The homoerotic diaspora in Latin America

David Foster

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5 Scopus citations


One could argue that, from the colonial period on, Latin American literature has been a cultural production of exile. One could go on to argue that, given the persistence of homophobia in Latin America, internal and external exile is, unfortunately, the expected lot of the lesbian woman or the gay man, and the openings that have come with liberation movements and neoliberal marketing (e.g., the latter is able to turn anything into a commodity, including images of sexual dissidence) have yet to represent more than noise for the overwhelming message of compulsory heterosexuality and its corollaries. It is for this reason that I have avoided hypostatizing exile as a special condition for either the writer or the sexual dissident. The novels I have examined here are not simply novels that have been written and published abroad. Rather, my interest has been in texts in which the dimension of foriegn culture, whether another Hispanic society or a U.S. or European one, has provided a meaningful foil for the construction of a narrative semiosis. This contrast may be very vivid and tied to wrenching conditions of exile (Arenas and Bianciotti); it may be displaced and given symbolic representation (Vallejo); it may serve to internationalize a point of reference (the broad sweep of homophobia in Pinera; the paneroticism in Sánchez of the figure of Daniel Santos, who is not just a Puerto Rican icon; the queer configuration in Torres that, I would maintain, can only have come from extensive theoretical readings not widely available in Spanish); or it may serve only to demonstrate a null hypothesis (Bayly). This is not a particularly coherent inventory, but it does have the value of underscoring the way in which writing today about sexual dissidence in Latin America has found it necessary to reach out to external models not to explain local social history in terms of them but as one meaningful strategy for countering the impenetrable silence surrounding the homoerotic in Latin America. I do not by this mean to identify or defend a renewed form of cultural dependency for Latin America, one in which the long tradition of seeking support in bourgeois paradigms abroad has now been exchanged for something like an international gay community. This is not likely to be what is going on in these novels, because one would fail in the attempt to describe something like an international gay model that could be profitably imported into Latin American culture. Rather, what I am suggesting is that the record of an abiding homophobia in Latin America, one that is surely no worse than elsewhere in the West or other parts of the world, often combined with tyranny, has produced a homoerotic diaspora that I have attempted to characterize here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-189
Number of pages27
JournalLatin American Perspectives
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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