Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review of Queer Ricans in E-misférica 6.2

Larry La Fountain-Stokes’ Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora
Isel Rodríguez | Arizona State University

Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora. By Larry La Fountain-Stokes. Minneapolis. London: University of Minnesota Press, 2009; 242 pp.; $22.50 paper.

As the travel of Puerto Ricans and other immigrants around the globe becomes more fluid, the bonds and borders of place and culture also widen. Changing geographies, life experiences, socio-economic and generational factors, among other things, take part in the more or less visible performance of migrating cultural identities. According to Larry La Fountain-Stokes, queer migration has usually been viewed as a minor, if not marginal issue in the general scope of migratory flows. In Queer Ricans La Fountain-Stokes takes up queerness as one of the principal instigators of Puerto Rican migration, intricately analyzing how this cultural marker is (de)articulated by LGBT writers and artists of different diasporic generations and locations within the U.S.

Culturally engrained issues of homophobia must be unpacked not only in Puerto Rican and other Latin American cultures presumed to be exceptionally homophobic, but also anywhere LGBT individuals’ sexualities are viewed as “incorrect.” However, as demonstrated by a very recent hate crime committed in Puerto Rico, the classic discourse of machismo characterizing many pan-American cultures fuels generalized exclusions of homosexuality as a “Latin” thing. This is evidenced in the ways Puerto Rican identity has been constructed within a hetero-normative discourse. As La Fountain-Stokes argues, “Openly gay, militant homosexuals and other LGBT individuals are seen as emulating foreign attitudes, posing a menace from the outside, and not necessarily behaving as Puerto Ricans are expected to” (xviii). These views extend to academia within the U.S. where queer studies strives to become a more visible field, and studies on Latino culture seem to divide at times at the point of taboo sexualities. La Fountain-Stokes makes his bold, authoritative voice heard on the topic of queer studies as he converses with and adds to the large discourse on Puerto Rican migration and identity.

In the first three chapters, La Fountain-Stokes chooses to focus on three gay writers of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s: Luis Rafael Sanchez, Manuel Ramos Otero, and Luz María Umpierre. Throughout his analysis, La Fountain-Stokes uses “outness” not only in its most conventional form to describe openly gay sexualities, but also in terms of homosexual individuals’ separation from society. In his analysis of Sanchez’s story “¡Jum!” La Fountain-Stokes delves into the complexities of language that queers, racializes, and pushes the main character’s body “out” of society.

When looking at the writings of Manuel Ramos Otero, La Fountain-Stokes points to “autobiographical fiction” as a literary convention that illuminates the author’s personal experience. The analysis creatively engages with Ramós Otero’s geographic usage and cultural metaphors of islandness as a state of solitude. Most notable in the analysis is the framing of queer Puerto Rican migration as “exile” or “sexile” rather than migration. La Fountain-Stokes examines different “stages” (in the spatial and developmental senses) of the author’s work. Each “stage” shows Ramos Otero’s transitions as a queer Puerto Rican migrant in New York—his relationships in/with the city and the relationships between the queer Diaspora, the island, and other ethnic groups as they are narrated in Ramos Otero’s writings.

In La Fountain-Stokes’ treatment of lesbian subjectivities, Luz María Umpierre is featured as a poignant protagonist in the Latina lesbian movement through her explicit representations of the Latina lesbian body in literature and the assertion of Lesbian literature as part of the larger Latina body-of-literature. In La Fountain-Stokes’ own words, Umpierre’s use of poetry “painfully” and productively “threads [diasporic women’s fragmented bodies] as individuals and as a social group” (90).

In chapter four the author more broadly compares Frances Negrón-Muntaner’s film Brincando el Charco; Rose Troche’s film Go Fish; and performance artist, novelist, and cartoonist Erica López’s Lap Dancing for Mommy and Flaming Iguanas. In this chapter La Fountain-Stokes shows the constant flux of Puerto Rican identity, especially as it constitutes a more or less important marker of a person’s being and relation with sexuality.

The end of the book proposes a new, hyphenated way to perform Ricanness as suggested by dance artist Arthur Avilés—that is, a more distanced form of acknowledgment of such a strongly national imagining. Through his analysis of Avilés and Elizabeth Marrero’s rendition of a queered-Ricanized Wizard of Oz, La Fountain-Stokes offers a “utopic” ending to the staging of queer Puerto Rican migration by considering its many variances.

La Fountain-Stokes’ attention to detail when analyzing the works, particularly the literary ones, is remarkable. The chronological progression of the pieces he looks at, as well as the framing he provides for them, gives the impression of a more graspable Puerto Rican identity in the 60’s and 70’s that begins to dilute thereafter. Queer Ricans adds a much-needed perspective on the performance of Puerto Rican (and Latino) identities in and outside of the U.S. and exposes the cracks of inclusion and exclusion implicit in the construction of these identities.

Isel Rodríguez es académica y artista de teatro y performance. Bajo la tutela de la Dra. Tamara Underiner, del programa de doctorado en Teatro y Performance de las Américas de Arizona State University, actualmente está escribiendo una tesis doctoral sobre el cuerpo como nación a través de performance individual en el contexto de Puerto Rico. Isel tiene una Maestría en Teatro y Educación de New York University y un B.A. de la Universidad de Puerto Rico.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lola, Christopher, Tom: A Single Man

Lola von Miramar is not quite sure what to say, seeing the preview to Tom Ford's glorious A Single Man has reminded her of the intensity of the film, its gripping story, the beauty and pathos of a lived life revolving around memories of beauty and sadness.

Miss von Miramar ran into Borders last Wednesday night right after seeing the film at the Michigan Theater and picked up Christopher Isherwood's fascinating eponymous novel, first published in 1964 but set in 1962. It is a fascinating read, quite different from the movie - at times, remarkably angry, particularly about the marginality of homosexuality in 1960s America. Its protagonist narrator offers a most remarkable view of American life from the multiple perspectives of an outsider: as a British foreigner; as a sexual deviant who painfully (cynically, perhaps) suggests parallels between his experience and that of many social outcasts: Blacks, Jews, Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II, the terminally ill; as an intellectual in a philistine world. Mexico and the Spanish language also play a key part in that construction of difference (of that which is not English or American, different linguistically, socially, and geographically), not to mention the imminent destruction of the world feared in the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Ford's adaptation is interesting. The film is stunningly beautiful, perhaps less cerebral and much sexier, with an added suicidal plot that does not appear in the book. Julianne Moore transforms her character (Charley, George's best friend), but her portrayal is remarkably faithful to the spirit of the novel. The film is quite simply gripping; one gets very caught up. (The music, which you can listen to on the film website, is also exquisite.) Lola gives it two thumbs up! Go see it and read the novel if you haven't!

(For an insightful review, see Manohla Dargis's piece in the New York Times.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mario Montez at Columbia University, March 31

(Click on image for larger version.)

Columbia University's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
presents its inaugural Artists at the Center event:
SUPERSTAR! A Tribute to Mario Montez

Wednesday, March 31st

Davis Auditorium, Schapiro Hall
538 West 120th Street
New York, New York 10027

10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, with a reception to follow

Superstar! is a one-day conference celebrating and discussing the career of one of New York's most gifted performers.

Born in Puerto Rico in 1935, Montez moved to New York while still a child. He first appeared on screen in Jack Smith's queer classic Flaming Creatures (1962–63). Later he became Andy Warhol's first drag superstar, starring in more than ten of his films. Montez was also a favorite of underground theater, appearing regularly in Theatre of the Ridiculous productions by Charles Ludlam, Ronald Tavel and John Vaccaro.

For the first time in 30 years, Mr. Montez will return to New York to talk about his work and life. Joining him will be Callie Angell, Douglas Crimp, Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, Ronald Gregg, Maja Horn, Branden Joseph, Agosto Machado, Ricardo Montez, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Marc Siegel, and Carmelita Tropicana.

Event Sponsors

* Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia University
* CC/SEAS Office of Multicultural Affairs, Columbia University
* Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics, New York University
* Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Columbia University
* Barnard Center for Research on Women, Barnard College
* Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Columbia University
* Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference, Columbia University
* Department of Spanish and Latin American Cultures, Barnard College
* Department of Theatre, Barnard College

Larry La Fountain in Chicago: Feb 26 and March 4

(Click on image for bigger format.)

UIC Graduate Student Conference of Hispanic Literary and Cultural Studies
February 26 & 27, 2010
University of Illinois, Chicago
1501, 1650, 1750 UH University Hall

Reading by Larry La Fountain (Uñas pintadas de azul): Friday February 26 at 4:00 pm (please note correct time)
Reading will be at Institute for the Humanities Stevenson Hall-Lower Level (UIC)

Chicago History Museum: Out at CHM 2010

Queer Latinos: Art and Change
Thursday, March 4
Cocktails at 5:30 p.m.; program at 6:30 p.m.

Join us for a fascinating exploration of Chicago’s long standing and diverse queer Latino community. Scholars Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes and Lourdes Torres share their insights on the intersection of art and political change over the last twenty-five years.

$12; $10 members and students.

To purchase tickets click here.

Queer Cultural Geographies

The 6th International Latin American Cultural Studies Conference at the University of Pittsburgh, April 1-3, 2010

Sexuality Studies and LGBT Activism in Latin America

The Sixth International Latin American Cultural Studies Conference, to be held at the University of Pittsburgh the first three days of April 2010, will gather a number of people who have been key to activism and academic work on LGBT issues in Latin America. Many of them have organized events in their countries on issues of sexual minorities and LGBT issues; many have published anthologies of queer writing and sexuality studies within their national contexts. Many of our participants have worked intensely at a national as well as at an international context, often at personal risk and in the midst of complex political situations. Their many publications have broadened and deepened our knowledge of sexual cultures throughout Latin America. Events in Caracas, Santiago de Chile, Rio de Janeiro, Havana, Montevideo, La Paz and other important cities have helped give LGBT communities a public presence, while fostering academic work on LGBT issues. This event, which will include presentations, panel discussions and readings of creative work, will bring their (and others’) experience at the local and national levels to Pittsburgh.


Tamara Adrián
Moisés Agosto-Rosario
Pedro Artieda
Jorge Bracamonte
Leopoldo Brizuela
Mauro Cabral
Norge Espinosa
Gabriel Giorgi
Adán Griego
Gabriel Guajardo
Laura Gutiérrez
Jesús Jambrina
Gisela Kozak
Virginia Lucas
Carmen Millán de Benavides
Norma Mogrovejo
Alexander Obando
Marcia Ochoa
Julieta Paredes
José Quiroga
José Fernando Serrano
Horacio F. Sívori
Juan Pablo Sutherland

For more information see

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

GRRRRRRLLLLFRIEND! Ms. Johnny Weir Rocks on Ice!

This is just a most delightful ice skating routine by Olympian and reality TV star Johnny Weir, to Miss Lady Gaga no less! Fraulein Lola von Miramar is just loving it!!! You go, Johnny! (Follow her on Twitter! 13,246 people can't be wrong...)

Tato Laviera - Without a Home

(From Stephanie Alvarez)

For those of you who are familiar with the amazing work of Nuyorican poet Tato Laviera you may or may not know that Tato in recent years has been suffering with diabetes, dialysis, and blindness. I share the sad news that in December he suffered a cerebral problem resulting in him having a shunt placed in his brain. After leaving the hospital he was kicked out of his apartment. With no steady source of income he now finds himself without a home. Please read the following New York Times article on his situation.

We are trying to raise approximately $4000 so that he may put a deposit on an apartment, please consider sending a donation, however modest, to help him get back on his feet. In the long term please consider bringing him to your campus to do a reading. I have spoken to his sister and she assures me that he is healthy enough to do readings. If you are interested in having him do a reading he usually requests an honorarium of $2000.

You can send a personal donation to:

Jesus Laviera
c/o Sanchez-Ramos
225 E. 93rd St. Apt. 8 H
NY NY 10128

Thank you, Stephanie Alvarez

Dr. Stephanie M. Alvarez
Assistant Professor
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

University of Texas-Pan American

Photo credit: Librado Romero/The New York Times

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reading at Ohio State University on Feb 25!

LASER: Latino & Latin American Studies space for Enrichment and Research
Ohio State University, Columbus
Author Reading:
Larry La Fountain-Stokes
(See original posting here.)

February 25, 2010
3:30 pm to 5:00 pm-- 255 Hagerty Hall

On February 25, from 3:30 to 5pm in 255 Hagerty Hall, the Latino & Latin American Studies space for Enrichment and Research (LASER) presents author Larry La Fountain-Stokes reading from and discussing his short story collection Uñas Pintadas de Azul.

Join us earlier that day, Thursday, February 25, from Noon to 1 pm for a lunchtime discussion with Larry La Fountain-Stokes. 2174 Smith Labs, 174 W 18th Ave.

Read some of Larry La Fountain-Stokes’ work here.

Queer Ricans: los que se quedan y los que “sexilan”

Blog por Beatriz Ramírez Betances. Ver aquí.

El jueves 11 de febrero fui a la presentación del libro Queer Ricans del profesor, teórico y crítico de estudios Latinos y de género Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes. Larry, como le decimos los que lo conocemos y todo el que habla con él más de una vez, ya había presentado su libro en varias ciudades universitarias en los Estados Unidos. Esta semana nos tocó a nosotros celebrar la presentación del mismo.

La presentación fue en el Nuyorrican’s Café en el viejo San Juan y la auspició la Librería Mágica de Río Piedras. (Corrección: El evento fue auspiciado por el Colectivo Literario Homoerótica.) El Nuyorrican’s se ha caracterizado en los últimos años por colaborar con su espacio con librerías locales del área metro, como la Tertulia y la misma Librería Mágica. El bar funciona porque, al tener escenario y una isla central, puede moldearse a un ambiente íntimo que se presta tanto para la discusión tipo panel, como para la inclusión de música o baile en la presentación.

Y así fue, el bailarín Norberto Gabriel comenzó la presentación con una interpretación de baile. Su danza conceptual que empezó dinámicamente la tertulia de la noche. En la misma el danzante iba, poco a poco, ampliando su espacio, utilizando cada vez más del escenario, hasta que al final saltaba del mismo y expandía, más allá de la cuarta pared, el área de su arte.

Luego, la Dra. Catherine Marsh Kennerley, de la UPR, leyó el ensayo que el crítico literario Rubén Ríos Ávila había preparado para esa noche. Ríos Ávila no pudo asistir por estar enfermo. El ensayo de Ríos Ávila vincula la propuesta del libro de Larry con movimientos de derechos LGBT en Estados Unidos y con la situación particular puertorriqueña del migrante de la Isla a la metrópolis. En su ensayo, Ríos Ávila narra cómo, a principios de la década del 1990, al ver un grafiti de Queer Nation en Christopher St. en Nueva York, por un momento pensó que se trataba de un movimiento de independentistas boricuas maricones.

Esta confusión momentánea es una forma muy perspicaz de acercar a los que estábamos allí al libro de La Fountain. Éste es un estudio de escritores y artistas puertorriqueños que, por razones de su preferencia sexual o su identificación de género, se exilan de la Isla. También, trata sobre las posibilidades que encuentran puertorriqueños de segunda generación en manejar su identidad queer y cómo sólo la pueden encontrar fuera de la Isla. A este fenómeno, el de una recreación de la comunidad puertorriqueña en la diáspora, bajo el estandarte “queer”, La Fountain le llama el “sexilio”. Entonces, la “confusión” que sintiera Ríos Ávila no fue tal cosa, sino una premonición.

Luego, la Dra. Marsh habló del panel sobre el libro que el conglomerado de estudios de la Mujer y el Género tenían planeado para el día siguiente en la UPR. La Dra. Marsh recalcó el valor intelectual del mismo y cómo éste era una contribución necesaria, tanto para los estudios de género, como para los estudios de la diáspora puertorriqueña.

La Fountain en su libro sobre los escritores Luis Rafael Sánchez, Manuel Ramos Otero, Luz María Umpierre, las cineastas Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Rose Troche, la artista y escritora Erika López y los bailarines Arthur Avilés y Elizabeth Marrero. En la presentación, La Fountain se enfocó en Manuel Ramos Otero y Luz María Umpierre como ejemplos del corazón de su trabajo. Quiere con su libro que un escritor como Ramos Otero, tan conocido acá, se conozca más en Estado Unidos y que una escritora tan reconocida allá como Luz María Umpierre, sea más conocida acá. Comparó a ambos en cuanto a cómo tratan el tema del “sexilio” en sus escritos y declamó, con mucha intensidad, algunos de sus poemas.

Mientras Larry hablaba y declamaba los poemas de Umpierre y Ramos Otero, el artista gráfico y performero Freddie Mercado hacía teatro imagen detrás de él. De hecho, llegar esa noche al Nuyorrican a ver la presentación del libro era encontrarse primeramente con la figura monstruosa concebida por Mercado: un híbrido de ojos y lenguas, con una faz amenazante, acompañado de su contraparte. Uno era “hipo” y el otro era “cresía” y juntos, bueno, ya saben. El atuendo que tenía Mercado, confeccionado por él como es usual, era una cabeza enorme que le llegaba hasta los muslos, llena de ojos que la rodeaban por todas partes. Por orejas tenía lenguas y donde estaría la boca le salía una larga lengua fálica que coincidía con la parte púbica de Mercado.

Bajo la cabeza del monstruo, llevaba dos pantimedias de malla, una encima de la otra, y ambas con varios agujeros. El cuerpo de Freddie se presta a la androginia y, en esta ocasión, le estaba sacando partido completo durante la lectura de Larry. La colaboración de Larry y Freddie no es nueva. Hace unos años ya que Larry le sigue los pasos a Freddie y ha escrito varios ensayos y artículos sobre su arte y sus instalaciones.

Ver a Freddie Mercado en la presentación del libro de La Fountain me hizo pensar en cómo negocian su espacio y su identidad no sólo los que acuden al “sexilio” sino los que se quedan. La trayectoria de Freddie, a través de los últimos 20 años, ha sido muy productiva, pero muy poco reconocida fuera de unos pocos círculos. Ya es hora de que se le valore más. Es parecido a cómo a Luis Rafael Sánchez, uno de los autores discutidos en Queer Ricans, se le conoce por sus escritos sobre raza e identidad, pero no por los que tratan de género e identidad sexual.

Ya al final, Larry cantó par de canciones del musical “Super Maéva de Oz”, de Arthur Avilés y Elizabeth Marrero. Su interpretación de la canción “Somewhere over the kitchen” nos transportó a todos a ese espacio ideal del Queer Nation Boricua que imaginó unos segundos Rubén Ríos una noche fría de los 1990 en Christopher St.

foto cortesía de University of Minnesota Press.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Literatura "open-minded"

El libro Queer Ricans estudia historias de inmigrantes homosexuales en Estados Unidos.
Foto: Suministrada

February 12, 2010
Por: Víktor Rodríguez-Velázquez
De: Diálogo
(Ver artículo aquí.)
(Artículo publicado en Diálogo Digital.)

El Programa de la Mujer y el Género de la Universidad de Puerto Rico en Río Piedras presentó durante la mañana del viernes, al autor Lawrence La Fontain-Stokes y su libro Queer Ricans; texto que sirve de apertura a polémicas sobre la construcción de identidades homosexuales de puertorriqueños emigrantes a los Estados Unidos.

La actividad, que también contó con el respaldo del Departamento de Estudios Hispánicos de la Universidad, sirvió de encuentro para que estudiantes y profesores aclaran dudas en torno a temas sobre teoría queer, literatura de las minorías y la participación de las universidades en temas de vanguardia como: estudios de género, sexualidad y estudios culturales.

En la discusión también estuvieron presentes las doctoras Catherine Marsh Kenerley y Carmen Luisa González del departamento de Estudios de la Mujer y Género, así como la doctora Agnes Lugo-Ortiz, catedrática asociada del Departamento de Español y Portugués de Dartmouth College en Chicago. (Corrección:Debe decir Universidad de Chicago en Chicago.)

Luego de los saludos protocolares, la actividad dio inicio con una breve explicación acerca de cómo fue construido el texto, desde sus inicios como trabajo de tesis doctoral del profesor La Fountain-Stokes; hasta el momento en que es publicado como parte de la literatura queer.

Según el autor la idea de trabajar con este tema durante los años noventa era algo un poco difícil “por las diversas ideas que guardan las instituciones universitarias cuando se trabajan con estos temas que pueden genera grandes polémicas”.

“Yo pensaba que la publicación de este libro me iba a dejar sin empleo, sin embargo no fue así”, destacó el autor a quien no se le permitió vender su libro dentro de los predios del Recinto de Río Piedras.

No obstante, este tipo de trabas en la difusión de sus investigaciones no desalientan al escritor, pues aún así sus hallazgos e ideas van a imprenta para que- tal vez en sectores más reducidos- se lean.

“Pertenezco a un grupo de personas que nos propusimos cambiar el estudios de la emigración a los Estados Unidos”, senteció el académico.

Por otra parte, el también profesor de estudios latinos del Programa de Cultura Americana de la Universidad de Michigan, describió su experiencia durante el proceso de estructuración de esta investigación como un proceso largo y fascinante, donde pudo desarrollar sus intereses metodológicos de investigación en el tema de la emigración puertorriqueña.

De igual manera, tanto la profesora Marsh Kennerley como la profesora Lugo-Ortiz reconocieron la labor del escritor por ser el primer texto que sirve de apertura hacia una temática de la cultura puertorriqueña gay en los Estados Unidos.

“Queer Ricans es un texto que abre muchos debates y obliga al lector a pensar en una cultura alternativa que es sumamente marginada”, opinó la profesora López-Ortiz.

Asimismo, esta educadora reaccionó muy apenada por el hecho de que se tenga que recurrir a la literatura o el arte para lograr un espacio de negociación donde se pueda hacer un reclamo al Estado para que reconozca esta minoría como parte intrínseca de la ciudadanía.

Embajador de los Queer Ricans

El libro Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora nació en la tesis doctoral que su autor Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes hizo en la Universidad de Columbia, en Nueva York. (Suministrada)

jueves, 11 de febrero de 2010
Carmen Graciela Díaz / Para Primera Hora
(ver artículo aquí)

Navegar por la Internet y buscar su nombre equivale a encontrar diversas entradas que rotulan a Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes como un performero, autor y académico gay puertorriqueño. El adjetivo gay de la mano de su nombre no le incomoda para nada, dice. Por el contrario, es una honra.

“A mucho orgullo siempre me identifico como investigador y autor gay puertorriqueño porque es verdad. Corresponde a mi realidad pero también a mi proyecto político y cultural, que es el de darle más visibilidad al tema, de hablar abiertamente sobre la sexualidad y sobre las intersecciones de diferentes identidades”, expresa La Fountain en su misión de darle visibilidad a realidades como la suya.

Y con su más nueva entrega a los lectores, La Fountain optó por continuar su encomienda y condensar en las páginas de Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora (University of Minnesota Press) un compendio de historias personales y de obras creativas que versan sobre cómo la sexualidad matizó sus circunstancias en los Estados Unidos.

El libro y el autor tienen su presentación esta noche -auspiciada por el Colectivo Literario Homoerótica- en el Nuyorican Café, e imprimen su presencia mañana en un conversatorio, auspiciado por el Programa de Estudios de la Mujer y Género de la Facultad de Estudios Generales, en la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras.

Por medio de este texto, La Fountain quiso “explorar la manera en que los artistas puertorriqueños que viven principalmente en los Estados Unidos han documentado el tema de la migración por causas sexuales” porque para el sanjuanero “la sexualidad ha sido un factor importante que ha motivado y afectado la experiencia de los puertorriqueños que migran”.

Queer Ricans es el vehículo que La Fountain utiliza para trazar un relato sociocultural sobre el cual la comunidad puertorriqueña gay, lesbiana, bisexual y transgénero se ha enmarcado en el territorio estadounidense. Así las cosas, el autor discurre sobre la obra y experiencias de diversos escritores, como Luis Rafael Sánchez, Manuel Ramos Otero, Luz María Umpierre, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Rose Troche, Erika López, y la danza teatro de Arthur Avilés y Elizabeth Marrero.

“Históricamente, los estudios de la migración puertorriqueña se enfocaban en razones económicas o políticas, [...] pero no discutían cómo el ser homosexual afecta la experiencia del inmigrante puertorriqueña cuando llega a los Estados Unidos”, detalla el catedrático asociado del departamento de Lenguas y Literaturas Romance y del programa de Cultura Americana de la Universidad de Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Conocer para tolerar

La Fountain -quien partió de Puerto Rico en el 1986- ilustra que “la palabra ‘sexilio’ es una combinación de sexo y exilio, [...] que se ha estado usando para hablar de este tipo de emigración; una provocada por la sexualidad del individuo que le causa una serie de angustias, persecución, y entonces decide ir a un lugar distinto para poder vivir su vida”.

¿Significa eso que es más fácil que la población queer parta a desarrollar su arte a los Estados Unidos que en su propia isla? No necesariamente...

En los 60 y 70 era más fácil que los homosexuales y lesbianas hablaran sin tapujos sobre su identidad sexual fuera de la Isla, según La Fountain, pero entiende que dicha discusión en el país ha madurado, aun teniendo en las espaldas una tragedia como el reciente asesinato del joven Jorge Steven López. Aún queda mucho por documentar y narrar, y por eso La Fountain insistió en que su obra y este libro son un puente entre realidades que ameritan difundirse.

“Un poco para que los puertorriqueños en Puerto Rico conozcan más a personas como Luz María Umpierre y Arthur Avilés, y para que personas en los Estados Unidos conozcan más a personas como Luis Rafael Sánchez o Manuel Ramos Otero”, concluye.

Para más detalles sobre la presentación del libro y el conversatorio, llama al 787-764-0000 ext. 2063, o escribe a

¡No te lo pierdas!

Esta noche, a las 8:00 p.m.

Presentación del libro por el profesor Rubén Ríos Ávila con intervenciones artísticas por el bailarín Norberto Gabriel y el performero Freddie Mercado Velázquez, en Nuyorican Café, en el Viejo San Juan

Mañana, a las 10:00 a.m.

Conversatorio moderado por la Dra. Catherine Marsh Kennerley junto con las doctoras Carmen Luisa González y Agnes Lugo Ortiz, en el Seminario Federico de Onís, Facultad de Humanidades de la Universidad de Puerto Rico en Río Piedras

Sunday, February 7, 2010

¡Queer Ricans en San Juan, Puerto Rico!

Están todas y todos invitadas/os a dos eventos sobre Queer Ricans esta semana:

jueves, 11 de febrero: Presentación de Queer Ricans auspiciada por el Colectivo Literario Homoerótica, con presentación por Rubén Ríos Avila e intervenciones artísticas por el bailarín Norberto Gabriel y el artista y performero Freddie Mercado Velázquez, Nuyorican Café, Calle San Francisco #312 (entrando por el callejón), Viejo San Juan, 7:30 pm.

(Saldrá artículo sobre el libro en el periódico Primera Hora el jueves 11 de febrero.)

viernes, 12 de febrero: Conversatorio con Larry La Fountain-Stokes acerca de su libro Queer Ricans. Con: Carmen Luisa González, Agnes Lugo-Ortiz y Catherine Marsh. Auspicia el Programa de Estudios de la Mujer y Género. Donde: Seminario Federico de Onís de la Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, 10:00 am.

La Teta Asustada (Milk of Sorrow)

Trailer de la película peruana dirigida por Claudia Llosa sobre una muchacha, Fausta, que tiene LA TETA ASUSTADA, una enfermedad que se trasmite por la leche materna de las mujeres que fueron violadas o maltratadas durante la guerra del terrorismo en el Perú. Nominada para el Oscar por mejor película extranjera. En quechua y español. La protagonista Magaly Solier piensa ir a la ceremonia de los Oscares en traje típico (ver noticia aquí).

Trailer for the Peruvian film MILK OF SORROW, about a young woman who suffers from "frightened tit", an illness transmitted through the maternal milk of women who were raped or abused during the terrorist war in Perú. Nominated for best foreign film Oscar. In Quechua and Spanish.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

¡Lola quiere un tatuaje de Polvo de Gallina Negra!

¡Lola está descolocada y turulata y no es sólo porque acaba de regresar de haber llevado su carrito Gloria Evangelina a que la lavaran! (Los muchachos del car wash eran de lo más monos...) Es que Lola acaba de ver los bellos tatuajes que su amiga del alma Maris Bustamante se hizo en San Francisco, California, con unas acómplices feministas!

Maris es la cofundadora con su cuate Mónica Mayer del colectivo mexicano Polvo de Gallina Negra. Maris lo cuenta todo sobre la experiencia de los tatuajes en su blog Pías para los impíos. ¡También pueden ver el fabuloso video abajo! (¡Está en inglés pero las imágenes hablan por sí solas!)

¡¡¡Lola también quiere ser una miembra honoraria de Polvo de Gallina Negra!!!

Como siempre, las quiere su servidora,

Lola von Miramar

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Diasporican Legacy" (article published in Gay City News)

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes rescues one icon, but otherwise lost in translation

Gay City News. Link to article here. (Corrected version here.)

Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 2:29 PM CST

“I couldn’t stand the repressive atmosphere of Puerto Rico,” the gay writer Manuel Ramos Otero once told an interviewer in explaining his decision to move from the island. “I had realized that New York was a city where I could live without feeling persecuted all the time. In Puerto Rico, I felt too much persecution because of the openness of my sexuality.”

Ramos Otero (1948-1990), considered one of the most significant modern writers in Puerto Rico’s rich century and a half literary history, put his homosexuality at the center of his poetry and fiction. Yet his name is virtually unknown to students of modern gay literature because so little of it has been translated.

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, a self-described “gay Puerto Rican scholar, writer, and activist” who teaches Latina/o Studies at the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan, performs a service by rescuing Ramos Otero from this undeserved obscurity in his new book, “Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora.” He devotes nearly a third of his book to Ramos Otero.

La Fountain-Stokes writes that Ramos Otero’s work is even “overlooked in Latin America because of the peripheral status of Puerto Rico, marginalized in the United States because of the author’s racialized, subaltern, or colonial Puerto Ricanness and Spanish-language use; belittled in the Caribbean because of the author’s homosexuality and exile up north; and looked upon with suspicion everywhere because of his openly militant gay liberationist and feminist politics.”

In one cycle of poems entitled “Epitafios” (“Epitaphs”), included in Ramos Otero’s 1985 collection “El libro de la muerte” (“The Book of Death”), the self-exiled island poet has verses dedicated to such gay literary icons as Federico Garcia Lorca, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Constantine Cavafy, and, above all, the great Spanish poet Luis Cernuda, whom La Fountain-Stokes identifies as “one of Ramos Otero’s most important literary precursors” and makes central to his analysis of the Puerto Rican’s work.

Cernuda, who took his inspiration from another queer icon, André Gide, was part of Spain’s so-called “Generation of ’27” of writers and artists, which included Lorca, who emerged prominently in the mid to late 1920s; in fact, it was in ’27 that Cernuda published his bold collection “Los Placeres Prohibidos” (“Forbidden Pleasures”), a surrealist exploration of same-sex desire. One of his gay-themed poems was cited by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in his 2005 speech to the Spanish Parliament on the day it legalized gay marriage, undoubtedy the most remarkable speech in favor of full equality for those with same-sex hearts ever delivered by a head of government anywhere. Cernuda chose exile from Franco’s fascist dictatorship after the assassination of Lorca and took himself to France, Scotland, and California before finally settling in Mexico.

Ramos Otero moved to New York City to flee Puerto Rican homophobia the year before Stonewall, living there until his death from AIDS in 1990. He taught at Rutgers, York College, and Lehman College and founded a small (and short-lived) publishing house, El libro viaje (The Book Trip), which published his only and “highly experimental” novel, the 1976 “La novelabingo” (“The Bingo Novel”).

In an essay on Cernuda, Ramos Otero wrote that “his poetic vocation always occurs in the margin and comes from the margin, from the border between the truths that feed his desire from an existence stuck in tradition.” Ramos Otero’s fiction is also located in the margins of society. His mid-’70s short story “Historia ejemplar del esclavo y el señor” (“Exemplary Story of the Slave and the Master”), about gay sado-masochism, created one of “the most notorious scandals in Puerto Rican literary history,” according to La Fountain-Stokes.

To further illustrate the marginality at the heart of Ramos Otero’s work, La Fountain-Stokes provides lengthy synopses and analyses of his short stories, many of them semi-autobiographical and frequently located at the edges of New York’s gay sub-culture, a world of drugs, hustlers, prostitution, and the dark sexual playgrounds that were the rotting piers of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea waterfront in the ’70s and ’80s.

Another of La Fountain-Stokes’ major subjects, the lesbian poet, scholar, and human rights activist Luz Maria Umpierre, like Ramos Otero also migrated to New York while in her 20s, in 1974. (Correction: She migrated to Philadelphia in 1974.) She has said, “Like the majority of Puerto Rican gay and lesbian writers in the USA, I left because of persecution — even from the police — for my sexual preference.” But she did not come out in print until relatively late, in her “dramatic” 1987 fourth poetry collection, “The Margarita Poems.” Before that, she concentrated her work on community poverty and the working class, and the condition of women in general.

Some of La Fountain-Stokes’ readings of Umpierre’s poetry are rather contestable. Her poem “Maria Christina,” he writes, “seems an authorial self-projection of Umpierre,” and regarding the line “I do fix all leaks in my faucets,” he says that this “phrase can be seen as an oblique allusion to masturbation, yet Umpierre has stated that it is not a sexual metaphor but rather a reference to women’s technical mastery and skills.” Well, surely she should know better, shouldn’t she?

The filmmakers Rose Troche (“Go Fish,” “Bedrooms and Hallways,” “The Safety of Objects”) and Frances Negron-Muntaner (“Brincado el charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican”) and the cartoonist, writer, and performance artist Erika Lopez (whose fiction includes “Lap Dancing for Mommy” and “Hoochie Mama: The Other White Meat/La otra carne blanca”) get lumped together in one chapter as “three diasporic Puerto Rican queer women artists who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s.”

And the book also looks briefly at the work of two other performance artists — Arthur Aviles, a former lover of the noted choreographer Bill T. Jones and a member of his dance troop, who was hailed by the New York Times in 2003 as “one of the great modern dancers of the last 15 years” and went on to found his own avant-garde Arthur Aviles Typical Theater, which stages “dance-plays” at its home in the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance; and Elizabeth Marrero, whose one-woman shows have “a variety of characters in a style reminiscent of John Leguizamo’s early work, but with a butch Puerto Rican lesbian twist.”

I was looking forward to reading “Queer Ricans,” but was greatly disappointed. This book is essentially La Fountain-Stokes’ PhD thesis, and has all the faults of the worst of the genre — it is larded with arcane academic buzzwords and concepts; filled with name-dropping of the work of obscure scholars designed to display the graduate student’s erudition but whose content goes unexplained; and has many prolix sentences and paragraphs so embarrassingly bad in their construction as to make one weep for the dead trees sacrificed to this book’s publication. Although he is the author of a recently published book of short stories, “Uñas pintadas de azul/Blue Fingernails” (Bilingual Press, 2009), in “Queer Ricans” he displays little grasp of narrative and his prose is often quite heavy slogging indeed.

Nor can the book be taken as a survey of all that is best in what one critic has called “Diasporican” queer culture. For example, mentioned only in passing are such major queer Puerto Rican writers as Edwin Sanchez, arguably the most important gay Puerto Rican playwright currently working in the American theater (his “Clean” won the American Theater Critics’ 1995 award for Best New Play); the bisexual playwright Miguel Piñero (1946-1988), whose life was portrayed in Cuban-American director Leon Ichaso’s 2001 Hollywood film “Piñero” with Benjamin Bratt in the title role; or the bisexual poet and anthologist Miguel Algarin (b. 1941), founder of the renowned Nuyorican Poets Café, where he still serves as executive producer, and whose acclaimed 1997 collection of poems, “Love is Hard Work,” chronicles his living with HIV. Aldo Alvarez, the short-story writer who edits the well-regarded online queer fiction magazine Blithe House Quarterly (, is mentioned only in an obscure footnote.

Finally, the horrific November 2009 murder in Puerto Rico of the 19-year college student and gay activist Jorge Steven López Mercado, who was beheaded, castrated, and burned in a hate crime, shows that the violent homophobia that drove so many queer writers from the island is still much too rampant, although La Fountain-Stokes’ book is seriously blind to this fact. But what has changed in Puerto Rico is the existence of a large and vibrant LGBT movement that responded to young López Mercado’s assassination with an enormous demonstration in San Juan that drew tens of thousands of participants. Curiously for a self-described “activist,” La Fountain-Stokes in his book shunts aside the crucial role of Puerto Rican queer activism both there and here in creating the public space and audience for the cultural productions he chronicles.

For further exploration of good Puerto Rican queer writing, anyone lucky enough to read Spanish would do well to obtain a copy of the first-ever Puerto Rican LGBT anthology, “Los Otros Cuerpos: Antologia de Tematica Gay, Lesbica y Queer Desde Puerto Rico y Su Diaspora,” edited by David Caleb Acevedo (Editorial Tiempo Nuevo, 2007). It is still in print but unfortunately not sold by Amazon, so it must be ordered from bookstores in Puerto Rico like Liberia Isla ( It includes work by Ramos Otero, Moises Agosto, Rubén Ríos Ávila, Luz María Umpierre, and Nemir Matos-Cintrón.

Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at

Complete Information:


Cultures and Sexualities

in the Diaspora

By Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes

University of Minnesota Press

242 pages, $22.50

CORRECTIONS: I have corrected several mistakes in the above article (as it appears online). One is the spelling of Luis Cernuda, which appeared as "Cernada" (sic). Another is the city where Luz María Umpierre migrated to in 1974: she went to Philadelphia, not New York. Finally, I corrected a typo in the title of my book, which is "Diaspora", not "Disapora" (sic).--Larry La Fountain-Stokes