraciones . . . y los carnavales” (61) (“Clementina Pereda felt her heart throbbing . . . She hated all the common fiestas, the big crowds . . . and Carnival”) (31). Nonetheless, Clementina ironically enjoys masquerading as a dancer at the Carnival celebration, exclaiming afterward: “nunca me había divertido tanto” (144) (“I’ve never had such a good time!”) (91). As John and Carolyn Brushwood note in their article “La historia como estrategia narrativa” (History as Narrative Strategy), although Clementina makes reference to the Mexican revolution and democracy in her discourse, “es obvio que la Revolución no le significa nada en realidad y el concepto de la democracia no le sirve más que como una justificación superficial. . . . Esta aventura de Clementina y Borrito es su acercamiento más notable a la democracia, que para ella, es una palabra que suena bien pero que significa poco a menos que ande disfrazada” (It is obvious that the Revolution doesn’t mean anything to her in reality and the concept of democracy only serves as a superficial justification. . . . Clementina and Borrito’s adventure is Clementina’s most notable approach to democracy and for her, it is a word that sounds good but which means little unless she is disguised) (162) (my translation). This is an example of how disguise serves as a method of approaching equality in La comparsa. It is only through Carnival and masquerade that Clementina briefly overcomes her aversion to the poorer classes, and this social discrimination is implicit in all of her thoughts and actions.

Disguise and Distributive Justice

In contrast, a good example of explicit commentary is the criticism of the PRI expressed in the conversation between Arnaldo Wells and Borrito: Repito que en México no hay oligarquía. . . . Y si este señor— señaló a Arnaldo—me hubiese escuchado sabría que yo, después de la aseveración tantas veces repetida, agregué; que no hay oligarquía sino monarquía. Que estamos hoy peor que antes . . . gracias al PRI. (71) (“I repeat that in Mexico there is no oligarchy. . . . And if this gentleman,” pointing to Arnaldo, “had listened to me, he would know that I, after the assertion repeated so many times, I added that there is no oligarchy but a monarchy. That we are today worse off than before . . . thanks to the PRI!”) (38–39) Similarly, Tino states: “Sí hay clases sociales—dijo Tino—y por lo mismo en nuestro país no debíamos vivir bajo un régimen, semi­ feudal.—Lo repitió en tono más alto,—semifeudal. Hay una numerosísima clase media y una más numerosa clase obrera y sin embargo, parece que no existieran, hay un consenso mudo, tácito, que lo aprueba todo y el que indiscutiblemente, todos nosotros compartimos” (74) (“Yes, there are social classes,” Tino said, “and for this very reason in our country we should not live under a semifeudal regime,” he repeated in a louder voice, “semifeudal. There are numerous members of the middle class and an even larger working class and nonetheless, it seems as if they don’t exist, there is a mute, tacit consensus 2 that approves everything and which all of us indisputably shares”). Tino refers to the lack of Mexican land reform and the subsequent economic inequality in which this results. The constant references to Cuba (which serves as a point of contrast with Mexico), and the various explicit comments regarding the PRI and the implicit criticism of the attitudes of the upper and middle bourgeois classes as seen in the portrayal of Clementina, point to the failure of the Mexican revolutionary process to achieve economic and social equality in Mexico. Although much of the official historiography on Mexico of the 1950s and 1960s speaks of the “Mexican Miracle” of economic growth and progress, there is clear documentation of the economic



Chapter 1 suffering of the peasantry, the need for agrarian reform, and general social discontent with perceived injustices during this time period. Elisa Servín studies this phenomenon in her article “Reclaiming Revolution in Light of the ‘Mexican Miracle’: Federacionistas Leales Insurrection of 1961.” Servín traces the agrarian reform movements that preached armed rebellion during the 1950s culminating in the 1961 Gasca rebellion. After the land reform initiated by Lázaro Cárdenas during the 1930s, subsequent governments, notably those of Miguel Alemán Valdés (1946–1952) and Adolfo Ruiz Cortines (1952–1958), favored the expansion of industrial agriculture at the expense of the ejidos (collective lands). The small peasant farmers were dispossessed of lands, and they lacked credit, water, and access to non–state controlled markets needed to be productive (Servín 531). According to Servín, Gasca’s group, known as the Federacionistas Leales, “was part of a widespread expression of discontent in response to the government’s neglect of campesinos and workers and its opposition of social movements” (538). Servín also aptly signals the relationship between rebellions such as the failed Gasca uprising and the Cuban revolution: The insurrection of the Federacionistas renewed the armed reclaiming of the revolution of 1910 at a time when the Cuban Revolution had a growing influence on agrarian movements throughout Latin America. In the following years, Mexican rural guerrillas, without abandoning their agrarista claims, made their demands and found their source of legitimacy in the context of social revolution. (529) Another important point relevant to Galindo’s novel and the relationship between masquerade and the fight for social justice is the concrete presence of the Gasca rebellion in Xalapa and the state of Veracruz. Servín notes in various passages of her study that Veracruz actively participated in this rebellion. For example, she states that between 1959 and 1961, “the work of reorganizing the uprising mainly involved the states of Puebla, Veracruz, Sinaloa and Coahuila. Police reports on meetings in Gasca’s house in Mexico City regularly describe the presence of campesinos and workers coming from those states with complaints from their places of origin” (547). In addition,

Disguise and Distributive Justice

when the actual rebellion took place on September 15, 1961, despite the almost immediate arrest of Gasca and his associates, there were armed rebellions in Veracruz, among other states: “In the early hours of September 15, the Federacionistas attacked two areas in Veracruz. . . . There were also confrontations reported around Xalapa and Perote” (Servín 551). The direct connection between this social rebellion and Xalapa, where Galindo’s novel takes place, reinforces the connections between 1959, the Cuban revolution, Carnival, and the fight for distributive justice in Mexico. It is no surprise, then, that the novel ends with an important comment that seals the association between masquerade and distributive justice: “Atrás de ellos la ciudad escondida en sus desniveles empezaba a quedar silenciosa” (145) (“Behind them the city hidden within its different levels started quieting down”) (92). This suggests a return to the inequities that briefly disappeared during the two-day Carnival period and emphasizes the message of the need for distributive and social justice communicated through masquerade and the subversive aspects of Carnival. In Rabelais and His World, Mikhail Bakhtin repeatedly emphasizes that, historically, Carnival created a second world, outside of and parallel to that of official medieval society. This second world was utopic; everyone was equal and all hierarchies were destroyed: All these forms of protocol and ritual based on laughter and consecrated by tradition existed in all the countries of medieval Europe. . . . [T]hey built a second world and a second life outside officialdom, a world in which all medieval people participated more or less. . . . Carnival is not a spectacle seen by the people; they live it, and everyone participates because its very idea embraces all the people. While Carnival lasts there is no other life outside it. During Carnival life is subject only to its own laws, the laws of its own freedom. . . . [T]he people . . . for a time entered the Utopian realm of community, freedom, equality and abundance. . . . The suspension of all hierarchical precedence during carnival time was of particular significance. . . . All were considered equal during carnival. (6–10)



Chapter 1 Several critics of Galindo’s work confirm this connection between social subversion and Carnival. According to José Luis Martínez Morales, Galindo uses Carnival as a metaphor for social rebellion against authority: “[E]l carnival . . . es solo, diríamos siguiendo a Bajtín, el periodo en que los papeles sociales se invierten (o pueden invertirse) para liberar toda una crítica . . . contra la autoridad” (Carnival . . . is only, we would say, following Bakhtin, the period in which social roles are inverted [or can be inverted] in order to facilitate criticism against authority) (Morales, “Nota Preliminar” 105) (my translation). Similarly, Connie García notes: Según la teoría de Bakhtin, el carnaval expresa la “alegre relatividad” de todo y mantiene una posibilidad revolucionaria al suspender por el momento las estructuras y modos de conducta vigentes. También destruye las jerarquías sociales observadas por una cultura igual que sus valores. Por eso la “cultura oficial” queda momentáneamente suplantada por el espíritu de Carnaval. (According to Bakhtin’s theory, Carnival expresses the “happy relativity” of everything and maintains a revolutionary possibility by suspending for the moment the reigning structures and modes of conduct. It also destroys the social hierarchies observed by a culture, as well as its values. Therefore, the “official culture” is momentarily supplanted by the spirit of Carnival.) (102) (my translation) In addition, Carnival implies a religious rebellion in Galindo’s novel, because the Xalapan celebration does not take place at the traditional time after Lent, but before: “[L]e confiere a tal festejo cierto matiz de profanación para con lo sacro” (It confers to such a festivity a certain dimension of profanation of the sacred) (Martínez Morales, “La comparsa” 95) (my translation). Thus, the Carnival setting is an integral component of the novel with a clear link to the fight for social justice. El paraíso en la otra esquina by Mario Vargas Llosa To some degree, one can consider Sergio Galindo’s La comparsa, published in 1964, an early manifestation or precursor to the more

Disguise and Distributive Justice

contemporary novels that link masquerade to social justice, such as Mario Vargas Llosa’s El paraíso en la otra esquina (2003), based on the life of Paul Gauguin and his grandmother, the social activist Flora Tristán. Tristán, author of The Workers’ Union, anticipates many of the ideas later developed by Karl Marx, and thus Vargas Llosa turns once again to the concept of distributive justice and the question of the value of socialism in his fiction. Tristán fought avidly for both women’s and workers’ rights in the late nineteenth century. Vargas Llosa’s historical novel on Tristán and Gauguin chronicles their attempts to achieve their respective social paradises. In the case of Gauguin, this paradise was a total freedom from all social restraints— cultural, religious, sexual, and artistic. For Gauguin’s grandmother, Tristán, paradise involved total equality for men and women, as well as distributive justice (economic equality) for everyone, including the exploited workers. It is no coincidence that an episode in the novel portrays a comic chance encounter between Tristán and Marx. Marx is angry because a printing press postpones the printing of his magazine in order to turn out copies of The Workers’ Union. Flora admonishes Marx for accusing her of engaging in “alardes literarios” (“literary preenings”) (El paraíso 490; The Way of Paradise 423) and informs her that her work is capable of changing “la historia de la humanidad” (490) (“the course of human history”) (423). Marx fails to comprehend some of the idiomatic expressions used by Tristán and marches off in a huff. This episode is a wink to the reader that signals the affinity between the ideas of these two characters. According to Beverly Livingston in her introduction to the translation of Flora Tristán’s The Workers’ Union, Tristán “opened the way for a ‘scientific’ socialism, the Marx-Engels formulation . . . [and] to the extent that her advocacy of proletarian actions resided upon an economic and historical (materialist) analysis of society, she was one of the direct precursors of Marx and Engels. . . . [Tristán] created a link in theory and in history in the socialist chain of progressive action” (Livingston xiii). Upon reading The Workers’ Union, it becomes clear that Tristán strongly advocated for a distributive social justice model based on the elimination of inequalities in wealth, to



Chapter 1 eradicate the poverty that she saw as the obstacle to equality in other realms, such as education: In thinking about the causes of the abuses and ills of all sorts pointed out by the worker writers, I saw where the evil came from and instantly understood what remedy can be applied. Isn’t poverty the true cause, the only cause of all the evils afflicting the working class? Yes, it is poverty, and because of it, the working class is condemned forever to wallow in ignorance, degradation and enslavement. (Tristán, The Workers’ Union 47) Marx’s theory of social justice is perhaps somewhat more complicated than Tristán’s, as Loretta Capeheart and Dragan Milovanovic indicate in their analysis of Marxian thought. These authors specify how Marx’s view of social justice was predicated on the economic system of the moment: in capitalist society, justice centered on equality among different people, whereas in a transformation to socialist society, although this capitalist mode of thought would still prevail, it would be tempered by the notions that if one did not work, one would not receive any economic benefit, and that one should receive the amount of remuneration commensurate with the amount of work done. In an ultimate evolution to communism, social justice would be predicated as well on the differences in abilities and needs, so that not 3 everyone would necessarily receive an equal piece of the pie (40–41). Given the historical foundation of El paraíso en la otra esquina, a major difference in the use of the motif of masquerade arises between this novel and the other two studied in this chapter. In contrast, for example, to La comparsa, where disguise is a motif chosen purely by the author to develop themes of social justice, in El paraíso, the use of disguise undoubtedly springs from historical sources, such as Flora Tristán’s Promenades dans Londres (Promenades through London), which chronicles her travels through London disguised as a man to gain access to venues from which women were excluded—such as the British Parliament—and also to facilitate her studies of conditions of social injustice for women and workers in that country. Nonetheless, it seems that Vargas Llosa, rather than simply transferring historical facts to his novel, converts this historical disguise into a true

Disguise and Distributive Justice

novelistic motif. There are some dozen references to disguise in the novel, only some of which are related to Flora’s historical masquerade through London. Vargas Llosa employs the historical incident as a departure point to develop two types of justice: distributive justice for the workers and equality for women. Frequently, these two causes are united in the novel. Disguise takes three basic forms in El paraíso: (1) Flora adopts different identities in order to flee her husband (whom she has deserted) and carry on her social justice work; (2) Flora dresses as a man to facilitate her social justice investigations, frequently to be able to circulate freely among prostitutes, which reveals the inferior social status of women; and (3) Flora participates in processions or Carnival activities that either unveil social injustice or simulate social equality. The first category of disguise surrounds Flora’s flight from her abusive husband, André Chazal, and illustrates women’s lack of rights in the nineteenth century. She is forced to remain on the run from Chazal, who could have her imprisoned. We are told: Vivía a salto de mata, con nombres falsos . . . sin permanecer jamás demasiado tiempo en ninguna parte. . . . Se hacía pasar por una viuda atribulada por la muerte de su esposo, por una dama española alejada de su patria por motivos políticos, por una turista inglesa; por la mujer de un marino que navegaba en el mar de La China y distraía su añoranza viajando. (147) (She lived a makeshift existence, under false names . . . never staying anywhere too long. . . . She pretended to be a widow distraught by the death of her husband, a Spanish woman in political exile from her country, an English tourist, the wife of a sailor on his way to China who was distracting herself from her loneliness by traveling.) (122) Flora’s multiple identities serve two purposes: her escape from her husband manifests her inferior social and legal status as a woman, but it also permits her to continue her travels aimed at recruiting members to the Workers’ Union, an organization designed to unite women and



Chapter 1 workers in the common cause of distributive justice for all. Thus, false identities serve the purpose of fighting for or attaining social equality. The second type of disguise, springing from historical sources, is that of Flora’s masquerade through London and other cities dressed as a man to study social and economic injustices, especially those of women. The novel includes various examples, of which the following is representative: Mientras disfrazada de hombre, visitabas fábricas, bares, barrios miserables y burdeles para documentar tu odio a ese paraíso de los ricos e infierno de los pobres . . . La idea de vestirse de hombre se la dio, a poco de llegar a Londres, un amigo owenista que la vio afligirse al saber que la entrada al Parlamento Británico estaba prohibida a las mujeres. . . . A menudo se disfrazó de hombre en esos cuatro meses. Se había propuesto dar cuenta de la vida que llevaban las . . . prostitutas callejeras . . . y jamás hubiera podido explorar esos antros sin disimular su sexo tras unos pantalones y una levita de varón. (429–41) (Were you thinking these fiery sentences in London as you visited factories, bars, slums, and brothels, disguised as a man, to document your hatred of that paradise for the rich and inferno for the poor? . . . It was soon after she arrived in London that she was given the idea of dressing as a man, by an Owenist friend who saw how upset she was to learn that women weren’t allowed into the British Parliament. . . . In those four months she often dressed as a man. She had set herself the task of giving an account of the life led by the . . . prostitutes . . . and she could never have explored those low haunts without disguising herself in trousers and a man’s frock coat.) (370–78) In these instances, disguise is clearly employed as a means to work toward achieving social and economic equality for the masses. Flora’s ability to masquerade as a man allowed her the freedom to conduct social research and entry into places otherwise prohibited to women. The final category, mentions of disguise related to popular processions and Carnival activities, shows how these activities served a dual

Disguise and Distributive Justice

purpose. Flora views disguise in the processions as an activity promoting acceptance of the status quo through mindless diversion: Y las procesiones, muy frecuentes, que a Flora le hicieron pensar en lo que debían haber sido las bacanales y saturnales: unas indecentes bufonadas para entretener al pueblo y mantenerlo aletargado. Precedidos por bandas de músicos, zambos y negros disfrazados de pierrots, arlequines, tontos, mascaritas, se contorsionaban y divertían con sus payasadas a la plebe. (248) (And to the very frequent processions that made Flora imagine this was what bacchanals and saturnalias must have been like: indecent buffoonery to entertain the common folk and keep them lulled. With bands of musicians preceding them, half-castes and blacks dressed as Pierrots, harlequins, fools, and in masks performed acrobatic feats and amused the plebes with their clowning.) (210–11) In contrast with this implicit criticism of popular processions for inducing conformity in the masses, masquerade during Peruvian Carnival is viewed as an equalizing activity: También en Arequipa te habías disfrazado de hombre—durante los carnavales— . . . para asistir a un baile de disfraces. Los arequipeños de la “buena sociedad.” . . . en el día, al igual que la gente común, celebran los carnavales a baldazos de agua y cascorones . . . en verdaderas batallas callejeras. (252) (In Arequipa, you had dressed up as a man, too . . . at carnival time, to attend a costume ball . . . the members of Arequipan society . . . during the day . . . celebrated just like the common folk, with buckets of water and cascarones—eggshells full of colored water—in real street battles.) (214) This passage underscores how members of high society act exactly like common people during Carnival, thus suggesting the same leveling of social classes and social equality observed in Galindo’s La comparsa and discussed by Bakhtin in Rabelais and His World. In several other instances, Carnival celebrations or masquerade balls also offer the possibility of sexual freedom, as this is where Flora Tristán meets



Chapter 1 the love of her life, Olympia Maleszewska, whom she eventually renounces in order to dedicate herself totally to her social cause (El paraíso 391, 425, 429; The Way to Paradise 335, 366, 370). Fittingly, Flora’s death toward the end of the novel is accompanied by the motif of masquerade through the act of making a death mask of her face (El paraíso 498; The Way to Paradise 430). A death mask is an artistic object much like a portrait, but the fact that Vargas Llosa chooses this form of artistic commemoration is not insignificant. Flora’s masquerade has throughout the novel stood for social justice, and 4 thus it is fitting that in her death, it is a mask that portrays her. One final example of how disguise is linked to social freedom and equality that does not belong to any of the above categories, is the description of women from Lima as observed by Flora during her trip to Peru. Flora describes their dress as a form of “disguise” that makes them “invisible” and thus allows the limeñas more social freedom than women in France and other countries have: Lo que más la impresionó fueron las limeñas de la buena sociedad. . . . ¡Pero de qué libertad gozaban! . . . Vestidas con el atuendo típico de Lima . . . el de las “tapadas”: que constaba de la saya, una estrecha falda, y un manto que, como un saco, envolvía hombros, brazos, cabeza y dibujaba las formas de una manera delicada y cubría tres cuartas partes de la cara dejando al descubierto solo un ojo, las limeñas vestidas así, disfrazadas así— . . . se volvían invisibles. Nadie podía reconocerlas y eso les inspiraba una audacia inusitada. Salían solas a la calle. (341, my emphasis) (It was the Lima society women who impressed her the most. . . . But the freedom they enjoyed! . . . Dressed in tapadas, the typical garb of Lima . . . it consisted of a narrow skirt, the saya, and a shawl that, like a hood covered shoulders, arms and head, delicately tracing the outline of the body and covering three quarters of the face, leaving just one eye visible—the women of Lima, so arrayed (or so disguised) . . . [became] invisible. No one could recognize them . . . and this made them uncommonly bold. They would go out alone.) (293, my emphasis) Flora is inspired by the women from Lima, which is not a trivial

Disguise and Distributive Justice

point in the novel’s development. The narrator constantly cites Flora’s diary of her Peruvian trip—Peregrinaciones de una paria—and also emphasizes how Flora’s experiences there shaped her social justice philosophy and theory set forth in the Workers’ Union. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that the above passage is loosely taken from Tristán’s book on Peru, where she describes the dress of the Lima women in great detail, referring to their garb as a “disguise,” and emphasizes the freedom this manner of dress affords: Se debe también hacer notar cuán favorable es la indumentaria de las limeñas para secundar su inteligencia y hacerles adquirir la gran libertad y la influencia dominante de que gozan. Si alguna vez abandonaran aquel traje sin adoptar nuevas costumbres, si no reemplazaran los medios de seducción que les proporciona este disfraz por la adquisición de talentos y virtudes que tengan como objetivo la felicidad y el perfeccionamiento de los demás, . . . se puede decir, sin vacilar que perderían enseguida todo su imperio. . . . Si tiene deseo de salir se pone su saya . . . deja caer sus cabellos . . . Encuentra a su marido en la calle y él no la reconoce. (495–97, my emphasis) (One should also note how favorable the dress of the Lima women is to support their intelligence and help them acquire the great liberty and dominant influence that they enjoy. If they were ever to abandon that dress without adopting new customs, if they replaced the means of seduction that this disguise provides to them in exchange for the acquisition of talents and virtues to achieve other’s perfection and happiness . . . one could say, without hesitation, that they would immediately lose all their authority. . . . If they want to go out, they put on their saya . . . they let their hair down. . . . They meet their husbands in the street and the husbands don’t recognize them.) (my translation and emphasis) This intertextual connection between El paraíso en la otra esquina and Peregrinaciones de una paria is an important one because it emphasizes a historical connection between disguise and social freedom that we already observed in Tristán’s travels through London dressed as a man. Moreover, since this is the second instance in which



Chapter 1 disguise has been historical rather than purely fictitious, it suggests that possibility that the idea of linking masquerade and social justice came to Vargas Llosa through the historical research necessary to write this historical novel. What makes this possibility particularly interesting is that the author’s next novel, Travesuras de la niña mala (2006), a love story, is based on this same connection between disguise and distributive justice. Although, as we have seen, most of the novel takes place in France, where Flora travels from town to town recruiting members to the Workers’ Union, the narrator draws constant parallels or connections between what was happening in France and the social reality of Peru (El paraíso 190, 279, 322; The Way to Paradise 159–60, 237–38, 276). The narrator repeatedly claims that Flora’s Peruvian experience “opened her eyes” to the pain and misery of the poor everywhere. Once again, as is so often the case in Vargas Llosa’s novels, there is a symbolic component to the historical context presented in the text. Flora Tristán’s work, which is mainly associated with Europe (France and England), may be in fact a symbolic reference to the lack of distributive social justice in Peru. Just as the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in La fiesta del chivo points to the Alberto Fujimori government in Peru, it is not a coincidence that Flora’s father is Peruvian and that her social justice work is inspired by the sight of “las desigualdades humanas, el racismo, la ceguera y el egoísmo de los ricos” (280) (“inequality, racism, the blindness and selfishness of the rich”) (238) in Arequipa. Social injustice in Europe is also social injus5 tice in Peru. Travesuras de la niña mala Although Travesuras de la niña mala shares a focus on the question of distributive justice with La comparsa and El paraíso en la otra esquina through the disguises of its protagonist, “la niña mala,” also known as Lily/Otilia, current scholarship on the novel has ignored this important dimension of social critique, favoring an examination of topics such as love, eroticism, cosmopolitanism, and femininity versus masculinity. The closest that contemporary criticism has come to analyzing this aspect of the novel is Oswaldo Estrada’s excellent

Disguise and Distributive Justice

study titled “Desplazamientos políticos del discurso sentimental en Travesuras de la niña mala” (Political Displacements of Sentimental Discourse in The Bad Girl). Although Estrada does not entirely capture the socioeconomic critique that Vargas Llosa develops through the motif of disguise, he sees the unfolding of the “sickly” love relationship between the narrator and the “bad girl” as a metaphor for a politically ailing Peru in the 1960s through 1990s: Lo que propongo en este trabajo, sin embargo, es interpretar el despliegue de este amor enfermizo, dominado por la ausencia, la agonía de la espera y la dependencia, así como el contrabando de la identidad por parte de ambos protagonistas, como metáfora de un Perú políticamente enfermo, inestable y aferrado al sueño inalcanzable de pertenecer a otra realidad, donde tal vez sea posible el equilibrio, el desarrollo y la justicia social. (What I propose in this article, however, is to interpret the unfolding of this sickly love, dominated by absence, the agony of waiting and dependence, as well as the contraband of identity on the part of both protagonists, as a metaphor for a politically ill Peru, which is unstable and grasping at the unachievable dream of belonging to another reality, where perhaps equilibrium, development, and social justice are possible.) (152) (my translation) Estrada sees the bad girl as a personification of Peru: “Enferma de nervios, desnutrida . . . de alguna manera . . . personifica la sociedad peruana destrozada por el terrorismo y distintos gobiernos inestables” (Ill with a nervous condition, malnourished . . . she in some way . . . personfies Peruvian society destroyed by terrorism and different unstable governments) (171) (my translation). In my opinion, Estrada is clearly on the right track but misses the mark in his study by failing to make the more significant metaphorical connection between disguise and the lack of distributive justice in Peru, as evidenced by the many identities that the protagonist is “forced” to adopt in the novel in order to attain economic security. Indeed, the novel essentially traces the different disguises and identities that the bad girl Lily/Otilia takes on from adolescence through



Chapter 1 her final adoption of her “real” identity in death at the end of the novel. It is this drive for wealth and security that prevents the protagonist from living an authentic love relationship with the narrator, and that has its roots in a childhood of poverty in Peru. According to Christie Davies in “Stigma, Uncertain Identity and Skill in Disguise,” people are motivated to adopt disguises or change their identities, largely because of a stigma in their past that would discredit them in the eyes of society if they were found out. Davies states: Most people have neither the skill nor the motivation to adopt a drastic disguise. . . . By contrast, there is a minority of individuals for whom disguise is central to their lives. This is because their identity is uncertain or because they possess a stigma which is defined by [Erving] Goffman as “deeply discrediting.” . . . In some cases the stigma is obvious, visible, or well-known and the individual is “discredited”; in others it is concealable and the individual is “discreditable.” In the latter case, people’s attributes and behavior towards him/her will change markedly for the worse if he or she is found out. (38–39) Moreover, Davies emphasizes the relationship between the adoption of disguise and the status of illegitimacy in a patrilineal society: In a patrilineal society men . . . and women derive their identity and even their names . . . from their fathers. But what if the mother of an illegitimate child doesn’t know who the father is or refuses to tell? What if the child is moved at a young age back and forth between the household of the father and that of the mother? If such an unrecognized and disenfranchised person grows up in a society where identity is defined in terms of kinship rights . . . how can this filius nullius . . . know where and to whom he belongs? . . . The suggestion advanced here is that the person who has not inherited a part in such a patrilineal society is forced to act a part instead, possibly by moving away, taking on a new name, and adopting a simulated identity. (40) It is highly significant that Davies establishes a connection between

Disguise and Distributive Justice

disguise (the adoption of a new identity as a form of masquerade) and both social stigma and illegitimacy. Although the relevance of this relationship in Vargas Llosa’s narrative is not immediately apparent at the novel’s outset, as Lily/Otilia’s story slowly unfolds and the narrator digs deeper into her past, the reader eventually learns of the protagonist’s youthful poverty and illegitimate birth and thus establishes them as the root of her need to adopt a series of disguises throughout the novel. When the narrator, Ricardo, first meets Lily, he is an adolescent and believes that she is “una chilenita” (a little Chilean girl), the sister of another girl named Lucy whom he meets at a social gathering in Miraflores. He believes that their manner of speaking, in which they swallow the final syllables of their words, is indicative of their Chilean identity. However, by the end of the summer, Lily and Lucy’s masquerade as Chileans is uncovered when they are introduced to a real Chilean woman, Marirosa’s Aunt Adriana, at another party. The aunt quickly discovers the farce and reveals it to the other partygoers. The two Chileans are actually Peruvians. The narrator muses: “Y qué otra cosa eran Lily y Lucy sino dos huachafitas de Breña o El Porvenir que, para ocultar su procedencia, se había hecho pasar por extranjeras a fin de colar entre la gente decente de Miraflores—para tirar plan con ellas, para hacerles esas cosas que solo las cholitas y las huachafitas se dejan hacer” (24) (“[A]nd what else were Lily and Lucy but two cheap girls from some neighborhood like Breña or El Porvenir who, to conceal their origins, had passed themselves off as foreigners and slipped in among the decent people of Miraflores—to make out with them, to do those things that only half-breeds and cheap girls let men do”) (15). “Huachafita” is a derogatory term signifying a low-class person or a ridiculous social climber, while “cholita” is a racial epithet criticizing someone of mixed race. Thus, we can already observe the social stigma surrounding the protagonist Lily, even before her lowly birth, poverty, and illegitimacy are clearly revealed to the narrator. At this moment, her postulated dwelling in Breña or El Porvenir suffices to signal an inferior social standing from those who live in the neighborhood of Miraflores. Lily’s social stigma is shown to be even greater as the novel



Chapter 1 progresses. Toward the end of the book, during a trip to Peru, the narrator learns through a chance encounter that Lily was not even Lucy’s sister, that her mother was in fact a servant in Lucy’s house, and that Lily was an illegitimate child. When Ricardo is visiting his nephew Alberto, Alberto’s friend suggests that they speak with Arquímedes, a colorful “loco lindo” (beautiful crazy person) who tells marvelous stories and claims to have a daughter who lives in Paris. When Ricardo eventually converses with Arquímedes, he discovers that he is the bad girl’s father. Arquímedes reveals Lily’s less than illustrious origins, explaining that she lived in Miraflores only because her mother worked as a cook in the house of the Arena family. He bitterly describes how Lily had dreams of grandeur and was ashamed of her family, desiring only to “ser como los blancos y los ricos” (320) (“to be like the whites, the rich people”) (235). Ricardo also learns that Lily was the first born of twelve children that Arquímedes had with three different women. In Arquímedes’s own words: “[D]ar de comer a doce bocas, mata” (321) (“Feeding twelve mouths can kill you”) (236). Thus, Arquímedes reveals the reason why later on in life, his daughter will adopt a series of different disguises—she wishes to be rich and have the social status of the racial elite. The character essentially articulates Christie Davies’s theory—that social stigma (“se avergonzaba de nosotros,” she was ashamed of us) motivates the adoption of new identities and disguises. In this sense, the protagonist’s multiple disguises, which give an almost picaresque structure to Vargas Llosa’s novel, obey an economic imperative that deconstructs the economic poverty and lack of distributive justice in Peru. It is no coincidence that the bad girl’s next disguise is that of the communist comrade Arlette. Ricardo is part of a communist network in France, and through a mutual comrade, Paul, the two Peruvians meet again in Paris. Arlette is en route to Cuba, and thus, once again, as in La comparsa, the Cuban revolution is evoked to connect the theme of masquerade to that of distributive social justice. However, the novel makes perfectly clear that the bad girl does not believe in the communist cause. The communist revolution is portrayed as a convenient way for Lily to get out of Peru and into another environment. Although her belief in the movement is weak, the fact that she

Disguise and Distributive Justice

is disguised as a communist comrade, with a new way of speaking and a different hair color, is what launches her on her path toward distributive justice. However, this is only the first step in Lily’s social climb. The next time Ricardo meets the protagonist, a chance encounter in the UNESCO office in Paris, she has a new identity— that of Madame Arnoux: Era ella, pero había que hacer un gran esfuerzo para reconocer en esa cara tan bien maquillada, en esos labios rojos, en esas cejas depiladas, en esas pestañas sedosas . . . a la camarada Arlette. . . . ¿Cómo diablos te llamas ahora? . . . Ahora llevo el nombre de mi marido, como se usa en Francia: madame Robert Arnoux. (57) (It was Comrade Arlette, but you had to make a huge effort to recognize her in that meticulously made-up face, those red lips, tweezed eyebrows, silky curved lashes. . . . “What the hell’s your name now?” . . . “Now I use my husband’s name, the way they do in France: Madame Robert Arnoux.”) (40) It is clear that the bad girl has married for money, and as a means to escape from Cuba and return to Paris. She even tells Ricardo: “El dinero da seguridad, te defiende, te permite gozar a fondo de la vida sin preocuparte por el mañana. La única felicidad que se puede tocar” (81) (“Money gives you security, it protects you, it lets you enjoy life thoroughly and not worry about tomorrow. It’s the only happiness you can touch”) (57). It is for this reason that the protagonist rejects Ricardo’s love and aligns herself with rich and powerful men throughout the novel. Undoubtedly, this drive for wealth is linked to her experiences in Peru, which Ricardo summarizes thus: El Perú, me parecía era para ella algo que con toda deliberación había expulsado de su memoria como una masa de malos recuerdos (¿pobreza, racismo, discriminación, postergación, frustraciones múltiples). . . . Traté de imaginarme la infancia que tuvo, por ser pobre en ese infierno que es el Perú para los pobres, y su adolescencia, acaso todavía peor por las mil pellejerías, entregas, sacrificios, concesiones que habría debido hacer en el Perú, en Cuba, para salir adelante y llegar donde había llegado. (77–79)



Chapter 1 (Peru was something she had very deliberately expelled from her thoughts like a mass of bad memories [poverty, racism, discrimination, being disregarded, multiple frustrations?]. . . . I tried to picture her childhood, being poor in the hell that Peru is for the poor, and her adolescence, perhaps even worse, the countless difficulties, defeats, sacrifices and concessions she must have suffered in Peru, in Cuba, in order to move ahead and reach the place she was now.) (55–56) Moreover, this is the first of many cases in which Vargas Llosa uses an alternating structure between discourse regarding what was happening politically, socially, and economically in Peru, and a description of Lily’s disguises. The end of the comrade Arlette identity and the transition to the Madame Arnoux disguise coincides with end of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR; a left-wing group that identified itself with the Cuban revolution and that split off from the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana, APRA) in Peru. Ricardo returns to Lima for a visit in 1965 when the bad girl becomes Madame Arnoux and comments on the appearance of the photos of his communist friends (including Fat Paul, his friend in Paris) in Peruvian newspapers and television. Ricardo reflects upon communism in Peru during his March 1965 visit to the country, rhetorically asking who could possibly believe in the triumph of a communist rebellion in Peru, which would surely be squelched either by the Fernando Belaúnde Terry government or the military (Travesuras 63; The Bad Girl 44). Thus, Ricardo’s Lima visit, which corresponds to the beginning of the bad girl’s Madame Arnoux disguise, also corresponds to the beginning of the end of the miristas’ 1960s communist guerrilla movement and the hope for social justice in Peru that it implied. In other words, communism is failing in his country at the same time that the bad girl’s communist disguise “fails” and is replaced by one that affords her a more affluent status. Moreover, Ricardo’s friend Fat Paul, who is mentioned in this section of the novel, was a friend of Vargas Llosa, whom he immortalizes in the essay “In a Normandy Village, Remembering Paúl Escobar”: “Now try to imagine that mound of flesh with a gun in his hand. . . .

Disguise and Distributive Justice

And yet it’s true, and it’s also true that he is now a faceless corpse rotting somewhere in the mountains. What is it, what name can we give to that secret design that goes from loafer to a salesman, to a cook, to a teacher, to a guerrilla fighter? . . . Goodbye, dear Paúl” (27). Despite Vargas Llosa’s rather skeptical dismissal of the potential success of communism in Peru, both his tracing of the communist movement in Travesuras and his tribute to Paúl Escobar betray his early idealism and beliefs in the Cuban revolution. Lily’s next identity is that of Mrs. Richardson. Through his friend Juan, Ricardo meets her again in Newmarket in London in 1968. Although she dislikes her life centered on horse racing, she is afraid to separate from her husband and be left penniless in an ugly divorce, such as the one her husband arranged from his first wife. The end of the protagonist’s marriage to Richardson, and thus the conclusion of her identity as Mrs. Richardson, occurs around 1975 and is accompanied by the following summary of eight years of dictatorship in Peru that have failed to bring social equality: Los ocho años de la dictadura militar del general Velasco . . . habían dado soluciones erróneas al problema de la injusticias sociales y las grandes desigualdades, así como la explotación de las mayorías por la minoría de privilegiados y esto solo había servido para enconar y empobrecer todavía más a unos y otros. (150–52) (The eight years of General Velasco Alvarado’s military dictatorship . . . had provided erroneous solutions to the problems of social injustice, inequality and the exploitation of the majority by a privileged minority and this had served only to inflame and further impoverish everyone.) (110) Vargas Llosa punctuates each change of disguise, each new masquerade, with a summary of the lack of progress of distributive justice in Peru. The bad girl’s Mrs. Richardson identity lasts almost the same eight years as the socially unfruitful left-wing Juan Velasco Alvarado dictatorship (1968–1975). Vargas Llosa is very precise about including dates. We are told that Ricardo arrives in London in 1968, which is when he rediscovers the bad girl: “Precisamente la Aventura de mayo de 1968, en que los jóvenes de París llenaron el Barrio Latino de



Chapter 1 barricadas . . . a mí me sorprendió en Londres” (94) (“In fact, the adventure of May 1968, when the young people of Paris filled the Latin Quarter with barricades . . . found me in London”) (68). This marks the beginning of Lily’s Mrs. Richardson identity. The end of the Mrs. Richardson disguise is signaled by the following subsequent comment: “Su separación de David Richardson fue un catástrofe . . . y desde el flamante aeropuerto Charles de Gaulle en marzo de 1974 me llamó por teléfono para despedirse” (149) (“Her separation from David Richardson was catastrophic . . . and in March 1974 she called to say goodbye from the new Charles de Gaulle Airport”) (109). Thus, Lily’s diverse identities and disguises become linked to the question of social justice in the protagonists’ country of origin. The coincidence of dates suggests a linkage between the events of masquerade and the failure of distributive justice models in Peru. The bad girl’s final masquerade is that of Kuriko, the Japanese busi6 nessman Fukuda’s lover. This identity (although adopted prior to this date) is associated with 1979, when Ricardo’s friend Salomón Toledano accepts a position in Tokyo and has a chance encounter with Lily. This disguise then ends when the bad girl returns to Paris (1982), a couple of years before Ricardo’s last trip to Peru in 1984. These dates overlap with Belaúnde Terry’s second presidency, from 1980 to 1985. Once again, upon the conclusion of the Japanese geisha identity, the narrator specifies the lack of economic and political justice in Peru: “En esos meses finales del segundo gobierno de Fernando Belaúnde Terry—fines de 1984—con la inflación disparada, el terrorismo del Sendero Luminoso, los apagones . . . había mucha incertidumbre y pesimismo en la clase media” (289) (“During those final months of Fernando Belaúnde Terry’s second government—the end of 1984—with runaway inflation, the terrorism of Shining Path, blackouts . . . there was a good deal of uncertainty and pessimism in the middle class”) (212). From this point on, the bad girl assumes her own “real” identity and finally marries Ricardo. The remainder of the novel drifts off into an unspecified time period, the beginning of which coincides with the presidency of Alan García, which is also characterized by economic inequality: “Desde mi último viaje al Perú a finales de 1984 . . . yo había seguido paso a paso los desastres económicos que acarreaban las políticas de Alan García, la inflación, las nacionalizaciones, . . . la caída del empleo y de los

Disguise and Distributive Justice

niveles de vida” (340) (“Since my last trip to Peru, at the end of 1984, my uncle and I had written to each other every month, and in his trembling hand, which I had to decipher like a paleographer[,] I had followed, step by step, the economic disasters caused in Peru by Alan García’s policies: inflation, nationalizations . . . falling employment and standards of living”) (250). The novel’s simultaneous emphasis on the bad girl’s drive for wealth and the reality of economic inequality in Peru confirms a connection between the motif of disguise (disguise as a means of attainment of economic equality) and the fight for distributive justice in Peru. During Ricardo’s last trip to Peru, he indicates his impression that poverty had increased in the country in the prior two decades, although his nephew Alberto contradicts his opinion, stating that the enormous disparities between the rich and the poor had always existed (Travesuras 292–93; The Bad Girl 215). As these numerous examples from the novel illustrate, the alignment between the bad girl’s various economically motivated masquerades and the status of social injustice and economic inequality during several governments and time periods in Peru is more than a mere coincidence. Vargas Llosa has designed this connection between these two elements in Travesuras de la niña mala as one of the “indirect ways” in which social injustice is exposed and criticized of which he speaks in his essay “Literature Is Fire”: The American reality, of course, offers the writer a true surfeit of reasons to be rebellious and discontented. Societies where injustice in law, paradises of ignorance, exploitation, blinding inequalities, poverty, economic cultural and moral alienation, our tumultuous lands offer us exemplary material to reveal in fictions, in a direct or indirect way, through facts, dreams, testimonies, allegories, nightmares, or visions that reality is imperfectly made, that life must change. But within ten, twenty, or fifty years, the hour of social justice will arrive in our countries, as it has in Cuba, and the whole of Latin America will have freed itself from that order that despoils it, from the castes that exploit it, from the forces that now insult and repress it. (73) Of course, this essay, written in 1967, reflects Vargas Llosa’s early



Chapter 1 7

views on communism prior to the 1971 Padilla case, which alienated many intellectuals from the Cuban cause. As Sabine Köllman notes, since 1978, Vargas Llosa has moved toward a belief in social democratic societies, such as Sweden and Israel, as more effective in eliminating social injustice and economic inequality (55). Although Vargas Llosa has turned away from communism toward neoliberalism and capitalism, shunning all authoritarian governments, nonetheless his message about literature remains: it is a vehicle to denounce inequalities and fight for social justice through symbols and allegories. In the case of Travesuras de la niña mala, disguise is one such symbol that represents this struggle. The fact that within a period of few years (2003–2006) Vargas Llosa published two novels on the theme of distributive justice indicates a preoccupation with the question of social inequality in Peru that may partially correspond to a new awareness of embedded inequalities that pervaded the country after the fall of the Fujimori dictatorship in 2000 (Thorp and Paredes 1). According to Rosemary Thorp and Maritza Paredes, in 2003 Adolfo Figueroa conducted an important survey that found that only 9 percent of whites, versus 49 percent of the indigenous population, lived in poverty. Similarly, in terms of education, only 42.8 percent of the indigenous population attained secondary education or higher, compared to 93.3 percent of whites (48–50). After noting these and other ethnically based inequalities, Thorp and Paredes conclude that these inequalities, structurally embedded in Peru through the 8 process of colonization, will prove difficult to eradicate: The interactions of the economic model, the geographical structure of the country, the modus operandi of institutions and their legacies shaped in a specific history, and the inherited weakness of politics, particularly of the capacity of the system to give voice to the marginal groups, all continue today and reinforce each other. . . . Multiple discriminations still impede the democratic flourishing we would all like to see. And two central difficult aspects remain: the need for a development strategy which provides more economic opportunities for the marginalized groups, and the need to revive party organization and life in a way that provides political opportunities. (215–16)

Disguise and Distributive Justice

There is no doubt that Peru’s embedded inequalities have been a motivating force behind Vargas Llosa’s fiction, from his early identification with Cuban socialism to his current support for democracy and neoliberalism. A recent collection of essays, Sables y utopías (2009), chronicles this evolution in thought, compiling essays written from the 1960s through the 1990s. Throughout Vargas Llosa’s ideological shifts, there remains one constant: the concern for social justice in Peru and more generally Latin America, as reflected in El paraíso en la esquina and Travesuras de la niña mala. In summary, although each of the novels in this chapter focuses on distributive justice, they do so in very different ways. In La comparsa, there is a temporary equalization of the social actors through masquerade (the people participating in the carnival celebration) during Xalapa’s carnival that points to the need for a more permanent type of social justice, based on John Rawls’s principles. In contrast, in El paraíso en la otra esquina, the historical figure Flora Tristán turned literary character disguises herself as a man to gain access to spaces that provide her with information necessary for her to better fight to achieve a Marxian type of social justice for workers and women. She converts disguise into a tool for achieving social justice. Finally, in Travesuras de la niña mala, the title character employs disguise as a way to improve her individual social position and gain economic comfort. In other words, disguise is not a tool to achieve social justice in the same way that it was in Vargas Llosa’s previous novel, but rather an element that the novelist employs to denounce the lack of economic equality and social justice in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Peru, given the bad girl’s impoverished origins and the difficulty of improving her lot in contemporary Peru. Thus, the need to achieve distributive justice is approached from very different angles in each of the three novels.


2. Postmodern Justice Ethical Feminism in Isabel Allende’s Hija de la fortuna, Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s Mujer en traje de batalla, Marcela Serrano’s Nuestra señora de la soledad, and Sara Sefchovich’s La señora de los sueños

Postmodern Justice and Ethical Feminism The concept of postmodern justice derives from the work of leading postmodern theorists such as Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Jean-François Lyotard among others. Each of these theorists developed his ideas following the general conceptual framework of postmodernism, which emphasizes the relativity and subjectivity of all “truths” as well as the fundamental fallacy of all binarisms, such as heterosexual versus homosexual and male versus female, thus suggesting that concepts such as sexuality and gender are based on a continuum. In other words, postmodernism contests all essentialist visions of reality and emphasizes differences based on an individual’s particular experiences, perspectives, and position in the world (gender, race, ethnicity, etc.). These ideas have important implications not only for the concept of postmodern justice in general but also for that of postmodern feminist justice. According to Loretta Capeheart and Dragan Milovanovic, postmodern feminists such as Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, and Luce Irigaray have critically challenged some of the ideas put forth by male postmodern theorists and developed their own theories of feminine justice (135). The two main positions that have been articulated by feminists are what Frances Heidensohn terms the Portia and Persephone models of justice. According to Heidensohn, the Portia model defines male rights as the norm and stresses that women should have rights that are equal to those of men. The Persephone model defines women as different from 53


Chapter 2 men and thus suggests that women should accordingly have rights that are equivalent to those of men, but not necessarily exactly the same (293). This division translates into the battle between “equal treatment” feminists versus “cultural” feminists (Levit and Verchick 8–9). Nancy Levit and Robert Verchick point out that postmodern feminists are at odds with both “equal treatment” and “cultural” feminists: “Postmodern feminists argue that comparative approaches of equal treatment (women are like men) and cultural feminism (women are not like men) inaccurately assume that ‘all women are roughly the same, as are all men’” (10). As we have seen, postmodern feminists emphasize difference among women according to their particular circumstances. This begs the question of whether postmodern feminism can be reconciled with either or both of the feminist justice models that currently predominate. Drucilla Cornell is one of the leading feminist justice theorists who supports the Persephone or equivalent rights model. In her book Transformations, Cornell successfully reconciles the ideas of postmodern feminism with those of cultural feminism by emphasizing that the concept of feminine difference from men is metaphorical rather than essentialist. It is a useful concept to advocate for women’s rights, without obviating the differences between actual women: If there is to be feminism at all, as a political movement that adequately challenges the gender hierarchy, which necessarily repudiates the value of a feminine sexual difference, we must rely on a feminine voice and a feminine “reality” that can be identified as such and in some way correlated with the lives of actual women. Yet . . . all accounts of the specifically feminine sexual difference seem to . . . deny the real differences between women . . . and reflect the history of oppression and discrimination. . . . In order to solve this dilemma, we will have to understand the metaphoric significance of the feminine within sexual difference, but as a metaphor, not as accurate description. As we will see, this metaphoric understanding of the feminine does not reduce the feminine to a set of characterizations shared by all women. (58) In this key passage, Cornell addresses the concerns of postmodern

Postmodern Justice

feminists who shun the tendency to conflate all women, which is counter to the philosophy of postmodernism in general. Cornell’s work illustrates how the concept of women’s difference from men does not necessarily imply that all women are the same, and thus 1 advocates for a postmodern cultural feminism. Cornell’s theory bridges the gap between postmodern and cultural feminism, thus serving as the basis for a theory of postmodern feminist justice. Cornell’s work owes a debt to the work of the psychologist Carol Gilligan, whose research supports the notion that women and men are different. Her groundbreaking 1982 book In a Different Voice shows how girls and boys are socialized differently, which leads men to suppress their feelings and women to suppress their voices. She develops these ideas further in the more recent Joining the Resistance (2011). It is important to note that Gilligan does not suggest that men and women are essentially different—simply that they are socialized in opposing ways that lead to difference. Although she is a psychologist, Gilligan’s most recent book outlines an important theory of social justice that Cornell also espouses in her work: that of ethical justice based on the ethic of care that is socialized into women and out of men. According to Gilligan, women are taught to join reason with emotion with an ethic of care, whereas men in a patriarchal society are taught to suppress this dimension of their personality. Consequently, an ethic of care becomes a feminine trait rather than a human a one. Gilligan suggests the need for patriarchal society to recognize this error and adopt this ethic of care as a universal form of social justice: Our exploration of these questions has led us to see the ethic of care, grounded in voice and relationship, as an ethic of resistance both to injustice and self-silencing. It is a human ethic, integral to the practice of democracy and the functioning of global society. More controversially, it is a feminist ethic, an ethic that guides the historical struggle to free democracy from patriarchy. (Joining the Resistance 175) The concept of justice based on ethical feminism that Cornell and Gilligan espouse in their works underpins four important Latin



Chapter 2 American novels, which I divide here into two separate groups: Isabel Allende’s Hija de la fortuna (1999) and Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s Mujer en traje de batalla (2001) on the one hand, and Marcela Serrano’s Nuestra señora de la soledad (1999) and Sara Sefchovich’s La señora de los sueños (1994) on the other. The first pair of novels presents female protagonists who dress as men to achieve feminist social justice and equality, while the second pair presents other female disguises related to the search for a feminine space that encapsulates ethical feminist justice. The first half of this chapter examines the novels by Allende and Benítez-Rojo, while the second half analyzes the works by Serrano and Sefchovich. Current research on Hija de la fortuna and Mujer en traje de batalla has stressed the postmodern aspect of masquerade: the fact that the female protagonists dress as men shows how gender is performed in these novels and deconstructs the gender binary male/ female. Nadia Avedaño states that Eliza, the protagonist of Hija de la fortuna, “crosses over gender, race and national boundaries by dressing like a Chinese boy then later like a Chilean boy. . . . Her male disguise lends her social agency because it acts as mask . . . that she can hide behind, thus allowing her freedom to move about undisturbed” (116). Avedaño echoes arguments previously set forth by Susan Carvalho on the novel. Similarly, both Ivonne Cuadra and Patrick Collard apply the ideas of Marjorie Garber on transvestism and Judith Butler on gender performance as granting a postmodern fluidity to the category of gender in Mujer en traje de batalla. Cuadra states: “La figura del travestí, que en los últimos años se ha convertido en fuente de estudio de diferentes disciplinas, en cierta forma encarna esta tercera categoría precisamente porque plantea una ambigüedad que indica la discordancia entre sexo y género” (The figure of the transvestite, which in most recent years has been converted into the source for studies in different disciplines, to a certain degree incarnates this third category precisely because it posits an ambiguity that indicates discord between sex and gender) (220) (my translation). However, to some degree, this focus on cross-dressing as a form of postmodern gender bending and performance has obscured a larger message present in the novels by Allende and Benítez-Rojo. I argue

Postmodern Justice

that Hija de la fortuna and Mujer en traje de batalla employ masquerade to develop a message of ethical feminist justice that does not contradict but rather combines with this postmodern message. Hija de la fortuna by Isabel Allende Allende has stated that Hija de la fortuna is the outcome of her exploration of her own feminist identity. The novel takes place in Chile and California during the nineteenth-century California gold rush. Hija de la fortuna contains many historical elements, including the references to Joaquín Murieta and Jack Three-Fingers, who were famous bandits in that era. Also historical is the general portrayal of life in California during the gold rush (Coddou 103–9; Levine 140–44). The protagonist, Eliza Sommers, dresses like a man so that she can stow away on a ship to San Francisco, where she can search for her lover who had traveled there earlier to gain his fortune. The sixteen-yearold Eliza is pregnant but loses her baby during the voyage. The novel explores her adventures in California and her discovery of the freedom her male dress affords her. The beginning of the novel aptly establishes the lack of freedom and rights of women during this time period, which contrasts with the freedom experienced by the cross-dressing Eliza in the second half of the novel. Miss Rose, Eliza’s adoptive mother, initially advocates marriage for Eliza as a way of possibly maintaining some independence while protecting herself from the potential abuses to which a single woman may be subjected. She states that although a wife is her husband’s property, an astute woman can manipulate her husband and perhaps even become a young widow. Miss Rose succinctly summarizes a woman’s situation thus: “Yo daría contenta la mitad de mi vida por disponer de la misma libertad de un hombre, Eliza. Pero somos mujeres y estamos fritas” (“I would happily give half my life to have the freedom a man has, Eliza. But we are women, and that is our cross.”) (Hija de la fortuna 61; Daughter of Fortune 51). The first part of the novel, which takes place in Chile, presents woman’s imprisonment within patriarchy. Miss Rose is a “compromised” woman who, having lost her virginity, is unfit to marry and must remain under her brother Jeremy’s protection. We are told that



Chapter 2 Jeremy had the authority as master of the house to read Miss Rose’s diary and open her mail, even though he never exerts these “rights.” The lamentable lack of options open to women is further developed when Eliza miscarries on the ship to California. The ship’s cook, Tao Chi’en, contemplating social norms, believes her only future option to be prostitution (Hija de la fortuna 224; Daughter of Fortune 205–6). However, Eliza discovers a new world of possibilities when Tao Chi’en disguises her as a Chinese boy to smuggle her off the boat. Once dressed in male clothing, Eliza experiences a new physical freedom that prefigures the freedom of action she will have masquerading as a man: “Pero la ropa de hombre le daba una libertad desconocida, nunca se había sentido tan invisible” (241) (“But the man’s clothing gave her an unfamiliar freedom; she had never felt so invisible”) (222). The fact that male clothing lends freedom of action to Eliza seems like an obvious observation. The more significant question is, what does Eliza choose to do with this freedom and how does it relate to the theme of social justice? During the course of the novel, Eliza clearly employs her male disguise as a means to work in capacities that help others in public forums rather than just privately, as women normally did in that era. Her first important role in this regard is as Tao Chi’en’s medical assistant. Eliza observes Tao’s ethic of care in the following passage: —¿Qué hacías? —le preguntaba después Eliza. —Sentía su dolor y le pasaba energía. La energía negativa produce sufrimiento y enfermedades, la energía positiva puede curar. —¿Y cómo es esa energía positiva, Tao? —Es como el amor: caliente y luminosa. Extraer balas y tratar heridas de cuchillo eran intervenciones rutinarias y Eliza perdió el horror de la sangre y aprendió a coser carne humana con la misma tranquilidad con que antes bordaba las sábanas de su ajuar. (255–56) (“What are you doing?” Eliza once asked. “I was feeling his pain and passing him energy. Negative energy produces suffering and illness; positive energy can heal.” “And what is it like, that positive energy?” “Like love; warm and luminous.”

Postmodern Justice

Extracting bullets and treating knife wounds were routine procedures, and Eliza lost her horror of blood and learned to stitch human flesh as calmly as formerly she had embroidered sheets for her trousseau.) (236) This passage contains several notable points that support the theory of ethical feminist justice. Tao’s medical practice, in addition to providing surgical care to patients, offers a positive energy equated with love. Although Tao is a man, he practices the same ethic of care normally associated with women, largely because his deceased wife, Lin, serves as his constant inspiration. Lin is not only the motivating force behind Tao’s nurturing behavior but also the source that disrupts his heretofore traditional view of women. Until he met Lin, Tao believed that women were only for work, decoration, and reproduction. However, Lin could not be pigeonholed into these categories and challenged her husband with her probing questions (Hija de la fortuna 200; Daughter of Fortune 182). It is Lin who appears to Tao on the ship to California and convinces him to help Eliza. When Tao is initially prepared to turn his back on Eliza during a life-threatening miscarriage, it is Lin who instills in him the ethic of care: Entonces Lin . . . susurró que no había venido de tan lejos para meterle miedo, sino para recordarle los deberes de un médico honorable. También ella había estado a punto de irse en sangre como esa muchacha después de dar a luz a su hija y en esa ocasión él había sido capaz de salvarla. ¿Por qué no hacía lo mismo por aquella joven? ¿Qué le pasaba a su amado Tao? ¿Había perdido acaso su buen corazón y estaba convertido en una cucaracha? (221). (Then Lin bent down to him with her unforgettable delicacy . . . and whispered that she had not come so far to frighten him but to remind him of the duties of an honorable physician. She herself had nearly bled to death after the birth of her daughter, and he had been able to save her. Why did he not do the same for this young woman? What had happened to her beloved Tao? Had he perhaps lost his kind heart and turned into a cockroach?) (203)



Chapter 2 Finally, it is also Lin who motivates Tao to save the singsong girls toward the end of the novel. The ethic of care is upheld and transmitted by women throughout Hija de la fortuna. In the passage in which Eliza assists Tao, she not only participates in Tao’s medical practice but also emphasizes that there are no inherent male or female talents—just socialization in one direction or the other. For this reason, through experience and practice, she can now sew human flesh as well as she previously embroidered sheets for her dowry. What matters most is that Eliza’s disguise enables her to better help others who are less fortunate by serving in a capacity that was previously reserved only for men. The second episode in which Eliza practices an ethic of care is when she joins the troupe of Joe Rompehuesos. She is now dressed as the Chilean boy Elías Andieta and plays the piano for this group, whose chief, Rompehuesos, is also a woman dressed like a man. During her stay with the troupe, Eliza once again enacts an ethic of care. During a terrible frost in 1950, the group discovers a man who has suffered frostbite in two fingers. Eliza is the one who offers to amputate the fingers and has the skill to do so because of her experience beside Tao Chi’en. Although the victim, Jack, is a fearsome bandit, Eliza treats him with a human ethic of care. Joe Rompehuesos also illustrates this same ethical nature when she puts herself at risk helping miners during a dysentery epidemic. The narrator tells us that Joe had a kind and motherly heart, and dedicated herself to feeding and consoling the sick (Hija de la fortuna 324; Daughter of Fortune 301). Once again, a woman dressed as man enacts the ethic of care socialized in women. Although Rompehuesos identifies with men through her cross-dressing, she presumably was socialized as a woman in her youth and consequently displays the same behaviors as Eliza. A final example of ethical feminism can be found in Eliza’s role in assisting Tao in the salvation of the enslaved Asian prostitutes or singsong girls, some of whom are being poisoned in addition to their subjection to a life of exploitation. Immediately after Tao is first called upon to certify the death of a thirteen-year-old singsong girl, he has a spiritual encounter with his wife Lin: “No percibió a Lin entre las

Postmodern Justice

paredes del cuarto, sino dentro de su propio pecho, instalada al centro mismo de su corazón en calma. Tao Chi’en . . . permaneció . . . en perfecta comunicación con ella” (374) (“He did not see Lin inside the room but, rather, in his bosom, in the very core of his tranquil heart. Tao Chi’en . . . sat . . . in perfect communication with Lin”) (348). Although previously Tao viewed prostitution as an inevitable evil, it is right after this encounter with Lin that he decides he must dedicate himself to helping the singsong girls, and he enlists Eliza in this task as well: El trabajo más importante de Tao Chi’en y Eliza Sommers comenzaba en las noches. En la oscuridad disponían de los cuerpos de las infortunadas que no podían salvar y llevaban a las demás al otro extremo de la ciudad, donde sus amigos cuáqueros. Una y una las niñas salían del infierno para lanzarse a ciegas a una aventura sin retorno. . . . Apenas recuperaban sus fuerzas y entendían que nunca más tendrían que someterse a un hombre por obligación, pero siempre serían fugitivas, las conducían al hogar de sus amigos abolicionistas, parte del underground railroad. (401) (Tao Chi’en and Eliza Sommers did their most important work at night. In the darkness they disposed of the corpses of the poor creatures they couldn’t save and took the survivors across the city to their Quaker friends. One by one, the girls emerged from hell to leap blindly into an adventure with no return. . . . As soon as they regained strength, and understood that they would never again be forced to submit to man but would always be refugees, their rescuers took them to the home of abolitionist friends, a station in the underground railroad.) (373) Lin has instilled her ethic of care in Tao, and he and Eliza employ this ethic to achieve social justice for the enslaved singsong girls. In this episode, there is clearly a direct relationship between social justice, women’s rights, and the ethic of care. The fact that Eliza’s ethical feminism is enacted in California is not fortuitous. California is portrayed in the novel as a land of freedom, with the potential of equal rights for all. Numerous passages suggest



Chapter 2 this implicit equality. For example, Eliza speaks of a social equality through work and freedom for slaves in California, where “no hay señores ni sirvientes, solo gente de trabajo” (301) (“[t]here are no lords and servants here, only working people”) (280) and black sailors who have deserted their ships to attain their freedom and fight against slavery from California. Finally, California is a land of equal opportunity for women, who are not forced to dedicate themselves solely to domestic chores but are able to work as cowgirls, mule drivers, and bounty hunters (among other occupations), as well as become landowners with the right to handle their own properties and marry and divorce as they please (Hija de la fortuna 385; Daughter of Fortune 357). As the criticism on Hija de la fortuna has pointed out, although Eliza dresses throughout the novel as a man, at no point does she display a male consciousness (in contrast to Joe Rompehuesos, who identifies with men) (Carvalho 30). This fact is confirmed by Eliza’s decision at the end of the novel to dress again as a woman, motivated by her love for Tao Chi’en. As we have seen throughout the novel, Eliza identifies with the female ethic of care, and as Carol Gilligan has suggested, and episodes such as that of the singsong girls illustrate, this ethical feminism may be the road to a form of social justice that also connects with Cornell’s vision of equivalent rights for women. By once again donning her feminine garb, Eliza ultimately subscribes to the concept of female difference: Se sentía forastera en esa ropa . . . pero con cada prenda que se ponía iba conquistando sus dudas y afirmando su deseo de volver a ser mujer. Mamá Fresia la había prevenido contra el albur de la feminidad, . . . “cualquier hombre podrá hacer contigo lo que le venga gana” decía, pero ya no la asustaban esos riesgos. (422–23). (She felt alien in those clothes . . . but with each garment she put on she was overcoming her doubts and confirming her desire to be a woman again. Mama Fresia had warned her about the risks of womanhood . . .“any man will be able to do what he wants with you,” she had said, but now Eliza did not fear those risks.) (393) Eliza’s experiences dressed as a man have freed her from the fear

Postmodern Justice

of asserting her female identity. She can now dress as a woman and still perform the ethic of care associated with her gender in a public forum (by continuing as Tao Chi’en’s assistant). By bringing medical care to the poor, underserved population, Eliza helps to achieve social justice, not only for herself (by attaining equality with men) but for others as well. By finally achieving the ability to work in the capacity she pleases, Eliza obtains a form of postmodern feminist justice, and Allende once again communicates a message of ethical feminism in her works. Just as in La casa de los espíritus, in which women were associated with forgiveness and reconciliation, in Hija de la fortuna, the ethical factor of helping one’s fellow human is what motivates most of the action behind the cross-dressing. Eliza Sommers’s search for her lover turns into a search for gender equality, but in turn this gender equality is equated with an ethic of care for humanity. Women’s “difference” is what constitutes a plan for social justice and along with it implies the possibility of gender equality based on Cornell’s concept of equivalent rights. When Eliza is dressed as a woman, her experiences, such as the social consequences of her pregnancy, her lover’s abandonment, and her eventual miscarriage, are uniquely female, implying the need for rights for women that will address their particular needs. Although Allende does not explicitly develop this idea in the novel, it may indeed be the judicial concept behind the ethical feminism developed throughout Hija de la fortuna. Mujer en traje de batalla by Antonio Benítez-Rojo Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s Mujer en traje de batalla is also a historical novel based on the little-known life of Henriette Faber, a Frenchwoman who dressed as a man to become a doctor in the nineteenth century. Benítez-Rojo’s novel portrays historical events in France and Russia during the Napoleonic wars, as well as in Cuba and the Caribbean. The author’s note at the novel’s end offers a bibliography on the topic of Faber indicating works that he consulted in the composition of Mujer en traje de batalla. The title, Woman in Battle Dress, is a tripart reference to Faber’s role as a soldier in the Napoleonic wars, a portrait she acquires during the course of the novel that portrays a woman in battle dress, and the



Chapter 2 battle of women for equal rights during the nineteenth century and beyond. The novel displays the motif of masquerade in a variety of ways, the most prominent of which is Henriette’s decision to dress as man in order to attend medical school and became a surgeon. However, this is not the first allusion to masquerade that occurs in the novel. The theme is introduced in various forms, notably through the opera Fidelio, Henriette’s disguise as a caliph to join her future husband Robert during the war, and Robert’s own “disguise” as a Christian. When Henriette discovers that Robert is in fact Jewish, the motif of masquerade is first joined to the theme of social justice through Henriette’s comments. She finds herself somewhat upset to learn that Robert is a circumcised Jew, and raises the question of the belief in equal rights for all: Además, ¿No estaba yo de acuerdo con la igualdad de todos ante la ley, acaso no había sostenido este principio siempre en contra del juicio de tía Margot? En resumen, ¿qué daño me habían hecho los judíos? . . . En un final no tenía razones para reprocharle a Roberto que hubiera nacido judío. (86) (And wasn’t I in favor of equality for all in the eyes of the law, had I not always defended this principle against Aunt Margot’s contrary opinion? . . . Ultimately, I had no reason to reproach 2 Robert for having been born Jewish.) (79) It is when the faithful servants and friends, Claudette and Françoise, are wounded in a fire that Henriette discovers her medical vocation. It is not fortuitous that her passion for the medical profession is equated with love and associated with utility as well in the following passage: Basta decir que durante muchas semanas tío Charles y yo apenas nos separamos de las camas de nuestros amigos. En aquella sala de hospital aprendí a tomar el pulso, a descubrir la fiebre y la congestión pulmonar, a hacer sangrías, a limpiar llagas, a aplicar ungüentos y a vestir heridas. . . . Fue precisamente allí donde, al ver el fruto de los cuidados de tío Charles y de mi ayuda, surgió en mi la vocación por le medicina. Desde el principio fue una

Postmodern Justice

inclinación apremiante, irrenunciable, una sed tan difícil de aplacar como el amor. Y sin embargo, era un amor imposible. ¿Por qué la Revolución, que tantos cambios efectuara en la sociedad, no había concedido a las mujeres el derecho al estudio de las profesiones liberales? . . . acaso los asuntos de la Intendance no marcharían mucho mejor si estuvieran en manos de mujer? (189) (For many weeks, Uncle Charles and I scarcely left our friends’ bedsides. It was there, in that hospital room, that I learned to take a pulse, to recognize the signs of fever and pulmonary congestion, to perform bloodlettings, to clean bedsores, to apply unguents and to dress wounds. . . . It was there, in fact, witnessing the healing results of our efforts, that I first heard the call of my medical vocation. It was a powerful, unwavering impulse, a thirst as difficult to quench as the yearning for love. And yet, it was an impossible love. Why had the Revolution, which had effected so many changes in society, not won women the right to pursue the study of liberal professions? . . . [I]t seemed so obvious that the efforts of the Intendance would have run so much more smoothly in the hands of women.) (174) Henriette here identifies both the lack of social equality for women and her own motivations for wanting to become a doctor. It is the drive to be useful and help others, a form of love initiated by caring for her friends Claudette and Françoise, that inspires Henriette to want to pursue the medical profession. Moreover, this passage also suggests that men and women are different, a concept implied by Henriette’s thought that the army would function better if it were run by women. Shortly thereafter, Henriette decides that she must dress as man in order to attend medical school. Thus, Henriette takes on the identity of the Cuban medical student Enrique Fuenmayor y Faber. This disguise also functions as a humoristic means of exposing bad habits associated with men. Once she is forced to imitate men, Henriette notices how frequently they scratch themselves, blow their noses, pick their teeth, and touch the fly of their pants (Mujer en traje 220; Woman in Battle 202). Among Henriette’s adventures dressed as man attending medical school, the most important is her friendship with



Chapter 2 Fauriel, to whom the third section of the novel is dedicated. Henriette accidentally discovers that Fauriel, a fellow medical student, is also actually a woman dressed as a man. However, Fauriel’s reasons for adopting this disguise are somewhat different from Henriette’s. Fauriel’s family is very poor, and her masquerade as a boy since birth is a means of obtaining wealth or distributive justice, which would not be available to her as a female. Fauriel tells Henriette: “¡Solo que esta maldita miseria . . . ! ¿Te das cuenta? ¡Soy el fruto de la miseria! De no haber nacido pobre podía estar casada con alguien, tener el hijo de alguien—sollozó” (260) (“‘It’s just this wretched poverty! Don’t you see? I’m the product of poverty! Had I not been born poor I could be married to someone, have someone’s child,’ she wailed”) (239). However, Fauriel is not solely motivated by economic gain. Her intention is to return to her poverty-stricken hometown, a mining village, and help the poor and ailing miners: “En mi pueblo no hay ricos, solo familias de mineros con mala salud. Ya sabes, las minas de carbón del norte. Carbón en los pulmones . . . Allá regresaré. Algo haré por ellos” (244) (“There are no rich people in my village, just mining families in ill health. You know the coal mines in the north. Coal in the lungs. I’ll go back there. I’ll do something for them”) (224). Thus, Fauriel, like Henriette, is motivated by the idea of helping others, by the same ethic of care already observed in Hija de la fortuna. Fauriel will attempt to achieve equality for the miners through equal social services in the form of medical treatment—a form of ethical justice. The final example of Henriette’s execution of an ethic of care within her medical profession is her marriage toward the end of the novel to Juana de León. Henriette simultaneously tries to cure Juana as she falls in love with her. This episode of the novel is historical and is what leads to the eventual discovery that Henriette is not a man. As a consequence of this marriage and subsequent gender revelation, she is condemned to ten years in prison and eventually exiled from Cuba. There are several differing historical versions of Henriette Faber’s marriage to Juana de León. In Baracoa: Vicisitudes y florecimiento by Inciano D. Toirac Escasena, the chapter titled “Dr. Faber” portrays Juana de León as a socially prominent woman: “[Faber] Entabló muchas relaciones y ofreció especial distinción a una estimada dama

Postmodern Justice

de esta ciudad, a quien asistió como Médico, la Srta. Juana de León, a la que, después de alguna vacilación, le declaró el profundo amor que por ella sentía su alma” ([Faber] established many relationships and offered special distinction to an esteemed lady of this city, serving as her doctor, Miss Juana de León, to whom, after some vacillation, she declared the deep love that she felt for her in her soul) (93) (my translation). Escasena does not present Juana de León as a woman in financial distress. In contrast, in Médicos y medicina en Cuba by Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Roig emphasizes the poverty and need of the sickly Juana de León: Al establecerse en Baracoa, una tarde fue llamado a asistir de caridad, a una joven huérfana que vivía en la mayor miseria, en un humilde bohío. . . . Aquella se llamaba Juana de León. . . . M. Enrique se compadeció profundamente de la infeliz, guajirita, víctima de la terrible tisis, y al comprobar su desamparo . . . le propuso contraer matrimonio. (Upon establishing himself in Baracoa, one afternoon he was called to attend to a charity case, a young orphan who lived in the greatest misery, in a humble shack. . . . Her name was Juana de León. . . . Mr. Enrique had deep compassion for the unhappy country dweller, victim of a terrible tuberculosis, and upon confirming her abandonment . . . he proposed marriage to her.) (39) (my translation) It is this second version of events that Benítez-Rojo employs and adapts in his novel. Although to some degree Henriette is trying to find a way to be near Juana because she is in love with her, she also ultimately proposes marriage as a way to take care of the poorly fed and cared-for woman, and thus compensate for her poverty, lack of social justice, and care. When Henriette contemplates the situation and her feelings for Juana, she meditates on her health problems, concluding that hard physical labor and poor nutrition will hasten her death. Consequently, in order to remedy these accelerating factors, she decides that the best thing would be to invite Juana and her aunt to come live with her, where Juana can rest and eat properly (Mujer en traje 475; Woman in Battle 443–44). It is when Juana’s aunt



Chapter 2 protests that this arrangement would compromise her niece’s honor that Henriette proposes marriage as a socially acceptable means to secure a cure for Juana’s illness. Henriette enacts an ethic of care to obtain social justice for Juana, which her male disguise as a doctor enables to her achieve. This episode is the last of a series of adventures that revolve around the theme of lesbianism in the novel. Henriette is bisexual and has at least three lesbian encounters in the course of her life dressed as a man. The first is with her friend Fauriel, after they are each aware that the other is really a woman. The second is with the nurse Nadezhda when she is a soldier in Russia, and the last is with Juana de León (although no physical relationship actually takes place and Juana is unaware that Henriette is a woman). Moreover, other lesbian relationships occur in the novel: it is a motif in Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, and Françoise and Claudette also share lesbian love. Of all these different episodes, the one that is most pertinent for my discussion is the novel’s fourth chapter, titled “Nadezhda.” Henriette describes her sexual encounter with Nadezhda as a love between mother and daughter, a relationship clearly defined by an ethic of care: Debo decir que mi misteriosa noche con Nadezhda había estado marcada por la ternura. . . . [S]obre todo por un deseo mutuo de dar y recibir amor de madre. . . . Primero yo le serví de madre compartiendo con ella la manta y el capote y ofreciéndole mi pezón . . . después ella me dio de mamar el suyo. (329) (I should say that my mysterious night with Nadezhda was marked by tenderness. . . . [M]ore than anything we were moved by a mutual longing to give and to receive a mother’s love. . . . First I was mother to her sharing my blanket and cape and offering her my breast . . . in turn, she offered me hers, which I delicately bathed with my tongue.) (305) Henriette’s male disguise as a soldier brings her together with Nadezhda. Their sexual encounter is described as one in which they take care of each other as a mother cares for her daughter. The sexual actions, such as nipple sucking, are also described as the nurturing

Postmodern Justice

activity of breastfeeding. Thus, once again, the disguised woman (although her disguise is here unmasked) is associated with the ethic of care. The description of Henriette’s sexual encounter with Nadezhda evokes Drucilla Cornell’s description of lesbian love. In her critique of Catharine MacKinnon’s description of the woman’s role in heterosexual love as “getting fucked,” Cornell counterpoises lesbian love as a form of comfort and caring, a type of sexual relationship that offers protection rather than the aggressive attack implied in the words “getting fucked”: Instead [of fuckers versus fuckees], by “sex” I mean the physical intimacy necessary for creatures of the flesh. Sex is the caressing, the kissing, the embracing that can bring comfort, and connection to two mortal, sexual creatures . . . finding in one another a moment of protection and safety. . . . I am not arguing that lesbianism can simply take us away from male domination. Even so, [Monique] Wittig has brilliantly argued, lesbianism can provide us with a politically significant vision of a different engagement with a woman’s own body, and with a lover in which woman’s “sex” is not repudiated. (135) In this sense, Benítez-Rojo’s lesbian scenes in the novel appear to relate to the concept of ethical feminist justice that we have observed throughout the novel via Henriette’s masquerade as a man. Henriette proposes a very postmodern vision of love that is not tied to gender but is rather more universal, a love for humanity, which is akin to Carol Gilligan’s ethic of human care. Just as Gilligan argues that caring should not be gendered (although it is in patriarchal society), Henriette maintains that neither should love be attached to gender. When she tries to understand herself and why she has been able to love both men and women, Henriette states: ¿Por qué he podido amar a otras mujeres sin dejar de ser mujer, quiero decir, sin que eso me impidiera amar a hombres . . .? Lo gracioso del caso es que, aun suponiendo que tal desbordamiento amoroso fuera consecuencia de una psiquis anormal, nunca lo



Chapter 2 sentí como desgracia como limitación, enfermedad o aberración crónica, ni siquiera como inquietud. . . . Tal pareciera que los géneros se borraran en mi juicio, y como sucede con la amistad, experimentar a los sentimientos de amor dentro de un nivel más alto, más general, es decir, en tanto ser humano. (481) (Why have I been capable of loving other women without ceasing to be a woman myself, and, without it preventing me from loving men . . .? The funny thing is, even supposing that such boundaryless love were the consequence of an abnormal psyche, I’ve never felt it as a misfortune, limitation, illness or chronic aberration, nor even as a cause for concern. . . . For me, the genders seemed to disappear and, as occurs with friendship, I experienced feelings of love on a higher, more general plane, that is, as a human being.) (449) By proposing a genderless love, Henriette is not only advocating for gender equality but also suggesting that equality and justice should be based on love, the ultimate ethic of care. Feminine Space in Nuestra señora de la soledad and La señora de los sueños Two other novels that exhibit feminist justice based on an ethic of care are Marcela Serrano’s Nuestra señora de la soledad (1999) and Sara Sefchovich’s La señora de los sueños (1994). These works share both a striking similarity in their titles and a common approach to feminist justice through the concept of space. They arrive at a feminist ethic of care from an entirely different angle than Hija de la fortuna and Mujer en traje de batalla. The latter two novels present women who dress as men as a means to achieve certain rights and to be able to perform meaningful work related to the ethic of care, thus providing services to the needy. In the works by Serrano and Sefchovich, the female protagonists do not dress as men but adopt other disguises in order to define a female space of self-determination. The motif of disguise is united with that of a feminine space to define a feminist justice ultimately based on the ethic of care. Two key works that help to explain what is meant here by a “feminine

Postmodern Justice

space” are Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space. Woolf’s famous work delves into the question of how women can successfully create (write fiction). On the second page of the text, Woolf states: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” (6). As Sharon Jansen notes, Woolf later on explains that the money “stands for the power to contemplate” while the locked room “means the power to think for oneself” (Jansen 4). Both of these ideas (money and private, creative space) foreground the novels by Serrano and Sefchovich, as I show below. It is important to note that Bachelard’s text also has important resonances for both of these works. Bachelard is a philosopher who, mixing literary analysis, psychology, and philosophy, analyzes the significance of space, understood in variety of forms (the house, the corner, the casket, the wardrobe, the nest, and so forth) in poetry. The Poetics of Space is one of numerous works that Bachelard has written on the phenomenology of imagination. According to Edward K. Kaplan, Bachelard establishes imagination as a creative faculty that does not simply perceive or reproduce reality (Kaplan 2). In other words, as Bachelard declares in L’Aire et les songes, imagination “is rather the faculty of deforming images provided by perception; it is above all the faculty of liberating us from first images” (cited in Kaplan 2). More specifically, in The Poetics of Space, Bachelard illustrates how the house integrates dreams, thoughts, and memories, and he applies his ideas to elements of the house and the notion of home. According to the author: All really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home. In the course of this work, we shall see that the imagination functions in this direction whenever the human being has found the slightest shelter: we shall see the imagination build “walls” of impalpable shadows, comfort itself with the illusion of protection,—or, just the contrary, tremble behind thick walls, mistrust the staunchest ramparts. In short, in the most interminable of dialectics, the sheltered being gives perceptible limits to his shelter. He experiences the house in its reality and in its virtuality, by means of thought and dreams. (5)



Chapter 2 Below, I will fuse many of Bachelard’s ideas about the relationship between enclosed spaces and the concepts of refuge, solitude, creativity, protection, and secrecy with Woolf’s concept of a room of one’s own. The blending of the ideas of Woolf and Bachelard illuminates the sense of feminist justice developed in Nuestra señora de la soledad and La señora de los sueños through the superposition of disguise and space. The themes of the novels by Serrano and Sefchovich are very different. In Nuestra señora de la soledad, Serrano’s protagonist, Rosa Alvallay, is a female private detective hired by Tomás Rojas, the dean of the university, to find his wife, who has disappeared. Rosa’s investigation leads her to Mexico, where she discovers that the missing wife, C. L. Ávila, a famous crime fiction writer, has adopted a completely new identity. In contrast, Sefchovich’s protagonist, Ana Fernández, is a bored housewife who becomes depressed because she has nothing interesting to do with her life. Ana begins reading books to pass the time. However, after each novel, she starts to dress as the protagonist and live in the manner in which the character lived in the books. Through these various disguises, Ana undergoes a process of evolution, as does her family. At the end of the novel, Ana develops a successful bread- and pie-making business and is then happy to simultaneously continue her life as a housewife who takes care of the family. What unites these two very diverse novels, one by the first Chilean female detective writer (Quinn 303), another by a Mexican sociologist, is the way in which both employ disguise within the concept of feminine space to achieve a vision of ethical feminist justice. Nuestra señora de la soledad as Feminist Detective Fiction Nuestra señora de la soledad suggests the novel’s main theme in its title. Although the title refers to an image of the Virgin in a Mexican cathedral, it is also a reference to the protagonist, C. L. Ávila. Ávila is portrayed as woman who has undergone a number of traumatic experiences. As a child, she witnessed her grandmother’s murder at the hands of her aunt; later on she has an illegitimate son with a married man, the writer Santiago Blanco, and then eventually is unhappily married to Tomás Rojas. Rojas is portrayed as a controlling and

Postmodern Justice

unfaithful husband, who forces Ávila to dress in a formal way and accompany him to multiple official functions. He squelches her free-spirited nature. Moreover, as the private detective slowly reveals, Ávila also feels confined by her own successful literary creation, the detective Pamela Hawthorne, about whom she no longer wishes to write. At the novel’s end, the reader learns that Ávila is also “nuestra señora de la soledad,” a woman who seeks solitude and, in Woolf’s terms, “a room of her own.” These details of Ávila’s life are slowly unraveled by Rosa Alvallay. As in the other novels studied here, Nuestra señora de la soledad employs disguise as a means to achieve social justice, specifically feminist justice. The instances of disguise are varied, and while many in and of themselves do not relate to justice, ultimately each element, like the clues in the crime, combine to articulate a message of feminist justice. I will focus here on the most salient examples of disguise and masquerade in the novel. The first manifestation of the theme of disguise is the description of Ávila’s wardrobe. The narrator explains in great detail how one side of the closet contains Ávila’s fancy clothing, while the opposite side contains her casual, preferred outfits. Ávila is adept at transforming from one person into another by changing clothes. Whenever she would arrive home after a formal event, she would quickly take off the fancy clothes and put on “la ropa étnica” (saris, kimonos, huipiles, and other loose-fitting garments in which she felt comfortable). Her donning of the formal clothing is described as “[e]l disfraz . . . rápido, su cuerpo salvaje se constriñe, se norma y ya oprimida, sofocada, se convierte en la esposa del Rector” (the disguise . . . rapidly, her savage body becomes constrained, normalized and already oppressed, suffocated, she becomes the wife of the dean) (67–68) (my translation). The tight-fitting, formal outfits have a constraining effect on Ávila, while her normal, loose-fitting garments are obviously associated with the freedom that is lacking in her life. What is particularly interesting about this act of masquerade in which Ávila adopts the persona of the “Dean’s Wife” is that it takes place in the space of the wardrobe. According to Bachelard: “Wardrobes with their shelves, desks with their drawers . . . are veritable organs of the secret psychological



Chapter 2 life. . . . Like us, through us, and for us, they have a quality of intimacy. . . . A wardrobe’s inner space is also intimate space, space that is not open to just anybody” (78). Thus, Ávila’s wardrobe and the masquerade it fuels are symbols of her psychological distress and her need to find a space of her own. A second instance of disguise is articulated through Ávila’s multiple names. Originally, her birth name was Carmen Lewis. Tomás’s daughter, Ana, emphasizes Ávila’s dual identity by referring to her by her previous name, Lewis. According to Ana, her first memories of Lewis were of a passionate, extroverted woman, while Ávila was now mute and inaccessible (86–87). These changes parallel the transformation of the protagonist from a free spirit in her loose clothing into the elegantly dressed dean’s wife. Lewis is the free spirit, while Ávila becomes the controlled spouse. Masquerade resurfaces in the novel a third time when the detective, Rosa, must disguise herself to pursue Santiago Blanco, whom she hopes will lead her to Ávila: No me vio subir al avión, toda disfrazada. La rídicula pero versosímil peluca rubia cenicienta que traje conmigo ha cumplido su objetivo, al igual que los blujins y la camisa de la misma tela. . . . Parezco una mala imitación . . . de las miles de mujeres actuales. En dos palabras: Resulto irreconocible, hasta para mí misma. (He didn’t see me get on the plane, completely disguised. The ridiculous but realistic dirty blond wig that I brought with me fulfilled its objective, the same as the blue jeans and the shirt of the same material. . . . I look like a poor imitation . . . of thousands of contemporary women. In two words: I am unrecognizable, even to myself.) (183) (my translation) This element of disguise follows the traditional rules of detective fiction: the detective disguises him/herself to investigate the crime. In this case, the “crime” is the disappearance of Ávila, and thus Rosa’s disguise (as any detective’s) may be seen as contributing to the eventual achievement of justice (finding the perpetrator of the disappearance and bringing him or her to justice). However, after Rosa’s disguise, the novel takes an unexpected

Postmodern Justice

turn. Rosa is led by Santiago Blanco to a woman’s secluded house in Oaxaca in which she finds a pill bottle with the mark of a Chilean pharmacy. Rosa is convinced that the woman, although in appearance younger and very different from Ávila, is the disappeared wife in disguise. Although she is at first fooled by the new appearance, upon later reflection she concludes that Lucía Reyes, the alleged Colombian woman now residing in Mexico, is C. L. Ávila: Entonces medito sobre la gama de posibilidades de cambio en la apariencia de una mujer, el pelo lo doy por descontado ya que un largo cabello crespo y castaño no toma más que unos minutos en transformarse en una mínima cabellera rubia. . . . [L]os ojos pueden cambiar de color con lentes de contacto. . . . Una estricta dieta permite al cuerpo bajar diez kilos en dos meses. . . . Una cirugía plástica de las que se practican hoy . . . puede borrar diez años de la apariencia. (I then meditate on the gamut of possibilities for change in a woman’s appearance; I don’t count the hair, since long, brown, curly hair doesn’t take more than a few minutes to become short blond hair. . . . eyes can change color with contact lenses. . . . A strict diet allows the body to lose ten kilograms in two months. . . . A plastic surgery like the ones performed today . . . can make one look ten years younger.) (223) (my translation) The reasons for Ávila’s desire to disappear have been slowly uncovered by Rosa throughout the course of the novel, some of which we have already seen. However, perhaps the most significant motive for the disappearance is related to Woolf’s concept of a woman’s space of her own. Kate Quinn alludes to this connection in her study of the Chilean detective novel. She states that Serrano “explores the possibility of women creating a utopian space for themselves in the modern world” (303), pointing out the indirect allusion to Woolf. This idea merits further development, as it is intertwined with both disguise and the notion of feminist ethical justice throughout the novel. The novel opens with an unexplained passage in italics that is not attributed to any particular speaker. The passage reads:



Chapter 2 Al despedirse a la mañana siguiente, tuvo la osadía de preguntar a la falsa bailarina cuál era su fantasía. —Tener una casa en algún lugar del mundo pintado de azul. Bang Bang. La pelota rebota. Los niños la atrapan. La niña queda mirando, queda mirando. La niña no atrapa nada, la niña solo mira. (Upon saying goodbye the next morning, he had the audacity to ask the false ballerina what her fantasy was. —To have a house somewhere in the world painted blue. Bang Bang. The ball bounces. The boys catch it. The little girl remains looking on, looking on. The little girl doesn’t catch anything, the little girl only looks. (12, italics in original) (my translation) The reader learns toward the end of the book that this passage is from a novel written by Santiago Blanco about Ávila. At the novel’s end, the disguised Ávila is living in Mexico in a house painted blue. The passage refers to the social inequality between men and women— only the little boys catch the ball, only the little boys attain what they want. However, this gender inequality is overcome in the novel when Ávila manages to escape her dismal life with Rojas and find the “paradise” of solitude that she has always associated with Mexico. Rosa indicates that according to Rigoberta Menchú, Mexico is a sanctuary for those who could not find such a space anywhere else (123). The blue house is Ávila’s space of her own, and, just as Woolf specifies, she is only able to achieve it because she has the money to do so. When Rosa realizes what Ávila has accomplished, she meditates on her own possibility of achieving the same, noting the difference in material means: “Si hoy quisiese cambiar mi vida radicalmente no tendría la más mínima posibilidad de llevarlo a cabo. Pero si tuviese los medios . . . ¿qué libertad me otogaría?” (If today I wished to radically change my life, I would not have the most minimal possibility of achieving it. But if I had the material means . . . what freedom would that grant to me?) (233) (my translation). Money provides Ávila with the means to achieve a new identity, a new space of contemplation symbolized by the blue house. Moreover, according to Bachelard, the house “allows

Postmodern Justice

one to dream” (6); “this space . . . identified with . . . solitude is creative” (10); and a secluded house symbolizes a hermit’s hut, which is the image of solitude and “absolute refuge” (51). Thus, as both Woolf and Bachelard suggest, Ávila’s house is her space to be alone, her refuge from the world she escaped, and her opportunity to be creative and be herself. It is her disguised identity that allows her to do what she wants to do and remain within this space of her own, thus achieving a form of feminist justice. Although Rosa envies Ávila’s ability to achieve what she herself does not have the economic means to accomplish, there is clearly a female solidarity that is operative in their association. Rosa equates the house to Ávila’s salvation, once again emphasizing the notion of space: “Y mirando hacia el espacio que esta enigmática mujer ha creado para sí misma, cortando como opción con toda una vida para buscar otra que la contente, pienso que ella si es capaz de procurarse ese placer por lo tanto, está salvada” (And looking toward the space that this enigmatic woman has created for herself, taking the option to cut herself off from an entire life to seek another that makes her happy, I think that if she is capable of obtaining that pleasure, she is thus saved) (219) (my translation). It is this solidarity and the recognition of the achievement of a feminist justice through Ávila’s new identity that leads Rosa to keep Ávila’s secret and not betray her by revealing her whereabouts to her husband, Tomás Rojas: Me pregunto acongojada quién soy yo para interrumpir sus pasos. ¿Si es justo que una vez más los niños atrapen la pelota y la niña quede mirando? . . . Comprendo que debo rendir cuentas, que el prestigio que adquirirá resolver esta investigación es elevado, que la verdad en esta profesión mía es el más apreciado intangible. Pero yo no quisiera que algún día otra mujer me delatara si en mí si llegara a aventurar la esperanza. (I ask myself anguished who am I to interrupt her steps. Is it just that once more the little boys catch the ball and the little girl looks on? . . . I understand that I must be accountable, that the prestige that I would obtain by solving this investigation is high, and that the truth in this profession of mine is the most prized



Chapter 2 intangible. But I would not want another woman to tattle on me someday if I were to venture to have hope.) (254) (my translation) Rosa’s decision at the novel’s conclusion is another example of Gilligan’s ethic of care as a form of social justice. Instead of allowing reason to determine her decision (the prestige she would achieve, the prevailing of truth), Rosa is guided by concern for Ávila, by the moral virtue of not betraying another individual, especially another woman. It is through this ethical feminism that Rosa aids in the process of women achieving equality with men. Finally, the little girl (Ávila) catches the ball and accomplishes what only men have achieved before her—total freedom, her own identity and space. The idea that Serrano is proposing a feminine ethic of care in Nuestra señora de la soledad is confirmed by her emphasis on the difference between men and women. Throughout the novel, comments appear that reinforce the distinct socialization of men and women. For example, according to Rosa, the protagonist of Ávila’s detective novels, Pamela Hawthorne, asserts that women, unlike men, possess a subjective perception of the truth (74). In another passage, Rosa recalls that whenever she spoke with a man, he would forget the details and only focus on the essence, the complete opposite of what a woman would do (144). Finally, when Rosa notes women’s lack of independence and freedom in contemporary society, she states: “Sólo cuento con un elemento propio, íntimo, que para un hombre puede resultar abstracto: C. L. Ávila es también una mujer rodeada por las mismas leyes, obligada a someterse a ellas o a sucumbir” (I only count on one intimate element of my own, which for a man would seem abstract: C. L. Ávila is also a woman surrounded by the same laws, obliged to subject herself to them or to succumb) (132) (my translation). Thus, Rosa Alvallay recognizes both the essential differences between men and women and the social inequalities that exist between the two, bridging those inequalities through her support of Ávila’s disappearance. She achieves feminist equality through her caring for Ávila’s ultimate happiness and salvation. Instead of worrying about her own career, Rosa obtains justice through her preoccupation for her fellow woman.

Postmodern Justice

La señora de los sueños by Sara Sefchovich Sara Sefchovich’s La señora de los sueños also establishes a connection between disguise and woman’s space. The novel centers on the life of a bored housewife, Ana Fernández. Ana is taken for granted by her husband, daughter, and son, who rely on her to cook, clean, and attend to their every need. Ana becomes depressed until she is sold some books by the local bookstore owner. She then embarks on a reading a series of novels, each set in a faraway place. Thus, reading becomes a woman’s space to think and dream. However, Ana takes her readings one step further. After each book, Ana adopts the identity of the book’s protagonist, “disguises” herself by wearing clothing similar to theirs, and enacts the life lived in the book. In this manner, Ana fuses the motifs of disguise and space to engage in a process of self-discovery. In each instance (each disguise and space), Ana learns an important lesson and evolves in significant ways. I trace this evolutionary process below. The novel begins by establishing space as an important motif through the description of Ana’s house as a jail. On the first page of the novel, Ana describes herself as the “queen of the house” where everything between the “four walls” is hers. However, this kingdom quickly devolves into a prison, as Ana’s son notes: “[C]uando me dio sarampión tuve que estar diez días encerrado y sin poder recibir visitas ni hacer ninguna actividad. Fue espantoso, así debe ser la cárcel, qué horror. Y ella [la madre] vive así todo el tiempo” (When I had the measles I had to stay home without having any visits or doing any activities. It was atrocious, that’s how jail must be, what a horror. And she [the mother] lives like this all the time) (21) (my translation). Ana attempts to escape this prison through reading, which, as Carmen Rivera Villegas notes, is like Woolf’s “space of one’s own” (48). It is also significant that Ana locks herself in her bedroom to secretly read these novels and thus clearly demarcate a space for herself in her home. At first glance, the seven novels narrated through Ana’s eyes appear disconnected, as each takes place in a different location under very different circumstances. In the first novel, the protagonist is a Bedouin in the fifteenth century. Ana then sequentially identifies with a



Chapter 2 nineteenth-century well-to-do Russian woman, a contemporary New York prostitute, a naturalist in the Galápagos Islands during the era of Darwin, Castro’s lover during the Cuban revolution, a twentieth-­ century Israeli kibbutz dweller, and finally a convert to the philosophy of Gandhi during the first half of the twentieth century. By adopting these different identities, Ana learns important lessons about subservience, woman’s space, freedom, vocation, the connection to the earth, equality, and spirituality. As I show below, all of these elements combine to form Ana’s ultimate identity at the end of the novel as a woman who fuses her own space and vocation with an ethic of care to achieve feminist justice. Ana Fernández’s first book, about a Bedouin woman who is subservient to her husbands’ (she has several in the course of the novel) wishes and needs, at first simply appears to parallel Ana’s own present situation. The novel narrates how the Bedouin woman’s home is like a prison because she cannot leave it until she dies. We are told that she believes this to be God’s proclamation and thus, as divine justice, should not be questioned (39). The Bedouin novel specifically raises the issue of justice with regard to women. Despite the traditional setting, it is through this episode that Ana learns to reject total subservience to her family, because when she adopts this “disguise,” they simply take advantage of her obedience and do not in any way appreciate what she does for them. After reading the book, according to Ana’s husband, Ana “[s]e pone pantalones muy anchos. . . . Anda todo el tiempo como si la hubieran invitado a una fiesta de disfraces” (puts on very wide pants. . . . She walks around all the time as if she had been invited to a costume ball) (73) (my translation). However, Ana’s masquerade as the Bedouin only leads her to conclude that women should not be subservient to their families. She tells the psychiatrist that she will never again go out of her way to be helpful because submission never does any good (76). This is the first lesson that Ana learns through reading. Ana’s second novel, about a wealthy Russian woman who is married with five children but also has an affair with Franz Liszt, teaches Ana the importance of a woman’s space of her own. The novelistic episode is bracketed by comments by Ana that emphasize the

Postmodern Justice

importance of her own space. Before reading the novel, Ana stalks out of her psychiatrist’s office focused on the pleasure of lying on her bed, reading another novel (77). After disguising herself as the Russian woman, when her husband forbids her to read, Ana emphasizes how her previously cherished house has been converted into a prison: “Siento que los adornos se me echan encima, que las cortinas, las alfombras, las vestiduras y colgadoras me ahogan. Es extraño, antes me encantaba mi casa, me parecía la más bonita” (I feel like the decorations are thrown on top of me, that the curtains, the rugs, the apparel, the hangings drown me. It’s strange, before I loved my house, it seemed so pretty to me) (145) (my translation). The connection to the Russian novel is its focus on the idea of a space of one’s own. In the novel, the Russian woman’s husband purchases a cabin in Crimea, which becomes the woman’s own private space (114). Later on, when the protagonist’s husband dies, she retreats to the cabin to recuperate: “En este lugar tan querido, me retiré del mundo y me dediqué a cuidar mi jardín. Aquí volví a dejarme arrebatar por la poesía y dediqué muchas horas a la música” (In this beloved place I retired from the world and dedicated myself to cultivating my garden. Here I allowed myself to get carried away by poetry again and I dedicated many hours to music) (301) (my translation). Thus, it is through this novel that Ana learns she must find a space of her own beyond the house in order to be fulfilled. The Russian novel serves a second important function. It is through Ana’s wealthy Russian woman disguise that her family also begins to change and evolve. Ana hires a servant and begins to throw dinner parties dressed in “unos vestidos largos que parece que va a ir a un baile en el palacio de su majestad el rey” (long dresses that make it seem like she is going to a dance at the king’s palace) (139) (my translation). However, it turns out that both her daughter and husband enjoy these gatherings, and thus they constitute a first step toward their eventual acceptance of doing things that Ana enjoys. The following episode, based on the adventures of a New York City prostitute, is all about freedom. The prostitute’s life is totally bohemian and does not appear to offer much to envy, but she emphasizes her ability to come and go as she pleases, without having to



Chapter 2 account to anyone (including her roommate) about her whereabouts: “Soy libre, le digo, no tengo que darte cuentas de mi vida ni decirte donde ando, ni a ti ni a nadie” (I am free, I tell you, I do not have to account to you about my life or tell you where I go, not to you or anyone) (177) (my translation). This adventure (it is unclear whether it is just a dream or a novel read in violation of her husband’s prohibition) is both preceded and followed by Ana’s reflections on freedom. She prefaces this episode by commenting that in order to be happy, one must be free and thus not have a family or husband to make demands on one’s time (146). By reading the novel about the prostitute, Ana subsequently learns that a woman must be free to pursue her own interests. The next novel is significant because, as in Hija de la fortuna and Mujer en traje de batalla, it presents a woman disguised as a man to pursue her scientific vocation. The female protagonist, Camila, having rejected the models of her unhappily married mother and sister, flees to the Galápagos Islands to study nature and eventually meets Charles Darwin. Indeed, she explains that it was she who actually developed the theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest, not Darwin. However, as a woman she did not have the means to publically test and disseminate these theories, which she left in the hands of Darwin. The disguise of the protagonist in this novel facilitates various reflections on feminist justice that suggest that justice should be based on an ethic of care. For example, Camila protests Darwin’s practice of sending specimens to England, clearly bringing an ethical component to scientific inquiry: “A mí esa costumbre me parecía bárbara, no creía que fuera correcto desde el punto de vista ético matar seres vivos en aros de nuestro saber científico” (To me this custom seemed barbarous; I didn’t think it was correct from an ethical point of view to kill live beings for the sake of our scientific knowledge) (212) (my translation). Also, when Darwin falls in love with Camila, not knowing that she is actually a woman, Camila espouses a theory of love that goes beyond gender to encompass all humankind: “El amor puro es cosa de Dios. . . . Amamos a los animales, al sol y la lluvia. . . . ¿[P]or qué no habríamos de amar a nuestro prójimo sin importar su sexo?” (Pure love is a thing from God. . . . We love

Postmodern Justice

animals, the sun, and the rain. . . . Why are we not to love our fellow humans without gender mattering?) (218) (my translation). This reflection is similar to that of Henriette regarding her bisexual love in Mujer en traje de batalla. Camila’s disguise ultimately serves to underscore a woman’s right to pursue her own professional vocation: “Pero conservé la esperanza de que . . . el ejemplo de mi vida servirá para romper la imposibilidad de las mujeres de seguir su vocación y que no se vean privadas de vivir una vida completa” (But I preserved the hope that . . . the example of my life will serve to destroy the impossibility of women following their vocation and that they are not deprived of living a complete life) (232) (my translation). Camila emphasizes her inability to combine her vocation with a personal life (marriage and family) because she was forced to dress as a man and live an isolated existence in order to pursue a scientific career. This lesson is an important one for Ana Fernández, who at the novel’s end will combine her vocation with caring for her family, thus attaining the right to have both a personal and a professional life. Moreover, Ana adopts from Camila the lesson that women should not have to disguise their behavior and that change must occur in the future so that women can be educated and pursue their careers. Thus, when Ana’s daughter discovers that Ana has been secretly reading this novel about the naturalist, Ana is provoked by her daughter’s shouts into rebelling against the imposed prohibitions. She subsequently begins to read openly (242). Ana acts out the role of the naturalist by examining a worm in her daughter’s mango and talking to her son about tropical fish. She then explains that her inability to pursue her interests formally stems from the fact that she was born a woman and that it is the task of her children’s generation to change future society (243). Of course, Ana’s comments also preface the next novel, which takes place during the Cuban revolution and focuses on the theme of social inequality and societal change. Women’s plight is thus united to the larger struggle for an egalitarian society. In the novel that revolves around Fidel Castro, the protagonist is Castro’s lover but also works as a conduit of the voice of the people. Castro has her circulate among the common people to find out what



Chapter 2 they think about the revolution. In the beginning, the protagonist describes the revolution as having ended all racial, sexual, and age discrimination (267) and says that Castro is acclaimed by the people. However, by the end of this episode, the female narrator-protagonist writes a letter to Castro that indicates the failure of the revolution: “He pasado mi vida escuchando lo que la gente tiene para decirte y te lo digo: el pueblo cubano hambreado y atosigado . . . te pide que te vayas” (I have spent my life listening to what the people have to say to you and I tell you: the Cuban people, hungry and badgered . . . ask you to leave) (295) (my translation). What is important here is not so much the deterioration of the Cuban revolution but the fact that the protagonist both serves as a voice of the people and also enacts ethical justice—the idea that Castro should resign for the good of his people. Her letter is an emotional appeal for justice to Castro based on an ethic of care. Once again, both prior and subsequent to this episode, Ana calls for revolution and change. She starts treating the servant like a family member, helps her study to be a nurse, and serves the family a simple Cuban diet of rice and beans. She preaches that everyone in the household should work, an idea that appeals to her husband, who also continues to evolve and change. He now recognizes his wife’s wisdom and wants to begin participating in activities that are to her liking, such as going to the movies. The socialist idea from the Cuban novel that everyone should work combines with the next novel’s focus on the value of the earth in the Israeli kibbutz, to stimulate Ana’s decision to begin a pie- and bread-making business. She reflects on the possibility of selling her delicious nut bread as a way to earn some money of her own instead of constantly having to go to her husband (300). It is significant that making bread is associated with caring, a fact that reinforces the notion of ethical feminism. Ana notes: “Amasar el pan es algo muy agradable . . . siento que uno que está en contacto . . . con lo que nutre al ser humano. Es como cuando mis hijos eran pequeños y yo los criaba y les enseñaba todo. . . . Es la misma sensación, una dicha muy profunda, por estar haciendo algo muy importante” (Kneading bread is very pleasant. . . . I feel that one is in contact . . . with what nurtures the human being. It is like when my children were little and I took

Postmodern Justice

care of them and taught them everything. . . . It is the same sensation, a very deep happiness, for doing something very important) (301) (my translation). Work and the primacy of relationships fuse in the act of bread making, which is also Ana’s vocation. As the reader learns at the end of La señora de los sueños, Ana becomes fulfilled through this activity joined with caring for her family. The Israeli kibbutz, like the Cuban revolution, is based on a model of sharing and equality but adds the dimension of working the earth, of growing the grains that Ana will eventually turn into bread. The protagonist, Keren, states her love for the earth, which she inherited from her grandmother and which is symbolized by her name, which means “seed” (331). This novel about a kibbutz dweller results in Ana becoming a vegetarian and wanting to have more children, but also in her becoming a successful businesswoman. Finally, the episode in which the protagonist becomes a follower of Gandhi is both prefaced and followed by a reflection on God. The episode focuses on the notion of spiritual well-being, which Ana has finally achieved through her bread- and pie-making business: “He pensado en Dios . . . sólo para darle las gracias. Tengo una linda familia. Salí de la depresión tan terrible que tenía y hasta tuve éxito en mi negocio. La verdad, pues, estoy contenta” (I have thought about God . . . only to thank Him. I have a beautiful family. I overcame the terrible depression I suffered and I even was successful in my business. Well, the truth is, I am very happy) (341) (my translation). This satisfaction is mirrored in the spiritual satisfaction experienced by the protagonist, who is a Gandhi follower in the novel. Moreover, the topic of Gandhi also emphasizes the theme of social justice: “Y allí nos fuimos a fundar una nueva comunidad. Por nombre le puso Satyagraha, palabra que él [Gandhi] había inventado y que significaba ‘la no aceptación de la injusticia’” (And we went there to found a new community. We gave it the name Satyagraha, a Word that he [Gandhi] had invented and that meant “the non-acceptance of injustice”) (346) (my translation). Thus, by adopting the lives of the novelistic protagonists, Ana Fernández is also able to enact an agenda of social justice, fueled by ethical feminism. La señora de los sueños concludes with the following affirmation:



Chapter 2 Soy ama de casa, cuido y atiendo mi hogar y a mis seres queridos, tengo un trabajo que me agrada y dispongo del tiempo ¡Oh dulce libertad! Para leer . . . Sí, eso he hecho yo. Me atreví a ponerme los disfraces, a aparecer otra. Me atreví a buscar la felicidad como si tuviera derecho a ella. ¿Por qué no? (I am a housewife, I take care of and attend to my home and my loved ones. I have a job that pleases me and I dispose of time, oh sweet liberty!, to read . . . Yes, I have done this. I dared to put on disguises, to appear as another. I dared to seek happiness as if I had the right to it. Why not?) (379) (my translation) Ana’s personal quest for happiness is also a feminist quest for social equality, which she achieves through masquerade and resolves by fusing a vocation with family. The fact that her vocation involves bread making, which as we have already seen is associated with nourishing humankind, illustrates that her business functions on a symbolic level as an enactment of the female ethic of care, or ethical feminism as seen throughout this chapter. Sefchovich, like Serrano, unites the concepts of disguise and a woman’s “space of her own” to develop the idea of postmodern feminist justice. In summary, all four of the novels studied in this chapter focus on justice for women. In each case, the female protagonists emphasize ethical behavior to achieve feminist justice. An ethic of caring is portrayed both to provide equivalent (but not necessarily equal) rights to women, at the same time that such behavior affords social justice to the poor and underserved populations. Whether it be the miners to whom Fauriel plans to give medical care in Mujer en traje de batalla, the singsong girls, or criminals like Jack Three-Fingers who are helped by Eliza in Hija de la fortuna, or simply unhappy wives like C. A. Ávila and Ana Fernández who eventually find their own space and happiness (either as recipients or dispensers of ethical caring), these works partake in a philosophy of humanitarianism akin to Carol Gilligan’s ethic of care as the foundational principle of social justice.


Postcolonial Structural Justice Isabel Allende’s Zorro and Carmen Boullosa’s Duerme

Postcolonial Justice The terms “indigenous justice” and “postcolonial justice” are frequently topics of discussion in both justice studies and postcolonial theory. Although they do not offer a strict definition of the term “postcolonial justice,” Loretta Capeheart and Dragan Milovanovic discuss ways in which indigenous populations have rendered justice, as well various theories regarding the achievement of postcolonial justice. With regard to indigenous forms of justice, they mention shaming, healing, and embracing, noting that these elements are “factors that are key to the development of contemporary restorative justice programs” (109). Restorative justice is defined as a process of “acknowledging harms committed by persons, but also the desirability for the active participation of victims and offenders in attempts to resolve the conflict” (Albert Eglash, cited in Capeheart and Milovanovic 55). Capeheart and Milovanovic cite as an example the contemporary acknowledgment that indigenous people did not relinquish their lands but were forcefully robbed of them by the colonizers (112). In an attempt to arrive at a definition of postcolonial justice, Capeheart and Milovanovic review the ideas of several of the most impor­ tant postcolonial theorists: Frantz Fanon, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Homi K. Bhabha. These writers underscore the problems inherent in giving voice to the colonized or “subaltern,” such as Spivak’s insistence that the subaltern cannot be heard with their own voice because they are obliged to speak through the dominant discourse of the 87


Chapter 3 colonizers. However, Spivak indicates that despite this fact, the subaltern can set agendas for social change and justice by maintaining a critical distance from such assumed positions. Bhabha indicates that the ambivalence of the colonizer toward the colonized creates “interstitial spaces” that allow alternative ideas of concepts such as justice to be expressed. Finally, Fanon emphasizes the need for resistance to colonization and colonial thought to achieve postcolonial justice (Capeheart and Milovanovic 121). Despite their efforts, Capeheart and Milovanovic fall short of arriving at a clear definition of postcolonial justice, largely because the works of the theorists cited reflect more on other issues surrounding colonization (such as the ambiguous relationship between colonizer and colonized, or the lack of voice of the colonized), rather than on the concepts of social justice per se. The deficiencies inherent in Capeheart and Milovanovic’s discussion of postcolonial justice are remedied by several studies that focus on postcolonial justice as structural justice, notably “Rethinking Transitional Justice, Redressing Indigenous Harm: A New Conceptual Approach” by Jennifer Balint, Julie Evans, and Nesam McMillan, and “Colonialism as Structural Injustice: Historical Responsibility and Contemporary Redress” by Catherine Lu. These studies examine the ways in which inequities and harms to indigenous populations are upheld either by other colonized groups (in addition to the colonizers) who benefit from such policies, or by law in settler colonies in which the dominant group has not been ousted. Although Balint, Evans, and McMillan emphasize the uniqueness of settler colonies, the idea of structural injustices that persist in areas that have been colonized (even once the colonizers have withdrawn) defines the central aspect of postcolonial justice: the need to eradicate structural inequities inherited from the system of colonization that persist even in postcolonial eras. Catherine Lu succinctly summarizes the relationship between colonial/­postcolonial injustices and structures within the colonial system that arose as a consequence of the colonization process: Colonial injustices, like most political, social and economic injustices . . . involve not simply wrongful acts by individual perpetrators, but rely on social structural processes that enable and even

Postcolonial Structural Justice

encourage individual or state wrongdoing and produce and reproduce unjust outcomes. . . . [A] structural account of colonial injustice can acknowledge the legalization and normalization of colonial practices and indeed, views colonial legality as a hallmark of the structural nature of colonial injustice, since typically structural injustices occur [according to Iris Marion Young] “as a consequence of many individuals and institutions acting in pursuit of their particular goals and interests within given institutional rules and accepted norms.”. . . Colonial rule introduced a racially-based structural injustice into the colonized society. (268–70) Lu emphasizes how racial inequalities were born from the colonial system. Thus, racial discrimination, leading to the subordinate position of the indigenous population in America, is a structural harm that stems from colonialism and must be eradicated to achieve postcolonial structural justice. Lu acknowledges an important debt to the work of Iris Marion Young in her construction of the concept of racial inequality as a form of structural injustice. In her landmark book Justice and the Politics of Difference, Young critiques distributive justice models as incapable of accounting for injustices that arise from institutional organization. In other words, according to Young, what causes structural injustice is not the unequal distribution of goods (although this is always an important factor) but rather domination and oppression, which arise from decision-making processes, the division of labor, and cultural imperialism. Young notes: Institutional context should be understood in a broader sense than “modes of production.” It includes any structures or practices, the rules and norms that guide them, the language and symbols that mediate social interactions within them, in institutions of state, family and civil society, as well as the workplace. These are relevant to judgments of social justice and injustice insofar as they condition people’s ability to participate in determining their actions and ability to exercise their capacities. (22) Young develops the concepts of domination and oppression as the



Chapter 3 result of institutional conditions that prevent some sectors of society from “developing and exercising one’s capacities and expressing one’s experience and participating in determining one’s actions and the conditions of one’s actions” (37). In this sense, oppression constrains self-development, and domination limits self-determination. Domination results from the division of labor, which includes the privileging of professional workers over nonprofessional workers. Oppression is a structural concept that results in five potential injustices: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. Exploitation is rooted in “the transfer of the results of the labor of one social group to benefit another,” which enacts a structural relation between social groups (49). Marginalization, which Young contends is a frequent expression of racial oppression, affects people whom “the system of labor cannot or will not use” (53). Young specifies that in Latin America, blacks and Indians are confined to this type of social marginalization. Powerlessness refers to those who have no autonomy or creativity in their work and are not respected by others, while violence is a form of structural injustice when it is a systematic social practice. Finally, Young defines cultural imperialism thus: To experience cultural imperialism means to experience how the dominant meanings of a society render the particular perspective of one’s own group invisible at the same time as they stereotype one’s group and mark it out as other. . . . Cultural imperialism involves the universalization of a dominant group’s experience and culture and its establishment as the norm. (58–59) I have outlined Young’s ideas at length here because the concept of structural justice, and the institutional structures that result in injustices such as exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence, define the essence of the indigenous population’s experience under Spanish colonization and the legacy of these injustices for this racial group in postcolonial society. White Spaniards, as a dominant group, exploited the work of Indians and forced them into marginalized and powerless positions, in which they were made victims of systematic violence and devalued through cultural imperialism.

Postcolonial Structural Justice

Two contemporary novels that address structural justice in colonial society through the motif of masquerade are Isabel Allende’s Zorro (2005) and Carmen Boullosa’s Duerme (1994). While Zorro is a new, postcolonial take on an old theme, advocating an ultimate message of reconciliation, Duerme approaches the question of colonial structural injustices with a retributive, combative tone. Isabel Allende’s Zorro In 2005, Isabel Allende published a novel titled Zorro, based on the character originated by Johnston McCulley in Zorro: The Curse of Capistrano, first published as a serial novel in the magazine All-Story Weekly in 1919 (see Vaughn). The original text, a piece of pulp fiction that gained popularity through its 1920 silent film adaptation, has been reprinted several times, as recently as 2010. Moreover, there have been multiple films, television series, and comic books based on the Zorro figure. Philip Swanson indicates that Allende was commissioned to write the novel by John Getz, who owns the rights to the Zorro character (268). According to Swanson: Allende was at first unsure about the project, thinking it unsuitable for a “serious writer,” but was persuaded when she realized she would have complete freedom of invention within the reasonable limits of fidelity to the spirit of the character. And so the idea of the novel came to be the filling in of the background to Zorro the character’s life story from birth to the assumption of his role as masked freedom fighter in Spanish California. (268) A reading of the novel Zorro by Allende in comparison to McCulley’s original piece of fiction shows an interesting new direction for the development of the Zorro character. Allende creates a postcolonial hero through the figure of Zorro, one who vindicates the persecuted indigenous population in colonial California (which was then part of Mexico) under Spanish rule and establishes absolute equality between himself (both his masked and unmasked identity as don Diego de la Vega) and his sidekick, the native Bernardo. Although some postcolonial seeds are suggested in the original text, Allende affords us with a totally new spin on the original characters, one that



Chapter 3 takes its inspiration from an important connection between notions of masquerade and structural social justice. In order to understand what Allende has done with the Zorro theme and character, it is necessary to first examine the original text by McCulley. In The Curse of Capistrano, Zorro’s unmasked identity is that of the wealthy, pure-blooded gentleman, don Diego de la Vega. Throughout the novel, Diego de la Vega is ironically portrayed as a weak and lifeless, but rich and well-meaning nobleman. Indeed, much of the novel’s humor is based on this characterization, which is meant to contrast sharply with the bravery and adventuresome character of don Diego’s hidden Zorro identity. McCulley’s novel emphasizes how don Diego’s social status goes hand in hand with his racial purity. This is implied when he seeks to wed the daughter of don Carlos Pulido because the Pulido family is also pure-blooded. Don Diego states: “But you are of excellent blood, senor. The best blood in the land. . . . Everybody knows it, senor. And a Vega, naturally, when he takes a mate, must seek a woman of excellent blood” (21). The emphasis on the racial superiority of pure-blooded men such as don Carlos is also perceived when the police chief, Gonzales, attempts to take don Carlos to prison: “To carcel? . . . You would dare? You would throw a caballero into the filthy jail? You would place him where they keep insubordinate natives and common felons?” (110). Homi Bhabha, in The Location of Culture, stresses the notion of ambivalence that permeates colonialist discourse and the colonizer’s viewpoint toward the racial “Other” who is simultaneously the same and different as the colonizer: the object of both his desire and his scorn (244). For, at the same time that don Diego and don Carlos insist on the superior value of pure-bloodedness, don Diego, masked as Zorro, punishes the colonial authorities who have mistreated the indigenous population. For example, don Diego says that Zorro “no doubt, is sincere in his purpose. He has robbed none except officials who have stolen from the missions and the poor, and punished none except brutes who mistreat natives” (6). In another instance, Zorro says to Gonzales: “Four days ago, senor, you brutally beat a native who had won your dislike,” to which Gonzales replies: “He was a surly dog and got in my way.” Zorro responds: “I am the friend of the

Postcolonial Structural Justice

oppressed, Senor, and I have come to punish you” (10). In Zorro: The Curse of Capistrano, the native indigenous population is defended by the hero, but at the same time white superiority is accepted and emphasized. In Allende’s hands, the Zorro theme takes a new and important turn. In Allende’s novel, don Diego de la Vega is no longer a pureblooded gentleman. Allende, filling in the gaps surrounding Zorro’s youth, creates a mestizo Zorro, the product of the marriage of a mestizo mother, Toypurnia/Regina, who largely identifies with her indigenous heritage and is the chief of her tribe, and a pure-blooded Spaniard, Alejandro de la Vega. Although Regina marries Alejandro, they eventually separate, precisely because of her inability to live the confining life of a noblewoman and her desire to return to her Indian heritage. Regina begins to visit her indigenous friends and to teach her baby Diego the indigenous language, practices that her husband would have forbidden had he known about them (Zorro, Spanish 41; 1 English 33–36). Regina’s identification with indigenous culture is mirrored by don Diego de la Vega himself in various ways. The first and most impor­ tant example, which also reflects another major change that Allende has effected on the Zorro theme, is Diego/Zorro’s relationship with the Zorro sidekick, Bernardo. In the original The Curse of Cap­ istrano novel, Bernardo is a minor figure, a native Indian deaf-mute who serves Zorro, who in turn addresses him thus: “Bernardo, you are a gem. . . . You cannot speak or hear, cannot write or read, and have not sense enough to make your own wants known by the sign language. You are the one man in the world to whom I can speak without having my ears talked off in reply” (68). In another instance, we are told that “Bernardo knew something momentous was being planned, but could not guess what, of course and wished that he was like other men, and could hear and speak. Don Diego sent Bernardo about his business, which was to sit in the kitchen and await his master’s call” (100). Thus, in the original text, Bernardo is portrayed as illiterate, unintelligent, totally unable to communicate, and a passive appendage to don Diego. In some ways, he fits the Spanish stereotype of an Indian as passive, stupid, and uneducated. However, in



Chapter 3 what is perhaps the biggest change made to the original Zorro story, Allende totally alters the character named Bernardo. Indeed, Allende completely overturns this original portrayal, converting Bernardo into a significant character who plays a major role in the novel’s anticolonial message. In Zorro, Allende answers or contradicts every single element attributed to Bernardo in the aforementioned citation. First, Bernardo is not a deaf-mute. He can hear and simply chooses not to speak, after the trauma of witnessing the rape and murder of his mother during a pirate attack on the De la Vega ranch. Second, he is specifically taught to read and write by Diego himself, when Alejandro insists that Bernardo cannot be sent to school with him because making exceptions to the rule that the indigenous population could not be educated would be dangerous and would cause the teacher to leave, since he had threatened to do just that if “cualquier indio asomaba la nariz en su ‘digno establecimiento del saber’” (51) (“if any Indian so much as stuck his nose into ‘his honorable establishment of learning’”) (46). Third, instead of lacking “sense enough to make [his] own wants known by the sign language” as indicated by McCulley, Bernardo routinely communicates important observations to Diego by writing on a blackboard and gesturing. In this manner, he reveals colonial abuses to don Diego (such as Juan Alcázar’s extension of his lands beyond the boundaries authorized by official documents) (Zorro, Spanish 83; English 82). Both sign language and written language are denied to Bernardo in the original McCulley text. Thus, Allende bestows intelligence, character, and importance on Bernardo, elevating him from the status of mere servant or sidekick. Finally, in Allende’s novel, Diego views Bernardo as his equal, his brother, and Bernardo has an active role in many of Zorro’s adventures. Zorro tells Bernardo: “Un día seré dueño de la hacienda De la Vega y entonces podré darte la mitad que te corresponde” (193) (“One day I will be owner of the De la Vega hacienda, and then I will be able to give you the half that belongs to you”) (193). Indeed, this total identification between Diego and Bernardo culminates in Bernardo becoming a second Zorro at the end of the novel, when Diego makes a gift of a Zorro mask and cape to him, identical to his own: “Deseo

Postcolonial Structural Justice

que el Zorro sea el fundamento de mi vida, Bernardo. Me dedicaré a luchar por la justicia y te invito a que me acompañes. . . . Habrá dos Zorros, tú y yo, pero jamás serán vistos juntos” (329) (“I want Zorro to be the foundation of my life, Bernardo. I will dedicate myself to fighting for justice and I invite you to come with me. . . . There will be two Zorros, you and I, but we will never be seen together”) (336). Allende’s portrayal of Bernardo as equal in intelligence and ability to don Diego is the first step in communicating the need to eliminate structural injustices in the colonial system that subordinates the indigenous population. The mask is a significant motif because it hides some of the racial differences that are the foundation of such injustices. It is no coincidence that at the end of Allende’s novel, there are actually three Zorros: don Diego, Bernardo, and the narrator Isabel, who also dons a Zorro costume and takes the oath to fight for justice at the novel’s end. Isabel, perhaps a double of Allende herself (since she is the writer who tells the story of Zorro and shares the author’s name), as a woman, also represents an individual marginalized by society, and thus contributes to the focus on social justice and equality. In other words, anyone (woman, Indian, mestizo) can be a Zorro—a hero, an ethical person, an upstanding citizen who fights for what is right. Zorro is superior, but he is not white, and pure-blooded superiority is debunked throughout the novel. A second way in which Allende’s novel offers a postcolonial criticism of Spain’s colonization of America and the unjust treatment of the indigenous population is through the character of Diego’s father, Alejandro de la Vega. The father is a minor character in Zorro: The Curse of Capistrano. Diego visits him once, and throughout the novel makes mention of the fact that his father wishes him to marry. However, in Zorro by Allende, Alejandro de la Vega is a major figure who undergoes a significant evolution. Alejandro, as a pure-blooded Spaniard, is preoccupied with social status. We are told that Alejandro’s lineage could be traced back to the Spanish national hero, El Cid (Zorro, Spanish 15; English 9–10). Alejandro illustrates many of the prejudices of his race and class. For example, when Diego brings the abuses of the Spaniards to his father’s attention, Alejandro replies: “Qué propones



Chapter 3 que yo haga, hijo” (86) (“What do you propose that I do, son?”) (84). Although he finally goes to speak to the mayor, it is clearly a halfhearted attempt at justice for the native population. Moreover, we are told that Alejandro thought that Diego and Bernardo would never be equal (Zorro, Spanish 46; English 42), a bias rooted in Bernardo’s race. This prejudice against Bernardo due to his race is further manifested on Diego’s and Bernardo’s birthday (they were born on the same day). When Alejandro throws a big party for Diego, Bernardo cannot sit at the main table with the honored guests because they would be offended by the fact that he is an Indian (Zorro, Spanish 87; English 84). Furthermore, the novel offers an extensive description of the seating arrangements that discriminate against the indigenous population: “Hubo comida por tres días para quinientas personas, separadas por clases sociales: Los españoles de pura cepa en las mesas principales . . . La gente de razón . . . en las mesas laterales a la sombra, la indiada a pleno sol en los patios” (89) (“Meals were served to five hundred guests for three days in accordance to social class: pure-blooded Spanish, comfortably shaded beneath a grape-laden arbor, at the main tables . . . ‘decent people’ . . . at tables to the side but still in the shade, Indians in full sun on the patios” (86). Alejandro de la Vega, much like Esteban García in Allende’s La casa de los espíritus, undergoes a major transformation at the end of the novel. He is persecuted by Diego’s archenemy, Rafael Moncada, and thrown into prison, where he nearly perishes. His cellmates are three Indians who feed him their own food to preserve his life while he is incarcerated. This experience leads Alejandro to the recognition of his past errors in his treatment of the indigenous population: —Dile a tu amigo que no es a mí a quien debe liberar, Diego, sino a mis compañeros. Les debo mucho, se han quitado el pan de la boca para dármelo. Diego se volvió a mirar a los otros presos, tres indios tan sucios y flacos como su padre . . . esos hombres habían logrado cambiar en pocas semanas la actitud de superioridad que había sostenido al hidalgo español durante su larga vida. (342–43) (“Tell your friend that it is not I that he should free, Diego, but

Postcolonial Structural Justice

my companions. I owe them a great deal; they have taken bread from their own mouths to feed me.” Diego turned to look at the other prisoners, three Indians as dirty and thin as his father . . . those men had succeeded in dissolving the sense of superiority the Spanish hidalgo had displayed all his life long.) (349–50) Don Diego’s ultimate recognition of the value of the Indians can be seen as a form of restorative justice between the Spaniards and the indigenous population. The notion of restorative justice, which Capeheart and Milovanovic claim springs naturally from indigenous models of justice applied within a postcolonial context, suggests a justice of mutual understanding and reconciliation to eradicate past structural harms. Another significant twist that Allende brings to the Zorro theme is the manner in which the Zorro figure is explicitly associated with justice. Although this is a characteristic of the original novel, in which the justice theme is indeed associated with the defense of the indigenous population, Allende establishes a connection between social justice and the indigenous honor code in her Zorro book so that justice is seen as a characteristic of indigenous society as a whole. This is illustrated through the extensive development that Allende gives to the origins of the name “Zorro” and its relationship to the Indian code of Okahué. In an important segment of the novel, Diego’s Indian grandmother, Lechuza Blanca, wishes to put Diego and Bernardo in contact with the “Great Spirit,” who will reveal to them their destinies. She takes them on a retreat in which they undergo several indigenous rites and then sends them off in different directions. Diego is bitten by a snake and almost dies in the mountains when suddenly a fox (zorro in Spanish) appears: “Cada tanto despertaba de súbito, sin saber dónde se hallaba y veía al extraño zorro en el mismo lugar, como un espíritu vigilante” (80) (“Each time Diego snapped awake, not knowing where he was, he would see the strange fox in the same place, like a watchful spirit”) (77). This same fox appears during broad daylight to Bernardo, who takes it as a sign and follows it to where Diego is lying ill from the snakebite. Thus, the fox saves Diego’s



Chapter 3 life, and Diego adopts the fox as his symbol and destiny, via the Zorro name and identity. In the original novel, there is no explanation of why Zorro takes this name, other than the obvious associations between a fox and a cunning nature. Zorro’s fight for justice is also identified with the Indian code of Okahué. Early in the novel, Diego’s grandmother explains the importance of this concept to Diego: —¿Qué es el Okahué?—preguntó Diego. —Son las cinco virtudes esenciales: honor, justicia, respeto, dignidad y valor. —Yo las quiero todas, abuela. (42–43) (“What is okahué?” Diego asked. “The five basic virtues: honor, justice, respect, dignity, and courage.” “I want all those, Grandmother.”) (38) All of the elements of Okahué are associated with Zorro, and the novel reinforces this connection at the end, when the novel’s three Zorros (Diego, Bernardo, and the narrator Isabel) experience the light of Okahué at the same time that they take their Zorro oath to uphold justice (Zorro, Spanish 375; English 383–84). Thus, Allende’s interpretation of Zorro consists of a strong relationship to indigenous roots and culture that is nowhere to be found in the original story. The code of Okahué, emphasizing “honor, respect, dignity, courage, and justice,” suggests a structural postcolonial justice of equality and mutual respect, of reconciliation and coexistence. Behind this connection to indigenous roots is a clear postcolonial stance that lends originality and purpose to Allende’s novel. As the Okahué honor code suggests, justice and valor are key characteristics of the Zorro character. Zorro, in both The Curse of Capistrano and Allende’s novel, is a figure clearly associated with the concept of social justice. However, at the same time that Allende’s novel advocates social equality for the indigenous population, it also enacts a form of biblical justice that has been associated by some critics with postcolonial fiction. Ed Block Jr. suggests in “Experience, Existence, and Mystery: Biblical Ideas of Justice in Postcolonial

Postcolonial Structural Justice

Fiction” that biblical justice has two forms: “‘distributive’ justice [help for the poor and needy] and the more mysterious . . . justice of God” (35). What makes this biblical justice and distinguishes it from pure social justice is explained as follows: The work’s concern for the oppressed must not be conceived of merely in political or social terms. Novels that emphasize biblical ideas of justice begin with respect for personhood but translate that predisposition into actions that serve to affirm the poor, to ameliorate the lot of the oppressed or to oppose the forces of injustice. The ground of such concern must be a confident and affirmative love that acknowledges and accepts. The widows, the orphans, the poor and the marginalized must be seen as human beings deserving of respect and love. The mystery of their personhood must be acknowledged. They cannot be conceived of purely as forces in global or regional struggles for power, dominance or even equality. (37) Moreover, according to Block, another condition for “biblical themes of justice to emerge is the author’s openness to mystery in a post-Christian world” (44). Finally, a key element of biblical justice is love, which “is revolutionary, especially when, as in much post­ colonial fiction, it dares to propose the possibility of justice in an unjust world” (45). The concepts of personhood, mystery, and love are essential to Allende’s portrayal of Zorro and his quest for justice in her novel. Allende’s concept of the postcolonial, marginalized being does not limit itself to the indigenous population in America under Spanish colonization. When Diego de la Vega takes a trip to Spain and stays with the De Romeu family, he eventually enters into a friendship and sexual relationship with the gypsy Amalia. The gypsies in Spain, like the indigenous population of Latin America, are a marginalized and persecuted group. During the course of the novel, the evil Rafael Moncada accuses the gypsies of introducing contraband arms into the city of Barcelona in order to conspire against the government. Faced with these unjust accusations, the gypsies are forced to flee, their camp is destroyed, and they lose everything they own (Zorro, Spanish



Chapter 3 191; English 188–90). Diego achieves a modicum of justice by compensating the gypsies for their financial loss with the money sent to him by his father and a contribution from the De Romeu girls, but his remuneration is also personal: Amalia is his friend and ex-lover, and he cannot bear to see the gypsies, the group to which she belongs, depart penniless. Amalia is seen as an individual and treated with love and respect. The gypsies are not just a marginalized group but real people in the novel. Distributive justice is aligned with the concept of personhood. Diego’s reencounter with the gypsies later in the novel confirms this idea. When Diego is fleeing Spain with Juliana and Isabel, after King Ferdinand VII has returned and had the De Romeu girls’ father arrested and executed, they meet up with the gypsies and ask to travel with them. Although association with white los gadjes (non-gypsies) is forbidden to the gypsies, Diego’s party consists of individuals whom they respect, which makes the gypsies disregard their race and social class. When Amalia reminds the other gypsies of Diego’s past kindness, they agree that they should show appreciation for this and not be ungrateful, thus allowing Diego’s party to join theirs (Zorro, Spanish 257; English 260). In other words, just as the gypsies are perceived as individuals by Diego, Diego’s group are not simply “gadjes” but individuals who have been kind to the gypsies. Consequently, the novel once again illustrates the concept of personhood as it relates to the notion of social justice. The gypsies reciprocate the fairness and kindness they previously received from Diego, and this individuality supersedes the notion of racial or social group. The concept of mystery is also essential to Allende’s Zorro in many ways. We have already observed passages that suggest mystery in the context of the Okahué, or indigenous honor code. When Diego participated in indigenous rites to define his destiny, the mysterious appearance of the fox in daylight, which leads to Diego’s salvation, is an element that cannot be rationally explained. Similarly, in the passage already cited where the three Zorros make their pledge, a mysterious light appears suggesting a magical signal of Okahué (Zorro, Spanish 375; English 384). The association between justice and magic or mystery conveys what may be thought of as a biblical sense of justice.

Postcolonial Structural Justice

Finally, the emphasis on love, another characteristic frequently present in Allende’s fiction, can be seen throughout Zorro. As already seen in the section on Bernardo, Diego does not view him simply as part of the indigenous group but as a person, his brother, someone he loves above everyone else. This emphasis on love can also be seen in the episode in which Amalia is a hostage, captured to pay for the guerrilla attack on some French soldiers. Diego plans to rescue her because “[n]o podemos permitir que fusilen a Amalia. Es nuestra amiga” (161) (“[w]e can’t allow them to shoot Amalia. She is our friend”) (160). Affection and justice are intertwined. There are two other important changes that Allende makes in her development of the Zorro theme. The first of these is her focus on Zorro within a specific historical context that is not present in McCulley’s original novel. Although McCulley’s text offers us glimpses of colonial Mexico, the novel lacks historical specifics. In contrast, Allende adds a more historical flavor to her novel through don Diego’s visit to nineteenth-century Spain during Ferdinand VII’s exile and eventual return, and the French occupation of Spain under Napoleon. Almost the entire second part of the novel takes place in Spain, and the portrayal of the injustices committed under French occupation is not irrelevant, since in this instance Spain becomes the “colonized” victim of imperialistic power, which is implicitly criticized. However, there are no good guys and bad guys here, because Spain fares even worse once Ferdinand VII returns and persecutes all liberal thinkers, such as Tomás de Romeu, don Diego’s host and protector in Spain. The second important development relates to Allende’s explanation of don Diego/Zorro’s prowess as an expert fencer. Zorro’s astounding ability with the sword is never explained in any way in McCulley’s text. However, extensive sections of Allende’s novel are dedicated to the development of don Diego’s skill with the sword and its relationship to his mission to achieve justice. Early in the novel, doña Eulalia, the governor’s wife, sends Alejandro de la Vega a trunk that contains a black silk cape, a small épée, a mask, and the Treatise on Fencing and Dueling (Zorro, Spanish 45; English 41). Thus, don Diego is initiated in the art of fencing, which he perfects by studying with a master, Manuel Escalante, once he arrives in Spain. Escalante is an



Chapter 3 important figure because he forges the association between fencing and justice: “Manuel Escalante . . . era un genio con la espada. . . . Su obsesión no eran las estocadas históricas ni los títulos de nobleza . . . sino la justicia. Adivinó que Diego compartía su mismo desvelo” (134–35) (“Manuel Escalante was . . . a . . . genius with the sword. . . . His obsessions were not historical duels or titles of nobility, as it seemed at first view, but justice. He sensed that Diego shared his concerns”) (132). Escalante belongs to a secret society called La Justicia into which Diego is eventually initiated. La Justicia is described as a secret society whose work consists of combating different forms of oppression, ranging from religious persecution to oppression by the French and enslavement abroad (Zorro, Spanish 155; English 154). There is a definite polarization established here between the focus on nobility titles and pure blood versus the emphasis on personal and social elevation through talent and hard work (such as through fencing) and the goal of justice. This is further emphasized by statements that implicitly criticize Spanish racial discrimination. We are told that Eulalia had treated Regina well when she lived in California, but after returning to Spain she became infected with “el desprecio por la gente del Nuevo Mundo” (137) (“with the scorn the Spanish felt for the people of the New World”) (135). Such narrative comments support the idea that Allende employs the Zorro figure in a new postcolonial direction that emphasizes social equality and structural justice, which were sometimes insinuated but largely undeveloped in the swashbuckling adventures of the original Zorro. In Imagining Justice, Julie McGonegal studies the connections between forgiveness, reconciliation, aesthetics, and postcolonial literature. McGonegal suggests that literary texts can imagine alternatives to the current political order and in doing so engage in a politics of forgiveness and reconciliation that represents “a dialectic that moves between universality and difference, humanism and postmodernism” (5). In other words, literary texts “[r]emember the past for the sake of rerouting the future for the purpose of directing us toward justice” (14). McGonegal further indicates that retributive justice is antithetical to this notion of forgiveness and reconciliation that permeates a number of postcolonial texts. We have already seen how in Allende’s

Postcolonial Structural Justice

Zorro, there is more of a sense of restorative justice than one of retribution (despite the fact that the evildoers do get punished), and this suggests that Allende’s text may indeed subscribe to the idea of a postcolonial forgiveness and reconciliation as developed by McGonegal. In Zorro, Allende symbolically enacts the notion of reconciliation through her characterization of don Diego de la Vega/Zorro as a mestizo. By transforming her protagonist and hero from a pure-blooded individual to one of mixed race, Allende points toward the future reconciliation of the Spaniards and the indigenous population. Zorro, as we have seen, embodies justice, and thus his racial composition allows the differences between colonizer and colonized to coexist but also to be superseded into a new entity, indicative of the future of Latin America. This fused identity can be seen in passages such as the following, which emphasize the similarities between Spanish and indigenous practices and their execution by the mestizo don Diego/Zorro: “El Tratado de Esgrima y Prontuario del Duelo, del maestro Manuel Escalante, se le reveló como un compendio de ideas notablemente parecidas al Okahué de los indios, porque también versaban sobre el honor, la justicia, el respeto, la dignidad y el valor” (72) (“Maestro Manuel Escalante’s Treatise on Fencing and Dueling was revealed to him as a collection of ideas very similar to the Indian’s okahué; it, too, spoke of honor, justice, respect, dignity, and courage”) (69). Don Diego’s identification with his mestizo heritage is made clear in various segments of the novel. Right after the previous passage, we are told that although Alejandro de la Vega tried to hide his son’s mestizo blood, don Diego proudly acknowledged it (Zorro, Spanish 74; English 71). Don Diego is both the gentleman duelist of Spanish society (he duels with Rafael Moncada during his visit to Spain) and the boy who considers the indigenous Bernardo to be his brother and identifies with the Indian Okahué code. Similarly, his Zorro identity is the swashbuckling fencer reminiscent of the Spanish nobleman, and the defender of the abused Indians in colonial society. The fusion of cultures helps to explain why Allende alters the original discreteness of identity that characterizes the Zorro of McCulley’s The Curse of Capistrano to create a blending of the two identities and ultimate evolution toward the Zorro identity in her novel.



Chapter 3 In his article “What’s Behind the Mask? The Secret of Secret Identities,” Tom Morris sheds important light on one of the major ways that Allende alters the Zorro character from its original portrayal. Morris discusses the question of identity fusion between the masked hero and his unmasked identity. He indicates that upon assuming a new name and costume, the protagonist also takes on a new identity, and sometimes these two different identities can fuse, as in the case of Batman: As you track Bruce Wayne over the years, you can see his transition from a wealthy industrialist who seems to dabble in fighting crime on the side to a totally focused and committed crimefighter who merely uses his persona as the wealthy Bruce Wayne to keep his real life going as a nearly full-time vigilante and self-created super-hero. . . . What I mean is that Bruce Wayne’s identity may have evolved to the extent that he is at least as much Bats as Bruce. . . . It could be that taking on the costume and launching out in committed dutiful action as a masked superhero can really effect an inner change of some sort. (263–65) In McCulley’s Zorro: The Curse of Capistrano, there is a definite discreteness in the portrayal of the identities of don Diego de la Vega and Zorro. As we saw earlier, don Diego is described as hopelessly weak, tiring after a twenty-minute horse ride, dispirited in his courtship of Lolita Pulido, and generally ineffectual. In contrast, Zorro is strong and determined, romantic and dashing, fighting off large numbers of men all at once with his sword, and boldly capturing the love of Lolita. Interestingly, at the end of the original novel, the Zorro identity is terminated when Zorro reveals that he is don Diego, and since he has solved all the town’s problems, there will no longer be a need for him to continue as Zorro. Instead, he is marrying Lolita and settling down to be a good husband. At the end of The Curse of Capistrano, the only identity that remains is that of don Diego. In contrast, in Allende’s Zorro novel, not only does one perceive a fusion between the two identities of don Diego and Zorro but Allende posits a closer affinity between the two personalities to begin with and a definite emphasis or evolution toward the Zorro identity. In the

Postcolonial Structural Justice

short paragraph that precedes the novel’s first section, the narrator states that this is the story of how Diego de la Vega “se convirtió en el legendario Zorro” (“became the legendary Zorro”) (n.p., my emphasis). Note the use of the words “se convirtió” (became or turned into), which suggest don Diego’s ultimate transformation into the heroic Zorro identity. The rest of Allende’s novel is dedicated to documenting this very transformation. We already observed the episode in which the fox appears to don Diego as a sign of his destiny and helps to save his life. This is an early indication that Diego is evolving toward the zorro (fox) identity. Lechuza Blanca also tells Diego that the fox is his “totemic animal, his spiritual guide” (80) and that, just like the fox, he will “hide by day and act by night” (80). Lechuza Blanca is of course referring to don Diego’s future Zorro escapades, which he does not yet understand because he has not yet adopted the Zorro identity. We see, however, at the very beginning of the second part of the novel that there are certain commonalities between Diego and Zorro that we do not observe in McCulley’s novel. The narrator here states that Diego “[l]legó a los quince años sin grandes vicios ni virtudes, excepto un desproporcionado afán de justicia . . . digamos que es simplemente un trazo inseparable de su carácter” (97) (“reached the age of fifteen with no great vices or virtues, except for a disproportionate love of justice. . . . Let us just say that it is an integral part of his character” (93). Moreover, unlike don Diego in The Curse of Capistrano, who only makes lukewarm and passive gestures toward achieving justice, Allende’s don Diego, even before he dons the Zorro costume, takes an active role in achieving justice, when he warns the hospital director that the French are about to attack them to uncover hidden arms. Similarly, in the spirit of fairness, Diego warns Le Chevalier that the bread sent to the army barracks is poisoned. Even though he is helping the enemy, we are told that Diego hated any type of treachery (Zorro, Spanish 134; English 131). Diego starts out closer to Zorro than in McCulley’s novel and ends up fusing with his Zorro identity by the end of the novel. As we have already noted, the novel concludes with the three Zorros (Diego, Bernardo, and Isabel) donning their costumes and taking a blood oath for the sake of justice.



Chapter 3 Whereas McCulley’s novel ends with Zorro reverting to Diego, Allende’s novel ends with Diego becoming Zorro. Allende’s novel Zorro offers a fresh take on a very old theme from a postcolonial theoretical perspective. Her emphasis on mestizaje as the future and essence of Latin America is communicated through a mestizo Zorro who is the emblem of structural social justice and equality. However, this mixing of races does not imply an erasure of difference but rather a reconciliation between the races that leads to social justice. Mestizaje serves only as a racial concept, within which indigenous culture and traditions coexist with those of the Spaniards. Furthermore, the masked figure of Zorro is aligned with a long tradition of superheroes who, according to Jeph Loeb and Tom Morris, are both “inspirational and aspirational” (16). These critics point out the strong association between superheroes and moral superiority: “The concept of a hero is a moral category. . . . [A] superhero is an extraordinarily powerful person . . . whose noble character guides him or her into worthy achievements. . . . The depiction of the heroic in superhero stories is a moral force” (16–18). Although Zorro does not possess superhuman powers, he fits the superhero category because, as Loeb and Morris note: “A superhero is a hero with superhuman powers, or at least with human abilities that have been developed to a superhuman level” (14). Thus, Zorro’s extraordinary ability with the sword clearly fits the superhero bill and gives him all the moral force associated with superheroes. This association between the masked or disguised individual and social justice is an important one that also characterizes Carmen Boullosa’s Duerme. Carmen Boullosa’s Duerme Duerme, in contrast to Zorro, suggests a more adversarial relationship of resistance, more akin to a retributive justice model that seeks to punish past wrongs, with retribution defined thus: “In its most raw statement, retribution is . . . an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Capeheart and Milovanovic 47). In Duerme, the answer to colonial structural injustice is to eradicate the Spanish colonial presence rather than reconcile with it.

Postcolonial Structural Justice

Duerme symbolically fuses the plight of women and the indigenous population in New Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The protagonist, Claire Fleury, dresses like a man to escape her life of prostitution in France, joins a group of pirates on a ship bound for America, and ultimately steals the identity of a nobleman, the Count of Urquiza, until he is condemned to death for conspiring against the viceroy. Although Claire is a white woman, she undergoes a swift transformation at the beginning of the novel that facilitates her identification with the indigenous population. Dressed as Count Urquiza, she is saved from execution by the magic of an Indian woman, doña Inés. Doña Inés punctures Claire’s breast with a rock and then heals it by emptying water from the “lakes of ancient times” into the wound, because she identifies Claire as a kindred spirit to the Indians rather than an enemy: Permita solo que vacie un poco más de agua en su herida. Es agua de los lagos de los tiempos antiguos. . . . Es curación desde nuestros padres y nuestros abuelos, y nunca ha sido puesta en un español. . . . Ud. que no eres hombre ni mujer que no eres nativa ni español ni mestizo, ni Conde ni Encomendado, no mereces la muerte. (Only let me empty a little more water onto your wound. It is water from the ancient lakes. It is a cure handed down from our fathers and grandfathers, and it has never been used on a Spaniard. . . . You are not a man or a woman, Spaniard or mestizo, count or elder of an encomienda, you do not deserve death.) (27) 2 (my translation) This association of the Indian woman Inés with magic is an impor­ tant one in terms of the novel’s development of the notion of structural justice. It is this magic that helps to convert the already combative Claire into a representative of the indigenous population. Although Claire is an antipatriarchal figure, preferring to dress as a man to preserve herself from the abuse perpetrated on women and thus achieve her magical salvation from death (she does not actually die when she is hanged), she must disguise herself as an Indian woman. By wearing the Indian dress underneath the count’s suit, she will be



Chapter 3 able to jump from the tomb and pretend to be an Indian servant who was standing by the gravesite all along. Although this disguise will save Claire’s life, she argues with the Indian woman who gives her the bundle of clothing to wear, initially refusing to dress again as a woman (40–41). Whereas Claire’s male disguise is a rebellion against patriarchal society, her Indian clothing and her role in the Indian magic identify her with the indigenous, colonized population of New Spain. The magic conveys a combative force that to some degree is historically accurate. In Hall of Mirrors: Power, Witchcraft, and Caste in Colonial Mexico, Laura A. Lewis examines Indian witchcraft as a form of postcolonial resistance and hegemony over the Spaniards. According to Lewis, while Spaniards exerted sanctioned power over Indians through the colonial court system, Indians exerted unsanctioned power over the Spaniards through their witchcraft and healing powers. For Lewis, the key concept to understanding colonial difference is rooted not so much in race as in the concept of caste, which in addition to containing racial elements also relied on kinship and social affiliations (5). Lewis indicates the potentially subversive character of magic and witchcraft, which “reversed sanctioned patterns by organizing caste in ways that privileged Indians and Indianness, while subordinating Spaniards and Spanishness and re-orienting blacks . . . who could now attach themselves to Indians in a bid to undermine Spaniards” (6). Although Lewis claims that “witchcraft . . . was not a revolutionary language of resistance as much as it was an affirmation of hegemony” (7), many of the examples she offers suggest that there was indeed an element of resistance present in the use of colonial witchcraft. Moreover, regardless of whether the function was resistance or hegemony, in either case witchcraft served as a vehicle for equality with the Spaniards, because it enabled Indians to exert power within the unsanctioned domain that paralleled Spanish power in the sanctioned domain. Thus, witchcraft served as a bid for structural justice and equity on the part of the colonized population. One example that Lewis cites is the story of Ana Tizil, an Indian woman of the early seventeenth century. In this case brought before

Postcolonial Structural Justice

the Inquisition, Tizil, who was alleged to be a witch, was sought out by a Spanish man to divine what had happened to his horse, and she provided correct information. When the man reported Tizil to the local inquisitor, he “then linked the presence of the devil to Ana Tizil, whom he held responsible for the dissention” that was occurring in Zacatecas (165). According to Lewis, the Indian was not just threatening the well-being of individual people with her witchcraft but was “generating a wide and collective uprising against Spanish governance” (164). This tale reinforces the connection between magic and resistance against the colonizer in the pursuit of justice, as do Lewis’s comments regarding the Chichimec Indians, whose “leaders resisted colonialism by appropriating the devil for themselves” (108). The most striking parallel between the findings in Lewis’s book and the novel Duerme is the emphasis on the similarities and connections between the plight of Indians and that of women within a context of indigenous magic. Lewis notes how both women and Indians were associated with the supernatural but were equally excused for this lapse because they were both considered to be inherently weak (38): A feminizing discourse mapped onto Indians, witchcraft drew women and Indians together in practice and it blended femaleness and Indianness ideologically as the gendered dimensions of caste transformed the implications of Indian weakness. . . . It is not surprising that women and Indians often joined forces through witchcraft, tales of which were something of a constant throughout the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the accusations and confessions of moral wrongdoing brought before the Inquisition. (111–20) One of the principal points of Boullosa’s Duerme is the transformation of Claire Fleury into a representative of the fight for indigenous structural justice. Boullosa achieves this in her narration through three techniques: (1) Claire’s persistent rejection of Spanish practices and simultaneous alignment with indigenous experience; (2) the magic employed by the Indian woman Inés to save Claire’s life, which in turns converts Claire into a magical being, a living dead person



Chapter 3 who can only remain alive within Mexico City and who enters a dormant state once she travels a few miles outside the city; and (3) the simultaneous denunciation by Claire of the mistreatment of women and the indigenous population, in which she ultimately links the inferior status, unjust treatment, and marginalized plight of the two. Many passages from Duerme amply illustrate Claire’s identification with the Indians. For example, when the priest arrives to offer confession to Claire (dressed as Count Urquiza) before she is hung, Claire rejects his attempt and thus acts in a non-Christian manner akin to unconverted Indians, even threatening to twist the priest’s neck. Claire’s rejection of the Christian faith may be seen as a commonality shared with the indigenous population, whose members engage in witchcraft (as did doña Inés) and other non-Christian practices. Similarly, Claire demonstrates identification with the Indians and criticism of the Spaniards when she has a vision of the past destruction of an Aztec temple, from which stones were removed to build the Metropolitan Temple. Claire reflects upon the “ejército de hormigas” (army of ants) who dismantled the Aztec Templo Mayor to construct the Metropolitan Temple of the Spaniards: “Una piedra tras la otra, destruyendo para construir el de la cristiandad” (One stone after another, destroying to construct the Christian temple) (31). Furthermore, Claire’s experiences after her mother’s death are similar to those of the enslaved Indians who constructed the new temple. After some soldiers shoot and kill her mother, Claire becomes the colonel’s servant. Claire vividly recalls, using the present tense, this time period in her life: “[E]stoy trabjando como bestia, soy del Coronel esclavo” (I am working like a beast, I am the colonel’s slave) (35). Thus, Claire, like the Indians, is enslaved, and this is another point of identification with the colonized population of New Spain. There are many other passages that could be cited to illustrate this point, but the following best encapsulates how Claire becomes the voice of the Indians. As she criticizes colonial injustice and the caste system, Claire speaks as if she herself were Indian: Reto a cualquiera que vista como yo ropa de india y luego me dirá en cuanto se dividen los seres. “En dos” me contestará “Los

Postcolonial Structural Justice

blancos y los indios.” La ciudad misma donde estoy estancada se divide en dos: los magníficos palacios de los españoles . . . y las casuchas en desorden de los indios. . . . Hay blancos imbéciles que opinaran que así hemos dividido siempre, que esta es nuestra costumbre. Y no bromean, es pura estupidez. Pero cuando ellos no habían llegado a arruinarnos nuestras calles, estaban trazadas en orden perfecto. Las vi en la horca. (I challenge anyone to wear Indian clothing like me, and then they will tell me how human beings are divided. “In two,” the person will answer: “Whites and Indians.” The city itself where I am stuck is divided in two: the magnificent palaces of the Spaniards . . . and the disorganized shacks of the Indians. . . . There are imbecilic whites who are of the opinion that we have always been divided this way, that this is our custom. And they are not joking, it is pure stupidity. But when they had not yet arrived to ruin our streets, our streets were planned in perfect order. I saw it when I was on the scaffold.) (57) Claire’s disguise as an Indian girl virtually transforms her into an Indian as well as the spokesperson for this group, victim of the structural injustices inherent in the colonial system. Consequently, masquerade becomes an important link in the articulation of the fight for colonial justice, which, together with the element of witchcraft, proposes a combative, retributive stance in the face of Spanish domination. The second important element, which we have to some extent already observed, is the role of magic in linking Claire to the indigenous population. Although Claire herself is unable to perform witchcraft, she nonetheless seems to symbolize Indian magical power in her status as a living dead person. This magical power is recognized by the group of rebellious Indians who attempt to kill Claire when she is sent with a group of soldiers by the viceroy to quell this rebellion. Perhaps it is not coincidental that the group of rebellious Indians is identified with the Chichimecs in the novel (96). Although Claire is fighting against Indians, these particular Indians are considered bad and unjust because they are also killing other Indians. Hence, this episode does not contradict Claire’s general identification with the indigenous



Chapter 3 group. However, the fact that the Indians view Claire as a magical being is not trivial here. Since the Chichimecs are one of the principal groups involved in witchcraft, their recognition and fear of Claire’s magical power is significant: a form of recognition by the experts. Claire, who had fallen into a dormant state several miles outside the city, was being carried by the other soldiers. When the soldiers fled the rebellious Indians, the Indians attacked Claire’s body. However, when the Indians saw that Claire did not bleed when she was wounded, under the direction of their chief, Yuguey, they fled before this magical event (98). In this manner, by association with Inés’s magic, Claire also encapsulates the power of Indian witchcraft, and she “magically” saves the troops from death. Finally, Claire acknowledges her indigenous identification when she states: “Y yo, acaso no soy hija de la raza? La única francesa que lleva agua en las venas, la mujer de la vida artificial que solo puede vivir en la tierra de México?” (And I, am I not a daughter of the race? The only Frenchwoman who carries water in her veins, a woman with artificial life who can only live in the land of Mexico?) (124–25). Although some critics, such as Salvador Oropesa, Verónica Salles-­ Reese, and Claire Taylor have interpreted this passage as symbolic of Claire’s representation of Mexico incarnated by the mestizo (Oropesa 108; Salles-Reese 144; Taylor 236), the fact that the “water in the veins” is from the Aztec lakes (“de las aguas de los tiempos antiguos”) (the waters of ancient times) (27) and was injected into Claire by an Indian woman performing indigenous magic suggests that this is indeed a reference to Claire as a symbol of the indigenous race. Moreover, despite claims by critics that Claire’s transvestism is a sign of an identity in constant flux (which would appear to contradict the idea that Claire represents the indigenous population), I argue that it is precisely this concept of fluid identity and identity performance that allows Claire to eventually adopt the Indian identity despite being a white woman from France. Masquerade allows Claire to be whomever she wants to be, and ultimately Claire identifies herself with the 3 Mexican indigenous population. Although Claire’s dormant state at the end of the novel may be interpreted as a symbolic allusion to the dormant state of (post)-­colonial rebellion on the part of the indigenous population, her immortal status

Postcolonial Structural Justice

also implies a magical ability to eventually bring about this fight for structural justice for the Indians. Her boyfriend, Pedro de Ocejo, who is too ill to make the trip to Mexico City with Claire’s dormant body, an act that would have revived her, imagines this ultimate rebellion as follows: Al llegar la noche, entran y salen indios. Ella [Claire] les da dinero para comprar armas y los organiza. Ahora me ha explicado todo: “Tengo tantos preparados para dar el golpe que someteremos a los españoles, sin que nos sientan. Primero México, después Veracruz, Puebla, Querétaro. . . . Todos los españoles desaparecerán de estas tierras. . . . Yo seré el hombre más rico del orbe, y mis dominios sabrán que yo les he devuelto lo que es de ellos, que he tirado a los usurpadores. . . . Seremos la mejor nación, ejemplar entre todos. (When night falls, Indians enter and leave. She [Claire] gives them money to buy weapons and she organizes them. Now she has explained everything to me: “I have so many of them prepared to attack the Spaniards that we will conquer them without them hearing us approach. First Mexico City, then Veracruz, Querétaro. . . . All the Spaniards will disappear from these lands. . . . I will be the richest man in the world, and my dominions will know that I have returned to them what is theirs, that I have thrown out the usurpers, we will be the best nation, exemplary among all.) (145) The fact that Claire initiates this colonial rebellion dressed once again as a man is very important. Claire’s male masquerade is a female rebellion against patriarchal society. She initially employed this disguise to escape her life of prostitution in France. By using this same disguise within the context of indigenous rebellion, Claire fuses the plight of women and Indians, who, as we have seen, were similarly viewed in colonial society. Throughout the novel, Claire repeatedly denies her female identity. When the real Count Urquiza returns to Mexico, Claire describes how he rapes her (53). Later on, once again in traditional female Indian dress, Claire rejects female domesticity: “[M]e ayudó que durante unos días nadie intentara someterme a la rutina de las mujeres para la que



Chapter 3 no estoy dotada. No nací ni para lavar ropa ni para bordar, meterme a la cocina, cuidar la limpieza o lo que aquí todos hacen, preparar el nixtamal” (It helped me that during a few days no one tried to subject me to the women’s routine for which I am not equipped. I wasn’t born to wash clothing or embroider, to be in the kitchen, take care of cleaning, or what everyone else does here, prepare nixtamal) (75). This female/Indian dress is associated with both domesticity and a loss of respect. Claire notes that doña Inés, the woman who initially saved her life when she was masquerading as Count Urquiza, now treats her as unimportant and unworthy of esteem because she is dressed in this manner (76). Claire rejects both female and Indian dress as signs of servitude and speaks about their inequality with white men in similar terms, albeit with emphasis on the plight of the Indian: El mundo se divide en dos . . . lo blanco y lo negro. . . . El bien y el mal. Los hombres y las mujeres. Los europeos y los de otras razas. . . . Reto a cualquiera que vista como yo ropa de india y luego me dirá en cuanto se dividen los seres. “En dos” me contestará: “Los blancos y los indios.” (The world is divided in two . . . white and black. . . . Good and evil. Men and women. Europeans and other races. I challenge anyone to wear Indian-woman’s clothing like me, and then he or she will tell me how beings are divided. “In two” the person will answer: “whites and Indians.”) (57) In summary, the novels Zorro and Duerme both focus on the structural injustices inherent in colonization and thus propose a postcolonial justice to be achieved through different routes. Zorro advocates a path of reconciliation through the merging of Hispanic and indigenous cultures, while Duerme envisions the complete elimination of the Spanish culture in America through a total ousting. As Jennifer Balint, Julie Evans, and Nesam McMillan note: The enduring effects of global practices of colonialism are now widely acknowledged. Disrupting the assumption that colonization ended with the formal cessation of colonial governance, postcolonial theorists have highlighted the resilience of colonial forms of knowledge and structural arrangements which continue to define

Postcolonial Structural Justice

global and national relations and shape the life experiences and aspirations of the groups and individuals they encompass. (9) Through the motif of masquerade, both Zorro and Duerme attempt to emphasize and eradicate the structural inequities of colonization to achieve a form of postcolonial justice. Both novels highlight structural injustices that discriminate against the indigenous population and that persist in postcolonial Mexico today. According to a study conducted by Regina Martínez Casas, Emiko Saldívar, René Flores, and Christina Sue about ethnicity and race in contemporary Mexico, discrimination against indigenous populations persists. These authors focus on Mexico’s policy of mestizaje as a national project initiated at the country’s independence from Spain. This goal of racial and cultural mixing aims to produce a homogeneity in the population that would eradicate difference and thus inequality. Since the nineteenth century and until very recently in Mexico, mestizaje was the ideological force that dominated political discourse. The authors point out the fundamental racism inherent in this policy: “In this process, indigenous people became defined as ‘others’ and were seen as being opposed to modernity and thus represented an obstacle to a prosperous Mexico. . . . They believed that infusion of European blood was needed to ‘improve’ Mexicans’ blood and felt that the ‘indigenous problem’ could be overcome through expansion and education of the mestizo population” (41). Mónica Moreno Figueroa echoes the discriminatory nature of the mestizaje philosophy: “[I]t is a deeply discriminatory ideology and practice, since it is based on the inferiority of blacks and indigenous people, and in practice, of discrimination against them” (390). The prevalence of the ideology of mestizaje for two centuries in Mexico is the first indication that the discrimination against the indigenous population is a structure inherent in the colonial system that has persisted through the postcolonial era. It is interesting that Allende has “adopted” the concept of mestizaje as a “solution” to the problem of colonial and postcolonial structural injustice. As I noted earlier, Allende’s version of mestizaje stresses cultural blending and parallels rather than cultural erasure, and thus does not share the discriminatory philosophy that underlies the mestizaje goal of homogeneous national identity in Mexico, which, in Iris



Chapter 3 Marion Young’s terms, is a form of cultural imperialism. Nonetheless, one wonders whether Allende’s conception of postcolonial structural justice, which overlaps with Mexico’s discourse of mestizaje, reflects to a certain degree a naïveté regarding the ideological thrust of race mixing in Mexican history. Allende blends the concept of mestizaje with contemporary notions of restorative justice, in which apology, restitution, and change are key elements of the process (Van Ness and Strong 232). Martínez Casas et al. also describe how the legacy of the colonial castas system pervades Mexican society today: Even today there is a widely generalized disdain for indigenous persons in the country. For example, while presenting myself as indigenous may facilitate access to certain social programs, this same identity could result in discrimination in other situations such as when searching for a job or trying to connect with non-indigenous social networks. . . . [I]ndigenous people tend to be the most frequent victims of discrimination. . . . Today, the policies that seek to integrate indigenous people into mainstream society have moved from acculturation toward the much newer discourse of cultural recognition and respect for diversity. Despite this shift, the ethnic inequalities that were evident since the eighteenth century are still present today. As a result, indigenous people in contemporary Mexico continue to suffer from high levels of poverty and social exclusion. (64–76) Moreno Figueroa also stresses the connection between discriminatory practices against the indigenous population in Mexico today and the structured racial hierarchy initiated during the colonial era: “What we are facing in contemporary Mexico is a complex social organization that has hidden and grown different forms of racism. In this context, old colonial racial categories remain and ‘passing’ towards ‘whiteness’—in its peculiar Mexican version—is still a goal for inhabitants . . . a non-spoken rule of social stratification” (391). Thus, Allende’s and Boullosa’s focus on colonial Mexico’s structural injustice bears a concrete relationship to the struggles for justice in contemporary Mexican society.

4. Al legories of Transitional Justice Masquerade in Novela negra con argentinos by Luisa Valenzuela and Máscara by Ariel Dorfman

Transitional Justice Many contemporary Latin American novels deal with questions surrounding transitional justice. Transitional justice refers to “conceptions of justice in periods of political transition,” which in our current era means a “change in a liberalizing direction” (Teitel 3–5). In Transitional Justice, Ruti G. Teitel examines numerous issues surrounding justice in times of transition and notes: In the public imagination, transitional justice is commonly linked with punishment and the trials of ancien régimes. . . . Argentina’s junta trial marked the end of decades of repressive rule throughout Latin America. The contemporary wave of transitions from military rule throughout Latin America . . . [have] revived the debate over whether to punish. Punishment dominates our understanding of transitional justice. (27) In addition to issues regarding punishment versus reconciliation, Teitel also notes the important role of collective memory in achieving transitional justice through the writing of transitional histories. According to Teitel: “Punishment is identified with collective memory, and punishment’s waiver with collective amnesia” (72). In order to comprehend the effects that issues surrounding transitional justice have had on the literatures of Argentina and Chile, it is necessary to give a brief historical overview of events related to the two military dictatorships in these countries during the 1970s and 117


Chapter 4 1980s, and their respective transitions to democracy. Argentina suffered a military coup in 1976 led by the commander in chief of the army, Jorge Videla. Once in power, the military junta sought to establish “el proceso de reorganización nacional” (a process of national reorganization, usually referred to es “El Proceso” in Spanish) in Argentina. J. Patrice McSherry describes this “process” as follows: The military’s second national security state consolidated and institutionalized national security ideology, structures, and dirty war methods. During this period, the state profoundly penetrated society and entrenched a militarized system characterized by ideological conformity, terror, and social control. The system was based upon the armed forces’ messianic vision of national security. The Proceso commanders actively sought to “transform the mentality of Argentines” through control of education, media, and culture. The method of “disappearances”—abduction of perceived state enemies by armed agents while the state denied official responsibility—was used to terrorize the population at large and to eliminate particular victims. The institutionalization of this practice left no legal recourse for the victims or their families. (85–86) Military rule finally collapsed in Argentina in 1983 for numerous reasons. First, since 1980, the military junta was embroiled in various political and economic crises: the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo and other human rights groups gained international and domestic support; the economy was collapsing with high unemployment, rising cost of living, and an unprecedented number of bankruptcies; the United States cut off military aid to Argentina; there were internal divisions within the military; and finally, the junta invaded Islas Malvinas in 1982, which ended in military defeat (McSherry 103–4). According to McSherry: “The Malvinas war obliterated whatever vestiges of acceptance remained for the dictatorship from most social sectors” (106). On October 10, 1983, Raúl Alfonsín was elected president and subsequently led the Argentine transition to democracy (McSherry 112). One important aspect of the Argentine transition were the repeated

Allegories of Transitional Justice

attempts made by the military to impose conditions to civilian transition. In April 1983, the junta issued the “Final Report on the War against Subversion and Terrorism,” which justified the “dirty war” methods of El Proceso, causing an outraged reaction from the public and politicians alike (McSherry 108–9). Nonetheless, according to McSherry, there is evidence that Alfonsín had been negotiating terms of the transition with the military prior to taking office and continued to do so during his presidency: “Alfonsín’s method of bargaining with the armed forces became more pronounced during his term. He began to retreat on aspects of his human rights policy and fell increasingly captive to military pressures and coercive threats. The strategy of bargaining allowed military prerogatives to remain or be restored, thus perpetuating structures and ideologies of the national security state” (114). The issues surrounding the transition to democracy in Argentina are well summarized by Ruti Teitel in her book on transitional justice. She discusses the problems of responsibility and punishment during the Argentine successor trials, indicating that owing to the fact that much of the army was subject to prosecution, the country was forced to eventually grant massive amnesties and pardons: After military rule, how do we conceptualize the legal responsibility of commanders and their subordinates for the brutalities of the police state? When one person orders another to commit a crime, who is the “perpetrator”? This was the central question in Argentina’s successor trials of its military junta. The “coauthorship” theory put forward by the lower courts considered superior responsibility to be fully compatible with subordinate responsibility. . . . However, on appeal, the “coauthorship” theory was modified by the country’s Supreme Court. . . . Accordingly, the commanders were considered, instead, “accomplices” to persecution. . . . This seemingly opened the door to the limiting of liability in the security apparatus . . . and ultimately led to the prosecution policy’s undoing. . . . [M]uch of the country’s army was exposed to potential prosecution, a specter causing great instability, which ultimately culminated in systemwide pardons and amnesties. (44)



Chapter 4 As we will see later on in this chapter, the themes of guilt, responsibility, and punishment constitute the major focus of Luisa Valenzuela’s novel Novela negra con argentinos (Black Novel with Argentines), written in 1987, shortly after the end of the dirty war, and published in 1990. Similarly, Chile underwent an analogous process of dictatorship (the Pinochet dictatorship lasted from 1973 to 1990) and transition to democracy. On September 11, 1973, Augusto Pinochet, the commander in chief of the Chilean army, staged a coup that overthrew the Salvador Allende government. As Ana Ros notes in her book on post-dictatorship in the Southern Cone: “Similar to the Argentinean military’s rhetoric three years later, the coup of September 11, 1973, was construed as a glorious battle against unpatriotic and godless Marxists who wanted to achieve total power through a civil war. The armed forces used the polarization within the civilian population during Allende’s government to justify the toppling of a democratically elected government” (108). The Pinochet government was longer lasting than the Argentine Proceso. However, despite efforts to ensure his continuance in the government through constitutional changes that would provide for an eight-year presidential term with possible reelection, Pinochet failed to be reelected in the 1988 Chilean plebiscite, because by the end of his first term, “a majority viewed the repression as unjustifiable violence” (Steven J. Stern, cited in Ros 109). Despite elections held in 1989, Pinochet maintained his influence in Chile as commander in chief of the army, with substantial support from the landowning class. Consequently, “the outlook for truth and justice was inauspicious. . . . The post-dictatorship presidents . . . were determined to reconcile Chileans. However, if this were ever to happen, it would be the result of embracing, rather than avoiding disagreement” (Ros 109–10). Since the political Right was determined to avoid truth and justice, Peter Winn notes that the Concertación government took the path of “truth and reconciliation” (9). They followed the Argentine model and established a National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, which produced the Rettig Report addressing human rights violations in Chile. Despite the violations confirmed by the report, the Supreme Court upheld the Amnesty Law (Ros 110). Although right-wing impositions against

Allegories of Transitional Justice

justice continued, eventually change and movement toward justice were effected in Chile. In 1998, Pinochet was indicted by a Spanish judge and arrested in London for his crimes. Although he was released as a free man on medical grounds and returned to Chile in 2000, “his detention inspired the post-dictatorship generation to join the struggle for truth and justice” (Ros 111). Eventually, with changes in the composition of the Supreme Court, Judge Juan Guzmán took steps to oppose the Amnesty Law. By considering the disappearances as “permanent kidnappings,” Guzmán was able to reopen important cases, such as those of Operation Albania and the Caravan of Death (Ros 112). Pinochet was eventually stripped of his impunity, and Guzmán was prepared to prosecute him in these cases. However, in 2002 Pinochet was judged mentally incapable to stand trial and permanently incurable, so he could not be prosecuted. In 2004, the Valech Report (another truth commission report) revealed that “a vast segment of the population lived with the psychological and physical wounds of torture, abuse and humiliation” (Ros 114). Denial and justification of military crimes gradually become unacceptable, owing to the release of the Valech Report. Nonetheless, the Amnesty Law still remains in effect in Chile. Furthermore, according to Ros: Collective memory formation in post-dictatorship Chile was marked by the Concertación strategy of limited truth and justice in the tension between human rights associations and the armedforces threats. In addition, as the Concertación avoided evoking the Unidad Popular, Allende’s political project became a taboo. . . . [Elizabeth] Lira is concerned that in this context “Chileans may be trapped by the duty to commemorate a tragedy, at the risk of forgetting the meaning of the lives of those who died in these circumstances.” (118). These pressing issues surrounding collective memory in Chile ground Ariel Dorfman’s novel Máscara (1988), discussed below. Angus Fletcher’s Theory of Allegory This brief historical digression provides the necessary context for comprehending literary transitional justice, which forms the object of



Chapter 4 analysis in this chapter. The two fundamental constituents of transitional justice appear to be the question of whether to punish (reconciliation) and the role of collective memory in this process, both of which inform two important contemporary novels that have emerged from two countries that have undergone processes of transitional justice: Luisa Valenzuela’s Novela negra con argentinos (1990), which reflects on the transition to democracy after the dirty war in Argentina (1976– 1983), and Ariel Dorfman’s Máscara (1988), which contemplates the need for collective memory after the eventual transition to democracy in Chile. However, what unites these two novels is not only the focus on transitional justice but also the allegorical structure of each work. Both Novela negra and Máscara can be read as modern allegories on the theme of transitional justice, and both employ the motif of masquerade to articulate and achieve their allegorical reflections. Mary Beth Tierney-Tello studies the use of allegory by women writers under dictatorship in Allegories of Transgression and Transformation: Experimental Fiction by Women Writing Under Dictatorship. Tierney-Tello emphasizes the importance of the ethical dimension of allegory: Allegory’s relation to ethics is perhaps most obvious in the promotion of good conduct and the moral judgment seen in more sustained and simpler forms of allegory, such as fables. But, especially when we turn to more complex, less overt allegory, the ethics of allegory can go beyond such bold didacticism. Ethics is obviously concerned with values and any value . . . ultimately has to do with meaning. It is likewise in the realm of meaning that allegory’s ethical dimension lies. Most often, allegory demands some degree of ideological compliance from the reader; that is, allegorical modes propose to hold out their own version as somehow true, or at least more true than others. (20) Thus, owing to allegory’s ethical dimension, it is an excellent vehicle for texts centered on the role of transitional justice and collective memory during and after dictatorship. Ethical questions and transitional justice go hand in hand in many instances, as the analysis below illustrates.

Allegories of Transitional Justice

Both Novela negra con argentinos and Máscara are somewhat enigmatic novels whose themes are not immediately apparent to the reader. This is perhaps the first clue that the reader receives that points 1 him or her in an allegorical direction. According to Angus Fletcher, both ancient and modern allegories share five defining characteristics: “daemonic” agency, the cosmic image, symbolic progressive action or battle, magical forms of causation, and double meanings or symmetrical plots. Before delving into allegories of transitional justice, I discuss each of these elements below. The first characteristic, daemonic agency, essentially refers to an agent or character who is identified with a single, obsessive idea. Fletcher notes: Daemons . . . share this major characteristic of allegorical agents, the fact that they compartmentalize function. If we were to meet an allegorical character in real life, we would say of him that he was obsessed with only one idea, or that he had an absolutely onetrack mind. . . . It would seem that he was driven by some hidden, private force. . . . I shall therefore use the word “daemon” for any person possessed by a daemon or even acting as if possessed by a daemon, since by definition if a man is possessed by an influence that excludes all other influences while it is operating on him, then he clearly has no life outside an exclusive sphere of action. (40–41) In psychoanalytic terms, daemonic agency can be identified with compulsion neurosis (Fletcher 291). The second characteristic, the cosmic image, refers to a complex set of requirements, which Fletcher defines thus: [First,] [i]t must imply a systematic part-whole relationship; second, it should be capable of including both metonymy and synecdoche; third, it should be capable of including “personifications,” and fourth, it should suggest the daemonic nature of the image; fifth, it should allow emphasis on the visual modality, specifically, on visual or symbolic “isolation,” not to say surrealism; finally, it should be such that large-scale double meanings would emerge if it were combined with other images. (109)



Chapter 4 Although this definition seems rather complex, the crux of the cosmic image, or “kosmos” as Fletcher calls it, is to serve as a decorative or hierarchical element in the allegory. This decorative function, however, is not merely ornamental but also arouses “intense emotional response” in the characters and/or the reader (Fletcher 117). The third allegorical element can take the form of a progression or a battle. Symbolic progress can be understood as a questing journey: “There is usually a paradoxical suggestion that by leaving home the hero can return to another better ‘home.’ . . . Self-knowledge is apparently the goal” (Fletcher 151). This travel can take the form of an “introspective journey through the self” (153); it need not be a physical journey as long as it is characterized by a constant, forward motion and directed toward a goal (153). Similarly, the symbolic battle may take the form of a dialogue or debate (153) and usually pits good against evil. The fourth allegorical element, magical forms, is also termed “allegorical causations” by Fletcher. Allegory involves a “suspension of disbelief in magic and magical causation” and includes fictional events that “come about arbitrarily through the workings of chance (‘accidents’) or are brought about by the supernatural intervention of a superior external force” (187). Frequently these works also contain a figure “somewhat like a magus” (208) such as a wise man, a mad scientist, or the like. The fifth and final characteristic of allegory, according to Fletcher, relates to theme. Allegory is characterized by dualistic themes, symmetrical plots, and radical oppositions such as good versus evil. Ambivalence is a major element, and the double meanings associated with ambivalence can be manifested through elements of the sublime and picturesque (282–300). Fletcher’s theory is vastly more complex and nuanced than this brief overview suggests; however, this summary of allegoristic elements will allow us to embark on analysis of how Valenzuela’s Novela negra con argentinos and Dorfman’s Máscara constitute political allegories on the theme of transitional justice. Novela negra con argentinos by Luisa Valenzuela In her allegorical analysis of Luisa Valenzuela’s short story “Escaleran,” Diane Marting notes: “Many critics allege that allegory is one of Luisa

Allegories of Transitional Justice

Valenzuela’s frequent strategies for the production of meaning, but rarely are her works true allegories” (37). Marting employs the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of allegory as “a description of a subject under the guise of some other subject of aptly suggestive resemblance” (cited in Marting 38). Similarly, Ksenija Bilbija indirectly notes the allegorical potential of Novela negra con argentinos when she states that the novel embarks on . . . the search for the psychological mechanisms that allow for the return of the repressed, the identification with the aggressor and a reaction formation. . . . The body of Argentina became the locus of repression and the bodies of the victims were erased. . . . Valenzuela’s narrative decodes the invisible inscription tattooed on the psycho-social body of her nation. . . . Black 2 Novel is the result of her reconstruction of that crime. (132–35) By suggesting that the crime that the protagonist of Novela negra, Agustín Palant, commits at the beginning of the novel is a veiled reference to the crimes committed in Argentina during the dirty war, Bilbija unlocks the fundamental allegorical analogy that motivates the entire novel, which I elucidate, along with its fundamental articulation through masquerade, in the following pages. Novela negra opens with the crime committed by Palant and leads readers to believe that rather than an allegory, they are reading a detective novel. Agustín’s murder of the actress Edwina on the first page of the novel motivates the story’s action throughout the next couple of hundred pages. It rapidly becomes apparent that reading the novel as a piece of crime fiction makes little sense. There is a crime with no motive, and the perpetrator himself becomes the “detective” who, instead of searching for the criminal, embarks on a quest to determine the motive for his own crime. Valenzuela plays with the elements of crime fiction to construct an allegory on punishment and reconciliation in Argentina after the dirty war. After committing the murder, a shaken Palant goes to his girlfriend Roberta’s apartment and confesses his crime to her. Roberta helps him to disguise himself by shaving his beard and having him don a pair of glasses, and then she hides the murder weapon. After this series of standard postcrime actions, Palant and Roberta decide to



Chapter 4 retrace the former’s steps in an attempt to determine the motive for Edwina’s assassination. From the very first page, Palant embodies what Fletcher terms the “daemonic agent,” whose compulsion motivates all of his actions: Palant, horrified by what he has done, becomes obsessed with finding out the true motive of his crime. He repeatedly dwells on his lack of motive and his desire to determine one, as we see through such comments by the narrator as “No iba a poder volver a escribir nunca más, al menos no hasta que entendiera por qué había apretado el gatillo contra una cabeza” (“He’d never be able to get back to writing again. At least not until he understood why he had put the gun to a head and pulled the trigger”) (Novela negra 350; Black Novel 12), and “Lo que necesito es saber por qué alguien se convierte en un torturador, un asesino, saber porque un ciudadano probo puede un día cualquiera y sin darse cuenta transformarse en un monstruo” (467) (“What I need is to know why someone becomes a torturer, a murderer, to know why an upstanding citizen can one day unawares be transformed into a monster”) (143). Agustín’s obsession with the possible motive for his crime leads him to embark on a quest for self-knowledge. He retraces his steps throughout New York City in an attempt to determine the motive for his crime. This aspect of the novel clearly fits Fletcher’s criterion of a progressive “introspective journey for self-knowledge” that characterizes allegory. Shortly after the murder, Agustín and Roberta return to the theater district, because the murder victim was an actress in a play that Agustín attended. Agustín fruitlessly attempts to locate the street corner where a man offered him the free theater ticket that led to his attendance at the play and subsequent murder of the actress. Agustín’s crime also qualifies as an element of “magical causation” because the crime appears as an inexplicable accident in several passages of the novel. For example, Agustín describes his pulling of the trigger as an involuntary action that “parecía pertenecerle a otro” (362) (“seemed to belong to someone else”) (25). Although Novela negra contains the compulsive daemonic agent, the progressive quest for self-knowledge, and the magical causation associated with allegory, the two allegorical elements that most clearly reinforce an allegorical interpretation and the connection to

Allegories of Transitional Justice

transitional justice in Argentina are the cosmic image (in the form of masquerade) and the thematic element of symmetrical plots, which establish the connection between the senseless atrocities committed during the dirty war and the equally senseless murder executed by Palant at the novel’s beginning. A detailed analysis of these two elements follows below. I begin with Fletcher’s last element—that of symmetrical plots— because it will facilitate comprehension of how masquerade functions as a cosmic image in the novel. Throughout Novela negra con argentinos, the protagonists establish parallels between actions and events in New York and those in Argentina during the military dictatorship. These parallel elements or “plots” construct a series of analogies that reinforce the idea of Novela negra as allegorical fiction. When Agustín first purchases the gun, he walks through some of New York’s seamier neighborhoods. As he walks past bags of garbage, he reflects: “De este lado o del otro, pensó, la inmundicia es la misma, siempre las mismas grandes bolsas de plástico negro, apiladas, llenas de desperdicios, y en mi país en tiempos militares las bolsas tendrían más bien restos de mejor pensar en otra cosa” (358) (“On this side or the other, he thought, the filth is the same, always the same piles of black plastic bags full of refuse, but in my country when the military junta was in power the bags might contain the remains of . . . Well, better think of something else”) (20). This is the very first of many mentions made of events in Argentina provoked by actions or events in the New York of the 1980s. When Roberta visits Ava Taurel’s torture chambers, designed to give masochistic pleasure and release to business executives, she likens these chambers to “la otra recóndita escena de tortura en la que estuvieron atrapados sus amigos, hermanos, compatriotas, sin haberla buscado, sin posibilidad alguna de gozo, tan solo de dolor” (367) (“the other distant torture scene into which her friends, brothers, compatriots, were unwillingly caught, without the slightest possibility of pleasure, only of pain”) (31). Similarly, when Agustín and Roberta visit a used clothing store to find apparel with which to disguise themselves, Agustín feels that he wants to leave the store in a hurry, not because he thinks the store manager is the man who gave him the theater ticket but rather: “Me pareció que se llevaban un cuerpo, me removió tantas cosas de otros



Chapter 4 tiempos. Buenos Aires, sabés” (392) (“I had the feeling that they were taking out a body, and it stirred up so many images from other times. Buenos Aires, you know”) (59). As the novel progresses, these symmetrical plots or parallels increase in intensity, becoming progressively more symbolic. At one point, Agustín describes how he eats the photo of Edwina that appeared in the newspaper after her murder. His reflection on his relationship to this crime implies a double meaning regarding the process of committing a crime and appropriating the crime (acknowledging responsibility for the crime versus disavowing responsibility and collective memory of the events). Thus, in the following passage, the narrative suggests a symbolic interpretation of Agustín’s consumption of the portrait that points to questions of responsibility and memory in Argentina: Fue su única manera de asumir el hecho, consumirlo, más bien, porque poco a poco y sin darse cuenta de lo que estaba haciendo se había comido el retrato de Edwina. . . . Ahora Edwina estaba en él, sin imagen ni sexo. . . . ¿Dónde termina la destrucción y empieza la apropiación? ¿Dónde reside la secreta memoria del olvido? Edwina . . . removiendo ahora los insoportables recuerdos. Los otros insoportables recuerdos . . . todo un país dejado atrás, un tiempo y un horror que no llevaba ese nombre (con gritos en la casa de al lado y desaparecidos). No. Recuerdos intolerables de otras víctimas, que, como Edwina, no volverán a ser mencionadas. (408–9) (It was his only way of assuming the deed, consuming it rather, for without realizing what he was doing, he had eaten Edwina’s photograph bit by bit. . . . Edwina was now inside of him, imageless, sexless. . . . Where does destruction end and appropriation begin? Where lies the secret memory of oblivion? Edwina—that image, the only thing left of her, and now there was nothing— Edwina still stirring up those unbearable memories, . . . an entire country left behind, an era and a horror not labeled as such (screams in the house next door and desaparecidos). No. Unbearable memories of other victims who, like Edwina, would be mentioned no further.) (76–77)

Allegories of Transitional Justice

In this passage, Agustín essentially converts Edwina into a “desaparecida” (disappeared person) by swallowing her portrait. This act leads to the memory of the disappeared in Argentina and the simultaneous desire to forget these hideous crimes. The novel thus raises issues of collective memory and forgetting in the process of transitional justice. The themes that are hinted at here are further developed in the second half of the novel. The symmetrical/ambivalent (double-meaning) plot elements of Novela negra con argentinos that characterize allegorical themes intertwine with Fletcher’s concept of kosmos, or the allegorical image. As already noted, kosmos is a complex element that appears as ornamental but whose actual function in the text is hierarchical: it serves to elevate or lower. As Fletcher indicates: To adorn, in the rhetorical sense of kosmein, means to elevate a lower rank to a higher one. Dress and costume can become instruments of social climbing, by this process. . . . Ostentation of dress may be a matter of private vanity, but as a “cosmic” device it raises the wearer to an equality with the best-dressed “man of distinction”; and, on the contrary, when a person of rank affects crude or poor dress, we are aware of a deception as to status, an “ironic” attempt to undercut actual social position. Leveling and lowering is then a primary function of kosmos, no less than its elevating function. By likening an object we wish to dispraise to a worse object, we achieve a downward movement. It is important to see that ornament can be bad as well as good. (118–19) We can think of masquerade and disguise in Novela negra con argentinos as an example of this final characteristic of allegory. There are at least three instances of masquerade that appear in Novela negra, each serving as either a lowering or elevating function. The first and perhaps most important is Roberta’s attempts to disguise Agustín after he reveals to her the crime he committed. Roberta buys instruments to shave his beard; he dons eyeglasses and prepares to tan himself (Novela negra 381; Black Novel 48). Along with the disguise, Agustín adopts a new name. From this point on,



Chapter 4 he is referred to as Magú, until he reassumes his original identity at the end of the novel. In contrast to the other allegorical elements present in the novel, the use of masquerade as a cosmic image is not as obvious. If masquerade here serves a lowering function, what is Agustín/Magú being lowered to? Since Novela negra parodies detective fiction, Agustín’s disguise parallels that of the common criminal who seeks to avoid punishment by disguising his identity. Thus, Agustín is lowered from a writer to the level of a felon, not just by virtue of his actions but also by that of his adoption of a disguise. Of course, the reason criminals might disguise themselves is to avoid retributive justice. In Social Justice, Loretta Capeheart and Dragan Milovanovic define crime and retributive justice thus: The definition of crime that is most often assumed in the discussions of retributive justice is the legalistic definition. . . . Crime is an intentional act in violation of the criminal law . . . committed without defense or excuse, and penalized by the state as a felony or misdemeanor. . . . In this view, society punishes people because they have broken the law and are culpable and deserving of punishment. . . . In this justification, a lawbreaker deserves punishment in proportion to the crime inflicted. . . . In its most raw statement, retribution is . . . an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. (46–47) By this definition, Agustín is not entirely guilty of committing a crime, since his act is repeatedly described as unintentional. However, in the view of the law, Agustín qualifies as a criminal, and the status to which he has lowered himself is symbolized by his new “costume” or disguised appearance. The allusion to retributive justice suggested by the desire to disguise oneself and escape punishment may be thought of as an allegorical “clue” that points the reader in the direction of the novel’s more overarching theme of transitional justice, since transitional justice, as we have seen, involves the question of to what degree retribution (punishment) should be adopted as a solution. Interestingly, Agustín/Magú is not the only character who disguises

Allegories of Transitional Justice

himself in the novel. His girlfriend, Roberta, is also involved in several scenes involving masquerade or disguise. She persuades him to enter a used clothing store, telling him: “Ya que hay que cambiar las apariencias, cambiémonos de ropa, Magú, revistámonos, como quien dice” (392) (“As long as we’re changing appearances, Magoo, let’s change our 3 clothes—seek redress, as they say” ) (57). Later, Roberta returns to this same store, where she and the store manager, Bill, adopt a series of different disguises. In another scene (Novela negra 403), Roberta cuts and dyes her hair in an act of solidarity with Agustín, asking him: “Acaso tú eres el único que tiene derecho de cambiar de look?” (403) (“Do you think you’re the only one who has a right to change his look?”) (71). Roberta’s need for disguise, to “solidarizarse” with Agustín, stems from her role as Agustín’s accomplice—she helps him hide the murder weapon, disguise himself, and hide from the police. Consequently, Roberta’s role in the novel is analogous to that of many Argentine citizens during the dirty war who did not denounce the crimes that were being committed by others around them. Disguise is the ornament through which Roberta lowers herself to the level of accomplice to the crimes committed by Agustín and her country. Disguise is a motif that continues throughout the novel. However, the final scene in which disguise is an element used to construct an important analogy concerns Roberta and Agustín’s trip to a homeless shelter. In this episode, as they wander the streets in search of the motive for Agustín’s crime, they become very cold and decide to take refuge in the shelter, although Agustín protests that they should cross the street to avoid the riffraff there. As they hover in the shelter, the authentic homeless people distinguish themselves from Agustín and Roberta by dint of the dress of the latter two. Noting that Agustín and Roberta do not sport shoes wrapped in newspaper and are wearing only one coat apiece, the homeless people conclude that they don’t have anything to do with the authentic shelter residents and refer to them as “intrusos” (443) (“intruders”) (117). The single coats “elevate” Roberta and Agustín’s status above that of the real homeless individuals whom they are trying to imitate and who serve as “kosmos” or the ornamental allegorical image that grants them higher hierarchical status.



Chapter 4 It is not coincidental, however, that it is within this context of masquerade that Roberta recounts a story from childhood. Agustín asks her why she has insisted on accompanying him in his search. Roberta responds that she is also searching for the denouement to a story (Novela negra 445; Black Novel 119). Roberta recounts the unfinished end of the story thus: Una noche de tormenta tremebunda . . . esos dos muchachos que se refugian en la planta baja de la casa abandonada y oyen ruidos y crujidos y sienten pánico pero tratan de calmarse mutuamente diciendo que es el viento. No. No es el viento. Es la mujer asesinada que camina por el piso de arriba con un hacha en la mano. . . . [A]lguien la mató de un hachazo en la cabeza y ella está buscando venganza. . . . Nunca supe cómo terminaba la historia. (445) (It was a dreadful, stormy night . . . those two chaps taking refuge on the ground floor of the abandoned house, hearing noises and creaking sounds, panic-stricken but trying to calm each other by saying it’s the wind. No. It wasn’t the wind. It’s the murdered woman pacing the top floor with an ax in her hand. . . . [S]omeone killed her by hitting her on the head with the ax, and she’s seeking revenge. . . . I never found out how the story ended.) (119–20) Alyce Cook indicates that “the fact that the murdered woman seeking revenge was once a victim is significant: given that she is the victimizer from the viewpoint of the two men below, the tale appears to indicate that vengeance can convert victims into victimizers and vice-versa” (117). The story recounted by Roberta then suggests various parallels: first, just as the two men take refuge during a storm in the house of the story, Roberta and Agustín seek refuge from the cold in the homeless shelter. Consequently, this establishes a parallel between the protagonists of the story and Novela negra con argentinos’ two main characters. From this we can extrapolate that Agustín, the victimizer, should he become the object of retributive justice, would then perhaps be turned into the victim, as Roberta’s story and Cook’s interpretation suggest. Thus, in larger terms, Valenzuela places an allegorical story within the context of the

Allegories of Transitional Justice

allegorical cosmic image of masquerade (Roberta and Agustín impersonating the homeless), to raise the issue of collective memory and reconciliation, which can then be applied to the context of transitional justice in Argentina. We have already seen how this same question was raised by the passage in which Agustín literally eats Edwina’s portrait, thus converting her into a “disappeared person.” In that episode, Agustín posed the question “Dónde reside la secreta memoria del olvido?” (409) (“Where lies the secret memory of oblivion?”) (76) and spoke of “recuerdos intolerables de otros victimas, que, como Edwina, no volverán a ser mencionadas” (409) (“unbearable memories of other victims who, like Edwina, would be mentioned no further”) (77). In other words, the novel raises the issue of collective memory versus collective amnesia, which in turns implies the question of reconciliation versus punishment and whether it is best to forgive and forget. Through Agustín’s thoughts, the novel narrates the dilemma faced by Argentina after the military dictatorship that ended in 1983: how does the country “appropriate” the crimes that occurred? Does the country live with the intolerable memory of the disappeared or simply forget them, reconcile, and move on? There are no easy answers to these questions, but the novel seems to suggest that the first step is for Argentina to take responsibility for these crimes. Note the following dialogue between Agustín and Roberta: Entonces volvete a Buenos Aires. Empezá de nuevo . . . Imposible. Está la marca. La nuestra y la de ellos. Demasiados cadáveres allá contra uno solito aquí. —Estás loco. Los de allá no son tuyos. —Como si lo fueran. Todos somos responsables. . . . Es intolerable. Es una ciudad construida sobre cadáveres. Un país de desaparecidos. No hay vuelta posible. (410) (Then go back to B.A. Begin again. . . . Too late for that kiddo. . . . Impossible. The place is branded. And so are we also. Too many corpses there, as against just one here.



Chapter 4 “You’re crazy. The ones there aren’t yours.” “They might as well be. We’re all responsible. It’s unbearable. It’s a city constructed over corpses, a nation of desaparecidos. There’s no possible return.”) (78–79) Despite Agustín’s recognition of the Argentine collective guilt, he refuses to acknowledge his own in terms of Edwina’s murder: “Fue sin querer. No tengo la culpa de haberla matado” (433) (“I didn’t mean to do it. I’m not to blame for having killed her”) (104). This absolution of guilt serves as a precursor to Agustín’s final acceptance of the senseless crime he committed and his ability to move on and live the rest of his life. Toward the end of the novel, Agustín returns to his normal undisguised appearance, leaves the house in which he held himself prisoner, and begins to write again. These actions occur only when he dumps the murder weapon in the river, claiming that perhaps it was only a theatrical prop, and accepts Roberta’s rationalization that everyone dies eventually, so what does it all really matter anyway? These rationalizations allow Agustín to resume his normal life (Novela negra 456; Black Novel 133–34). Although Agustín symbolically absolves himself from guilt by tossing the murder weapon into the river, the dialogue that ensues between Roberta and Agustín suggests that Valenzuela’s message of reconciliation may be ironic. Roberta indicates that perhaps the gun was not really a gun but a toy or theatrical prop, while Agustín concurs that perhaps the crime never really occurred, that it was part of the play that the theater group made him enact. On the other hand, perhaps these excuses are a necessary prelude to self-forgiveness and ultimate reconciliation. On the last page of the novel, Agustín phones Roberta to tell her that he is finally going to be able to put his dead to rest, to which Roberta responds: “Los muertos que vos matáis son frutos de otros crímenes ajenos” (480) (“The dead you kill are offspring of someone else’s crimes”) (220). This penultimate line of the novel confirms the allegorical interpretation. The “muerto” killed by Agustín (Edwina) is the fruit of other, foreign crimes, in the sense that Agustín reenacts the senseless murders that occurred in Argentina and for which he feels guilt, as a bystander, even though he did not commit

Allegories of Transitional Justice 4

them. He “writes” the crime “with his body” —so that the entire action of the novel is allegorical and points toward the question of how Argentina can live with the past crimes committed, achieve transitional justice, and reconcile with itself for the future. In this process, the element of disguise is essential for the definition of transitional justice in the novel. Máscara by Ariel Dorfman Similarly, the Chilean Ariel Dorfman’s Máscara (1988) employs the motif of the mask (and masquerade) to achieve an important contemplation of the theme of collective memory and transitional justice. Although no specific country is ever mentioned in the novel, it is easy to extrapolate the connection to events in Chile, although it may equally apply to other countries. Danny Postel writes: Born in Argentina and raised in both the United States and Chile, Dorfman threw himself into the momentous democratic movement that brought Salvador Allende to power in Chile in 1970. Dorfman eventually took a position as cultural adviser to the president’s chief of staff. . . . Then came the nightmarish conclusion to Chile’s popular revolution—and quite nearly to Dorfman’s life. That dark day, September 11, 1973, ushered in a reign of dictatorial terror that would last more than a decade. It became the defining experience for the young political writer. He was supposed to have been summoned to the national palace in the event of precisely such an emergency, but mysteriously wasn’t. Many of his closest friends and political fellow travelers were tortured and killed during the coup. Dorfman deals with the haunting memory of the coup in most of his works. Returning to Angus Fletcher’s definition of allegory, all three of the protagonists of Dorfman’s Máscara fulfill the characteristics of daemonic agency. The three main characters are the nameless, faceless narrator who narrates the first section of the novel; the female protagonist who saves her father’s memories from erasure and shares a body with Oriana, the innocent girl frozen in time at the age of five (and who narrates the second section); and Dr. Mavirelli, the plastic



Chapter 4 surgeon who narrates the third section of the novel. Each of these protagonists exhibits the compulsive behavior that aligns them with daemonic agency. Let us begin with the faceless narrator. This character was allegedly born without a face and is invisible to most people, including his parents. His invisibility allows him to observe others in their most intimate moments without them being aware. As a youth, the narrator accidentally discovered that with photography, he could reveal people’s innermost secrets through the pictures he took. The faceless man then uses these “talents” to spy on others, many of whom are attempting to hide their real identities, and then expose them to the authorities. His obsessive spying is bulwarked by a network of connections through government agencies and reveals an uncontrollable compulsion for power: “Para adueñarme de un ser humano lo único que hacía falta era secuestrarlo en su intimidad, desflorarlo con mi cámara. . . . Así armé una red de intercambio informal de datos que terminó convirtiéndose en un sistema inexpugnable de poder” (“To own another human being, the only thing necessary is to kidnap her intimacy, to deflower her with my camera. . . . Armed with the reports smuggled to me by the others . . . I . . . promised them power that their mediocre minds had not dared to envision . . . until you destroyed . . . [those] impregnable defenses”) (Máscara 54, 76; Mascara 33, 50). The second compulsive character, who narrates the novel’s second part, is Oriana. This section of Máscara is even more complex than the first and requires a brief summary. The narrator is a female who recounts her experiences with two men who steal human hands and scrub off their scars and lines. This episode makes use of the allegoric (cosmic) image in the sense that there is a clear synecdoche (part for the whole): the hands represent the memories of the entire person. I will later develop this connection in more detail when I discuss the cosmic image; however, it is important to note this in order to understand Oriana’s obsession. The female narrator explains in detail her attempts to save the dead from having the scars and marks on their hands erased by these two men and then given to someone else (something she first achieves when they attempt to do this to her father’s hands). These dead are then left with smiles on their faces, because

Allegories of Transitional Justice

their memories have been preserved. However, when the angry men pursue the narrator and find her hiding in her room, she splits into two personalities: one is the amnesiac Oriana, the girl frozen in innocence on the brink of age five, and the other, the nameless narrator who holds all the memories of the past. Although this other, narrator personality plans to rejoin Oriana’s body someday, Oriana “no quiso que volviéramos a ser una única persona . . . decidió quedarse estancada para siempre en esa edad justo anterior a los cinco años” (129) (“was the one who did not want us to become one person again, she the one who decided to stagnate endlessly on the threshold of five”) (94). Oriana decides to leave her other half trapped in her own kingdom of memories and not allow her to reinhabit her body. Then one day the two men reappear, and the narrator (Oriana’s other half) commands Oriana to flee and tell everyone that the two men are searching for her. The narrator in the kingdom of memories is dying, and the only way that memories of the past can be retained is through Oriana, symbol of the collective memory, who obsessively flees the two men throughout the entire novel. Her allegoristic compulsion is escape. The third and final protagonist, Dr. Mavirelli, who narrates the third section of the novel, just like the faceless narrator is obsessed with power, but he manifests this obsession in a way that is diametrically opposed to revealing the secrets and true identity of others. Instead, Mavirelli is a plastic surgeon who gives people, particularly powerful people such as politicians, new faces (or sometimes old ones) so that they can maintain power. Mavirelli is like a god who controls the destinies of his patients and who uses a special instrument to make them forget their true identities. Thus, masquerade is a key element in the novel’s allegorical development. At the novel’s end, the doctor becomes the ultimate symbol of power and evil when he appropriates the first narrator’s faceless face and thus combines the ability to unveil identities and create new ones simultaneously. Whereas Novela negra con argentinos is a quest, Máscara is essentially structured as an allegorical battle. In reality, the narrative spins on two different struggles: the traditional good versus evil battle, which is symbolized by the flight of the good and innocent Oriana



Chapter 4 (the hope for the future of collective memory) from the evil men who want to erase all memories by the “cleansing” of the scars and marks on people’s hands; and the less traditional evil versus evil battle, which is symbolized by the fight for power and control between the faceless narrator and Dr. Mavirelli, the plastic surgeon. The first of these battles is more akin to the definition of allegorical battle as described by Fletcher. However, both battles figure in the narrative development and have allegorical implications. Although the second section of the novel largely develops the allegorical symbolism related to the battle between Oriana and the two men who pursue her throughout the novel, the reader first meets Oriana in the first section. A woman named Patricia enters the faceless narrator’s apartment and claims she must leave Oriana there because they are being pursued. The narrator’s reflections on Oriana’s flight suggest that she represents collective memory. The narrator poses the question of what Oriana’s pursuers might be seeking from her thus: “Palabras que otros tienen miedo de guardar. ¿Se las habían entregado a Oriana para que ella las guardara? Y su olvido, ¿era justamente para que no la siguieran buscando?” (Words that others are afraid to keep. Had they been given to Oriana so that she would keep them? And her forgetfulness, was it precisely so that they would not 5 continue looking for her?) (61, my emphasis) (my translation). The italicized words possibly allude to the atrocities committed under the Pinochet government, about which many Chileans refused to speak and only wished to forget. The second section of the novel continues to flesh out the relationship between Oriana, collective memory, and its counterpart—collective forgetting. Oriana’s status as a little girl frozen just before age five, symbolic of the innocence associated with that age, is clearly a metaphor for collective amnesia. Although she is a fully grown woman, she states that she is a fouryear-old whose birthday will be celebrated in the coming month. The narrator later on adds: “Oriana es diferente. La vi frente a mí, transparente y enigmática y enteramente despojada de toda protección. . . . Oriana podía . . . despertar de su amnesia y convertirse en la persona común y corriente que ella alguna vez fue. (88–90) (“Oriana is different. I saw her in front of me, transparent and enigmatic and entirely

Allegories of Transitional Justice

disrobed of all protection. . . . Oriana might break away from her own self, awaken from her amnesia, and become again the ordinary everyday person she once was”) (60). It is this awakening that the faceless narrator fears, as he is infatuated with Oriana’s innocence and wishes to preserve it. The novel’s second section illustrates how Oriana arrived at her present amnesiac state. As we saw in the discussion of daemonic agency, Oriana, frightened by the abuse of the two men bent on erasure of all memories, retreats into the innocence of childhood and a forgetfulness of everything that happened to her from the moment of that abuse. Oriana suffers from a split personality—her other personality or identity is the collective memory held by the narrator of the second section, who was banished from Oriana’s body. It is interesting that there are two men responsible for pursuing Oriana and attempting to erase all signs of collective memory that remain within her. While Oriana’s other personality is dying within the kingdom of memories, only Oriana holds the vestige of these memories that she cannot currently recall. One wonders if the two men might be an allusion to Pinochet and his right-hand man, Juan Manuel Guillermo Contreras Sepúlveda, the head of DINA, the Chilean secret police. There are two simultaneous threats to Oriana’s memories. In addition to the pursuit by the two men, the faceless narrator wants Dr. Mavirelli to perform an operation on her that will restore both the body and mind of a four-year-old forever: “Hay otros rostros adentro de ella, Mavirelli, nadando debajo de su inocencia, tratando de salir a respirar. Me los va a sofocar, doctor” (There are other faces within her, Mavirelli, swimming underneath her innocence, trying to come out to breathe. You are going to suffocate them for me, doctor) (116) (my translation). These other faces represent Oriana’s memories and those of other people collected by her other personality in a collective reservoir of the past. As Oriana’s other personality states: Me tardó más de una década preparar los santuarios donde yo pudiera almacenar los residuos de sus vidas. . . . Al principio



Chapter 4 fueron, tuvieron que ser, personas que esos hombres no podrían jamás asociar conmigo. . . . Pero empecé con vagabundos, desempleados, fugitivos, empleadas domésticas solitarias y solteronas, ciegos que se pasaban los días en una plaza. . . . Por mi parte, yo ponía mi memoria y mi reino. Y cuando los sonidos de sus manos estaban registrados, nos íbamos pronto, por la puerta de atrás, antes de que entraran por la puerta principal esos dos hombres. (127) (It took me more than a decade to ready the sanctuaries where I could preserve the residue of their lives. I did not approach them until my kingdom was in place. At the beginning they were, they had to be, people those men could never associate with me. . . . But I began with the tramps, the unemployed, the fugitives, the solitary and unmarried domestics, the blind who passed their days in the plaza. . . . As for me, I supplied my memory and my kingdom. And when the sounds of those hands had been registered, we left, as soon as we could, through the back door before those two men came in through the front.) (93–94) The ambiguity associated with collective memory, which we already observed in Novela negra con argentinos, is encapsulated by the faceless narrator’s own ambiguity in his relationship with Oriana. The faceless narrator’s role in attempting to erase collective memory by returning Oriana to a perennial childhood is somewhat complex. On the one hand, the faceless narrator is attracted to the goodness and innocence he finds within Oriana and wishes to preserve it. On the other hand, this same narrator is generally associated with evil and is characterized throughout Máscara as a ruthless spy who specializes in unmasking the true identities of those who are trying to hide them. His efforts to return Oriana to an irreversible childhood can also be interpreted as an evil action that will result in the guilty escaping punishment. Thus, the inherent duality of collective memory in times of transition is symbolized by the faceless narrator’s ambiguous motives in this instance. In general, if we extend the metaphor to dictatorship as the novel suggests, the narrator’s actions are generally negative and akin to

Allegories of Transitional Justice

those of the secret police in a totalitarian society. For example, in the following passage, the narrator reveals his ability to unmask disguised faces: “Soy absolutamente incapaz de olvidar un rostro. Jamás. Nadie puede embaucarme, doctor. ¿Se da cuenta? Nadie puede disfrazarse. Nadie puede alterar su cara, doctor, nadie puede pasar por sus manos de remolino, Mardavelli, sin que yo lo descubra” (27) (“I am absolutely unable to forget a face. Ever. Nobody can deceive me, Doctor, understand? Nobody can slip on a disguise that I won’t see through. Nobody can alter his face. Nobody can pass under the swirl and eddy of your hands, Mardavelli, without discovering them”) (13). Similarly, the narrator’s invisibility allows him to pass unnoticed and discover hidden secrets. This, combined with his access to state archives, affords him great power. The faceless narrator’s role as secret police is counterpoised to the role of Dr. Mavirelli, the plastic surgeon. While the faceless narrator works to unravel true identities, Mavirelli seeks to cover up the same. However, Mavirelli, like the faceless narrator, uses his talents for evil. He disguises people not so that they can flee political torture but rather so that they can assume or remain in power. For example, the doctor makes the following claim: “Quince minutos conmigo y quedaba remodelado para el día. . . . ¿Qué es lo que era? ¿Senador, presidente, teniente coronel, anunciador de tele, gerente de un gran consorcio? Eso da lo mismo. Un modo para conservarlo en su puesto en forma indefinida” (147–48) (“An early fifteen minutes with me and he was remodeled for the day. . . . What was he? A senator, a president, a lieutenant colonel, a TV anchorman, the manager of the largest corporation? That should not concern us here. . . . [W]e had discovered a way to keep him in his post forever”) (107). Indeed, later on, the reader is informed that the doctor has even performed facial transplants that have allowed politicians to come into power by using the faces of their predecessors (Máscara 148; Mascara 109). Thus, Dr. Mavirelli employs disguise through plastic surgery as a means to help politicians illegally maintain political power. On the level of double meanings, the motif may refer to the illegality of dictatorship and ways in which dictators like Pinochet use tricks such as altering the constitution to maintain authority.



Chapter 4 Thus, the faceless narrator (who unmasks) and Mavirelli (who masks) are opposite sides of the same coin: they use their skills to wield power over society and to maintain themselves in a position of control. Thus, it is fitting that at the end of the novel, these two characters fuse into one: Mavirelli performs the ultimate transplant, removing the narrator’s faceless face and stitching it onto his own. He thus becomes all powerful, possessing the power both to mask and to unmask. Masquerade here becomes the antithesis of political justice. Authentic political justice is encapsulated by the memories hidden within Oriana, the woman who is masquerading as a little girl. This description of how Máscara enacts a battle between good and evil also illustrates how double meanings are predicated on radical oppositions within the novel, another important aspect of allegory. The battle between Oriana and the two men clearly suggests the double meaning of collective memory versus the attempt to eradicate it through collective amnesia, while the battle between the faceless narrator and the plastic surgeon suggests a number of double meanings regarding the evil caused by the secret police and political dishonesty. Both men constitute allegories of power that relate not only to dictatorship under Pinochet but to any authoritarian government. The fourth characteristic of allegory, magical causation, is also a key element in Dorfman’s Máscara. As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, magical causation frequently refers to events that occur accidentally. In Máscara, one such important accidental occurrence is the car accident that brings the faceless narrator into direct contact with Dr. Mavirelli. The faceless narrator emphasizes the chance or accidental nature of this event, which aligns it with the allegorical notion of magic as we see in the following passages: “El accidente que tuvimos, doctor, había ocurrido precisamente unas horas después de que ella viniera por primera vez a visitarnos” (The accident that we had, doctor, occurred precisely a few hours after she came to visit us for the first time) (15) (my translation); “Realmente una lástima, porque en vez de salir en mi auto ese día me habría quedado en casa y no me hubiera saltado ese semáforo rojo y no me hubiera encontrado contra mi voluntad, con esa inmensa limousine en que Ud., Dr. Miravelli, paseaba prepotente a su amante” (24) (“Really a pity, because instead of going out in my car that evening, I’d have stayed at

Allegories of Transitional Justice

home and avoided burning that red light and colliding head on with the grand limousine Doctor Miravelli, in which you were parading around with your lover”) (10). It is this accidental happening that brings these two protagonists together and eventually leads to the downfall of the faceless narrator, and the ultimate triumph and complete power of Mavirelli. The importance of masquerade in articulating the theme of transitional justice can be observed through the novel’s employment of the allegorical, cosmic image. In Máscara, the element of masquerade takes three different forms, elaborated below. First, the faceless narrator sports the ultimate mask: he is alleged to have no face or identity at all. Consequently, the narrator’s lack of “face” functions as a “mask” that, as we have already seen, allows him to circulate freely and undetected through society: “Nadie se fijaba en mí. . . . Yo era nadie, ninguno, menos que uno” (37) (“Nobody paid any attention to me. . . . I was nothing”) (20). This citation indicates that masquerade serves a lowering function: the narrator’s “mask” (no face or identity) means that he is ignored and ultimately rejected by society. Nonetheless, the faceless narrator turns this lack of identity to his advantage, wielding power over others by using his invisibility to unmask their true identities. Thus, the mask of “facelessness” serves as an allegory for the secret police in authoritarian societies. The counterpoint to the faceless narrator is Dr. Mavirelli, whose power arises through his ability to give new faces or “masks” to his important clients through plastic surgery. However, the “masks” are only held confidential in certain cases. Frequently, the surgeon turns the less powerful over to the police. Mavirelli justifies his breaches in confidentiality by indicating that not all faces have the same rights, and if he didn’t hand someone over to the authorities from time to time, he would be breaching his agreement with these powerful people, who are also his friends (Máscara 153; Mascara 112). Mavirelli’s ability to mask faces, as well as the rise to power (or the maintenance of power) through plastic surgery and masking, illustrates how masquerade serves an elevating function and can be used to foster injustice and inequality. Finally, the third protagonist, Oriana, may also be thought of as



Chapter 4 masquerading in the novel. Her masquerade, however, is very different from that of the other two protagonists. Oriana’s outer appearance is that of a grown woman, but her inner self is that of a little girl just about to turn five. She can be thought of either as a grown woman masquerading as a child, or a child wearing the mask of an adult body. In either case, Oriana’s masquerade is a symptom of her split personality and psychological trauma. Oriana’s masquerade is largely symbolic because it encapsulates the dilemma faced by nations in political transition: do they opt for collective memory (retribution and punishment) or collective amnesia (reconciliation)? In Latin, Oriana’s name signifies “sunrise” or “golden.” The name thus implies not only Oriana’s innocence but the birth of a new day and the question of what that new day (a new government or political transition) will entail. In his article “Symptoms of Discursivity: Experience, Memory, and Trauma,” Ernst van Alphen examines trauma as what he terms “failed experience.” In other words, the cause of trauma is “the impossibility of experience, and subsequently memorizing an event” (25). Van Alphen views experience and memory as discursive phenomena. In the process of trying to represent memories, individuals fail and experience trauma for the following reasons: 1. Ambiguous actantial position: one is neither subject nor object of the events, or one is both at the same time; 2. Total negation of any actantial position or subjectivity; 3. The lack of a plot or narrative frame, by means of which the events can be narrated as a meaningful coherence; 4. The plots or narrative frames that are available or that are inflicted are unacceptable, because they do not do justice to the way in which one partakes in events. (27) Van Alphen illustrates his theory with examples of Holocaust survivors. Citing Lawrence Langer, who interviewed more than three hundred Holocaust survivors, Van Alphen indicates that they “split” themselves in reaction to what happened to them in the camps. The only way to allow memories of this past is by ascribing the memories to someone else. One of the survivors describes this mechanism as

Allegories of Transitional Justice

follows: “I’m thinking of it now . . . how I split myself. That it wasn’t me there. It was somebody else” (Langer, cited in Van Alphen 48). This idea of a person splitting into two and thus possessing an ambiguous, actantial position is useful for explaining the split already observed in the character Oriana. Oriana/the female narrator suffers trauma or amnesia because in the moment in which the female narrator who tried to save her father’s hands was confronted by the two men, she split herself into two halves: instead of being physically present, she places her “other” Oriana there. The narrator no longer possesses an intact subjectivity, and therefore she/Oriana suffer a failed experience that translates into Oriana’s inability to remember. Oriana attributes the memories to someone else (who is really her)—the female narrator who remains trapped in the kingdom of memories because Oriana refuses to let her reinhabit her body. The abuse by the two men lead to loss of subjectivity, and consequently trauma and loss of memory. Van Alphen discusses the overlap of parts of his theory with the work of Pierre Janet and Freud on memory and trauma. He notes that the primary difference is that Janet speaks of narrative memory as “mental constructs” that people use to make sense of experience: “Familiar experiences are automatically integrated in existing mental structures. But some events resist integration. The memory of experiences that resist integration in existing meaning schemes are stored differently and are not available for retrieval under ordinary conditions. It is only for convenience that Janet calls these unintegratable experiences traumatic memory” (36). Van Alphen’s theory differs from Janet’s because for him, experience is not an innate mental structure but discursive and thus something that is culturally shared but individually acted out (37–38). In this view, experiences that are out of the ordinary, such as those of Holocaust survivors, defy integration, lead to failed experience, and become unavailable for retrieval. Such is the case of Oriana/the female narrator, who, owing to the abuse perpetrated by the two men who continue to pursue her, suffers an amnesia symbolic of collective amnesia because she has taken on the role of keeper of the memories of her entire society/country. Máscara was written prior to the actual Chilean transition to



Chapter 4 democracy (unlike Novela negra con argentinos, which was composed after the same transition in Argentina). Published in 1988, the novel appeared in the same year in which a plebiscite took place in which Chileans voted that Pinochet should not be reelected. Consequently, the novel is less a reflection on actual occurrences surrounding the transition to democracy in Chile, and more a reflection on the role of trauma and collective memory during and after dictatorship. Nonetheless, Oriana’s split between collective memory and collective amnesia posits the essential dilemma to follow during the Chilean transition. In contrast, as we have seen in the analysis of Novela negra con argentinos, Valenzuela incorporates direct allusions to Argentina’s “dirty war” in ways that allegorically posit the issue of whether to reconcile with the past (just as the protagonist Palant ultimately forgives himself for murdering Edwina), or constantly remember and condemn those guilty of the atrocities (the ironic interpretation of Palant’s self-forgiveness at the novel’s end). Both novels are ambiguous with regard to the solution to the problem and hence pose questions without definitively resolving the issue. Despite certain differences regarding the historical moment in which each novel was written vis-à-vis the respective processes of transition in their countries, both Valenzuela’s Novela negra con argentinos and Dorfman’s Máscara approach questions related to transitional justice through allegory. As Tzvetan Todorov points out in Symbolism and Interpretation, such symbolic or allegorical readings are largely inspired by ambiguities in the text that suggest the need to interpret the work “indirectly” rather than in a direct or literal fashion (52–59). Thus, Novela negra con argentinos is not really a piece of crime fiction, nor is Máscara merely the story of an amnesiac girl frozen in time at the age of five. These elements simply serve as vehicles to point to the tenor of transitional justice.

5. Historical Justice Masquerade and Trauma in Augusto Roa Bastos’s El fiscal, Mayra Santos-Febres’s Fe en disfraz, and Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del imperio

Historical Justice The previous chapter focused on transitional justice and its manifestations in the contemporary Latin American novel. This chapter examines the related concept of historical justice, which is intertwined to some degree with notions of transitional justice. According to Ruti Teitel, historical accountability plays a significant role in the achievement of transitional justice. In other words: “Collective history-making regarding the repressive past is said to lay the necessary basis for the new democratic order. . . . This harkens back to Immanuel Kant or Karl Marx, whereby history itself is universalizing and redemptive. On this view . . . historical truth in and of itself is justice” (Teitel 69). The fundamental problem regarding historical accountability in times of political transition is that “these are periods when shared notions of political truth and history are largely absent” (71). The need for reconciliation and the ability to move on, as we have seen in the previous chapter, sometimes necessitate collective amnesia. In contrast, punishment of past wrongs requires collective memory, which can take the form of historical accounts that fill in the gaps of the official history of authoritarian regimes. The idea of filling in gaps in the historical record (or what has been called the “interstices of history” in Alessandro Menzoni’s work [Manzoni 23]) conjures an immediate connection to studies on the contemporary historical novel. In other words, the idea of achieving “historical justice” has undoubtedly been a goal of much of the 147


Chapter 5 historical fiction written in Latin America during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Many important novels, such as Augusto Roa Bastos’s Yo el Supremo (I the Supreme; 1974) and Gabriel García Márquez’s El general en su laberinto (The General in His Labyrinth; 1989) contest official histories and either redeem or demystify important historical figures such as José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia and Simón Bolívar, respectively. Many of these novels employ intertextuality with historiographical sources that they both directly and indirectly incorporate. In this way, the Latin American historical novel invites readers to engage with historical texts and blurs the boundaries between fiction and history in a postmodern fashion. In this chapter, I analyze three novels that center on historical justice: Augusto Roa Bastos’s El fiscal (The Prosecutor; 1993), Mayra Santos-Febres’s Fe en disfraz (Faith in Disguise; 2009), and Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del imperio (News from the Empire; 1987). These very disparate novels are united by their focus on history through the experience of trauma. Two of these novels (El fiscal and Fe en disfraz) do not entirely fit with most traditional views of the historical novel. Unlike Noticias del imperio, which is similar to novels like Yo el Supremo and El general en su laberinto, El fiscal and Fe en disfraz do not cite authentic historiographical sources. Indeed, history at times seems less prominent in these books than the personal dilemmas of the protagonists. However, as I argue below, these two novels represent attempts to achieve historical justice through masquerade or disguise, which ultimately reconciles the experience of trauma. Placing these novels within the category of “historical novels” can be justified by the theories of María Cristina Pons and Joseph Turner. Pons asserts that the mere presence of history in a novel does not make it a historical novel. Instead, the determining factor is how history is employed in the work. If history is used in a merely decorative fashion, then Pons does not consider the novel to be historical (27– 101). This criterion is significant for both El fiscal and Fe en disfraz, because their historical contexts are not merely ornamental but essential to the development and purpose of each. An important difference between El fiscal and Fe en disfraz is that the former includes historical characters (the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner), whereas

Historical Justice

the latter does not. However, according to Joseph Turner, we can consider Santos-Febres’s novel a “disguised historical novel” because it creates parallels between the characters and historical figures (Fe and the slave women) (337–45; see also Weldt-Basson, Redefining Latin American Historical Fiction, 1–12). Both novels attempt to achieve historical justice in two ways: first, by filling in gaps in official history, and second, by the actions of their protagonists, who attempt to right historical wrongs. The third novel, Noticias del imperio, is an inverted image of the first two, first, because it is laden with historical sources and references, and second, because it focuses on achieving historical justice not just for victims of history but for historical perpetrators, as I will later show. Roa Bastos’s El fiscal is the third novel of a trilogy written, accord1 ing to the author, on the subject of the “monotheism of power.” The novel was allegedly written during the Stroessner dictatorship (1954– 1989) but was destroyed and rewritten when Stroessner was ousted in a coup d’etat led by his son-in-law, Andrés Rodríguez. Eventually Paraguay transitioned to a democratic government. Roa Bastos felt that his original version of the novel was no longer appropriate in light of the political changes that had occurred in his country. Both El fiscal and Fe en disfraz portray individual traumas that connect to documented cultural or national traumas and hence represent historical traumas that the protagonists attempt to work through to achieve historical justice. In Cultural Trauma, Ron Eyerman distinguishes between individual, cultural, and national trauma: There is a difference between trauma as it affects individuals and as a cultural process. As cultural process, trauma is mediated through various forms of representation and linked to the reformation of a collective identity and the reworking of a collective memory. . . . As opposed to psychological or physical trauma, which involves a wound, and the experience of great emotional anguish by an individual; cultural trauma refers to a traumatic loss of identity and meaning, a tear in the social fabric, affecting a group of people. . . .



Chapter 5 Again, it was a social movement, the civil rights movement, that reopened the sore and helped transform the cultural trauma of a group into a national trauma. Since then and only since then has slavery become part of America’s collective memory, not merely one of its constituent members. (1–18) In other words, the difference between cultural and national trauma is that in cultural trauma, only a group of people is affected (such as blacks in slavery), whereas in national trauma, the traumatic event is assimilated into the collective memory of the entire population. Nonetheless, both cultural and national trauma are historical in nature, as Dominick LaCapra asserts: “It is misguided to see trauma as a purely psychological or individual phenomenon. It has crucial connections to social and political conditions and can only be understood with respect to them” (xi). Moreover, LaCapra speaks of the concept of “traumatropism” (a founding trauma or traumatic myth of origins), which may involve the transformation of trauma into “the sublime or sacred[;] the traumatized may be seen as martyrs or saints, notably in the case of victims of extreme violence or genocide” (xiv). It is precisely this idea of traumatropism that is developed in Roa Bastos’s novel El fiscal. Augusto Roa Bastos’s El fiscal In El fiscal, the protagonist, Félix Moral, a former screenplay writer, becomes an exiled college professor at the University of Nevers in France. This represents a new identity, into which he has been transformed through plastic surgery after having been tortured by the Stroessner government: Sólo he tenido que tomar un nombre falso . . . mudar de aspecto, inventarme nuevas señas particulares; espesa barba tornasolada por canas rubiáceas, una honda hendidura en el arco cigomático, y sobre todo, dominar perfectamente la lengua con el acento y la entonación de provincias. Aprendí a simular a la perfección la renguera del inválido y la parquedad silenciosa del que no quiere papar ni tragarse moscas. . . . La obsesión de todo exiliado es volver. No puedo regresar con la cara del proscrito.

Historical Justice

(I have only had to take a false name . . . change appearance, invent new physical marks for myself, a thick beard made iridescent by reddish gray hairs, a deep split in the zygomatic arch, and above all, master the language with the accent and tone of the provinces. I learned to simulate to perfection the lameness of an invalid and the frugal silence of a daydreamer. . . . The obsession of every exiled man is to return. I cannot return with the face of 2 the outlaw.) (14) Félix recalls in detail his first personal trauma when he was tortured with an electric prod and then immersed in pestilential baths (46). This first near-death experience suffered by Moral repeats itself in several different forms (both real and imagined) throughout the novel. According to Cathy Caruth, this repetitive appearance is an essential characteristic of trauma: “In its most general definition, trauma describes an overwhelming experience of sudden or catastrophic events in which the response to the event occurs in the often delayed, uncontrolled repetitive appearance of hallucinations and other intrusive phenomena” (11). This idea is applicable to Moral’s third near-death encounter, in which he is sexually accosted by his graduate student, Leda Kautner, who is 3 portrayed as the archetype of the devouring woman. It is unclear whether this encounter is real or imagined, and it may indeed constitute a hallucination resulting from high fever that reenacts Moral’s other near-death experiences, from both torture and heart disease. As I have shown elsewhere, Moral is an autobiographical character 4 who shares many characteristics with Roa Bastos himself. Similarly, the character Jimena can be identified with Roa Bastos’s third partner, Iris Giménez, of whom I posit Leda Kautner as a double or inverted mirror image. In a little-known interview with Juan Ramón Iborra before his death, Roa Bastos claimed that Iris Giménez had twice attempted to murder him: —Sí. Algo muy terrible. Dos intentos de eliminación, por ejemplo. —De eliminación. ¿Quiere decir de suicidio? —Esto es un cosa muy grave que no se puede contar en un reportaje. ¿no? Porque sería acusarla. Pero fue una cosa terrible.



Chapter 5 —Lo que me está diciendo es que ella le quiso eliminar a usted? —Sí, sí. Por estrangulamiento una vez, en sueños. Y otra vez, delante de los hijos y de un sobrino que había venido a buscarme. (“Yes, something very terrible. Two attempts at elimination, for example.” “At elimination, do you mean suicide?” “This is a very serious matter that cannot be told in an interview, right? Because it would mean accusing her, but it was a terrible thing.” “What you are telling me is that she wanted to kill you?” “Yes, yes. By strangling me once, while I was sleeping. And the second time, in front of our children and my nephew who had come to the house.”) (Iborra 169) (my translation) This interview with Iborra suggests the possibility that the episode that Félix Moral recounts in which he strangles Leda Kautner, who sexually attacks him, is in fact a projection or transference onto this figure of his own traumatic experience as the victim of attempted murder. Kautner can be thought of as Jimena’s dark side or Shadow (in Jungian terms); like Giménez, she is both Roa Bastos’s student and speaks several languages (Weldt-Basson, “Postmodernism and Genre” 394–95). In the following passage, Moral attributes to himself the homicidal actions that Roa Bastos attributes to Giménez in the interview: Sentí estallar en mi un odio apasionado . . . un furor homicida. Llevé mis dos manos al cuello de la muchacha. Iba a estrangularla. Solo con su muerte iba a poder sacar su cuerpo que se había adherido al mío. . . . Oprimí mis dedos crispados sobre su cuello con salvaje violencia. . . . Su cuerpo fue ablandando y cesaron sus roncos gemidos. Me miré las manos. A la turbia luz de la luna vi que las tenía manchadas de sangre. (I felt a passionate hate explode inside me . . . a homicidal fury. I put my two hands on the girl’s neck. I was going to strangle her. Only through her death was I going to be able to remove her body that had adhered to mine. . . . I squeezed my tensed-up

Historical Justice

fingers on her neck with savage violence. She lost her breath. Her body was becoming limp and her hoarse wails stopped. I looked at my hands. In the murky light from the moon I saw that they were stained with blood.) (El fiscal 124) (my translation) One possible way to interpret this episode is that it constitutes an autobiographical reenactment of the trauma Roa Bastos claims to have suffered at the hands of his ex-partner. Leda’s sexual attack on Moral is comparable to what John Wilson terms the “Abyss Experience,” which is a life-threatening experience that is symbolized by a dark, dreamlike encounter. This is also an “Inversion Experience,” in which unreality takes the place of reality and everything becomes ambiguous and phantasmagoric (Wilson 187–89; Weldt-Basson, “Postmodernism and Genre” 396). Moral states that perhaps the vision of Leda Kautner was nothing more than a hallucination caused by a high fever (119). Wilson specifies that in the Inversion Experience, personal experience or perception is inverted. Thus, Moral/Roa Bastos inverts the direction of the murder attempt and claims that he attempted to strangle Leda Kautner/Giménez, instead of vice versa. The important point here is that Moral undergoes multiple traumas or reimaginings of trauma. He is traumatized by Leda’s sexual attack and then further traumatized either by an attempted attack on his life, or by his own homicidal actions with regard to Leda (what LaCapra would call “perpetrator trauma”). These traumas, added to the previous torture trauma, clearly establish Félix Moral as the victim of personal trauma. As we shall see later on, after this episode, Moral believes that he sees Leda Kautner on multiple occasions in which the reader suspects that the protagonist is simply hallucinating and reliving this traumatic episode in his life. El fiscal employs Félix Moral’s personal traumas as a springboard for the development of a collective national trauma that will eventually lead through masquerade to an attempt to achieve historical jus5 tice. After this episode with Leda Kautner, Moral, near death, is hospitalized with a very high fever. Thus, as already noted, Moral has several traumatic near-death experiences in the novel (from torture, heart failure, attempted murder, and high fever). These traumatic



Chapter 5 near-death experiences (or the trauma of having killed or almost killed someone) motivate Moral to posit a different, redemptive death for himself in which he dies as a hero attempting to assassinate the dictator, Alfredo Stroessner. Immediately after this episode with Kautner and the subsequent fever, Moral meets with his friend Clovis and takes on the task of disguising himself as an attendee of the International Congress in Paraguay, in order to kill Stroessner with the poison-bearing ring he borrows from Jimena. Individual traumatic experience is the motor to vindicate the national trauma of dictatorship. This is a good example of how Moral’s trauma transforms him into a “martyr or saint” (in LaCapra’s words) and illustrates traumatropism, identifying Moral’s “mission” to kill Stroessner with the “mission” of Francisco Solano López during the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870). López’s battle can be seen as a “myth of origins” of contemporary Paraguay. López has been viewed as a foolish martyr who led his country to certain defeat against the “Triple Alliance” of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. Most of Paraguay’s male population died during the war, and thus the country’s waging of the war has been seen as a form of collective suicide. On the other hand, Stroessner’s government appropriated the figure of Solano López as one of heroic grandeur rather than collective trauma, and these two images dialogue throughout the novel. El fiscal identifies Moral’s endeavor with that of Solano López in multiple ways, thus associating Moral with the national trauma suffered by Paraguay during the War of the Triple Alliance, an important founding event of modern Paraguay. For example, at the end of the novel, Jimena attempts to help Félix escape from the torture and imprisonment of the Stroessner government. The only means of possible escape is joining the annual pilgrimage to Cerro Corá, site of Solano López’s death. Félix is gunned down there by a member of the army, on March 1, 1987 (Solano López died on March 1, 1870). As he is shot, he stretches out his arms to an actress dressed as López’s mistress, Elisa Lynch (who is interestingly also identified with Leda Kautner), thus sealing this connection. Moral, like Solano López before him, can be seen as either a martyr or a hero, depending on one’s perspective. In either case, trauma is transformed into a sublime or sacred event.

Historical Justice

Moral’s efforts to achieve historical justice by assassinating Stroessner can also be seen as a manifestation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s concept of a “death of one’s own.” This idea is explicitly discussed when Clovis (not coincidentally, the man who had earlier provided Moral with the opportunity to return to Paraguay in disguise) explains to Moral why Rilke was upset when his ex-girlfriend Paula Becker (another figure with whom Leda Kautner becomes identified in the novel) died in childbirth. Rilke considered death during childbirth a common or “generic” death for women of that time, and not a “death of one’s own.” Thus, upon undertaking the project to kill Stroessner, Moral, realizing that he might die in the process, also posits “a death of one’s own” in opposition to the other possible deaths (torture, heart attack, fever, murder) that traumatized him earlier in the novel. It is important to note at this juncture that at the beginning of El fiscal we are told that Félix is writing his experiences in a diary (24– 25). Moral’s diary serves as a counterhistory to Jimena’s account of what happened to Moral in Paraguay at the end of the novel in a letter written to Moral’s mother: “De Jimena Tarsis a La Madre de Félix Moral” (From Jimena Tarsis to Félix Moral’s Mother) (341–52). Jimena’s version is what historically occurred in Paraguay: the overthrow of Stroessner by the army. Moral’s version recounts his heroic efforts 6 (real or imagined) to assassinate Stroessner two years prior to this event. Although the reader is never certain whether Moral’s trip to Paraguay is real or imagined, whether Moral actually meets the dictator or is sequestered upon arrival, what matters is that Moral’s diary provides the unofficial, unwritten details of the Stroessner regime, thus correcting the official historical record. Although many of the details provided are not historically confirmable, they are similar to events that occurred in Paraguay during the dictatorship. Many of these details emerge during the plane trip to Paraguay and Moral’s subsequent adventures in Paraguay during the three-day International Congress. Although these episodes are imaginatively narrated, they undoubtedly fill in historical gaps in an attempt to set the historical record straight about Stroessner, and thus achieve a form of historical justice.



Chapter 5 The first example is Moral’s description of a fellow passenger on the flight to Asunción who is wearing the garb of a Mennonite pastor. Moral’s fixation with this passenger implies a mysterious connection that is suggested in the following passage: Ha entrado en cambio, en nuestra cabina, un extraño personaje, enfundado en una vieja y larga chaqueta de clergyman, ceñida por un ancho cinturón negro. . . . Pendiente de un collar de metal ordinario, una cruz pectoral de exagerado tamaño le cae sobre el pecho. . . . Me choca que nuestros maletines sean casi idénticos. Este sentimiento se agrava cuando me doy cuenta de que somos bastantes parecidos. (A strange person, sheathed in an old, long clergyman’s jacket, closed with a wide black belt . . . has entered our cabin instead. Suspended from an ordinary metal chain is an oversize pectoral cross that hangs down on his chest. It bothers me that our briefcases are almost identical. This feeling becomes worse when I realize that we look a lot alike.) (205) The fact that the pastor and Moral look alike and have identical suitcases suggests a mysterious connection, perhaps even an identity between the two (the pastor as a double of Moral). The pastor oddly provokes thoughts in Moral of his revolutionary companion, Pedro Alvarenga, who was almost completely blinded by the government’s torture, lending a hallucinatory character to the pastor’s presence: Observo al pastor que me observa a mí con la misma extrañeza. Entre los dos, el aparato de los rayos . . . el vacío brumoso de veinte años. Y no es aquella situación extrema que sufrí en la cámara de tortura la que mejor recuerdo. . . . Es la situación extrema de Pedro Alvarenga la que me parece haber vivido en aquellas espantosas sesiones. Es la que siento revivir ahora, a la vista del pastor. (I observe the pastor, who observes me with the same amazement. Between the two of us, the beam apparatus . . . the hazy emptiness of twenty years. And it isn’t that extreme situation that I suffered in the torture chamber that I remember best. . . . It is

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the extreme situation of Pedro Alvarenga, which it seems to me that I lived in those frightening sessions. It is that situation that I am reliving now, at the sight of the pastor.) (231) We later learn that the clergyman actually is Pedro Alvarenga, disguised as a pastor, whom the government authorities then murder (not coincidentally by strangulation, just as Moral strangled or was strangled by Leda Kautner). After strangling him with the pectoral cross, the authorities pull off his beard, and the narrator identifies him as his former revolutionary companion. This episode is significant for various reasons. First, the suggested identity between Moral and Alvarenga poses the question as to whether Alvarenga’s presence on the plane is merely a hallucination and Moral is once again reliving his traumatic experience of torture by the Stroessner regime. Moral even claims that during his experience of torture he felt that he was suffering the experience of his companion Alvarenga. Second, the motif of disguise is significant, because it appears that the revolutionary Alvarenga is on a mission to destroy the Stroessner regime, and in this sense once again disguise (Alvarenga’s masquerade as a clergyman) is associated with the fight for social justice. Alvarenga’s mission parallels that of Moral, who is in disguise as a conference participant and whose physical characteristics have been altered to give him a new identity as Félix Moral. Finally, and perhaps most significant, is the fact that Alvarenga is a historical figure. In reality, Pedro Alvarenga was a Paraguayan historian engaged in revolutionary activity who was persecuted by the Stroessner government: “Durante la dictadura de Alfredo Stroessner [Pedro Alvarenga Caballero] fue un perseguido político, por formar parte de la Iglesia en su calidad de seminarista y fue víctima de un operativo denominado Pascua dolorosa y estuvo preso durante 22 días en 1976” (During the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, [Pedro Alvarenga Caballero] was politically persecuted for forming part of the Church as a seminarian, and he was the victim of the operation called “Painful Easter” and was under arrest for twenty-two days in 1976) (Rojas n.p.) (my translation). Thus, through reference to Pedro Alvarenga, Roa Bastos attempts to portray the



Chapter 5 history of the opposition to Stroessner and thus achieve a form of historical justice in the novel. Similarly, during the plane trip, the narrator refers to the plight of two women under the Stroessner regime: a bottle dancer and a young girl named Purificación Capilla. Both women die at the hands of the regime, the first because she is the dictator’s exploited ex-mistress and the second for refusing to become his mistress. The bottle dancer is forced to wear metal spikes that cause her to bleed, and she is rumored to have died after a performance that she gives on the plane. Purificación is said to have killed herself after fleeing the dictator’s “nursery” (where he keeps his future mistresses) because she was recaptured by the police. These two women confirm Moral’s statement that “Murmuraciones dignas de crédito afirman que en el harén del tiranosaurio abundan . . . niñas de corta edad. . . . [El] tiranosaurio ejercita con singular deleite el derecho feudal de pernada en estas vírgenes vestales” (Rumors worthy of credit affirm that in the tyrantosaurus’s harem . . . abound . . . very young girls. . . . [The] tyrantosaurus . . . exerts with singular delight the feudal right of the master on these vestal virgins) (214). Statements and episodes such as these are efforts to fill in historical gaps, since little if anything has been written in official histories about the broad role of prostitution in the Stroessner dictatorship. Although the historical veracity of these two particular women cannot be ascertained, the “essential” truth of the Stroessner government fostering prostitution and other abusive practices augments the historical record and achieves a form of historical justice. Finally, a third way in which this section of the novel attempts to achieve historical justice is through a reinterpretation of what some consider to be Stroessner’s historical achievements. The Itaipú Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, the second-largest operating hydroelectric facility in the world. The treaty that gave rise to the dam was negotiated in the 1970s under Stroessner. The major who narrates the attractions that can be viewed from Moral’s plane states that the dam is one of Stroessner’s greatest achievements. However, Roa Bastos questions the value of the project through the words of Moral and his fellow passengers, who criticize the construction of the dam as a detriment to nature and

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the environment. As the plane approaches Asunción, Moral critically comments upon the “salvaje tala de selvas vírgenes” (the savage felling of virgin forests) that took place to build the dam. Furthermore, the major notes that the light from Itaipú never goes out, while a fellow passenger questions why such a waste of energy is necessary (223). Roa Bastos exposes the dictatorial rhetoric that claims that the eternal light from the Itaipú Dam illuminates his country in “un día perpetuo como el poder del Gran Reconstructor” (in a perpetual daylight like the power of the Great Reconstructor) (224). Once Moral arrives in Paraguay, several other episodes reveal the censorship and spying that took place during the Stroessner regime. When Moral attempts to take pictures during Alvarenga’s funeral, the police steal and expose his film, so no historical record remains. Moreover, in Jimena’s version of events, Moral’s identity was discovered, and he was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured upon returning to Paraguay. The idea of a network of spies is suggested when Moral is present at a concert in which his ex-girlfriend, Fulvia Murcia, plays the harp. Moral claims that with the nail of his index finger he traced in the palm of her hand the sign that used to be their “santo y seña” (password) when they were young, a sign he now claims she did not recognize. However, we are also told that Fulvia is now married to the minister of the interior and has always been a highly ambitious woman. Consequently, the novel suggests that she may indeed have betrayed her childhood friend to the government. Otherwise it is difficult to imagine how Moral, with a totally new face and identity, could have possibly been discovered. Returning to the concept of traumatic repetition, we have seen that throughout Moral’s travels he continually thinks that he sees Leda Kautner. For example, after discovering that the Mennonite pastor is Pedro Alvarenga, Moral sees a stewardess whom he believes to be Kautner. The reader is not sure whether this is yet another hallucination, although Moral investigates the stewardess’s identity and is told by the authorities that it is indeed Leda Kautner, although under the name of Paula Becker (328). As already mentioned, at the novel’s end right before Moral’s death, he believes that one of the actresses in the scene dramatizing Francisco Solano López’s death at Cerro Corá is



Chapter 5 Leda Kautner, as does Jimena in her narration. We are told that the star actress “era extraordinariamente parecida a Madama Lynch. . . . Pero esa actriz no era otra que Leda Kautner. . . . Levantó los brazos hacia ella y la llamó vagamente” (strongly resembled Madame Lynch. . . . But this actress was none other than Leda Kautner. . . . He raised his arms toward her and vaguely called her) (349). Both episodes have a hallucinatory character, since Moral claims to have murdered Kautner, and his earlier attempts to locate her suggest that she returned to Germany. Moreover, her sudden appearance in Paraguay is inexplicable and more than coincidental within the framework of the novelistic events. It seems more likely that Moral is reliving the trauma experienced by Kautner’s attack in the first part of the novel, thus enacting the traumatic repetition discussed by Caruth in her work on trauma narratives. Finally, it is important to note that in Moral’s written version of events, he actually shakes the dictator’s hand and administers the poison to him via Jimena’s ring. The significance of this event, whether real or imagined, relates to Moral’s redemption of the collective trauma of dictatorship through his disguise as a conference participant enabled by his plastic surgery and new identity. In Moral’s account of the events, he is a hero who vindicates collective trauma. Even if Moral is caught and killed, his death is redemptive because it is heroic, in contrast with his previous traumatic near-deaths. Moral describes in great detail how he shook the dictator’s hand (administering the poison) and how Stroessner examined his unusual ring with curiosity. At the end of this encounter, Moral indicates: “Ahora sólo me queda esperar los resultados” (Now it only remains for me to await the results) (341). Félix’s encounter with the dictator is contradicted by Jimena’s version of events, suggesting that his heroic actions are only imagined in his writings. Whether real or imagined, the important point is that Moral’s assumption of the collective, national trauma leads to a form of historical justice. However, the converse of this heroic assassination is the version of events in which Moral becomes a martyr, and his attempts to assassinate Stroessner mimic the suicidal events of the War of the Triple Alliance, in which Paraguayans were led to their

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death by Francisco Solano López. In this case, trauma is transformed into a “myth of origins” in which the Paraguayan nation is based on a history of useless martyrdom, which Moral reenacts in the novel through his efforts to murder the dictator. This interpretation is reinforced by Jimena’s recounting of the actual fall of Stroessner in 1989 in a military coup. In true postmodern fashion, the reader is never told which interpretation of events to accept. Consequently, historical justice is attempted but not necessarily achieved through Félix’s masquerade in the novel. Mayra Santos-Febres’s Fe en disfraz A second novel that deals with historical trauma and protagonists who attempt to achieve historical justice is Mayra Santos-Febres’s Fe en disfraz. In this novel, the protagonist, Fe Verdejo, is a black woman who is a successful historian. She has achieved renown through her exhibition on former slave women from Brazil and the Caribbean and their testimonies. These testimonies are presented in the novel in chapters 3, 5, 8, and 12. Although the testimonies appear fictitious, they fill in historical gaps and set the historical record straight by portraying the abuses to which black slave women were subjected. For example, in chapter 8, a twelve-year-old slave girl, Ana María, protests before the judge that she was beaten by the nephew of her owner without cause. When the judge accuses her of working slowly on purpose, Ana María declares that the reason she was moving slowly was because the previous night the nephew had raped her on the back staircase and she was bleeding. These and other similar testimonies presented in the novel attest to the constant mistreatment of slaves. Like Félix Moral in El fiscal, Fe Verdejo suffers individual and collective cultural and historical trauma. Fe’s individual, personal trauma is not revealed until chapter 18, in which Fe narrates in the first person her rape by a white boy, Aníbal Andrés, when she was fifteen years old. This rape is a traumatic event for Fe and on a symbolic level mimics the relationship between white slave owner and black slave woman, since Aníbal Andrés is a rich white boy and his sexual encounter with Fe is described as violent. Although Fe’s description of the event is ambiguous and ambivalent, she appears to be suffering from feelings of guilt



Chapter 5 and responsibility that are typical of rape victims. She claims: “Fui yo quien lo besó primero; yo, quien lo incitó, lo admito” (It was I who 7 kissed him first; I who incited him, I admit it) (90); and “Tengo que admitir que me gustó aquella derrota. . . . No opuse demasiada resistencia” (I have to admit that I liked that defeat. . . . I did not put up too 8 much resistance) (90). In Fe’s narrative of her rape, she disguises her disgust with desire, as did the slave women who were raped by their masters and displayed “un asco disfrazado de ardor” (a repugnance disguised as ardor) (46). According to Chrissy Arce, Santos-Febres’s novel attempts to deconstruct the myth of the sexual desire of slave women. In the nineteenth century, writing about slave women requería de omisiones estratégicas, de delicadeza para no ofender al lector puritano objeto de la denuncia fulminante de estas mismas violaciones. . . . La violencia con la que se disimuló el estupro de la mujer negra y se lo hizo pasar por exuberancia sexual de parte de la mujer sigue vigente hasta la fecha. Más aun la mujer ha terminado por asumir la culpa . . . de la violencia del hombre blanco como asaltante. (required delicate, strategic omissions so as not to offend the Puritan reader who was the object of fulminating denouncement of these same rapes. . . . The violence with which the rape of the black woman was disguised and made to pass for sexual exuberance on the part of the woman continues to be operative even today. Moreover, the woman has ended up assuming the guilt . . . of the white man as an assailant.) (237–38) (my translation) Fe is also identified with the slave women who are subjects of her exhibition through various other allusions in the novel. For example, when her coworker Martín Tirado searches for photographs that physically represent the freed slave women in the exhibition, Fe indicates her own resemblance to these women: “—¿Y no es obvio, Martín? Se parecían a mí. . . . Curiosamente, nunca antes me había detenido a pensar que sus esclavas se le parecieran. Que ella, presente y ante mí tuviera la misma tez, el mismo cuerpo que una esclava agredida hace más de doscientos años. Que el objeto de su estudio estuviera tan cerca a su piel” (“And isn’t it obvious, Martín? They look like me.”. . . Curiously,

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never before had I stopped to think that her slaves looked like her. That she, present before me, had the same skin, the same body as an assaulted slave from more than two hundred years ago. That the object of her study was so close to her skin) (53). Owing to both this individual trauma as well as the cultural trauma of slavery that is part of Fe’s heritage, the novel recounts Fe’s participation in a strange ritual that involves the motif of disguise/masquerade. Fe has recovered an important historical artifact: the dress worn in society by Xica da Silva, an ex–slave woman who had married her master. Under the dress is a broken harness whose metal pieces stick out and make Fe bleed when she puts it on. On three consecutive Halloweens, Fe dons this dress and engages in sadomasochistic sex with Martín Tirado. The first time that Fe dons the dress, we are told: Comenzó a revisar el maniquí que exponía el traje de la esclava. No se pudo contener. Se desnudó, allí, a solas. . . . Desvistió el monigote. Se deslizó dentro de las telas. Se calzó las medias caladas y las ligas. Le quedaron exactas. El arnés de correas y varillas descansó punzante sobre su piel. Lo más difícil fue ajustarse el pasacintas de seda que tejía su prisión sobre el vientre, pero lo logró. Entonces, bajo aquel disfraz, la museógrafa Fe Verdejo se tiró a la calle y no regresó al seminario hasta la madrugada, con la piel hecha un rasguño y un ardor. Aquel fue el primer día de su rito. (She began to inspect the mannequin that displayed the slave’s dress. She couldn’t contain herself. She got undressed there, alone. . . . She undressed the mannequin. She slid into the fabric. She put on the lace stockings and garters. They fit her exactly. The harness made of straps and rods rested sharply on her skin. The most difficult part was adjusting the silk suspender belt that wove its prison over her abdomen, but she didn’t succeed. Then, under that disguise, the curator Fe Verdejo took off down the street and did not return to the seminary until daybreak, with her skin scratched and burning. That was the first day of her rite.) (26) There are several passages in the novel that suggest that wearing a disguise converts one into the person as whom one is masquerading. First, the nun from whom Fe acquires the slave dress warns her never



Chapter 5 to put it on because it is cursed with the sorrows of the past (77). Similarly, before ever meeting Fe, the young and shy Martín attends a Halloween party disguised as don Juan Tenorio, the great womanizer. In essence, at the party he becomes don Juan, picking up a girl, making love to her, and taking her virginity: “Aquella noche me disfracé de don Juan Tenorio. . . . Pasé la noche entera encajado entre las carnes de aquella pobre muchacha, dándole empellones como un poseso. . . . Ese día me descubrí capaz de actuar de otra manera. (That night I disguised myself as don Juan Tenorio. . . . I spent the entire night stuck between the flesh of that poor girl, shoving into her like a possessed man. . . . That day I discovered that I was capable of acting in another way) (96–97). Fe’s disguise as a slave woman reinforces her parallel with her subjects of study. Not coincidentally, several other passages of the novel establish a parallel between Martín and white slave owners. The novel emphasizes Martín’s white skin (20), and he also replicates the violent and sick desire of the slave masters by describing his excitement when he reads about the rapes of the female slaves (45). Fe’s use of Xica da Silva’s dress can be seen as away of reimagining the traumatic past of slavery through what Ron Eyerman calls a “cultural artifact”: “The past . . . [is] not only recollected and thus represented through language, it is also recalled . . . through association with artifacts” (9). Moreover, the repetitive nature of the ritual in which Fe “disguises” herself as a woman who was once a slave suggests that she is suffering from what Dominick LaCapra calls “postmemory,” which is “the acquired memory of those, particularly intimates not directly experiencing an event such as the Holocaust or slavery—those who relive what others have lived” (xix–xx). In other words, Fe’s ritual is a form of “post-traumatic acting out in which one is haunted and/or possessed by the past and performatively caught up in the compulsive repetition of traumatic scenes” (LaCapra 21). Toward the novel’s end, Martín Tirado helps Fe to terminate this masochistic ritual by destroying the dress with the “navaja toledano” (the shaving knife from Toledo), which Fe has given to Martín as a gift: Cortaré las telas de ese traje. Mi navaja rasgará el peplo, el

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pasacintas, detrozará las mangas y los holanes. Fe gritará, le taparé la boca. Entenderá que debo hacerlo; deshacerme de esta barrera que frena nuestro encuentro definitivo y duradero. En la memoria de mi dueña sonarán latigazos y carimbos. Se desvanecerán cicatrices y humillaciones. Entonces, Fe liberada, se abrirá para mí. Ella misma lo ha querido. Me ha pedido todo este tiempo: Rompe el traje, desgárralo, sácame de aquí. . . . Me hundiré dentro de ella hasta que gritemos juntos. . . . Hasta que olvidemos juntos quienes hemos sido. Abandonarse es a veces la única manera de comenzar. (I will cut the fabric of that dress. My knife will scratch the peplum, the bodkin, will destroy the sleeves and the ruffles. Fe will scream, I will cover her mouth. She will understand that I must do it; destroy this barrier that restrains our definitive and long-lasting encounter. In the memory of my mistress, whiplashes and branding irons will sound. Scars and humiliations will disappear. Then Fe, liberated, will open up for me. She herself has desired this; she has asked me to do this the entire time: Rip the dress, tear it, get me out of here. . . . I will sink inside her until we shout together. . . . Until we forget together who we have been. Abandoning oneself is sometimes the only way to begin.) (114, my emphasis) In this passage, Martín assumes the guilt of slavery, thus converting slavery from a cultural to a national trauma, since, as already noted, it is when the country as a whole (people outside the affected group) acknowledges responsibility that a trauma becomes national. Martín emphasizes this by stating that he and Fe need to forget together who they were before (114). According to John Wilson, trauma can have severe effects on identity and lead to “psychiatric disorders and pathological disturbances in behavior and personal relationships” (12). Moreover, Eyerman emphasizes that trauma can lead to “distorted identity-formation where certain subject-positions may become especially prominent. . . . For example, those of victim or perpetrator” (3). Although Fe’s obsession with the ritual of disguising herself as Xica da Silva may be seen



Chapter 5 in this light as a manifestation of problems with identity formation and an inability to have a normal personal relationship with Martín, the above analysis illustrates how Fe en disfraz goes far beyond these elements of individual trauma to project masquerade as a way of working through trauma to achieve historical justice by finally putting the trauma of slavery to rest. In Writing History, Writing Trauma, LaCapra states: “Working through is an articulatory practice: to the extent that one works through trauma . . . one is able to distinguish between past and present and to recall in memory that something happened to one (or one’s people) back then while realizing that one is living here and now with openings to the future” (21–22). This is essentially what happens at the novel’s conclusion, when Martín destroys the dress that prevents Fe Verdejo from living in the present and compels her to constantly relive a traumatic past on both the individual and collective levels. A final important point relates to Fe Verdejo’s position as a historian. According to Eyerman, historians and other intellectuals serve as mediators and translators of the symbolic memory of cultural trauma: “The articulating discourse surrounding cultural trauma is a process or mediation involving alternate strategies and voices. It is a process that aims to reconstitute or reconfigure a collective identity through collective representation, as a way of repairing the tear in the social fabric” (4). Thus, Fe attempts to achieve historical justice for slave women in two ways: by reproducing their stories and testimonies in her historiographical work, and by reenacting the violent sexual relationship between slave woman and master. As LaCapra notes, the relationship of the historian to cultural or national trauma is somewhat problematic and may imply transference of the trauma to the historian: Truth claims are at issue in differential ways at all levels of historical discourse. . . . A crucial aspect of this positioning [of observer] is the problem of the implication of the observer in the observed, what in psychoanalytic terms is treated as transference. . . . In historiography there are transferential relations . . . between inquirer and the past, its figures and processes. The

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basic sense of transference I would stress is the tendency to repeat or reenact performatively in one’s own discourse or relations processes active in the object of study. (15) As we have seen, this is precisely what happens to Fe Verdejo in Santos-Febres’s novel. Her reenactment with Martín of the slave/­ master relationship is both a manifestation of trauma and a means of working through it to finally achieve a form of historical justice through her masquerade. Both El fiscal and Fe en disfraz are novels of historical justice because they are what Toni Morrison has termed “literary archaeology”: the imaginative re-creation of a world that only exists as fragments in the archives (Sharpe xi). There is little documentation on Stroessner’s prostitution of women or appeals made by slave women before the government. Nonetheless, both novels attempt to re-create such forgotten history, recording for the future what had never been recorded in the past. Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del imperio In contrast to El fiscal and Fe en disfraz, each of which portrays victim trauma through masquerade, Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del imperio (1987) is essentially a novel about perpetrator trauma. The novel centers on the lives of Maximilian and Carlota, who, after the French invasion of Mexico by forces under Napoleon III, became the monarchs of Mexico and reigned from 1864 to 1867. Del Paso, basing his 9 novel on extensive historical research, reexamines the reign of Maximilian through varied contradictory discourses that include the ravings of the insane eighty-six-year-old Carlota in 1927, right before her death; testimonies of various characters who participated in the war between the Mexican republicans and the monarchists; letters between two brothers (Jean-Pierre and Alphonse), one who fought in Mexico and the other who remained in France; and third-person omniscient narration. Although Del Paso has clearly stated that he is not impartial in the novel and openly satirizes the actions of Maximilian and Carlota throughout the text while simultaneously denouncing French imperialism in Mexico, contemporary criticism of Noticias del



Chapter 5 imperio reveals the profound ambiguity of the work. On the one hand, critics such as Kristine Ibsen argue that the novel is a complete denunciation of the ambition and imperialism perpetrated by Maximilian and Carlota. On the other, critics like Brian L. Price in his book Cult of Defeat in Mexico’s Historical Fiction interpret the novel as an olive branch that is extended to the monarchs, suggesting that, despite their actions, there are reasons to include Maximilian in the pantheon of 10 important Mexican figures. Price argues that Del Paso’s novel calls 11 for historical justice for the memory of Maximilian and Carlota (69). Such immensely disparate readings of Noticias del imperio attest to its fundamental ambiguity. However, I would like to suggest a new way of reading the novel that might better elucidate Del Paso’s intentions and bridge the gap between these two interpretations. This reading is based on the role of masquerade in the novel and how it relates to the notion of perpetrator trauma as suffered by Carlota and Maximilian in Del Paso’s portrayal of these two historical figures. It is precisely through the motif of disguise that the Mexican writer attempts to achieve historical justice for both victims and perpetrators in Noticias del imperio. The key to Del Paso’s novel, in my opinion, is in the following passage, which appears toward the end of the book. The omniscient narrator, referring to the portrayal of Maximilian and Carlota in Rodolfo Usigli’s play Corona de sombra (1943), quotes Usigli’s opinion that “la sangre de Maximiliano y la locura de Carlota merecen algo más de México” (“Maximilian’s blood and Carlota’s insanity deserve something more from Mexico”) (Noticias del imperio 681; News from the Empire 677). The narrator then adds that Maximilian’s “very Mexican death” and Carlota’s long years of madness should be considered attenuating factors in their ultimate judgment by both historians and novelists (Noticias 681; News 677–78). The suggestion that Maximilian and Carlota paid for their sins, so to speak, is supported throughout the novel in two manners. First, this idea is reinforced by Carlota’s discourse, which in alternating sections of the novel clearly expresses ethical considerations of guilt and regret for the loss of Mexican lives during the French invasion of Mexico. Second, the idea is articulated through the motif of disguise,

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which the novel employs to underscore how Carlota and Maximilian have suffered a form of perpetrator trauma that they attempt to expiate through madness and death, respectively. Ultimately, Del Paso argues for the recognition of these two figures, not because he in any way justifies their actions but rather as an act of national healing, a reconciliation with past history. Before examining how the motif of disguise aids in developing notions of perpetrator trauma and acceptance of Carlota and Maximilian’s role in Mexican history (the granting to them of historical justice), I would like to better define what is meant by “perpetrator trauma” and how this concept interfaces with victim trauma within national histories. In a recent book on Israeli cinema, Raya Morag discusses the omission of perpetrator trauma from literary and historical discourse. According to Morag, in the past the victimizer has largely been portrayed as a “monstrous, obscure, and undetected figure,” “the incarnation of evil, undoubtedly an unwanted ghost” (11). Morag summarizes the reason for this omission in trauma research thus: The absence of such a history; the humanistic need to defend and treat the victim; processes of societal denial and projection; and the threat post-traumatic perpetrators pose to the privileged position of victims and their social-cultural monopoly—all demonstrate that this abhorrent figure is rejected and obscure, thus making the scholar’s (or the therapist’s) identification with the field extremely tenuous. (13) However, Morag argues that an examination of perpetrator trauma can also be important for a process of social and historical healing: “I suggest untangling the current hidden connections between the victim and the perpetrator and exposing this disregarded ghost as a new way of deepening our responsibility toward the (usually ethnic) other’s truth and healing the rift of the social order” (5). I believe that this is essentially Del Paso’s purpose in reexamining the figures of Maximilian and Carlota in Mexican history in Noticias del imperio. Through these historical characters, the novelist better elucidates the trauma suffered by Mexicans because of the foreign



Chapter 5 invasion (victim trauma), and simultaneously attempts to heal these past wounds by illustrating how Carlota and Maximilian regretted their actions (perpetrator trauma) and thus deserve a place in the pantheon of Mexican history. Just as Morag speaks of perpetrators as ghosts haunting the present, so does the novel’s narrator speak of how these figures continue “espantando” (scaring, haunting) in the present: Darles el lugar que les correspondería en nuestro panteón . . . no implicaría la necesidad de justificar nada . . . ni todo lo que de imperialistas y arrogantes tuvieron . . . de la misma manera que lo traidor a nuestros traidores y lo dictador a nuestros dictadores, no les quita lo mexicano. Con la diferencia, en favor también de Fernando Maximiliano y como también lo señala Usigli, que el emperador fue o quiso ser un demócrata, un liberal, un monarca magnánimo. (682) (Giving them the place they deserve in our Pantheon . . . requires no justification of their behavior . . . nor the[ir] arrogant and imperialistic nature . . . in the same way that the traitorousness in our traitors, and the dictatorialness of our dictators, doesn’t detract from their Mexicanness. With the difference, again in Ferdinand Maximilian’s favor, as Usigli also points out, that this Emperor was or wanted to be a democrat, a liberal, and a magnanimous monarch. (679) The narrator clearly places Maximilian and Carlota on the same level as the Spanish conquerors but nonetheless indicates that Mexicans can still acknowledge their important place in their history, without necessarily justifying their actions. Morag defines important differences between victim and perpetrator trauma that can be observed in the differences between the victim trauma portrayed in El fiscal and Fe en disfraz, and the perpetrator trauma represented by Del Paso’s portrayal of Maximilian and Carlota. Whereas victim trauma is characterized by a psychological dimension, in perpetrator trauma, the ethical dimension is primary. Similarly, an analysis of victim trauma focuses on the victim’s psychological disintegration, whereas an analysis of perpetrator trauma examines the perpetrator’s profound moral

Historical Justice

contradictions. The fundamental epistemology of victim trauma is that of recognition, whereas perpetrator trauma centers on acknowledgment of the traumatic experience, which is the perpetration of atrocities (as opposed to the victim’s experience of death and survival). The victim’s relation to the other (perpetrator) is one of rejection, whereas the perpetrator’s relation to the other (victim) is that of empathy. While the victim attempts to distance himself from the traumatic event, the perpetrator constantly keeps the event present. The relationship between the victim and the audience is one of eliciting compassion, while the perpetrator demands forgiveness by expressing shame and guilt. The victim’s attitude is one of self-­involvement, while the perpetrator’s attitude is that of self-­ 12 denouncement (Morag 15). Returning to Noticias del imperio, it is obvious that the character who is given the greatest voice in the novel is Carlota. Throughout Carlota’s mad ravings, the motif of disguise surfaces repeatedly in various forms. The first type of disguise that appears in Carlota’s discourse is the reference to the messenger who brings her “news of the empire.” The messenger is frequently disguised as different historical figures who played an important role in the French invasion of Mexico and the subsequent government under Maximilian. Many of these mentions of disguise directly relate to Carlota’s expression of self-denunciation (or denunciation of Maximilian), guilt and empathy for the Mexicans killed in the war, and a general ethical preoccupation regarding the historical events in which Maximilian and Carlota took part. Although these elements of perpetrator trauma (as discussed by Morag above) do not characterize every appearance of the messenger, disguise functions in this manner in several important examples and is thus ultimately a vehicle of historical justice (in the form of Carlota confessing her and Maximilian’s injustice in coming to Mexico). The first example is when the messenger arrives disguised as Colonel Dupin (who is portrayed in the novel as a sadistic French military man who tortured his prisoners): Hoy vino el mensajero disfrazado del Coronel Du Pin y me los trajo [los alfileres] . . . Max, para que tú mismo te los claves en la



Chapter 5 lengua, uno por cada una de tus mentiras . . . y porque ya juzgado y condenado dijiste que nunca habías pensado que se te hiciera responsable de una situación que tú no habías creado, cuando siempre supiste que eras el principal culpable, porque sin ti no hubiera habido imperio. (368–69) (Today the messenger came dressed as Colonel Dupin and brought me the pins, Max . . . so that you can pierce your tongue, like your lies pierced it, every one of your lies. . . . And when you had been tried and sentenced, you said that you had never believed that you would be found guilty due to a situation that you had not created, when you knew that you were the only guilty party because there would have never been an Empire without you.) (365) The disguised messenger is the bearer of the needles that Carlota wishes to stick Maximilian with for all his lies; disguise is thus associated with a form of self-denunciation and empathy for the Mexicans that is characteristic of perpetrator trauma. Similarly, Carlota uses the arrival of the messenger disguised as the Brazilian aviation pioneer Santos Dumont to recall the atrocities committed under the Mexican empire. Although Dumont does not play a role in the empire, his aerial devices are used to reimagine the killings that took place during that time period, including the bombings in Sinaloa (Noticias 74–75; News 70). Carlota employs the Dumont disguise as a springboard to revisit the death and destruction caused by both sides in the war that resulted from the implantation of the empire in Mexico. Her constant recall of these events once again suggests a form of perpetrator trauma, which she experiences over and over again in her ramblings. Finally, the best example occurs when the messenger arrives disguised as the former Mexican president, Benito Juárez: “Vino el mensajero disfrazado de Benito Juárez y tenía en las manos, la tapa de un cráneo que rebosaba de sangre. Era la sangre, me dijo, de todos los mexicanos que habían muerto durante la Intervención y el Imperio” (642) (“The messenger came disguised as Benito Juárez and he was carrying the lid of a skull brimming with blood. It was the blood, he

Historical Justice

said, of every Mexican who had died during the Intervention and the Empire”) (638). Carlota acknowledges her guilt in this process by telling the dead Maximilian that she undressed in front of Juárez to write their story on her skin with Mexican blood. The Juárez disguise reminds Carlota of all the men she and Maximilian were responsible for killing because of their assumption of power in Mexico. Just as disguise in the above examples serves an ultimate purpose of achieving, through Carlota’s confessions, historical justice for Mexican victims of the war fought over the implantation of the monarchy, other instances and types of disguise in the novel relate to the theme of historical justice or its counterpart, historical injustice. Noticias del imperio includes numerous references to masquerade balls held by European royalty, and balls in which Carlota and Maximilian participate. Almost invariably, these elements underscore themes of injustice and inequality, whether stemming from European imperialism in Mexico or social and economic disparities between European royalty and the local peasantry. The best example of this is the masquerade ball in the Tuileries Palace in which Napoleon III, disguised as a Roman senator, discusses his plans to invade Mexico with Richard von Metternich, the Austrian ambassador (disguised as a noble Venetian) (41–42). Similarly, Carlota and Maximilian’s imperialistic designs in America are prefigured when Carlota states: “[C] ontigo fui a Milán y Venecia, Maximiliano, y tú fuiste Virrey y yo Virreina de un baile de máscaras” (15) (“I went to Milan and Venice with you, Maximilian, and you and I became the Viceroy and the Vicereine of a masked ball”) (9). Another good example is when the brothers Jean-Pierre and Alphonse discuss the masquerade balls in their correspondence, indicating the poverty and prostitution that existed side by side with the luxurious masquerade balls in the Tuileries Palace during Napoleon’s regime (Noticias 232; News 228). The direct contrast made by Alphonse between the ostentatious masquerade balls and the misery of the masses achieves a form of historical 13 justice by exposing the injustices of Napoleon’s regime. There are two other types of disguise in Noticias del imperio that suggest that perhaps Mexico should consider rescuing the figures of Maximilian and Carlota from oblivion and allow them their place in



Chapter 5 the pantheon of important historical Mexican figures. The first type are instances in Carlota’s discourse in which she refers to attempts on her part and Maximilian’s to become authentic Mexicans (even though they failed at this). These efforts frequently employ some type of disguise. Brian Price discusses the most important of these examples in his book Cult of Defeat, in which he emphasizes Carlota’s efforts to become an authentic Mexican through her daily bath in Mexican chocolate (81). Similarly, Price points out that in her imaginings Carlota dresses Maximilian’s corpse with the body parts of various Mexican heroes such as Antonio López de Santa Anna and Benito Juárez (Price 81; Noticias 119; News 113–14). In essence, Carlota “disguises” Maximilian’s corpse to change his identity and fuse it with that of figures who have earned their place in the pantheon of Mexican heroes. Price also mentions Maximilian dressed as a Mexican charro (cowboy). To these instances, I would like to add the following: Carlota identifying with the Virgin of Guadalupe (Noticias 243; News 239); Maximilian dressed as a Mexican hacienda owner during the independence celebration (Noticias 306; News 303); and Carlota identifying herself with the Mexican Llorona (Weeping Woman): Su historia, la de un pueblo que jamás fue el tuyo ni el mío. . . . Por más que me quedé condenada a caminar todas las noches de mi vida por la Plaza de Mixcalco, descalza y con el cabello suelto, con un camisón del oca y como una loca a gritos llamando a mis hijos, mis hijos mexicanos que caían bajo las balas de los pelotones del Imperio cada madrugada de cada día y cada mes y año de todos los que estuvimos en México. (580) (Their own history, the history of a people who were never yours nor mine . . . no matter how long I was doomed to roam Mixcalco Square—every night of my life—barefoot, my hair loose, in a madwoman’s gown, calling out for my children, my Mexican children, felled by imperial bullets every dawn of every day and every month and year of all the years we were in Mexico.) (576–77) This last example is perhaps the most important, because it fuses the identification with Mexico (by Carlota’s reenacting one of

Historical Justice

Mexico’s most famous myths) with Carlota’s sense of perpetrator trauma guilt, as she openly acknowledges how the Mexican deaths weigh forever on her conscience. The fact that, “disguised” as the Llorona, Carlota refers to her “Mexican children” illustrates both her identification with Mexicans and her betrayal of them, since the Llorona drowns her own children and then laments their loss ever after. The analogy emphasizes Carlota’s guilt and regret. The last way in which disguise operates in the novel to achieve historical justice is through the counterpoint established between numerous figures of European royalty who flee their political situations masquerading as peasants, and Maximilian’s ultimate refusal to flee in disguise, instead holding his ground and dying honorably at the novel’s end. The motif of disguise is employed to emphasize Maximilian’s failure to disguise himself, thus suggesting that perhaps, as the narrator stated earlier, this “noble and opportune” death is a reason to grant historical justice to Maximilian and include him in the Mexican pantheon. Among the numerous examples of the disguised and fleeing Europeans are Napoleon III, who disguised himself as a common worker wearing a wig and blue apron to escape from prison (Noticias 25; News 19–20); the emperor Karl I, who fled Switzerland disguised as a gardener (Noticias 113; News 108); and Napoleon the Great, who disguised himself successively as a cab driver, an Austrian officer, and a Russian commissar to flee France (Noticias 635; News 631). These and many other references serve to contrast with Maximilian, who, although he at various points considered escaping, ultimately fought, was captured by Republican troops, and died an honorable death before the firing squad. Numerous other passages emphasize Maximilian’s refusal to disguise himself. Indeed, the fact that Maximilian refuses to shave his beard and disguise himself to escape becomes a point of honor that merits granting historical justice and recognition to the emperor in the text (Noticias 546; News 540). Furthermore, Carlota specifically underscores this contrast between Maximilian and his predecessors: “Napoleón el Pequeño huyó del Castillo de Ham disfrazado de albañil: tú no te disfrazaste de arriero. Don Carlos, el pretendiente al trono de España huyó a



Chapter 5 Inglaterra con el pelo teñido: tú no te teñiste el pelo. Tú Maximiliano te quedaste en Querétaro . . . Fuiste Maximiliano el justo” (635) (“Little Napoleon fled Fort Ham disguised as a stonemason. You didn’t pass yourself off as a muleteer. Don Carlos, the aspirant to the throne of Spain fled to England after dyeing his hair. You never dyed your hair, Maximilian. Instead, you stayed in Querétaro, Maximilian. . . . You were Maximilian the Just”) (631). This commentary on the part of Carlota is significant, since in other instances she vehemently accuses Maximilian of having acted unjustly in Mexico. Nonetheless, Carlota’s ultimate judgment of Maximilian may indeed be that of the narrator and/or author, providing a form of historical justice through a more balanced portrait: El [Benito Juárez] prometió que la historia los juzgará a los dos y tendrá que entender que sí lo fuiste todo: Maximiliano el impávido, Maximiliano el digno, Maximiliano el magnánimo, el bondadoso, el sordo, el inmisericorde, el inflexible . . . como casi todos los seres humanos fuiste de todo . . . para siempre usurpador e impostor . . . para siempre víctima y mártir. (651) (He [Benito Juárez] promised that history would judge both of you so he will have to understand that you were all of those Maximilians—the Fearless, the Worthy, the Magnanimous, the Kind, the Deaf, the Merciless, the Inflexible . . . you were a little of everything . . . you were like all human beings, forever the usurper and impostor, . . . forever the victim and the martyr.) (647–48) Kristine Ibsen is one of the few scholars who addresses the role of disguise in Noticias del imperio. As we have seen, Ibsen argues for a total condemnation of Maximilian and Carlota in the novel, claiming that disguise is a theatrical mechanism that draws attention to a deceptive reality (the supposed Mexican identification of the duo) (“Crónicas de la corte” 682–83). However, Ibsen also acknowledges that the convention of disguise serves to make “el referente . . . más ambiguo, provocando así la participación del espectador en la producción del sentido” (the referent more ambiguous . . . thus provoking the participation of the spectator in the production of meaning) (688)

Historical Justice

(my translation). Beyond any particular image projected of Maximilian and Carlota in the novel, Del Paso ultimately emphasizes the many ambiguities of historiography: Did Carlota go mad because she and Maximilian were abandoned by European loyalty? Or was it because she was pregnant with Count Van der Smissen’s child? Or was she poisoned with a Mexican root? Similarly, was the general Miguel López a traitor who led Maximilian to the Republicans, or was this a myth invented to make Maximilian appear more tragic? The novelist presents an infinite list of historical contradictions alleged by different European and Mexican historians. Perhaps this is the novel’s best argument for including the tragic couple among the list of important Mexican historical figures, even though they are clearly demarcated as perpetrators of trauma in the text. As we have observed throughout this chapter, trauma serves as a mechanism by which the protagonists are led to fill in the gaps of the historical record and attempt to right past historical wrongs. The type of trauma suffered by the protagonists in each work is different in nature. In El fiscal, Félix Moral’s purely personal trauma (torture and multiple brushes with death) is transformed into a will to redeem his existence by masquerading as an international conference participant to assassinate Paraguay’s dictator, Alfredo Stroessner. The reader is led to question whether his actions, like those of his predecessor, Francisco Solano López, are a form of heroism or useless martyrdom. Just like the reflection on collective memory versus collective amnesia, on reconciliation versus punishment, witnessed in chapter 4 above, the final judgment of Moral’s actions remains ambiguous and is never resolved in the novel. In Fe en disfraz, Fe’s trauma is primarily (although not exclusively) cultural. Her role as a historian allows her to fill in the historical gaps about slavery by publicizing the testimonies of former slave women. In addition, her reenactment of the slave-master relationship through masquerade (by donning Xica da Silva’s dress) is also a form of working through past trauma and coming to terms with the past. By destroying the dress, Martín achieves a symbolic form of historical justice for slave women. Finally, Noticias del imperio focuses on a controversial and entirely different form of trauma, namely perpetrator trauma.



Chapter 5 Although the guilt of Maximilian and Carlota is never denied in the novel, Del Paso opens up a space for these two characters to illustrate how they deserve a place in Mexican history. Through masquerading, frequently as authentic Mexicans, Maximilian and Carlota express guilt for their crimes and develop an ultimate identification with the Mexican people despite past wrongs. Thus, their perspective provides a counterhistory to their total historical condemnation. In all three cases, despite ambiguities surrounding the value of the protagonists’ actions, the novels attempt to “correct” history and advocate for the need for historical justice, whether in the case of overturning dictatorship (as in El fiscal), giving voice to slave women (as in Fe en disfraz), or recognizing the importance of certain historical figures despite their negativity (as in Noticias del imperio).

Conclusion W hy Stud y Masquerade?

The wide variety of novels studied in this book encompass numerous genres, decades, and themes and, as I have shown, focus on different types of social justice. Nevertheless, in each novel the need to adopt a disguise or masquerade as another is largely motivated by psychological distress caused by some type of abuse, social stigma, trauma, guilt, or identity crisis. This psychological distress frequently has its origins in social injustices such as racism, discrimination, sexism, political murder, and dictatorship. The first chapter, “Disguise and Distributive Justice,” analyzes how three very distinct novels (La comparsa, El paraíso en la otra esquina, and Travesuras de la niña mala) employ masquerade to reveal the lack of economic social justice in Mexico and Peru. The protagonists’ use of disguise within different contexts provides a means of achieving (for themselves or others) the economic equality absent from their countries. In La comparsa, the venue for masquerade to achieve social equality is the Carnival celebration, while in Travesuras de la niña mala, the main character, Lily, adopts different identities in order to ascend the social ladder. El paraíso en la otra esquina deals with the historical character Flora Tristán, who masquerades as a man to gain entry into Parliament in England and to observe the condition of prostitutes. Her fight for social justice transcends Latin America to encompass Europe as well. Although La comparsa and Travesuras de la niña mala are not historical novels in the traditional sense (according 1 to Georg Lukács’s definition) in the same way as El paraíso en la otra 179


Conclusion esquina, both La comparsa and Travesuras de la niña mala constantly allude to history. La comparsa refers both implicitly to the Gasca rebellion and explicitly to the Cuban revolution. These references provide an important historical context that cannot be ignored. Similarly, Travesuras de la niña mala traces the history of Peruvian governments that failed to achieve distributive justice throughout the twentieth century. Consequently, these putatively “nonhistorical” novels (having no real historical figures as characters) are actually as historical in nature with regard to the topic of social justice as El paraíso en la otra esquina. The second chapter, “Postmodern Justice,” analyzes the concept of ethical feminist justice in four novels: Hija de la fortuna, Mujer en traje de batalla, Nuestra señora de la soledad, and La señora de los sueños. Of these novels, only Mujer en traje de batalla is a historical novel in the traditional sense, focusing on the life of one of the first female surgeons in Cuba, Henriette Faber. Nonetheless, both Hija de la fortuna and La señora de los sueños are novels whose historical context is essential to the development of the feminist justice theme. Hija de la fortuna contrasts the strict mores of nineteenth-century Chile, especially for women, with the freedom afforded those living in nineteenth-century San Francisco during the gold rush. Similarly, La señora de los sueños employs the novels read by the protagonist, Ana Fernández, and her reenactment of the scenarios presented by her readings to trace the evolving roles of women in different cultures from medieval times through the twentieth-century present of the novel. Historical figures even appear in some of the segments, such as the novel Ana reads about Charles Darwin. Without the historical backdrop, the justice theme highlighted by masquerade (e.g., Eliza’s masquerade as a man and eventual return to female dress in Hija de la fortuna, and Ana’s evolution from a depressed housewife to a happy entrepreneur by adopting different identities) would not have the same degree of impact on the reader. Marcela Serrano’s detective novel, Nuestra señora de la soledad, also has important elements that tie it to history, although perhaps fewer than the other novels studied here. The novel takes place in both Chile and Mexico and is contextualized within the histories of these

Why Study Masquerade?

two countries. For example, when the protagonist, C. L. Ávila, disappears, her husband theorizes that she may have been abducted by the Zapatistas in Chiapas (Serrano 77), thus grounding the plot within the specific reality of Mexican history in the 1990s. Similarly, Tomás Rojas establishes parallels between Chile’s government and his relationship with Ávila, stating that their romance began “en los mismos días del histórico plebiscite del ’88” (during the very days of the historical plebiscite of ’88) (108). The backdrop of the Chilean transition from the Pinochet dictatorship to democracy is not merely decorative but serves to characterize Ávila and highlight factors that motivate her disappearance. Ávila’s flight to Mexico, although largely due to personal reasons, can also be traced to her disillusionment with Chilean politics. We are told that she failed to vote in the plebiscite because she was sure nothing would ever change. Yet this failure to vote cannot be interpreted as indifference, because she was very affected by the defeat of Chilean socialism and also wrote a novel about the Chilean dictatorship called Entre las bellas rosas, which Rojas describes as “una novela política, aunque se disfrace de historia policial” (a political novel, although it is disguised as a detective novel) (110). This line from the novel echoes an idea similar to the one that I am suggesting here: frequently, historical novels are disguised as other fictional genres. In particular, the detective novel is often thought of as a popular, minor genre in Latin America that is ahistorical in nature. However, as Nuestra señora de la soledad illustrates, the crime plot in contemporary detective fiction is frequently an excuse for exposing national social injustices. The third chapter, “Postcolonial Structural Justice,” examines the role of masquerade in the fight for justice in colonial America in the novels Zorro and Duerme. Zorro takes place in both colonial California (when it was Mexican territory) and nineteenth-century Spain, whereas Duerme is situated in sixteenth-century Mexico. Both novels contextualize their protagonists’ fight against the structural injustices inherent in colonization within the historical events and landmarks of their respective eras. Zorro is very specific regarding events in Spain during the government of Ferdinand VII, while Duerme describes in great detail the transformation of an Aztec temple into



Conclusion the Metropolitan Cathedral under Spanish colonial rule, as well as historical rebellions against the viceroy. Although neither novel fits the traditional definition of the historical novel, both are firmly grounded in Latin American history. The fourth chapter, “Allegories of Transitional Justice,” examines how the novels Novela negra con argentinos and Máscara symbolically portray the fight for transitional justice through their plots and their characters, who frequently disguise themselves. Although Novela negra con argentinos takes place in New York, Agustín Palant’s frequent flashbacks to Argentina suggest that his search for the motive of his crime (his senseless murder of a woman whom he picked up at the theater) is in fact an allegory for how Argentina needs to come to terms with the senseless events of the “dirty war.” Similarly, Máscara, written on the brink of Pinochet’s exit from Chile, allegorically emphasizes the need for collective memory in the process of transition. Since both novels are allegories, their references to history are not often explicit but are rather implicitly coded within the two works. While Novela negra con argentinos does have occasional specific references to the tortures inflicted on detainees in Argentina through Palant’s flashbacks, Máscara is purely allegorical and makes no specific mention of events in Chile. Despite this fact, it would be impossible to comprehend either novel without contextualizing them within the respective histories of Argentina and Chile. The fifth chapter, “Historical Justice,” analyzes how masquerade and trauma interface in El fiscal, Fe en disfraz, and Noticias del imperio in order to fill in gaps in the historical record and attempt to thus obtain historical justice. In El fiscal, the fight for historical justice is aimed at the protagonist’s country, Paraguay, whereas in Fe en disfraz, historical justice is sought for the previously enslaved black people of Latin America. Finally, in Noticias del imperio, a form of historical justice is considered not only for the Mexican people who suffered French imperialism (victim trauma) but also for two impor­ tant historical figures—Maximilian and Carlota—who are traditionally thought of as antagonists in Mexican history. Del Paso’s attempts to achieve acceptance for these figures in Mexican history (owing to their perpetrator trauma), despite their invasion of the country and

Why Study Masquerade?

the many mistakes they made, can be seen as seeking historical justice. Of course, there is no question regarding the historical nature of these three novels. El fiscal and Noticias del imperio both fit the description of contemporary historical novels, while Fe en disfraz, in the absence of concrete historical figures, deals with history insofar as it portrays the historical event of slavery. This brief overview emphasizes the historical nature of almost all the novels involving masquerade in order to respond to the question posed in this concluding section’s title. Why study masquerade when there are so many possible literary motifs upon which one could potentially focus? The importance of the masquerade motif resides precisely in its connection to social justice and hence to the history of Latin America. In a recent edited collection titled Redefining Latin American Historical Fiction, I examine the impact that feminism and postcolonialism have had on the historical novel genre in Latin America. I argue that the definition of the historical novel is always changing, and I lay out four broad categories for the genre: novels of national identity, magical realist novels, novels with historical intertextuality, and symbolic historical novels. After spending several years examining the connection between masquerade and social justice in Latin American fiction, I have come to two conclusions. First, there is a substantial overlap between novels of masquerade and historical novels, especially in the categories of historical intertextuality and symbolic historical novels. As we have already seen, historical intertextuality permeates novels such as El paraíso en la otra esquina, Mujer en traje de batalla, and Noticias del imperio, while Novela negra con argentinos and Máscara are solid examples of symbolic historical fiction. Second, this intimate and extensive connection between novels of disguise and historical fiction leads me to suggest that these novels may indeed form a fifth category of historical fiction—novels that “masquerade” as other fictional genres (romance, detective novel, and so forth) but are in essence disguised historical novels, a conclusion that seems singularly appropriate given the topic 2 of this study. The importance of the connection between masquerade and social justice in fiction, however, does not solely reside in its connection to



Conclusion the Latin American historical novel. “Why study masquerade?” is a question that also interfaces with the age-old query as to whether the fiction writer can influence reality and inspire action. Many of the novels studied in this book address this question through the presence of a character who is a writer and who may be a “mask” for the author him or herself. In chapter 1, Vargas Llosa’s protagonist in Travesuras de la niña mala, Ricardo Somocurcio, is a writer, and at the novel’s end it is revealed that the entire story of his romance with the “bad girl” is a book he has written. As we saw in that chapter, his friendship with the revolutionary, Fat Paul, reproduces Vargas Llosa’s own historical friendship with Paúl Escobar. In that same chapter, the character Flora Tristán is also a writer. Although she is not a “mask” for the author, her social treatises illustrate the connection between writing and inspiring people to social action. In chapter 2, the protagonist, Henriette Faber, of Mujer en traje de batalla writes her own autobiography as a means to expose discrimination against women in nineteenth-century Europe and Cuba. In chapter 3, the novel Duerme highlights the role of the writer through the character Pedro de Ocejo, Claire’s boyfriend. It is Pedro who at the novel’s end narrates how he imagines Claire will obtain postcolonial social justice for the indigenous population at some future point. Similarly, the person who writes the story of Zorro is Isabel, and although she is a minor character, the fact that she shares her name with Allende is not coincidental. By becoming another Zorro at the novel’s end, Isabel not only writes the story of Zorro’s fight for social justice but enacts it as well. In chapter 4, we observed how both protagonists of Novela negra con argentinos (Agustín and Roberta) are fiction writers, and Roberta might well be a “mask” for Valenzuela herself. Finally, in chapter 5, both Félix Moral and Fe Verdejo are writers, although of different sorts. Moral is clearly a double for Roa Bastos who shares many personal characteristics with the Paraguayan writer and who writes his own autobiography, while Fe Verdejo is a historian and rewrites the history of slave women in Latin America. Moreover, although she is not technically a writer, Carlota is essentially the “author” of the story of Maximilian and Carlota in Mexico through her mad ravings, which dominate the narration of Noticias del imperio.

Why Study Masquerade?

The fact that so many characters in these works are writers who are connected to the fight for social justice is not incidental. There is a long history in Latin America of reflection on the topic of the role of the intellectual/writer in the fight for social justice. Many of the writers studied here have written essays that explicitly deal with this issue. As we saw in chapter 1, Vargas Llosa’s essay “Literature Is Fire” views literature as a vehicle for denouncing social evils and inequalities. Many of the authors studied here have explicitly adopted the fight for social justice as the mission of their literary work. For example, Ariel Dorfman, the author of Máscara studied in chapter 4, recounts in his memoir titled Heading South, Looking North (1998) the conviction that he was spared from execution during the 1973 Chilean military coup so that he could “live to tell the story,” in other words, serve as the collective memory of the Chilean people and fight for future social justice through his writing. Dorfman was told that he was not called to the presidential palace that day because “someone had to live to tell the story”: It makes sense of what I forged with the life that had been given to me, loaned to me, chosen for me by chance or providence or whatever you were to call it the day I should have died. If it is not true that this was why I was saved, I have tried to make it true. In every story I tell. Haunted by the certainty that I have been keeping a promise to the dead. (39–40) Similarly, Isabel Allende, whose novels Hija de la fortuna and Zorro were studied in chapters 2 and 3, respectively, speaks of the unique role of the Latin American writer in an interview with John Brosnahan titled “Transforming Stories, Writing Reality.” Allende points out the radical difference between an author’s status as a political writer in Latin America as opposed to the United States or Europe. In these latter places, being a political writer is seen as a negative thing, an insult, whereas in Latin America it is viewed as a necessity: I write about things I care about: poverty, inequality and social problems are part of politics. . . . In the U.S., writers are not supposed to mingle in politics. . . . In my continent, in Latin



Conclusion America, that’s impossible. . . . The situation in our continent is so terrible—with the violence, the poverty, the inequality, the misery—that writers have necessarily assumed the voice of the people. . . . Many people, especially in Latin America, read novels because they are the real history. You don’t find anything in official textbooks that tells you what life is about; you find it in literature. (Rodden 164–65) Roa Bastos takes Allende’s ideas one step further by emphasizing his own personal interest in the question of justice. For Roa, absolute justice is impossible to achieve, although he speaks of the writer’s “socio-historical consciousness” and “moral passion” (Roa Bastos, “Fragments from a Paraguayan Autobiography” 220): “A mí me interesan algunas coas, la justicia, por ejemplo. Que unos hombres puedan juzgar a otros significa tener la inocencia perfecta” (Some things interest me, justice, for example. That some men can judge others implies being perfectly innocent) (Febles 186) (my translation). He indicates in this interview that it is his fascination with justice that led him to write the novel El fiscal, studied in chapter 5. Mayra Santos-Febres specifically reflects on the autobiographical characters that appear in many authors’ writings and whom we observed in Travesuras de la niña mala, Zorro, and El fiscal. Santos-­ Febres particularly links autobiographical fiction to writers from marginalized groups (blacks, homosexuals, women) who “recién ahora tienen acceso a la palabra escrita. . . . Así lanzan un reto al repertorio de imágenes y representaciones que supuestamente los identifican en la producción cultural actual. Las corrigen y las amplían” (recently have gained access to the written word. . . . They thus launch a challenge to the repertory of images and representations that supposedly identify them in current cultural production. They correct and amplify them) (“Mi vida es una novela” 186) (my translation). Although Santos-­Febres’s observation is largely true, the autobiographical tendency also characterizes mainstream writers such as Roa Bastos and Vargas Llosa and is in no way a tendency limited to marginalized groups in Latin America. Finally, Carmen Boullosa, author of Duerme studied in chapter 3,

Why Study Masquerade?

speaks of the destructive capacity of writing. Destruction here implies a potential to regenerate and reconstruct in a way that suggests an eradication of the old order to create reality anew: En la segunda dimensión del espejo del instinto de destrucción que es la literatura, los cuerpos que aparecen en la novela cobran forma y reflejan en activo los cuerpos del mundo destrozándolos al darles su propia voluntad, nutriéndose de ellos, de su carne y su sangre, dejándolos inertes, obligados a repensarse a sí mismos, a refacturarse, a volver a hacerse. (In the second dimension of the mirror of the instinct of destruction that is literature, the bodies that appear in the novel take shape and actively reflect the bodies of the world destroying them by giving them their own will, nourishing themselves from them, from their flesh and blood, leaving them inert, obliging them to rethink themselves, to reconstruct themselves, to redo themselves.) (“La destrucción en la escritura” 217) (my translation) These comments suggest the intimate connection between the work of Latin American writers and the fight for social justice in their countries, and to some degree explain the frequent presence of characters who are writers in the novels analyzed here on masquerade and social justice. Kimberly A. Nance examines this long-debated issue of literature’s effect on reality with regard to the testimonial novel in her book Can Literature Promote Justice? Citing the work of Melvin Lerner, Nance concludes that if testimonial texts are written “the right way,” they potentially induce action for change. According to Nance: Melvin Lerner’s work suggests that the speakers who have “bet their blood” at other points in the testimonial project may not be wrong in their wager on the social potential of text. . . . If dreams that testimonio by itself could end oppression were misguided, so too are assertions of literature’s definitive inefficacy. . . . [W]hile not irresistible, a text that addresses and make demands of a reader can under certain conditions serve to catalyze a potential for action. (157–60)



Conclusion The texts studied here, of course, are not testimonial novels. However, albeit implicitly, they do appeal to the reader on some level to initiate change. And although it is impossible to gauge how effective these novels might be in inspiring action, the significance of such potential intent should not be overlooked. Any work that focuses on the theme of social justice is important in this regard. In Poetic Justice, Martha C. Nussbaum argues for the uniqueness of the novel as a genre that “cuts through self-protective stratagems, requiring us to see and to respond to many things that may be difficult to confront” (5). According to Nussbaum, the novel’s tendency to focus on the ordinary allows for the portrayal of “the lives of the insignificant” (9), which appear in other genres such as history or biography as mere statistics. The novel’s ability to foster identification with others, with those who are different from ourselves, and to see these others as concrete individuals with rights as opposed to an anonymous and amorphous mass, is significant for the creation of identification, sympathy, and empathy. In turn, these so-called rational emotions (Nussbaum 53–78) enhance the moral capacities of readers, without which [c]itizens will not succeed in making reality out of the normative concreteness of any moral or political theory. . . . [N]ovel-reading will not give us the whole story about social justice, but it can be a bridge both to a vision of justice and to the social enactment of that vision. (12) Nussbaum’s work supports the idea that literature, and novels in particular, can lead to the enactment of social justice. This study adds an important dimension to the connection between novelistic empathy and the enactment of social justice because it illustrates how disguise is a significant element in the creation of empathy. In the novels studied here, masquerade frequently serves as a key vehicle for articulating themes of social justice in ways that enhance reader empathy and consequently the possibility for social action. For example, despite the flaws and deceptions of the “bad girl” in Vargas Llosa’s Travesuras de la niña mala, the reader feels empathy for the character, not only because the genre of the novel possesses the ability

Why Study Masquerade?

to present multidimensional characters in ways that allow us to accept their contradictions but also through the motif of masquerade. Empathy is created to a large degree through the need to masquerade as someone else because of a background of poverty and discrimination. Consequently, the “bad girl’s” poverty, sad upbringing, and need to disguise herself to gain social status are what allow the reader to sympathize with her and forgive her ill treatment of Ricardo and other transgressions she commits throughout the story. The same is true for many other characters whom we have observed in the course of this study, including Maximilian and Carlota in Noticias del imperio and Félix Moral in El fiscal. Maximilian and Carlota’s attempts to become authentic Mexicans through masquerade create empathy for the characters despite their role as perpetrators and the ridiculousness of some of these efforts. Similarly, Moral’s attempt to free his fellow Paraguayans through his masquerade as an international conference participant ameliorates his possible infidelity to Jimena and his status as a foolish martyr, causing the reader to align with his heroic efforts. Thus, masquerade is a motif that aids not only in the fight for social justice but also in the creation of the reader empathy necessary to carry this fight beyond the pages of the novel, as I have shown throughout this book. The multifaceted connections established in this book between masquerade and social justice, masquerade and the historical novel, writers who masquerade as characters in the fight for social justice, and finally masquerade and reader empathy, illustrate how the literary motif of masquerade is a rich and complex element of contemporary literature. In all of these instances, masquerade and disguise are employed to communicate a need for social justice or to attempt to achieve a specific type of social justice such as the five types examined here: distributive, postmodern feminist, postcolonial, transitional, and historical. To these, many other possible types of social justice might be added, such as criminal justice or spatial justice. In contrast to other literatures, where in the contemporary era masquerade and disguise are not very prominent, Latin American literature makes use of this motif to further an agenda of social justice that is unique to Latin American reality.



Introduction 1. This is not to say that the connection between masquerade and social justice is totally absent from other literatures. There are examples of this connection in world literature as well, such as the recent bestseller from France by Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, or a modern classic of German literature, Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. My point is that this connection is not as pervasive in other literatures as it is in Latin America. 2. Numerous other collections on the theme of masquerade have been published to date, including Display and Disguise, edited by Manon Mathias, Maria O’Sullivan, and Ruth Vorstman; Studies on Themes and Motifs in Literature: Disguise, Deception, Trompe-l’oeil, edited by Leslie Boldt-Irons, Corrado Federici, and Ernesto Virgulti; Masquerades: Disguise in Literature in English from the Middle Ages to the Present, edited by Jesús López-Peláez Casellas, David Malcolm, and Pilar Sánchez Calle; Postmodern Masquerades, edited by Niti Sampat Patell; and Masquerade and Identities: Essays on Gender, Sexuality, and Marginality, edited by Efrat Tseëlon. 3. Kalimán was one of the most popular comic book figures in Mexico and was highly associated with the fight for justice. According to Harold Hinds Jr. and Charles Tatum in Not Just for Children: The Mexican Comic Book in the Late 1960s and 1970s: “He [Kalimán] dedicated himself to the pursuit of justice as the seventh man of an order under the protection of a Hindu goddess Kali . . . Kalimán has become a living legend who roves the world, ensuring justice” (34). Similarly, Argentina boasts the comic strip El Eternauta by Héctor Germán Oesterheld, who, according to 191


Notes Fernando Reati, is a symbol of the revolutionary Montonero fighter (Oesterheld became a Montonero and eventually disappeared) for political justice. Reati states: “Oesterheld’s shift from independent middle class artist to committed Montonero activist is completed by the publication of a third version of El Eternauta in the magazine Skorpio, just a few months after the 1976 military coup. Set in post-apocalyptic Buenos Aires in the year 2100, it betrays a messianic tone and clearly identifiable Montonero ideologemes such as the belief in individual heroism, a willingness to sacrifice oneself for the cause. . . . The Eternauta becomes now something akin to the paradigm of the perfect revolutionary.” Although Kalimán and the Eternauta do not wear disguises, each sports a costume (a Nehru jacket, cape, and tights for the former, and a space suit for the latter).

Chapter 1 1. There are about twenty articles on each of the two Vargas Llosa novels, the most noteworthy of which (in addition to the article by Oswaldo Estrada extensively cited here) are (on Travesuras): Raisacruz Huertas Neri, “¿Cuál es la travesura más fascinante de la niña mala? Mario Vargas Llosa”; John J. Junieles, “Carta de batalla por una niña mala”; Joaquín Marco, “Viaje literario en el mundo global: Sobre Travesuras de la niña mala”; Luis Quintana Tejera, “Las máscaras del amor en Travesuras de la niña mala”; and José Oviedo, “Reflexiones sobre una niña mala”; (and on El paraíso en la otra esquina): Mary Berg, “Vargas Llosa’s Flora Tristán”; Stella Fiorentino, “Carnavalización y proceso creativo en El Paraíso en la otra esquina”; Hedy Habra, “Flora Tristán: De aventurera a visionaria en El paraíso en la otra esquina”; and Dieter Oelker, “Cuando el mundo posee el sueño de una cosa (Para una lectura de El paraíso en la otra esquina de Mario Vargas Llosa).” 2. This paragraph has been omitted in the English translation of the text, so the translation here is mine. 3. It is important to note here that Capeheart and Milovanovic by no means exhaust the ample discussion of Marx’s ideas on social justice. 4. A glaring absence in my discussion of the novel are the sections related to Flora’s grandson, Paul Gauguin. It is worth pointing out that masquerade is not totally absent from these sections, but it serves an entirely different purpose than furthering the cause of social justice. In one particular passage, Paul “disguises” himself as a native inhabitant of Tahiti dressed in a beach wrap with numerous tattoos (El paraíso 121; The Way to Paradise 100). Gauguin’s efforts to “disguise” himself as a native


represent his own personal fight for social freedom—freedom from the artistic confines and social mores of European culture. As Vargas Llosa points out in his prologue to the Spanish version of Tristán’s Peregrinaciones de una paria: “A Paul Gauguin la justicia social le importaba un bledo” (Paul Gauguin didn’t give a damn about social justice) (31) (my translation), but, in his own way, he fought for his own version of utopia and freedom. 5. See Helene Weldt-Basson, Redefining Latin American Historical Fiction, 3–39, 231–47. 6. Oswaldo Estrada notes that Fukuda is a reference to Alberto Fujimori, and thus Vargas Llosa anticipates the next disastrous government in Peru. 7. Heberto Padilla (1933–2000) was a Cuban poet who was jailed in 1971 for criticizing the Castro regime. Although he was later released, his works were banned in Cuba, and this episode led many intellectuals who had previously supported Castro to withdraw support from his regime. 8. See chapter 4 on structural postcolonial justice for a more in-depth discussion of embedded inequalities.

Chapter 2 1. Cornell further reconciles the concepts of feminine difference, cultural ethical feminism, and a legal program of equivalent (not equal) rights for women: “I propose a program which recognizes and incorporates equivalent rights. Such a program would be irreducible to an intermediary set of privileges, such as affirmative action . . . and would go beyond addressing inequality in the name of making it possible for women to be more like men. . . . Equivalent rights, although meant to challenge the gender hierarchy, do not do so by erasing sexual difference or the specificity of feminine desire. Further . . . a program of equivalent rights . . . seeks to value the specificity of the feminine, sexual difference, beyond the current stereotypes of femininity imposed by the gender hierarchy” (113). 2. Note that all translations of Mujer en traje de batalla, unless otherwise indicated, correspond to Woman in Battle Dress, translated by Jessica Powell.

Chapter 3 1. Since both the Spanish and English versions of Allende’s novel have the same title, I reference them as Zorro Spanish and English with the corresponding page numbers for each.



Notes 2. Note that there is no published English translation available of the novel Duerme. All translations in the text are mine. 3. Salvador Oropesa notes: “The transvestite is a crisis of category that blurs boundaries between male and female and undermines the attempt to construct stable binary categories of oppositional difference. . . . Claire is a signifier and its void/presence can be filled by the different meanings necessary to explain the new social construct that is Mexico. Claire is Mexico’s synecdoche” (102). I would qualify this by saying that Claire represents indigenous Mexico—the indigenous Mexico that Pedro envisions her fighting for and returning to by ousting the Spanish at the novel’s end. My theory directly contradicts Claire Taylor, who states: “Yet it is also of note that, at the same time as declaring herself hija de la raza, a biological entity, Claire declares herself simultaneously a mujer de la vida artificial, a synthetic entity. This paradox troubles any simplistic alliance of herself with the indigenous, just as her previous utterances both installed, and then went on to disavow the collective first person plural. The tension between these two poles functions to undo any easy notion of allegiance based on racial homogeneity, and again suggests a striving to carve out a place for the mestizo, a figure not quite de la raza and not quite artificial” (236). Although I disagree with this interpretation, even if Claire were to represent the mestizo, this would not contradict a postcolonial analysis of Duerme. Indeed, Taylor herself acknowledges that Claire’s hanging in the plaza, site of colonial power, subverts said power on various levels, because Claire is not really the Count Urquiza who is supposed to be hanged; Claire doesn’t actually die in the process; and finally, Claire, as she is swinging on the scaffold, is able to view an image of the pre-Columbian city, thus subverting the actual colonial cityscape (234–35).

Chapter 4 1. Robert D. Newman states that “aside from a political allegory, Máscara also presents an allegory of the reading process” (23). However, Newman does not develop an allegorical reading of the text and in my opinion misreads Dorfman’s message about memory. He claims that “Dorfman’s references to the political oppression in his native Chile are clear. Totalitarian authority renders memory a fraud” (23). I will argue here that memory is the one hope that remains at the novel’s end. 2. Jorgelina Corbatta also indirectly refers to the novel’s allegorical dimension in her article “Metáforas de exilio e intertextualidad en La nave de los locos de Cristina Peri Rossi y Novela negra con argentinos de Luisa


Valenzuela,” although she mainly focuses on the role of the writer within the context of the dirty war (175–80). 3. The use of the term “redress” here has a double meaning. In the literal sense, it means to dress again (re-dress), but on the figurative plane, “redress” means to seek compensation or relief from wrong or injury. Thus, when Roberta states that through masquerade they should seek redress, the reader is to understand this as a double entendre in which their adoption of disguise is associated with the question of obtaining justice. 4. The concept of “writing” with one’s body is explicitly discussed in the novel and is a reference to Hélène Cixous and the French feminists who believed that women should write with their bodies as a form of combat against phallologocentric culture. Cixous, like Julia Kristeva, suggests that a feminine writing is capable of reconnecting to the presymbolic rhythms of the maternal body, thus breaking with the binary logic that limits language and culture (28). 5. Dorfman first wrote his novel in Spanish and published it in that language, and then translated it into English. However, rather than directly translating to English, Dorfman “rewrote” the novel in the sense that the passages do not exactly correspond. Therefore, in certain instances, I provide my own translation. The corresponding passage to this paragraph from the Spanish version reads thus: “Because they were going to kill Patricia because of Oriana, due to something Oriana may perhaps not even have, anymore” (17).

Chapter 5 1. The other two novels of the trilogy are Hijo de hombre (1960) and Yo el Supremo (1974). 2. This translation, as all others of El fiscal, is mine. 3. Moral’s second near-death experience is his near-demise from heart failure, from which his partner Jimena nurses him back to health. For more information on Leda Kautner as the archetype of the devouring woman, see Helene C. Weldt-Basson, “All Women Are Whores.” 4. We have already seen that both Moral and Roa Bastos share the jobs of screenplay writer and college professor in France. For more autobiographical similarities, see Helene C. Weldt-Basson, “Postmodernism and Genre in El fiscal by Augusto Roa Bastos,” 393–98. See also María Teresa Pascual de Pessione, El fiscal o la memoria dicotómica del exiliado. 5. Pascual de Pessione also discusses the relationship between Moral’s “interior oppression” and the collective oppression of the Paraguayan



Notes nation, in which Moral’s character is centered on his “voluntad de justiciero” (31). See Pascual de Pessione 17–18, 43–44. 6. In “Postmodernism and Genre,” I theorize that there are clues in the novel suggesting that Moral’s trip to Paraguay is largely imagined (385– 90). 7. All translations of Fe en disfraz are mine. 8. The fact that this chapter follows the same pattern as the chapters with slave testimonies, all of which are titled with headings of judicial cases such as “Papeles de Villa Mompox” or “Registro Histórico del Valle Matina” (the heading for chapter 18 is “Ciudad de Marcaibo Fe Verdejo”), establishes a clear connection between Fe’s experience and that of the slave women. 9. Numerous articles and books discuss the role of history and historical sources in Noticias del imperio. See Juan José Barrientos, “Del Paso y la historia como readymade”; Vittoria Borsó, “La memoria de Carlota y el modelo de una histografía intercultural”; Claude Fell, “Historia y ficción en Noticias del imperio de Fernando del Paso”; Joel Hancock, “New Directions in Historical Fiction: Noticias del imperio, Fernando del Paso, and the Self-Conscious Novel”; Kristine Ibsen, “La poética del fragmento y el tercer espacio de la historia en Noticias del imperio de Fernando del Paso”; María Cristina Pons, “Noticias del imperio: Entre la imaginación delirante y los desvaríos de la historia”; Vicente Quirarte, “Noticias del imperio de Fernando del Paso: La visión omnipotente de la historia”; and Peter N. Thomas, “Historiographic Metafiction and the Neobaroque in Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del imperio.” 10. See Ibsen, “Crónicas de la corte” 673–91 (where Del Paso’s statements about the novel are also cited); and Price 59–98. 11. I want to acknowledge my debt to Brian L. Price’s work on the novel. Although Price approaches the question of historical justice from a somewhat different angle, I build on his ideas of a “hauntology of conservatism” (69) through my discussion of perpetrator trauma. Although the title of Price’s book mentions trauma, he does not discuss this aspect of Noticias del imperio in his chapter devoted to the novel. 12. For other differences between victim and perpetrator trauma and a greater development of this topic, see Morag 15–21. 13. There are numerous other examples of this nature: Eugenia’s disguise is related to her racism (Noticias 214); Maximilian and Carlota participate in masquerade (268); the excessive costs of the masquerade balls in


Chapultepec are criticized (335); and soldiers dress as peasants and humiliate the peasants (442).

Conclusion 1. See Lukács, The Historical Novel. Lukács insists on the presence of real historical figures and a distance of at least fifty years between the present and past events. 2. Joseph Turner makes reference to “disguised historical novels” in his article “The Kinds of Historical Fiction” (337–45). However, Turner employs the term somewhat differently, to refer to novels that do not have any historical characters or events but that create parallels between their characters and historical figures. This is a very different type of novel than the one I am describing here, in which there are concrete historical events that are somewhat diminished or hidden by the fictional motif of masquerade.


Works Cited

Allende, Isabel. Daughter of Fortune. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. New York: Harper Perennial Classics, 2006. ———. Hija de la fortuna. New York: HarperLibros, 1999. ———. Zorro. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. ———. Zorro: A Novel. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Anderson, Thomas. “Carnival, Cultural Debate, and Cuban Identity in ‘La comparsa’ and ‘Comparsa habanera.’” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 40, no. 1 (2006): 49–78. Arce, Chrissy. “La fe disfrazada y la complicidad del deseo.” In Lección errante: Mayra Santos-Febres y el Caribe contemporáneo, edited by Nadia V. Celis and Juan Pablo Rivera, 226–46. San Juan: Isla Negra, 2011. Avedaño, Nadia. “La hija de la fortuna: Cross-dressing, Travel and Gendering the Self.” Cuaderno Internacional de Estudios Humanísticos y Literatura 7 (2007): 113–27. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look of How We Experience Intimate Spaces. Translated by Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon Press, 1958. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. Balint, Jennifer, Julie Evans, and Nesam McMillan. “Rethinking Transitional Justice, Redressing Indigenous Harm: A New Conceptual Approach.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 8, no. 2 (June 2014): 194–216.



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Abyss Experience, 153 acculturation, 116 actress, 125–26, 154, 159–60 adolescence, 41, 43, 45–46 Adriana, 43 Africa, 2, 26 agency, 5, 56, 123, 135–36, 139 agriculture, 30 Alberto, 40, 44, 49 Alcázar, Juan, 94 Alemán Valdés, Miguel, 30 Alfonsín, Raúl, 118–19 allegory, 20, 49, 119, 121–27, 129– 39, 141–43, 145–46, 182, 194n1. See also symbolism Allende, Isabel, 9, 19, 53, 56–57, 63, 87, 91–106, 115–16, 120– 21, 135, 184–86, 193n1. See also Hija de la fortuna; Zorro Allende, Salvador, 120–21, 135 Alphonse, 167, 173 Alvallay, Rosa, 72–73, 78 Alvarenga, Pedro, 156–57, 159 Amalia, 99–100


ambiguity, 2, 56, 88, 140, 144–46, 153, 161, 168, 176–78 ambivalence, 88, 92, 124, 129, 161 amnesia, 20, 117, 133, 137–39, 142, 144–47, 177 Amnesty Law, 120–21 Anderson, Thomas, 26 Andieta, Elias, 9, 60 Andrés, Aníbal, 161 anticolonialism, 94 APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance), 46 Arce, Chrissy, 162 archetype, 151, 195n3 architect, 25, 27–28. See also Falcón, Julio Arequipa, 37, 40 Argentina, 20, 117–20, 122, 125, 127–29, 131, 133–35, 146, 154, 182, 191n3 Aristotle, 17 Arlette, 44–46. See also Lily; Otilia Arnoux, Madame, 45–46. See also Lily; Otilia Arnoux, Robert, 45


Index Arquímedes, 44 artifact, cultural, 163–64 Asunción, 156, 158 Austerlitz, 191n1 authoritarianism, 20, 50, 142–43, 147 autobiography, 151, 153, 184, 186, 195n4 Avedaño, Nadia, 56 Ávila, C. L., 72–78, 86, 181. See also Lewis, Carmen Aztecs, 110, 112, 181 Bachelard, Gaston, 71–73, 76–77. See also L’Aire et les songes Bakhtin, Mikhail, 3, 11, 31–32, 37 Balint, Jennifer, 88, 114 Barbery, Muriel, 191n1 Barcelona, 99 Barrientos, Juan José, 196n9 Bartolomé, 27 Batista, Fulgencio, 12 Batman, 104 Becker, Paula, 155, 149 Behn, Aphra, 4 Belaúnde Terry, Fernando, 46, 48 Bell, Deborah, 6 Benítez-Rojo, Antonio, 9, 19, 53, 56, 63, 67, 69, 174. See also Mujer en traje de batalla Berg, Mary, 192n1 Bernardo, 91, 93–98, 101, 103, 105 Bhabha, Homi, 87–88, 92 Bilbija, Ksenija, 125 binarisms, 53, 56, 194n3, 195n4 bisexuality, 68, 83 Blanco, Santiago, 72, 74–76 Block, Ed, Jr., 98

Boldt-Irons, Leslie, 191n2 Bolívar, Simón, 148 Borrito, 28–29 Borsó, Vittoria, 196n9 Boullosa, Carmen, 19, 87, 91, 106, 109, 116, 186 bourgeoisie, 23, 28–29 Brazil, 11, 154, 158, 161, 172 Breña, 43 Brenzel, Jeff, 17 Brosnahan, John, 185 Brushwood, Carolyn, 28 Brushwood, John, 28 Buenos Aires, 128, 133, 192n3 Bulbo, El, 14–17 Burney, Frances, 4 Butler, Judith, 9, 56 California, 57–59, 61–62, 91, 102, 181 Camila, 82–83 Campbell, Bruce, 14 Capeheart, Loretta, 23, 34, 53, 87–88, 97, 106, 130, 192n3 Capilla, Purificación, 158 capitalism, 14, 18, 34, 50 Caravan of Death, 121. See also Pinochet, Augusto Carbajal, Brent, 10 Cárdenas, Lázaro, 30 Caribbean, 63, 161 Carlos de Borbón, 175–76 Carlota, 21, 167–78, 182, 184, 189, 196n9 Carnival, 2–4, 11–13, 17–18, 25–28, 31–32, 35–37, 51, 179 Carpentier, Alejo, 8 Carrillo, Sebastián, 15–16

cartoonists, 14 Caruth, Cathy, 151, 160 Carvalho, Susan, 56, 62 Castle, Terry, 3, 11 Castro, Fidel, 12, 26–27, 80, 83–84, 193n7 Castro, Raúl, 12 Cerro Corá, 154, 159 Charles, Uncle, 64–65 Chevalier, Le, 105 Chichimecs, 109, 111–12 Chi’en, Tao, 58, 60–63 Chile, 20, 43, 56–57, 60, 72, 75, 117, 120–22, 135, 138–39, 146, 180–82, 185, 194n1 Christians, 13, 64, 99, 110 Cid, El, 95 Cixous, Hélène, 53, 195n4 classes, social, 28–29, 37, 48, 96 Claudette, 64–65, 68 Clovis, 154–55 Coahuila, 30 Coddou, Marcelo, 57 Collard, Patrick, 56 colonialism, 88–89, 91–92, 94–95, 101, 103, 106, 108–16, 181– 82, 194n3. See also colonies, settler; colonization colonies, settler, 88. See also colonialism; colonization colonization, 19–20, 50, 87–90, 92, 95, 99, 101, 103, 108–10, 114–15, 181. See also colonialism; colonies, settler comics, 2, 7, 11, 13–16, 91, 191n3 commercialization, 16–17 communism, 26–27, 34, 46–47, 50 Comparsa, La, 18, 23–28, 32, 24,

Index 37, 40, 44, 51, 179–80. See also Galindo, Sergio compulsion, 123, 126, 136–37, 164 Concertación, La, 120–21 conservatism, 196n11 consumerism, 14 Contreras Sepúlveda, Juan Manuel Guillermo, 139 Corbatta, Jorgelina, 194n2 Cornell, Drucilla, 19, 54, 69 Corona de sombras, 168. See also Usigli, Rodolfo Cortázar, Julio, 14–15. See also Fantomas contra los vampiros multinacionales: una utopía realizable Cortines, Adolfo Ruiz, 30 cosmic image, 123–24, 127, 129–30, 133, 136, 143. See also kosmos counterhistory, 155, 178 Craft-Fairchild, Catherine, 4–6 Crow, Laura, 11–12 Cuadra, Ivonne, 56 Cuba, 10–13, 26–27, 29, 44–46, 49–51, 63, 65–67, 180, 184, 193n7. See also Cuban Revolution Cuban Revolution, 18, 25, 27, 30–31, 44, 47, 80, 83–85, 180. See also Castro, Fidel Cult of Defeat in Mexico’s Historical Fiction, 168, 174. See also Price, Brian L. Curse of Capistrano, The, 91–93, 95, 98, 103–5 daemonic agency, 123, 126, 135– 36, 139



Index Darwin, Charles, 80, 82, 180 Davies, Christie, 42, 44 Davies, Lloyd, 2–3, 6 Davys, Mary, 4 Deleuze, Gilles, 53 democracy, 6, 14, 20, 28, 50–51, 55, 118–20, 122, 135, 146– 47, 149, 170, 181 depression, 18, 85 Derrida, Jacques, 53 detainees, 182. See also disappearances detectives, 4, 16, 21, 72–75, 78, 125, 130, 180–81, 183 devouring woman, 151, 195n3 dictatorship, 1, 17–18, 20–21, 40, 45, 47, 50, 117–18, 120–22, 127, 133, 135, 140–42, 146, 148–49, 154–55, 157–61, 170, 178–79, 181 DINA (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional), 139 “dirty war,” 20, 118–20, 122, 125, 127, 131, 146, 182, 195n2 disappearances, 118, 121, 128–29, 133–34. See also detainees; kidnappings discrimination, 28, 45–46. 50, 54, 84, 89, 102, 115–16, 179, 184, 189 distress, psychological, 74, 179 domination, 20, 69, 89–90; Spanish, 111 Dominican Republic, 40 Donoso, José, 8, 9. See also Obsceno pájaro de la noche, El Dorfman, Ariel, 20, 117, 121–22,

124, 135, 142, 146, 185, 194–95. See also Máscara Duerme, 19–20, 87, 91, 106–7, 109–10, 114–15, 181, 184, 186, 194n2. See also Boullosa, Carmen Dumont, Santos, 172 Dupin, Colonel, 171–72 Durkheim, Emile, 23 economics, 12, 18–19, 25–26, 29, 33–34, 36, 41, 44, 46, 48–51, 66, 77, 88, 118, 173, 179 education, 34, 50, 115, 118 Edwina, 125–26, 128–29, 133–34, 146 Eglash, Albert, 87 ejidos, 30 Elegance of the Hedgehog, The, 191n1. See also Barbery, Muriel empathy, 171–72, 188–89 encomienda, 107 Engels, Friedrich, 33 England, 2–3, 5, 40, 82, 176, 179 enslavement, 21, 34, 60–61, 102, 110, 162–63, 182 equality, 3–5, 8, 11–13, 18, 23, 25–26, 28–29, 31, 33–38, 47, 49, 51, 56, 62–66, 70, 78, 80, 85–86, 91, 95, 98–99, 102, 106, 108, 129, 179 Escalante, Manuel, 101–3 Escobar, Paúl, 46–47, 184 essentialism, 2, 5, 19, 53–54 Estrada, Oswaldo, 40–41, 192n1, 193n6

Eternauta, El, 19–192n3 ethics, 17, 19, 24, 95, 122, 168, 170 ethos, 2 Eugenia, 196n13 Eulalia, 101–2 Europeans, 13, 114–15, 173, 175, 177, 193n4 Evans, Julie, 88, 114 exile, 20, 35, 66, 101, 150–51 exploitation, 13, 19–20, 33, 47, 49, 60, 90, 158 Eyerman, Ron, 20, 149, 164–66 Faber, Henriette, 9–10, 63–70, 83, 180, 184 Falcón, Julio, 27. See also architect Fanon, Frantz, 87–88 Fantomas contra los vampiros multinacionales: una utopía realizable, 14–15, 17, 201. See also Cortázar, Julio Fat Paul. See Escobar, Paúl Fauriel, 66, 68, 86 Febles, Héctor, 186 Federacionistas Leales, 30–31 Federici, Corrado, 191n2 Fe en disfraz, 20–21, 147–49, 161–67, 179, 177–78, 182– 84, 196n7, 196n8. See also Santos-Febres, Mayra Fell, Claude, 196n9 feminism, 19, 24, 54–55, 60–63, 78, 84–86, 183, 193n1; ethical, 53–86, 180, 193n1. See also ethics; feminists feminists, 10, 19, 53–57, 59, 63, 69–70, 72–73, 75, 77–78, 80,

Index 82, 86, 180, 189, 195n3. See also feminism fencing, 101, 103 Ferdinando VII, 100–101, 181 Fernández, Ana, 72, 79–80, 83, 85–86, 180 Fidelio, 64, 68 Fiesta del chivo, La, 40. See also Vargas Llosa, Mario Figueroa, Adolfo, 50 Fiorentino, Stella, 192 Fiscal, El, 20, 147–61, 167, 170, 177–78, 182–83, 186, 189, 195n2. See also Roa Bastos, Augusto Fletcher, Angus, 20, 121, 123–24, 126–27, 129, 135, 138 Fleury, Claire, 107–14, 184, 194n3 Flores, René, 115 forgiveness, 20, 63, 102–3, 134, 146, 171 France, 6, 21, 63, 101–2, 105, 112, 167–68, 171, 182, 195n4 Françoise, 64–65, 68 freedom, 11, 25, 31, 33, 36–39, 56–58, 61–62, 73, 76, 78, 80–82, 91, 180, 193n4 Fresia, Mamá, 62 Freud, Sigmund, 145 Fuenmayor, Enrique, 65, 67 Fujimori, Alberto, 40, 50, 193n6 Fukuda, 48, 193n6 Galápagos Islands, 80, 82 Galindo, Sergio, 18, 23–27, 30–32, 37. See also Comparsa, La Gandhi, Mahatma, 80, 85



Index gaps, historical, 20–21, 147, 149, 155, 158, 161, 177, 182 Garber, Linda, 9 Garber, Marjorie, 56 García, Alan, 48–49 García, Connie, 32 García, Esteban, 96 García Márquez, Gabriel, 15, 148 Gasca Rebellion, 18, 30–31, 180 Gauguin, Paul, 24, 33, 192–93n4 Gaulle, Charles de, 48 gender, 2, 6, 8–10, 17, 27, 53–54, 56, 63, 66, 69–70, 76, 82–83, 109, 193n1 genre, 16, 21, 179, 181, 183, 188 Getz, John, 91 Ghillebaert, Françoise, 6 Gilligan, Carol, 19, 55, 62, 69, 78, 86 Giménez, Iris, 152–53 globalization, 14, 16 Goffman, Erving, 42 gold rush, 57, 180 Gonzales, 92 Guadalupe, Virgin of, 174 Guattari, Félix, 53 Guerrilla Girls, 7 Guevara, Che, 12 guilt, 15, 120, 130, 134, 140, 146, 161–62, 165, 168, 171–73, 175, 178–79 Gutiérrez, José Ismael, 7, 9–10 Guzmán, Juan, 121 gypsies, 99–100 Habra, Hedy, 192n1 Halberstam, Jack, 9 Halloween, 163–64

hallucination, 151, 153, 156–57, 159–60 Hancock, Joel, 196n9 happiness, 39, 45, 78, 85–86 harem, 158 Harlequin romance, 4 Hawthorne, Pamela, 73, 78 Haywood, Eliza, 4 Heidensohn, Frances, 19, 53 hero, 6–7, 14, 17, 91, 93, 95, 103–6, 124, 154–55, 160, 174, 177, 189, 192n3 heterosexuality, 53, 69 hierarchy, 2–3, 13, 31–32, 54, 116, 124, 129, 131, 193n1 Hija de la fortuna, 9–10, 19, 53, 56–60, 62–63, 66, 70, 82, 86, 180, 185. See also Allende, Isabel Hijo de hombre, 195n1. See also Roa Bastos, Augusto Hinds, Harold, Jr., 191n3 historian, 157, 161, 166, 168, 177, 184. See also historiography; history historiography, 29, 148, 166, 177. See also historian; history history, 20, 108, 117, 148, 155, 158, 169, 180, 182. See also historian; historiography Hobbes, Thomas, 23 Holocaust, 144–45, 164 homosexuality, 8, 53, 186 housewife, 72, 79, 86, 180 Huertas Neri, Raisacruz, 192n1 Iborra, Juan Ramón, 151–52 Ibsen, Kristine, 168, 176, 196n9


identities, 1, 3–6, 8–10, 12–14, 17, 20, 35–36, 41–48, 57, 63, 65, 72, 74, 76–80, 91–92, 98, 103–5, 107, 112–13, 115–16, 130, 136–37, 139–41, 143, 149–50, 156–57, 159–60, 165–66, 174, 179–80, 183 ideology, 3–5, 14, 51, 109, 115–16, 118–19, 122, 192n3 illegitimacy, 42–44, 72 imperialism, 14, 20, 89–90, 101, 116, 167–68, 170, 173–74, 182 impunity, 121 Indians, 13, 90, 93–98, 103, 107– 14. See also indigenous population indigenous population, 12, 19, 50, 87–101, 103, 106–16, 184, 194n3. See also Indians inequality, 19, 25, 28–29, 31, 33, 40, 47–51, 76, 78, 83, 88–89, 114–16, 143, 173, 185–86, 193n1 Inés, 107, 109–10, 112, 114 inflation, 48–49 injustice, 14, 18, 20, 30, 34–36, 40, 47, 49–50, 55, 85, 88–91, 95, 99, 101, 106, 110–11, 114– 16, 143, 171, 173, 179, 181 Inquisition, 109 insanity, 167–68 intellectuals, 15, 50, 166, 185, 193n7 intertextuality, 39, 148, 183 invasion, of Mexico, 21, 167–68, 170–71, 182. See also Mexico Irigaray, Luce, 53 irony, 28, 92, 129, 134, 146

Israel, 50, 80, 84–85, 169 Itaipú Dam, 158–59 Janet, Pierre, 145 Jansen, Sharon, 71 Jean-Pierre, 57–58 Juárez, Benito, 172–74, 176 judgment, 89, 122, 168, 176–77 Jung, Carl, 152 Junieles, John J., 192n1 junta, Argentine military, 117–19, 127 justice: biblical, 98–100; criminal, 14, 16, 189; distributive, 1, 18, 23–51, 66, 89, 99–100, 179–80, 189; historical, 20–21, 147–78, 182–83, 196n11; postcolonial structural, 1, 19–20, 87–116, 181, 183–84, 189, 193n8; postmodern feminist, 10, 53–87; restorative, 87, 97, 103, 116; spatial, 189; transitional, 1, 20, 88, 117–47, 182, 189 Kalimán, 14, 191–92n3. See also comics Kant, Immanuel, 24, 147 Kaplan, Edward, 71 Kautner, Leda, 151–55, 157, 159– 60, 195n3 Keren, 85 kibbutz, 80, 84–85 kidnappings, 121, 136. See also disappearances Köllman, Sabine, 24, 50 kosmos, 124, 129, 131. See also cosmic image



Index Kristeva, Julia, 53, 195n4 Kuriko, 48 Lacan, Jacques, 53 LaCapra, Dominick, 150, 153–54, 164, 166 L’Aire et les songes, 71. See also Bachelard, Gaston La Llorona, 174–75 landowners, 12, 62, 120 Langer, Lawrence, 144–45 Lebacqz, Karen, 24–25 Lechuza Blanca, 97, 105 León, Juana de, 66–68 Lerner, Melvin, 187 lesbianism, 68–69 Levine, Linda Gould, 57 Levit, Nancy, 54 Lewis, Carmen, 74. See Ávila, C. L. Lewis, Laura A., 108 Lewis, Vek, 7–9 liberals, 14, 20, 65, 101, 117, 170 Lily, 19, 40–41, 43–48, 179. See also Otilia Lima, 38–39, 46. See also limeñas limeñas, 38–39. See also Lima Lin, 59–61 Lira, Elizabeth, 121 Liszt, Franz, 80 Livingston, Beverly, 33 Lloyd, David, 7 Lobas del mar, 9. See also Valdés, Zoé Locke, John, 24 Loeb, Jeph, 17, 106 López, Francisco Solano, 154, 159–60, 177 López, Miguel, 177

López-Peláez Casellas, Jesús, 191n2 Lu, Catherine, 19, 88–89 Lucy, 43–44 Lukács, Georg, 179, 197n1 Lynch, Elisa, 154, 160 Lyotard, Jean-François, 53 MacKinnon, Catharine, 69 Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, 118 magic, 16, 100, 107–9, 111–13, 123–24, 126, 142, 183 Magoo, 131. See also Palant, Agustín Malcolm, David, 191n2 Malvinas, 118 Manzoni, Alessandro, 147 Marco, Joaquín, 192n1 marginalization, 19–20, 50, 90, 95, 99–100, 110, 186 Marirosa, 43 Martínez Casas, Regina, 115–16 Martínez Morales, José, 25 Marting, Diane, 124–25 martyr, 150, 154, 160–61, 176–77, 189 Marx, Karl, 18, 23, 33–34, 51, 120, 147, 192 Máscara, 20, 117, 121–24, 135–46, 182–83, 185, 194n1. See also Dorfman, Ariel masochism, 127, 164 masquerade, 1–15, 17–21, 23–28, 30–31, 33–38, 40, 43–44, 47–49, 51, 56–58, 64, 66, 69, 73–74, 80, 86, 91–92, 111, 113–15, 122, 125, 127, 129–33, 135, 137, 142–44,

148, 153, 157, 161, 163, 166–68, 173, 175, 177–84, 187–89, 191nn1–2, 192n4, 195n3 Mathias, Manon, 191n2 Mavirelli, 135, 137–39, 141–43 Maximilian, 21, 167–78, 182, 184, 189, 196n13. See also Maximiliano Maximiliano, 168, 170, 173, 176. See also Maximilian McCulley, Johnston, 91–92, 94, 101, 103–6 McMillan, Nesam, 88, 114 McQuillen, Colleen, 5 McSherry, J. Patrice, 118–19 memory, 45–46, 71, 74, 128, 133, 135–40, 142, 144–45, 156, 165, 194n1 Menchú, Rigoberta, 76 Mennonite pastor, 156–57, 159 mestizaje, 106, 115–16. See also mestizo mestizo, 93, 95, 103, 106–7, 112, 115, 194n3. See also mestizaje metaphor, 19, 32, 41, 54, 138, 140 Metropolitan Temple, 110, 181 Metternich, Richard von, 173 Mexican Empire, 171–73. See also Cult of Defeat in Mexico’s Historical Fiction; invasion, of Mexico; Mexico “Mexican Miracle,” 29–30. See also Mexico Mexico, 7, 11–14, 18, 21, 23–31, 72, 75–76, 91, 101, 108, 110, 112–13, 115–16, 167–82, 184,

Index 189, 191n3, 194n3. See also “Mexican Miracle” Miller, David, 23 Milovanovic, Dragan, 23, 34, 53, 87–88, 97, 106, 130, 192n3 MIR (Revolutionary Left Movement), 46 Miraflores, 43–44 modernism, 5 modernity, 14, 115 Moncada, Rafael, 96, 99, 103 Montero, Rosa, 9 Montoneros, 192n3 Moore, Alan, 7 Morag, Raya, 169–71, 196n12 Moral, Félix, 17, 49, 78, 106, 109, 122, 150–61, 170, 177, 184, 186, 188–89, 195n4, 196n5 Moreno Figueroa, Mónica, 115–16 Morris, Tom, 17, 104, 106 Morrison, Toni, 167 Mujer en traje de batalla, 9–10, 19, 39, 53, 56–57, 63–70, 74, 82–83, 86, 180, 183–84, 193n2. See also Benítez-Rojo, Antonio mulattoes, 26 Murcia, Fulvia, 159 Murieta, Joaquín, 57 myth, 150, 154, 161–62, 175, 177 Nadezhda, 68–69 Nance, Kimberly A., 187 Napoleon, 63, 101, 167, 173, 175–76 narrator: faceless, 47, 135–43; nameless, 135, 137; omniscient, 167–68



Index Naverson, Ron, 13 neoliberalism, 50–51 Nevers, 150 Newman, Robert D., 194n1 Newmarket, 47 New York, 80–81, 126–27, 182 Nobel Prize, 23 nobility, 92–93, 102–3, 106–7, 173 Normandy, 46 Noticias del imperio, 20–21, 39, 147–49, 167–69, 171–73, 176–78, 182–84, 189, 196n9. See also Paso, Fernando del Novela negra con argentinos, 20, 117, 120, 122–35, 137, 140, 146, 162, 182–84, 194n2. See also Valenzuela, Luisa Nuestra señora de la soledad, 19, 53, 56, 70, 72–79, 180–81. See also Serrano, Marcela Nussbaum, Marha C., 188 oath, 95, 98, 105 Oaxaca, 75 Obsceno pájaro de la noche, El, 10 Ocejo, Pedro de, 113, 184, 194n3 Oelker, Dieter, 192n1 Oesterheld, Héctor Germán, 191– 92n3 Okahué, 97–98, 100, 104 Operation Albania, 121. See also Pinochet, Augusto oppression, 4–5, 20, 54, 89–90, 102, 187, 194n1, 195n5 Oriana, 135–40, 142–46, 195n5 origins, myth of, 150, 154, 161

ornamental function, 124, 129, 131, 148 Oropesa, Salvador, 112, 194n3 O’Sullivan, Maria, 191n2 Otilia, 19, 40–41, 43. See also Lily Oviedo, José Miguel, 23, 192n1 Owen, Robert, 36 Padilla, Herberto, 50, 193n7 Palant, Agustín, 125–34, 146, 182, 184 Pancrazio, James, 10 pantheon, 168, 170, 174–75 parades, 12, 26 Paraguay, 20, 149, 154–55, 158– 60, 177, 182, 195n5. See also Paraguayans Paraguayans, 148, 157, 160–61, 184, 186, 189. See also Paraguay Paraíso en la otra esquina, El, 18, 23–24, 32–35, 38–40, 51, 179–80, 183, 192n4. See also Vargas Llosa, Mario Paraná River, 158 Paredes, Maritza, 50 Paris, 44–46, 48 Parliament, 34, 36, 179 parody, 14–16, 130 Pascual de Pessione, María Teresa, 195–96n4 Paso, Fernando del, 20, 147–48, 167, 170, 196n9. See also Noticias del imperio patriarchy, 4, 9, 55, 57, 69, 108, 113 Patricia, 138, 195n5 peasantry, 30, 173, 175, 197


Pereda, Clementina, 28–29 Peregrinaciones de una paria, 39, 193n4. See also Tristán, Flora Peri Rossi, Cristina, 194n2 Perote, 31 Persephone, 19, 53–54 personhood, 99–100 Peru, 23–24, 38–42, 44–51, 179, 193n6. See also Peruvians Peruvians, 18, 37, 39–41, 43–44, 46, 180. See also Peru phallologocentrism, 195n4 phenomenology of imagination, 71. See also Bachelard, Gaston Philippines, 11 Pinochet, Augusto, 20, 120–21, 138–39, 141–42, 246, 181–82 Plato, 17 plebiscite, Chilean, 120, 146, 181 poiesis, 2 politicians, 119, 137, 141 Pons, María Cristina, 148, 196n9 Portia, 19, 53 Porvenir, 43 postcolonialism, 183. See also justice, postcolonial structural Postel, Danny, 135 postmemory, 164. See also memory postmodernism, 1, 10, 19, 53–57, 59, 61, 63, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, 83, 85–86, 102, 148, 152–53, 161, 180, 189, 191n2, 195n4, 196n6 Potter, Harry, 7 poverty, 1, 34, 42–44, 46, 49–50, 66–67, 116, 173, 185–86, 189

Powell, Jessica, 193n2 PRI (Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party), 27, 29 Price, Brian L., 168, 174, 196n10, 196n11. See also Cult of Defeat in Mexico’s Historical Fiction Proceso, El, 118–20 prostitution, 36, 58, 61, 107, 113, 158, 167, 173 psychiatric disorders, 165 psychiatrist, 80–81 psychoanalytics, 123, 166 psychologist, 19, 55 psychology, 1, 3, 6, 18, 71, 73–74, 121, 125, 144, 149–50, 170, 179 Puebla, 30, 113 Pulido, Carlos, 92 Pulido, Lolita, 104 pulp magazines, 91 pure-bloodedness, 92–93, 95–96, 103 Pussy Riot, 7 Querétaro, 113, 176 quest, 17, 86, 99, 124–26, 137 Quinn, Kate M. 72, 75 Quintana Tejera, Luis, 192n1 Quirarte, Vicente, 196n9 Rabelais, François, 11, 31, 37 racism, 1, 40, 45–46, 84, 89–90, 102, 115–16, 179, 189, 196n13 Rawls, John, 18, 23–25, 51 raza, 112, 114, 194n3 Reati, Fernando, 192n3



Index reconciliation, 63, 91, 97–98, 102–3, 106, 114, 117, 120, 122, 125, 133–34, 144, 147, 169, 177 reenactment, 134, 151, 153, 161, 167, 177, 180 reform, agrarian, 29–30 Regina, 93, 102. See also Toypurnia religion 9, 32–33, 102 Renaissance, 2–3 repetition, traumatic, 151, 159–60, 164. See also trauma repression, 20, 49, 117, 120, 125, 147 resistance, 7, 9, 55, 88, 106, 108–9, 162 responsibility, 88, 118–20, 128, 133, 161, 165, 169, 172 restitution, 116 retribution, 91, 102–3, 106, 111, 130, 131, 144 Rettig Report, 120 Reyes, Lucía, 75 Richardson, Mrs., 47–48. See Lily; Otilia rights, equivalent, 19, 54, 62–63, 86, 193n1 Rilke, Rainer Maria, 155 rites, 97, 100, 163. See also rituals rituals, 12, 31, 163–65. See also rites Rivera Villegas, Carmen, 79 Roa Bastos, Augusto, 20–21, 147– 53, 157–59, 184, 186, 195n4. See also Fiscal, El Roberta, 125–27, 129, 131–34, 184, 195n3

Roberto, 64 Robinson, Mary, 7 Rodden, John, 186 Rodríguez de Francia, José Gaspar, 148–49 Roig de Leuchsenring, Emilio, 67 Rojas, Freddy, 157 Rojas, Tomás, 72–74, 76–77, 100– 101, 181 romances, 4, 21, 13–24, 181, 183– 84 Romeu, de, family, 99–100 Romeu, Isabel de, 95, 98, 100, 105, 184 Romeu, Juliana de, 100 Rompehuesos, Joe, 60, 62 Ros, Ana, 120–21 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 24 royalty, 173, 175 Russia, 2, 5, 7, 63, 68 Sables y utopías, 51. See also Vargas Llosa, Mario sadomasochism, 163 saints, 12, 150, 154 Saldívar, Emiko, 115 Salles-Reese, Verónica, 112 Sánchez Calle, Pilar, 191n2 Sand, George, 6 San Francisco, 57, 180 Santa Anna, Antonio López de, 174 Santos-Febres, Mayra, 20–21, 147–49, 161–62, 167, 186 Sarduy, Severo, 8 satire, 12, 23, 167 Satyagraha, 85 saya, 38–39. See also shawl

scaffold, 111, 194n3 scars, 136, 138, 165 Sebald, W. G., 191n1 Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, 9 Sefchovich, Sara, 19, 53, 56, 70–72, 79, 86. See also Señora de los sueños, La Sendero Luminoso, 48 Señora de los sueños, La, 19, 56, 70, 72, 79–86. See also Sefchovich, Sara Serrano, Marcela, 19, 53, 56, 70, 180. See also Nuestra señora de la soledad Servín, Elisa, 30 sexism, 179 sexuality, 2–3, 8, 25, 33, 37, 53–54, 68–69, 84, 99, 153, 161–62, 166, 193n1 Sharpe, Jenny, 167 shawl, 38. See also saya Sifuentes-Jáuregui, Ben, 7–8 Silva, Xica da, 21, 163–65, 177 Sinaloa, 30, 172 singsong girls, 60–62, 86 Skorpio, 192n3 slavery, 13, 21, 62, 150, 163–66, 177, 183 socialism, 18, 33–34, 50–51, 84, 181 socialization, 19, 55, 60, 78 solitude, 72–73, 76–77 Sommers, Eliza, 9, 56–63, 86, 180 Sommers, Jeremy, 57–58 Sommers, Miss Rose, 57–58 Somocurcio, Ricardo, 43–49, 184, 189 Sontag, Susan, 15

Index Southern Cone, 120 Spain, 34, 95–96, 99–103, 107–8, 110–11, 115, 175–76, 181. See also Spaniards Spaniards, 90, 93, 95, 97, 103, 106–8, 110–11, 113. See also Spain spirituality, 6, 60, 80, 85, 105 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 87–88 spying, 136, 140, 159 status, social, 22, 25, 26, 35, 42, 49, 129–31, 189; inferior, 25, 35, 43, 110, 115 stereotypes, 26, 90, 93, 193n1 Stern, Steven, 120 stigma, 1, 18, 42–44, 179 strangulation, 152–53, 157 Stroessner, Alfredo, 2–21, 148–50, 154–55, 157–61, 167, 177 subaltern, 87–88 subjectivity, 5, 8, 144–45 sublime, 124, 150, 154 subversion, 3–4, 7, 31–32, 108, 119, 194n3 Sue, Christina, 115 suicide, 151–52, 154, 160 superheroes, 2, 7, 11, 13–17, 104, 106 Superman, 13–14, 17 supernatural, 15, 109, 124 Supreme Court, 119–21 surgeons, 64, 135, 137–38, 141–43, 180 surgery, plastic, 75, 141, 143, 150, 160 surrealism, 123 Swanson, Philip, 91



Index Sweden, 50 Switzerland, 175 sword, 101–2, 104, 106 symbolism, 7, 20, 40, 50, 74, 76–77, 85–86, 89, 98, 103, 107, 111–12, 123–24, 128, 130, 134, 137–38, 140, 144– 46, 153, 161, 177, 182–83, 192n3. See also allegory symmetrical plots, 123–24, 127–29 synecdoche, 123, 136, 194n3 Tahiti, 192n4 Tarsis, Jimena, 151–52, 154–55, 159–61, 189, 195n3 Tatum, Charles, 191n3 Taurel, Ava, 127 Taylor, Claire, 112, 194n3 Teitel, Ruti G., 117, 119, 147 Tenorio, Don Juan, 164 terror, 118, 135. See also terrorism terrorism, 41, 48, 119. See also terror testimonial novels, 187–88 testimonies, slave, 21, 161, 177, 196n8 theater, 126–27, 134, 182 Thomas, Peter N., 196n9 Thorp, Rosemary, 50 Tierney-Tello, Mary Beth, 4, 122 Tino, 29 Tirado, Martín, 21, 162–67, 177 Tizil, Ana, 108–9 Todorov, Tzvetan, 146 Toirac, Inciano D., 66 Tokyo, 48 Toledano, Salomón, 48 torture, 1, 18, 20–21, 121, 126–27,

135, 141, 150–51, 153–57, 159, 171, 177, 182 totalitarianism, 141, 194n1 Toypurnia, 93. See also Regina traitors, 3, 170, 177 transference, 152, 166–67 transplant, 141–42 transvestism, 1, 3, 7–10, 56, 112, 194n3 trauma, 1, 18, 20–21, 72, 94, 144– 55, 157, 159–61, 163–72, 175, 177, 179, 182, 196n11 traumatropism, 150, 154 Travesuras de la niña mala, 18, 23, 40–41, 46–47, 49–51, 179–80, 184, 186, 188, 192n1. See also Vargas Llosa, Mario Treatise on Fencing and Dueling, 101, 103 Triple Alliance, War of the, 154, 160 Tristán, Flora, 18, 24, 33–40, 51, 179, 184, 192–93n4. See also Peregrinaciones de una paria; Workers’ Union, The Trujillo, Rafael, 40 Tseëlson, Efrat, 191n2 Turner, Joseph, 148–49, 197n2 Turok, Marta, 12 underserved, 63, 86 UNESO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), 45 Unidad Popular, 121 Urquiza, Count, 107, 110, 113–14, 194n3


Uruguay, 154 Usigli, Rodolfo, 168, 170. See also Corona de sombras usurpers, 113, 176 utopia, 11, 31, 51, 75, 193n4 Valdés, Zoé, 9, 30. See also Lobas del mar Valech Report, 121 Valenzuela, Luisa, 20, 117, 120, 122, 124–25, 194n2. See also Novela negra con argentinos Van Alphen, Ernst, 144–45 Van der Smissen, Count, 177 Van Ness, Daniel W., 116 Vargas Llosa, Mario, 18, 23–24, 32–35, 38, 40–41, 43–44, 46–47, 49–51, 184–86, 188, 192n4, 193n6. See also Paraíso en la otra esquina, El; Sables y utopías; Travesuras de la niña mala Vaughn, Matt, 91 Vega, Alejandro de la, 93–96, 101, 103 Vega, Diego de la, 91–106 Velasco Alvarado, Juan, 47 vengeance, 132 Venice, 173 Veracruz, 12, 30–31, 113 Verchick, Robert, 54 Verdejo, Fe, 21, 161, 163, 166–67, 184, 196n8 V for Vendetta, 7 victimizer, 132, 169 victims, 60, 67, 87, 90, 101, 111, 116, 118, 125–26, 128,

132–33, 149–50, 152–53, 157, 162, 165, 167–71, 173, 176, 182, 196n12 Videla, Jorge, 118 vindication, 9, 91, 154, 160 violence, 20, 90, 120, 150, 152, 161–62, 164, 166, 186 Virgulti, Ernesto, 191n2 visuality, 5, 7, 123 vocation, 15, 64–65, 80, 82–83, 85–86 Vorstman, Ruth, 191n2 wardrobe, 71, 73–74 Wayne, Bruce. See Batman Weber, Max, 23 Weldt-Basson, Helene, 149, 152– 53, 195n3 Wells, Arnaldo, 29 whites, 44, 50, 111, 114, 116 wigs, 12, 74, 175 Wilson, John, 153, 165 Winn, Peter, 120 witchcraft, 108–12 Wittig, Monique, 69 Woolf, Virginina, 71–73, 75–77, 79 workers, 16, 18, 30, 33–36, 51, 90 Workers’ Union, The, 33–35, 39–40. See also Tristán, Flora writers, 21, 49, 184–89, 195n2 Xalapa, 25–26, 30–31, 51 Yo el Supremo, 148, 195n1. See also Roa Bastos, Augusto Young, Iris Marion, 19, 89, 116



Index Yuguey, 112 Zacatecas, 109 zambos, 37 Zapatistas, 7, 181 Zorro, 19–20, 87, 91–10, 114–15, 181, 184–86, 193n1. See also Allende, Isabel


Literary Criticism  •  Latin America

—Víctor Figueroa, author of Prophetic Visions of the Past: Pan-Caribbean Representations of the Haitian Revolution

“In discussing the dialectics between disguise and social justice in fourteen novels by writers from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, and Peru, Weldt-Basson has succeeded in deepening the cultural, historical, and literary understanding of Latin America. Her insights transcend a particular field of study by expanding the notion of historicity into a more inclusive one, whose polyphonic and creative ambience embraces a vast array of genres, narratives, and discourses.” —Fernando Burgos, editor of Antología del cuento hispanoamericano Helene Carol Weldt-Basson is a professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of Subversive Silences: Nonverbal Expression and Implicit Narrative Strategies in the Works of Latin American Women Writers and Augusto Roa Bastos’s I The Supreme: A Dialogic Perspective. She received an honorary doctorate for her work on Paraguay from the Universidad del Norte in 2012.

ISBN 978-0-8263-5815-8 90000


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Masquerade and Social Justice in Contemporary Latin American Fiction

“Helene Weldt-Basson’s work offers valuable insights on some of the most significant works of contemporary Latin American fiction. The book masterfully traces the importance of masquerade and disguise as important tools in the literary exploration of questions about social justice in Latin America, and it lucidly examines the many dimensions and forms that the search for social justice can take.”

Helene Carol Weldt-Basson

Masquerade and

Social Justice in

Contemporary Latin American Fiction


ontemporary Latin American fiction establishes a unique connection between masquerade, fre­ quently motivated by stigma or trauma, and social justice. Using an interdisciplinary approach that combines philosophy, history, psychology, literature, and social justice theory, this study delineates the synergistic connection between these two themes. The author examines how masquerade and disguise aid in articulating the theme of social justice, why this is important, and how it relates to Latin American history and the historical novel. She further considers whether this literary motif inspires readers to social action. The author examines fourteen novels by twelve different Latin American authors: Mario Vargas Llosa, Sergio Galindo, Augusto Roa Bastos, Fernando del Paso, Mayra Santos-Febres, Isabel Allende, Carmen Boullosa, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Marcela Serrano, Sara Sefchovich, Luisa Valenzuela, and Ariel Dorfman. She elucidates the varieties of social justice operative in the plots of contemporary Latin American novels: distributive, postmodern/ feminist, postcolonial, transitional, and historical. These ­distinctions are not merely descriptive but also help the reader to comprehend how masquerade interfaces with history and social justice in Latin America to the extent that novels of masquerade may also be considered a subcategory of the contemporary Latin American historical novel.