Body Reflections in Latin Moon in Manhattan (Repost)

In the text we have encountered we have read about some sort of disfigurement of the body, where it is missing parts and renders it as an incomplete form. This disfigurement could be color of the skin or a person that was born with malformed or absent limbs. Where does this vision of imperfect or perfect body stem from in the Latino culture?

In Hunger of Memory, I saw that he dedicated a whole chapter to his skin and how his brownness affected the way he viewed himself in the public sphere of the education system. Richard Rodriquez notes that the color of his skin affects how he fits into different social worlds and writes that his skin color is a marker for his “mexicaness.” I got the feeling that he would have preferred to be more like his parents and siblings ambiguous as to to origins of their skin tone whereas his skin tone was directly associated to Mexico. In a way he saw this a deformity in that he could not be just known for his academic success but as an academic of color.

An extreme form of deformity in the play by Cherrie Moraga, Heroes and Saints, where we see the most powerful character have such a severe deformity that only her head is described in the play. The incomplete body is a product of the pesticides that affected the community of farm workers and was caused by the white land owners and their free use of harmful chemicals on the crops. In both cases, it is seen as a disfigurement because they do not fit the dominant white cultures form of beauty and this in ability to fit in physically can take the symbolic figure of an incomplete body.

In Latin Moon in Manhattan, Santiago describes a scene in a courtroom, where he is interpreting for a disabled young women who has a child with no extremities below the waist, which means that her son was born with no penis or definite orifice for his excrement. When the child is seen by the judge the mother has to explain why her child is the way he is:

“Fridania ran her fingers through her son’s black silky curls. “When Claus was born,” she began, “he weighed four pounds; he had a bump on his back the size of a grapefruit and …” She paused; this part was obviously very painful to her. “He was born without a penis. So the doctors told me it would be easier to turn him into a girl than to make a penis for him. They said I should raise him as a girl.” “Why didn’t you?” Warpick asked. “Why didn’t you follow the doctors’ advice?” Fridania slapped the table; Claus imitated her. “Because if God had wanted Claus to be a girl, he would have made him a girl.” “I’m a boy,” Claus shouted. “A boy, not a girl. Isn’t that right, Mommy?” “Sí, Clauscito,” his mother reassured him. Then she continued. “The worst part is that because he was born without a penis, his urine and excrement come from the same place.”

Manrique, Jaime (2003-05-01). Latin Moon in Manhattan: A Novel (Kindle Locations 2659-2668). University of Wisconsin Press. Kindle Edition.

Santiago is observing this from the sidelines as he watches as this invalid mother explains that the doctors wanted her son to be raised as a woman but GOD made him that way so she would not treat his son as a woman. I see this a direct reflection of what Santiago has to deal with when his mother insist he carries out a hetero-normative life opposed to living his life as a homosexual. Santiago even faces this pressure from his lesbian cousin who is willing to marry him all for the sake of fulfilling the expectations of the family and of their culture.

In the Latino community I see this grappling of how we view our bodies vs the mirror of society and how self acceptance is usually later in life after there is a realization that we will never fit in and will always be seen as having a queer body. Santiago attends a school where the boys have circumcised penises and when he sees that his is different, he tries to remedy the situation by trying to circumcise himself which results in a lot of pain for him. The boy in the courtroom is a representation of how Santiago feels in his life almost as he doesn’t have a penis because he doesn’t engage in sex during the book, except with a donkey and then with his hunky German neighbor. That self image is very prevalent in the text in that Santiago does a lot of self reflection of how his body looks like and how bobby’s body looked like after it was ravaged by HIV/AIDS. I see that there is a queerness as to how Manrique portrays the body in the novel.

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