Queerness

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Abstract

Moraga’s own Loving in the War Years (1983), and Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), were two of the first and most important experimental narratives to make use of and enrich the space created by Bridge. Their sharp critiques of heteronormativity depended on their brave willingness to put themselves out there - this time each flying solo - and “overcome the tradition of silence” (Anzaldúa 1987: 81), expressing as they each did, “lo que nunca pasó por sus labios” [Moraga’s translation: “that which never passed through her lips” (Moraga 1983)]. Refusing to relinquish ethnonationalism to the heteronormative world, Moraga would go on to advocate a collective Queer Aztlán: “a Chicano homeland that could embrace all its people, including its jotería” (Moraga 1993: 147), and a vision of “queer motherhood” that intertwined non-normative familial reproduction with the continuation of lo mexicano: “I had a Xicano child cuz Raza’s turning white all over the States” (Moraga 2011: 6). By experimenting with the uncanny fusion of the non-normative with cultural norms, Moraga queers not only Aztlán but queerness itself. Indeed, Latino/a queers have pushed at the deconstructive impulse of queer theory and queer politics by making room for their cultural investments in various forms of Latino/a ethnonationalisms, identity politics, and familial traditions. In this way Latino/a queers, and queers of color more broadly (including, especially, Cathy Cohen and Roderick A. Ferguson), put under pressure what Muñoz refers to in his provocative book, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, as an “antirelational” turn in recent queer theory - a turn that leads to a presentist attachment to “singularity and negativity” (Muñoz 2009: 10). Against that turn, Muñoz advocates a vision of queerness that is utopic, affective, collective, and keyed toward an indeterminate temporality such that “the past is a field of possibility in which subjects can act in the present in the service of a new futurity” (2009: 16). While Latinos/as do not figure prominently in Muñoz’s book, his vision of queerness has the potential to help us better understand the deep intergenerational affective attachments to racialized collectivites and cultural/familial reproduction that marks the work of so many Latino/a queer authors, Moraga’s especially. This is the kind of racially attuned queer analysis that Cubano queer theorist José Quiroga has in mind in his important study of queer Latino America, in which he argues that because Latino queer writers are invested in “a different way of conducting social dialogue,” they often focus “on the sites where taxonomies don’t quite fit” (Quiroga 2000: 195). That is, “not content to remain within a world defined by categories, many Latino American works are not so interested in the violence of identity but in its negotiation” (2000: 195). One of the most important experimental “texts” to illustrate the complexity of Latino/a queerness is Frances Negrón-Muntaner’s 1994 film Brincando el charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican. Through the use of hybrid filmic techniques - still photographs, parody, melodrama, text-based intertitles - and equally complex, non-unified subjects (most notably the main character, Claudia, played by Negrón-Muntaner herself), the film represents Puerto Rican diasporic queer subjectivity as an unending, dynamic, non-identitarian process. In her accompanying essay about the film, Negrón-Muntaner explains that, “To constitute a specifically lesbian Puerto Rican location, the film goes through the bodies of others: heterosexual black Puerto Rican women, African Americans, gay Puerto Rican men. More important, the process of traveling toward or reaching the other sets a group of lesbian identifications in motion and makes a specifically Puerto Rican queer location possible” (NegrónMuntaner 1999: 513). In this way, Negrón-Muntaner challenges expectations for cultural and national authenticity, and opts instead for a queer subject position that is “radically impure” (1999: 513). The reason that Brincando el charco remains an important film today is because it seamlessly and lusciously layers several narratives that continue to be charged for Latino/a queers, especially diasporic ones: the indelible pain of familial rejection; the no-less-biting pain of charges of cultural inauthenticity (because of queer desire or lack of fluency in Spanish); the absence of women from nationalist historical records; the endless quotidian negotiations generated by US colonialism and imperialism; and the exportation of US-based LGBT activism into Latin American countries. Equally important are the lengths Negrón-Muntaner goes through to portray all of these narratives - including the most painful ones - through a register of visual pleasure. Helping to maintain pleasure as a key term of queerness, Negrón-Muntaner incorporates a highly stylized, black-and-white sex sequence between Claudia and her lover, Ana. As Negrón-Muntaner describes it, the inclusion of this sequence was a deliberate, gendered political intervention: The original script of Brincando el charco included no overt sexual activity between women. .. What triggered the addition of the “sex sequence” was a series of realizations. .. [including that] no Puerto Rican film had addressed lesbian subjectivity in one hundred years of cinematic production. .. [and that] all Puerto Rican filmmakers, especially the women among them, avoided representing sexuality of any kind in their films.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages75-83
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781136221613
ISBN (Print)9780415666060
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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