The Discursive and Material Construction of Latina Sexuality
- Bernadine Marie HernándezBernadine Marie HernándezDepartment of English Language and Literature, University of New Mexico
Since the early 21st century, there has been an emergence of scholarship and theorizing of Latina sexualities within the social sciences, humanities, and interdisciplinary programs, such as Chicanx studies, Latinx studies, American studies, and feminist studies. However, cultural production has long been interrogating the way that Latina sexuality has been represented, as well as pathologized and racialized. While there is a plethora of information regarding sexuality of women in Latin America, this article deals with the discursive and material construction of Latina sexuality for US Latinas and Chicanas who were born in the United States or migrated to the United States. At the foundation, sexuality and sexuality studies has been a subcategory of LGBT studies and later queer theory. Mainly used as a signifier for identity categories, sexuality is predicated on sexual preference and romantic desires; however, it is also used to refer to identities that exceed heteronormative, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual identities. However, Latina sexuality intersects with not only race but also modes of power and control that situate it within a larger context of technologies of power. Sexuality is tied to larger power structures; therefore, Latina sexuality takes sex and sexuality out of the private sphere to help us understand the intersectional relations of race, gender, and class.
Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga brought together feminists of color to explore sexuality, gender, and class in their foundational collection This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (1981) and Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) in the context of interlocking and co-constitutive systems of oppression. Inspired by this collection of women of color writing, tatiana de la tierra, a Latina lesbian born in Colombia, published the first international Latina lesbian magazine: Esto no tiene nombre. It was distributed in the United States and Latin American and explored excessive Latina sexuality by theorizing eroticism; the magazine challenged the “Latina lesbian” stereotype. The Sexuality of Latinas (1993), edited by Norma Alarcón, Ana Castillo, and Cherríe Moraga, looks at the self-examination of five hundred years of hidden sexuality and sexual violence. In “Sexuality and Discourse: Notes From a Chicana Survivor” in Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About (1991), Emma Pérez takes sexuality as the marker of many of the problems Chicanas face. The racism and sexism Chicanas face is not the only problem, however: the racism Chicanos face adds layers of struggle to an already hostile situation. She utilizes a “conquest triangle” that builds off the Oedipus complex but adds that in addition to the white father (the colonizer) and the India mother who is imbricated in the violence of miscegenation, there is a castrated mestizo Chicano son who will never be able to be as superior as the white man. In 1987, Juanita Diaz-Coto edited and published one of the first edited collections through the Latina Lesbian History Project on Latina sexuality titled Compañeras: Latina Lesbians: An Anthology, which she published under her pseudonym Juanita Ramos. This collection featured oral histories, essays, poetry, short stories, and art by and about Latina lesbians in both Spanish and English, featuring the work of forty-seven women born in ten different Latin American countries that addressed Latina sexuality and lesbianism and also confronted the ways that culture and migration informed the enunciation of sexuality for Latinas.
The foundational and early writings of Latina and Chicana feminists laid the groundwork for our ability to contemplate and discuss Latina sexuality as racialized, gendered, transnational, and diasporic sexualities. It also sets the stage to think historically about Latinas and their bodies in relations to cultural representation, borders and migration, the family, reproductive health, and transness.