Spanish III: Latin American Literature

Session Organizer: Debbie Lee Di Stefano

Southeast Missouri State Univ.



Session A


Performing Indigeneities in Mexico:  Assimilation and Resistance in Idelfonso Maya’s Ixtlamatinij (The Learned Ones)”


My paper focuses on my recent research working with Indigenous Mexican (Nahua) playwright Idelfonso Maya’s work Ixtlamatinij (The Learned Ones).  I discuss how Maya engages the concepts of assimilation and resistance to the dominant culture in the setting of a multi-generation celebration of Xantolo (Day of the Dead) in a Huastecan, Náhuatl-speaking community.  Utilizing a theoretical framework of cultural materialism and the semiotics of theater, I assess the degrees of assimilation and resistance, as they are coordinated by memory and violence (physical and epistemological).  Finally, I outline the responses of both the playwright himself and a native-speaker focus group to my findings, advocating the analysis of Indigenous literatures in tandem with native-speakers as theorists and critics, not simply as informants.


Kelly McDonough

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities



“Guerrilla Royalties: How to Fund a Revolution”


Abstract: While on his presidential election campaign in 2000, Vicente Fox Quesada was quoted as saying that he would be able to “clean up” the situation in Chiapas in fifteen minutes The conflict was not resolved in a mere fifteen minutes and the Zapatista resistance continues to exist, arguably stronger than ever, through the Fox sexenio and to the present day almost fifteen years later. There is no denying the enormous amount of creativity and expression coming out of the Zapatista political, social, and economic struggle. Academics and scholars alike have continued to publish books and articles about the Zapatistas since early 1994 however; much of the research has focused on trying to understand the revolution itself while at the same time giving the spotlight to Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos’ persona. Turning attention to Marcos’ literary production this essay focuses on the literature penned by El Sup himself, which has made a drastic turn from populism to elitism. Apart from letters, communiqués, and official EZLN documents, I bring attention to the bilingual children’s book La historia de los colores/The Story of Colors (1999), the crime novel Muertos incómodos (2005), and his latest experiment and erotic thriller Noches de fuego y desvelo (2007), all written as a means to fund the revolution in Southeastern Mexico. Somehow going unnoticed for almost the past decade I trace the sale of Marcos’ books and his decision to use the publishing world to generate income for Zapatista communities.


Joseph M. Towle

University of Minnesota



“Paying Tribute: Allegorical and Metahistorical Signification in the Annals of Cuauhtitlan


One of the most important Nahuatl-language histories from colonial Mexico, the Annals of Cuauhtitlan was composed in a historical form that pre-dates the conquest, that of the xiuhtlapohualli or year-count book.  Many scholars have regarded the Annals of Cuauhtitlan as a repository for information about the pre-Hispanic past or as an example of pre-Hispanic literature. This paper, however, examines the work as an entity and analyzes it with respect to the historical context in which it was created. It argues that the work reveals itself to be a meta-historical narrative engaged in both adapting to and resisting Spanish colonization. What does it mean to write Nahua history, the text asks, when the old political-religious hierarchy—embodiment of the divine fire (the ultimate source of power for the Nahuas)—has been swept aside, after the schooled and anointed timekeepers have disappeared? What happens to that sacred power now that its recipients and managers are gone? How does it continue to effect the course of everyday life, or, more specifically, what has now become of Nahua labor in an age of Spanish time-keepers? Using an interdisciplinary approaching combining history, anthropology, and literary criticism, this paper identifies the ways in which The Annals of Cuauhtitlan addresses the question of what it means to write history from the bottom up.


Leisa Kauffmann

Monmouth College



“Espacios discursivos femeninos: Guadalupe Marín como el “ruido” de la Modernidad mexicana”


En esta ponencia analizo la obra de la escritora mexicana Guadalupe Marín.  Primeramente, establezco su relación inestable y problemática con el círculo intelectual de los ’20 y ’30 en México y la consecuente falta de atención en la que cayó su obra por no haber recurrido al espíritu modernólatra de esos años.  Examino la relación de su trabajo con la literatura popular y la vanguardista y las conexiones que existen con construcciones de género en el contexto de la modernidad mexicana.  Considerando ideas de Michel de Certeau, Pierre Bourdieu y Robert McKee Irwin, propongo que en la obra de Marín, a través de una apropiación de un discurso tradicional de desviación femenina, la voz narrativa articula un espacio discursivo de subjetividad femenina que logra desafiar las normas de género, a pesar de la aparente heterosexualidad compulsiva de la misma.  Este espacio discursivo femenino revela un ángulo de la modernidad mexicana que descansa fuera de las formas canónicas de experimentación literaria y trasgresión vanguardista.  La apertura de este espacio femenino de representación descubre también un lugar para el deseo femenino que no encontramos en otras obras del momento y cuyo resultado puede ser tan innovador como cualquier producto de la vanguardia.  Finalmente, estudio cómo los metadiscursos modernos se ven desplegados en el texto, revelando una ansiedad hacia el género femenino que el resto de la literatura de entonces sólo expresa a través del dilema de lo femenino o la exaltación de la virilidad dentro de la identidad nacional post-revolucionaria.


Gabriela Romero-Ghiretti

Washington University


Session B

“Lo hiperreal en Mario Vargas Llosa”

Vivimos en una época de modelos fugaces, inmediatos y hasta desechables. Para algunos se debe a la globalización, al postmodernismo, neobarroco o a la enorme influencia de los sistemas de comunicación en nuestro día a día.  Por ende, es posible afirmar que el simulacro es una realidad concreta en nuestros días. Jean Baudrillard asegura que el simulacro ya no tiene un referente, un territorio, una sustancia. Se trata más bien de una generación de modelos de lo real sin origen o sin realidad: lo hiperreal. Lo real se produce apartir de células, matrices, bancos de la memoria, modelos de control. Por esta razón, puede ser reproducida innumerables veces.


Ya no se trata de una imitación, duplicación o de una parodia. Se trata más bien de sustituir los signos de lo real por lo real. De esta manera se da paso a la recurrencia de modelos o a la generación simulada de diferencias. La imagen es interesante, no solamente por su papel de reflejo, espejo, sino también porque contamina la realidad y porque la modela. La imagen se apropia de la realidad para sus propios objetivos. Todas las artes ahora están jugando el juego al nivel de la simulación, del simulacro de la realidad.


En la novela de Mario Vargas Llosa titulada Travesuras de la niña mala (2006), el lector es testigo de repetidas revelaciones de modelos apartir de una niña, una chilenita, un personaje inquieto. Los modelos adquieren valor por sí mismos, viajan siguen sus rumbos sin mirar atrás. Nos encontramos ante el simulacro que viaja por el Perú, Francia, Japón y no deja de crearse y recrearse.


María Regina Ruiz

University of Evansville


“The Intersection of Politics and Sexuality in Domitila Barrios' "Si me permiten hablar"”

In her 1978 testimonio "Si me permiten hablar" ["Let Me Speak!"], Domitila Barrios de Chungara details her fight to revolutionize the oppressive socioeconomic structures in which her people, Bolivian miners, are trapped.  She also harshly criticizes feminism, arguing that it works against her mission to unite Bolivian men and women in a common fight to ameliorate living conditions.

Barrios' position against feminism is complicated both by her recognition that machismo impedes the political participation of many women and by the constant denigration of her femininity and sexuality because of her activism.  In addition to constantly being laughed and scoffed at, Barrios is labeled everything from an adulteress to a lesbian.  Nowhere is this denigration more patent than when she is tortured and interrogated in prison.  In the first incident, state officials test Barrios' motherliness, telling her that they have her children and will kill them if she does not sign some governmental piece of paper that Barrios suspects will be used against her and her people.  In the second incident, one state official violently beats Barrios, focusing his assault on her stomach and the baby that she is carrying inside.  When she wakes up, her baby is dead—lying cold on the ground.  As Jean Franco and others have argued, women prisoners have long been singled out for gender-specific torture, such as rape and forced miscarriage.

In my presentation, I will discuss this intersection of politics and sexuality in Latin American social movements of the 1960s-1980s,focusing on Barrios' testimonio.

Carolyn Hutchinson
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Blast from the Past – Reflections of Borgesian Violence in McOndista writers at the Turn of the Century”


Despite their explicit rejection of the “Boom” generation, the writers of Latin America from the McOndo / Neorealist style seem to have a fixation on violence, particularly that portrayed by Jorge Luis Borges.  This similarity is key because of the importance of violence as a social unifier and leveler in their works. Borges used crime as a means of imposing violence, emotion, machismo, nationalism and physicality on intellectual attitudes and pursuits. His intellectuals and national mythic heroes all die at the hands of people they have wronged or offended, or at the moment when their deaths will accomplish a selfish goal in place of a "civilized" one.


Short stories by Edmundo Paz-Soldán, as well as novels by Guillermo Martínez and Alberto Fuguet, all touch on Borgesian crime and violence. The changes wrought reflect the proclivities of this new generation, for whom popular culture (comic books, film, soap operas, rock and boleros) has taken the place of Borges' beloved books, philosophers and writers. In his world, intellectuals are reduced to defeat by their attempts to play the game in the way that the emotional, violent "barbarians" play. For the neorealists, the intellectuals have succumbed to popular culture or political corruption instead. However, popular culture is one of the few places where growing class divides can still be bridged, with the others being moments of crime and violence. Despite their protestations against the Boom writers, the McOndistas have managed to mirror them, making themselves only the newest part of a circle.


Jason G. Summers

Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne



“Revisiting Cuba’s Chinese Immigrants:  Cristina Garcia’s Monkey Hunting”


The historical presence of the Chinese in Cuba is an issue seldom dealt with in fictional literature.  However, recently two Cuban writers, Cristina García and Zoé Valdés have both attempted to discursively articulate vía the novel how the Chinese element has added to the complexity of Cuban culture.  In this paper, I will demonstrate the historical elements that García presents to the reader.  However, the purpose is not to simply show history.  I also will question the manner in which she presents the information.  The question that I wish to address is whether or not the Chinese “speak” in the novel, meaning are they treated as objects or is subjectivity attained?   


Debbie DiStefano

Southeast Missouri State University



Session C


The Outsider and the Outcast in Jesús Colón’sDalmau’”


In this paper, I analyze the text “Dalmau,” by Puerto Rican writer Jesús Colón and included in The Way it Was and Other Writings. As Edna Acosta-Belén and Virginia Sánchez-Korroll aptly point out, Jesús Colón is a “master of anecdotal and testimonial writing.”  In this collection of Colón’s writings about his experiences in New York and in Puerto Rico between the 1920’s and the 1960’s, the topic of the outsider resonates at many levels. Class, ethnicity, and language barriers come to the fore as the author reflects on his own daily-life experiences. Specifically in “Dalmau,” the writer is able to use anecdotal style as a means to present social and cultural criticism. The story of Dalmau, another outsider in the barrio after whom the story is entitled, allows Colón to critically address the theme of the “outcast” and the consequences internalized marginalization. While both Colón himself and his acquaintance Dalmau experienced marginalization, my analysis focuses on how Dalmau embodies the “outcast” while Colón, although an “outsider,” is able to transform his situation as an outsider to raise awareness and create community. I will refer to the critical analysis of Edna Acosta-Belén, Virginia Sánchez-Korroll and Juan Flores to assess the notion of outsider/outcast in the story “Dalmau.”


Nancy Bird-Soto

University of WisconsinMilwaukee



“José María Vargas Vila: insult, anarchism and literature”


The frequent “oblivion” of the inclusion of the anarchist, essayist and novelist read in América and Spain, José María Vargas Vila, as part of the Latin American canon, although the large recognition that he obtained by a varied group of writers, constitutes a seductive reason to explore its place within the literary and political space of the époque. Vargas Vila is with no doubt one of the more belligerent and tireless opposing voices against the political regime that was imposed at the end of the nineteenth century. His critique was expressed in various of his political and literary writings, principally in his book titled Césares de la Decadencia. His prose and his particular use of the language will be the most accurate tool to attack a regime that marked the Colombian political history. As Borges sustains in his essay “El arte de injuriar,” Vargas Vila accomplished his purpose through a style that will consecrate him as “the author of the most splendid insult that I know.”


María del Pilar Melgarejo Acosta

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee



Huyéndole  al  padre: discurso sexual y  de escape  del  control  patriarcal en Quíntuples  de Luís Rafael Sánchez”


Este trabajo analiza el discurso de control paternal en Quíntuples utilizando  el marco teórico del “biopoder” de Michel Foucault, en su obra The History of Sexuality. Volume I: An Introduction.   El discurso que exploraremos intenta construír una “buena familia ” donde  los hijos  permiten que Papá Morrison los construya, basándose en modelos pretéritos , con el padre como centro determinante de  lo social y económico de sus hijos adultos, evocando el tipo de familia  que existía en comunidades agrícolas donde los hijos trabajaban en la hacienda paterna


Intento deconstruir el discurso paterno explorando la representación simbólica del fenómeno de la industrialización  y urbanización  donde los hijos de hacendados  abandonaron  el campo  por  las ciudades, buscando  oportunidades.  Este desplazamiento cambió los procesos de  auto-representación de estos jóvenes, permitiendo el surgimiento de comportamientos sexuales diferentes a los del sistema patriarcal tradicional. Nuestro análisis se enfoca en el discurso de Dafne Morrison, la primera hija que sube a escena.  Este importante discurso construye una nueva identidad de género, no tradicional, que subvierte el discurso paterno, rompiendo invisibles cadenas limitantes,  mediante una re-definición del ente ontológico. 

Es Dafne quien propone que no se  actúe según los guiones existentes, o sea, lo patriarcal y paternal,  sino que se improvise. La improvisación, a su vez, lleva al discurso sexual

--instrumento liberador-- que deconstruye el fenómeno de dominación patriarcal presentando el primer discurso de emancipación personal.


Alannah Ari Hernandez       

Concordia University Chicago



“Autobiografía de Juan Francisco Manzano: Un deseo que no tiene nombre”


Este trabajo analiza los silencios codificados que se encuentran en la única autobiografía escrita por un esclavo de que se tiene constancia en Latinoamérica.  Hay en la Autobiografía de Manzano un intento por escribir aquello que carece de nombre.  Este fenómeno de lo innombrable en el que se bate el texto, se encuentra indisolublemente relacionado con el deseo sexual del ama sobre el esclavo. 


La dialéctica del deseo  se complica en el caso de Manzano.  ¿Cómo escribir el deseo cuando, en la más bondadosa de las circunstancias, existe una doble prohibición incorporada en las estructuras sociales y jurídicas del esclavo negro y la mujer blanca?  ¿Cómo se nombra un deseo que no debe existir (o que sencillamente se considera inexistente) y que, por consiguiente, carece de nombre? 


Esta investigación responde a estas interrogantes a partir del análisis de las escenas violentas que representan las relaciones entre el ama y el esclavo.  La violencia misma conforma el lenguaje más elocuente para la enunciación del innombrable deseo.  Visto así, el texto autobiográfico parece sugerir que el castigo físico es el único recurso disponible frente a un cuerpo que no puede ser acariciado,

ni mucho menos poseído del todo.   


Thelma B. Jiménez-Anglada

Univ. of Chicago