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Peace and love nations make celebrations

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.

 

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Playwright’s choice of major characters within “Short eyes”

First I will begin with a short profile on the characters in “Short eyes”:

Julio (cupcakes) Mercado-Puerto Rican. 21 years old. Youngest jail member and because of this he is the one that is longed for the most by the prisoners.

Ben Jefferson (Ice)- Black man in his late 20’s.

J.J. Johnson (El Raheem)- Gets through jail through religion. When I say religion I do not mean any established religion, but what he defines as his own reality about the “original black man”. Brings in human kindness into the jail setting when he does not kill Clark Davis.

Omar Blinker- Black Amateur boxer in his mid-20’s. Has been in jail for a long time. Likes to benefit from people’s stuff such as cigarettes.

Charlie “Longshoe” Murphy- Tough, white Irishman. Mid 20’s. Drug dealer within the jail “in order to survive in a world of Puerto Ricans and blacks” (xii, Camillo) Has a lot of bitterness towards Clark Davis.

Clark Davis- Alleged child rapist. Early 20’s. Emotionally disturbed. Incorrectly identified by accuser and was placed in jail.

Paco Pascual- Puerto Rican. Early 30’s. Drug addict, flamboyant, longs for love to help him get through jail.

Mr. Brown- Officer in house of detention

Sergeant Morrison-Officer in house of detention.

Juan Otero- Puerto Rican. Early 30’s.

Mr. Frederick Nett- Old white prison guard. Late 40’s.

Captain Allard-Officer in the house of detention.

The variety of races and point of views of the jail members present in the play is interesting. Here we have Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and an Irish. The members of each racial group also do not all act the same as the others within their racial group do. For example, we have Juan who is a Puerto Rican, serious and sympathetic jail member, while Paco is a carefree, flamboyant Puerto Rican jail member. Within the African American group we have El Raheem who does not kill Clark Davis out of humaneness, while we have Omar who is holding Clark Davis captive and is inciting Longshoe to kill him. We have characters with different yearnings, which include yearnings for sex, youth, religion, material goods, freedom, and love. This polarity of characters very much reflects the polarity of people in grand society. The differences in the jail mates also contribute to their survival because each person contributes what their personalities and uniqueness have to offer whether that is characterized with fighting, insulting, entertaining, educating, and caring. It is also interesting that Captain Allard assumes that the only white jail mate (besides Clark Davis) would not kill Clark Davis when in actually Longshoe did do so. It is also interesting that while jail members have done crimes that range from drug trafficking to stealing to murdering, they see rape as the lowest of the lowest crime to possibly commit. I wonder what sets rape apart from murder etc and who creates this hierarchy?

“Short eyes” is a great play that has allowed me to see an example of a prison culture and prison life, and the way that jail members interact as a community. I have always thought of prison as a place empty of culture and morals and just filled with anger, sadness, and violence with no community. Many times the media and society makes it seem as if prisoners have completely lost all humanness and are just undeserving of living in society. But the fact of the matter is that prisoners are also humans. Camillo states that Clark Davis’ death comes from “the rigidity of social values and morals in the prison world, because the values we witness in the play are the same as those of the outside world, but more intensified” (xii, Camillo). One would think that a prison would be the last place to foster morals since many of the prisoners don’t abide by social values, but like Camillo says, a prison “is a society within a society” (xiii, Camillo). “Short eyes” is a tragic play about jail members who decided to take matters into their hands and take away the life of someone who they thought committed the worst of the worst crime, although they come to find out that the person they killed did not actually commit the crime. It is also about corrupt power in the case of Captain Nett and Captain Allard who hid the crime committed against Clark. Even through it all, the jail members, especially Cupcakes, question the violent act they committed which demonstrates the presence of morals even in a hostile environment like a prison.