Carmelita Tropicana as a humorous agent of change in “Your Kunst is your Waffen.”

“Your Kunst is your Waffen” literally means art is your weapon. In, “I, Carmelita Tropicana”, Carmelita actually lives out this statement as a daily mantra. Carmelita performs Latina stereotypes to the upmost degree as a way to poke fun at the ridiculousness and inaccurateness of them and to get through constant problems of oppression. Carmelita is humorous, expressive, and has no shame in what she wears or says. Through using “loud” Spanish that may make the audience uncomfortable in a film mostly directed to an English speaking audience in situations such as the grocery store encounter with Sophia and the cashier, the audience gets a bigger message such as “Open your eyes because Latinas come in all colors” just from the cashier saying “Coño que tacaña” (Troyano, 148). Just because the audience may not know Spanish words or may feel that speaking it is exclusive does not mean that one is not allowed to have Spanish in a film. It opens up the possibility for people to do what they want with art, where there is no dominant or special format. By pushing the audience towards discomfort, Carmelita allows them to go to places they have not been before and to analyze and reflect. Carmelita complicates stereotypes and shows that there is no one definition for who a Latino is and that they can be lesbian, performance artists, and non-normative. In “Your Kunst is your Waffen” there was a section where Carmelita and her militant feminist group members were protesting against an abortion clinic and protesting man #2 yelled: “You lezzi-commie baby-killers!” (Troyano, 146). Including this extremist statement showed the ridiculousness and bizarreness of certain individuals. While Sophia and Carmelita are insulting each other (ie. when Carmelita said “Es que tu eres un anal retentive”) (Troyano, 149), Carmelita brings in her humor when she stops the insults among her and her sister and states: “I have a vision. A mission. I am a performance artiste” (Troyano 149) all the while her body is in a funny ole style. While most people would feel saddened or angry if they were placed in jail, Carmelita just wants to sing and dance. In one of the play notes it states that Sophia looks more and more unkempt which demonstrates how she is loosening up and is being more accepting of the different values that the women had. Kinship was maintained among the group even though the women had different opinions and personalities. Another funny section was when Carmelita stated, “Lets see what I got in the Cuban bank”. This plays upon the notion of class and wealth in minorities while poking fun at it. There was also a white prisoner in the jail with the other women, which breaks the stereotype that there are only minorities in the correctional system. Not only was the white prisoner Caucasian, she was also of a low economic class. The white prisoner’s class was humorously signaled by the fact that she used a bic pen to mug Carmelita. Music also plays a big part in “Your Kunst is your Waffen” since it relays messages to the audience. “Prisioneras del Amor” was my favorite song in the film. It emphasized how oppressed women are prisoners of all types whether its prisoners of love or life, and how this oppression creates tears, but that the women are empowered so that they can exchange those tears for “strength, muscle, and sweat” and become liberated (Troyano, 165).This song serves as inspiration for all.



2 thoughts on “Carmelita Tropicana as a humorous agent of change in “Your Kunst is your Waffen.”

  1. Hi, Mary. You did a great job of illustrating how the woman transcend differences among each other in order to create a network of kinship. I was wondering what you might have to say about what the women’s differences mean. What social worlds is Sophia aligned with that seem antithetical to Carmelita’s world? What do you make of the newscaster at the rally? How about Dee’s identification with Puerto Rican women after her time in prison? Why are these differences important?

  2. Hey Mary
    I really enjoyed reading your post and I agree with a lot of your observations. I really loved how I, Carmelita Tropicana threw latinidad in the viewer/readers’ faces in many different ways. I especially admired how she poked fun at Latino stereotypes such as you said, the “Cuban bank” comment, or the manual Sophia is reading to try to get a job, or in Chicas 2000 the way she pokes fun of the stereotypes of chusmas by exaggerating everything (Troyano 155,145,93).
    I also really loved Sophia’s comment of “Open your eyes because Latinas come in all colors” to the girl who assumes that Sophia is not Latina because of her skin color (Troyano 148). This really portrays to me that even though she is really campy and pushes Latino stereotypes to their limits to kind of poke fun at them, in doing so Carmelita Tropicana is making a very serious commentary on latinidad and with her humor, Carmelita Tropicana addresses important issues and problems in the way latinidad is viewed by others and by Latinos themselves (as we can see from the girl who assumed Sophia was not Latina). I feel like I always go back to Queer Latinidad (because I love it so much!) but in her own way Carmelita brings about many of the issues that Rodriguez talks about in her book, but she makes this similar commentary about stereotypes about Latinos with her humor and camp.

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