Academic journal article Centro Journal

Getting to the Colonial Status through Sexuality: Lessons on Puerto Rico's Political Predicament from Women Writers

Academic journal article Centro Journal

Getting to the Colonial Status through Sexuality: Lessons on Puerto Rico's Political Predicament from Women Writers

Article excerpt

[C]anon formation constitutes a highly politicized process; while trying to mirror the nation, the canon reveals the internal fractures that undermine its own ideal of unification. For this reason, examining a particular canon, as well as the silences created by those texts omitted from it, can reveal much about a particular culture/nation at any given historical juncture. -Marisel Moreno (2012, 16)

[El colonizado, la víctima y los marginados] existen porque existe el otro: el colonizador, el victimario, el explotador... (The colonized, the victim, and the marginalized exist because the other exists: the colonizer, the victimizer, the exploiter). -Juan Angel Silén (1996, 171)

In this essay, I would like to initiate a conversation about representations of colonized subject positions through articulations of sexuality and non-conforming expressions of gender in contemporary Puerto Rican literature. I will use a fusion of queer and Puerto Rican studies and a small sample of literature by Puerto Rican women writers to open this necessary conversation.

I begin by invoking Puerto Rico's political status as a territory of the U.S. and Frances Negrón-Muntaner's claim that Puerto Rico is one of the most "politically queer places" on earth (Negrón-Muntaner 2007, 1). Analyzing Puerto Ricans' apparent inability to decide on a political status, Negron-Muntaner deftly invokes and deploys W.E.B. Du Bois's concept of "double consciousness." As she tells us, Puerto Ricans, like other subordinated groups, are "always looking at [themselves] through the eyes of others, measuring [their] soul[s] by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity" (Negrón-Muntaner 2007, 4). She speaks of a Puerto Rican way of life that is imagined (by Puerto Ricans) "to be slightly better than that of a full-fledged US citizen, with all her rights and financial perks, and miles away from independence" (Negrón-Muntaner 2007, 6). Later in this essay I will refer to the performance of this imagined life that includes US citizenship and that is miles away from independence as "Global North drag," that is, as a performance that portrays Puerto Rico as a bona fide part of the Global North. It is the juxtaposition of looking at themselves as others see them (perhaps as nothing more than colonial subjects) while enjoying some of the perks of U.S. citizenship (without having to commit the island to either statehood or independence) that creates this Puerto Rican-specific double consciousness.

The double consciousness employed by Puerto Ricans has allowed them to ignore/brush off/justify the colonial status of the island for so long, or as NegrónMuntaner explains, to ignore the pornography of colonialism by privileging the political ambiguity (which becomes the basis for the political queerness) of Puerto Rico's status. She cites Efrén Rivera-Ramos, who contends that "Puerto Ricans are imperfectly-produced colonial subjects in and through legal discourse" (Negrón-Muntaner 2007, 6). The production of the colonial subject through legal discourse that RiveraRamos references includes decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, which during the first half of the 20 th century determined that "Puerto Rico belongs to but it is not part of the United States" (Burnett and Marshall 2001, 1). It also includes Congress, the actual entity in charge of governing Puerto Rico, which, following the stipulations of the territorial clause in the U.S. Constitution (Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2)1, has made all sorts of determinations, including granting a limited kind of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917.2

This imperfectly produced colonial subject and metropolitan citizen is, then, bound to feel at home with ambiguity, with subordinated forms of existence, and with political queerness, to use Negrón-Muntaner's concept. As she expounds, Puerto Rico's political queerness "endures not because people are indifferent to its limitations, but because it allows a wide range of individual and group identifications to coexist without completely spoiling each other" (Negrón-Muntaner 2007, 10). …

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