Magazine article Americas Quarterly

Pelo Malo

Magazine article Americas Quarterly

Pelo Malo

Article excerpt

As his mother, Marta, pounds on the bathroom door, nine-year-old Junior stares at himself in the mirror, slicking his hair back with water in an effort to undo his tight curls. Junior's determination to straighten his hair so he can look like his idol, Venezuelan rock star Henry Stephen, is an ongoing source of tension with his mother-and the axis around which reflections on issues of race, gender, homophobia, and violence in contemporary Venezuela revolve in Pelo Malo, a film by Venezuelan director Mariana Rondón.

Pelo Malo, literally "bad hair," is a term used throughout Latin America to refer to curly, Afro-Latino hair. Like the term, the relationship between Junior and his mother highlights prejudices in Venezuela. Marta, an unemployed widow, breaks gender norms by persistently trying to convince her chauvinistic ex-boss to rehire her as a security guar d, a position generally held by men. …

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