Mexican Masculinities

Mexican Masculinities

Mexican Masculinities

Mexican Masculinities

Synopsis

The first of its kind and a powerful challenge to customary views of gender and sexuality in the life and literature of Mexico, this book traces literary representations of masculinity in Mexico from independence in 1810 to the 1960s, and shows how these intersect with the constructions of nation and nationality. The rhetoric of "Mexicanness" makes constant use of images of masculinity, though it does so in shifting and often contradictory ways. Robert McKee Irwin's work follows these shifts from the male homosocial bonding that was central to notions of national integration in the nineteenth century, to questioning of gender norms stirred by science and scandals at the turn of the century, to the virulent reaction against gender chaos after the Mexican revolution, to the association of Mexicanness with machismo and homophobia in the literature of the 1940s and 1950s--even as male homosexuality was established as an integral part of national culture. As the first historical study of how masculinity and, particularly, homosexuality were understood in Mexico in the national era, this book not only provides "queer readings" of most major canonical texts of the period in question, but also uncovers a variety of unknown texts from queer Mexican history, including the 1906 novel Los 41, which reenacts the scandal of a turn-of-the-century transvestite ball that launched modern discussion of homosexuality in Mexico. It is a radical undermining of the simple hetero/homosexual and masculine/feminine oppositions that have for so long informed views of the country's national character.

Excerpt

¡Qué desgracia vivir degradado, señalado, repudiado por todas las ge
neraciones, hundido en el cóncavo maldito de los desprestigios sociales,
cerrando los ojos á las leyes divinas del progreso, y los oídos á los
acentos sublimes y conmovedores de la moral!

What a disgrace to live degraded, singled out, repudiated for all genera
tions, sunken into the accursed crater of social discredit, closing eyes to
the divine laws of progress and ears to the sublime and moving accents
of morality!

Who have angered the above writer so tremendously that he would unleash such invective against them? What have they done that is so terrible that they are to be “repudiated for all generations”? How have they simultaneously threatened progress and morality? the above narrator goes on to accuse them of having committed a horrible vice:

Y el vicio, ese vicio que rebosa en la copa de la prostitución más desen
frenada, es el que hace esclavos á los hombres y los denigra, hasta caer
en el antro inmoral del envilecimiento y de la corrupción, que rompe
sus lazos en mil añicos, para no purificarse nunca.

And the vice, that vice which overflows from the cup of the most un
bridled wantonness, is that which makes slaves of men and denigrates
them, to the point that they fall into the immoral den of vilification and
corruption, which breaks their shackles into a thousand bits, so they
may never again become pure. (Castrejón 165)

Novelist Eduardo Castrejón is scandalized by the behavior of the “famous 41,” a group of transvestites arrested in 1901 when their private ball was raided by the Mexico City police. Men dressed as . . .

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