Academic journal article CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture

Vulnerability and Resistance in Carmen Aguirre's Mexican Hooker #1

Academic journal article CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture

Vulnerability and Resistance in Carmen Aguirre's Mexican Hooker #1

Article excerpt

Carmen Aguirre is a Chilean writer and actress who was exiled from her country to Canada when she was a child and who lived in the underground for many years, a status at first forced by her parents as a way to protect her and her sister which later became a chosen condition. Exile, sexual violence and racial stereotyping of the colonized body affect this strong woman who is able to fight against the oppressive state and gender constructions, through a long process of self-knowing and self-healing. For Rossi, "Exile and trauma are interconnected. A victim of sexual violence (trauma) can become emotionally separated (exiled) from the own body, and a child forced from their country, with no control over her immigration (exiled), can feel traumatized by this geographical separation" (203). As a Chilean exiled, fear colonized her body through most of her life, determining her identities as refugee, exile, rape survivor and wife. Being an exiled child who suffered sexual abuse, her body becomes the repository of many kinds of violence that are filtered through the many PSTD symptoms her body underwent, ordeals which were either silenced or traumatically expressed.

Following Rossi's words, I consider Aguirre's body as an exiled, gendered, traumatized body. With that in mind, I will focus on how Aguirre's cultural body is vulnerable since she is affected by gender violence as well as by physical and psychological exile. Furthermore, I will examine how the artist reflects on the different ways in which performing interacts with trauma to heal her traumatic wounds in order to demonstrate how for the Chilean-Canadian author performing is the best resistance tool to voice the many stories experienced by oppressed people and to ensure survival.

This contribution analyses Chilean-Canadian playwright and actress Carmen Aguirre's latest autobiographical novel, Mexican Hooker#1, to examine Latina vulnerability in relation to exile, emigration, gender violence, and stereotypes, addressing the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms she suffers and the difficulties she finds on her way to heal herself and her community. Despite all the difficulties that the author meets on her way to becoming an actress, resilience is translated in Aguirre's work as a testimony to her physical and psychological wounds. Her autobiographical account offers a meditation on the extraordinary resilience of Latina exiled women. Having said that, this paper argues that resisting the vulnerability of the Latina female exiled body and voicing trauma are only possible for Aguirre through the dramatized body.

My choice of Chilean-Canadian playwright and actress Carmen Aguirre, especially her last autobiographical work, is based on her account of exile, her analysis of Latina female stereotypes, and her wide-ranging discussion of trauma and sexual violence and vulnerability. Those issues are not specific to Aguirre, but rather, they affect Latina women in general. Therefore, this book stands as a metaphor of Latina concerns throughout the Americas. It is especially important in Canada, where Chilean refugees were welcomed during Aguirre's early years in the country: "In the 1970s, Canadian trade unions had successfully worked with church groups to pressure the government to accept more Chilean refugees from Pinochet's government" (Garcia 146). It provides, thus, a focus for awareness and critical thinking about these issues. In this regard, I consider that Latina author Carmen Aguirre has not received the critical attention that she deserves. She has also published another autobiographical work devoted to her life underground titled Something Fierce, Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter (2011), and plays such as The Refugee Hotel (2010), which narrates the experiences of a group of Chilean refugees in Canada, or Blue Box (2013), a monologue performed by herself in which she talks about her acting roles as a Latina actress as well as her sexual life. …

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