“I walked over to the burra he had just fucked, and what seemed like large quantities of semen oozed out of her vagina. Becoming aroused, I put my hard cock inside her.
A car door slamming brought me back to reality. Mother was back home from her bingo game,” (13).
Who has intense Mommy issues, sexual tension, and a crazy cat named Mr. O’Donnell? The main character, Santiago, in the novel Latin Moon in Manhattan, by Jaime Manrique! In the passage above, Santiago is describing his memory of his first sexual encounter at age sixteen; in Colombia, his uncle takes him to a pasture of burras and shows him how to have sex with them and gives him a burra to have sex with as well. This particle passage is fascinating to me for the following questions that ensue: who is it that Santiago is attracted to in this instance, what does the burra symbolize on a larger scale, and why does the passage end with his mother breaking into his homoerotic, coming of age, nostalgic day-dream?
I can’t help but notice that Santiago is turned on not by the burra, but by his uncle’s semen that he can see emerging from the burra; he has sex with the burra not necessarily because of his affection or desire for the animal, but for the closeness of mixing his own bodily fluids with those of his uncle. None of this is necessarily shocking, as Santiago is a gay man and isn’t interested in women, not to mention female donkeys.
As base and animalistic as “donkey love” might seem upon first encounter, I want to delve deeper into the psychological motivations behind the act; what does the burra symbolize? Lets look at the name first: burra. Not donkey, not ass, but the Spanish female noun—burra. She represents the past, the wild, nature, and also his homeland of Colombia. This one little word of identification, burra, says so much. In explaining to his mother why he can’t let his cat, Mr. O’Donnell, live outside he stops and says, ”…I realized the absurdity of trying to explain anything rationally to a Colombian,” (17). In one foul swoop, Santiago is his connecting his mother, and all Colombians, actually, with the burra—a wild animal of nature, not capable of rationality.
Just when Santiago is about to have sex in his day-dream, his mother shows up and pulls him into the present, which deviates from her usual habit of pulling him into his Colombian culture, his past. She, always referred to by Santiago as the capitalized “Mother,” plays an important role within this grown mans life. Santiago’s mother, I believe, is the burra in his life; she pops up in many of his sexual fantasies, which, naturally, scares the hell out of him. She also manifests indirectly through his nightmare; he says in relation to a bad dream he had, “…I was sure the nightmare had been caused by my mother’s Colombian cuisine,” (15). He loves Colombian food, but associates it with nightmares and blames these nightmares upon the cooks: Colombian women, his mother, chiefly. I’d like to consult the following passage in order to understand their mother/son relationship more clearly:
“That night, I slept on mother’s bed, embracing her, and when I woke up, I was kissing her, and we were both naked, panting and sweating and my penis was erect as if I had just stopped making love to her and I began to cry. I woke up, quaking. What that what had really happened? Had I made love to my mother? Or was this just an incestuous dream of unfulfilled passion? Perhaps I would never find out and even if I did, what good would it do me to know the truth?” (59).
This passage just screams “Oedipus Rex!!!!!” It is the poster child for Freudian analysis. It is the cream of the crop of incestuous stories. I won’t rehash the Oedipal story for you all, but I will include this highly entertaining theatrical vegetable version of the story. For those of you who haven’t seen this youtube video, DO NOT just scroll past this link. It is a must-watch.
Something about his relationship to his mother and her connection back to Colombia is a source of extreme pressure on Santiago. He says, “I understood that I had to move out of my mother’s house if I was ever going to accept my sexuality,” (45). That’s huge! He didn’t say ‘for her to accept my sexuality,’ or ‘to be able to admit my sexuality,’ he says, “…if I (he) was ever going to accept my (his) sexuality,” (45, my italics and parentheticals)! In order to internally and personally accept his own sexuality, Santiago acknowledged that he would have to distance himself from his mother. I am inclined to believe that this is not only because she is a constant reminder of Colombian, but also because she is a constant reminder of the pressure to be heterosexual and have desire for females, donkey or human.