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What happens inside Latin American prisons? How does the social organisation of prisoners relate to the political struct

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Table of contents :
Cover
Contents
List of Figures
Acknowledgements
Introduction
1 The Punitive and the Lettered City: The Politics of Prison Writing
2 ‘We Are the Men without Women’: Hegemonic Masculinity and the Hegemony of the Prison
3 Heterotopia, Utopia, Necrotopia: Sovereignty and Struggle in the Peruvian Prison
4 Prison Writing and the War on Drugs
Beyond the Prison
Bibliography
Index
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Prison Writing of Latin America
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Prison Writing of Latin America

Prison Writing of Latin America Joey Whitfield

BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA BLOOMSBURY, BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in the United States of America 2018 Copyright © Joey Whitfield,2018 Cover design: Eleanor Rose Cover image © Paula Luttringer All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any thirdparty websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: ePDF: eBook:

978-1-5013-3462-7 978-1-5013-3460-3 978-1-5013-3461-0

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CONTENTS

List of Figures Acknowledgements

Introduction

vi vii

1

1 The Punitive and the Lettered City: The Politics of Prison Writing

29

2 ‘We Are the Men without Women’: Hegemonic Masculinity and the Hegemony of the Prison

65

3 Heterotopia, Utopia, Necrotopia: Sovereignty and Struggle in the Peruvian Prison

107

4 Prison Writing and the War on Drugs

147

Beyond the Prison

181

Bibliography Index

188 200

LIST OF FIGURES

1.1 José León Sánchez in 1950, apparently aged 19, from La isla de los hombres solos. Barcelona: Novaro, 1976 3.1

¡Calurosa recepción! Anonymous sendero artist

36 132

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would not have been able to finish this book without the support of a great number of people. I must begin by thanking everyone from the Centre of Latin American Studies in Cambridge who made up an extremely supportive community, in particular Cherie Elston, Rebecca Jarman, Geoff Maguire, Emily Baker, Dunja Fehimovic, Niall Geraghty, Rachael Randall, Mara Polgovsky, Juan Pablo Scarfi, Ed King, Catriona McCallister and Chandra Morrison. Thanks to the teachers at CLAS who have advised me at different stages, in particular Marta Magalhães Wallace, Fabienne Viala, Lila Caimari, Aída Hernández, and to my thesis advisors Joanna Page and Geoffrey Kantaris. Julie Coimbra deserves really enormous thanks for offering endless advice on reading and contacts and for cancelling many a library fine. Special mention must be made to the sartorially gifted Sam Mather. Thanks to Lucy McMahon, Gloria Dawson, Ben Quarshie and Danny Evans all of whom also read sections and had suggested changes of different kinds along the way. Lucy, in particular, read more than anyone else and brought many ideas I wouldn’t have had by myself. Thanks to Federico López Terra and Javier López Alós for their encouragement and advice, especially Javier for his patient checking of the Spanish. I am also grateful to my examiners Geoffrey Kantaris and Phil Swanson for their insightful comments. I am indebted to the authors of some of these texts, José León Sánchez and Dante Castro, for meeting me and giving me their time. I thank all those who helped me during periods of fieldwork, in particular the prisoner rights campaigners Ramiro and Julio Llanos for putting me up and answering a lot of questions. Thanks to Annie Ring and Emily McTernan for their tireless encouragement and friendship. Thanks to the many inmates of 9 Adams Road, especially Bebe and Felix Geen, Helen Holmes, Decca Muldowney, Robin Cunnah and the late great Cathie and Rosemary Summers for teaching me a companionship, the like of which I will never know again. Thanks also to my parents Julie and Mike and my sister Franny for being emotionally supportive at the most difficult times. Special thanks to my little sister Grace who read sections and provided stimulating intellectual engagement.

viii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Above all, I owe a great debt to my teacher Rory O’Bryen without whose encouragement I would certainly never have done any post-grad work. To Natasha Tanna for the incalculable amount she’s done to help this get finished. And for everything else. Translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.

Introduction

Empeoro, es necesario que yo escriba y publique este libro, no porque mis penas, tan mal expresadas, puedan interesar a nadie y mucho menos hacer prodigio de emociones como las novelas sentimentales. ¡No! Es necesario que yo haga de mis tormentos, un PUÑADO de estiércol y lo lance a la cara de Juan Vicente Gómez y cómplices, no como un reto ni como una venganza, sino como el postrer gesto desesperado de la rebeldía, como el último escupitajo fecal que un mártir lanza a la cara de todos los tiranos y de todos los cobardes sicofantes de la libertad que lo condecoran, apoyan y toleran.1 What’s worse, it is necessary for me to write and publish this book, not because my sufferings, so badly expressed, will interest anyone, much less produce any spectacular emotions in the manner of sentimental novels. No! It is necessary for me to transform my torments into a FISTFUL of shit thrown in the face of Juan Vicente Gómez and his accomplices, not as a challenge or vengeance but as the last desperate gesture of rebellion, like the final fecal gobbet a martyr spits in the face of all tyrants and the cowardly sycophants of liberty who honour, support and tolerate them. BIÓFILO PANCLASTA The defiant words of the Colombian anarchist Biófilo Panclasta, who was imprisoned for seven years in Venezuela, exhibit many of the tensions that characterize writing by prisoners. There is a contradictory sense of futility

Biófilo Panclasta, Siete años enterrado vivo (Caracas and Medellín: Indubio Pro Reo and CorazónDeFuego, 2010), 13–14. 1

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and urgency, a need to narrate despite the inadequacy of language, an anxiety about the value of prison writing in comparison to other literature and a spirit of rebellion in the face of defeat. Panclasta’s hope that his words will act as an ‘escupitajo fecal’ (a fecal gobbet) in the face of cowards and enemies of liberty is both an expression of pessimism about what literature can do and also a graphic metaphor for the attempt to delegitimize imprisonment through writing. His metaphor hints at the conflicted political potential of prison writing, which moves between authors’ denunciations of the conditions in which they are held and their desire to distance themselves from their condition as prisoners. How does one throw shit, he seems to ask, without some of it sticking? This book is an examination of the politics of prison literature from Latin America and the Caribbean. Texts by prisoners lend themselves to political analysis perhaps more than any other literary genre, because they demand that attention be paid to the relationship between discourse and lived, material experience. The reason for this is that even as the prison is a concrete institution, its function is also highly symbolic. As sociologist Loïc Wacquant puts it, The prison symbolizes material division and materializes relations of symbolic power, its operation ties together inequality and identity, fuses domination and signification, and welds the passions and interests that traverse and roil society.2 All too often, however, the symbolic power of the prison is shaped and wielded not by prisoners but rather by the confluence of vested interests who control juridical, mass media, political and popular cultural discourses, none of which, it hardly needs stating, are likely to have the best interests of prisoners at heart. Prison writing such as Panclasta’s is a form of counterdiscourse which seeks to protest against the abuses suffered by its author. But the ways in which prison writing acts as resistance are complex and often contradictory. By intervening at the nexus of context and discourse, prison writing seems to offer an epistemically privileged account of both the power of the state and other forces. In prison writing, the prison affords a real and conceptual space through which to reflect on configurations of crime, class, race, masculinity and the market. Paradoxically, though, the ability of such texts to resist punitive regimes is often tempered by the way in which they interact with the discourses that surround these other systems. Resistance

Loïc Wacquant, Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), xvi. 2

INTRODUCTION

3

against an individual institution does not, as we shall see, necessarily translate into a questioning of the legitimacy of the institution overall. What emerges over the course of this book is a tension between aspects of prisoner texts that challenge the hegemony of the institution and aspects that act to shore up the rationale behind mass incarceration. Besides ‘resistance’, prisoner representations of imprisonment also have much to say about the success of the prison in persisting as the hegemonic form of state-sanctioned punishment. By focusing on texts by canonical and non-canonical authors from across Latin America and the Caribbean, this book offers a comparative analysis of the contested ideological terrain of prison writing. It is not a comprehensive survey; the texts are chosen because of the insights they offer into key issues in the representation of resistance by prisoners. Arranged thematically, the chapters discuss class; the intersections of gender, race and sexuality; political organization and thought; and the War on Drugs. Taken in their critical and historical perspective, the texts are read for the insights they offer into punitive cultures in a range of specific national contexts including Costa Rica, Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. Before introducing the texts it is necessary to outline what becomes increasingly evident over the course of the analysis, namely that Latin American prisons are institutions that embody the ‘coloniality of power’. Coloniality is set against questions around hegemony, power and literary representation in Latin America and the ethical imperatives and theoretical ideas behind radical, but largely academic, project that has sought to address the colonial matrix: Latin American penal abolitionism.

Coloniality and abolitionism The functioning of the Latin American prison, both in practice and in cultural representation, is inseparable from what is termed the ‘coloniality of power’, a framework elaborated by Peruvian sociologist Aníbal Quijano, Argentine philosopher Enrique Dussel and Argentine cultural theorist Walter Mignolo (2000). At the heart of the idea is Dussel’s identification of the colonization of the Americas by Spain as the foundational moment of modernity, not only in the ‘New World’ but globally. It was this process that gave Europeans the advantage over other global powers and reason to see themselves as more ‘modern’ and therefore superior to the peoples that they had subjugated. In so doing, it defined and set in place a global hierarchy which endures to the present day. As Quijano states,

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The racial axis [of power] has a colonial origin and character, but it has proven to be more durable and stable than the colonialism in whose matrix it was established. Therefore, the model of power that is globally hegemonic today presupposes an element of coloniality.3 The notion of the ‘coloniality of power’ does not only apply to the ‘New World’. Rather, as Dussel has argued, it was also crucial to the development of the colonizers’ sense of supremacy and was thus equally constituent of European modernity.4 Examination of the uneven social distribution of punishment in post-colonial Latin America reveals the ways in which it reproduces colonial hierarchies, not least because the ability to punish effectively is also a sign of modernity and progress. This is one of the principal insights offered by historians Ricardo Salvatore and Carlos Aguirre’s edited collection of essays, The Birth of the Penitentiary in Latin America, inspired by Michel Foucault’s seminal account of the rise of the penitentiary in Europe, Discipline and Punish. In that complex and influential text Foucault traces the development of what he calls the ‘gentle way in punishment’,5 namely the shift away from punishment as the spectacle of violence inflicted directly on the body of the condemned in displays of what he identifies as ‘sovereign power’, towards the ideal of punishment as a way of ‘reforming’ subjects through confinement. This shift marked the movement towards the ‘disciplinary society’, in which a number of institutions, most significantly the prison but also the army, schools, clinics and asylums, exerted similar forms of control.6 It is Jeremy Bentham’s ‘panopticon’ that most completely embodies the nature of this new form of power. For Foucault that institution, in which power was meant to be exercised not directly on the body, but rather on the mind through the disciplinary mechanism of surveillance, became the ‘generalizable model of functioning; a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men’.7 Salvatore and Aguirre show that, as in Europe, in Latin America the naturalization of confinement as the dominant form of punishment is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the introduction of prisons inspired by the ‘progressive’ idea of the reforming penitentiary, punishment and social control in Latin America was often a violent, privatized affair, involving a Anibal Quijano and Michael Ennis, ‘Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America’, Nepantla: Views from South 1, no. 3 (2000): 533. 4 Enrique Dussel, ‘Eurocentrism and Modernity’, in The Postmodernism Debate in Latin America, ed. John Beverley, Michael Aronna and José Oviedo (Durham, NC: Duke, 1995). 5 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, [1975] 1995). 6 Ibid., 218. 7 Ibid., 205. 3

INTRODUCTION

5

combination of confinement, whipping at the stake, deportation, mutilation, forced labour and public executions.8 This state of affairs changed slowly with the uneven adoption of the idea of the penitentiary in the century between Brazil’s attempt to institute penal reforms in 1830s and the introduction of the penitentiary model by Cuba in the 1930s. This unevenness is indicated by the range of prisons that gave rise to the texts analysed in this book. San Lucas in Costa Rica was an island penal colony originally conceived as a profit-making agricultural enterprise.9 El Frontón and Cândido Mendes were also both isolated island prisons while Lecumberri in Mexico City and San Pedro in La Paz were proudly built as model city centre penitentiaries. El Castillo del Príncipe and El Morro in Havana were both Spanish military forts which were converted into jails. Salvatore and Aguirre’s account, along with those of many of their contributors, is typical of much Latin American academic reflection on punishment in that it tends to unfavourably contrast the introduction of the penitentiary in Latin America with its functioning in North America and Europe. They argue that economic structures were the determining factor in the relative ‘underdevelopment’ of the punitive systems of Latin America. Whereas in the ‘central economies’ the rise of industrial capitalism allowed for the construction of criminal subjects whose criminality was defined in opposition to the ordinary honest hard worker, in the peripheral economies this was not possible. The project for the reconstruction of Homo economicus (‘man’ defined by modern, capitalist, economic relationships) could not proceed from economic conditions and social imaginaries dominated by peasants, landlords and relationships of personal dependency.10 While the North American and European penal apparatuses were at least intended to reform their inmates morally and spiritually, with the ultimate aim of reintegrating them into liberal society, in Latin America, rather than contributing to imagining a democratic polity […] efforts at prison reform […] were predicated upon nondemocratic conceptions of political order […] the penitentiary in Latin America served either as a symbol of modernity or as an instrument of social differentiation and control.11

Ricardo Donato Salvatore and Carlos Aguirre, The Birth of the Penitentiary in Latin America: Essays on Criminology, Prison Reform, and Social Control, 1830–1940 (Austin: University of Texas, 1996), 19 and 47. 9 See Steven Palmer, ‘Confinement, Policing, and the Emergence of Social Policy in Costa Rica, 1880–1935’, in The Birth of the Penitentiary in Latin America, ed. Ricardo Donato Salvatore and Carlos Aguirre (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996). 8

Salvatore and Aguirre, The Birth of the Penitentiary, 29.

10

Ibid., 2.

11

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Salvatore and Aguirre point to the widely held beliefs about the racial inferiority of marginal groups to show how the slow birth of the penitentiary in Latin America was due to the elite view that the rural masses were ‘beyond’ moral or spiritual reform. Unlike in Europe and North America, in the nascent republics marked by the opposition between civilización y barbarie (the foundational national matrix popularized by Domingo F. Sarmiento’s 1845 novel Facundo), the only way in which modernity could be imagined through such institutions was via their capacity to reinforce social divisions – to uphold patterns that ‘justified the traditional ways of interaction between classes, sexes, and races [such as] slavery, peonage, and domestic servitude’.12 This meant that Latin American penitentiary building programmes constituted a form of ‘traditional modernization’, that is, ‘a process of modernisation that did not replace old structures, forms of interaction or racial and gender hierarchies, but instead reinforced them’.13 By excluding those who had always been marginalized, states could maintain old divisions while imagining themselves to be modernizing. They did so in such a way as to strengthen the nation state, but only through the violent exclusion of the majorities from the exercise of democratic rights and citizenship.14 Beyond the maintenance of these old divisions, the authors argue that the penitentiary ‘added a new “punitive city” to the existing punitive repertoire’ (violent, corporal practices).15 Any liberal justification for the penitentiary as a modernizing force in Latin America thus in a sense takes on a similar status to other ‘misplaced ideas’ of the sort examined by Roberto Schwarz in his analysis of Brazilian political modernity.16 Although only one prison – the Presidio Modelo in Cuba – was built exactly according to Bentham’s design, many were labelled ‘panópticos’ and their construction and implementation were in part influenced by his ideals. Just as the panopticon remained a potent ideal in the imaginary of penal reformers in Latin America, so too has the applicability

Ibid., 16. As the radical judge and penal reformer Eugenio Zaffaroni puts it, ‘Nuestra criminología latinoamericana nació como un capítulo del racismo y en buena medida conserva ese signo, disfrazado con atuendos que, al igual que los de hace un siglo, presumen de científicos’ (Our Latin American criminology was born as another chapter of racism and it maintains that tradition to a great degree, disguised in the trappings of science, just as it was over a century ago), En busca de las penas perdidas: Deslegitimación y dogmática jurídico-penal (Buenos Aires: Ediar, 1998), 153. 12

Ibid., xii.

13

Ibid.

14

Ibid.

15

Schwarz argues that the application of liberal ideas such as free labour and equality before the law and ideology in Brazil were ‘fora do lugar’ (misplaced) because they took place in a context of slaver. See Roberto Schwarz, Misplaced Ideas: Essays on Brazilian Culture (London: Routledge, 1992), 20. 16

INTRODUCTION

7

of Foucault’s account of the disciplinary society preoccupied historians of Latin America. In a later collection, Salvatore and Aguirre ask, ‘[h]ave Latin American countries become disciplinary societies?’17 The disciplinary prison, or something like it, is also a potent figure in the imagination of many prison writers, as some of the texts analysed below will show. In their portrayal of the failings of Latin American penitentiary projects, Salvatore and Aguirre underemphasize the extent to which the penitentiaries of Europe and North America also failed to operate according to the plans of their designers. Foucault’s claim, of course, is that failure is part of the function: The carceral system combines in a single figure discourses and architectures, coercive regulations and scientific propositions, real social effects and invincible utopias, programmes for correcting delinquents and mechanisms that reinforce delinquency. Is not the supposed failure part of the functioning of the prison?18 Foucault’s account of the construction of delinquency is an extension of this argument– he argues that prison produces delinquency. His point is that the failure of the prison to fully realize the Benthamite intention guarantees its success as a self-legitimizing institution.19 Since the 1940s, where Salvatore and Aguirre’s analysis of the introduction of the penitentiary in Latin America concludes, the ‘penal state’ has flourished in Latin America, thanks to the confluence and collusion of state and private interests in the expansion of punitive institutions and practices. Explaining the expansion of penal systems and incarceration in recent decades in Brazil, Wacquant paraphrases Foucault: ‘[T]he very failure of penalization generates the social conditions, the political incentives, and the concrete and conspicuous targets needed for its continued and enlarged application’.20 The full extent of that failure is the subject of the first half of Chapter 4.

Ricardo Donato Salvatore, Carlos Aguirre and Gilbert Michael Joseph, Crime and Punishment in Latin America: Law and Society since Late Colonial Times (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 17. 17

Foucault, Discipline, 271.

18

Long before Foucault, this point had been made by Petr Kropotkin, who experienced both hard labour in Russian prisons and the French model prison regime. Not only did he see prisons as institutions that guaranteed recidivism, he also saw little difference in the two kinds of prison and condemned both in In Russian and French Prisons. His comparison of these two supposedly antithetical kinds of prison reinforces the point that in practice, the mechanisms of disciplinary power and its ability to ‘alter minds’ for the better were always utopian. In his words, ‘prisons are the nurseries for the most revolting category of breaches of moral law’ (London: Ward and Downey, 1887), 336. 20 Loïc Wacquant, ‘The Militarization of Urban Marginality: Lessons from the Brazilian Metropolis’, International Political Sociology 2, no. 1 (2008): 69. 19

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Beyond their justification as places of reform and rehabilitation, prisons have proliferated and states have found new justifications for incarceration. In the 1960s and 1970s, the opponents of left-wing revolutionary movements found it easy to justify mass imprisonment on the grounds of national security. During the Cold War in Latin America, authoritarian right-wing governments and dictatorships across the region locked up and tortured political opponents by the thousands with the direct collusion and encouragement of the United States.21 After the ‘transitions to democracy’ in the 1980s, their analysis shifted to the discourse around the War on Drugs. Also promoted by the United States, this has provided the justification and funding for the construction of new jails across the region.22 At the same time, increasing gulfs of social inequality caused by neoliberal restructuring facilitate stricter approaches to crime committed by less powerful, socially and politically marginalized groups in the name of security, and political parties that promote ever stricter, or zero tolerance, approaches to crime. While Wacquant suggests that the United States remains the ‘global Mecca of crime control’,23 prison populations continue to expand across Latin America.24 Governments of all political colours – from Communist Cuba through left-wing and centralist populist governments in Brazil and Mexico, to right-wing authoritarian ‘democrats’ in Colombia – have found it easier to trade on the fear of crime in order to strengthen appeals to sovereign state power and gain political capital rather than to take measures to address the underlying socio-economic roots of crime. With the exception of some minor reforms, such as the restorative, prisoner-run initiatives like the Associação de Proteção e Assistência aos Condenados (APAC) prisons in Brazil, models of incarceration based on humanitarian treatment of prisoners are scarce.25 In line with global trends, Latin American states have largely abandoned the rhetoric of reform in favour of ‘neoliberal penality’ – the expansion of the penal state at the expense of the welfare state, in which prisons are used for the ‘warehousing’ of those unlucky enough to end up inside.26 Despite the

See J. Patrice McSherry, Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012). 22 Zaffaroni, En busca, 133. 23 Loïc Wacquant, ‘Toward a Dictatorship over the Poor?’, Punishment & Society 5, no. 2 (1 April 2003): 197. 24 Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), ‘Systems Overload: Drug Laws and Prisons in Latin America’ (Washington, 9 December 2010), accessed 20 August 2014, http://www.wola​ .org/publications/systems_overload_drug_laws_and_prisons_in_latin_america_0. 25 Lorenn Walker, ‘APAC: Brazil’s Restorative Justice Prisons by Restorative Justice and Other Public Health Approaches for Healing’, accessed 20 April 2014, http://www.lorennwalker.com /blog/?p=102. 26 Julia Sudbury, ‘A World without Prisons: Resisting Militarism, Globalized Punishment, and Empire’, Social Justice 31, no. 1/2 (95–96) (1 January 2004): 9–30. 21

INTRODUCTION

9

retreat of a humanist justification for the application of ‘penal science’, the idea that effective punishment is essential to the success of the nation state remains potent. In Society Must Be Defended Foucault describes the development of the modern nation state as characterized by a certain relationship between racism, sovereignty and war. Imprisonment is a key mechanism in what he calls ‘state racism’, described as a racism that society directs against itself, against its own elements and its own products. This is the internal racism of permanent purification and it will become one of the basic dimensions of social normalisation.27 This process of purification is actualized by what Foucault calls ‘biopolitics’ (of which ‘disciplinary power’ is a constituent) – a form of constant internal war by which state sovereignty is maintained.28 The violence of sovereign power is, in Foucault’s account of the rise of the European prison, tempered by the development of disciplinary practices, which Salvatore and Aguirre see as part of the development of the modern, democratic citizenship that remained absent in Latin America. In a recent study that attests to how the Latin American experience has been constituted by racial violence, Jean Franco shows how cruelties against indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples in Latin America were enacted in the name of modernity. Cruel Modernity (2013) argues that the drive towards modernity has always entailed the logic of conquest and violence according to which those who are ‘alien to modernity’ need to be cleansed from the social body.29 In delineating instances in which the drive towards development has caused or provided the rationale for usually (but not exclusively) male state actors to flout the taboo against murder and cruelty and to kill, torture and rape those who have been imagined to be holding back the development of modern society, in contexts as diverse as Guatemala, Argentina, El Salvador and Brazil, Franco finds that the ‘mentality and practice of conquest extend well into the twentieth century’.30 She is concerned with the ways in which cruel modernity has been enacted in those ‘areas of Latin America [which] have remained outside legal restraints on the ill treatment of the original peoples and the descendants of slaves’.31 The catalogue of appalling examples marshalled by Franco, despite mainly

Michel Foucault, ‘Society Must Be Defended’: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–1976, ed. François Ewald (New York: Picador, 2003), 62. 27

Ibid. Jean Franco, Cruel Modernity (Durham, NC: Duke, 2013), 7. 30 Ibid., 5. 31 Ibid. 28 29

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being carried out by state actors, fall outside provisions made by formal legal mechanisms of the various Latin American republics. As such they are extra-legal aberrations which ‘democratic’ governments officially repudiate. She points out, however, that ‘not only has cruelty been instrumental in the co-optation of the Nation-State by private interests and the softening up of civil society through a regime of fear; it is also a scar on liberal society’.32 In contrast to the war crimes and other atrocities catalogued by Franco, the more routine cruelty of imprisonment is accepted, even when in practice it deviates completely from the legal provisions set out in penal codes and can prove every bit as torturous.33 This book is particularly concerned with this more silent and naturalized form of brutality. The prison texts explored attest to a cruelty that nominally liberal democratic societies find acceptable and to the fact that the Latin American prison embodies the ‘coloniality of power’ (as indeed does the European and North American prison). This is indicated by the massively asymmetrical manner in which its violence affects different groups according to their position within the hierarchies (principally racial, gendered and economic) that were established by colonization. As Rita Laura Segato writes, Las […] informaciones disponibles confirman la selectividad de los sistemas penales y penitenciarios latinoamericanos, que castigan y discriminan a la población no blanca. El ‘color’ de las cárceles es el de la raza, no en el sentido de la pertenencia a un grupo étnico en particular, sino como marca de una historia de dominación colonial que continúa hasta nuestros días.34 The available information confirms that penal and penitentiary systems in Latin America punish and discriminate against the non-white population. The ‘colour’ of the prison is the colour of race, not in the sense of belonging to a particular ethnic group but as the mark of a history of colonial domination that continues in the present day. The reality of the Latin American prison, she argues, is that it does not punish the guilty but rather the vulnerable and historically racially subjugated: ‘Es del orden racial de donde emana el orden carcelario, pero éste lo retroalimenta. Y el orden racial es el orden colonial.’35 (The carceral

Ibid., 247.

32

The exception to this is occasional outcry over the mistreatment of political prisoners or prisoners who have particular economic status prior to imprisonment. 33

Rita Laura Segato, ‘El color de la cárcel en América Latina: Apuntes sobre la colonialidad de la justicia en un continente en desconstrucción’, Nueva Sociedad 208 (2007): 142. 34

Ibid., 150.

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INTRODUCTION

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order comes from the racial order, retroactively sustaining it. And the racial order is the colonial order.) In a specific example from contemporary Mexico, elaborated in Chapter 4, anthropologist Rosalva Aída Hernández shows that extremely poor indigenous and often monolingual women are imprisoned not because of any significant role they have played in criminal activity, but because of their vulnerability.36 This is vulnerability is created by their position at the bottom of intersecting ethnic, racial and gendered hierarchies and a national security agenda dominated by the War on Drugs. The women in her case study are often locked up for drugs offences, because of male family members who denounce them in order to avoid being prosecuted themselves. In the picture painted by Hernández, police and law enforcement are not interested in who is guilty but only in fulfilling quotas for the numbers of crimes solved.37 Hernández’s use of an intersectional framework demonstrates the imperative to be sensitive to all hierarchically organized and ‘mutually constitutive’ ‘vectors’ of power (race, gender, nationality, age, class and so on).38 Alongside such hierarchies the prison emerges as an institution that is both constituted by and acts to further consolidate the inequalities of the rest of society. In Hernández’s terms, it becomes another axis by which division and inequality are maintained, the site of the abuse and neglect of prisoners by the state.39 In the face of damning evidence against contemporary juridico-penal regimes, the most radical prisoners and thinkers have turned to penal abolitionism. Penal abolitionism opposes the use of prison, at least in anything like its current form, not only because of its demonstrable ineffectiveness on its own terms but also because of its ethical opposition to any form of punishment. As the former political prisoner, Angela Davis, argues in the context of the United States, the prison population bears little or no relation to the number of people who commit crimes or harm others. In the United States, where the lines ‘from the plantation to the penitentiary’ run straight, the prison abolition movement sees itself as the direct inheritor of the legacy

Rosalva Aída Hernández, ‘¿Del estado multicultural al estado penal? Mujeres indígenas presas y criminalización de la pobreza en México’, in Justicias indígenas y Estado: Violencias contemporáneas, ed. Rosalva Aída Hernández, Rachel Sieder, and María Teresa Sierra (México, DF: FLACSO/CIESAS, 2013), 299–338. 37 Ibid., 321. 38 Ibid., 318. 39 Ibid., 328. This argument is made in detail by the contributors to Anita Kalunta-Crumpton’s comparative collection Race, Ethnicity, Crime and Criminal Justice in the Americas (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), which surveys the Americas as a whole. Despite the varying nature of the collection of statistics, the picture that emerges is one in which racially marginalized groups, black and indigenous, are far more likely to be the victims of crime and to be imprisoned. 36

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of the abolitionists of slavery.40 The tradition of penal abolitionism extends back to the foundation of the modern penitentiary in nineteenth-century Europe. The idea was articulated most consistently by anarchists, many of whom, like Biófilo Panclasta and Petr Kropotkin, honed their critique from within prison walls. The abolitionist movement reached its height in Europe in the 1970s when the idea of ‘penal minimalism’ was influential in the Scandinavian countries.41 In Latin America the Argentine judge and legal theorist Eugenio Zaffaroni, now a member of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, has long been making a case for penal abolition centred on the ineffectiveness of the system in tackling crime and the extreme amount of harm it produces. From his position within the juridical establishment he has argued in the direction of abolitionism, even going so far as to state that the number of deaths caused by the penal system in Latin America constitutes ‘un genocidio en marcha’ (an ongoing genocide), which is directed against the most vulnerable.42 Hoy sabemos perfectamente que los presos no están presos por el delito que han cometido, sino por su vulnerabilidad, es decir, que el sistema penal opera como una epidemia que afecta a los que tienen sus defensas bajas.43 Today we know perfectly well that prisoners are not in prison for the crimes they have committed but because of their vulnerability, that is to say, the penal system functions like an epidemic which affects those with low immunity. In other words, the appearance of protection and social defence that the penal system seems to offer is little more than an illusory propping up of state sovereignty and power on the backs of the least powerful. Zaffaroni points out that incarceration does not act as a deterrent, as impunity rates are enormous, and nor does it increase security. The coloniality of imprisonment means that the most dangerous criminals are rarely incarcerated:

H. Bruce Franklin, Prison Literature in America: The Victim as Criminal and Artist (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 73. 41 The Scandinavian model uses minimal use of custodial sentences, open prisons, etc. At the time of the rise of the prison abolition movement in the United States, the publication of Discipline and Punish meant that the hope that prisons and punishment would be gradually scaled back did not seem like a naive pipe dream, at least on the left. See David Garland, Punishment and Modern Society: A Study in Social Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993). 42 Zaffaroni, En busca, 19. 43 Ibid., 42. 40

INTRODUCTION

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Los narcotraficantes, los zares del crimen organizado, los genocidas y torturadores y los homicidas y violadores, son casi una ultraminoría que se muestra para justificar el resto y para sustentar la ilusión que hace que todos admitamos el control social punitivo en nuestra vida cotidiana.44 The narcotraffickers, the czars of organized crime, the guilty of genocide and the torturers, the murderers and the rapists are a tiny minority who are displayed to justify the rest and to sustain an illusion that makes all of us submit to punitive social control in our daily lives. Zaffaroni regards Latin American penal systems as a form of illegitimate power with a legal apparatus so divorced from the reality of crime as to have nothing to do with it at all: ‘la programación normativa se basa sobre una “realidad” que no existe’ (the normative blueprint is based on a “reality” which does not exist).45 He argues that members of the legal profession, instead of acting to curb the abuses of power that take place within the penal system, are complicit in the discursive justification of the ‘genocide’ taking place in that system, and that ‘nos hemos dedicado a elaborar un cuidadoso discurso de justificación del poder punitivo que es ejercido por otras agencias que nada tienen que ver con nosotros, especialmente las agencias policiales y ejecutivas, las de publicidad (medios masivos) y las políticas’ (we have dedicated ourselves to the elaboration of a detailed discourse justifying punitive power which is exercised by other agencies that have nothing to do with us, especially police and executive agencies, the mass media, and political agencies).46 The task for Zaffaroni is to demonstrate the illegitimacy of the power of the penal state: to make visible the ‘penas perdidas’ (hidden sufferings) of the penal system that are concealed by juridical discourse.47 Apart from Zaffaroni, until recently there have been relatively few strong Latin American voices arguing for penal abolition. In the 1960s and 1970s, despite the mass incarceration of leftists and progressives, few believed that revolutionary changes in society would bring about the conditions for the abolition of the prison. Rather, as the Argentine abolitionist Maximiliano E. Postay points out, although the prison is ‘el bastión más despiadado que el sistema que repudian utiliza para silenciarlos una y otra vez’ (the cruellest bastion that the system they repudiate uses to silence them, again and again), the traditional revolutionary left dreams of using the prison to silence its own enemies.48 As Postay admits, ‘el abolicionismo penal Ibid., 42–43. Ibid., 16. 46 Ibid., 43. 47 Ibid., 16. 48 Maximiliano E. Postay, ‘Cerro, ladrillo y boxes. Apostillas táctico-estratégicas a modo de introducción’, in El abolicionismo penal en América Latina, ed. Keymer Ávila and Maximiliano E. Postay (Buenos Aires: Editoriales Puerto, 2012), xv. 44

45

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parecería brillar por su ausencia en nuestra región, como corriente teórica y movimiento social, incluso en los espacios más progresistas y críticos’ (penal abolitionism is conspicuous by its absence in our region, as both a theory and a social movement, even in the most progressive and critical spaces).49 Postay’s collection of essays El abolicionismo penal en América Latina. Imaginación no punitiva y militancia (Penal Abolitionism in Latin America: Non-punitive Imagination and Militancy) brings together contributions from abolitionists across the region. The volume explores a number of ideas behind penal abolitionism, premised on a radically constructionist notion of crime as a category. The problem with essentialized definitions of crime is summarized by Gabriel Anitua: el ‘delito’ tiene poco de entidad real […] sin embargo, sí hay realidades que pueden ocasionar dolor, problemas, conflictos y riesgos. Pero reducir esas múltiples realidades a un nombre común, como delito, es negarlas bajo una concepción mitológica.50 there is little that makes ‘crime’ a real entity […] but there are of course realities which can cause pain, problems, conflicts and risks. But to reduce these multiple realities to a single name like crime is to deny them with a mythological concept. In order to denaturalize and de-mythologize crime and its punishment, abolitionists have often sought to introduce new languages to describe crime. De-mythologization requires the abolitionist insistence on the historicization and contextualization of both crime and punishment. According to Edson Passetti in the same volume, Refuta la naturaleza ontológica del delito al mostrarlo como una creación histórica en la que la criminalización de los comportamientos, en mayor o menor medida, depende de los momentos históricos y las fuerzas sociales en confrontación.51 It refutes the ontological nature of crime by showing it to be a historical creation in which the criminalization of behaviours depends, to greater and lesser extents, on historical junctures and social forces in confrontation.

Ibid., 53. Gabriel Ignacio Anitua, ‘Fundamentos para la construcción de una teoría de la no pena’, in El abolicionismo penal en América Latina, ed. Keymer Ávila and Maximiliano E. Postay (Buenos Aires: Puerto, 2012), 16. 51 Edson Passetti, ‘Ensayo sobre un abolicionismo penal’, in El abolicionismo penal en América Latina. Imaginación no Punitiva y militancia, ed. Keymer Ávila and Maximiliano E. Postay (Buenos Aires: Editorales Puerto, 2012), 19. 49 50

INTRODUCTION

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This book is written in sympathy with this perspective, and with the aim to treat ‘crime’ and criminalization as processes that must be understood as contingent and constructed. In terms of the language used, however, I have tended to take my lead from the texts I analyse. The small size of the abolitionist movement in Latin America does not mean that prison has not been vigorously resisted and delegitimized by the people who it has affected most severely. In the following chapters I bring the writing of prisoners – a vital means by which to recover what Zaffaroni calls the ‘penas perdidas’ (hidden sufferings) of the penal system – into what I hope is a productive dialogue with the idealism of penal abolitionism. While few of the texts here conform to a politics of abolitionism along the lines set out by its most radical proponents, they nevertheless document, and indeed constitute, innovative and surprising modes of resistance and rebellion and therefore provide some basis on which to think further through what such abolitionism might entail in Latin America.

Latin American literature and power Theories of narrative in Latin America have long attended to the often ambiguous relationship between literary narrative and the power of legal discourse. Legal systems have historically been considered as a potential means of enfranchisement and legitimation. Yet this has only infrequently been the case in the colonial and post-colonial contexts of Latin America, where the imposition of European law was historically anything but a source of mass empowerment and served, instead, as a tool of conquest and a system of exclusion and control.52 This point is at the heart of Uruguayan critic Ángel Rama’s unfinished and posthumously published account of the intellectual production of Latin American elites, La ciudad letrada (The Lettered City).53 Rama’s theory of Latin American literature ties writing to power through the figure of the letrado (the man of letters) who produced both literature and law through his mastery of written language in the colonial and post-colonial eras. These letrados were narrators and legislators who enjoyed extensive powers in the nascent nation states of Latin America and this meant, for Rama, that literary writing constituted a

As M. C. Mirow puts it, ‘Law provided the very basis on which Spain claimed the ability to possess the new territories and to rule them. Spaniards asserted legal rights in the land from the very beginning, and Columbus used European legalistic means to assert the claims of his monarchs’. Latin American Law: A History of Private Law and Institutions in Spanish America (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004). 52

Ángel Rama, The Lettered City, trans. John Charles Chasteen (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996). 53

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discourse of power that acted in elitist and exclusionary ways. After Rama, the metaphor of the ‘lettered city’ has come to be a shorthand indicating the importance of written discourse in the construction of the incipient states of Latin America and the processes of class domination and racial exclusion that such processes entailed.54 The figure of the letrado has, in Rama’s terms, been responsible for ‘disciplining the symbolic order of national cultures’, a discipline conceptualized along lines developed by Foucault.55 Segato links this responsibility directly to processes of exclusion that make the ciudad letrada coterminous with the ciudad punitiva (punitive city). Citing Santiago CastroGómez, she argues that: La escritura disciplinaria crea la ciudadanía para aquellas personas cuyo perfil ‘se ajusta al tipo de sujeto requerido por el proyecto de la modernidad: varón, blanco, padre de familia, católico, propietario, letrado y heterosexual’, excluyendo a otros que no cumplen con los requisitos: ‘mujeres, sirvientes, locos, analfabetos, negros, herejes, esclavos, indios, homosexuales, disidentes’. Estos ‘quedarán fuera de la “ciudad letrada” […] sometidos al castigo y la terapia de la misma ley que los excluye’56 Disciplinary writing creates citizenship for those whose profiles ‘can be adjusted to the kind of subject required by the project of modernity: male, white, family men, Catholic, property owning, literate and heterosexual’, excluding those who do not comply with the requirements: ‘women, servants, lunatics, illiterates, blacks, heretics, slaves, Indians, homosexuals and diffidents’. These ‘remained outside the “lettered city” […] subjected to punishments and therapies by the same law which excluded them’. Literature and literacy become another axis along which hierarchy is maintained. It is thus important to bear in mind that even though some of the writers examined in this book write from subaltern positions relative to the non-imprisoned citizen, the very fact of their literacy and capacity to be heard removes them from being subaltern in the Spivakian sense, that is the one whose voice cannot be heard. The uneven access to textual representation within prison hierarchies means that the texts examined in this book cannot be taken as representative of all prisoners. Instead they may act, in Susana Draper’s phrase, to make ‘visible the modes of invisibility’ of subalternized sectors.57

See, for example, Jean Franco, The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002). 55 Rama, The Lettered City, 56. 56 Segato, ‘El color de la cárcel’, 158. 57 Susana Draper, Afterlives of Confinement: Spatial Transitions in Post-Dictatorship Latin America (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2012), 200. 54

INTRODUCTION

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Thus, while this enquiry is sustained by a desire to seek out and visibilize the invisible, to access what Foucault called ‘subjugated knowledges’, I am also aware of the extent to which any study that limits itself to written discourse may also act to exclude, silence and ‘other’. These issues are addressed in Chapter 1, which contrasts prison texts by two writers who broadly correspond to the categories of letrado and subaltern. Chapter 1 addresses concerns raised by theories of narrative in Latin America which have attended to this ambiguous relationship between narrative and legal discourse. In Myth and Archive (which is heavily indebted to Rama’s work), the Cuban-American critic Roberto González Echevarría develops a theory of the novel that traces the origin of the form to Spanish colonial legal discourse. He frames his account of the imbrication of writing and the law by reference to the early picaresque novels such as Lazarillo de Tormes, in which a witness gives testimony before an authority figure to whom he professes his innocence and asks for absolution.58 This link between early narratives and legal testimony strongly resembles what Raymond Williams refers to as ‘proletarian writing’. In ‘The Writer: Commitment and Alignment’, Williams argues that such ‘confessional’ modes are to be expected in writing that expresses a working-class consciousness, [b]ecause the form coming down through the religious tradition was of the witness confessing the story of his life, or there was the defence speech at the trial when a man tells the judge who he is and what he has done, or of course other kinds of speech.59 In González Echevarría’s theory, however, it is not only ‘proletarian literature’ but all literary writing that has its genesis in such forms. The imitation of legal discourse thus becomes a source of textual authority. But to González Echevarría, writing has a role to play in both the exercise of and resistance to power. He draws a direct comparison between the act of writing and the punitive functions of the state: ‘Writing, like the whipping post, involved a relationship with a code of interdiction by the State; that is to say the relationship was not merely legal but more specifically penal.’60 But writing is also about empowerment of the writer, derived ultimately from the status of legal writing: ‘Narrative, both fictional and historical, […] issues from the forms and constraints of legal writing […] to write was a form of enfranchisement, of legitimation.’61 As we shall see, however, to

Roberto González Echevarría, Myth and Archive: A Theory of Latin American Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 9. 59 Raymond Williams, ‘The Writer: Commitment and Alignment’, Marxism Today, 22 June 1980, 25. 60 Echevarría, Myth, 49–50. 61 Ibid., 54. 58

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the extent that such writing is descended from the discourse of an accused subject giving evidence at their own trial, its potential for enfranchisement and legitimation depends on the obverse possibility: that it will be judged inadequate or false and, in fact, consolidate the condemnation of the witnessing subject. The so-called ‘boom’ in Latin American literature has been seen by some critics to be the last gasp of Rama’s ciudad letrada. In the 1960s, aided by the excitement and cultural flowering prompted by the Cuban Revolution, a number of Latin American writers such as Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar and Mario Vargas Llosa wrote innovative, highmodernist works. These mainly leftist writers, many of whom also had legal backgrounds (as González Echevarría points out),62 have been seen as the last generation to write, in Jean Franco’s terms, in a context in which it still seemed that ‘[t]he political and the literary institutions of the nation state mirrored each other’.63 Yet the nature of literary narrative’s aspirational relationship to power has frequently been called into question. Idelber Avelar notes that at the time, this ‘boom’ was understood as ‘a moment of illumination and consciousness of the Latin American people’, in which writing ‘appeared to have achieved transparent coincidence with its contemporaneity’ but in retrospect it seems that ‘the boom was nothing more than the mourning for the impossibility of instrumentalizing literature for social control’.64 In other words, despite the progressive aspirations of the boom writers, the impulse behind their work was one of domination. As John Beverley reflects, ‘[i]t would have spoiled the party to point out that this idealization of literature, which seemed so modern and radical, was simply reactivating an element of Latin American colonial and oligarchic culture’.65 For ‘literature-sceptic’ critics such as Beverley, the boom did wield a degree of epistemological control insofar as it was responsible, like most literary culture, for the reproduction of imaginative boundaries and the suppression of marginal voices and viewpoints. Much like the prison itself, the very institution of literature, as Beverley puts it, was ‘engendered by, and [itself] sustained, practices of colonial and imperialist domination’.66

Roberto González Echevarría, ‘Roman Law in the Constitution of Macondo’ (Association of Hispanists of Great Britain & Ireland, University of Oxford, 2013). 63 Franco, The Decline and Fall, 8. 64 Idelber Avelar, The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning (Durham, NC: Duke, 1999), 12, 30. 65 John Beverley, Against Literature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 3. 66 Ibid., 97. The influence of such literature can be observed in the deification of the writers of the boom as modern-day letrados, as many of them have played roles on the national stage of their respective countries. 62

INTRODUCTION

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Other critics such as Franco claim that the boom precipitated the ‘decline and fall of the lettered city’ mentioned above, a process which she charts in her book of the same title. The ‘post-boom’ has become a shorthand for the period in which, as Avelar shows, on the one hand the dictatorships shattered the illusion of a symbiosis between culture and politics, but on the other they coincided with the flowering of a myriad of other, non-traditional literatures. As Franco puts it, ‘[t]hrough this breach, indigenous languages and cultures entered into productive dialogue with lettered culture’.67 This period, then, saw the rise of non-traditional authors, popular culture, mass communication and anti-literary genres such as the testimonio which sought to give voice to the previously excluded and ‘othered’, ‘subaltern’ groups. The texts analysed in this book could broadly be said to fall within the category of the ‘post-boom’ for both political and aesthetic reasons, even if they do not always conform to extant historicizations of the period. Like the testimonio, many claim to represent and advocate on behalf of excluded voices or sections of the populations. Others, despite their popularity, have been critically overlooked on account of their status as ‘popular culture’. Even those works by more canonical authors such as Álvaro Mutis and José María Arguedas are considered to be their ‘lesser’ works, indicating the opposition between the carceral and the literary outlined by Segato. At the northern end of the hemisphere and as a result of the same cultural upheavals and openings as the ‘post-boom’, a smaller and less well-known expansion of the spaces of literary production within prisons in the United States took place. This surge in prison writing, particularly by prisoners politicized by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements (from which the contemporary prison abolition movement is descended), was chronicled by the radical literary critic H. Bruce Franklin, who, motivated to open up the literary canon, sought to construct a counter-canon based on the writings of prisoners. Franklin hoped that the writings of political and criminal prisoners would be at the vanguard of a class-based revolution in literature. His 1978 monograph Prison Literature in America: The Victim as Criminal and Artist aims to build this counter-canon of prison literature that viewed society from below. Prison literature, as Franklin defines, is not a genre. Rather ‘[i]t consists of novels, plays, poetry, essays, letters, songs, autobiographies […] Yet despite a wide range of generic forms there are certain unifying and predominant formal characteristics, determined not only by the background of the writers but also by their intentions’.68 For Franklin, prison writing is characterized by its political intentions and implications. Rooting his analysis firmly in the socially and racially inflected context of the postJim Crow US, and the advances of the Civil Rights and the Black Power

Franco, The Decline and Fall, 10. Franklin, Prison Literature, 234.

67 68

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movements, he makes several bold claims. He argues that ‘in our society [the United States] the two main competing intellectual centres may be the universities and the prisons’.69 Franklin shows that for certain sectors the experience of incarceration was as formative an intellectual experience as school or university education. Describing the enormous racial imbalances in incarceration rates, Franklin claims that in the United States black men are more likely to become writers as a result of being in prison than of studying at university: ‘At least from the viewpoint of the people creating these works, America is itself a prison, and the main lines of American literature can be traced from the plantation to the penitentiary.’70 Franklin’s view that all prisoners are victims means that he refuses to make a clear distinction between political prisoners and ‘common criminals’. Rather, in the context of the United States of the 1970s, he identified ‘two overlapping groups of prison authors: the political activist thrust into prison and the common criminal thrust into political activism’.71 His claim that the prison levels these two groups by politicizing the ‘criminal’ and ‘criminalizing’ the political is a vital point, and one that is the partial inspiration for this project, although – as we shall see – such distinctions often turn out to be rigidly policed by prisoners themselves. From a cultural studies perspective, analysing the hegemony of the prison through a predominantly literary set of objects may seem outmoded. As we have seen in the work of John Beverley, cultural studies has sought to displace literature. More recently, Latin Americanist criticism’s central understandings of ‘hegemony’ have also come under fire, particularly in relation to the notion of the ‘hegemony of the state’.72 One of the more sustained refutations of the concept in relation to Latin America, Jon Beasley-Murray’s Posthegemony (2011), offers two main objections to the term. The first of these is that hegemony does not exist and never has for the reason that populations never fully or consciously consent to their own control. Instead, Beasley-Murray follows Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Deleuzo-Spinozian account of power and deploys their concept of the ‘multitude’ in order to advance the notion that consent has never fully been manufactured. A second objection, also informed by Deleuzian ideas of the changing nature of power, has to do with the notion that hegemonic

Ibid., 235. Ibid., xxxii.

69 70

Ibid., 242.

71

As I discuss further in Chapter 1, Beverley characterizes the suspicion of the state in contemporary Latin Americanist theory as the ‘anti-statist subalternism’ influenced by a ‘Derridean’ scepticism and political paralysis born of excessive enthusiasm for deconstruction. This body of ‘anti-statist’ Latin Americanist theory reacts against the left-wing populism expounded by Ernesto Laclau and seen to have effects across Latin America with the rise of the so-called ‘Pink Tide’. 72

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forms of ‘discipline’ (involving the subjects’ cognitive awareness of, and consequent consent to, their own interpellation) have been ‘superseded’ by ‘post-hegemonic’ forms of ‘control’ which work through the ‘pre-cognitive’ mechanisms of affect and habit. In relation to Beasley-Murray’s point about consent, I suggest that the prison is one of the hegemonic state institutions in which a simple binary between consent and contestation simply cannot apply. At the same time that the non-incarcerated public consent to the prison,73 there is a long history of resistance and dissent from those who are themselves imprisoned. However, as a number of my readings show, not all of those who actively dissent from within prison do so on behalf of all prisoners. This will become particularly clear in the case of some ‘political’ prisoners who actively seek to distinguish themselves from ‘common’ prisoners. On Beasley-Murray’s second point, I would suggest that a Deleuze-inspired account of the advent of the ‘society of control’ – superseding the ‘disciplinary society’ – risks obscuring the ways in which affective and discursive modes of control have always worked in concert to maintain hegemonic structures of power. In Afterlives of Confinement: Spatial Transitions in Postdictatorship Latin America, Susana Draper’s argument takes up Deleuze’s comments on the changing nature of power in his ‘Post-script on the Societies of Control’74 in order to argue that the ‘spatial figure of enclosure is progressively replaced by an idea of control that works through the fantasy of an opening’.75 Draper’s argument is supported by a study of the particular case of Punta Carretas prison in Montevideo. Designed as a penitentiary, then used to house political prisoners during the dictatorship, the building was reopened as a shopping mall in 1994. For Draper, the mall comes to replace the prison as the site of utopian progress that was once occupied by the penitentiary, and now embodies an ‘invisible system of inclusion and exclusion in the surveilled freedom of the free market’.76 She concludes by defining ‘postdictatorship society as an open prison’.77 Compelling though this argument is, the analysis is based largely on texts by political prisoners or authors who have never been imprisoned, and does not, as she recognizes, fully account for populations who remain confined in ‘closed’ prisons: the ‘criminal’ detainees who populate the conventional prisons which are fuller now than they ever were during the dictatorships. While, as Draper argues, the paradigmatic figure of contemporary power may no

Zaffaroni, En busca, 46.

73

Gilles Deleuze, ‘Postscript on the Societies of Control’, October 59 (1 January 1992): 3–7.

74

Draper, Afterlives, 14.

75

Ibid., 58.

76

Ibid., 60.

77

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longer be the prison, to declare the end of confinement solely on the basis of Deleuze’s observations on the emergence of a ‘society of control’ risks underplaying its ongoing significance. As I will argue, prison writing often stands as both one of the principal proofs of and potential challenges to the complex hegemony of the prison. In the terms of Deleuze’s essay, which makes a temporal and formal set of distinctions between ‘sovereign power’, ‘disciplinary power’ and ‘the society of control’, the form of state power at work often seem most akin to the violence of sovereign power. In sum, in contexts where the prison remains hegemonic, the language of hegemony remains a crucial tool. However, it is not the prison alone which concerns prison writers. In the words of José Revueltas, the Mexican writer and political activist who spent years in prison and wrote two novels based on his experiences, La cárcel no es más que un reflejo condensado de la sociedad, pero no por ello más nublado; son las mismas pasiones elevadas al cubo: se pelea por un plato, un zapato, una cama o un petate. En ambas, uno está desnudo total y moralmente. La cárcel es un símbolo, es un compendio de la sociedad; las rejas del apando son las rejas de la ciudad, del país, las del mundo.78 The prison is nothing more than a condensed reflection of society, but it is not clouded. The same passions multiplied by an order of magnitude: people fight over a meal, a shoe, a bed or a bag. In both cases one is utterly, and morally naked. The prison is a symbol, a compendium of society; the bars of the punishment cell are the bars of the city, the country, the world. Revueltas describes a common theme in the texts that follow: the prison as both metaphor and synecdoche, a condensed slice of society about which general conclusions may be drawn. In his novella El apando, the prison cell is a metaphor for the alienation caused by capitalism at large, illustrated by the way prison causes the degradation of human and family relationships.79 As with Foucault’s work in Discipline and Punish and many of the texts here, the prison is a privileged space from which to critique the nature of state power. In a study of prison writing from South Africa, Daniel Roux argues that this is especially the case for political prisoners:

Cited in Yves Aguila, ‘Aproximación a las escrituras carcelarias in Hispanoamérica’, in Càrceles latinoamericanas, ed. Isabelle Tauzin Castellanos (Pessac: Presses Univ. de Bordeaux, 2008), 98. 78

José Revueltas, El apando (México: Era, 1980).

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In prison, as a political prisoner you encounter the state as a condition – the state of the country, to revert to an Early Modern use of the word ‘state’ – and your response is necessarily the condition of the people rather than the self, or rather the condition of the self as it synecdochically stands for the state of the people.80 As I explore in Chapter 1, the privileged status of the prison as a metaphor for the state is adopted and utilized by prison writers both ‘political’ and ‘criminal’. One of the central questions of this book is how (or whether) prisoner resistance to the prison has also constituted resistance to the state, but this is complicated by the fact that one of the recurring themes in these texts is the paradoxical absence of the state. Power in the Latin American prison is often exercised by what Francesca Cerbini, writing on San Pedro prison in Bolivia, calls the ‘política de control [que] se despliega de manera perversa y aparentamente paradójica a través del abandono sistemático de los prisoneros’ (politics of control which is exercised via the perverse and apparently paradoxical method of systematically abandoning the prisoners).81 State abandonment creates a vacuum that allows other, often non-state, actors to take control. As José Luis Pérez Guadelupe’s comparative ethnological study of men’s prisons across Perú, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil demonstrates, the social construction of everyday life in the prisons is determined not by the state, but rather by prisoners themselves: En las cárceles […] existe una organización informal dirigida exclusivamente por los presos, la cual respondiendo a parámetros sociales extracarcelarios, prima sobre la organización formal en el desarrollo de la vida cotidiana carcelaria.82 In the prisons […] there is an informal organization directed exclusively by prisoners, which, in responding to social factors outside the prison, takes precedence over the formal structures in the development of everyday prison life. By comparing ethnographic work done across five prisons, Pérez Guadelupe’s study concludes that the ‘normatividad formal’ (formal normativity) of state power has a limited power over the daily lives and habits of the prisoners. He ends his study with a call to attend to the ‘rol protagónico que cumplen los presos en la construcción social de la realidad carcelaria’ (primary

Daniel Roux, ‘Writing the Prison’, in The Cambridge History of South African Literature, ed. David Attwell and Derek Attridge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 547. 80

Francesca Cerbini, La casa de jabón: Etnografía de una cárcel boliviana (Barcelona: Belleterra, 2012), 32. 82 Ibid., 43. 81

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role in the social construction of carceral reality).83 The texts in this study attest to the curious absence of the state, even within locations where it is putatively strongest. This is not a critique of a pervasive or consistently hegemonic state, but rather of an arbitrarily absent state that makes itself felt sporadically in the form of an extorting guard or a distributor of often random acts of violence. Such observations mean that prison writing must always be read as what the abolitionist critic Ben Olguín calls ‘localised prisoner negotiations of power as part of the complex dialectical interplay between hegemony and counter hegemony’.84 Despite conceding the inevitability of such contradictions, Olguín echoes Franklin’s desire to identify ‘revolutionary’ literary forms. Unlike Franklin he does not see all prison writing as politicized in the same manner, but rather identifies a ‘bifurcation’ between such oppositional (revolutionary) prison texts and those he labels ‘neoeugenicist’. The latter category contains texts which imply an inherent connection between stereotyped racial, ethnic and criminal identities.85 In reading the prison in prison writing, the aim of this book is not simply to determine which texts are hegemonic and which texts ‘counterhegemonic’, but also to examine the possibility that their authors, while challenging the legitimacy of the prison on their own behalf, may at the same time be complicit in maintaining its hegemony for others. They can be simultaneously ‘revolutionary’ in their opposition to the prison and ‘neoeugenicist’ in their justifications, as in the case of Arguedas’s novel El Sexto (analysed in Chapter 3), which is shot through with colonializing discourse. This book examines the contradiction that while prison writing invariably denounces the prisons it describes, it does not necessarily challenge the legitimacy of the prison itself. I draw on a range of texts including memoirs, novels, short stories, testimonios, political propaganda. The earliest texts are from the 1930s and the most recent are from the 2000s. The texts examined are eclectic, as there are a number of competing rationales at play. One objective is to cover a broad range of geographical locations and time periods in order to give a sense of both the diversity and universality of prison conditions as represented by prisoners from across Latin America. Although every prison is unique, there are also many similarities and patterns in the forms of brutality that confinement breeds. The choice of a range of texts by both

José Luis Pérez Guadelupe, La construcción social de la realidad carcelaria (Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2000), 420. 83

Ben V. Olguín, La Pinta: Chicana/o Prisoner Literature, Culture, and Politics (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010), 31. 84

Ibid., 16–17.

85

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‘criminal’ and ‘political’ prisoners is important to my second aim: to broaden the definition of what constitutes a ‘political’ prisoner. Each chapter thus deals with a different kind of ‘politics’. The material is organized thematically rather than chronologically. In Chapter 1 the politics at stake are those of class and ideology. Two texts have been chosen from the same time period but are written by authors of different class and racial backgrounds: Álvaro Mutis’s Diario de Lecumberri (Diary of Lecumberri [1960] 1975) and La isla de los hombres solos (God Was Looking the Other Way) by José León Sánchez ([1967] 1976). I explore the implications of these positions for way in which they impact on the authors’ ideological approaches to the issues of prison reform and crime. Chapter 2 draws on theories from gender studies to engage with the relationship between masculinity, race and imprisonment. In a longitudinal study of three prison texts from Cuba, Carlos Montenegro’s Hombres sin mujer (Men Without Women [1937] 2000), Reinaldo Arenas’s Antes que anochezca (Before Night Falls [1992] 2006) and Ángel Santiesteban’s Dichosos los que lloran (Blessed Are Those Who Weep 2006), the chapter examines the invocation of hegemonic notions of masculinity in texts which expose the mutually constitutive workings of gender racial privilege and the prison. Chapter 3 turns to political prisoners from Peru assessing the convergence of imprisonment with political utopias, both real and imaginary. Through a focus on the different ways in which prisoners have contested state sovereignty, it examines traces of utopian thinking in José Maria Arguedas’s El Sexto (1961) and considers how the prison acts as a synecdoche for the Peruvian state. The second part looks at one of the most striking examples of the social construction of prisoner reality by prisoners: the way the Sendero Luminoso transformed the prisons in which they were held into what they termed ‘Luminosas Trincheras de Combate’ (Shining Trenches of Combat or LTCs). Chapter 4 deals with ways in which ‘common prisoners’ have sought to politicize their situations. It begins with the much mythologized founding of powerful trafficking gang the Comando Vermelho, as described in William da Silva Lima’s memoir Quatrocentos contra um (1991). This gang originated at the time of the repressive Brazilian military government of the 1970s and its rise is symptomatic of the repressive practices developed during the Cold and Dirty Wars in Latin America were superseded by the War on Drugs. The chapter then turns to later texts which are the product of the new penal regimes. Thomas McFadden’s testimonial account, Marching Powder (2003), provides insights into the ceding of state power to the power of the free market. Finally I return to the use of writing as a practice of solidarity, community-building and resistance by turning to the work of a collective of imprisoned women, the Colectiva Editorial de Mujeres en

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Prisión Hermanas en la Sombra (Sisters in the Shadow Editorial Collective of Women in Prison) from Mexico. This study does not pretend to constitute an exhaustive account or survey of prison writing. Inevitably there are many texts, and indeed entire geographic regions, which have been omitted. I do not engage at length with the extensive literature on the incarceration and ‘disappearance’ of leftist revolutionaries during the military dictatorships in the Southern Cone. These episodes were perhaps the worst, or at least the clearest, examples of state violence and criminal incarceration – they are certainly the most internationally infamous.86 Consequently, many prisoner testimonies attest to the crimes of the juntas, which ruled in the Southern Cone. There are too many important works that have dealt with the topic to list here, but among the most significant are El furgón de los locos (Truck of Fools) by Carlos Liscano (2001), Preso sin nombre, celda sin número (Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number) by Jacobo Timerman (1982), Chile: 11,808 horas en campos de concentración (Chile: 11,808 Hours in a Concentration Camp) by Manuel Cabieses Donoso (1975) and Camarim de Prisioneiro (The Prisoner’s Dressing Room) by Alex Polari de Alverga (1980), from Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, respectively. These texts (and many others like them) attest to the nefarious ways in which rogue right-wing, dictatorial states turned on its own citizens, imprisoned and tortured many and ‘disappeared’ tens of thousands of others. My purpose in not engaging with the Southern Cone dictatorships is twofold. First, there is already a large body of research on the area. Second, the lines between right and wrong within the discourse dealing with human rights abuse around the dictatorships are so clear. This is not problematic in itself but it becomes so when the focus on political prisoners obscures the fact that there are many other cases in other contexts in which notionally democratic and even ‘revolutionary’ regimes have routinely subjected their citizens to near-identical ordeals. A simple indication of this is that in her entry on ‘Prison Writing’ in the Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature, Elena de Costa mentions thirteen prison texts, all of which are by political prisoners, and ten of which are from Argentina or Chile.87 The problem is addressed in a recent special edition of Memory Studies, in which Susana Draper reflects on the fact that ‘we seem to be more at ease discussing human rights violations in relation to political practices of imprisonment in

A much messier example would be the violence and carceral practices of the various antagonists in the conflict between the Colombian state, the right-wing paramilitary groups and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas (FARC). The latter is a non-state entity which incarcerated many hostages. 86

Elena de Costa, ‘Prison Writing’, in Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature, ed. Verity Smith (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997), 677–78. 87

INTRODUCTION

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the authoritarian past than the violence related to present forms of so-called non-political imprisonment’.88 Jens Anderman neatly sums up the issue in relation to the politics of the ‘disappeared’ when he writes of the difficulties of commemorating ‘political imprisonment’ in Argentina and Uruguay without positing the ‘common prisoners’ of past and present as non-citizens, opening up a domain of bare life in the very act of monumental enunciation that purportedly denounces the dehumanization of the disappeared.89 In order to broaden the definition of what constitutes a political prisoner it is necessary to look beyond the military dictatorships. In seeking to overcome this problem, Draper asks a series of questions: Is it possible to imagine a site of memory for the common prisoners who suffered human rights violations? What would such a site look like? What would its purpose be? Can one have a site of memory pointing to a violence that persists, a violence that is not over?90 Draper goes on to address her questions mainly in relation to physical sites of former incarceration. The premise of this book is that writing by ‘nonpolitical’ prisoners looks like precisely such a ‘site’ and also answers the first and fourth of her questions in the affirmative. The third question, however, on the precise purpose of prison writing, is far more complex and is answered in more detail text by text. By looking elsewhere, beyond political prisoners in the Southern Cone countries, I counteract the tendency for their prison narratives to eclipse those from other, more morally ambiguous contexts. The prisoner representations of carceral practices should also be of interest precisely because they are widely thought to be unexceptional. The picture of Latin American punitive culture in this book is also partial because the texts addressed here are mostly by men. Although there are many texts by women prisoners, because of the larger numbers of men who are incarcerated there are correspondingly more prison texts written by them. (This may also reflect the fact that men are more likely to be able to publish.) The majority of texts represent gendered, male perspectives. This limited scope means that any generalized conclusions about ‘the prison’

Susana Draper, ‘Against Depolitization: Prison-Museums, Escape Memories, and the Place of Rights’, Memory Studies 8, no. 1 (1 January 2015), 62. 88

Jens Andermann, ‘Placing Latin American Memory: Sites and the Politics of Mourning’, Memory Studies 8, no. 1 (1 January 2015), 7. 89

Draper, ‘Against Depoliticization’, 64.

90

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are drawn, with the exception of Chapter 4, from male-dominated insights, although I have, in Chapter 2, sought to address some of the blind spots in such masculinist bias. It is important to resist framing the Latin American prison in terms of its success or failure relative to an ideal in the Global North. Citing Timothy Mitchell’s study of colonial Egypt, Alexandra Stern recalls that ‘examples of the Panopticon and similar disciplinary institutions were developed and introduced in many cases not in France or England but on the colonial frontiers of Europe, in places like Russia, India, North and South America and Egypt’.91 Rather than viewing the prisons portrayed in these texts as aberrant deviations from a preferable or more ‘civilized’ norm, we must recognize European and North American complicity in the development of Latin American prisons. There is a risk that readings of Latin American prison writing outside Latin America could fall into the trap of Orientalism, especially acute in the study of texts that present themselves as extreme or as shocking examples of peripheral violence from the margins of the margins. As Zaffaroni points out, however, there are certain characteristics that are common to all prisons: La selectividad la reproducción de la violencia, el condicionamiento de mayores conductas lesivas, la corrupción institucional, la concentración de poder, la verticalización social y la destrucción de las relaciones horizontales o comunitarias, no son características coyunturales, sino estructurales del ejercicio de poder de todos los sistemas penales. (1998: 19 emphasis in the original) The selective reproduction of violence, the conditioning of very harmful behaviours, institutional corruption, the concentration of power, social verticalization and the destruction of horizontal and community relationships are not incidental but structural characteristics of the exercise of power in all penal systems. While this book is limited to prisoner texts from Latin America and the context of each is unique to its time and place, the issues at stake are common to any society that chooses to punish through confinement.

Alexandra Stern, ‘The Birth of the Penitentiary in Latin America: Essays on Criminology, Prison Reform, and Social Control, 1830–1940 by Ricardo D. Salvatore; Carlos Aguirre’, Law and History Review 17, no. 1 (1 April 1999), 181. 91

1 The Punitive and the Lettered City: The Politics of Prison Writing

In 1963 the Costa Rican literary establishment was shocked when the country’s most infamous prisoner, José León Sánchez, won the national short story prize, the Premio Juegos Florales (Floral Games), for the story ‘El poeta, el niño y el río’ (‘The Poet, the Boy, and the River’).1 Thirteen years earlier, León Sánchez had confessed to being responsible for the most sensational crime of the century. On the morning of 13 May 1950, thieves broke into the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (The Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels) – home of the Virgen de los Ángeles, the patron saint of Costa Rica – killed a guard and made off with the saint’s jewels, which were worth several million dollars. Following a national manhunt for the man the press dubbed ‘el Monstruo de la Basílica’ (the monster of the Basilica), the then nineteen-year-old León Sánchez was accused of being el monstruo (the monster). An illiterate indigenous orphan whose mother had been a sex worker, León Sánchez was identified by his father-in-law, who claimed to have seen him with a bag of jewellery, although neither bag nor jewels were ever recovered. No lawyer would agree to defend the teenager, whose confession had been extracted after a brutal police interrogation. He was excommunicated from the Catholic Church and condemned to ‘cadena perpetua’ (imprisonment for life), which meant spending the rest of his life dragging a ball and chain on the tiny island of San Lucas, a penal colony off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The colony had been founded after the abolition of the death penalty and had an annual mortality rate of 20 per cent. Against

1

José León Sánchez, El poeta, el niño y el río (Costa Rica: Cárcel de Heredia, 1964).

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these odds, León Sánchez not only survived on San Lucas, but eventually learned to read and write from a fellow prisoner.2 Shortly after the success of ‘El poeta, el niño y el río’, in 1967 he published a novel set on the island, La isla de los hombres solos (The Island of Lonely Men), composed on paper bags of cement that he used to sleep on.3 La isla was a huge commercial success, with sales figures rivalling those of classic boom texts in the same period. In 1974 it was made into a film in Mexico and it is now in its hundredth edition, with over 2 million copies sold.4 Because of its initial popularity, Ervin Beck, in an American review of the English translation, titled God Was Looking the Other Way (1973), even went so far as to describe the novel as the ‘chief rival of One Hundred Years of Solitude’.5 Thanks to his literary successes, León Sánchez was transformed from ‘el reo más temido y odiado del pueblo costarricense’ (the most feared and hated prisoner in Costa Rica) into a national cultural curiosity.6 In his words, ‘el Monstruo de la Basílica’ became ‘el Loco del Libro’ (the lunatic with the book).7 His success as a writer paved the way for his release from prison in 1980, seventeen years after he won the Premio Juegos Florales. He is now the bestselling writer in Costa Rican history, with twenty-seven literary works, many academic articles, and a string of prizes and honorary degrees to his name. In 1998 he was pardoned of the crime for which he was convicted, and the Catholic Church has apologized for excommunicating him.8 León Sánchez’s life story is one of redemption through literature, with the writing of La isla de los hombres solos at its centre. As I have outlined, the ciudad letrada has come to stand as a shorthand for both the processes of discursive nation-building and the exclusions that this inevitably entailed. The prison was a complicit exclusionary institution, making concrete the epistemic violence and exclusions of the ciudad letrada. The success of La isla de los hombres solos represents an incursion into the ciudad letrada by one whose subaltern position had led to his exclusion, not only from the realm of lettered discourse, but from the whole of Costa Rican society. This chapter interrogates the politics of prison writing, particularly

2

Rogelio Ortega, La isla de León, Documentary (Agave, 2009).

In 2016 I saw the enormous sheet of brown paper on which José León Sánchez wrote the first pages in the author’s house in San José. 3

Ortega, La isla. An English translation was published in 1973 under the name of God Was Looking the Other Way (Boston: Little Brown). 4

5

Ervin Beck,‘La isla de los hombres solos’, Books Abroad 49, no. 1 (1 January 1975): 94.

José León Sánchez, ‘Biografía’, accessed 12 January 2012, http://www.joseleonsanchez.com /biografia.html. 6

7

Ibid.

8

Ibid.

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its claim to challenge lettered hierarchies, by contrasting La isla de los hombres solos with a prison text by an author who is more representative of the traditional letrado, Álvaro Mutis’s Diario de Lecumberri (Diary of Lecumberri).9 Álvaro Mutis was the son of a Colombian diplomat who fled to Mexico in 1956, after using funds from his job at Standard Oil to aid political dissidents in his native country. A keen poet, he arrived in Mexico City bearing a letter recommending him to Luis Buñuel and was soon moving in elite cultured circles. However, at the request of the Colombian government he was arrested by Interpol and held in the infamous prison of Lecumberri in central Mexico City for over a year. This institution is famous for having once held a number of political figures, including the revolutionary leader Pancho Villa, who famously escaped in 1912, the muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, the writer José Revueltas and Trotsky’s murderer, Ramón Mercader. While in prison Mutis received the attention of important writers such as Octavio Paz, Elena Poniatowska and others, who visited him and campaigned on his behalf. After his release, he too became a bestselling author of fiction, best known for his series of novels about the misanthropic anti-hero Maqroll el Gaviero. Diario de Lecumberri is often published in the same volume as La mansión de Araucaíma (The Manor of Araucaíma), a collection of short stories also composed in prison. He also maintained friendships with writers as celebrated as Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes. Diario de Lecumberri and La isla de los hombres solos invite comparison because both indicate their political intention to be the denunciation of the conditions and abuses that take place within the prisons in which they were composed. Both strive to function, in Beverley’s phrase, as ‘a form of social action’ by taking aim at the prison.10 In this they seem to conform to Franklin’s claim that ‘prison writing’ is, because of its circumstances of composition, an inherently politicized cultural form that arises in direct ideological conflict with traditional elite forms of literature and culture.11 The very idea of ‘prison writing’ as a genre recognizes that the material situation and context of the writer will inevitably impact upon the political content of his or her text. This is a familiar notion in historical materialist criticism. For Fredric Jameson, the ‘situatedness’ of an author (understood in terms of the material traces of their social, racial and gendered origins)

Álvaro Mutis, Diario de Lecumberri: La mansión de Araucaíma (Barcelona: Círculo de Lectores, [1960] 1975). 9

Beverley, Against Literature, 84.

10

Franklin, Prison Writing, 251.

11

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will affect everything that they write, albeit often in unpredictable ways.12 Sometimes also called ‘positionality’, or in feminist theory, ‘standpoint’, these terms signal a determining logic according to which knowledge is defined by a subject’s social position of relative advantage (or disadvantage) in relation to others. It does not follow that a position of social, economic or gender disadvantage will translate into epistemic disadvantage. On the contrary, feminists, such as Nancy Hartsock, have argued that women occupy a position of epistemic privilege in relation to the understanding of patriarchy, while Marxists have shown how the working class has occupied a privileged position in relation to understandings of labour and capital.13 It does not take much to see how the notion of epistemic privilege is relevant to prison writing. Indeed, it is common sense that those who have experienced imprisonment will be in a privileged position with regard to understanding the prison. But Franklin’s assumptions around prisoner consciousness go further in that he echoes the Marxist notion that class position translates not only into political consciousness, but also into action to bring about material change. Rather than class struggle and revolution, however, in the case of prison writing any oppositional politics might be measured by its opposition to the prison as an institution. This chapter aims to explore the politics of situatedness in terms both the texts’ composition within prison and to their authors’ class subject positions prior to confinement. There are numerous points of contrast between them: Mutis was imprisoned for financial crime with a political justification, León Sánchez for a notorious murder; Mutis hailed from well-educated, traditional letrado stock (his father, Santiago Mutis Dávila, was also a lawyer), while León Sánchez was an illiterate orphan of indigenous heritage.14 While León Sánchez enacts a discursive incursion

In an exposition of the relation between ‘situatedness’ and ideology as it inheres in literature Fredric Jameson notes that ideology itself ‘results from our inescapable situatedness: situatedness in class, race and gender, in nationality, in history – in short, in all kinds of determinations, which no biological individual can evade and which only a few belated idealisms or the most incorrigibly rationalist and universalist Enlightenment philosophy conceived of transcending’. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (New York: Verso, 2005), 170. 13 Heidi Grasswick puts it in terms of the related Marxist idea of ‘class consciousness’, writing that ‘social position with respect to material labour is inversely related to one’s epistemic position’ ‘Feminist Social Epistemology’, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online), ed. Edward N. Zalta, accessed 2 April 2013, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries /feminist-social-epistemology/. 14 José Díaz-Granados, ‘Cronología de Álvaro Mutis’, in Lecturas convergentes, ed. J. G. Cobo Borda (Bogotá, Colombia: Taurus, 2006), 342. León Sánchez told me he had no idea who his father was and that his mother had been a sex worker who had been unable to raise any of her children. She herself was the daughter of an indigenous woman, who was raped by a white landowner (interview in 2016). 12

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into the realm of the ciudad letrada from below, Mutis writes from within its edifice. The chapter is an exploration of the division made between elite and popular culture according to which the literature and novels of a letrado are contrasted with those of an author of subaltern origin. It gives credence to, yet also confounds, some of the assumptions that might be made about the determining relationship between social standpoint and political ideology. Crucial to my reading is the fact that both texts are narrated by subjects who occupy positions very similar to the authors’ own. Arguably both authors also use writing to constitute themselves as subjects in relation to the institution of letters and the state. The politics of each of these texts is also inflected by the ways in which they are figured as a means to either reproduce or, in the case of León Sánchez, transform their authorial subject’s position in the eyes of the state. In exploring the questions above, I draw on some of the theoretical work of the Latin American Subaltern Studies group. The group, mainly through their defence of the truth-value of testimonio in the 1990s, attempted to enact a politics of solidarity with subaltern sectors. In promoting the testimonio as a form of anti-literature they attempted to widen what Jean Franco called the ‘breach’ in the walls of the lettered city.15 Their political views divided over the nature of ‘subalternist politics’ and split into several factions. These are characterized by one of its former members, John Beverley, as statist and anti-statist. In Latin Americanism after 9/11, Beverley sets out the distinction between those ‘anti-statist’ subalternists, such as Gayatri Spivak, who have celebrated this potential of subalternity to undermine the state. The antistatist position is also, for Beverley, epitomized by the deconstructionist thinking which saw the figure of the subaltern as that which was inherently outside politics and therefore, through a Derridean, ‘supplementary’ logic, constituted a threat to the established order by virtue of its very exclusion from that order.16 This position is opposed by other subalternists, such as Álvaro García Linera, who see the possibility for the inclusion of the subaltern in the processes of statehood. According to Beverley, the ‘anti-statist’ engagement with subalternist politics can only ever be an ‘ethical gesture’ while the ‘statist’ subaltern position on the other hand is ‘political’ because only through engagement with something like the state is it possible to produce real change.17 In fact, Beverley (who is influenced by Ernesto Laclau’s thinking on

Franco, Decline and Fall, 10. Using the logic of the Derridean supplement, Gareth Williams explains that the term subaltern ‘points to a site in both the social field and in the philosophical/epistemological realms in which the displacement from hegemonic to non-hegemonic sign systems may occur’ The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), 10. 17 John Beverley, Latinamericanism after 9/11 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 119. 15 16

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hegemony here) argues that by attempting to include the ‘demands, values, experiences from the popular-subaltern sectors’ within the state it may in fact be possible to alter fundamentally and ‘radicalize’ its nature.18 For Beverley, such a process would require a ‘prior process of hegemonic articulation […] capable of addressing the state’.19 In a combination of this idea with Franklin’s claim about the inherently politicized nature of prison writing, this chapter reads the politics of these subaltern and the letrado writers in relation to the kind of precursory penal abolitionism outlined in the introduction. This chapter is an analysis of the ways in which both writers are caught in what Olguín terms the ‘prisoner-writer-prisoner dialectic’.20 In this ‘new variation of the prisoner’s dilemma, the prison will always be an overarching spectre’ in writing by prisoners, which will ‘always […] be marked by the author’s attempts to simultaneously claim and distance him- or herself from the prisoner identity’.21 The argument begins by interrogating the politics of truth telling. By contrasting how the texts present themselves as contextually situated, I explore ways in which their status as truth or fiction affects the ways in which they have been and can be read. I then focus on the ideology of Diario and suggest a relationship between Mutis’s situatedness, his notion of universal human nature and his views on crime. Finally I look at the politics of La isla, which encompass the state, the legal system and crime, before ending with reflection on the limitations that the prison imposes on the political imagination.

Forms of truth La isla de los hombres solos begins when its teenage narrator, Jacinto – an illiterate shepherd whose lowly rural origins mirror León Sánchez’s own – is happily engaged to a girl named María Reina. María Reina is also desired by a brutal policeman, Don Miguel, who abducts and rapes her. When she becomes pregnant with Don Miguel’s child, Jacinto raises the baby as his own, and endures humiliation in the village without complaint. Their happiness is cut short when María Reina and the baby die in a freak drowning accident and Jacinto is accused by Don Miguel of murdering them out of jealousy. Being illiterate and unable to defend himself, Jacinto is given a life sentence on San Lucas. The rest of the novel is a series of episodes that recount Jacinto’s experiences from his arrival on the island as a teenager through to his life there as an old man. These include accounts of the grind of everyday life in shackles, explanations of the complexities of sexual and economic relations Ibid., 115. Ibid. 20 Olguín, La Pinta, 77. 18 19

Ibid.

21

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between the prisoners, and denunciations of the abuses suffered by inmates at the hands of the soldiers and the feared ‘cabos de vara’ (bosses with sticks) who wield power on the island. There are sensationalized stories of attempted escapes, illness, attacks by animals, and in the most disturbing scenes, graphic accounts of euthanasia, cannibalism and necrophilia. Jacinto muses on the past, the nature of time, friendship, beauty, nostalgia and God, who he maintains does not care about the prisoners and instead always ‘miraba para otro lado’ (looked the other way).22 Towards the end, the novel takes an explicitly political turn as Jacinto advocates a series of liberal reforms to penal policy, elaborates a theory of criminality and calls for a penal system that would facilitate prisoner rehabilitation. The novel ends with Jacinto as an old man being released into an open prison; the final scene is a description of his train journey away from the island towards a better future. There are a number of similarities between the life of the novel’s protagonist and that of its author: both were from poor rural backgrounds, illiterate and wrongfully accused of publicly abhorred crimes; both were also convicted after being tortured into confession. In short, both were imprisoned because their poverty and lack of education made them vulnerable. The parallels between the life of León Sánchez and his character highlight the relationship between prison narratives and the truth of the contexts of their composition, something often identified by critics of the genre as central to its political authority.23 For these critics, prisoner texts tend to occupy an indeterminate location between fiction and testimony – a position of self-reflexive situatedness – which grants them a particular status beyond that of more abstract of imaginative literature. Both of the texts at hand occupy ambiguous positions with regard to the truth that belie their autodenonimation as ‘novel’ and ‘diary’. The 1976 edition of La isla de los hombres solos begins with various paratextual indicators that root the content firmly within the prison in which it was composed. The editor invites readers to compare León Sánchez’s life with that of his protagonist in an introductory note titled ‘¿Quién es José León Sánchez?’ (Who Is José León Sánchez?) which begins, ‘La historia de José León es como un cuento’ (The life of José León is like a story).24 This awareness of the mediation of experience by the conventions of storytelling is thus offered as the basis for the novel’s veracity. The author’s mugshot from when he was arrested is displayed inside the front cover. Although he is apparently nineteen, he could, from his appearance, easily be a child of thirteen or even younger (Figure 1.1). José León Sánchez, La isla de los hombres solos (Barcelona: Novaro, [1967] 1976), 105. Translations are my own. 23 This point is made by Olguín in La Pinta, 89, and in Andrew Sobanet’s Jail Sentences: Representing Prison in Twentieth-Century French Fiction (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008), 15. 24 León Sánchez, La isla, 7. 22

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FIGURE 1.1  José León Sánchez in 1950, apparently aged 19 from La isla de los hombres solos. Barcelona: Novaro, 1976.

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An author’s note from the first edition explains his motivation for writing the novel.25 It describes the first time he heard he was going to be transported to San Lucas, while resident in another prison, and the fear he and his companions experienced. Since he wrote the novel in 1963, León Sánchez explains, he has not been able to re-read it because it contains truthful elements that make it too painful, ‘El recuerdo me ha hecho llorar a veces, ya que estas páginas no son invento’ (The memory of it has made me cry sometimes, because these pages are not inventions).26 When he arrived on the island, he explains how moved he was by the stories of men who had been there for nearly thirty years. He also recounts how, when he was working for the authorities as a cleaner, he was given the task of throwing all the prison records into the sea. He rescued a book entitled De guardia (Guards’ Log), which contained records of ‘novedades, castigos, visitas, incidentes, órdenes’ (news, punishments, visits, incidents, orders), from which he learned about the past of the institution.27 The novel is thus presented as the heterogeneous product of a number of different orders of representation that grant it extra-literary authority, all of which depend on the fact that León Sánchez was a prisoner as he wrote it. The sources León Sánchez cites amount to a popular alternative to the archive as defined by Roberto González Echevarría (1990), in which legal, anthropological and literary discourses act as a kind of repository of material for Latin American writers.28 León Sánchez’ archival practices, by contrast, are localized and inspired by personal and oral histories. La isla is counterarchival, based on excluded outsider voices, translated by the author into a narrative for a popular rather than elite readership with the explicit aim of contesting official history. If, as Foucault put it in relation to records of individuals mentioned in the legal archive, the archive represents the brief encounters of individuals with power, León Sánchez’s text represents a reappropriation of archival material and a repurposing of the content of De guardia against the particular configuration of power it represented.29 This relationship to both truth and power as they converge in writing is not only confirmed by La isla’s paratexts, but also rehearsed in its narrative form. The novel opens as if its narrator protagonist, the now aged former farm worker Jacinto, is responding to an injunction to answer the question of whether it can be true that he cannot read or write. He begins by explaining that he is illiterate:

Ibid., 10.

25

Ibid., 9.

26

Ibid.

27

González Echevarría, Myth and Archive, 3. In Foucault’s formulation: ‘What snatched them [the lives] from the darkness in which they could, perhaps should, have remained, was their encounter with power.’ Power (New York: New Press, 2000), 161. 28 29

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Me dice usted que ya se lo habían contado. Bueno, es cierto que no sé leer ni escribir. Pero alguna persona tiene que dar a conocer estas penas que le he de ir contando y que irán saliendo poco a poco. De Cosas Como Un Libro No He Sabido Nunca Nada. Pero sé muy bien hablar y hablar de todo lo que he vivido y siempre lo hago con este tono de penar en mis palabras. En verdad toda mi vida ha sido como esta tristeza que se adivina en los ojos de un grupo de gallinas cuando tienen hambre y está lloviendo y desde hace muchos días han estado esperando que pase este llover y llover.30 You tell me, sir, that they already told you. Well, it’s true. I can neither read nor write. But somebody has to let the suffering be known, I have to tell you about it, it will be revealed little by little. I Have Never Known Anything About Books or Anything Like Them. But I know how to talk, to talk about everything I have lived through and I always do so with this painful tone in my words. In truth my entire life has been like the sadness you can see in the eyes of a group of hungry chickens in the rain when they’ve been waiting for days for it to stop raining and raining. Through the fact that Jacinto is illiterate, León Sánchez influences the aesthetic expectations of his readers with regard to narrative style: the simplicity of the language, rather than indicating naivety as an author, is accounted for by the personality of his protagonist. Jacinto first references the events he will describe as ‘penas’ (suffering) rather than ‘hechos’ (facts) or ‘eventos’ (events), foregrounding their emotional veracity rather than factual referentiality. The narrative form also recalls the picaresque form most famously represented by Lazarillo de Tormes (The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes) in which the narrator addresses an otherwise unnamed authority figure as ‘Vuestra Merced’ (Your Worship). In La isla, the conversation between an authority figure who listens in order to pass judgement and a subordinate witness plays out as a variant of Olguín’s ‘prisoner-writer-prisoner dialectic’. Jacinto frequently pauses in his narrative to comment to this interlocutor and imagine his encouraging response: ‘¡Me agrada mucho escuchar a usted decir que yo tengo razón!’31 (I’m so happy to hear you say that I am right!) and to justify the inclusion of details that Jacinto worries might be insignificant, ‘Bueno, si usted cree que es bueno para

León Sánchez, La isla, 17.

30

Ibid., 60.

31

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ponerlo en su libro … ’32 (Well, if you think it’s good for you to put it in your book … ). The prose reads as if the interlocutor is faithfully recording Jacinto’s entire testimony, including details such as his hesitations and requests for affirmation. The interlocutor is thus positioned as a letrado of higher status than Jacinto whose silent presence legitimates the reliability of the narrative by affirming even Jacinto’s most unlikely stories. As I mentioned in the introduction, González Echevarría’s analysis of Lazarillo is at the heart of his account of the relationship between writing and the law that undergirds Latin American literature. He argues that the picaresque narrative form is indicative of a particular kind of legal relation characteristic of Spanish domination over its territory. As he points out: In sixteenth-century Spain, the documents imitated by the incipient novel were legal ones […] The form assumed by the Picaresque was that of a relación (report, deposition, letter bearing witness to something), because this kind of written report belonged to the huge imperial bureaucracy through which power was administered in Spain and its possessions.33 González Echevarría continues that ‘the writer [was] enfranchised by the power of this document which, like Lazarillo’s text was addressed to a higher authority’.34 This narrative form of enfranchisement is also, as we saw in the introduction, the narrative form that Raymond Williams calls ‘working class literature’ as it was most likely to arise from the inequalities of education and class position.35 Seen through this lens, the unequal power consists in the silent interlocutor’s access to learning which gives him the status to redeem Jacinto by giving him the means to narrate. The narrative form represents, therefore, a means of ‘hegemonic articulation’, a demonstration and a negotiation of the hierarchical relationship between different subject positions: lettered and unlettered, criminal and citizen. It confirms, moreover, that the narrative subject position available to the subaltern is that of witness rather than creative writer. The fictional relationship between Jacinto and the interlocutor is similar to the relationship between Rigoberta Menchú narrating subject of the classic testimonio, Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia (I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala) (1983), and Elisabeth Burgos-Debray, the educated interlocutor who recorded her testimony.36

Ibid., 120.

32

González Echevarría, Myth and Archive, 10.

33

Ibid.

34

Williams, ‘The Writer’, 25.

35

Elizabeth Burgos and Rigoberta Menchú, Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia (México, DF: Siglo Veintiuno, 1983). 36

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Like testimonio, La isla aims to expose the reality of life on San Lucas through a narrative that speaks for the silenced and oppressed and which constructs a collective identity through a popular narrative. In the case of Menchú’s testimony about the terror inflicted on Indigenous people in the Guatemalan genocide the claim that she was the agent narrator who personally experienced the events she described proved problematic when the anthropologist David Stoll set out to disprove the factual veracity of some of the events she described.37 In La isla a crucial ambiguity is created through an inverse process. León Sánchez portrays San Lucas through a fictional narrative while also positioning himself as an author and agent of those or very similar experiences.38 There is a sense, however, in which the very qualities that strive to grant La isla similar extra-literary status to the testimonio at the same time work to strip the novel of its literary credibility. Despite its commercial success, La isla remains largely unstudied beyond Costa Rica and is often disparaged by Costa Rican critics. Beck’s review of the English translation points out that ‘Along with his popularity […] has gone a continuing controversy regarding the literary merits of the book, primarily because of its sensational subject matter and its primitive literary techniques’.39 He contrasts León Sánchez unfavourably with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Henri Charrière but concedes that such ‘comparisons are odious, […] since Sanchez’ [sic] work belongs in a very special literary category. It comes as close as any novel can to being a folk novel’.40 For Beck, the fact that ‘Sanchez [sic] wrote the book as a naive artist under primitive circumstances while he himself was a prisoner of San Lucas’ means that the work should not be judged according to ‘the more conventional canons of sophisticated fiction’. Rather it is possessed of ‘special artistry […] since it speaks for the folk in the language of the folk’.41 This, he suggests, is the reason why it has been ‘so well received by oppressed people in the world who themselves feel God is looking the other way’.42 Beck’s assumption that the people who have best received the novel are ‘the oppressed’ seems based on its large sales figures. Despite his call for the novel not to be compared with ‘sophisticated fiction’ and his claim to respect it as a ‘folk novel’, he cannot imagine it to have an appeal for middle-class buyers.

Arturo Arias and David Stoll, The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2001). 38 George Yúdice, ‘Testimonio and Postmodernism’, in The Real Thing: Testimonial Discourse and Latin America, ed. Georg M. Gugelberger (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 44. 39 Beck, God Was Looking, 95. 37

Ibid.

40

Ibid.

41

Ibid.

42

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Similarly, while the idea of the novel as a ‘folk novel’ might suggest a possibility for the recuperation of the text by the national critical scene, León Sánchez has until very recently remained an outsider to the Costa Rican canon, being canonized only by Cuban publishing house Casa de las Américas.43 Costa Rican critic Carlos Cortés goes so far as to question whether León Sánchez can even be considered a ‘writer’: ‘no sé muy bien si es un escritor o si es otra cosa’ (I don’t very well know if he’s a writer or if he is some other thing).44 He mockingly concludes that ‘José León Sánchez tiene todas las cualidades para ser un gran escritor: es el mentiroso más grande del mundo’45 (José León Sánchez has all the qualities of the great writer: he’s the biggest liar in the world). Although this comment recalls Mario Vargas Llosa’s notion that all literary creativity is a kind of deception and that ‘las novelas siempre mienten’ (novels always lie), Cortés’ tone indicates that he considers León Sánchez to be more of a dishonest witness than a creative writer.46 It also serves as another reminder of the peculiar status of prison writing, which is often condemned as unreliable truth even when it presents itself as fiction. Ultimately it also illustrates the ways in which positive valuations of any extra-literary writing practices (testimony in particular) can all too easily be translated back into more conventional demarcations of the limits of the ‘literary’ itself. With hindsight, the narrative can be read not only as the exposition of conditions on San Lucas on behalf of the other prisoners but also as an attempt, on the part of León Sánchez, to use fiction to establish a new relationship with the juridico-legal regime that had condemned him. Writing became the means by which León Sánchez transformed his reputation and ‘wrote himself out’ of prison.47 There is a sense that it is not only the fact of León Sánchez’ imprisonment that led to

A. Díaz Acosta, Panorama histórico-literario de nuestra América (La Habana: Casa de las Américas, 1982). 43

In La gran novela perdida: historia personal de la narrativa costarrisible – an ironic account of the shortcomings of Costa Rican literature – Cortés relates an anecdote in which an academic at a conference in Spain thinks that the Costa Rican author Méndez Lihn is the author of Julio Cortázar’s short story ‘La autopista del sur’. He then imagines a situation in which a typical ignorant Spanish, German or U.S. professor writes an essay on either ‘José Luis Sánchez’ or ‘José León Borges’. He suggests that these two authors have something in common, because, he claims, there has been so much criticism of Borges that it is possible to say anything about him and be believed by someone. This situation is ‘parecida a la literatura costarricense sólo que al revés’ (Like Costa Rican literature but the other way around): no one has said anything about León Sánchez so anyone will believe anything. In contrast to the endless things being said about Borges, he writes ‘casi nadie puede hablar de León Sánchez […] es un tipo fuera de serie’ (almost nobody can say anything about León Sánchez […] he doesn’t fit in anywhere) (San José: Perro Azul, 2007), 115. 44

Ibid., 124.

45

Mario Vargas Llosa, La verdad de las mentiras (Madrid: Alfaguara, 2002), 16.

46

Olguín comments that this is frequently the goal of prisoner writers. La Pinta, 68.

47

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his status as a writer to be doubted, as this was never in question in the case of the imprisoned Mutis but rather his class origins. In a letter that called for Mutis’s pardon and release, writing and imprisonment are tellingly presented as irreconcilable categories. This letter, signed by Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo and other luminaries who are unable to make a case for Mutis based on his innocence or status as a political prisoner, calls for clemency because he is a poet. Señor Presidente: The Colombian writer Álvaro Mutis has been in jail for a year and six months. We ignore the reasons. We don’t want to know them. Neither do we want to oppose the course of justice, or to request that exceptions be made in favour of the privileges of ancestry, money, or talent. But if we don’t know the misdemeanours or guilt attributed to Mutis, we do know that he is a poet, a generous and cordial man, and a great creator. This encourages us to ask you, Señor Presidente, to see that his cause is approached with sympathy and benevolence within the legal procedures. We are sure that, should this be done […] not only the rule of law but a fair appreciation of the values of art in and through Latin America will become a source of inspiration. Respectfully, Alfonso Reyes, Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Carmen Toscano de Moreno Sánchez, José Luis Martínez, Juan Soriano, Alí Chumacero, José Alvarado, Elena Poniatowska, Josefina Vicens, Diego de Mesa, Lupe Rivera, Fernando Lanz Duret.48 The opening request that he not receive special treatment because of ‘the privileges of ancestry, money or talent’ is directly contradicted by the final request, which implies that to leave him languishing will indicate a philistine failure to appreciate the ‘values of art’. The signatories, who are, admittedly, writing in tactical support of a friend, imply that Mutis’s status as a poet means he cannot possibly deserve to be in prison. What is of particular note is the way in which, for these inhabitants of the ciudad letrada, the ‘rule of law’ is here made almost synonymous with ‘a fair appreciation of the values of art in and through Latin America’. The texts embody very different relationships to the legal unconscious that structures Latin American lettered culture: while León Sánchez writes from a position of subjugation relative to the law, Mutis’s lack of immunity from the law is presented, by virtue of his status as a letrado, to be a troubling anomaly. Cited in Álvaro Mutis and Jesse Lytle, ‘Diary of Lecumberri: A Poet behind Bars’, Hopscotch: A Cultural Review 1, no. 3 (1999): 4. 48

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Mutis himself reflected at length on the relationship between his status as a writer and the experience of incarceration. In an opening note to Diario, Mutis thanks Helena Poniatowska [sic] and declares that La ficción hizo posible que la experiencia no destruyera toda razón de vida. El testimonio ve la luz por quienes quedaron allá, por quienes vivieron conmigo la más asoladora miseria, por quienes me revelaron aspectos, ocultos para mí hasta entonces, de esa tan mancillada condición humana de la que cada día nos alejamos más torpemente.49 Fiction stopped the experience from destroying all reason for living. The testimony sees the light of day on behalf of those who stayed there, for those who lived with me in the most devastating misery, for those who revealed aspects of this tainted human condition, previously hidden from me, and from which we separate ourselves more awkwardly every day. While he offers up his text on behalf of his fellow prisoners, writing is also a form of personal therapy for Mutis, a process that keeps him sane. Unlike León Sánchez, who indicates that his fiction is based on diverse sources and is in some sense the product of collective experience, Mutis’s text declares itself to be a diary, raising the expectation of a first person narrative. Although the title conjures the truth effects associated with the genre, the text is not a conventional diary. It bears few of the usual textual or paratextual strategies of prison writing; there are no dates and no chronology. Mutis never explains who the narrator is (although it is inferred to be the author himself) or how he came to be in Lecumberri. The narrative ends without any reference to when he might be released. The title Diario de Lecumberri refers, it would seem, not to an attempt to write a personal diary of individual experience, but rather to create a series of loosely related anecdotes. The text has five sections, each a short vignette. The first tells the story of a series of unexplained deaths. Investigations reveal that some prisoners have been manufacturing tecata balín (fake heroin) to sell to others and that this had led to mass poisoning. The second focuses on a prisoner named Abel, whose eccentric behaviour fascinates Mutis. The third section is the story of Palitos, a friend of Mutis who is killed by another prisoner. Mutis recounts his miserable life and addiction, the daily struggle to find the sixteen pesos required to get his fix of heroin. In the end he is killed because of his friendship with an effeminate cacarizo (prisoner who helps the guards in return for favours). The fourth chapter also focuses on a single prisoner, this time a contract killer named Rigoberto, who had been imprisoned twenty-seven times for murder or carrying illegal weapons and has spent forty-two

Mutis, Diario, 7.

49

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of his sixty-five years in prison.50 The final chapter takes place entirely in the prison bathrooms and records the conversations that the prisoners have as they wash. Mutis merges the stories and voices of different prisoners together in a long passage in which they reminisce about their lives outside prison and speculate about what they will do when they are released. Like León Sánchez, Mutis blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction in his treatment of his fellow prisoners as literary material. While León Sánchez does this by merging the narratives of many prisoners into the story of Jacinto, Mutis attempts to make sense of (and indeed to elevate his experience) by comparing his fellow prisoners to characters from high literature. This is particularly emphatic in the second chapter, which Mutis begins with a reflection on the depiction of eccentric characters in Shakespeare, Dickens and Balzac. Such characters are, he muses, notoriously difficult to invent and are rarely encountered in everyday life. He is excited to discover one such character in Abel, who is housed in a cell opposite his own: Cuál no sería mi asombro, cuánta mi felicidad de coleccionista, cuando tuve ante mí y por varios meses para observarlo a mi placer, a un evidente, a un indiscutible ‘personaje de Balzac’. Un avaro.51 What a shock, therefore, what joy for me as a collector, when I had before me for a few months, to observe at my leisure, an obvious, undeniable Balzacian character. A miser.52 The identification of a prisoner who is comparable to a Balzacian eccentric brings joy to Mutis, by now a confessed ‘colleccionista’ (collector) who has found a new specimen. The second chapter focuses on Abel, a man who acts as a curiosity, the ‘raw material’ for Mutis’s writing. Abel insists on being addressed as ‘Colonel’ although Mutis suspects that he is using the title fraudulently. He is an eccentric man whose obsessive miserliness fascinates Mutis and the other prisoners because he would rather remain in Lecumberri than pay the bail money required for his release. When he finally does leave the prison, Mutis and the others are curious to see inside his cell. Mutis imagines it will be like the cell of another character from literature, the Abbot Farias from Alexandre Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo (under whose guidance Dantès is inspired to escape). He is then disgusted and disappointed to find that Abel’s cell is infested with rats feasting on the tiny pieces of food that he has hoarded in scraps of paper. No amount of cleaning can rid it of its foul smell and the guards are forced to use it as a

Ibid., 39.

50

Ibid., 19.

51

Translation from Mutis and Lytle, ‘Diary’, 14.

52

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broom cupboard. Here fiction has failed to prepare Mutis for the abjection of human experience, which erupts as a shock to his literary understanding of the world. The experience is nevertheless folded back into Mutis’s literary project, not only in Diario but in his entire oeuvre. He and his critics have claimed that his time in prison had a profound effect on his writing and that his most famous creation, the cynical, misanthropic anti-hero of many of his novels, Maqroll el Gaviero, could not have been invented had it not been for his experience in Lecumberri.53 For Ilan Stavans, Diario is ‘the Achilles’ heel on which Mutis’ oeuvre stands’.54 For Mutis, the fates of his fellow prisoners constitute a resource for his literary practice; their role in the text to is teach him of the extremes of ‘this tainted human condition’. As for León Sánchez, writing about the prison becomes a process of subject formation, in which the writing subject is inevitably and profoundly marked by the prison. The presentation and forms of these texts, as well as the ways in which they have been critically received, indicate that they occupy the ambiguous position between literature and fiction that Andrew Sobanet argues is characteristic of the ‘prison novel’.55 Mutis sets his experience in counterpoint to literature, as both true (and unrepresentable), but León Sánchez’s text makes no such direct truth claims. The fact that it was treated as if it had is determined by his social class for whom the role of unreliable witness is more apposite than creative writer. It is clear that the formal qualities of prison writing can be used to make texts seem representative of the actual conditions of punishment. This has far-reaching consequences for the politics of resistance in the two texts.

Álvaro Mutis and the poetics of punishment As we saw in the introduction, there is an ideological distinction between those who think of prison as a place where people end up because of their individual decisions, and those with broader, a more structural view. A constructionist understanding of crime and of the harm done by the prison is at the heart of abolitionist arguments. Critics of prison literature have

Lytle, ‘Diary’, 5.

53

Lytle cites comments Mutis made in the introduction of the 1997 translation of part of the Diario: ‘[w]ithout Lecumberri’, Mutis claims, ‘I would have never written my seven novels [about the fictional Maqroll.] It was a very enriching experience. I have said it many times, but it is worth repeating: in jail one is driven to the edge. What one faces is absolute truth. One loses all privileges. Nothing has any value except the surrounding isolation. This is all quite healthy’. ‘Diary’, 4. 54

Sobanet, Jail Sentences, 15.

55

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tended to draw the distinction between texts that provide a structural critique of the class and racially inflected reasons behind confinement and those that, in a belief in what might be called the ‘liberal subject’, see the inhabitants of prison as victims of their own poor life choices.56 Legal and penal systems throughout the world work on the basis of this autonomous, liberal subject who is solely responsible for their own actions. It is the hegemonic notion upon which the institution of punishment is premised. Opposed to this line of thinking is the alternative position: the view that has sought to hold the collective accountable. Penal abolitionism rests on an understanding of crime as the fault of society at large rather than of the individual, often seeing prison as the site where crime is generated directly or indirectly by the state, rather than as an instrument of crime’s prevention. Foucault represents one end of this constructionist view with his claim that much delinquency is ‘produced’, and not by delinquents but by criminologists and the penal apparatus itself. A different reflection on the way the individual relates to the collective is offered in Daniel Roux’s account of the ways in which the political affiliations and sympathies of prison authors impact on their ideology. In his fine-grained survey of South African prison writing he identifies a ‘tension that is common to prison literature, and especially to political prison writing, as an international genre’ between the fact that, on the one hand ‘prison enjoins a preoccupation with interiority and the self [within] a system that atomized its inmates’ and on the other hand an ‘interdiction of solidarity’.57 This paradox manifests itself in texts by political as opposed to ‘common law’ prisoners. He goes on to set out how, ‘in the case of political prison writing […] this propulsion towards a collective voice is made even more urgent and inescapable’.58 Roux, whose objects of study are texts by political prisoners who were incarcerated for their participation in the anti-Apartheid struggle, shows how the collective voice can be used in prison narrative in order to both describe and produce collective identities and subjectivities with the aim of building resistance to state oppression. This condenses, for Roux, around the use of the first person plural by political prisoners. He cautions, however, that ‘the “we” of the political activist in these texts

Wesley Sims, ‘Non-Fiction´s Incarceration of the (Br)Other: Visitations in The Other Wes Moore and Brothers and Keepers’ (Experiencing Prison, Prague, 2012), http://www.inter -disciplinary.net/probing-the-boundaries/persons/experiencing-prison/project-archives/3rd /session-3a-prison-memoirs-and-representations/. David Rice, ‘“If I Ever Hope to Leave This Place, I Must Tell What I Know”: Witness and Survival in Mikal Gilmore’s Shot in the Heart’, Prague, 2012, http://www.inter-disciplinary.net /probing-the-boundaries/persons/experiencing-prison/project-archives/3rd/session-3a-prison -memoirs-and-representations/. 57 Daniel Roux, ‘Writing the Prison’, 456 and 457. 58 Ibid., 547. 56

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is usually born out of the exclusion of the common law prisoners, who are incessantly placed outside the ambit of solidarity and the political’.59 He concludes that in fact prison literature evidences a double tension between the ‘we’ of the political prisoners and those subalternized others against whom they often constitute their solidarity.60 Roux’s point is that the fact that the South African political prisoners conceived of themselves as distinct from the common criminals was also a political issue. As in Roux’s examples, Mutis’s position as a political prisoner (and writer) meant that there was necessarily a gulf between him and his fellow prisoners. Unlike the South African opponents of Apartheid, he was an isolated individual in a foreign country, and not part of any movement. Mutis’s relationship to the collectivity not only ‘subalternizes’ and silences his fellow inmates in the manner that Roux describes, but also leads to their depiction in terms that are not only non-abolitionist but even border on what Olguín calls ‘neo-eugenicist’. Ryan Long has analysed Diario by looking at precisely the relationship between the individual and the collective that Roux argues is at the nub of the politics of prison writing. He takes up Mutis’s claim that he had written Diario to communicate something about the ‘mancillada condición humana’, but argues that the fact that Mutis never elaborates on his own past separates him from the other prisoners, and thereby frustrates his ambition to give a universal account: Mutis excludes himself from the fictional community he creates while in Lecumberri. This inability to incorporate oneself into one’s representation of community that is defined ostensibly by exhibiting universally human qualities produces a frustrating, insurmountable distance between any individual and a collective, human condition.61 The ideological inflection of Mutis’s experience of Lecumberri becomes evident in the first chapter of Diario. This episode concerns the deaths caused by tecata balin – the bad batch of heroin which had been cut with a fatal toxin. The number of deaths rises and Mutis is surprised to discover how many of the prisoners he knew were secretly using the drug. The story concludes when the guards discover the culprits and work out what has been going on. The main theme of the chapter is the arbitrariness of death and the prisoners’ cruelty towards one another:

Ibid., 545. Ibid. Famously, political prisoners on Robben Island were banned from using the first person plural. 59 60

Ryan Long, ‘Lecumberri, Fact, and Fiction: The Prison Writings of Álvaro Mutis and Luis González De Alba’, Revista de Estudios Hispanicos 40, no. 2 (May 2006): 370. 61

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En esta forma la ruleta de la muerte había jugado por cinco negras semanas su fúnebre juego, derribando ciegamente, dejando hacer al azar, que tan poco cuenta para los presos, tan extraño a ese mundo inmodificable de la cárcel.62 For five black weeks a morbid game of Russian roulette had played out, striking blindly, leaving the victim to fate, which counts for so little with inmates and is so foreign to the concrete, unalterable world of the jail.63 The image of blind fate playing unpredictably with the prisoners’ lives, and their perceived indifference to each others’ suffering, indicate where Mutis’s position, separate from the others’, conflicts with his ability to make sense of his experience. This separateness also impacts on his politics vis-à-vis the prison as an institution. Crucially he sees Lecumberri as ‘inmodificable’ (unalterable) and a place whose population is there because of the workings of fate. The randomness that Mutis equates with universality amounts to an inability to think in terms of the patterns that would lead to a structural understanding of crime. This is symptomatic not only of his sociopolitical position but also the fact that he was imprisoned for a relatively short period of time. As we shall see, the thirty years served by León Sánchez gave him ample opportunity to witness and imagine radical changes within the prison system. Such fatalism is revealed in Mutis’s attitude to change. At the close of the chapter the author muses on what he has just written and speculates about his own motivation in writing it. He is at a loss to explain even the purpose of his own writing: No sé muy bien por qué he narrado todo esto. Por qué lo escribo. Dudo que tenga algún valor más tarde, cuando salga. Allá afuera, el mundo no entenderá nunca estas cosas. Tal vez alguien debe dejar algún testimonio de esta asoladora visita de la muerte a un lugar ya de suyo muy semejante a su viejo imperio sin tiempo ni medida. No estoy muy seguro. Tal vez sea útil narrarlo, pero no sabría decir en qué sentido, ni para quién. Hoy han venido Elena y Alberto y les he contado todo esto. Por el modo cómo me miraron me doy cuenta de que es imposible que sepan nunca hasta dónde y en qué forma nos tuvo acogotados el miedo, cómo nos cercó durante todos estos días la miseria de nuestras vidas sin objeto. No podrían saber jamás a merced de qué potencia devastadora se jugó nuestro destino. Y si ellos, que están tan hermosamente preparados para entenderlo, no pueden lograrlo, entonces ¿qué sentido tiene que lo sepan los demás?

Mutis, Diario, 16.

62

Mutis, ‘Diary’, 13.

63

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He pensado largamente, sin embargo, y me resuelvo a contarlo mientras un verso del poema de Mallarmé se me llena de pronto de sentido, de un obvio y macabro sentido. Dice: ‘Un Golpe De Dados Jamás Abolirá El Azar.’64 I don’t really know why I have related all this. Why I’ve written it. I doubt it will have any value later when I get out. Outside, the world will never learn of these things. Maybe someone should leave some testimonial of death’s devastating visit to a place already very similar to the kingdom where neither time nor measure exists. I’m not really sure. Maybe it will be useful to have related it, but I wouldn’t know in what sense, or for whom. Today Elena and Alberto came and I told them all this. From the way they looked at me, I realize that it is impossible for them ever to know to what extent and in what way fear was strangling us, how the misery of our pointless lives surrounded us during those days. They will never know what dreadful power had played with our destiny. And if they, who are so beautifully prepared to understand it, can’t get it, then what’s the sense of others knowing? I’ve thought about it at length, however, and I’ve resolved to recount it now that a verse of Mallarmé’s poem has filled me suddenly with vision, with an obvious and macabre vision. It says: ‘A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Fate.’65 Mutis’s identity as a writer becomes a source of his anxiety because of the divide between his experience and that of his friends Elena (Poniotowska) and Alberto (Beltrán) who will not be able to understand the lessons he has learned. The gulf between the inside and the outside is too great for him to bridge, in spite of his literary capabilities. Mutis’s anxieties invoke a commonly expressed theme in prison writing: the extent to which experiences of life on the inside of the prison defies the understanding of those outside. This sentiment also indicates, however, the extent to which Mutis’s own conception of ‘allá afuera’ (there outside) assumes a position within the world which has never experienced such traumas. The rest of the world is represented by Elena and Alberto but even they, who are so ‘beautifully prepared’ cannot comprehend it. With this phrase he could be referring to their educational levels, sympathetic natures or even political stances. In any case, however, it is clear that he does not recognize the possibility that their positions of relative privilege may in fact be the cause of their inability to understand his situation. The passage also once again appropriates the tropes of trauma in that he insists that extreme experience resists symbolization.

Mutis, Diario, 17.

64

Mutis, ‘Diary’, 13–14.

65

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Nothing he writes will be sufficient to communicate the experience: ‘es imposible que sepan nunca hasta dónde y en qué forma … ’ (it is impossible for them ever to know to what extent and in what way). Finally, despite his repeated protestation that prison outstrips literary aestheticization, he gives the episode a final literary gloss by appealing to Stéphane Mallarmé. The reference to the well-known poem comes to him as he resolves to write, his effort to record the deaths seem reduced to a dice throw, a tiny gesture that will do nothing to disrupt the incomprehensible workings of fate. Mutis’s doubt that his work ‘tenga algún valor más tarde’ (will have any value later) is symptomatic of his fatalistic universalism. The implications of this for the ideological understanding of crime returns in the fourth chapter of Diario, which focuses on an individual named Rigoberto. Mutis is particularly fascinated with this man, who the other prisoners tell him is a contract killer. According to the other prisoners, he has killed many times in the prison. Mutis asks Rigoberto for details of his murders, which he presents as a macabre list: A Pancho el panadero lo metí en el horno, y si no es por su hermana que llega y lo llama, sólo las cenizas topan. El padre de Luis me dio dos azules para que lo palomiara a la salida de la estación. Mejor lo amarré y lo tiré al aljibe.66 Pancho the baker I stuck in the oven, and if it wasn’t for his sister arriving and calling for him, they would have found only his ashes. Luis’s father gave me two blues [bills worth fifty Mexican pesos] to blow him away at the station exit. I tied him up and tossed him in the well.67 Mutis offers no context nor account of how Rigoberto became a killer. The string of murders he committed leaves readers with an individualized and decontextualized understanding of the origins of the crimes. For Olguín, such accounts of criminality are not only hegemonic but border on the politics that he names ‘neo-eugenicist’, becuse they present criminals as a distinct underclass.68 Finally the manner in which Mutis ends the segment on Rigoberto once again cements his own class position as a writer. After the old man is himself murdered he claims: Nadie se apiadó de él, no volví a oír su nombre para nada. Solamente yo habré de recordarle cada vez que un relámpago me despierte en medio de la noche, o que la lluvia caiga sobre mi vigilia de hombre libre.69

Ibid., 40. Mutis, Diario, 29. 68 Olguín, La Pinta, 16. 69 Mutis, Diario, 44. 66 67

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Nobody pitied him. I never heard his name mentioned again. I alone will have to remember him every time a flash of lightning wakes me in the middle of the night or the rain falls on my consciousness as a free man.70 Only the narrator is concerned with this most fearsome of individuals. Mutis thus romanticizes the passing of someone he had until that moment found abhorrent, while again elevating himself above the other prisoners. Mutis’s account, then, is not devoid of politics, but its politics are hidden. Diario uses the ‘troping of truth’ to support Mutis’s thesis that crime is to be understood in terms of individual aberration. In what Olguín termed the ‘complex dialectical interplay between hegemony and counter hegemony’ Diario expresses a hegemonic position, as it cannot explain the systemic violence on which the prison rests.71 Lecumberri becomes something akin to a freak show occupied by eccentrics and mass murderers. The prisoners are abstracted both from their social backgrounds and from broader sociopolitical processes. I have suggested that this is, to some extent, related to the author’s class position and his status as a writer, which sets him apart from other prisoners. Diario, however, is also characterized by its lack of direct critical engagement with the state. This could of course be tactical on Mutis’s part, but it would be ironic if his position as ‘political prisoner’ actually prevented him from developing a critique of the prison as a form of state power. Perhaps within the purview of the letrado, the state, like the prison, manifests as a timeless inevitability. This is not the case for Léon Sánchez.

José León Sánchez and the subalternist prison In La isla de los hombres solos León Sánchez takes a localized approach to the hegemonic state institution that most closely concerns him: the Costa Rican penal system. He has a number of different strategies directed at revealing, denouncing and ultimately changing San Lucas but his critical gaze also looks beyond the prison. In this he is typical of prison intellectuals for whom, as Olguín puts it, the prison offers the chance to ‘invert the panoptic gaze’. Olguín states that [for] prisoner authors, the prison also affords the time for materialist and metaphysical meditations on political economy and ontology. Instead of internalizing the panoptic gaze, many prisoners invert it: they co-opt the Mutis, ‘Diariy’, 32.

70

Olguín, La Pinta, 3.

71

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space and time to write alternative sentences, as it were, about crime, punishment, and overarching power relations.72 León Sánchez’s critical gaze in La isla is in fact remarkably broad and aims at producing precisely the kind of ‘inversion’ indicated here. It is by turns inward and outward looking as it offers a no-holds-barred account of the atrocities of San Lucas ‘para que la gente de mañana conozca este ayer sarmentoso de la patria’ (so that the people of tomorrow know about the twisted yesterday of the fatherland).73 In critiquing the legal system, León Sánchez addresses, by extension, the overarching power relations between the Costa Rican state and its most marginalized citizens. While Mutis is concerned with a universal notion of humanity, León Sánchez’s dedication evinces a desire to address universal issues that are more restrictively class based. He addresses his text to his ‘hermano – hombre o mujer – que hoy sufre prisión en donde prevalezcan situaciones similares a las que describe este libro [e]n cualquier parte del mundo donde no tengas libertad’ (brother or sister who suffers in any prison dominated by situations like those described in this book, in any part of the world where there is no liberty) invoking an internationalist notion of solidarity founded on shared experiences of incarceration.74 León Sánchez creates a ‘we’ that is not constructed as an alignment of one set of prisoners against a subalternized criminal ‘other’, as is the case in the testimonies of political prisoners in Roux’s South African examples. Rather, as we have seen, he speaks from the other side of the divide set out by Roux. The staging of an encounter with a very clear power differential, between the lettered and the unlettered, means that the ‘we’ of León Sánchez’s narrative is that of the common prisoner, constituted against the lettered interlocutors and the text’s assumed readers. As León Sánchez reiterates in La isla and in subsequent interviews, he owes his intellectual development to the decades he spent in San Lucas. Writing as a prisoner on behalf of prisoners, he presents himself as what Antonio Gramsci calls an ‘organic intellectual’. Gramsci wrote that ‘[e]very social group, coming into existence […] creates together with itself, organically, one or more strata of intellectuals’.75 Gramsci saw the development of this figure in class terms and it has been frequently invoked to describe writers whose intellectual output depends on their experience of being imprisoned.76

Ibid., 70.

72

León Sánchez, La isla, 210.

73

Ibid., 5.

74

Cited in Steven Jones, Antonio Gramsci (London: Routledge, 2007), 84.

75

See Joy James, Imprisoned Intellectuals: America’s Political Prisoners Write on Life, Liberation, and Rebellion (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 3. Also Olguín, La Pinta, 31. 76

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As Steven Jones points out, however, for Gramsci ‘[i]t is insufficient […] for organic intellectuals to only have technical knowledge, they must be willing to participate in the struggle for hegemony, to be “directive” as well as “specialized”’.77 Insofar as she or he is involved in the struggle for hegemony, the ‘organic intellectual’ has often come to be associated with the figure of the subaltern, who as we have seen, represents a threat to hegemony by virtue of their exclusion. To an extent La isla counters the hegemony of the penal colony of San Lucas, at least in the form it takes when León Sánchez first arrives there. After gaining independence in 1838 Costa Rica became a republic. The early republican period was characterized by a struggle between Liberals and more conservative forces backed by the Catholic Church. The Liberals generally had the upper hand and ruled the republic for much of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. San Lucas was founded during the brief dictatorship of Tomás Guardia Gutiérrez, and was inspired by the British ‘transportation’ model as an agricultural penal colony.78 A Liberal, Guardia Gutiérrez also introduced a new penal code modelled on that of Chile. It was part of a series of progressive moves which included the abolition of chain gangs and the death penalty.79 In this, as Salvatore and Aguirre suggest, Costa Rica was the exception in terms of the ‘surprising modernity in its policy of crime control’ in which San Lucas and its sister colony at Coco were part of a system of ‘confinement and regeneration’.80 In its inception, San Lucas was part of Costa Rica’s attempt to move away from the violent, often arbitrary punishment of the body which Foucault called the ‘vengeance of the sovereign’ towards the subtler, forms of ‘disciplinary’ power.81 The latter consisted of a range of more subtle techniques of work and training designed to produce ‘bodies that were both docile and capable’ and also to alter the convicts’ minds.82 In line with this aim, the founders of the penal colony imagined that inmates would be integrated into the capitalist economy. San Lucas was intended to be a profitable enterprise, with the surplus harvest from the convicts’ labour sold in nearby Puntarenas. Profits never materialized, however, due to the poor soil and rainfall on the island. The shortcomings of San Lucas quickly became apparent and as early as 1885, penal reformers were once again looking to Europe for models. In 1890 plans were drawn up to build a panoptic penitentiary

Jones, Antonio Gramsci, 85.

77

Mitchel P. Roth, Prisons and Prison Systems: A Global Encyclopedia (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006), 71. 78

León Sánchez, La isla, 135.

79

Salvatore and Aguirre, The Birth of the Penitentiary, 14.

80

Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 90.

81

Ibid., 295.

82

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near the Palace of Justice in the centre of San José.83 However, as with panopticons throughout the world, Costa Rica’s 1909 effort failed to live up to its proponents’ aspirations and quickly became overcrowded. Nor did the new panopticon replace San Lucas, which continued to operate until 1991.84 The story of penal development and reform in Costa Rica is a familiar one of high-minded liberal intentions with often patchy, unforeseen and highly illiberal results. As León Sánchez writes, chain gangs were not abolished and conditions on San Lucas were so harsh that being sent there was tantamount to receiving the death penalty.85 La isla’s account of life on San Lucas offers a rejoinder to historiographical accounts and alerts readers to the ways in which the logic of punishment relies on the suffering of bodies. The early episodes recount the numerous ways in which the prisoners are physically and mentally degraded. The most violent incidents are sometimes not the result of state action, but are carried out by other prisoners. On his arrival, Jacinto is confined in a tiny calabozo (dungeon) with twelve others. He soon discovers the extent of the depravity of the privileged and powerful prisoners known as cabos de vara. The scene that was (unsurprisingly) most shocking to readers such as Erwin Beck, concerns the rape of the corpse of Jacinto’s friend, Generoso (Generous).86 This gentle young man, possessed of a particularly beautiful face, dies of a fever: Había muerto con su rostro hermoso de mujer que él tenía y la fiebre si acaso le acentuó más los colores ahora de un tenue color rosa y pálido y sobre los labios se había prendido el color de vino rancio.87 He had died with that beautiful women’s face of his on which the fever, maybe, had accentuated the now delicate pale pink colours and his lips glowed the colour of rancid wine. A group of four cabos come to collect his body but on the way to the cemetery they dress him as a woman and rape his corpse. In death the body changes gender and becomes the object of sexual desire. In this disturbing account of the production of an entirely different kind of ‘docile body’ to those in Foucault’s account of the disciplinary society, the capacity for the island to alter radically and comprehensively erase the mental and physical subjectivities of the prisoners is thus introduced. This horrible scene can be read as León Sanchéz’s attempt to turn the violence of the prison against his

Palmer, ‘Confinement, Policing’, 231.

83

Roth, Prisons, 70.

84

León Sánchez, La isla, 135.

85

Beck, God Was Looking, 95.

86

León Sánchez, La isla, 51.

87

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readers, subjecting them to the transformation of the penal subject into the dead labour on which the political capital of the state is constructed. Power on the island is thus revealed to be little more than a displaced form of what Foucault called the ‘vengeance of the sovereign’ in which the bodies of the condemned are slowly tortured until their deaths.88 Before this near-inevitable outcome, however, the prisoners resort to numerous ways of adapting to and (in some cases collectively) resisting their abject condition. When he is still confined in the calabozo on his first night on San Lucas, Jacinto hears a noise that he cannot at first identify. It grows in volume and intensity until it seems ‘como si sobre yunques siniestros estuvieran a una sola vez martillando todas las campanas del mundo hasta convertirlas en pedazos’ (as if all the bells in the world were being hammered to pieces on sinister anvils).89 The sound is made by all the prisoners of the island, chained in lines of fifty, dragging their shackles over its stones on their way to work. The sound joins them together in a monstrous collective entity, which he and the other uninitiated find difficult to comprehend: Para las personas que todavía no conocíamos el sonido aterrador de los hierros en tan gran cantidad, cuando se mueven como uno solo en fila, era algo que no llegábamos a comprender muy bien. Ninguna fila de ganado, de cerdos, de cabras, es igual a una fila de reos.90 For those of us who didn’t yet know the frightening sound of such a great quantity of irons, moving together in a single line, it was difficult to comprehend. No line of cows, pigs, or goats is like a line of prisoners. The sub-bestial collective is visibly constituted by the whip, its members ‘guiadas por la punta suspensiva de un látigo riente’ (guided by the hovering end of a laughing whip).91 Just as the whip is anthropomorphized by its laughter, the chains themselves take on lives of their own. The sanluqueños attempt to avoid dragging them on the ground because they are obsessed with keeping them clean: ‘Era honra de cada sanluqueño que después del trabajo […] dedicarse a pulir los eslabones hasta dejarlos tan limpios […] que usted podía asomarse en un eslabón y hacerse la barba con el’ (After their labours it was the honour of every San Lucan to dedicate themselves to polishing their chains until they were left so clean […] that you look into a link and shave).92 Thus the chains literally reflect the ways in which the sanluqueños adapt to

Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 59.

88

León Sánchez, La isla, 53.

89

Ibid.

90

Ibid. Ibid., 62.

91 92

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their conditions of subjection. Jacinto describes how he eventually comes to view his chain as a female companion: la única compañera fiel que me quedaba era mi cadena para llevarla por todas partes y en muchos años como si ella fuera parte de mi carne, de mis manos, de mis pies; dejando su besar sobre mi piel y una llaga naciente y repetida que se hacía cruz sobre la carne.93 The only faithful companion I had left was my chain to take with my everywhere for many years as if she was part of my flesh, of my hands, my feet; leaving her kiss on my skin and repeatedly birthing a wound that left a cross on my flesh. The nature of the anthropomorphism of the chains is ambivalent, signalling the reduction of the human anthropos to pure materiality while at the same time offering consolation by making what limits the body into an extension of its power. Herein León Sánchez depicts the slipperiness of the penal system’s control of the body, which always finds ways to adapt and, to an extent, resist power. In one of the more positive examples of this, some of the sanluqeños use their chains to create music. In one episode a band consisting of a group of prisoners with differently shaped chains – chosen because of the different sounds they make when struck – is called to give a performance to the governor’s female guests. One member of the band is chosen because he wears an iron bar the length of his body that makes a different sound when struck in different places. It also makes it impossible for him to bend his spine or legs. He has adapted, however, and has become skilled in falling to the ground like a log in order to sleep, and in hopping along like a frog. Jacinto describes how the bodies of the men are transformed by their union with the metal. Some men are chained together in pairs as an extra punishment with ‘carlancas de hombro’ (shoulder shackles), devices made of a pair of bars designed to bind their necks and hands, so that in Jacinto’s eyes, ‘parecían dos enterradores de cementario cargando un ataúd’ (they looked like two grave diggers carrying a coffin).94 They are forced to do everything together, from forced labour to performing basic biological functions. So accustomed do they become to their chains that when they are finally removed during the prison reforms they have to re-learn to walk without them.95 The chains of the sanluqueños provide an illustration of the way in which all resistance to power will inevitably be shaped by power

Ibid., 54. When I met José León Sánchez in 2016 he showed me a large scar on his ankle left from the few months he had been kept in chains. 94 Ibid., 44. 93

Ibid., 166.

95

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itself. This has strangely ambiguous outcomes: on the one hand they make creative use of their chains, while on the other their adaptation to their constraints becomes a form of strange dependency. As he adapts to the specific conditions, León Sánchez’s narrative takes on the qualities of a Bildungsroman in which his protagonist, Jacinto, gains experience and wisdom over his long lifetime. This trajectory, common to much prison literature, is summed up in Franklin’s characterization of the ‘criminal as victim and artist’.96 In prison writing, time spent in prison often initiates a period of reflection. In this way, conditions of subjection provide the location of accounts of the formation of subjectivity. As Franklin puts it: One conventional form for a convict’s personal narrative was to begin by exploring his or her conversion to criminality, and then, chronicling individual experience in crime and in prison, to arrive at some understanding of the society that had shaped this self.97 Franklin’s dialectical teleology of prisoner consciousness is further developed by Olguín, who claims that ‘virtually all’ prisoner literature is ‘distinguished by its simultaneously materialist and metaphysical quality’ – in other words that writers reflect on the circumstances of their own interpellation while reflecting philosophically on the patterns and structures that lead to that interpellation.98 In Diario we have seen how ‘metaphysical’ reflection in relation to the prison does not necessarily lead to the deepening of prisoner consciousness or indeed that of the readers of prison texts. Unlike the ‘convict’ narratives Franklin refers to, La isla is the narrative of an innocent man. Instead, therefore, of describing his ‘conversion to criminality’, José León Sánchez is particularly sensitive to the ways in which the innocent can be incarcerated and criminalized by the state because of their socio-economic position. In his entire time in San Lucas he observes there were no wealthy convicts: ‘Nunca llegué a conocer a un hombre rico’ (I never met a rich man).99 He repeatedly returns to the powerlessness of the illiterate and poor in the face of an indecipherable legal system against which they do not have the tools to defend themselves.100 Neither are the racial inflections of power in Costa Rica lost on León Sánchez. One of his best friends, ‘un hermano para mí’ (a brother to me), is an old black man

Franklin, Prison Writing, xxxii.

96

Ibid., 236.

97

Olguín, La Pinta, 71.

98

León Sánchez, La isla, 75.

99

Ibid., 211.

100

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known as ‘Mister Carey’. Jacinto recounts the history of this man who is, he claims, older than San Lucas itself. Llegó a Costa Rica siendo un niño entre las gentes de color que vinieron contratadas a morir con precios de esclavitud en la Zona Atlántica y con destino a la construcción del ferrocarril donde por cada cuatro traviesas se quedó la piel alquitranada de un negro.101 He arrived in Costa Rica as a child, amongst the peoples of colour who came contracted to die for a slave price in the Atlantic Zone, their destiny to construct a railway where every four sleepers came at the cost of a black man’s skin. For several pages the narrative voice imitates the pidgin Spanish that Carey speaks as he laments the history of the oppression of his people in Costa Rica. Carey recounts the story of how his family was transported to work on the railway, which they knew they would never use themselves, before entering into debt peonage for companies that owned the land around the railroad. The train line that was intended to link the Atlantic and Pacific coasts becomes a figure for the oppression of black people in Costa Rica. As Carey puts it, ‘Ser línea mala como el corazón de los blancos y larga como la miseria de los negros.’ (It’s a line as evil as the hearts of white men and as long as the misery of black men.)102 Carey is in San Lucas for accidentally killing a white man who attempted to rob him. He claims to have acted in self-defence and Jacinto confirms that he is covered with scars which are consistent with his story. These were of no avail in his trial, however, when his race counted against him. In his words: ‘Yo ser inocente. Pero mí ser negrito. Testigos míos negros todos. Juez ser blanco, periódico ser blanco, radio ser blanca y el mundo entero ser blanco’ (I be innocent. But I be black. My witnesses all black. Judge be white, newspapers be white, radio be white and the whole world be white).103 With this León Sánchez synthesizes the ways injustices result from the fact that not only the legal system, but all national representational systems are underpinned by racial and racist hierarchies. Carey provides an opportunity for the concienciación of readers to both the racial and economic aspects of power in Costa Rican society. This accords with the abolitionist view that all prisoners are to some extent ‘political prisoners’ because the reasons for their imprisonment have to do with the structures of power in their societies. As we saw, La isla is revealing in terms of the structural factors that made León Sánchez more

Ibid., 143.

101

Ibid., 145.

102

Ibid., 144. Jacinto apologizes for the inaccurate rendering of Carey’s speech and reiterates that the old man speaks four languages, 143. 103

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vulnerable to being set up and wrongfully imprisoned.104 Jacinto’s status as an innocent convicted on account of systemic corruption and racial bias also places him in a position to analyse the ways in which the institution of the prison corrupts all those who are involved in it, from the convicts to the prison governor himself. Some of the latter are honest men when they arrive, yet they are corrupted by San Lucas itself: ‘se va haciendo poco a poco que al ambiente negativo que lo termina corrompiendo totalmente’ (little by little the negative atmosphere ends up completely corrupting them).105 Such is the toxicity of the environment that Jacinto himself is affected to a certain degree, learning to enjoy the pain of others and to laugh at tales of rape. The ‘código de los reos’ (prisoners’ code) inculcates hatred and distances the prisoners from each other: Se diría que un presidio donde todo el mundo sufre encierra una hermandad entre los hombres. Pero no es así. Incluso el compañerismo que existe y los hace encerrarse para las cosas malas, brilla de ausencia para cuando se trata de un bien. El Código de los Reos encierra odio, desconfianza, duda y resquemor para con todo lo que existe en la sociedad.106 You might think that a prison in which everyone suffers encourages a certain brotherhood between the men. But it is not like that. Even the companionship that exists and brings people together to do bad things is conspicuous by its absence by when it comes to anything good. The Prisoners’ Code implants hatred, mistrust, doubt and resentment about everything that exists in society. León Sánchez does not, therefore, romanticize the position of subaltern prisoners, even as he consistently demonstrates his willingness to advocate on their behalf. It is not, he argues, the fault of the individuals, but rather the systematic structural and cultural factors that are responsible for the conditions of oppression in San Lucas. His musings amount to a constructivist vision of crime as materially and historically situated phenomena. In the terms I introduced above, this means that La isla demands to be read as the intervention of an organic intellectual in the struggle for hegemony. But what does León Sánchez struggle for precisely? In terms of crime, as I

Against Franklin, Joy James cautions that there are limits on the extent to which some prisoners can be considered ‘political’: for ‘those who (continue to) prey on others in physical and sexual assaults on children, women, and men, “political prisoners” would be an obscene register; for they do not manifest as liberatory agents but exist as merely one of many sources of danger to be confronted and quelled in a violent culture’, Imprisoned Intellectuals, 11. Even for such individuals, however, the reasons for their violence could likely have a ‘political’ (in the broader sense of the word) explanation. 104

León Sánchez, La isla, 196.

105

Ibid., 163.

106

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have shown, he has a constructionist view that recognizes the relationship between punishment, crime, race, class and education and which contrasts with that of Mutis. His politics with regard to the penal system itself are not, however, all that different from the liberal intentions behind the foundation of San Lucas in the first place. León Sánchez does explore the possibility of prison abolition but this is never presented as a realistic possibility. This is perhaps best illustrated by the extended episode in the novel when the penal colony is briefly abolished completely by the insane governor Venancio. After a disagreement with the president of Costa Rica, this man declares the island to be an independent republic and appoints a number of prisoners to ministerial positions in his ‘cabinet’. The ‘República de San Lucas’ is short-lived, as soldiers are sent to put down the rebellion and Venancio surrenders. For a few short days the prisoners have their own republic, ‘nuestra república de Sour republic of San Lucas) and are briefly free before the Costa Rican army invades and regains control.107 Jacinto takes an ambiguous attitude. On the one hand he is suspicious of Venancio while on the other he appreciates the freedom briefly afforded the prisoners. This ‘revolutionary’ model of radical change and penal abolitionism bears no fruit, acting rather as a cautionary tale. By the end of the novel the reformers radically change the penal colony (but fall short of abolishing it). Following the installation of a reformist president (a probable cipher for José Figueras),108 a prison reformer comes to the island bringing the message that El presidio […] tiene que dejar de ser casa de horror y de miedo donde solamente se aprende el mal para convertirse en un lugar donde el hombre aprenda a ser útil a la sociedad.109 The prison must cease to be a place of horror and fear where people learn only evil and be converted into a place where man learns to be useful to society. The reaction of Jacinto and the other prisoners is initially to ridicule this man, in the belief that such ideas are fantastical. The man persists, however, despite opposition from both guards and prisoners and continues to argue that prisoners should be reformed and made useful to society. Más cierto todavía que la sociedad tenía que vivir libre por el temor de la criminalidad organizada – decía –, es que el hombre tiene el mismo deber

Ibid., 98.

107

Most famously, Figueras abolished the army and established a welfare state.

108

León Sánchez, La isla, 182.

109

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de pedir a la sociedad que le brinde el derecho para no convertirse en un delincuente y que una vez siéndolo – por una de esas infinitas desgracias que la vida tiene – debía darle los medios para dejar de serlo.110 Even more certain than that society should live free of the fear of organized crime – he said – is that man has the duty to ask society for the right not to become a criminal and if he becomes one – because of one life’s infinite misfortunes – it should give him the means to stop. The reformer’s words oddly recast society outside San Lucas as that which deserves ‘freedom’ from organized crime. Aside from this, however, his discourse replicates the familiar plans for the introduction of the benevolent disciplinary prison. A peaceful prisoner strike leads to plans to convert the island into what Jacinto hopes for: ‘una verdadera colonia penitenciaria’ (a true penal colony or penitenciary).111 A sense of historical progression, therefore, is undermined by León Sánchez’s call for the re-founding of San Lucas in the same terms it was originally conceived. Furthermore, any resistance in La isla looks a lot less resistant when the reforms it calls for are imposed from above. The reforms begin to take place and the soldiers who run San Lucas are replaced with specially trained guards. For Jacinto, now an old man, there is still no hope of release from imprisonment. He finally leaves San Lucas at the end of the novel but only having negotiated his transfer to a new open prison farm elsewhere in the country. Perhaps because at the time of writing he himself was imprisoned for life with no hope of parole, León Sánchez cannot imagine his protagonist gaining complete freedom. Instead, the most positive outcome is the prospect of moving to a more benevolent and rational prison regime, and the chance to learn to be ‘useful to society’ through physical labour. Despite the racism and violence of the wielding of power in San Lucas, the image of a benevolent, rational state remains potent as an ideal. At the end of the novel the violence of San Lucas, a penal system intended to be humane but which had the ultimate function of ‘ruling on death’, gives way to a penitentiary that looks very much like the original blueprint for San Lucas. Far from being abolitionist with regard to prison reform, León Sánchez’s novel re-imagines something quite closely akin to the utilitarian positivism criticized by Foucault as constituent of the ‘disciplinary society’. Rather than fulfilling the expectations of what Beverley called the ‘anti-statist’ position in Latin American Subaltern Studies – that a ‘subaltern’ position will inevitably function as ‘counter-hegemonic’ – La isla de los hombres solos shores up the legitimacy not only of the nation state, but also of the prison as a model institution. By evoking the horrors of ‘sovereign’ modes of

Ibid. Ibid., 215.

110 111

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power the text induces readers to favour a more disciplinary form of power; it makes a case for a reformed prison system and nation state brought about through top-down edicts rather than the ‘revolutionary’ abolition of the prison. Resistance in this instance is recast as reform. Diario and La isla reveal some of the complications of ‘resisting the prison’ through writing. As we have seen, Mutis was less equipped to explain the context behind the prison: there is no process of consciousnessraising in Diario. Instead, his bewilderment at what he experiences as the arbitrariness of evil offers up a critique of the prison with no systemic structural analysis. In the case of León Sánchez his political imagination is quite literally limited to the prison. He cannot imagine its abolition, nor even the release of his protagonist, who, it is implied, will die in the benevolent prison farm in which he goes in the halcyon scenes at the end of the novel. His imagination of what the modernization of the prison might entail in terms of the improvement of the prisoner’s lot thus broadly corresponds to an idealization of the shift, described by Foucault, between ‘sovereign’ and ‘disciplinary’ forms of power. Thus León Sánchez’s enthusiasm for prison reform – his desire to provide a detailed document of prison life through the inverse ‘panoptic’ lens of his writing – allows him to reconfigure his own relationship to the state no longer as outsider but as exemplary modern subject, a ‘docile (and literate) body’ which, in ultimately promoting a new kind of ‘docility’, epitomizes the circularity of writing and subjection.112 While Léon Sánchez produces a detailed account of the structural and economic factors that subalternize the prisoners, he does not idealize the subaltern classes as agents of liberation (as we saw, he recognizes the extents to which the oppressed also oppress others). Instead his text makes the case for the re-absorption of the subaltern into a state that looks suspiciously like the disciplinary society. Rather than reading this as suspicious, León Sánchez’s hope for ‘una verdadera colonia penal’ is, like his incursion into the lettered city, an appropriation of the discourse of power in the service of the subaltern. This leads us to reflect further on the limits of Beverley’s own proposal of ‘subaltern-popular’ form of statism. The call for a radically altered state is not answered by León Sánchez. What La isla indicates is that if ‘subaltern-popular’ sectors’ engagement with hegemony reproduces its forms (both literary and penal) then questions remain as to its ability to inspire substantial change. My reading of these texts has arrived at an aporia: a contradiction between the fact that on the one hand, they protest the specific conditions within prison but on the other reproduce the images, ideals and ideologies

Despite the author’s own framing of the text as a critique of the state and its arbitrary exercise of power, these reforms were in fact already taking place in the increasingly liberal Costa Rican state outside San Lucas. 112

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behind the juridico-legal regimes. This aporia is, however, productive as it allows us to identify the intense difficulties facing struggles which question the legitimacy of the prison, by revealing its enormous discursive and symbolic power. In the case of León Sánchez, this is connected with the enduringly utopian image of the ideal penal colony as an image for the inclusion and humane treatment of the wretched. In other words, the image of the perfectly functioning prison becomes a means for the inclusion of the subaltern into the (hegemony of the) state. This chapter has examined the ways in which resistance to the prison is inflected by class and, to a lesser extent race. In the next chapter I look at the intersections of race and sexuality. I continue to investigate the persistent hegemony of the prison and resistance by contrasting three texts from Cuba spread over seven decades. The chapter is concerned with ways in which strategies of resistance to the prison have changed in relation to another hegemonic institution: masculinity.

2 ‘We Are the Men without Women’: Hegemonic Masculinity and the Hegemony of the Prison

In a passage from Manuel Puig’s novel El beso de la mujer araña (The Kiss of the Spider Woman) (1976), Molina, an apolitical homosexual man, explains his modest vision of what it means to be a man to Valentín, a macho and initially homophobic guerrilla fighter. Es muchas cosas, pero para mí … bueno, lo más lindo del hombre es eso, ser lindo, fuerte, pero sin hacer alharaca de fuerza, y que va avanzando seguro. Que camine seguro, como mi mozo, que hable sin miedo, que sepa lo que quiere, adonde va, sin miedo de nada.1 It’s lots of things, but for me … Well the nicest thing about a man is just that, to be marvellous looking and strong, but without making any fuss about it, and also walking very tall. Walking absolutely straight, like my waiter who’s not afraid to say anything. And it’s knowing what you want, where you’re going.2 As Puig’s characters spend time together in a tiny prison cell, Valentín’s attitudes soften to the point where he and Molina have sex. Although the novel ends in tragedy, the moment stands as a fragment of utopian communication, the culmination of a process of political and social enlightenment for both men. The literary representation of sex between men in prison is at the heart of the three Cuban texts I examine in this chapter: Carlos Montenegro’s novel Hombres sin mujer (Men without Women) 1

Manuel Puig, El beso de la mujer araña (Buenos Aires: Seix Barral, 2006), 46.

2

Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman (New York: Random House, 2010), 61.

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(1937), sections of Reinaldo Arenas’s memoir Antes que anochezca (Before Night Falls) ([1992] 2006), and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats’s collection of short stories Dichosos los que lloran (Blessed Are Those Who Weep) (2006). While for Puig the prison cell acts as a framing device to explore issues of sexuality beyond the prison context, these texts use sexual relationships to frame their protests against the prison system. Their aim is, to borrow a phrase from Montenegro’s opening note, ‘la denuncia del régimen penitenciario’ (the denunciation of the penal regime).3 Unlike Puig, all three authors experienced imprisonment themselves: Montenegro was imprisoned for killing a man in a fight,4 Arenas was a political dissident who was incarcerated on a false charge of corrupting minors (and was eventually convicted for the lesser offence of ‘lascivious abuses’),5 while Santiesteban spent fourteen months in prison in the 1980s for aiding the illegal departure of family members from the island and was incarcerated again in 2013 on charges of ‘violación de domicilio y lesiones’ (unlawful entry and wounding).6 As denunciations of prisons experienced by their authors, all three are concerned with a certain politics of liberation. But in all three their critique depends, in differing ways, on an appeal to dominant, homophobic and racially inflected modes of masculinity. It is, in other words, a liberation very different to that dreamed by Puig. This gives rise to a tension between the authors’ exploitation of ‘deviant’ sexual activity as a strategy of resistance and the ‘deviant’ intentions of the texts themselves. Before turning to the texts, however, I outline some of the key issues in the study of race, sexuality, and criminality in historical and contemporary Cuba. The field of critical masculinity and race studies has been revitalized in recent times by the group around historian Julio César González Pagés, the Coordinador General of the Red Iberoamericana y Africana de Masculinidades (General Coordinator of the Iberoamerican and African Masculinities Network) (RIAM). Until relatively recently, Cuban work on race tended to focus on the historic struggle for legal equality before the Revolution7 or on folkloric and religious aspects of Blackness.8 Because 3

Carlos Montenegro, Hombres sin mujer (Havana: CubaLiteraria, 2000), 3.

4

Emilio Bejel, Gay Cuban Nation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 79.

5

Reinaldo Arenas, Antes que anochezca (Barcelona: Tusquets, 2006), 237.

Carlos Espinosa Domínguez, ‘Unas ficciones reales y dolorosamente incómodas’, Los hijos que nadie quiso, 22 February 2013, http://loshijosquenadiequiso.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/unas -ficciones-reales-y-dolorosamente.html 6

See Tomás Fernández Robaina, El negro en Cuba, 1902–1958: apuntes para la historia de la lucha contra la discriminación racial (La Habana: Ciencias Sociales, 1990) and Pedro Serviat, El problema negro en Cuba y su solución definitiva (Havana: Política, 1986). 7

Pedro Pérez Sarduy, and Jean Stubbs, eds. AfroCuba: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture (Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1993). 8

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of the formal and juridical equality announced by Fidel Castro in 1959, conditions of racial inequality which continued to exist after the Revolution were often seriously downplayed. Pedro Serviat concludes his book, for example, by stating, ‘La discriminación racial en Cuba es parte de toda la historia de la sociedad cubana hasta el triunfo de la revolución que puso fin a todo tipo de discriminación.’ (Racial discrimination in Cuba is part of the history of Cuban society until the triumph of the revolution, which put an end to all kinds of discrimination.)9 By contrast, the RIAM affiliate Maikel Colón Pichardo argues that the contemporary analysis of masculinity in Cuba must always take into account the racist underpinnings of Cuban national consciousness. He recalls the infamous slogan of one of the most prominent nineteenth-century Cuban thinkers, José Antonio Saco, ‘blanquear, blanquear, blanquear y luego hacernos respetar’ (whiten, whiten, whiten, and then we can start to respect each other), and suggests that any study of race and masculinity must consider the potential of such a legacy to persist into contemporary times.10 Key to the thinking of the RIAM has been Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell’s elaboration of the concept of ‘hegemonic masculinity’. The term is an extension of the Gramscian notion of hegemony as a form of domination, ‘characterized by the combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally, without force predominating excessively over consent’.11 In her seminal 1995 work Masculinities and in subsequent articles, Connell uses this concept to explain the persistence of gender- as well as class-based forms of inequality and defined it as, ‘pattern of practice that allowed men’s dominance over women to continue’.12 For Connell, hegemonic masculinity is constituted in relation to other kinds of masculinity and to what she terms ‘emphasized femininity’.13 Connell notes that ‘the number of men actually rigorously practicing the hegemonic pattern in its entirety may be quite small [y]et the majority of men gain from its hegemony since they benefit from the patriarchal dividend, the advantages men in general gain from the overall subordination of women’.14 Such practices constitute what she terms ‘complicit masculinity’. She proposes two further kinds of masculine

9

Serviat, El problema, 116.

Maikel Colón Pichardo, ‘Masculinidades en blanco y negro: algunos puntos de encuentro para el análisis’, Red Iberoamericana y Africana de masculinidades (blog), 2010, http://www​ .redmasculinidades.com/sites/default/files/archivos/biblioteca/00176.pdf 10

Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. Quintin Hoare (New York: International Publishers Co, 1971), 215. 11

R. W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt, ‘Hegemonic Masculinity Rethinking the Concept’, Gender & Society 19, no. 6 (2005): 832. 12

Ibid., 848.

13

Raewyn Connell, Masculinities (Berkeley: University of California Press, [1995] 2005), 79.

14

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social practices: ‘subordinate masculinity’ of which ‘gay masculinity’ is often a conspicuous example and ‘marginalized’ masculinity, which might be represented by racially and economically marginalized, and, indeed, incarcerated groups. Marginalized masculinity might also, as in the texts I explore in this chapter, be characterized by unacceptably excessive ‘masculine’ practices.15 The intersectionality of Connell’s ‘sparse’ framework has resonated with Cuban researchers. González Pagés notes, ‘En Cuba, la masculinidad hegemónica sigue siendo representada por los hombres blancos, citadinos y heterosexuales.’ (In Cuba, hegemonic masculinity is still represented by white, urban, heterosexual men.)16 He argues that even after fifty years of revolutionary politics, todavía tropezamos con algunas dinámicas herederas de un pasado inmediato, en el que el choque y el trauma de los prejuicios y estereotipos raciales culturalmente construidos se amortiguan a través de un proceso de continuidad.17 we still come up against some dynamics inherited from the immediate past, in which the shock and trauma of culturally constructed prejudices and racial stereotypes only fade through a process of continuity. The consequence of this is that the racial hierarchies that predated the Revolution have persisted in many ways. For Colón Pichardo, black masculinities are reduced to a secondary role: ‘la masculinidad de los hombres negros se reduce al hecho de desempeñar roles simbólicos para la construcción de la masculinidad de los hombres blancos’ (the masculinity of black men is reduced to the fact of playing symbolic roles in the construction of white masculinities).18 One of the starkest indicators of the persistence of racial inequality is the astonishing disparity in the racial makeup of the nation’s prisoners. A report in the late 1980s stated that eight out of ten prisoners were black. The extent

Connell argues that the ‘sparse’ nature of her framework makes it more widely applicable; she emphasizes that her terms ‘name not fixed character types but configurations of practice generated in particular situations in a changing structure of relationships’ (ibid., 81). 15

Julio César González Pagés, ‘Feminismo y masculinidad: ¿mujeres contra hombres?’, Temas, no. 37–38 (April–September 2004): 6. 16

Julio César González Pagés, ‘Construcción histórica de la violencia masculina en Cuba’, (Congreso Iberoamericano de Masculinidades y Equidad: Investigación y Activismo, Barcelona, 2011), http://www.redmasculinidades.com/content/construcci%C3%B3n-hist%C3%B3rica -de-la-violencia-masculina-en-cuba. 17

Maikel Colón Pichardo, ‘Masculinidades a flor de piel: algunos puntos de encuentro y algo más para su estudio en Cuba’, Perfiles, April 2008, http://www.perfiles.cult.cu/article​ .php?article_id=205. 18

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to which this is due to culturally constructed notions of black dangerousness is proven by the dramatic imbalance in the number of white and non-white Cubans imprisoned under the notorious ‘Ley de Peligrosidad Social’ (Law of Social Dangerousness). This law, which dates back to the dictatorship of the 1930s, allows for the apprehension of individuals perceived by police to have a ‘special proclivity’ to commit crimes despite their not having yet actually committed any.19 In 1986, of the 643 cases in Havana between May and December, 343 were black and 120 mixed race. As Alejandro de la Fuente points out, this means that ‘blacks (excluding mulattos) were declared to be socially dangerous 7.6 times more often than whites’.20 More recent data indicates that the uneven application of this law continues to affect black Cubans disproportionately.21 This chapter draws on the concept of hegemonic masculinity to explore how the three texts perform discursive critiques both of racialized masculinity and of the prison in order to interrogate the durability of gender and racial hierarchies and to link the normalization of these forms of symbolic power to the very foundations of the prison’s function. As Connell and Messerschmidt stress, Gramsci’s original notion was intended not only to explain the intractability of social formations, but was also a theory on the dynamics of social change. In the case of masculinity, there is always a ‘struggle for hegemony, and older forms of masculinity might be displaced by new ones’.22 The wide temporal span of the chapter is intended to take account of this potential for hegemonic practices, racial, gendered and punitive, to change. An analysis of power in these texts is framed as one of competing and intersecting vectors that come together to construct hegemonic formations. As an adjunct to the established ‘vectors’ of class, race and gender, all in their way ‘institutions’ that shape modernity, I add the idea of the prison itself. It is, after all, the institution against which Montenegro, Arenas and Santiesteban-Prats protest.23 The discursive critique of the prison as a

Alejandro de la Fuente, ‘Race and Discrimination in Cuba’s Special Period’, in Contemporary Cuba Reader: Reinventing the Revolution, ed. Philip Brenner (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 315. 19

Ibid., 319.

20

See James Palombo, ‘Race, Ethnicity, Crime and Criminal Justice in Cuba’, in Race, Ethnicity, Crime and Criminal Justice in the Americas, ed. Anita Kalunta-Crumpton (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 21

Connell and Messerschmidt, ‘Hegemonic Masculinity’, 833.

22

As I discussed in the introduction, the idea of the prison as axis was proposed by Hernández. Hers is not the first time that dominance of the prison as a mode of punishment has been considered in terms of ‘hegemony’. Criminological studies such as that of Jaqueline Dunn’s ‘Breaking the Hegemony of the Prison’ (1985) have considered both the dominance of the prison and its potential downfall in Gramscian terms. 23

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(hegemonic) institution is inevitably bound up with (hegemonic) forms of gendered and racial identity but also, and especially, class-based hierarchies. What is in play in their texts is a negotiation of hegemonic notions of masculinity as a normative force against which the prison, the dominant and hegemonic form of state-sanctioned punishment, is condemned. What is at stake is the emancipatory potential implicit in any critique of the prison. Ultimately, however, I question whether it is possible to build a critique of one oppressive hegemonic institution (the prison) on the maintenance of others (racial and gendered).

Carlos Montenegro and the causes of degeneracy Carlos Montenegro (1900–1981) was born in Galicia but moved with his family to Cuba in 1907. He became a sailor at the age of fourteen but at nineteen was convicted of killing a man with a razor in a brawl and sentenced to fourteen years in the ‘reformatorio’ (reformatory) of el Castillo del Príncipe in Havana. He began writing short stories while incarcerated in this former Spanish fortress, some of which were published in well-known Cuban magazines of the time, including Social, Carteles and Bohemia. His success as an author led to a public campaign to have him released, which succeeded two years before his sentence was due to end. Hombres sin mujer is a novel that he developed from a short story he planned to write for the Spanish criminologist Luis Jiménez de Asúa.24 It was published in a serialized form in the magazine Carteles in 1937. Although in print in Mexico, for years it was unavailable in Cuba until it was released as a free e-book on the website of the Instituto Cubano del Libro in 2001. The novel is a naturalistic melodrama set in a prison closely resembling the Castillo del Príncipe. Montenegro is extremely explicit in his exposition of the sexual practices of his characters, many of whom are obsessed with the sexual relationships between each other, which they discuss in crude slang. The protagonist is a mulatto prisoner, Pascasio Speek, a macho loner originally from the countryside and famous within the prison for being the only man who has not had any form of sexual relations with another prisoner. As one gossiping character, ‘La (The Duchess), expresses it, ‘lleva ocho años largos a pan y agua’ (he’s been on bread and water for eight years).25 At the beginning of the novel he is romantically desired by an effeminate prisoner named ‘La Morita’ whose advances he violently rejects. Bejel, Gay Cuban, 79–80.

24

Montenegro, Hombres, 46.

25

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The plot relates how despite himself, he falls in love with a new internee, a beautiful, eighteen-year-old white youth, Andrés Pinel or Andresito, who is highly desired by all the other prisoners but who returns only Pascasio’s affection. The romance between the two culminates in tragedy when Pascasio is placed in the cell for ‘incorregibles’ (irredeemables), a prison within the prison where the most dangerous inmates are confined for further punishment, and where he faces rape and possible death. In order to secure his release Andrés makes a deal with Manuel Chiquito, a rich and influential inmate who also desires Andrés. Chiquito agrees to free Pascasio in return for sex with Andrés. What Andrés does not realize, however, is that the macho kingpin Brai, a fearsome individual famous for biting the ears off his enemies, has in fact already organized Pascasio’s release. On exiting the cell, Pascasio finds Andrés having sex with Chiquito and kills his lover in a jealous rage. Then, in despair at what he has done, he cuts his own wrists using an electric saw and dies in the arms of Brai, who declares that he had hoped Pascasio would become his successor as the prison strongman. In a note at the beginning of the novel entitled ‘Al lector’ (To the reader) Montenegro anticipates and attempts to diffuse outraged reaction by assuring his readers that what follows is a reflection of reality. He pleads that ‘[e]l que acuse estas páginas de immorales, que no olvide que todo lo que dicen corresponde a un mal existente, a que por lo tanto es éste, y no su exposición, lo que primeramente debe enjuiciarse’ (he who accuses these pages of immorality should not forget that they correspond to an existing evil, and it is therefore this, and not its exposure, that he should judge first).26 The content of the novel is not gratuitous, he explains, but necessary in order to achieve its aim: ‘la denuncia del régimen penitenciario a que me vi sometido […] durante doce años’ (the denunciation of the penal regime to which I was subjected […] for twelve years).27 He also states his reluctance to give any guidance as to how one might read the work, claiming that he would like to plunge the reader into the text unawares: ‘que el lector entrase en él con la misma ignorancia e imprevisión de lo que va a leer que caracteriza, respecto al presidio, al sentenciado a cumplir una condena’ (the reader should enter with the same ignorance and lack of foresight with respect to the prison which characterises the sentenced man when he serves his time).28 The unpleasantness of reading the novel is thus intended to be analagous to the experience of imprisonment. Despite the fact that its ostensible purpose is the revelation and denunciation of the ‘males existentes’ (existing evils) in the nation’s prisons, Montenegro’s novel has more recently been read as a watershed moment

Ibid., 3.

26

Ibid.

27

Ibid.

28

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in the history of homosexuality, not only in Cuba but also in the Spanishspeaking world. Luis Zapata goes so far as to claim that it is the first Spanish language novel to be about homosexual desire and Emilio Bejel argues that it is still the most daring ever published in Cuba on the topic of male homoeroticism.29 It is hardly surprising that the novel was provocative in 1930s Cuba. In his history of sexuality in the construction of the Cuban nation, Del otro lado del espejo (From the Other Side of the Mirror) Abel Sierra Madero describes normative modes of sexual subjectivity in the Cuba of the period as rigidly based on a male/female binary, to which the individual was expected to conform based strictly on his or her biological sex. To deviate from the norms too much was to risk being considered a pederast, and to be subjected to a range of positivist ‘scientific’ carceral, medical and judicial practices. In order to get a sense of the parameters of the debates on gender and sexuality, one need to go no further than the most progressive voices of the period. The ‘feminism’ of the communist feminist writer and polemicist Mariblanca Sabas Alomá (who helped campaign for Montenegro’s release) was premised on a repudiation of sexual deviation. In her own words, ‘El feminismo tiene un postulado fundamental: hacer más hombres a los hombres, haciendo más mujeres a las mujeres’ (Feminism has a fundamental proposal: to make men more manly and to make women more womanly).30 The treatment of ‘pederasts’ even took on a geopolitical flavour. Sabas Alomá’s colleague, the radical political journalist Sergio Carbó used his platform to mount a ‘cruzada nacional contra pepillitos, pepillotes y garzonas’ (a national campaign against fairies, buggers and butches).31 At a time when the Machado regime was capitulating to the demands of the United States, Carbó and Sabas Alomá lamented the behaviour of a generation of Cubans who failed to live up to their heroic fathers who had won the War of

Luis Zapata’s claim (made in his prologue to the Mexican edition of Hombres (Mexico D.F.: Lectorum, 2008), 8, is slightly exaggerated, as several other novels had been published with homosexuality as a central theme, although none was as intensely focused on the frank depiction of sexual relations between men as Hombres sin mujer. As noted by Daniel Eisenberg, there were several other novels published in Spanish before Hombres sin mujer that dealt with homosexual themes: Pasión y muerte del cura Deusto (The Passion and Death of Father Deusto) (1924) by the Chilean Augusto d’Halmar; El ángel de Sodoma (The Angel of Sodom) (1927) by the Cuban Alfonso Hernández Catá; and La fuente envenenada (The Poisoned Fountain) (1911), La novela del Renacimiento (The Novel of the Renaissance) (1912), Marcos, amador de la belleza (Marcos, Lover of Beauty) (1913) and Alexis o el significado del temperamento urano (Alexis or the Meaning of the Uranian Temperament) (1932) by the Uruguayan Alberto Nin Frías. David William Foster, Spanish Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes (Westport: Greenwood, 1999), 13. 29

Abel Sierra Madero, Del otro lado del espejo: la sexualidad en la construcción de la nación cubana (Habana: Casa de las Américas, 2006), 96. 30

Ibid., 81.

31

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Independence. In polemical articles in the pages of La Semana and Carteles the pair conflated the political capitulation of the government to the United States with the ‘feminization’ of the national character. In La Semana in 1928 Carbó wrote that ‘Los hombres más ilustres y más pujantes tienen hijos “pepillitos”’ (the most distinguished and ambitious men have fathered ‘nancy boys’).32 The conflation of sexual deviance with other forms of undesirable behaviour was prefigured by the celebrated anthropologist Fernando Ortiz, whose early work on Cuban criminality frequently drew connections between blackness, criminality and deviant sexuality. In 1926 in an article in Revista bimestre cubana he made a drastic call to arms with distinctly sinister biopolitical overtones: Ha de ser sostenida la defensa contra los epidémicos morbos corporales, con igual apremio ha de emprenderse también y ser vencida la guerra contra las degenerantes dolencias de nuestra sociedad. Es pues indispensable para la salud moral cubana que hagamos contra los criminales lo que hicimos contra los mosquitos: una campaña de saneamiento nacional.33 There must be a sustained defence against morbid physical epidemics, and an equally urgent war against degenerate maladies in our society must be launched and won. It is simply indispensable for the moral health of our society that we deal with criminals as we do with mosquitos: a national sanitation campaign. In his recently re-published study, La santería y la brujería de los blancos (Santeria and the Witchcraft of the Whites) (2003) Ortiz expressed more specific concerns about conditions within single-sex institutions, arguing, as Montenegro would argue in Hombres sin mujer, that such places were ‘contra la naturaleza’ (against nature) because of their imposition of ‘la rígida abstinencia sexual’ (rigid sexual abstinence) and which consequently, ‘han sido, en cuanto a lo sexual, ambientes de “mala vida”’ (have been, sexually speaking, environments of “vice”) leading to behaviours that he somewhat cryptically refers to as ‘las poluciones, las destilaciones, el onanismo, la sodomía y las demás técnicas de la sexualidad sustituitiva’ (pollutions, distilations, onanism, sodomy and the other techniques of substitute sexuality).34 As Sierra Madero argues, such proclamations functioned to, ‘construir la diferencia sexual por parte de las identidades hegemónicas, que se argumentan y reconfiguran mediante la lógica de repudio y rechazo con relación a las identidades subalternas’ (construct sexual difference on

Cited in ibid., 85.

32

Cited in ibid., 77.

33

Cited in ibid., 79–80.

34

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behalf of hegemonic identities which are defined and reconfigured via the logic of repudiation and rejection of subaltern identities).35 It was not only marginal sexual identity and practice that played into the creation of this hegemonic category. Colón Pichardo describes how the roots of racial stereotypes around black masculinity in the early decades of the republic had their roots in the white fears of the nineteenth century. In a passage in which he draws on the work of Alejandra Bronfman (2001) and Aline Helg (2000), both historians of race in Cuba, he argues that there were three aspects to the elite fear of blackness: El temor a una revolución similar a la haitiana que convirtiera a Cuba en una república negra con un dictador ‘afrocubano’ que masacrara a los blancos, la aprensión que provocaban las religiones y la cultura africana que se plasmará en la caricaturización del negro brujo y el ñáñigo, y opondrá la ‘civilización occidental’ a la ‘barbarie africana’ […] y por último, el temor a la sexualidad de los negros, que serán vistos como bestias, violadores de mujeres blancas, amenazas a la comunidad blanca, a la nación cubana y a esa ‘civilización occidental’. 36 Fear of a revolution similar to the Haitian Revolution which would transform Cuba into a black republic with an ‘Afrocuban’ dictator who would massacre the whites, the fear provoked by African culture and religions – expressed in the stereotype of the black witch and the follower of Abakuá – which opposes ‘Western Civilisation’ to ‘African barbarism’ […] and finally the fear of the sexuality of black men who are seen as beasts, rapists of white women, a threat to the white community, to the Cuban nation and to that same ‘Western Civilisation’. Blackness, epitomized in the figure of the black rapist, was thus also associated with poverty, criminality, immorality and sexual savagery and perceived as a potential threat to the nation itself. In Hombres sin mujer the gendered, racial and class-based aspects to such dangerous stereotypes intersect in the depiction of the most fearsome machos, such as Pascasio, Brai and Manuel Chiquito. They behave in hypermasculine ways and are big, brave, aggressive and avoid revealing emotions. These men are the polar opposites to groups of feminized prisoners, who are described by the others using terms some of which signify what Connell termed ‘emphasised femininity’ – ‘pájaros’ (birds), ‘leas’ (fairies), ‘yeguas’ (mares) –, while others reference a perversion of a masculine ideal – ‘maleados’ (corrupted). The members of this group attend to their

Ibid., 104.

35

Maikel Colón Pichardo, ‘Masculinidades en blanco y negro’.

36

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appearance, are submissive, emotional, gossipy, employ female pronouns and some even periodically ‘tienen la luna’ (menstruate). The gender binary enacted by the men of Hombres sin mujer corresponds to the fact that, as Brad Epps puts it, in Cuba ‘the so-called insertive partner is not marked, labelled, or stigmatized with the identificatory force with which the socalled receptive partner is marked, labelled, or stigmatized’.37 Indeed, the ‘bugas’ or ‘bugarrones’ (buggers or buggerers – men who (are perceived to) penetrate others) ‘find their masculinity reinforced by penetrating other men’.38 This gender binary within the prison creates a normative model of hegemonic masculinity that is never actually represented as such in Hombres sin mujer. No one prisoner embodies a ‘hegemonic’ archetype, rather a (non-imprisoned) archetype is defined negatively – in Sierra Madero’s words via ‘the logic of the repudiation and rejection of subaltern identities’. All of Montenegro’s prisoners are excluded from the hegemonic ideal, either because of an unacceptable (black) excess of masculinity or because of an unacceptable (feminine, penetrable) lack of it. Montenegro’s language amounts to a taxonomical nomenclature that gives account of a broadly constituted prisoner class, a social system structured around sex and violence. The gender hierarchies within this group correspond to those outside, with the most masculine prisoners such as Brai possessed of the most influence, and the most ‘feminized’ the least. In the violent sexual economy that predominates, racial power hierarchies are the inverse of those outside because the most powerful and dangerous characters, such as Brai and Manuel Chiquito, are black. They are sexually dominant, potentially violent and particularly attracted to white women. In one scene a crazed mulatto named Valentín, who believes himself to be white, fantasizes about sharpening his machete and killing off everyone apart from the white women: Después acabaré con las negras, después con las gallegas y … [m]e voy a quedar solo con las hembras blancas y … , ¡jierro!, ¡jierro!, ¡jierro!39 Then I’ll do away with the black women, then the Spanish women … I’ll be left alone with the white women and then … bang, bang, bang!

Brad Epps, ‘Proper Conduct: Reinaldo Arenas, Fidel Castro, and the Politics of Homosexuality’, Journal of the History of Sexuality 6, no. 2 (1 October 1995): 240. 37

Ibid., 233. Jafari S. Allen in ¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba concurs with this: ‘In Cuba, the “dangerousness” and “scandal” of male homosexuality is not men having sex with men – this is understood as fairly commonplace – but rather it is the failure to perform the strict script of masculinity and hombría (idealized attributes, rights and responsibilities of manhood that is itself classed and raced)’ (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 11. 38

Montenegro, Hombres, 7.

39

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In the absence of white women, however, the black men desire white men whom they describe in terms such as ‘carne de puerco’ (pig meat).40 The racial nature of rape is demonstrated in one of the most disturbing scenes in the novel. A newly arrived prisoner named ‘Macaco’ (Ugly Dog), described by Montenegro as ‘anormal’ (abnormal), is placed in the punishment cell for ‘incorregibles’ (irredeemables). The episode fulfils the myth of the black rapist whose desire for a white woman can only lead to rape. The other incorregibles bathe and powder him to make his skin softer and whiter before carrying out a gang rape that leaves him unconscious and hospitalized. To a large extent Montenegro’s condemnation of the prison lies in the way that the institution harbours and condones exaggerated and unfettered forms of black hyper-masculinity. In general the behaviour of ‘bugas’ and machos – usually also identified as black – is far worse than that of the afeminados (effeminates). They are violent and predatory and use all sorts of tactics to dominate the newcomers. In one passage, Manuel Chiquito fantasizes about how he plans to groom Andrés by gaining his trust before trapping him ‘como una mosca en una telaraña’ (like a fly in a spider’s web).41 In another, a description of Andrés taking a shower takes on an explicitly gendered nature: ‘Andrés, cubierto de vergüenza, se tapaba el pecho con las manos temblorosas y apretaba las piernas como una virgen a punto de ser atacada por un sátiro’ (Andrés, very embarrassed, covered his breast with his trembling hands and squeezed his legs together like a virgin about to be attacked by a satyr).42 Such a description aligns the narrative perspective with that of the black ‘buga’, presenting Andrés as the object of a predatory male gaze. Although Montenegro maintains throughout that he believes the codes of behaviour that exist in the prison are different from those in the world outside, as Emilio Bejel points out, the most destructive patterns in the prison tend to replicate without irony the machismo of gender roles in patriarchal Cuban society.43 Most of the characters’ behaviour, described with salacious glee by Sabas Alomá in her review of the novel as ‘brutal, magnífico en su desnudez, maravillosamente horrendo en su agresiva bestialidad’ (brutal, magnificent in their nakedness, wonderfully horrendous in their aggressive beastliness),44 is a hyperbolic inflation of a binary gender system in which the ‘bugas’ ‘own’ and control the afeminados who are dependent on them for protection and material possessions. The latter are not without agency, however, because they are perceived by the other prisoners to be

Ibid., 197.

40

Ibid., 32.

41

Ibid., 103.

42

Bejel, Gay Cuban, 90.

43

Cited in Sierra-Madero, El otro lado, 113.

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manipulative and ungrateful temptresses. As one prisoner, Cayohueso, complains to another, ‘los afeminados son como los gatos: no miran la mano que les da de comer.’ (The effeminates are like cats: they don’t even look at the hand that feeds them.)45 Montenegro’s text subscribes to a view of sexual behaviour which, while based on a strong binary, bears elements of a crude constructionism comparable to that put forward by León Sánchez in La isla de los hombres solos (God Was Looking the Other Way). Characters appear able to change their identity depending on circumstance and situation. Furthermore, although gender and sexual identity are biologically assigned, in the picture painted by Montenegro they are not fixed. This is far from being the potentially liberatory separation of sex and gender theorized by Judith Butler (1993). Rather, if a man exhibits feminine characteristics of any kind it is possible for him to ‘lose’ his manhood. A macho ‘buga’ may become a feminized ‘lea’ but no transformation is possible in the other direction. If, on entering the prison, one is designated a role as an afeminado, as is the case with Andrés, it is impossible to reverse that designation: masculinity may be lost but not recovered. The process whereby the prisoners understand gender identity to be transformable and relational is shown when Andrés cries after being injured. Matienzo explains that in watching him cry, he is forced to consider him as a woman: Lloras como una mujer, por lo de antes … ¿Acaso quieres obligarme a que me meta contigo? Tú no eres una mujer, pero … pareces menos hombre que los que estamos aquí.46 You cry like a woman because of what happened before … Maybe you want to oblige me to sleep with you? You are not a woman, but … you seem less of a man than the rest of us here. For Matienzo, if Andrés is womanly, it follows that he must want sex. Montenegro also explains the process from Andrés’s perspective. A combination of his fearfulness and physical weakness relative to the other men and their abuse of him leads to the point where he feels increasingly ‘feminized’ – ‘todo lo que tenía de femenino le salía a flote’ (all his feminine qualities rose to the surface).47 The process begins when he first enters the prison, as he is interpellated as a female subject by the other prisoners. In an early scene where two other prisoners fight over him he feels ashamed, and therefore more female, a sensation that increases as his attraction to Pascasio grows. It is not only manhood, however, that can be ‘lost’. As

Montenegro, Hombres, 9.

45

Ibid., 65.

46

Ibid., 148.

47

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Chichiriche, a character who has become ‘afeminado’, lies dying, he recalls his life before prison in the company of his wife: ‘La compañera le había dado en hijos todo lo que tenía de mujer; en hijos y en trabajo; en últimas ya eran como personas de un mismo sexo.’ (His companion had sacrificed all of her womanliness; to children and to labour; at the end they were like people of the same sex.)48 To be a ‘mujer’ is thus associated with youthfulness and virility, qualities that might be lost over the course of a life. On the surface, Montenegro’s text ascribes to the views of his contemporaries according to which homoerotic practices constituted ‘unnatural’ aberrations. His denunciation of the reformatory as an abusive place is based exclusively on the fact that it fosters so much homosexual behaviour. The simple reason that Montenegro provides for this is the lack of women. In the passage of dialogue that gives the novel its title, Matienzo comments to Andrés, ‘¿Sabes lo que nos pasa? ¡Que somos los hombres sin mujer! Aquí no hay degenerados; hay solamente hombres sin mujer. Eso es todo.’49 (You know what happens to us? We are the men without women! There are no degenerates here, only men without women. That is all.) Homoerotic attraction is thus presented as the inevitable product of incarceration. Prefiguring the Foucauldian contention that the penal system produces delinquency,50 for Montenegro, prisons are ‘máquinas para fabricar degenerados’ (machines for manufacturing degenerates) rather than places in which their true nature is revealed.51 The failure of the prison as a reformatory is expressed with a heavy irony when the pompous judge in Pascasio’s disciplinary hearing states that ‘no hay que olvidar nunca que el presidio es una institución reformadora donde debe cuidarse tanto el alma del delincuente como su cuerpo’ (it must never be forgotten that the prison is a reforming institution in which the body and soul of the delinquent must both be nurtured).52 He is told, in reference to Andrés’s alleged abuse by Pascasio, ‘esa casa debe ser un reformatorio, debe salvarse a estos inocentes que no cesan de verse perseguidos por los presos sin conciencia ni moral’ (this house must be a reformatory, it must save these innocents who find themselves constantly pursued by prisoners who have neither conscience nor morality).53 Work done in other penal contexts raises questions regarding the extent to which the practices in Montenegro’s prison can be read as a

Ibid., 48.

48

Ibid., 65.

49

Foucault, Discipline, 272.

50

Montenegro, Hombres, 159.

51

Ibid., 190.

52

Ibid., 191.

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tacit celebration of homosexuality (or at least the tentative precursor to contemporary homosexuality). Sex between men in prison is characterized by exaggerated forms of masculine behaviour and the application of patriarchal violence to men gendered ‘female’ usually against their will. Studies of prison masculinities and testimonies of former prisoners from the United States question whether the sex acts performed between men in prison are ‘homosexual’ in anything like the sense of the term as it is popularly understood as a form of ‘sexuality’. Former US prisoner Stephen Donaldson describes how his experience as a ‘punk’ (a US term for submissive men who are forced to become the sexual slaves of other men and are interpellated as ‘female’ by those who control them) led him to draw a very similar conclusion about the nature of sexuality to Montenegro: The salient fact that the majority of young males in confinement, freed from the fetters of social disapproval, will seek gratification from members of the same sex strongly implies that the capacity for male homoeroticism is nearly universal, its suppression a matter of cultural mores and the availability of women.54 Rather than be considered ‘homosexual’, Donaldson contends that relationships between men behind bars should be explained as the result of a hyper-masculinity that is compulsory in the patriarchal institution. Donaldson condemns studies of sexual behaviour in prison that refer to ‘aggressive homosexuals’, along with the use of the term ‘homosexual rape’ for an offence that in fact ‘virtually no incarcerated homosexuals commit’.55 More controversially, he argues that in prison contexts the binary opposition established between forced and consensual sex is not sufficient to describe the relationships between men who have sex with other men in prison. For him such a dichotomy does not adequately account for the fact that ‘punks’ choose unwanted sex with some ‘daddies’ (a US term for a dominant male) precisely because it is preferable to violent rape. Although it is not what they, as men who had previously identified as heterosexual, desire, neither can it be considered rape.56 This troubling suggestion is countered by the testimony of another former ‘punk’ who insists that ‘this kind of coerced sex also constitutes rape’,57 Stephen ‘Donny’ Donaldson, ‘A Million Jockers, Punks, and Queens’, in Prison Masculinities, ed. Donald F. Sabo, Terry Allen Kupers, and Willie James (London Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001), 125. 54

Ibid., 124.

55

Ibid., 126.

56

Terry A. Kupers, ‘Rape and the Prison Code’, in Prison Masculinities, ed. Donald F. Sabo, Terry Allen Kupers, and Willie James London (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001), 111. 57

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but it leads us to confront how easily accounts of sexual relations between men in prison can blur the distinction between consent and coercion. One of the more uncomfortable aspects of reading Hombres sin mujer today is the extent to which Montenegro does this. As I highlighted above, many of the characters who are rendered ‘female’ accept their submissive roles and, Montenegro suggests, encourage further sexual contact with the ‘bugas’. As I also emphasized, however, these interpretations must be tempered by the fact that the narrative perspective is more often than not that of the malegendered ‘bugas’. Critics Bejel, Sierra Madero and Alfredo Villanueva argue that it is possible to read Hombres sin mujer against the grain as a celebration of homoerotic love. Key to this is the inconsistency of Montenegro’s theory on the absence of women as the single definitive cause of homoeroticism. That some of his characters are stated to be effeminate ‘por naturaleza’ (by nature) because they were known to have been so before their interment contradicts the novel’s positivistic explanation for homoerotic practice as the product of the ‘unnatural’ prison environment.58 The prison guards who have access to women also engage in homoerotic behaviour and Brai, the supermacho, declares that he does not need boys but has sex with them because he wants to.59 Furthermore, the relationships between the prisoners do not only involve sexual lust. La Morita loves Pascasio at the beginning of the novel despite the fact that it is not requited physically in any way. Much of the conversation between the prisoners involves the discussion of nature of relationships between men as Montenegro explores various explanations for the rampant homoeroticism. Moreover, the feelings of the men for each other sometimes seem to transcend the strict gendered binary: Manuel Chiquito muses that sometimes, ‘ni sabes el papel que estás haciendo: si el de hombre o el de mujer. Acaso los dos’ (you even don’t know which role you’re playing: the man’s or the woman’s. Maybe both).60 At times, Montenegro’s depiction of homoerotic romance destabilizes fixed gender binaries and, despite itself, celebrates love between men. Another factor that allows for a reading of Hombres sin mujer as a tacit celebration of homoeroticism is the relationship between Andrés and Pascasio. The moment when Pascasio gives in to what he euphemistically thinks of as ‘el abismo’ (the abyss) is one of sublime submission in which he is ‘penetrado por la emoción’ (penetrated by emotion).61 Bejel states that paradox lies in the fact that the machista code (which originates outside the prison) clearly proscribes homoerotic practice, yet even the most macho of the prisoners engage in it. Gay Cuban, 91. 58

Montenegro, Hombres, 31.

59

Ibid., 160. Ibid., 151.

60 61

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Las veces en que se acercó al abismo de las realidades inevitables tembló de espanto, pero era un espanto maravilloso que no conociera nunca y que le penetraba ahora, acaso no por amar intensamente, sino porque su amor se apartaba de las normas, como si éstas fueran también una barrera, más allá de la cual las pasiones eran infinitas, como el infinito estrellado que contemplaba. The times he approached the abyss of those inevitable realities he trembled in terror, but it was a wonderful terror he had never known before and which penetrated him now, maybe not because of the intensity of love, but because of how much his love diverged from the norms, as if the norms were also a barrier, beyond which passions were infinite, like the starry infinitude which he saw before him. Montenegro’s lexical choice here is indicative of both his phallocentrism and the gendered nature of emotions such as happiness but despite having previously considered feelings for men to be against ‘lo natural’ Pascasio finds that it is nature itself that is impelling his emotions: ‘Los hombres podían fabricar también una prisión y encerrar en ella a otros hombres, pero no podían detener la naturaleza, como no se puede detener el curso de un río.’ (Men could build a prison and imprison other men within it, but they could not halt nature, just as they could not halt the river’s flow.)62 His initial transformation is described as an overwhelmingly emotional expansion: No era la locura […] lo dominaba un extraño júbilo, superior en mucho a su capacidad de sentir; lo que fuera, no podía serle enemigo; escapaba a su comprensión, abriéndole horizontes imprevistos […] Todo lo que tenía perdido, y que creciera tanto en su imaginación, lo sentía ahora dentro de sí, arrebatándole [sic] de vitalidad y euforia.63 It was not madness […] he was dominated by a strange jubilation, greater in many ways than his capacity to feel; whatever it was, could not be his enemy; it was beyond his comprehension, opening unforeseen horizons to him […] Everything he had lost and which had grown so much in his imagination, he now felt within himself, filling him with vitality and euphoria. What is more, the fact that there is even a relationship between Pascasio, who is black, and Andrés, the white youth, is subversive, as Villanueva points out.64 Ibid., 154. Ibid., 150–151. 64 Alfredo Villanueva, ‘Montenegro, Carlos’, in Latin American Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, ed. David William Foster and Emmanuel Sampath Nelson (Westport: Greenwood Publishing, 1994), 251. 62 63

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Yet a closer look at their relationship and the way it expresses the intersection between the sexual and racial politics reveals the way in which transgression can also reinforce the very racial stereotypes and hierarchies that it also disturbs. In his work on the racial ‘economy’ of interracial sexual relationships, Peter Wade argues that such relationships reveal the ‘simultaneity’ in the functioning of hegemonic systems of racial hierarchy. As Wade puts it: These same unions are the terrain on which racism is reproduced […] the very same practices can be racist and non-racist at the same time and in the same space. It is precisely this simultaneity that makes racial hegemony work; hegemony works most effectively by creating overlapping but partial realities rather than by duping people with simple ideology.65 The subversive attraction between Pascasio and Andrés also functions in this way, overcoming racial division yet simultaneously conforming to contemporary racial stereotypes. The ‘simultaneity’ of hegemonic racial hierarchies is thus more complex than Sierra Madero’s account of the maintenance of hegemonic masculinity via the ‘logic of repudiation and rejection of subaltern identities’.66 Rather, hegemonic institutions are maintained by practices that seem to challenge such hierarchies but which ultimately result in their perpetuation. Like other masculine characters, Pascasio is attracted to Andrés because of his whiteness and his youth and in a sexual economy in which Andrés has been interpellated as ‘female’ Pascasio’s desire is not entirely transgressive. To an extent it also conforms to the established stereotype of the black rapist who cannot resist white women, outlined by Colón Pichardo. This logic, whereby the text challenges yet also maintains heteronormative and patriarchal forms of power, extends to its treatment of the prison system that it is its stated aim to critique. The two main aspects to this lie (i) in the implication that the prison is corrupting, but that a reformed prison might be tolerable, and (ii) in the fact that the prisoners are portrayed as so dangerous and perverse that they seem to form an abject racialized sub-group whose existence in any context outside the prison is a terrifying threat to modernity. In ‘marking’ imprisoned subjects as sexually and racially aberrant, Montenegro’s novel marks the existence of a criminal category. In Sabas Alomá’s adulatory article ‘Leyendo a Carlos Montenegro’ (Reading Carlos Montenegro) she marvels at his daring in revealing the horrors that menace Cuban society: ‘Bueno que los haya conocido allí, compañero, porque fuera señor, fuera del presidio difícilmente

Peter Wade, Race and Sex in Latin America (London: Pluto, 2009), 177–178.

65

Madero, Del otro, 104.

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los hubiera encontrado. ¡Se disfrazan tan bien! […] Ningún hombre malo, fuera del presidio dice lo que es.’67 (How lucky that you got to know them in there, comrade, because outside, sir, outside the prison it would have been hard to find them. They disguise themselves so well! […] Outside the prison no evil man states what he is.) Such a reaction misses some of the more sophisticated ways in which Montenegro gives account of the production of delinquency by the prison, as well as his evident sympathy for his protagonists. But the way his work was received by one of his most influential and sympathetic contemporary readers clearly demonstrates its role in the marking, labelling and stigmatizing (to appropriate Epps’s terms) of a prisoner class. From the gang rape of Macaco to the passion that engulfs Pascasio and Andrés, Montenegro paints a picture in which all violence is motivated by sexual desire. The opposition to the prison as an institution on the grounds of the homoeroticism and sexual abuse that takes place within it maintains the normativity of the prison as a mode of punishment. The ultimate implication of the novel is that regular conjugal visits and access to ‘real women’ would cause the prisoners Pascasio detests for being ‘bestias revolcándose en su propio fango’ (beasts frolicking in their own filth) to behave ‘normally’.68 This was more or less the thesis put forward by Ortiz in his examination of the perversions caused by the exclusivity of same-sex institutions. Readers are left with the argument that a prison in which the men had regular access to women would be acceptable. The second way in which the text maintains the hegemony of the prison is exemplified in the comments on the novel made by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who worked with Montenegro on the magazine Carteles. He praises the work for its unsympathetic portrayal of criminality, a portrayal which he assumes makes it more ‘realistic’: La novela es antecedente de Genet. Mejor que Genet porque no contiene la carga de literatura pseudorromántica con que Genet idealiza el crimen. Además, Montenegro nunca fue ladrón. Se libró así de publicar un canto al robo con fractura y pederastia.69 The novel is earlier than Genet. Better than Genet because it does not have the pseudo-romantic charge with which Genet idealised crime. Furthermore, Montenegro was never a criminal. His was therefore freed from publishing an ode to burglary and pederasty.

Mariblanca Sabas Alomá, Feminismo: cuestiones sociales y crítica literaria (La Habana: Oriente, [1930] 2003), 221. 67

Montenegro, Hombres, 176.

68

Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Mea Cuba (Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 1993), 356.

69

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Cabrera Infante’s reaction is telling for a number of reasons. He judges Montenegro’s novel wholly on aesthetic grounds, praising the fact that its grittiness prevents an idealization of crime. His definition of criminality also strikes me as odd, given that Montenegro was almost certainly guilty of manslaughter. Cabrera Infante, however, apparently judges such a killing to be entirely justified. He claims that Montenegro was imprisoned for fighting a man who tried to assault him sexually and defends his early release because, ‘estaba preso por lo que la moral consideraba la defensa del honor’ (he was in prison for what morality would consider the defence of honour),70 betraying an adherence to an outmoded system of honour and revenge in which lethal violence in defence of honour is excusable. While it is not the responsibility of one who has been the victim of a penal system to come up with alternatives, Hombres sin mujer nevertheless illustrates how even the most damning critique of such a system can, precisely by implying that a relatively minor change such as the presence of women might make a significant difference to it, paradoxically legitimate the continuation of the prison as the hegemonic mode of state-sanctioned punishment. In the final analysis, the novel exemplifies how a text written with the explicit intention of condemning an institution can, through a combination of sensationalism and a narrow focus on a particular aspect of what makes it injurious (the production of undesirable sexual relations), serve to naturalize the same institution it condemns. Notwithstanding the transgressive nature of the relationship between his protagonists, Montenegro’s opposition to the prison system appeals directly to (and consequently also shores up) notions of hegemonic masculinity intersected by race- and class-based hierarchies. Sexual hierarchies are also a major concern in Reinaldo Arenas’s prison writing, although as I explore in the next section, he has a very different approach to both sex and power.

Reinaldo Arenas abstains Arenas wrote his autobiography, Antes que anochezca, on his deathbed while suffering from AIDS-related illness. He committed suicide shortly after its completion at the age of forty-seven. The extraordinary text is both a visceral account of his life and a savage attack on Castro’s Cuba. Despite his early death, Arenas was a prolific author who had published six major novels and numerous other works. These include El mundo alucinante (The Ill-Fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando, 1969) and the novels that make up the cycle known as the Pentagonía – five highly fictionalized novels loosely based on Arenas’s life and travails. His works, which were always Ibid.

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wildly experimental in form and daring in content, became increasingly polemical in their opposition to the revolutionary government. Arenas’s problems with that government were both sexual and textual; his stance as a proudly homosexual man and a non-conformist author brought him into conflict with the authorities. The textual problems began when, having published what would become the first novel of the Pentagonía, Celestino antes del alba, in 1967 to very favourable reviews from prominent revolutionary intellectuals, such as Miguel Barnet, Arenas’s second novel, El mundo alucinante, proved too controversial for the cultural authorities to stomach. The manuscript had been entered into an UNEAC competition and awarded first honourable mention even though the judges, one of whom was Alejo Carpentier, awarded no first prize. It was never, however, published in Cuba, reportedly because Arenas refused to cut some orgiastic scenes depicting sex between single sex groups of men and women. Arenas managed to have a translation published in France in 1969, an act which was illegal in Cuba at the time and which set him on a collision course with the Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (National Union of Cuban Writers, UNEAC). The novel is a retelling of the life of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (1763–1827), the revolutionary priest and hero of the Mexican War of Independence. What interested Arenas, however, was the persecution of Fray Servando after a blasphemous sermon in which he argued that the Virgin of Guadalupe had appeared in Mexico before the arrival of the Spanish. This undermined the religious legitimization of the conquest of the New World and provoked the wrath of the Inquisition. Servando spent the rest of his life on the run from his political and religious enemies, enduring long periods incarcerated in prisons across Europe and the New World. In Arenas’s fantastical version of his story, one of the prisons in which he is incarcerated is El Morro in Havana where Arenas would later be imprisoned himself. The cosmic irony of this was not lost on Arenas who would later write in Antes que anochezca: En El mundo alucinante yo hablaba de un fraile que había pasado por varias prisiones sórdidas (incluyendo El Morro). Yo al entrar allí decidí que en el adelante tendría más cuidado con lo que escribiera, porque parecía estar condenado a vivir en mi propio cuerpo lo que escribía.71 In The Ill-Fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando I had written about a monk who had been in several sordid prisons including El Morro. Once there I decided that in future I would be more careful about what I wrote, because I seemed destined to live through whatever I had written.72

Reinaldo Arenas, Antes que anochezca (Barcelona: Tusquets, [1992] 2006), 222.

71

Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls, trans. Dolores M Koch (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2010), 198. 72

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The sexual reasons for his problems with the Cuban Revolution had their roots in the fact that in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s the institutionalized control of bodies in Cuba was very homophobic. Most infamous was the incarceration of homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others deemed unsuitable for military service in the work camps known as Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción (Military Units to Aid Production, UMAP). The camps were short lived but other measures were taken to ensure that the revolutionary ‘body politic’ was not ‘infected’ by homosexuality, which continued to act as a ‘constituent outside’ to idealized masculinity. During the roughly five-year period between 1971 and 1976 that would later become known as the quinquenio gris (five grey years), or the pavonato (literally the ‘peacockery’) after the minister of culture, Luis Pavón Tamayo, homosexual men were systematically excluded from positions of educational or cultural influence. As Epps describes, the Revolution demanded that individual bodies be marshalled in order to maintain monolithic ideological unity; its body politic composed of obedient and strictly separate cells that only penetrated each other’s ‘surfaces’ in prescribed ways, namely those defined by a modified machismo that had now been reconstituted under the ideal of the hombre nuevo (new man).73 Amit Thakkar argues that the advent of the hombre nuevo represented a clear shift between ‘two standards of masculinity, the pre-revolutionary standard of being Eurocentric, rich, bourgeois, a man of leisure and an individualist; the post-revolutionary standard of being Latin-Americanist, humble, working class, hard-working and self-sacrificing’.74 The idea of a new kind of man who would result from radically altered social conditions was not unique to the Cuban Revolution, and although it was deployed in other revolutionary socialist contexts, such as Russia in the 1920s and China in the 1940s, it was not unique to socialism either. In his comparative study of the concept, Yinhong Cheng argues that its origins lie in the ideals of the Enlightenment and the aspirations of intellectuals in Enlightenment-era Europe.75 In the case of Cuba, José Martí had, as John Kirk notes, expected that independence from Spain would lead to the genesis of a new kind of Cuban, hardworking and morally pure, and free from US influence.76 The resurgence of the idea in post-revolutionary Cuba had, Cheng argues, less to do with a revival of Martí’s hopes than with the unrealistic ambition to

Epps, ‘Proper’, 234.

73

Amit Thakkar, ‘Structural Violence, Masculinities and the Hunting Motif in Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Memorias del subdesarollo (1968)’, The Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 87, no. 6 (2010): 716. 74

Yinghong Cheng, Creating the ‘New Man’ from Enlightenment Ideals to Socialist Realities (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009). 75

Cited in ibid., 129.

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bring about what Carlos Ripoll calls ‘the simultaneous creation of socialism and communism’ – that is, rapid radical change in consciousness at the same time as the economic restructuring that Marx had prescribed.77 In Cuba it was decided that the changes would be cultural as well as economic and would take place within each citizen through the voluntaristic forces of collective will, improved consciousness and effort.78 The state’s attempt to institute the hombre nuevo was to be, at least in theory, a radical break from what had gone before and a shift in the meaning of hegemonic masculinity in Cuba. After his death, it was Che Guevara who came to embody the politically committed, self-sacrificing manliness of the revolutionary hombre nuevo. Epps argues, however, that Fidel Castro, his tall athletic frame clad in its habitual olive-green uniform, is the true idealized personification of the Cuban revolutionary body politic.79 The hombre nuevo was supposed to be staunchly masculine and heterosexual but also anti-materialistic, self-sacrificing, loyal, loving to family and country and (relatively) respectful towards the mujeres nuevas, with whom he was notionally placed on equal footing.80 The 1975 Código de Familia (Family Code) set out the official vision for family life on the island. In contravention of traditional machista values, it called for equal division of household labour between parents and specifies that both have equal responsibilities towards the raising of children.81 As Igor Cusack has stated, the socialist hombre nuevo was notionally emotionally sensitive. While he ‘kills enemies with gusto [he] is gentle and kind with friends’ – indeed he exhibits a ‘tenderness and a kindness more often associated with hegemonic constructions of femininity’.82 Unlike the pre-revolutionary machos for whom acting as a bugarrón carried little stigma, the hombre nuevo was supposed to abhor all Cited in ibid., 131.

77

Ibid., 128.

78

Epps, ‘Proper’, 245. Castro’s heterosexuality is implied by the legendary impenetrability of his body, its façade having resisted hundreds of attempts by the US government to destroy or sabotage it. The importance of the integrity of its appearance for the revolutionary project is underlined by the fact that one of the alleged 634 plots attempted to undermine his credibility by making his beard fall out. Fabián Escalante Font, Executive Action: 634 Ways to Kill Fidel Castro (Melbourne: Ocean, 2006), 30. 79

As Marisela Fleites-Lear points out, there was little theorization or speculation about the exact nature of the ‘new woman’, ‘Dentro de la “tierra del Hombre Nuevo”: la Federación de mujeres y el discurso de la Nueva Mujer en la revista cubana Mujeres’ (Doctoral Thesis, University of Washington, 2006), 5–6. 80

‘Código de Familia’, Pub. L. No. 1289 (1975), http://www.gacetaoficial.cu/html/codigo%20 de%20lafamilia.html#T1. 81

Igor Cusack, ‘Janus or Hydra?: Pepetela, the New Man and the Construction of Angolan Masculinities’, in Sexual/Textual Empires: Gender and Marginality in Lusophone African Literature, ed. Owen, Hilary et al. (Bristol: University of Bristol Press, 2004), 107. 82

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homoeroticism and to completely shun effeminate extravagantes.83 Given that the archetype of the hombre nuevo was soldierly and homophobic, he constituted in many ways a codification of previous masculine ideals, rather than a radical break. In a special session at Casa de las Américas dedicated to the recollection of UMAP and the pavonato, the Cuban intellectual Ambrosio Fornet made an intervention that emphasized this continuity and attributed the homophobic policies behind them to a combination of ignorance and an ongoing adherence to pre-revolutionary morality: Esa actitud no tenía que ver con la Revolución, que nos llegaba de antaño, por la doble vía de la moral judeo-cristiana y la ignorancia, pero […] tal vez el clima emocional de la plaza sitiada – que incluía la constante exaltación de las virtudes viriles –, así como la obsesión por enderezar tantas cosas torcidas de la vieja sociedad, nos llevaron a querer enderezar o restaurar también a los homosexuales84 That attitude had nothing to do with the Revolution, it came to us earlier, via the double path of Judeo-Christian morality and ignorance, but […] maybe in the emotional, siege environment – which included the constant exaltation of virility – and the obsession with straightening out everything that was twisted in the old society, lead us to want to straighten or repair homosexuals too Fornet argues that the institutionalized homophobia of the pavonato had nothing to do with the idea of the hombre nuevo, which he claims was centred on the ideals of brotherhood and cooperation.85 Despite appeals such as Fornet’s, there remains a sense that the founding myth of brotherly solidarity upon which the strongly homosocial Revolution was built required to some extent the aberrant, useless homosexual ‘other’ against which to position its idealized male figure. As the Revolution strove to produce this ‘new man’ with his short hair and loose fitting clothes, it constructed his antagonist in the figure of the selfish, unproductive, socially parasitic, wasteful homosexual. Cheng’s emphasis on the importance of the economic productivity of the hombre nuevo supports the link between the hombre nuevo and the persecution of homosexuals but Fornet’s claim that institutionalized persecution during the quinquenio gris had little to do with the earlier efforts to construct the hombre nuevo may be correct in so far as it was a Manuel Zayas, Odd People Out (Seres extravagantes) (Frameline, 2004), http://search​ .alexanderstreet.com/view/work/1858314. 83

Ambrosio Fornet, ‘El quinquenio gris: Revisitando el término’, Criterios, La política cultural del período revolucionario: Memoria y reflexión (2007): 8–9. 84

Ibid., 9.

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response to the failure to construct him by voluntarism alone. Cheng points out that the rhetoric surrounding the new man began to fade with the failure of the 10 million tonne sugar harvest in 1970. The unrealistic goal was, as he puts it, ‘believed to be achievable by the dedication of the new men, who themselves would be tempered in the crucible of the campaign’.86 For Cheng, the quinquenio gris consisted of the Soviet style of revolutionary institutionalization, as the Revolution sought to consolidate itself through managerial methods and institutional control rather than through a belief in voluntarism and revolutionary consciousness.87 Thus, while, in the 1960s deviance was thought to be a failure of revolutionary consciousness because in theory the advances of revolutionary society would eventually mean that homosexuality no longer occurred, during the quinquenio gris the failure to produce the hombre nuevo through force of will was tacitly accepted, and concrete institutional measures against homosexuals were consolidated instead. The quinquenio gris was thus the culmination of the state’s attempt to control the development of the national character. It is sometimes reckoned to have begun with the row over the censorship of Heberto Padilla in 1968 but to have been solidified at the Primer Congreso Nacional de Educación y Cultura (First National Congress on Education and Culture) in 1971, where homosexuality – euphemistically referred to as ‘extravagancia’ (extravagance) – was defined as a ‘patología social’ (social pathology). The conference saw the ratification of policies that limited the scope of intellectual freedom in order to protect revolutionary values. They also demanded that homosexuals in positions of influence over others (teachers, managers, writers etc.) find themselves alternative occupations to prevent their ‘condition’ from spreading.88 Arenas’s account of his own political and sexual subjectivity can only be understood in this climate in which, as he puts it, ‘Las relaciones sexuales [eran] consideradas como actos políticos con graves consecuencias.’ (‘Sexual relations were considered to be political acts with serious consequences.’)89 If male homosexuals were considered counterrevolutionary, sex between men was always a transgressive act. In line with this, Arenas, having been forced by his sexuality to become a counterrevolutionary, began to write extremely graphic sex scenes and made private bodily practices part of his political rebellion. The account of sexuality that he gives in later works of

Cheng, Creating, 189.

86

Ibid.

87

Partido Comunista, ‘Declaración del Primer Congreso Nacional de Educación y Cultura’, Casa de las Américas, no. 65–66 (March 1971): 11–13. 88

Reinaldo Arenas, Otra vez el mar (Barcelona: Tusquets), 259.

89

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the Pentagonía and in Antes que anochezca are thus heavily marked by the dominant social and political formations against which he struggles. In Antes que anochezca Arenas makes it startlingly clear that he prefers the relations brought about by such conditions. For him the essential paradox and, indeed, the pleasure of being a maricón or loca (the penetrated participant in anal sex) in the now familiar model of homosexuality in Cuba was that one sought out one’s opposite, a ‘real man’, with whom to have relations. For Arenas these opposites, these ‘real men’ were often policemen or soldiers – day-to-day representatives of the monolithic body politic. In later passages in Antes que anochezca Arenas reminisces about sex with ‘real men’ back in Cuba and laments the dreariness of the New York gay scene where ‘es muy difícil para un homosexual encontrar un hombre’90 (‘it’s very difficult for a homosexual to find a man’).91 As Epps puts it, ‘what Arenas criticises is not the commodification of eroticism and art under capitalism but, rather, an apparent lack of oppositionality, indeed, of oppression, in sexual relationships among men in the United States’.92 For Epps, Arenas’s dependence on transgression and ‘oppositional sex’ for his satisfaction indicates a certain reliance on the conditions that the Revolution brought about and clearly suggests that, in spite of his apparent hostility to the Revolution, he at times reproduces its celebration of conventional views on masculinity. David Vilaseca concurs that the case of Arenas illustrates how ‘dissidence and dominant ideology are structurally dependent on each other for their mutual existence’, the implication being that in Antes que anochezca Arenas, as a Cuban homosexual, is also dependent on the hombre nuevo.93 When describing the rampant sex life he enjoyed in the 1960s Arenas states, ‘Creo que si una cosa desarolló la represión sexual en Cuba fue, precisamente, la liberación sexual.’94 (‘I think the sexual revolution in Cuba actually came about as a result of the existing sexual repression.’)95 thereby underscoring the sense that every discourse produces its own counter-discourse. This suggests, again in a Foucauldian vein, that pleasure maintains a much closer relation to power than metaphors and models of repression might lead us to believe. Antes que anochezca disconcerts because of the extent to which Arenas’s ‘sexual liberation’ is so heavily marked by the terms of that original discourse and, furthermore, that his literal and literary sexual transgressions are dependent on the political anatomy of the

Arenas, Antes, 132.

90

Arenas, Before, 107.

91

Epps, ‘Proper’, 270.

92

David Vilaseca, ‘On the Constitution and Uses of Homosexuality in Reinaldo Arenas’ Antes que anochezca’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 74, no. 3 (1997): 358. 93

Arenas, Antes, 132.

94

Arenas, Before, 107.

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Revolution not only for their consummation but also for their pleasure. Just as the Revolution depended on its aberrant homosexual ‘other’ in order to establish its own ‘revolutionary’ modes of behaviour and gendered identities, so too was Reinaldo dependent on the Revolution to provide machos conforming to the hegemonic ideal to satisfy his voracious appetite for binary ‘oppositional’ sex. This view of sex and the idea of pleasure in domination expressed in Antes que anochezca changes radically, however, when Arenas is incarcerated. Despite being a well-known ‘counterrevolutionary’ author for publishing El mundo alucinante in France, it was technically for a sex crime that he was arrested. In the chapters before his incarceration, Arenas describes how he and a friend are at the beach when they meet and have sex with two young men who then steal their bags. They go to the police station in order to report the incident and the police catch and arrest the suspects. The thieves claim, however, that Reinaldo and his friend molested them whereupon they are both arrested instead. Reinaldo is released on bail and goes on the run during which time he attempts to escape the island first by swimming to Miami on an inner tube and then by crossing into the US base at Guantánamo. After these attempts fail he spends several months living in hiding in the Parque Lenin on the outskirts of Havana and becomes a political cause célèbre abroad. He is accused by the Cuban authorities of being a rapist, murderer and a CIA agent.96 As he explains, it was in the interests of the authorities to define him as a common criminal rather than a political prisoner in order to undermine the publicity campaign that was being waged on his behalf by friends in France.97 Thus, on being captured and incarcerated in the old Spanish fortress El Morro, he brings with him a fearsome reputation as a hardened criminal. In El Morro prisoners are divided according to age, crime and perceived sexuality. In light of Reinaldo’s acquired reputation, he is not placed with the ‘locas’ who were confined in the lowest and most horrible level of the fortress, ‘el último círculo del Infierno’98 (‘the last circle of hell’),99 but rather placed with men incarcerated for rape and murder. These men, who would be placed outside the ambit of any hegemonic masculine norm, share their wing with a man who is serving thirty years for burglary. The extreme harshness of his sentence is because he violated a fundamental aspect of the hegemonic ideal of the moment: when he robbed the houses he was wearing a military uniform.100

Arenas, Antes, 202.

96

Ibid., 197.

97

Ibid., 206.

98

Arenas, Before, 181.

99

Arenas, Antes, 208.

100

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Reinaldo’s attitude to sex in prison differs markedly to his approach before his incarceration: he completely shuns it, stating that, ‘Me negaba hacer el amor con los presidarios aunque algunos, a pesar del hambre y del maltrato, eran bastante apetecibles’101 (‘I refused to make love with any prisoner, even though some, in spite of hunger and mistreatment, were quite desirable’).102 Fearful of torture and of being forced to betray those who helped him he attempts to commit suicide by taking a cocktail of prescription drugs that he had managed to smuggle inside. On waking from the coma that they induce he declares his libido to have been destroyed, ‘Ahora toda mi energía de antaño, con la que disfrutaba de cientos de adolescentes, quedaría encerrada en una galera de doscientos cincuenta criminales.’103 (‘From now on, all my old energy, with which I had enjoyed hundreds of youths, would remain locked up next to two hundred and fifty criminals.’)104 The reasons he gives are telling: No era lo mismo hacer el amor con alguien libre que con un cuerpo esclavizado en una reja, que tal vez lo escogía a uno como un objeto erótico porque no existía algo mejor a su alcance o porque, sencillamente, se moría de aburrimiento.105 Making love with a free man was very different from making love with an enslaved body behind bars, someone who perhaps chose you as an erotic object because there was nothing better to be or simply because he was bored to death.106 Arenas perceives a strong division between relations inside and outside the prison. Furthermore, his suggestion that it is boredom that motivates homoerotic behaviour concurs with Montenegro’s thesis that it is the prison environment, and the lack of anything ‘better’, which is its cause. Arenas’s perspective as a homosexual man means, however, that his attitude differs dramatically from that of Montenegro in significant ways: No había ninguna grandeza en aquel acto; hubiera sido rebajarse. Además, era muy peligroso; esos delincuentes, después de que poseían a un preso, se sentían dueños de esa persona y de sus pocas propiedades. Las relaciones sexuales se convierten, en una cárcel, en algo sórdido que se realiza bajo el signo de sumisión y el sometimiento, del chantaje y de la violencia; incluso, en muchos casos, del crimen.

Ibid., 205.

101

Arenas, Before, 179.

102

Arenas, Antes, 204.

103

Arenas, Before, 179.

104

Arenas, Antes, 204.

105

Arenas, Before, 179.

106

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Lo bello de la relación sexual es la espontaneidad de la conquista y del secreto en que se realiza esa conquista. En la cárcel todo es evidente y mezquino; el propio sistema carcelario hace que el preso se sienta como un animal y cualquier forma de sexo es humillante.107 There was no beauty in the act, it would have been a degradation. It was also very dangerous: those criminals after mounting a prisoner, felt they owned him and his few possessions. In jail, sexual intercourse became something sordid, an act of submission and subjugation, of blackmail and violence, even of murder in many instances. The beauty of a sexual relationship lies in the spontaneity of the conquest and in its secrecy. In jail everything is obvious and miserable; jail itself makes a prisoner feel like an animal and any form of sex is humiliating.108 For Arenas, the distinction is between joyous, transgressive and covert sexual relations between men (outside) and humiliating relationships under ‘enslaved’ conditions (inside). As for Montenegro in Hombres sin mujer, the true ‘perversity’ of the conditions in Montenegro’s prison resulted not from homoerotic behaviour per se, but rather from the exaggerated forms of machismo that it produces. Arenas cannot bear the repressive power relations that exist between prisoners who possess and those who submit and are treated as property. But it is also the visibility of these evidently unequal relations that disturbs Reinaldo with the complaint that ‘[everything] in jail is obvious’. Although Reinaldo had previously professed a strong preference for sex that played on a strongly gendered, heterosexist, power dynamic outside the prison, such sex was always subversive and contestatory for him. Reinaldo’s reaction to sex during his time in prison underlines the strong line that has been crossed by the coercive and patriarchal conditions inside the prison. He describes the risks for the locas who pair up with machos, men who might then fall in love with them, become violently jealous, and, what is worse ‘si te veían con un hombre, eras objeto de chantaje y tenías que pasarte por toda la prisión’109 (‘if you were seen with a real man be subject to blackmail and had to let yourself be fucked by everyone in the jailhouse’.110 As a text written from a ‘homosexual’ subject position, Arenas does not blur the boundaries between coercive, patriarchal sex and sex under the conditions of relative freedom that he had enjoyed outside. If the power relations that

Arenas, Antes, 204.

107

Arenas, Before, 179.

108

Arenas, Antes, 212.

109

Arenas, Before, 187.

110

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shaped his sexual preference outside prison are replicated inside, it is to such a degree that they are unbearable. He objects to the way in which dominant partners control and, in his terms, ‘own’ their sexual conquests, and unlike Montenegro, does not claim that these rape survivors invite the attentions of their aggressors. He notes with sadness how the new internees, the ‘carne fresca’ (fresh meat), are raped by the older prisoners and end up declaring themselves to be ‘locas’ (fairies) in order to get transferred to the ‘galera de las maricones’ where ‘por lo menos no iban a ser violados’111 (‘queer wards, where at least the fairies would not rape them’).112 There, however, they risk being attacked by the locas who, ‘por una u otra razón odiaban a los que venían de singar con los hombres y los envidiaban y siempre se las arreglaban para desfigurarles el rostro’113 (‘for one reason or another, the fairies envied those who came in for having been fucked by other men and always managed to cut up and mark their faces’).114 This lurid story shows how Arenas’s view of sexual desire remains problematically wedded to the idea that although rape is abhorrent, the other homosexuals are still jealous of those who have suffered it and are therefore in some way unable to distinguish between rape and consensual sex. Sexual feelings are not completely impossible for him, however. He does fantasize about some of his fellow prisoners and even goes so far as to defend a prisoner called Cara de Buey, who is murdered by other prisoners after it is discovered that he has been masturbating while watching them shower. Cara de Buey is a bugarrón famous in El Morro for raping and murdering two minors and putting their bodies in a tank of lime. For Arenas however: No era un hombre violento; su único momento de exaltación era en el baño cuando, mirando las nalgas de los otros hombres, se hacía la paja. Cara le salió la paja aquélla a Cara de Buey, pero es que el placer sexual casi siempre se paga muy caro; tarde o temprano, por cada minuto de placer que vivimos, sufrimos después años de pena.115 He was not a violent man; his only moment of joy was at the baths when he jerked off looking at the buttocks of other men. He paid dearly for his sin, but sexual pleasure often exacts a high price; sooner or later we pay with years of sorrow for every moment of pleasure.116

Arenas, Antes, 211.

111

Arenas, Before, 185.

112

Arenas, Antes, 211.

113

Arenas, Before, 186.

114

Arenas, Antes, 218.

115

Arenas, Before, 194.

116

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Outside the prison in the shifting power relations of revolutionary Cuba Reinaldo experiences something akin to Foucault’s ‘perpetual spirals of power and pleasure’.117 In El Morro, however, the formula is broken. For Reinaldo, resistance in prison is only possible if pleasure is renounced. Whereas in the rest of the novel he has had sex with almost anyone, in prison he has several romances with other men that are completely platonic. He does not even succumb to what he describes as the mystifying practice of doing a ‘disparo’. This was, ‘una especie de relación sexual muy común en la prisión, que realizaba como por telepatía mutua. El disparo consistía en algo misterioso, imposible casi de descubrir’118 (‘a sort of telepathic sexual act, very common in prison. The shot was something mysterious, almost impossible to detect’).119 One man lowers his trousers and another masturbates but they do not engage with each other in any other way. This secretive, cooperative act seems to avoid either party being marked by any of the taxonomic labels that would fix them on the hierarchies of dominance or submission characteristic of all other sexual relations between men. Perhaps for this reason it mystifies Reinaldo, whose celibacy stands firm as his own form of protest. It is limited only to the space of the prison. As soon as he is removed from the main wing and is taken and interrogated by state security he finds himself strongly attracted to Victor, his interrogator, and masturbates while fantasizing about him as soon as he gets the chance.120 Like Hombres sin mujer, Arenas’s text strongly condemns the institution of the prison for the perverse conditions that it brings about. Unlike Montenegro’s text, for Arenas no sexual enjoyment may be experienced within the prison but objection is a personal, ethical one. Because of his own conflict with the Cuban authorities, he does not allow himself the pleasure of sex, nor does he judge those who do. Significantly, in terms of the shifting constellations of masculinity, Arenas’s account of sex between men in El Morro is not only radically different in its understanding of sex, it also anticipates a readership that is quite different in its prejudices to that of Montenegro. As such it registers a shift in the perception of sex between men and perhaps a consequent loosening of some aspects of hegemonic masculinity, or at least the terms by which it is constituted. It is worth recalling that according to Connell, hegemonic masculinity is maintained not only by men who practise it, but also by ‘complicit’ masculinities enacted by men who benefit from the maintenance of the patriarchal order.121 Complicit masculinities are not the same as Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), 45. 117

Arenas, Antes, 217.

118

Arenas, Before, 193.

119

Arenas, Antes, 223.

120

Connell, Masculinities, 76-80.

121

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‘subordinate’ or ‘marginalized’ masculinities. In Arenas’s portrayal of life and sexual relations in Antes que anochezca there is an extent to which his preferred version of homosexuality outside the prison could be seen to collude in the construction of the hombre nuevo as the dominant category in the Revolution’s version of hegemonic masculinity. His refusal to have sex in El Morro can, as we have seen, be read as an act of rebellion on his terms and an attempt to prevent any potential further complicity with patriarchy. In terms of complicity in the continued hegemony of the prison, Antes que anochezca runs similar risks to Hombres sin mujer. Its lurid portrayal of criminality within the prison and the elevation of Reinaldo himself above the other prisoners contributes to a sense of a prisoner sub-class. Ultimately, however, his refusal to enter any kind of libidinal economy is a protest against the prison itself, as an institution in which no pleasure can ethically be derived. His position on what Eve Kosovsky Sedgwick called the ‘homosocial continuum’ moves between marginality, subordination and complicity, giving him a complexity of perspective that is not present in the final text I analyse, Santiesteban’s Dichosos los que lloran.122

Race and violence for Ángel Santiesteban Ángel Santiesteban is one of the group of writers known collectively as the Novísimos (The Very Newest). The coining of this term is attributed to the critic Salvador Redonet, who used it to define authors who had been born between 1959 and 1972, after the Revolution, and consequently had no memory of its early years or what conditions were like before. The talents of the members of this group were fostered in various talleres de literatura (literary workshops) which came about alongside a relaxation of literary censorship in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After the collapse of the Cuban economy in 1991 in the period known as the ‘Período Especial’ (The ‘Special Period’), the lack of printing resources led the Novísimos to turn to the short story, a medium also suited to being read aloud in the talleres (workshops). They gained a reputation for boldly breaking the taboos that had previously existed in officially sanctioned Cuban literature, tackling subjects such as corruption, drug use, the suffering of internationalist soldiers who went to fight in Angola, the continuing existence of prostitution, the sexual abuse of children, AIDS and the conditions inside prisons.123

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), 5. 122

Carlos Uxó González, ‘Los Novísimos cubanos: primera generación de escritores nacidos en la Revolución’, Letras Hispanas: Revista de Literatura y de Cultura 7, no. 1 (2010): 186–198. 123

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Santiesteban’s talent won him some recognition in the official Cuban cultural institutions. He won the 1995 UNEAC prize for Sueño de un día de verano (Dream of a Summer’s Day) – a collection of short stories which chronicle the experiences of Cuban soldiers in Angola. The volume had originally been titled Sur: latitud 13 (South: Latitude 13) and had been submitted to the 1992 Casa de las Américas competition without success. Santiesteban self-censored five of the more inflammatory stories and resubmitted the collection to the UNEAC competition under the new title.124 One of more provocative stories not included in Sueño de un día de verano, ‘Siete tristes tigres’ (Seven Sad Tigers), includes scenes of soldiers masturbating collectively on a bust of José Martí and raping Angolan civilians. This grim, iconoclastic vision of the conflict, and its failure to kindle narratives of patriotic duty, stood in stark contrast to the heroic narratives of internationalism constructed by the Cuban media and official political discourse. In 2001 he won the Casa de las Américas Premio Alejo Carpentier (Alejo Carpentier Prize) in 2001 for another collection of short stories, Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted), a feat he repeated with Dichosos los que lloran in 2006. Like Sur latitud 13, Dichosos los que lloran is also a collection of short stories on a single theme, this time set in an unnamed Cuban prison.125 Santiesteban had himself been imprisoned for fourteen months at the age of nineteen for helping his brothers in their attempt to escape the island on a raft. Despite the fact the text makes no mention of the author’s own experience, the collection has been described as a ‘testimonio literario’ (literary testimony), a response that once again recalls the truth effects of ‘prison novels’ discussed in Chapter 1.126 After the success of Dichosos los que lloran, Santiesteban once again found himself in trouble with the state security forces. He was friends with the famous anti-Castro blogger Yoani Sánchez and began writing his own blog, also entitled ‘Los hijos que nadie quiso’ (The Children Nobody Wanted). There his anti-Castro views, which were only tacit in his fiction, were expressed explicitly. According to accounts on the blog, Santiesteban began to suffer low-level harassment from the Cuban secret services, all of which he catalogued on the internet, often with photographic evidence and YouTube videos to support his claims. The blog is translated into French and English and won the ‘Una Isla Virtual’ (A Virtual Island) prize for being the ‘mejor blog literario’ (best literary blog) of 2009. In that year he was arrested on suspicion of having raped his ex-wife, from whom he had been separated for four years. He was able to provide a credible alibi and this charge was dropped only to be replaced by an accusation that he

Domínguez, ‘Unas ficciones’.

124

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Dichosos los que lloran (La Habana: Casa de las América, 2006).

125

Francisco López cited in ibid.

126

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had stolen money and jewellery from her, intimidated her in the street and attempted to burn down her house. The charges against him initially added up to a fifty-four year tariff. By the account of his friend, the exiled writer Amir Valle, his lawyer resigned in November 2011 claiming she had been put under pressure not to represent him but her replacement managed to convince the prosecution to drop many of the more serious charges.127 In November 2012 Santiesteban posted a picture of his own shirt covered in blood stains and claimed that he had been beaten by security forces after he was arrested along with Yoani Sánchez. While taking their details, the head of the operation commented to Santiesteban: ‘parece que no te basta los cinco años que te vamos a echar’ (it looke like you’re not satisfied with the five years we’re about to give you), which Santiesteban reported on the blog in November. When the case came to trial in December 2012 this prediction proved prescient, as Santiesteban was given a five-year sentence for assaulting his former wife. After the failure of an appeal to the Cuban high court he was incarcerated again in February 2013. In many ways Santiesteban’s case echoes that of Reinaldo Arenas and some of his many defenders in the blogosphere have made comparisons between them. The PEN club has called on the Cuban Government to review the reported irregularities in the trial. According to accounts on the blog, the prosecution depended excessively on the Cuban state’s appeal to a handwriting expert, who testified to Santiesteban’s bad character on the basis of the slant of his handwriting. Such details have led to outrage among his international readers and allies who claim he has been targeted because of his political writing. Within the island, however, public statements of solidarity and support for his wife have been signed by a number of female members of UNEAC who, on International Women’s Day, released a statement that condemned others within UNEAC who have criticized Santiesteban’s trial. It calls on Cuban institutions to make statements on his case and against violence against women in general and asks for further signatories.128 The UNEAC website has also uploaded a statement from Leticia Pérez González, who was the main prosecution witness in his trial, testifying as to the truth of the allegations against him. Figures such as the Cuban science fiction writer José Miguel Sánchez, known as Yoss, also waded in. Yoss wrote an open letter to Santiesteban on his own blog in which he praised Santiesteban for his sustained critique of Cuban government but then berated him for his common crimes. According to Amir Valle, ‘Ángel Santiesteban Prats: Cronología general de una infamia’, 4 March 2013, http://loshijosquenadiequiso.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/angel-santiesteban-prats-cronologia​ .html. 127

UNEAC, ‘Cubanas contra la violencia doméstica’, Havana Times en Español, 3 August 2013, http://www.havanatimes.org/sp/?p=81424. 128

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Yoss, Santiesteban was doubly guilty, both of abusing his ex-wife and of betraying those who legitimately criticize the government. In his words, ‘La Seguridad estaba buscando una causa para enjaularte, y tú se las serviste en bandeja de plata.’129 (The security forces were looking for a reason to cage you and you served it to them on a plate.) Santiesteban continued to blog from within the various prisons in which he was held, vigorously arguing with his enemies, and furiously denouncing the government and the penal system.130 He was conditionally released in July 2015.131 Whether or not Santiesteban was the victim of a political smear campaign, the case demonstrates the affective passions roused by accounts of violence and sexual assault, and in Edward Said’s terms the ‘sheer knitted-together strength of […] discourse, its very close ties to the enabling socio-economic and political institutions’.132 The nature of the accusations against him not only lay bare the power of talk of gender violence and rape, but also evidence how they can be appropriated for political purposes. The case makes a revisiting of Santiesteban’s own work on the prison all the more compelling, not only because of his re-incarceration, but also because his strategies to censure the prison are predicated, as in the texts analyzed earlier in this chapter, on the presentation of sexual and interpersonal violence. Dichosos los que lloran comprises a powerful and sophisticated critique of the situation in Cuban prisons, albeit one that does not name the system it attacks.133 In contrast to the emotional polemics that characterize Santiesteban’s online interventions, his fiction is tightly controlled. He refrains from exposition or political analysis and prefers to detail minor personal tragedies and cruelties. Each story deals with different aspects of prison life and different groups José Miguél ‘Yoss’ Sánchez, ‘La Piedra Política … y el tejado de vidrio común (Carta abierta a Ángel Santiesteban Prats)’, EforyAtocha.com, 1 March 2013, http://www.eforyatocha. com/2013/03/14/la-piedra-politica-y-el-tejado-de-vidrio-comun-carta-abierta-a-angelsantiesteban-prats-por-jose-miguel-sanchez-yoss/. 129

In a blogpost titled, ‘A las “justicieras” de la UNEAC, ¿para cuándo su pronunciamiento?’ Santiesteban posted multiple photographs of the protest movement Damas de Blanco (made up of female relatives of imprisoned political dissidents) being brutalized by members of the security forces and accuses UNEAC of hypocrisy for failing condemn this state violence against women ‘A las “justicieras” de La UNEAC, ¿para cuándo su pronunciamiento?’, Los hijos que nadie quiso, 3 June 2015, https://blogloshijosquenadiequiso.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/a-lasjusticieras-de-la-uneac-para-cuando-su-pronunciamiento/. 130

‘Régimen, libertad condicional para escritor Ángel Santiesteban’, Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa, accessed 16 December 2015, http://iclep.org/regimen-otorgalibertad-condicional-al-escritor-angel-santiesteban/. 131

Edward W. Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (London: Penguin, [1978] 1995), 6. 132

Santiesteban’s text is a brave feat insofar as it breaks the taboo surrounding the open discussion of the conditions of prisoners (Cubans I spoke to about the text in 2010 refused to believe that such a book could have been published in their country, despite the fact that it was relatively widely available in bookshops). 133

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and individuals that coexist within prison society. Some characters recur in more than one story as, piece by fragmentary piece, Santiesteban builds up a mosaic picture of a whole prison. The text is composed of a series of short stories, some very brief microcuentos (micro-stories) of only a few sentences, and some longer pieces, running to up to twelve pages. Santiesteban’s style is skeletal and brutally realist. He is a master storyteller, constructing complex and evocative images and characters in succinct, elegant prose. The stories are all told from different perspectives, sometimes in a detached third person, sometimes in a more intimate first person and sometimes in a third person free indirect style. All pack an emotional punch, often in a last sentence that contains a revelation that changes the equilibrium or trajectory of the story, almost invariably in a negative direction. His technique exemplifies what Julio Cortázar referred to with his well-known boxing metaphor in which he stipulated that ‘la novela siempre gana por puntos, mientras que el cuento debe ganar por knock out’ (novels always win on points but the short story should win by knockout).134 In one of the shortest stories of the collection, ‘La madre’ (The Mother), a mother comes to visit her son. She is told where to find him by the guards but cannot see him and returns to ask again. They point out a figure lying on a bed. The mother insists that it is not her son, it cannot be as she would recognize him. She approaches him nonetheless and the story ends with one of Santiesteban’s ‘knock outs’ ‘Con temor, lo toca por el hombro; el muchacho levanta la cabeza y la abraza’ (Fearfully she touches him on the shoulder; the boy raises his head and embraces her).135 The Mother/Son bond has been disrupted by the desubjectifying effects of incarceration. In one of the shortest stories in the collection, ‘Envidia’ (Envy), a man watches from the roof as another man outside wanders up and down the street. The man outside is not doing anything in particular: his wanderings are without purpose but the man inside cannot bear to watch his meaningless rambling because it contrasts so strongly with his own situation. The final line is ‘Entonces el preso regresa a su litera. Y se echa a llorar.’ (Then the prisoner returns to his bed. And he begins to cry.)136 These examples illustrate the extent to which Santiesteban’s stories rely on creating an affective impact, the simplicity of his prose belying its emotional depth. In Santiesteban’s unrelentingly bleak prison, affection is impossible even in non-erotic friendships. ‘La despedida’ (The Farewell) is set on the day in which a prisoner is due to be released. The story is told in the first person from the point of view of his best friend, with whom he has an extremely

Julio Cortázar, ‘Algunos aspectos del cuento’, in Las armas secretas y otros relatos, ed. Margarita Mateo Palmer (La Habana: Casa de las Américas, 1999), 378. 134

Santiesteban, Dichosos, 58.

135

Ibid., 134.

136

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close but explicitly non-erotic relationship. True to the same taxonomical sexual economy that was developed in Hombres sin mujer, Santiesteban identifies both as ‘bugarrones’: the narrator recalls with nostalgia ‘los culos que partimos’ (the arses we opened).137 The pair have supported each other in the face of their many enemies, and the narrator is fearful of what will happen to him when his friend is gone. Alone, he will be in danger from the friends of an enemy whom they murdered together. In the last line of the story it is revealed that he has planted the bloodstained dagger with which the murder was committed in his friend’s bag so that his friend will be identified as the culprit and remain in detention. The spite with which this is done is symptomatic of Santiesteban’s vision of an imprisoned humanity that is stripped of any capacity for loyalty or non-self-interest. In any revolutionary context, there is a tense interplay between liberation and repression, as both Foucault and Arenas traced in relation to the so-called ‘sexual revolution’. The prison holds a particularly contentious position in assessments of the Cuban Revolution’s successes and shortcoming in terms of liberation. In Cuba, the subject matter alone of Dichosos los que lloran was enough for it to be received as a piece of protest literature. Santiesteban’s style of social critique might be contrasted to that of his more famous novísimo colleague, Leonardo Padura Fuentes. The latter’s acclaimed series of detective novels such as Máscaras (1997) (Havana Red, 2005) and Pasado Perfecto (2000) (Havana Blue, 2007) deal with the social malaise of the early 1990s through stories of murder and corruption set in their laboriously detailed historical and social contexts. While Padura’s strategies amount to a postmodern form of socialist realism, Santeiesteban never identifies the sources of the forces shaping the lives of his characters. This does not, however, lead to a sense of the prison as isolated from the rest of society, suspended or out of context. Rather, just as each story is a fragment that offers a glimpse of a larger picture, so is the reader encouraged to view the collection as a fragmentary representation of Cuban society as a whole. Santiesteban’s minimalist plots adhere to what Ernest Hemingway called the ‘principle of the iceberg’ as each one implies itself to be merely the tip of something far larger.138 As in this principle, the restricted view that the reader gets of the prison, in Hemingway’s terms ‘strengthens the iceberg’, which, it can be inferred, is also the society beyond the prison walls. These omissions of any explicit reference to the state or its Ibid., 141.

137

In an often-quoted passage Hemingway told George Plimpton: ‘If it is any use to know it, I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn’t show.’ ‘Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21’, Paris Review, Spring 1958, http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4825/the-art-of-fiction-no-21ernest-hemingway. 138

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representatives in the prison are perhaps due in part to a consideration of what is at stake in publishing literature that deals with politically sensitive topics, but Santiesteban’s emphasis on inference over explication also acts to bypass standard forms of intellectual and political mediation.139 The formal and stylistic properties of his texts are of political significance not only because of what they infer but also in their intended negative affective impact. While in the stories I have mentioned so far, Santiesteban exploits emotionally arresting situations such as the broken bond between the mother and son, or the harshness of a betrayed friendship in order to generate these negative affects, in other stories he relies on traditional white fears around deviant black masculinities. Nowhere is this stronger than in ‘La puerca’ (The Sow). The story deals with the struggle between two black alpha male prisoners for the affections of a new internee, a chubby youth with enviably smooth and hairless skin. He is presumably white, as he is known as la Puerca, and Santiesteban, like all of the novísimos, always engages in what Carlos Uxó, in a study of black characters in novísimo fiction, has identified as the practice whereby only black or other non-whites are identified racially. Uxó points out that ‘black’ is the marked term, that is, the term that must appear in order to be present, and ‘white’ is the unmarked term, that is, the term that is understood to be present even when it is not explicitly mentioned with the deleterious effect of rendering the black subject invisible by default.140 In the now-established sexual and racial economy of Cuban prison society, La puerca ‘belongs’ to a feared loner known as ‘el Llanero Solitario’ (the Lone Ranger), also known by the racist epithet, ‘King Kong’, by which the reader can infer that he is a large powerful black man, much like Brai or Manuel Chiquito in Hombres sin mujer. In some ways, the story is a rewriting of the same love triangle as in Montenegro’s novel with two older, black prisoners competing over a young white youth whose skin they fetishize. La Puerca, whose name also resonates with the terms such as ‘carne de puerco’ (pork meat) used to describe the ‘submissive’ white characters in Hombres sin mujer, is also desired by Chepe, the or gang leader who is feared throughout the prison. Respectful of el Llanero Solitario’s reputation, Chepe sends an emissary to barter with him for la Puerca. He offers to swap him for Victrola, a man who is forced to spend his days singing in imitation of the pop singer Julio Iglesias. El Llanero refuses Chepe’s offer to exchange la Puerca for Victrola and must then spend his time on a constant lookout for his and la Puerca’s safety. As he anticipates, Chepe’s gang attacks, It is worth noting that although Padura Fuentes is critical of certain aspects of Cuban society, his villains are usually those who have betrayed the principles of Revolution. He is not critical of the revolutionary project overall. 139

Carlos Uxó González, Representaciones del personaje del negro en la literatura cubana: una perspectiva desde los estudios subalternos (Madrid: Verbum, 2010), 10. 140

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overpowers el Llanero and carries la Puerca out of the dormitory. El Llanero is distraught, he screams and cries for help but the guards are indifferent and eventually gag him to shut him up. He spends the night sobbing and crying for his lover. When la Puerca returns in the morning having been gang raped, el Llanero falls at his feet and begs his forgiveness, promising never to let it happen again. La Puerca ignores him however and limps, his trousers stained with blood, to Chepe’s bed where he allows himself to be comforted by the very man who ordered the rape. The last (‘knock out’) sentence of the story is chilling in its simplicity, ‘Chepe le limpia las lágrimas con la mano, duerme, no tengas miedo, yo vigilo, le dice, mientras le acaricia el pelo y lo mira con ternura’ (Chepe dries his tears with his hand, go to sleep, don’t be afraid, I’ll look out for you, he tells him as he tenderly strokes his hair and looks at him with affection).141 In some ways the story proposes an alternative, non-melodramatic ending to the romance between Pascasio and Andrés, but instead of dying like his predecessor Andrés, La Puerca is raped, forced to change his allegiance and the affection he felt for el Llanero is ruthlessly stamped out. In ‘La Puerca’ Santiesteban also makes recourse to and perpetuates the myth of the black rapist who desires white flesh. In this story the picture of racialized sexual assault is one of extreme dehumanized brutality, which is repeated in various of the most distressing stories. Santiesteban accords with the view of sex between men in prison as sordid and debased, a product of the destructive power dynamic of uninhibited machismo – in other words, not as something that could, in any other conditions, be considered pleasurable, natural or even acceptable. Unlike for the earlier authors, however, for him there seems to be no possibility for sex between men to be anything other than rape. The only story which generates any kind of positive affect is ‘Pabellón’ (Cell Block). In this story a prisoner is visited by a female sex worker who has been sent by his family who have paid her ten dollars to arrange the encounter. He has to write a note indicating whether or not he is happy with her services so that she will be paid a further ten by his family. As she enters she is disgusted by the horrible conditions. The room in which it takes place, however, has a drawing of an open window on the wall through which is a pastoral scene with farmyard animals. She places her hand against the imaginary window and feels it pass through into fresh air. In a magical scene they climb through into the countryside and bathe naked in a river, ride horses and make love under a tree before opening their eyes and finding themselves back in the cell and she parts from him, realizing that she has been in the cell for four hours and that now the filth and misery of the prison no longer bother her so much. The last line of the story as the woman leaves is: ‘Vuelve a caminar. Entonces le pregunta a la guardia cómo se llama el preso que

Santiesteban, Dichosos, 70.

141

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acaba de dejar.’ (She continues walking. The she asks the guard the name of the prisoner she has just left behind.)142 Such has been the intensity of their encounter that she forgot to ask his name. That a transcendental moment of fleeting ‘escape’ from the prison is only possibly if purchased through straight sex emphasizes that for Santiesteban the imagination of romance remains constrained by a distinctly heterosexual matrix. The comparison between the three texts reveals a story of change and continuity in Cuban prison narratives published before and after the Revolution. Writing about prisons makes visible deeply held attitudes and beliefs above and beyond the revelations about what goes on inside the prison. If they can be read as corresponding to the realities to which they respond, the most striking continuity is the lack of change in the prison conditions. The same sexual violence, overcrowding, institutionalized cruelty and failure of the prison to be anything like the instrument of rehabilitation that it still nominally is can be observed across the three texts. Superficially, the strategies of the authors have changed in response to some shifts in hegemonic conceptions of masculinity. Arenas was so influential and widely read that he could plausibly even have contributed to that shift, not only in Cuba but internationally. As we have seen, however, in Santiesteban’s stories, racism and homophobia are still passions that can be relied upon to motivate an affective response.143 Santiesteban’s fictional prison is, like those of Montenegro and Arenas, a place symptomatic of ongoing issues of sexual power relations in the wider Cuban context. His appeal to hegemonic masculinity outside the prison indicates how far this category has shifted. This is no longer a context in which the audience for whom he writes conflates rape with sex, ‘submissive’ men with ‘women’ or homosexuality with criminality. Indeed, the way in which he depicts rape is in many ways far more nuanced than either that of Montenegro or that of Arenas. For the latter, the treatment of the ‘submissives’ as ‘women’ went some way towards excusing the ways in which they were treated while for the former the merging of pain and pleasure and occasional delight he took in relations of domination and submission served to blur distinctions in troubling ways. But in creating an atmosphere of absolute cruelty, Santiesteban produces an image of prisoners so devoid of empathy that they seem to be less a criminal class than a separate species, for whom none of the potentially mitigating factors of pleasure or friendship is Ibid., 76.

142

It is worth pointing out that in this Santiesteban is out of step with the ‘official’ line on homosexuality in Cuba. Thanks to the extensive work done by Mariela Castro (daughter of Raúl) of the CENESEX on behalf of gay and transgender Cubans, Cuba is (legalistically, and formally) now one of the most progressive and enlightened countries in Latin America in this area. See Emily J. Kirk, Cuba’s Gay Revolution: Normalizing Sexual Diversity through a Health-Based Approach (Lanham: Lexington, 2017). 143

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possible. In this he partially accords with Arenas’s position that all sexual relations in conditions of imprisonment are unacceptable, although he makes a telling exception with heterosexual sex. To return to Connell’s elaboration of the functioning of hegemonic masculinity, we must conclude that Santiesteban endorses not only the familiar heterosexist, but more significantly racist version of hegemonic masculinity that is in the words of González Pagés ‘represented by white, urban, heterosexual men’. His condemnation of the prison as the worst place imaginable is still strongly predicated on iterations of sexualized black criminality. The racism, on one level, is merely that of the prison environment. Names such as ‘King Kong’ are not the kind that I suspect Santiesteban would consider acceptable himself. In a sense, he is critical of the racial politics of the prison. He also, however, relies, for his emotional effects, on the figure of the black rapist. As far as his deployment of this stereotype anticipates a readership responsive to such images, it must be considered symptomatic of the voluntarism of the revolutionary rhetoric of racial equality and the persistence of racial hierarchies which continue to affect Cuban society. The exposure of this sexual economy (inside-prison) is less a marker of ‘dissidence’ when used to it shore up the very hegemonic sexual economy (outside-prison) that constituted the revolutionary monolith (embodied by Fidel Castro, according to Epps) and challenged men like Arenas. In the previous chapter I explored how prison writers find themselves marked by the prison. In this chapter we have seen how the ‘marks’ of the prison as assigned to Santiesteban’s characters become analogous and supplementary to the ‘marks’ of both blackness and sexual ‘deviance’ in the construction of hegemonic masculinity. It should be pointed out that Santiesteban’s approach to the racial politics of imprisonment in his blog represents a transformation from his short stories. During his more recent incarceration he blogged about the fact that Cuba’s prisons are populated by men perceived to represent a racialized threat to modernity and describes the lines that run from the plantation to the penitentiary. In his first communication from inside he railed against the racial inequalities of incarceration, noting that many of his companions are there because ‘les han aplicado “peligrosidad”, término supuestamente legal existente en nuestro país’ (they have been charged with “dangerousness”, a supposedly legal term that exists in our country) and that they are ‘individuos sancionados de antemano, bajo sospecha de que puedan cometer alguna ilegalidad, en su mayoría negros y sin trabajo estatal’ (individuals punished preemptively on the suspicion that they could do something illegal, mostly black and without state employment).144 In later posts he would get even Ángel Santiesteban, ‘Ángel Santiesteban Prats: Diario en la cárcel I’, Los hijos que nadie quiso (blog), 5 March 2013, accessed 30 April 2014, http://loshijosquenadiequiso.blogspot​ .com/2013/03/angel-santiesteban-prats-diario-en-la.html. 144

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closer to historically conscious perspective of the RIAM, by repeatedly comparing the forced labour of prisoners to ‘una auténtica esclavitud que nada tiene que envidiarle a la que practicaron los colonizadores desde su llegada a la isla de Cuba’ (a real slavery that would envy nothing of the practices of the colonisers since they first arrived on the island of Cuba).145 We might speculate that such sensitivity to the racial aspect of imprisonment is overlooked in Santiesteban’s fiction because of censorship (be it self- or state-imposed). All of these texts are remarkably effective illustrations of the cruelty and folly of imprisonment as a ‘corrective’ method. What they also show, however, is that as long as any penal system disproportionately punishes in line with the hierarchies of gender and race, any critique built on the same prejudices that justify those hierarchies will not only be partial, but will also provide discursive justification for the prison itself.

Ángel Santiesteban, ‘Ruego a los organismos de derechos humanos por trabajo esclavo en las cárceles cubanas’, Los hijos que nadie quiso (blog), 2 June 2015, accessed 15 January 2016, https://blogloshijosquenadiequiso.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/ruego-a-los-organismosde-derechos-humanos-por-trabajo-esclavo-en-las-carceles-cubanas/. 145

3 Heterotopia, Utopia, Necrotopia: Sovereignty and Struggle in the Peruvian Prison

There is a well-established genealogy of cultural theory that has taken spaces of forced confinement as figures to illustrate the ways in which the power of the sovereign state is exercised. While for Foucault the penitentiary exemplified the space of disciplinary power and biopolitical power, for Giorgio Agamben the nature of sovereignty is revealed in the death camp and the declaration of the state of exception.1 Achille Mbembe, on the other hand, situates his paradigm of necropolitics within larger spaces: the historical colonies and present-day occupied Palestine. He writes that ‘colonies are the location par excellence where the controls and guarantees of judicial order can be suspended – the zone where the violence of the state of exception is deemed to operate in the service of “civilization.’”2 As I outlined in the introduction, the prisons of Latin America cannot be considered to be spaces for the just punishment or reform of wrongdoers; they are better understood as places which intensify and reproduce relations of colonial power through social division and cleansing. In so doing they exhibit aspects of all three spaces of confinement: penitentiary, camp and colony. The risk of imprisonment and death is an occupational hazard for those seeking to challenge or change the structures of power. In Latin America, activists and militants who dreamed of radical political change were and continue to be imprisoned not only by authoritarian and Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998). 2 Achille Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, Public Culture 15, no. 1 (January 2003): 24. 1

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dictatorial governments, but also by those generally considered to be democratic. As is so often the case, however, imprisonment as a tactic of suppression has often had mixed or counterproductive results. The most committed, politically militant prisoners have frequently treated the prison as another arena of struggle: a place in which to confront the power of the state in its most concrete manifestation. It is to prisoners of this kind that I turn in this chapter, which focuses on Peru. What the texts addressed here primarily explore is how political struggle has often been undertaken in the shadow of – or even as a form of – what Mbembe terms necropolitics. In Mbembe’s definition, necropolitics and necropower account for the various ways in which, in our contemporary world, weapons are deployed in the interest of maximum destruction of persons and the creation of death-worlds, new and unique forms of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status of living dead.3 (Emphasis in original) This chapter is about the necropolitics of the (post-colonial) prison and its encounter with different forms of political struggle. It begins by looking at death and political idealism in José María Arguedas’s prison novel El Sexto (The Sixth) (1961), which is based on his experience as a political prisoner in the 1930s. The struggles of political prisoners are often an attempt to wrest forms of sovereignty within a space of state control. As Mbembe surmises, however ‘under conditions of necropower, the lines between resistance and suicide, sacrifice and redemption, martyrdom and freedom are blurred’.4 In the second half, both indigenismo and humanism crumble in the violent millenarian practices of the Partido Comunista del Perú por el Sendero Luminoso de Mariátegui (Communist Party of Peru on the Shining Path of Mariátegui, or PCP-SL), whose members were incarcerated in large numbers in the 1980s and 1990s. The Sendero represents a unique case of political resistance within prison. Their discipline, collectivism and readiness to sacrifice their lives for their cause resulted in the radical transformation of the prisons that contained them into what they termed Luminosas Trincheras de Combate (Shining Trenches of Combat, or LTCs). In order to explore the ways many competing elements can exist in one space, it is useful to consider prisons as spaces that exemplify another Foucauldian notion: the heterotopia. This term outlines a way of conceptualizing the relationship between utopia and ‘real’ temporal and

3

Ibid., 40.

4

Ibid.

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spatial contexts and emphasizes the heterogeneous possibilities contained within any single space. Foucault coined the term in 1967 in a lecture entitled ‘Des espaces autres’ (‘Of Other Spaces’), where he contrasted the heterotopia to the imagined space of utopia, and described a relation between them. ‘Heterotopia’, he writes, denotes ‘a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, […] that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted’.5 Although he mentions it only in passing in this lecture, one can see how the idea of the heterotopia formed part of the genesis of Foucault’s analysis of the prison in Discipline and Punish, in which the birth of the prison constitutes an account of the multivalent functioning of power in nineteenth-century Europe and the modern nation state. Foucault’s account of the prison in the development of ‘disciplinary society’ stems from the relationship between the idealized, – ‘utopian’ – plans of Bentham and, to use another of Foucault’s terms, its ‘counteraction’ on the heterotopias of the real prisons it inspired.6 In choosing the metaphor of the mirror, Foucault implies a two-way relationship, in that the reflected image impacts back upon the site from which it originates. This chapter is about representations of prisons in which this heterotopian quality is particularly manifest. They are heterogeneous spaces in which the biopolitical dream of the penitentiary as a space of disciplinary power, the state of exception, and bio- and necropolitics intersect with traces of utopian thought and the violence of Sendero. In Arguedas’s novel, the prison becomes a metonym for a future Peru based on a humanistic indigenista utopianism. Through the rhetoric and art of the LTCs, prisons were transformed into positive elements of the senderista imaginary. This image is contrasted with a fictional account of the downfall of an LTC by a non-Sendero member Dante Castro. In order to structure my analysis of these heterotopian texts, I use Fredric Jameson’s categorization of Ernst Bloch’s utopian thought into ‘three distinct levels of utopian content: the body, time and collectivity’.7 Prisons are heterotopian spaces in which three of the constituents of what we might call the Jamesonian-Blochian ‘utopian impulse’ – body, time and the collective – mutate and reconfigure in ways which foreground the potential and limitations of political thought and action.

Michel Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces’, trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics 16, no. 1 (April 1986): 24.

5

6

Ibid.

As Jameson points out in Archaeologies of the Future, Bloch’s magnum opus The Principle of Hope deals precisely with the revelation of the ‘operation of the Utopian impulse in unsuspected places, where it is concealed or repressed’, 3. 7

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José María Arguedas: Utopia and exclusion El Sexto (1961) by José María Arguedas (1911–1969) is probably the best known fictional representation of the Peruvian prison. Arguedas was an ethnographer, folklorist and author who, despite being the son of a middleclass lawyer, grew up speaking Quechua. He is most highly respected for his groundbreaking Andean novels, such as Yawar Fiesta (Blood Festival) (1941) and Los ríos profundos (Deep Rivers) (1958), in which he grappled with the oppression of the indigenous people of the Andes by the criollo elites and the process of capitalist modernization. Arguedas’s position between two cultures, his ethnographic work and his literary output have made him a significant and transgressive figure, with regard not only to the problems of indigeneity but to the Latin American condition in general. In his theorization of the concept of ‘transculturación narrativa’, for example, Ángel Rama relies heavily on Arguedas, summarizing his achievement as that of ‘a white man [who] considers himself to be Indian in order to undermine the culture of domination from within, thereby incorporating indigenous culture’.8 Antonio Cornejo Polar also drew on Arguedas’s works in order to develop his concept of ‘heterogeneous literature’, that is, literature which expresses the contradictions and disjunctiveness of colonial and post-colonial America: ‘literatures that are projected towards a referent whose socio-cultural identity obviously differs from the system that produces the literary work’.9 Arguedas’s life and his highly autobiographical work embody a potential transculturation between the criollo and indigenous worlds. He was, however, acutely aware of the problematic nature of his own position and is ultimately a tragic figure. He became deeply depressed by the political and ethnic inequalities in Peru, which he saw being exacerbated by the unstoppable advance of capitalism. He addressed these themes in his last work, El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo (The Fox From Up Above and the Fox From Down Below) (1971), which deals with the industrialization of the seaside town of Chimbote and the massive migration of Andeans to the coast. He committed suicide in 1969, however, leaving the novel incomplete. El Sexto prefigures El zorro in that it is Arguedas’s first novel to be set on the coast rather than in the mountains. It begins with a brief author’s note implying that it is directly inspired by his own imprisonment, ‘Comencé a redactar esta novela en 1957; decidí escribirla en 1939’ (I

8

Williams, The Other Side, 28.

Antonio Cornejo Polar, ‘Indigenism and Heterogeneous Literatures: Their Double Sociocultural Statute’, in The Latin American Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Ana Del Sarto, Alicia Ríos, and Abril Trigo (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 106. 9

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began putting this novel on paper in 1957; I decided to write it in 1939) in reference to his eight-month incarceration in the Lima prison of El Sexto between 1937 and 1938 for participation in an anti-fascist riot during the dictatorship of Oscar R Benavides – a general who constructed a repressive state apparatus inspired by European fascism.10 Many left-wing political dissidents were imprisoned during his rule, and the plot of the novel is largely concerned with the conflict between members of the two main Leftist parties, the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, or APRA) and the Partido Comunista Peruano (Peruvian Communist Party, or PCP). The fact that the novel is based on Arguedas’s own experience has led Ciro Sandoval and Sandra Boschetto-Sandoval to describe El Sexto as a ‘metatestimonio’, which they define as ‘a testimony woven into the praxis of writer and translator of ethnocultural visions and ideologies’.11 The picture of the prison that Arguedas paints is heterotopian inasmuch as the political content unfolds on at least three interlocking levels. First, at the narrative level, the story is told in a realist mode, constituted in the dialogue and conflict between the common prisoners, the guards and the political prisoners, who also argue and discuss the situation in the nation as a whole outside the prison. The prison is thus a metonym, a small slice of Peruvian society. Second, the structure of prison society in El Sexto stands as a metaphor for the socio-economic and ethno-cultural situation in the country as a whole. But there is also a third, ‘utopian’, level a dream of a better society based, as in Arguedas’s other works, on a distant vision of Quechua culture and values that harks back to a lost past while also pointing towards a possible future, distinct from the ‘scientific’ predictions of the Apristas and the communists. It is worth recalling, however, Jameson’s insistence that any utopianism ‘will also reflect a specific class-historical standpoint or perspective’ from which it arises.12 Utopias are always ideologically, temporally and spatially situated, and Arguedas’s utopianism in El Sexto not only reveals his political hopes, but is also symptomatic of the limited, bounded prison context. The novel is narrated in the first person by Gabriel, a middle-class student who is not a member of a political party, but who has been imprisoned for an unspecified political crime. He is clearly a stand-in for Arguedas himself, as he grew up in the mountains and speaks Quechua, despite being a bourgeois mestizo. The novel opens as he and a group of other new prisoners are

Jose Maria Arguedas, El Sexto (Lima: Horizonte, 2011), 15.

10

Ciro A. Sandoval and Sandra M. Boschetto-Sandoval, José María Arguedas: Reconsiderations for Latin American Cultural Studies (Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1998), 142. 11

Fredric Jameson, ‘The Politics of Utopia’, New Left Review, 25 (February 2004): 47.

12

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brought into El Sexto on a cold Lima night. As they enter the cellblock a voice rings out and a chorus of prisoners begins to sing the Aprista ‘Marseillaise’ – the party anthem. No sooner has it started than another voice begins to sing ‘The Internationale’ – the hymn of the Communist Party. The two factions compete, trying to sing over the top of one another. The scene is a premonition of the destructive factionalism between the two parties that will be one of the main themes of the novel. The music, however, has a profound effect on the prisoner in front of Gabriel, an Aprista who has refused to speak to him because of his party affiliation, but who turns to him with tears in his eyes and takes his hand. The scene ends as Gabriel looks at him in confusion at his reaction: ‘Sabía que era un hombre del Cuzco, de la misma lengua que yo.’ (I knew he was a man from Cusco, who spoke the same language as I.)13 This moment of connection between the two Quechua-speaking serranos (mountain people), united by the music, is prescient of the fleeting, culturally inspired transcendence that Arguedas develops later in the novel. Referring both to his novel and to his own imprisonment, Arguedas stated that ‘in the prisons was to be found the best and worst of Peru’.14 Gabriel’s cellmate is Alejandro Cámac, an indigenous man who represents ‘the best’. He is a communist, although not dogmatic like the others, another serrano, wise, eloquent and kind, although physically very unwell. One of his eyes is horribly infected but his other burns brightly. Gabriel is struck by the contrast between his decaying body and rough appearance and ‘la belleza de su lenguaje’ (the beauty of his language).15 For Gabriel, Cámac’s politics are strongly naturalized, organically connected to the Andean world. Indeed his language is so pure and true that it overcomes any divide between signifier and signified. As Gabriel puts it, ‘sus palabras nombraban directamente hechos, e ideas nacían de los hechos, como la flor del berro por ejemplo, que crece de las aguas’ (his words directly named facts, and ideas were born from the facts, like the cress flower, for example, that grows from the water).16 Cámac is the principal exponent of a telluric vision of Andean reality that is firmly rooted in Quechua culture. Paradoxically, his illness makes him more sensitive. Gabriel comments: ‘Me di cuenta que Cámac estaba enfermo y por eso le asaltaban las cosas y los pensamientos con exceso de hondura.’ (I realized that Cámac was sick and that was why things and thoughts affected him so deeply.)17 Gabriel is deeply impressed by ‘la claridad del imagen que tenía del mundo [y] de

Arguedas, El Sexto, 17.

13

Cited in Sandoval and Boschetto-Sandoval, José María, 145.

14

Arguedas, El Sexto, 26.

15

Ibid.

16

Ibid., 25.

17

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sus reflexiones’ (the clarity of the image he had of the world and of his reflections).18 This logic – that where things are sickest they can be felt most deeply – translates into the novel as a whole; Arguedas suggests that by looking at the prison – society at its sickest – one will perceive its problems all the more clearly. As we saw in Chapter 1, a similar idea to this drew Mutis into political cynicism and stasis; in El Sexto it makes the need to imagine solutions all the more urgent.19 For Arguedas, the prison becomes a space not only in which to scrutinize and analyse sociopolitical and economic problems, but also to discuss and to dream a new society.20 In fact, Gabriel is surprised to find that Cámac enjoys greater freedom of political expression than in the oppressive environment outside.21 The prison permits a contemplation of Peruvian society, the different levels of which are reflected its spatial organization. It is in this sense that it becomes a representational heterotopia, a ‘counter-site’ in which the reality of Peru is indeed ‘simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted’.22 There are three floors. The lowest is populated by a ‘hirviente multitud de vagos y criminales’ (churning multitude of vagrants and criminals),23 the weakest and most wretched prisoners, many of whom have been driven mad by the abuses they suffer at the hands of the grandes (big bosses) – the hardened criminals, murderers, pimps and predatory rapists who control their lives. The tasks that the vagos must perform include carrying packets of faeces out of the cells of their masters and performing sexual favours. This group is so hungry and degraded that when there is a knife fight between two of the grandes they lick the blood of the wounded man from the floor. The grandes represent what Arguedas referred to as the ‘worst’ of Peru. They are physically and sexually violent and subject the vagos to appalling tortures and sexual abuse with the full knowledge and complicity of the prison authorities. The lower floors are controlled by two grandes. The most fearsome is a man who has killed others named ‘Puñalada’, described by Cámac as, ‘un negro grandote con ojos de asno’ (A massive black with the eyes of an ass) and possessed of an inhuman strength: ‘Parece que no siente rabia ni remordimiento, ni dolor de cuerpo’ (he seems to feel neither rage Ibid., 26.

18

Vincent Geoghegan claims in Utopianism and Marxism that such contexts are more likely to produce utopian thought: ‘The more unsatisfying reality is and the more marginal and disadvantaged one is, the more likely it is that one will dream of better times’ (London: Methuen, 1987), 3. 19

This point is made by Antonio Cornejo Polar in Los universos narrativos de José María Arguedas, Biblioteca de Estudios Literarios (Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 1973), 166; Arturo Escobar, ‘El Sexto o el hábito de la libertad’, in El Sexto (Lima: Horizonte, 2011), 10. 20

Arguedas, El Sexto, 23.

21

Foucault, Of Other, 22.

22

Ibid., 25.

23

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nor regret).24 Puñalada’s rival Maraví is infamous for having three male lovers.25 These gangsters force the vagos and paqueteros (packagers) to perform menial tasks and sexual favours for them. Puñalada is in love with Rosita, ‘un marica ladrón’ (a criminal fairy) who refuses his advances.26 Above them on the third floor are the left-wing political prisoners. They are split between the PCP and the APRA. Despite his leftism, Gabriel’s lack of party affiliation means he becomes the object of fierce criticism by Pedro and Luis, the leaders of the communists and Apristas, respectively. While both the communists and Apristas are ideologically committed, their partisan squabbling and hatred of each other –despite their mutual interests and common goals– makes them a target of Gabriel’s frustration. This condemnation of factionalism is not only a response to Arguedas’s own imprisonment. His concern with the fanaticism of left-wing political groups at the time of writing the novel was expressed in a letter to his friend John Murra: ‘Estoy conforme con que si no estuvieran tocados de ese fanatismo espantoso no moverían el mundo; pero es temible para el futuro del ser humano un exclusivismo, una discriminación tan inclemente y ciega.’ (I agree that if they weren’t affected by that terrifying fanaticism they wouldn’t be able change the world; but it is frightening for the future of humanity, an exclusivism, a discrimination so harsh and blind.)27 Arguedas’s criticism of the ‘exclusivismo’ is thus similar to the anti-utopianism that perceives and fears totalitarian impulses within revolutionary politics. One of the key episodes demonstrating the hypocrisy of both political groups is when Gabriel descends from the third floor and attempts to come to the aid of El Pianista (the Pianist), one of the vagos who has been raped into insanity by the grandes.28 Unlike the other political prisoners who view the vagos with disgust, Gabriel, Cámac and another Quechuaspeaking serrano, Mok’ontullo, who is an Aprista, empathize with some of them and even view them as possessed of a certain sanctity. El Pianista had been falsely accused of a crime, imprisoned in El Sexto, and then on his release was unable to survive on the street and returned to the prison. When he falls fatally ill Gabriel and Mok’ontullo give him some clothes, and are helped in the attempt by Rosita. However, he is stripped of the clothes by the other vagos and they are accused by the political leaders of hastening his

Ibid., 19.

24

Ibid., 22.

25

Ibid., 19.

26

Cited in José Alberto Portugal, Las novelas de José María Arguedas: Una incursión en lo inarticulado (Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2007), 265. 27

Arguedas, El Sexto, 41.

28

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death. Gabriel is accused by the communist leader Pedro of destroying the divisions between the three floors and endangering the political prisoners. The death of El Pianista thus causes a moment of necropolitical contradiction. On the one hand they wish to preserve the division between the floors at the expense of aiding a dying man, yet allowing his death remains a taboo. One of the Apristas shouts ‘Judas’ at Gabriel as he returns to his cell on the third floor. The communist leader Pedro comes to see Gabriel and tells him that his kindness is a manifestation of bourgeois sentimentality and sings the praises of hatred as a communist virtue.29 When Gabriel questions what will happen to the ‘odiados’ (hated) such as the Apristas and the vagos in the event of a revolution, he replies in stark necropolitical terms: ‘que obedezcan o mueran’ (they must obey or die).30 The sovereign power to ‘rule on death’ is the ultimate aim of Pedro’s political ambition. Cámac is above the factionalism of the Apristas and the communists and does not hold the fact that he was betrayed by communists against them. He defends Gabriel for having helped El Pianista and rebukes the communist leader, Pedro, for his lack of empathy, ‘Te equivocas, camarada, esta vez. No hay que confiar tanto en el cerebro. Hay veces en que la adivinación del ánimo también es segura. Ahistá la diferencia entre el serrano y el criollo.’ (This time you are wrong, comrade. You shouldn’t trust your brain so much. There are times when the intuition of the soul is also certain. That’s the difference between the criollos and the mountain people.)31 Cámac’s instinctive politics stands in contrast to the cold reasoning of the other communists, with their dogmatic faith in Marxist theory. However, a moment of unity between all the parties occurs when Cámac dies; his death as a martyr is the catalyst for a fleeting illustration of the impossible unity and reconciliation. In his analysis of the necropolitics of the martyrdom of suicide bombers, Mbembe speaks of how ‘the martyr, having established a moment of supremacy in which the subject overcomes his own mortality, can be seen as labouring under the sign of the future […] in death the future is collapsed into the present’.32 Unlike the destructive politics of the suicide bomber, whose immortality is assured because of his willingness to ‘execute others while holding one’s own death at a distance’, the necropolitics of Cámac’s death through illness is restorative of unity, peace and cooperation.33 Just before he closes his eyes for the last time Gabriel holds him in his arms and sees that

Ibid., 62.

29

Ibid.

30

Ibid., 63.

31

Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, 37.

32

Ibid.

33

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Su ojo sano se mantenía cristalino, como ciertos manantiales solitarios que hierven en las grandes alturas. Hierven levantando arenas de colores azules, rojas, blanquísimas y negras, que danzan alzándose y cayendo al fondo. Uno se mira en esas aguas mejorado, purificado, aunque la imagen se agita a instantes, imitando la vida.34 his healthy eye was crystal clear, like those solitary springs that bubble from great heights. They stir up coloured sands, blue, red, white and black, which dance up and fall to the depths again. You see yourself in these waters, improved, purified, although the image is sometimes disturbed, as in life. Cámac’s death, in contrast to the suicide bomber in Mbembe’s analysis, is brought about by natural causes. His healthy eye, as part of the dying, imprisoned body, literally reflects a vision of a hope for the future, albeit an abstract one. After his death, the two warring political parties and even the vagos come together to sing as his body is removed from the prison. Cornejo Polar sees the moment of unity that follows as a vision of ‘la imagen del Perú por el que luchan’ (the image of the Peru they are fighting for).35 Their unity allows them momentarily to face down the guards who come to disrupt the makeshift ceremony. In bringing together the disparate factions and bridging the divide between political and criminal, the moment points towards a potentiality for a horizontal model of power based on shared cultural practice, political unity and mutual respect. The brevity of the moment means, however, that any ‘future politics’ it might inspire are, to recall Mbembe, ‘collapsed into the present’ as a utopian impossibility. Beyond moments of political unity, the utopianism of the novel lies in its evocation of what William Rowe terms ‘el mágico mítico de la cultura andina’ (the myth magic of Andean culture).36 When Cámac is in despair at the subjection of the políticos to the torments of the Puñalada and Maraví, Gabriel rouses him by evoking aspects of Andean culture that the gringos have been unable to destroy. Perú is, he argues, stronger than el General (Benavides) and the imperialist gringos because of elements of Andean culture that have persisted. He evokes Andean people, place names and cultural practices: He sentido el odio, aunque a veces escondido, pero inmortal que sienten por quienes los martirizaron; y he visto a ese pueblo bailar sus antiguas danzas, hablar en quechua, que es todavía en algunas provincias tan

Arguedas, El Sexto, 96.

34

Cited in Portugal, Las novelas, 285.

35

Carlos Schwalb, La narrativa totalizadora de José María Arguedas, Julio Ramón Ribeyro y Mario Vargas Llosa (New York: P. Lang, 2001), 55. 36

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rico como en tiempo de los incas […] A un hombre con tantos siglos de historia, no se puede destruir y sacarle el alma fácilmente; ni con un millón de maleantes y asesinos. No queremos, hermano Cámac, no permitiremos que el veneno de lucro sea el principio de y el fin de sus vidas. Queremos la técnica, la ciencia, el dominio del universo, pero al servicio del ser humano, no para enfrentar mortalmente a unos contra otros ni para uniformar sus cuerpos y almas, para que nazcan y crezcan peor que los perros y los gusanos …37 I have felt hatred, although sometimes hidden, but eternal for those who martyred them; and I have seen that people dance their ancient dances, speak in Quechua, which in some provinces is just as rich as in the times of the Incas […] It is not possible to destroy a man with so many centuries of history, to remove his soul, not even with a million criminals and murderers. We do not wish, brother Cámac, we will not permit the poison of materialism to be the principle aim of their lives. We want technology, science, to master the universe, but at the service of humanity, not to confront each other mortally, to clothe their bodies and souls in uniforms, for them to be born and die worse than dogs and worms … He sees the potential progression of history in processes of transculturation. By appropriating elements of Spanish culture ‘el hombre peruano antiguo triunfante’ (triumphant man of the old Peru) will be able to progress. Despite looking backwards, this vision is not primitivist, but consists of a world in which science and technology are used for humanitarian, rather than capitalist or imperialist ends. The repeated appeal to a notion of ‘the human’ based on values of brotherhood rests on an opposition between ‘lo humano’ as transcendent over ‘lo animal’. The passage evokes what Alberto Flores Galindo called the ‘Andean utopia’. In a conception which was based largely on Arguedas’s other works, Flores Galindo defines it as ‘no únicamente un esfuerzo por entender el pasado o por ofrecer una alternativa al presente [sino] también un intento de vislumbrar el futuro’ (not only an attempt to understand the past or to offer an alternative to the present but also an attempt to catch a glimpse of the future).38 The Andean utopia requires looking both forwards and backwards. It exists as an imaginary ideal for the future, yet its potential for realization is founded in the past. The way in which the soul of this ‘hombre con tantos siglos de historia’(man with so many centuries of history) is also conceived in opposition to ‘un millón de maleantes y asesinos’ (a million criminals and murderers) belies, however, the universality of his humanism.

Arguedas, El Sexto, 76–78.

37

Alberto Flores Galindo, Buscando un Inca: identidad y utopía en los Andes (Lima: Editorial Horizonte, 1994), 72. 38

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At the level of the plot, this potential cultural harmony is represented by a guitar that Cámac is making in his cell. He promises Gabriel that when he finishes it, the two of them will sing together. The Andean utopia does not exist in the present, except as fleeting traces in traditional cultural practices. Sandoval and Boschetto-Sandoval describe it as [a] search for a utopian paradigm of historical continuity and revindication hewn with elements from traditional Marxism, Christian eschatology and popular and indigenous cultural (autochthonous) memory.39 They conclude that, for Arguedas, ‘religion and other transcendental metaphysical domains (artistic, mystical, metaphysical) continue to discharge as important a role for the struggle for Latin American cultural liberation as instrumental reason’.40 In other words, Arguedas writes utopia into his novel as utopia – a distant, metaphysical possibility that is nevertheless worth retaining as an image. There is, however, a side to Arguedas’s political vision that is rather less than positive and which lends itself to a reading of utopianism as ‘totalitarianism’.

Critical utopias The episode in which Gabriel helps El Pianista is used by Sandoval and Boschetto-Sandoval to argue that Arguedas’s utopianism exists on the level of abstract morality based on the recognition and inclusion of the ‘Other as Other’ rather than as a social programme.41 There are, however, serious limitations on the kinds of Otherness that Arguedas is prepared to include. In critiquing the callousness of the políticos, and their ideological blind spots with regard to the vagos, Arguedas reveals several blind spots of his own. In contrast to the natural utopia of the mountains, Cámac sees in Lima a rising tide of filth, represented precisely by the criminal elements within El Sexto: La suciedad aumenta cada día; nadie limpia; aquí y en los palacios. ¿Tú crees que junto a Mantaro viviría, habría este Maraví y esos lame sangres, el Rosita y ese pobre Clavel? Lo hubiéramos matado en su tiempo debido, si hubiera sido. Allá no nacen.42

Sandoval and Boschetto-Sandoval, José María, 140.

39

Ibid., 158.

40

Ibid.

41

Arguedas, El Sexto, 35.

42

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The filth grows every day; nobody cleans; here or in the palaces. Do you believe that Mantaro would live alongside or that a Maraví or those bloodsuckers would even exist, or Rosita or that poor Clavel? If they had, we would have killed them at the appropriate moment. The likes of them are never born there. The murderous urge underpinning Cámac’s desire to cleanse society squarely expresses a eugenicist thrust, motivated by a fear of both blackness and homosexuality. Of Rosita, the ‘criminal fairy’ he states, ‘Si hubiera nacido en uno de nuestros pueblos de la sierra, su madre le hubiera acogotado.’ (If he had been born in one of our villages in the mountains his mother would have strangled him.)43 Arguedas’s vision of a transcultured future reaches only so far as to include the indios and sympathetic ‘hybrid’ criollos like himself. It does not, however, extend to the black characters who are described in familiarly racist terms: they are the most fearful elements in the prison, sexual predators, capable of great violence. One of the black vagos’ only distinguishing feature is an enormous penis which he shows people for money, while Puñalada rapes vulnerable vagos into insanity.44 Rather than depicting them as the victims of the same system of colonial and capitalist exploitation and military dictatorship as the other prisoners, because of their position in control of the prison economy, they are indistinguishable from the exploiting class against whom the políticos struggle. As Cámac states it: ‘El hombre, pues, sufre pero lucha. Va adelante. ¿Quién va a ganar en fin? ¿El tercer o el primer piso del Sexto?’ (Man, well, he suffers but he fights. Advances. Who will win in the end? The third or the ground floor of El Sexto?)45 He later describes them as complicit in the neo-colonial enterprises of the gringos and the authoritarian government. Puñalada is described as el azote con que el capitalismo raja nuestra frente […] ¿Qué es el encierro? Nada, Gabriel. Estos hijos legítimos del gobierno son el tormento. ¡Puñalada ahistá su nombre! Parece escogido por el General mismo y por míster Gerente de las minas del Cerro.46 the huge whip with which capitalism lashes our forehead […] What is imprisonment? Nothing, Gabriel. These legitimate children of our government are our torment. Puñalada. That is his name! He seems to have been chosen by the General himself and the Mister Boss of the Cerro mines.

Ibid., 20.

43

Ibid., 31.

44

Ibid., 35.

45

Ibid., 87.

46

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On the one hand, then, Arguedas reveals the hierarchies in the prison and situates the position of the vagos as victims rather than as ‘scum’; on the other hand, however, his racial prejudices mean that he cannot envision solidarity (which is fleetingly possible with Rosita) between the black prisoners and the Andeans. Arguedas’s elevation of Andean culture and his vindication of the Quechua language amounts to a struggle for purification. It is also a bid for a necropolitical ‘solution’, a ‘cleansing’ of society of the ‘bare life’ depersonalized in the figure of the rising tide of filth. These racial blind spots in the novel are seized on by Mario Vargas Llosa in his attempt to discredit Arguedas and other indigenistas in La utopía arcaica (The Archaic Utopia). In this polemic, Vargas Llosa claims that El Sexto is the novel which most precisely captures what he means by the titular phrase because it contains all the essential characteristics of a defunct and damagingly nostalgic view of Andean culture. He writes that esta novela […] desarrolla […] aspectos centrales de la utopía arcaica: el andinismo, el pasadismo histórico, el inmovilismo social, el puritanismo y, en suma, el rechazo de la modernidad y la sociedad industrial, sobre todo en lo que se refiere a cualquier forma de intercambio del que sea vehículo el dinero.47 this novel develops central aspects of the archaic utopia: Andeanism, historical traditionalism, social stasis, puritanism and, in sum, the rejection of modernity and industrial society above all when this refers to any form of exchange involving money. He is alarmed not only by the text’s anti-capitalism but also by the way it favours community and collectivism over the freedom of the individual. Curiously, Vargas Llosa reads Gabriel’s anti-dogmatic stance against the Apristas and communists as a laudable ‘individualistic’ rejection of the Marxist collectivism of the other political characters. His own reading warns, however, against another form of collectivism based on what he sees as a false understanding of Quechua culture. No nos engañemos […] su rechazo de la utopía social del marxismo se apoya en la defensa de una utopía no menos colectivista, en la que, al igual que en aquélla, el individuo, pieza inseparable del conjunto social, s el sirve dentro y para la comunidad. […] Gabriel […] en verdad es el edificador de una compleja y hermosa fabulación histórico-social.48

Mario Vargas Llosa, La utopía arcaica: José María Arguedas y las ficciones del indigenismo (México, DF: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1996), 213. 47

Ibid., 218.

48

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Let’s not deceive ourselves. His rejection of the social utopia of Marxism is supported by his defence of a utopia which is no less collectivist in which, just like that other, the individual, an inseparable piece of the social makeup, is valid only within and for the community […] Gabriel […] is really the architect of a complex and beautiful socio-historical fable. A fear of this subsumption of the individual by the collective is, according to Jameson, one that lurks behind many of the bourgeois fears surrounding utopia. Vargas Llosa’s use of the term ‘utopia’ collapses its use as outlined by Jameson as ‘a code word on the left for socialism or communism’ and the ‘on the right […] synonymous with “totalitarianism” or, in effect, with Stalinism’.49 Vargas Llosa was writing in the early nineties, after the defeat of Sendero Luminoso and after his own electoral defeat by Alberto Fujimori. Beneath Vargas Llosa’s critique of El Sexto lies a neoliberal utopianism (in the negative sense in which he uses the term) of his own. The belief in progress and the triumph of the market that is betrayed by his criticism of Arguedas come also at the moment of Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the ‘end of history’. In the conclusion to La utopía arcaica Vargas Llosa trumpets the end of the imagination of historical difference as he consigns the Arguedian utopia and ideology to the past: Everything indicates that Peru is now a society that definitely rejects archaism, and perhaps even utopia […] Peruvians of all races, languages, economic conditions and political persuasions agree that the Peru of the future will not and should not be a revival of Tahuantinsuyo. [I]t will not correspond in the slightest to the images with which it was described – through which it was invented – in the works of José María Arguedas.50 Arguably, Vargas Llosa was wrong to declare the death of Tahuantinsuyo (the Inca Empire), given how strongly it would be evoked in the neoindigenist nationalism that propelled Evo Morales to power in Bolivia in 2005.51 Furthermore, Vargas Llosa’s condemnation of Arguedas serves to reveal certain blind spots of his own. It is at this point, perhaps, that we might read El Sexto negatively in the manner proposed by Louis Marin, who argued that utopianism functions only to reveal the limitations on thought imposed by the contingencies of the present. As Jameson expands:

Jameson, Archeologies, 7.

49

Vargas Llosa, La utopia, 335, cited in Williams, The Other Side, 228. His translation.

50

See Cristóbal Colque Flores, Con Evo Morales Ayma empieza a escribirse la verdadera historia de Bolivia sin k’aras ni t’aras (El Alto: Movimiento al Socialismo, 2007). 51

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It is that utopia is somehow negative; and that it is most authentic when we cannot imagine it. Its function lies not in helping us to imagine a better future but rather in demonstrating our utter incapacity to imagine such a future – our imprisonment in a non-utopian present without historicity or futurity – so as to reveal the ideological closure of the system in which we are somehow trapped and confined.52 Jameson here expresses the difficulty of imagining utopia through the image of confinement. The ideological closures of Arguedas’s own utopian thinking, while broader than that of the communists and Apristas he critiques, become clear in El Sexto. They are also, in a sense, anticipated by him. Arguedas’s utopianism in El Sexto is meta–utopian in that it is painfully conscious of its ‘imprisonment in a non-utopian present’. The literal confinement of the prison means that in Arguedas’s novel, utopia remains utopia, glimpsed only in moments of death which can temporarily transcend the present. This is something that he mourns and to which he seems resigned, yet also that he crucially values as an alternative political mode of practice to the dogmatism of revolutionary Marxist party politics. For others, as we shall see, rather than leading to a retreat into the idealism of utopia lost, a perverse form of revolutionary ‘Marxism’ would lead down a path of ruthless pragmatism. For Arguedas, utopia remains important as both a cultural and a political practice. This specific limitation of the prison as a site of utopia is intimately bound up with its role in the enacting of sovereign state power. In such a context, even the most idealistic political struggle for sovereignty, defined as control over life and death (albeit the ‘living death’ of ‘letting die’ in prison), in which ‘disciplinary power’ morphs into ‘biopower’, will be marked by the violence of sovereign state power. Cámac’s death, the sight of something other and the renewal of self glimpsed in his dying eye, embodies the possibility of moving beyond this manifestation of sovereign power. The real lesson to be taken from El Sexto is that a truly utopian politics would have to transcend sovereignty’s concern with controlling not only life and death but also bounded territorial control. The walls of El Sexto are the borders of the state. This will become all the more urgent in the next section, in which I continue to examine the relationship between death-worlds and revolutionary politics by looking at how the violent ideology of the Sendero Luminoso attempted to enact a perverse ideal within prison. While what I have termed Arguedas’s ‘meta-utopianism’ imposes limits on itself, the ideology of Sendero contains a monstrous conception of the kind of action and unlimited commitment required to realize revolutionary change. Beyond

Jameson, ‘The Politics’, 46.

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being an example of organized resistance within prisons, the LTCs offer a further context in which to examine the relationship between political utopias and the prison’s necropolitical function. While this section has dealt with the relationship between prison and a fictional utopia conceived as the opposition to – or the negation of – the space of the prison that generated it, in what follows I examine the transformation of the prison space itself into a kind of alternative Sendero state and a showcase for its values and practices.

Paths to necrotopia A significant moment in the history of the prison as an arena of political conflict came at the height of the bloody war between the Peruvian state and the Sendero Luminoso. During the war, which began in 1980 and lasted into the 2000s, a large numbers of senderistas were captured and imprisoned.53 Their incarceration was characterized by what José Luis Rénique terms ‘el uso político de la cárcel [y] su redefinición como arena de lucha políticomilitar’ (the political use of the prison and its redefinition as an arena of political and military struggle).54 The senderistas transformed the prisons that were intended to neutralize the threat they posed to the Peruvian state into training grounds and revolutionary schools for recruitment and indoctrination, places which showcased the discipline and commitment of the secretive organization and ultimately became fronts in the war.55 The LTCs also, however, became the sites of the most lethal prison massacres in Peruvian history.56 The senderistas did not only conceive of the prison as a temporary site from which to wage a war that would lead to the realization of a utopian political project in the future, they also used them to project an image of their ideal society in the present. The LTCs were heterotopian places of conflictive but overlapping political projects; by declaring the LTCs, the senderistas

The exact moment the conflict ended is debatable. The Sendero leader, Abimael Guzmán, was captured in 1992 and called for a ceasefire in 1993. Other factions continued the armed struggle without his leadership but they ceased to represent a real threat to the Peruvian State after his capture. 53

José Luis Rénique, La voluntad encarcelada: las ‘luminosas trincheras de combate de Sendero Luminoso del Perú (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2003). 54

The idea of the prison as a training ground for revolutionaries is, of course, an old one. Michael Hardt attributes it to Lenin ‘Prison Time’, Yale French Studies, no. 91 (1 January 1997): 64. 55

Carlos Aguirre, ‘Punishment and Extermination: The Massacre of Political Prisoners in Lima, Peru, June 1986’, Bulletin of Latin American Research 32, no. s1 (1 March 2013): 216. 56

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held up an alternative utopian ‘mirror’ (to use Foucault’s term) to that of the Peruvian state that used the prison to contain them. This was, however, a utopia that was entirely concomitant with their bloody militaristic ideology. As Yeidy Chávez points out, notwithstanding their purpose as spaces of resistance, the LTCs bore similarities to the disciplinary society.57 Despite its stance in opposition to the bourgeois nation state, that is, in creating the LTCs, Sendero also demonstrated how fantasies of power are replicated in fantasies of power’s overthrow. Consideration of the intersection between time, the body and the collective provides a framework for analysing the LTCs as heterotopian sites: sites, that is, of both containment and political repression but also of struggle for – and the fleeting wresting of – sovereignty from the state. In this section, I look at how Sendero’s propaganda and ideology constructed the LTCs and provoked the prison massacres. Contrasting accounts of the LTCs are offered by the painting ¡Calurosa recepción! (Warm Welcome!) by an unknown anonymous Sendero artist, and the short story ‘Ángel de la isla’ (‘Angel of the Island’) (1991) by a non-Sendero member Dante Castro. In relation to Foucault’s comment that heterotopias are also ‘heterochronies’ that can entail an ‘absolute break with traditional time’, I foreground ways time, the body and the collective come together in the notion of collective sacrifice by which the Sendero explained the massacres of its imprisoned cadres.58 The way in which prison time might be linked to ‘utopian’ time is suggested by Jameson’s description of the nature of ‘utopian time’. Jameson proposes that ordinary temporality bifurcates into the two paths: (i) ‘existential experience’ (the time of the individual) and (ii) ‘historical time with its urgent interrogations of the future’.59 By this schema, collective time is the time of history, from which the prisoner is suspended through his or her physical immobilization and separation from society. Jameson argues that ‘it is precisely in Utopia that these two dimensions are seamlessly reunited and that existential time is taken up into a historical time which is paradoxically also the end of time, the end of history’.60 For Jameson, then, utopian time is the place in which individual or ‘existential’ time merges with that of ‘historical’ time. Its utopian aspect lies in the fact that this unity can only come about after the ‘end of history’, and time itself. As an

Yeiddy Chávez Huapaya, ‘La guerra interna: Las Luminosas Trincheras de Combate de Sendero Luminoso y sus métodos disciplinarios en las cárceles limeñas’, Cuadernos de Marte 2, no. 1 (April 2011): 156. 57

Foucault, ‘Of Other’, 26.

58

Jameson, Archeologies, 7.

59

Ibid.

60

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overview of their ‘millenarian’ ideology reveals, it was precisely the end of history that Sendero aimed to bring about, with a corresponding attempt to unify historical and existential time. Sendero’s reaction to incarceration was necropolitical in line with the organization’s Manichean and violent world view which exceeded both the Foucauldian and Agambenian accounts of the way sovereign power acts on the living body. Not only did the LTCs become sites of slaughter, but their success depended on the alleged willingness of individual senderistas to sacrifice their lives to bring about the collective goal of revolution. Sendero ideology deeply embedded the actions of the party in an understanding of historical time that took the form of a Marxist teleology that the Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación (Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or CVR) referred to as ‘una rígida preconcepción del devenir histórico’ (a rigid preconception of historical destiny).61 They saw themselves as the only true members of the Partido Comunista del Perú, founded by Carlos Mariátegui in 1930, although others considered them to be a small breakaway faction. The historical vision of their leader, eventually revealed to be Dr Abimael Guzmán Reinoso, a professor of philosophy at the university of Ayacucho, went far beyond Peru, and was ultimately aimed at bringing about global revolution. Guzmán fostered a personality cult around the persona of his nom-de-guerre ‘Presidente Gonzalo’, aka ‘la cuarta espada de comunismo’ (the fourth sword of communism), in a lineage that also included Marx, Lenin and Mao. The ‘revolución proletaria mundial’ (world proletarian revolution) that had been initiated by the three great leaders had, according to Guzmán, been betrayed twice over by the ‘revisionist’ politics of Khrushchev in the Soviet Union and Deng Xiaoping in China.62 Sendero announced the beginning of their popular war against the newly democratized Peruvian state with the burning of electoral urns in a remote village in May 1980. According to Guzmán, it was from Peru that worldwide proletarian revolution would be renewed and carried forward.63 Guzmán’s vision, known to its followers as ‘Pensamiento Gonzalo’ (‘Gonzalo Thought’), provided its followers with a totalizing worldview that tolerated no deviation from the political line it described.64 Although it claimed direct descent from Mariátegui’s attempt to develop an autochthonous version of Marxism for the Peruvian context, ‘Pensamiento

CVR, Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación, ‘Informe Final’ (Lima, 2003), http://www​ .cverdad.org.pe/ifinal, 317. 61

Gustavo Gorriti, The Shining Path: A History of the Millenarian War in Peru, trans. Robin Kirk (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 128. 62

Sendero’s sense of its own historical significance was such that its central committee was named the Comité Permanente Histórico (Permanent Historical Committee). 63

Chávez, ‘La guerra’, 114.

64

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Gonzalo’ was, as Orin Starn notes, characterized by a ‘Eurocentrism that almost completely wrote out other Peruvian or even Latin American authors’.65 Rather than responding to Peruvian reality, Guzmán’s worldview constituted a ‘bland economism of a prefabricated narrative about class struggle and capitalism’ that was indifferent to autochthonous Peruvian culture and traditions.66 Aside from Mariátegui’s phrase ‘luminoso sendero al futuro’ (shining path to the future), which gave his party its name, Guzmán took from Mariátegui only the insight that Peru is ‘semi-feudal’ from which he concluded that conditions were ripe for revolution.67 He argued that if the people’s war unfolded in Peru in the manner he prescribed, it was inevitable that the twenty-first century would mark the end of a capitalist history and the dawn of a communist millennium, the emissaries of which were the senderistas.68 According to the CVR’s report of 2003, a total of 69,280 people lost their lives in the conflict that Sendero initiated. While the number of dead is still contested, as is the claim that Sendero was responsible for more deaths than the state actors, Guzmán and his followers were convinced that enormous bloodshed was both necessary and morally acceptable.69 Guzmán, who had visited China at least three times during the Cultural Revolution and been greatly impressed, argued early on that the kind of change necessary in Peru was only possible through armed struggle in which widespread killing was justified.70 While the conflict was still happening, scholars disagreed over the extent to which Sendero was a ‘millenarian’ movement. On the one hand Gustavo Gorriti emphasized the millenarian aspect to the conflict and suggested that Guzmán might be exploiting the myth of the return of the Inkarri.71 On the other hand Carlos Iván Degregori argued that Sendero logic was based on a rigid interpretation of Marxism manipulated by the ‘scientific’ thinking of Guzmán. Degregori argued that the leadership of the Shining Path were ‘the last children of the Enlightenment, who two hundred years later and

Orin Starn, ‘Maoism in the Andes: The Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path and the Refusal of History’, Journal of Latin American Studies 27, no. 2 (1995): 414. 65

Ibid., 400.

66

Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, ‘Para Entender a Mariátegui’, 1968, accessed 4 September 2013, http://www.solrojo.org/pcp_doc/pcp_68.htm. 67

Gustavo Gorriti Ellenbogen, Sendero: Historia de la guerra milenaria en el Perú (Lima: Apoyo, 1990), 167. 68

Franciscos Cohello, ‘La cifra inexacta de la CVR: 69,280 Muertos’, El Correo, 13 September 2012, http://diariocorreo.pe/ultimas/noticias/1361504/la-cifra-inexacta-de-la -cvr-69-280-muertos. 69

Starn, ‘Maoism’, 409.

70

Gustavo Gorriti, ‘Shining Path’s Staling and Trotsky’, in The Shining Path of Peru, ed. David S. Palmer (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 151. 71

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isolated in the Andes, ended up turning science into religion’.72 Degregrori’s invocation of the Enlightenment narrative at the base of Sendero ideology is similar to that of Mbembe’s account of the ‘necropolitics’ lying at the heart of ‘the subject of Marxian modernity’.73 Mbembe states that this subject is ‘intent on proving his or her sovereignty through the staging of a fight to the death’, a subject for whom ‘terror and killing become the means of realizing the already known telos of history’.74 Sendero certainly saw terror and killing as the primary movers of history. One of Guzmán’s principal ideas was that it was both necessary and justifiable to provoke the Peruvian state into repressing its own people. If Sendero was successful in its stated aim, to ‘inducir genocidio’ (induce genocide),75 it would demonstrate that the Peruvian state was fascist, and would inspire others to take up arms against it.76 The logic behind the violence of Sendero doctrine sustained itself through what Starn terms an ‘etiology of purity and danger’.77 Ideals of theoretical purity corresponded to actual violence, as those who opposed ‘Pensamiento Gonzalo’ were considered ‘cancerous’, ‘worms’ and ‘reptiles’; in other words, homini sacri worthy of death. Meanwhile, bloodshed was painted as cleansing, as expressed in slogans such as ‘La sangre no ahoga la Revolución sino la riega’ (Blood does not drown but rather waters the Revolution).78 Neither was it only those who opposed ‘Pensamiento Gonzalo’ who were destined to die. Individual senderistas had to be prepared for the fact that it was unlikely that they were going to experience the awaited utopia. Guzmán prepared his followers for death by affirming that in order to achieve their goal of communism they would have to be prepared to ‘cruzar un río de sangre’ (cross a river of blood),79 and by affirming that ‘el triunfo de la revolución costará un millón de muertos’ (the triumph of the revolution will cost a million deaths).80 In Guzmán’s terms ‘dar vida por el partido’ (to give your life for the party)81 was necessary because revolution could only

Carlos Iván Degregori, ‘Origins and Logic of Shining Path: Two Views’, in The Shining Path of Peru, ed. David S. Palmer (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994). 72

Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, 20.

73

Ibid.

74

CVR, ‘Informe Final’, 63.

75

Rénique, La voluntad, 71.

76

Starn, ‘Maoism’, 409.

77

Such terminology also recalls Arguedas’s desire to transcend ‘lo animal’ that we saw above.

78

Gorriti, Sendero, 166.

79

Cited in CVR, ‘Informe Final’, 128.

80

Presidente Gonzalo, ‘Discurso del presidente Gonzalo en el aniversario del día de la heroicidad’, June 1987, http://www.solrojo.org/pris_doc/pg_0687.htm. 81

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be brought about by those prepared to ‘pagar una “cuota” de sangre’ (pay a “quota” of blood).82 In signing their lives over to the party, the senderistas moved towards a utopian time in the sense defined by Jameson. By agreeing to sacrifice ‘existential’ or individual time, they pledged themselves and their bodies to the collective, historical time of the party. As Jameson claims, the rhetorical intersection of existential and historical time is characteristic of utopian time.83 It is also highly reminiscent of Christian iconography. The image of the crossing of a river of blood recalls the crossing of the Israelites over the Red Sea, and biblical references are much in evidence in other Sendero iconography which frequently depicted ‘Presidente Gonzalo’ as a Moses-like figure, leading hordes of people towards a new ‘rojo amanecer’ (red dawn).84 Such imagery comes to constitute a heterochrony consisting of biblical, historical, individual and scientific versions of time and history. The eschatology anticipated a future that was also utopian in the sense that it remained, for the individual senderistas, always over the horizon, divided from the present by what became, as deaths began to mount, an increasingly wide necropolitical ‘river’. In the millenarian schema of Sendero, however, scant attention was paid to the actual social conditions after the revolution to come.85Although at the height of the war Sendero controlled vast areas of central and southern Peru, their attempts to implement a new society were not successful. They ran into enormous logistical problems and resistance from those whom they purported to liberate. As the war progressed and increasing numbers of the cadres were incarcerated, the prisons became sites of concentrated Sendero activity and the representation of the prisons took on an increasingly utopian aspect, giving insight into what the ideal Sendero state might look like. The incarceration of senderistas began in the early 1980s in the wake of their initial attacks on police and local government officials in and around Ayacucho. Rénique argues that it was only in 1982, when Sendero fighters attacked the prison in Ayacucho and helped seventy-eight of their comrades to escape, that the central government of Fernando Belaúnde Terry began to take the threat seriously as a national issue.86 Part of the government response was to reopen the island prison of El Frontón located just off the coast of Lima, where Belaúnde himself had once been imprisoned. Against all the intentions of the authorities, rather than containing the threat

Rénique, La voluntad, 56.

82

Jameson, Archeologies, 7.

83

Chávez, ‘La guerra’, 148.

84

Starn suggests that this lack of detail was part of Sendero’s appeal ‘Maoism’, 418.

85

Rénique, La voluntad, 13–14.

86

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that they represented, the presence of Sendero so close to the capital, in Gorriti’s words, ‘became for the government a phantasm that distilled and exaggerated the insurrection’s national presence’.87 Sendero’s presence in El Frontón meant that the conflict could no longer be ignored by those in the capital or considered a distant rural problem, because it had been given a concrete form. Furthermore, unlike in the mountains, where the massive presence of the Army since the declaration of a state of emergency obliged the senderistas to operate in secret, in El Frontón they were, like Cámac and Gabriel in El Sexto, paradoxically free to operate politically, and to do so in the open. Rénique argues that in those early years of the conflict, the prison in fact became a kind of showcase for Sendero: ‘El Frontón se convirtió en la vidriera del partido, donde la aún enigmática organización podía exhibir su voluntad revolucionaria y gritarle al país su disciplinada y “científica” rabia.’ (‘El Frontón was turned into the shop window of the party, where the still mysterious organization could exhibit its revolutionary will and scream its disciplined and “scientific” rage at the nation.’)88 Such was the significance and visibility of the prison in the national imagination that the Peruvian intelligence services began to suspect that the secretive leadership of the organization was operating from the island itself. As Gorriti observed on a visit some months after their transfer to El Frontón, senderistas had begun to gain control of the prison ‘inch by inch’.89 Over the four years that they were resident there (1982–1986), the ‘Pabellón Azul’ (the Blue Cellblock) was brought completely under their control. Gorriti remarked on the levels of discipline among the senderistas, and on how the degree of autonomy from state influence that they had achieved allowed them to use the prison as a centre for ‘training, internal advancement, planning, and indoctrination’.90 He also noted, not without a little awe, that the senderistas were extremely disciplined and well trained compared to other leftist groups with which he was familiar. He commented on the unity with which they sang their slogans and their stoic indifference to the guards’ attempts to intimidate them by firing live rounds over their heads. In fact, the experience in El Frontón so profoundly impressed the seriousness of the organization upon the journalist that he was moved to state that listening to these mournful songs of war and faith, I arrived at the conclusion that in Sendero the country faced a movement whose

Gorriti, The Shining, 244.

87

Rénique, La voluntad, 13.

88

Gorriti, The Shining, 244.

89

Ibid.

90

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discipline, intensity and fanaticism had no parallel in our history, [nor] perhaps in Latin America.91 Throughout the first half of the decade the incarcerated senderistas continued their struggle, gaining privileges and negotiating improvements to their conditions, often with considerable success. The state seemed helpless to prevent the prison riots and hostage-taking through which they gained leverage and bargaining power, not only in El Frontón, but also in the other limeño prisons of Lurigancho and El Callao, although these were principally used to house ordinary prisoners. When on 4 October 1985, thirty senderistas were killed in an armed confrontation in Lurigancho prison, the Sendero newspaper El diario declared the day to be the Día del prisionero de guerra (Prisoner of War Day).92 The official declaration clarified the Sendero position on prison and stated: ‘La actividad política y militar de un comunista no se acaba el día que es detenido. La actividad política de un marxista-leninista-maoísta pensamiento Gonzalo [sic] se concreta en la transformación de las negras mazmorras reaccionarias en Luminosas Trincheras de Combate.’ (‘The political and military activity of a communist does not end on the day he is detained. The political and military activity of a Marxist-Leninist-MaoistGonzalo Thought becomes concrete in the transformation of the black reactionary dungeons into Shining Trenches of Combat.’)93 This sloganizing, aside from being typical of the kind of simplification and distillation of ideas that characterized Sendero ideology, encapsulates how the organization reacted to its incarceration. The Manichean imagery reiterates the simple dichotomies central to Sendero doctrine, while the suggestion that the prisoners should engage in bringing light to the darkness of the reactionary forces parallels the aim of the struggle outside. As in El Sexto, the prison comes to stand metaphorically for a nation held in the grip of reactionary forces and as the location in which to confront those forces. For Sendero it becomes an ideal site for the purposes of revolutionary self-realization, a trinchera (trench) in which to struggle. The utopian view of the LTCs is perhaps most eloquently depicted in the anonymous work, ¡Calurosa recepción! (Warm Welcome!), a widely disseminated Sendero propaganda poster (Figure 3.1).94 It captures the idealized Sendero view of El Frontón in the period in which it represented ‘an encapsulated version of what the Shining Path insurrection was trying to achieve throughout the country’.95 In the scene the prison is shown from a

Ibid., 249.

91

Rénique, La voluntad, 64.

92

PCP cited in ibid.

93

It is to be found on www.solrojo.org, www.aworldtowin.net, www.eldiariointernacional.com.

94

Gorriti, The Shining, 245.

95

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distance, located on its island with an expanse of sea that separates the onlooker from the island itself. The date and place of creation of the image are unclear. In the painting, a huge red flag flies from the top of the cellblock with other smaller flags held aloft along the harbour wall. Sendero slogans referencing ‘Presidente Gonzalo’ are legible in red on the walls of the cellblock and a large red hammer and sickle adorns the end wall. A red balloon with a yellow hammer and sickle floats jauntily into the sky. A throng of colourfully dressed figures are ranged along the waterfront, waving to the new arrivals who wave back from the small boat that is transporting them to the island. The new arrivals are mainly female visitors, with the long plaits typical of Indigenous Andean women visible to the viewer as they wave back. These markers of indigenous identity contradict Sendero’s hostility to indigenous culture. Rather than being sad about their impending forced confinement, the figures express joy as they anticipate receiving a ‘calurosa recepción’ at this apparent communist haven. No walls or fences contain the island’s inhabitants, and steps lead down to the water, giving the impression that freedom of entry and exit is permitted. The waiting figures line the edges of the prison yard such that it appears transformed into a military parade ground. Evenly spaced, they line a path that leads towards the cellblock like a guard of honour waiting to welcome the new arrivals inside. The only hint that it might be a prison can be found in the presence of dark, indistinct figures overlooking the scene from the hillside above, but the senderistas vastly outnumber the prison guards and appear to be in complete control of their environment. The image is of another ‘isla de los hombres solos’, in this case happily being serviced by Andean women. The casual viewer would assume that what is depicted is a communist school or a sports stadium on a day of festivity, paralleling in crude miniature the socialist realist depictions of enormous Soviet military parades in Red Square. The island location recalls a trope common to representations of utopia, namely spatial isolation from the rest of society. The separation is not, however, as complete as it appears at first glance. The image positions its viewer above the scene, as if looking down on the island from an angle, from somewhere such as the cliffs above Lima. The perspective from which the island is viewed thus serves to incite identification from the capital city. The painting offers an image of defiance and hope of the early period of the LTCs and demonstrates the extent to which a real prison can become the manifestation of a utopian vision of collectivism, military discipline and struggle. The festive atmosphere depicted in ¡Calurosa recepción! is symptomatic of a confidence in the powers of self-determination during the years leading up to the fall of the first LTC. After its destruction, which I will discuss below, a new LTC was born in the maximum-security prison of Miguel Castro Castro, popularly known as Canto Grande. Canto Grande was constructed with the

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FIGURE 3.1  ¡Calurosa recepción! Anonymous sendero artist available at https:// serviraopovo.wordpress.com/2017/06/.

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express aim of being a maximum-security prison that would limit the possibility for the senderistas to organize. However, in 1992 journalists filming for a Channel 4 documentary, Dispatches: The People of the Shining Path, entered the prison and filmed the senderistas engaged in a military parade. Wearing matching uniforms, cradling wooden rifles and waving red handkerchiefs, the women march in perfect time, out of the cellblock and into the prison yard, which once again has become a parade ground. Their faces are set in immobile expressions, fixed and staring straight ahead as they sing ‘¡Movimiento femenino, movimiento femenino, movimiento femenino popular!’ (Women’s movement, women’s movement, popular women’s movement!). They hold large images of Marx, Lenin, Mao and ‘Presidente Gonzalo’ aloft like sacred objects and repeat another Sendero slogan, ‘¡Viva el Marxismo-LeninismoMaoismo Pensamiento Gonzalo!’ (Long Live Marxism-Leninism-MaoismGonzalo Thought!).96 Their bodies move in perfect unison and the overall effect is one of formidable collective discipline. The footage was a propaganda coup for Sendero, which at the time still felt itself to be winning the war.97 The vision of disciplined unity offered by ¡Calurosa recepción! and the images in Dispatches call to mind the oft-noted link between the experience of imprisonment and ways in which political prisoners imagine the formation of new states or societies.98 What resonates with the context of the Sendero is not only the ways in which its idealized society came to be reflected in scenes such as ¡Calurosa recepción!, but in the ways in which the prison here is exploited as an institution dedicated to bringing about social change through the transformation of the individual. This after all is also the idea behind the Benthamite panopticon. Picking up on this point, and on the ambivalent political productivity of the panoptical model, Chávez argues that the economic and political dominance enjoyed by the senderistas in the LTCs was ironically the fulfilment of the purpose of the prison as a place of discipline, training and rehabilitation, a purpose which it had been impossible for the state body responsible for running the prisons, INPE (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario), to realize. As Chávez notes, the LTCs became the site of training and the creation of what Foucault termed ‘docile bodies’: ‘El cuerpo de los senderistas presos se transformaba, por medio de la disciplina en las “Luminosas Trincheras de Combate”, en un cuerpo sometido, moldeable y perfeccionado.’ (The bodies of the imprisoned senderistas were transformed, via the discipline Yezid Campos and Marc De Beaufort, ‘People of the Shining Path’, Dispatches (Channel 4, 1992). 96

Rénique, La voluntad, 71.

97

For example, in ‘On Utopian Writing in Nasserist Prison and Laicist Turkey’, Die Welt Des Islams 35, no. 1 (1 April 1995), Christian Szyska notes that the utopian novel by Ahmad Ra’if (a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was imprisoned under Nasser) bears striking ‘structural similarities [between] utopian and prison communities’, 113. Roux makes a similar point about Mandela’s political thinking in Long Walk to Freedom in ‘Writing the Prison’, 550. 98

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of the “Shining Trenches of Combat”, into submissive bodies, moulded and perfected.)99 Contra Rénique’s claim that Sendero carried out a radical redefinition of the prison, Chávez suggests that the discipline that they brought to the nation’s prisons was the closest they had come to fulfilling the ideal of the prison as a place in which the transformation of mind and body was achieved through strict disciplinary practices. In defying the state from within the prison, they came to create iterations of the ‘subjected and practised […] “docile” bodies’ that characterized Foucault’s disciplinary society.100 The strong impression that the disciplined, marching bodies made on Gorriti in the visit he made to the LTC is indicative of the enduring power of this biopolitical fantasy. Here, as Chávez argues, the senderistas seem to fulfil the disciplinary dream. The panoptic power of surveillance is once again reversed, however, and discipline of the bodies is presented to those who observe them as a threat, rather than a sign of compliance or submission. While superficially similar, there remained a fundamental difference between the fantasy of the penitentiary and that of the LTC. As we saw in the introduction, the former was, in Foucault’s description, a place ‘that effect[ed] a transformation of the individual as a whole – of his body and of his habits by the daily work that he is forced to perform, of his mind and his will […] The prison, though an administrative apparatus, will at the same time be a machine for altering minds’ to retrain the body and soul in order to release a newly capable citizen into society.101 The LTCs, on the other hand, were ‘heterochronous’ spaces in which the bodies being trained were also already committed by their (utopian) self-sacrifice to an eschatological messianic futurity, not the carefully controlled prison time of tedious endurance as ‘gentle’ punishment. On 18 June 1986 there was a coordinated uprising in three prisons of Lurigancho, El Callao and El Frontón. The recently elected Aprista government of Alán García took drastic measures. When hostages were taken within El Frontón, the armed forces had the excuse that they had been waiting for to destroy the Pabellón Azul. The authorities had been unable to enter the cellblock for over a year and a half, during which time the senderistas had been preparing for an armed confrontation.102 The armed government forces were met with resistance from the militants. The two sides were not evenly matched, however, with the guardia civil and navy deploying helicopters and missiles that reduced the Pabellón Azul to rubble. In Sendero’s own account of the battle they write, ‘Los combatientes

Chávez, ‘La guerra’, 157.

99

Foucault, Discipline, 118.

100

Ibid., 125.

101

Chávez, ‘La guerra’, 133.

102

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respondían con dardos, flechas ballestas; hondas y con las armas de fuego capturadas; como protección algunos chalecos de latón.’103 (The fighters responded with darts, crossbow bolts, slingshots and with the captured weapons; for protection, a few jackets made of tin.) After what the Sendero account calls a ‘resistencia de más de 20 horas, ni un solo grito de queja ni dolor’ (resistance of 20 hours without a single cry or complaint of pain),104 at least 119 senderistas died, including many who were executed on their capture.105 The few survivors were transferred to the maximum-security prison, Canto Grande. The CVR report on the conflict makes much of Sendero’s intention to induce genocide. The official Sendero responses to the massacres at El Frontón support this view. ‘Cronología del genocidio de junio’ (Chronology of the June Genocide) begins by stating that the inhabitants of the Pabellón Azul had spent time preparing for just such an assault and had agreed unanimously to fight to the death: Estuvieron bien cohesionados con una única decisión de hacer resistencia feroz, de que sólo los sacarían muertos, pues la moral de la clase estaba en juego y había que defenderla hasta el último hálito de vida, decisión unánime de comunistas y combatientes de la LTC.106 They were well united behind a singular decision to put up a ferocious resistance, that they would only be brought when dead, for the morality of the class was at stake and it had to be defended until the last breath of life, the unanimous decision of communists and fighters of the LTC. The events in the LTCs were portrayed as making perfect sense according to the violent Sendero logic. They confirmed their interpretation of the Peruvian state as ‘fascista y corporativa’ (fascist and corporatist),107 and that their imprisoned comrades were not helpless victims, paralysed by their imprisonment, but soldiers at the front line of a ‘guerra convencional’.108According to a statement written by ‘Presidente Gonzalo’ on the anniversary of the uprising in 1987, the destruction of the LTC in El Frontón had achieved ‘el más grande remecimiento del Estado peruano hasta hoy y la mayor repercusión de la guerra popular, dentro y fuera del

PCP, ‘Cronología del genocidio de junio’ (1986), http://www.pagina-libre.org/MPP-A /Textos/Presos/Cronologia86.html. 103

Ibid.

104

Rénique, La voluntad, 70.

105

PCP, ‘Nada ni nadie podrá derrotarnos’, 1986, http://www.solrojo.org/pcp_doc/pcp_190686​ .htm. 106

Gonzalo, ‘Discurso’.

107

PCP, ‘Nada’, online.

108

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país’ (the greatest shocks to of the Peruvian state until today and the greatest repercussions of the People’s War, inside and outside the country).109 Aside from justifying their own violence, it also affirmed their moral superiority over their opponents. ‘Presidente Gonzalo’ proclaims that, ‘la rebelión de los prisioneros de guerra a costa de su propia vida conquistó para el Partido y la revolución un grandioso triunfo moral, político y militar’ (the rebellion of the prisoners of war, at the cost of their own lives, won a great moral, political and military victory for the Party).110 Nor was it only the leadership of Sendero that believed the LTCs proved the moral superiority of the senderistas, as ‘Camarada Inez’ confirmed in an interview with the Maoist website Un mundo que ganar in 1999. In her view the situation in the LTCs made it impossible to ignore ‘nuestra superioridad a los reaccionarios y a su protervo sueño de aniquilarnos no sólo física sino principalmente, moralmente’ (our superiority over the reactionaries and their perverse dream of annihilating us not only physically but also morally).111 Rhetorically at least, the massacres suffered by the incarcerated senderistas served only to strengthen their belief in their project. That the massacres in the LTCs were in fact a kind of political victory for Sendero was also a view held by some non-senderista commentators at the time, both locally and internationally.112 Significantly, some of the condemnation of the massacres made much of the discipline of the senderistas. The editor of the magazine Equis X, Julio Cabrera Moreno, who makes it clear that he does not otherwise sympathize with the senderistas, writes of the fact that the cellblocks had been ‘ordenados y pulcros como monasterios’ (organized and tidy like monasteries).113 For the editor, the docility and discipline of the LTCs is what, to use Judith Butler’s term, made their inhabitants’ lives ‘grievable’114 – their disciplined, soldierly behaviour made their slaughter more horrific. The politics of the LTCs was thus not a biopolitics that sought to preserve and reform the bios of the individual militants; rather it was always a politics of the dead or dying body, a necropolitics. To return to Mbembe’s account of the necropolitics of the suicide bomber:

Gonzalo, ‘Discurso’.

109

Ibid.

110

‘Una luz en las tinieblas de las cárceles del Perú’, Un mundo que ganar, 1999, accessed 24 April 2013, http://www.aworldtowin.org/spanish/numero_anteriores/1999-25/PeruPrisonsINEZ -span25.htm. 111

Pablo Macera, ‘El 18 de Junio’, Debate, July 1986, 16.

112

Julio Cabrera Moreno, ‘Testimonio del director de “Equis X”’, Equis X, 23 June 1986, 495 edition, 16. 113

For Butler ‘grievability’ is ‘the presupposition for a life that matters’, Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (London: Verso, 2009), 14. 114

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In the logic of martyrdom, a new semiosis of killing emerges […] the body here becomes the very uniform of the martyr. But the body as such is not only an object to protect against danger and death. The body in itself has neither power nor value. The power and value of the body result from a process of abstraction based on the desire for eternity.115 Unlike the martyrdom of Cámac, whose death through illness brought about a moment of political unity, for the imprisoned senderistas the ultimate unity is in the form of collective suicidal sacrifice. Another Sendero account of the massacre purports to be written by an anonymous combatant inside the Pabellón Azul as it was under fire. Just before his death, the combatiente contrasts the self-sacrifice of his comrades with the cowardice of the military. By an extraordinary logic, he claims that the fact that so many senderistas died compared to the military death toll, proved the soldiers cowardice because, unlike the senderistas, they do not know how to die: Como combatiente de esta heroica LTC que ha savido resistir tenasmente a los bombardeos de las FFAA reaccionarias genocidas deshonra de los heroes nacionales. Valientes para matar covardes para morir. Saven matar pero no saven morir [sic].116 As a fighter in this heroic LTC who knows how to resist tenaciously the bombardment of the reactionary genocidal Armed Forces who dishonour the national heroes. Brave at killing, cowards at dying. They know how to kill but not how to die. Presidente Gonzalo’s declarations are quite explicit about the fact that the deaths of the senderistas are at the heart of what constitutes an LTC: La rebelión de los prisioneros de guerra es el desenmascaramiento y la condenación públicos y ante el mundo de estos siniestros planes de matanza masiva […] y si la bestia reaccionaria bebió sangre hasta el hartazgo para imponer la paz de los muertos, las vidas miserable y arteramente cegadas transformándose en imperecederas, plasman la trilogía monumental de las luminosas trincheras de combate del Frontón, Lurigancho y Callao, hito histórico que proclamará más la grandeza del Día de la Heroicidad.117

Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, 37.

115

PCP, ‘Nada’.

116

Gonzalo, ‘Discurso’.

117

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The rebellion of the prisoners of war is the both the unmasking and condemnation in public and before the whole world of the sinister plans of mass slaughter […] and if the reactionary beast gorged itself on blood and imposed the peace of the dead, the miserable lives so calculatingly cut short but made everlasting express the monumental trilogy of the Shining Trenches of el Frontón, Lurigancho and Callao, historical milestones that proclaim the Day of Heroism. To the extent that the LTC is formed by the deaths of its inhabitants, it is a wholly necropolitical space. A contradictory discourse is perceptible in Gonzalo’s pronouncements in that the massacred senderistas are both heroic and ferocious fighters and the helpless victims. The battle in El Frontón is at once a ‘rebellion’ and a ‘genocide’. The senderistas are acting in defence of their own lives, yet have already, by the same rhetoric, resigned themselves to death. This double logic is also present in the account of the anonymous fighter who states that ‘nosotros estamos condenados a triunfar es una hermosa condena [sic]’ (we are condemned to triumph and it is a beautiful sentence).118 The oxymoronic phrasing of condenados a triunfar epitomizes the bloody nature of this sendero utopia in which triumph and the exercise of sovereign power can only be attained through the oblivion of death. Perhaps the LTCs should be understood as what we might term a necrotopia in reference to the fact that they were not like death camps of exception – described by Agamben as the ‘nomos of the modern’ – for the reason that, rhetorically at least, the Sendero leadership desired the deaths of the imprisoned senderistas and celebrated the LTCs as spaces of sacrifice.119 The lives of the senderistas were not ‘bare life’ that could be killed but not sacrificed. On the contrary, the LTCs were sacrificial temples in which they were prepared to give up their biological lives in the name of revolution. The ambiguity of the term ‘necrotopia’ also signals the curious double logic in the fact that the senderistas demanded to be treated as prisoners of war yet simultaneously wanted to think of themselves as soldiers at war – innocent victims of genocide, yet also valiant soldiers who died fighting bravely in a struggle that began on their terms. In biopolitical terms, the senderistas restored political life and were able to challenge the sovereignty of the Peruvian state, even as it enacted the ultimate sovereign act of killing them. Gorriti, however, proposes a rather different explanation for the apparent willingness of the individual senderistas to give their lives for the party than the heroic account of ‘Presidente Gonzalo’. Writing on the Sendero relationship with death outside the LTCs, he argues that their lives were so traumatic that death became an attractive way out: PCP, ‘Nada’, online.

118

Agamben, Homo Sacer, 102.

119

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For many Shining Path militants, hunted and anguished, the idea of dying – ‘snatching laurels from death’ – took on the intense attraction of an experience both mystical and sensual. It was the perfect escape from unbearable anxiety, ceaseless work, and the ever imminent threat of capture, with its horrific consequences. The vision of death as an ardent surrender to the cause, a kind of sublimated sensual possession, opened up unknown horizons in each militant’s self-love. Combined with a millenarian vision and the personality cult of Guzmán, this created ephemeral, fevered, and mythic forms.120 In phrases such as ‘snatch laurels from death’, death itself is personified as the custodian of markers of glory. In Gonzalo’s references to ‘miserable lives calculatingly cut short but made everlasting’, death becomes the only path towards the sendero ideal. The LTCs became heterotopias in which the utopian ‘mirror’ is not only that of a disciplined body, but a body that is already condemned to death, in a militarized limbo from which there is no foreseeable escape. By sacrificing their lives, the senderistas are literally killing the terrain from within which utopia is imagined – out with the old to make way for the new. To make the imagined future a reality it is necessary to annihilate the living body which is, by now (and via a very Christian logic), the obstacle to the attainment of utopia. After the destruction of the LTC at El Frontón, the imprisoned senderistas at Canto Grande and other prisons lived with the constant threat of a new genocide hanging over them. One former resident of Canto Grande explained that the female senderistas were fully prepared for a new massacre: Me dijo que ella tenía su vida en la punta de sus dedos, yo mi vida la he entregado al partido. Ellas sabían que habría una matanza, porque ellas sabían que eran un blanco perfecto, porque ellas asumían su rol de presas políticas, si hubiera un genocidio, ellas hubieran sido las primeras, y ellas no tenían miedo[,] lo llevaban encarnado.121 She told me that she had her life at the tips of her fingers, I have given my life to the Party. They knew that there would be a massacre because they knew they were sitting ducks, because they assumed their roles as political prisoners, if there had been a genocide they would have been the first, and they had no fear, they embodied it. The necropolitics of the LTCs obligated the complete acceptance of and inevitability of death. Gorriti cites a document recovered from a senderista

Gorriti, The Shining, 105.

120

‘Ana de la Cruz’ cited in Chávez, ‘La guerra’, 147.

121

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in Lurigancho that reveals the extent to which Sendero dismissed those who behaved as if they had a right to life: Otros se cuidan, temen cometer errores, entonces no son sinceros, no apelan a su condición, cuidan pellejo, ¿qué cuidan? Si nada tienen, si todo lo has dado al P[artido], tu vida no te pertenece, le pertenece al P[artido]. Así qué tanta jeremiada, qué tanto cuidar pellejo. Others are careful, afraid to make mistakes, therefore are not sincere, they make excuses, they try to save their skin, what are they protecting? If you have nothing, if you give everything to the P[arty], your life is not your own, it belongs to the P[arty]. Too much jeremiad, too much saving your skin.122 In any case the senderistas were right to expect a new massacre in Canto Grande. In 1992, the new government of Alberto Fujimori, recently emboldened by the success of his ‘autogolpe’ (self coup) in on 5 May 1992, sent forces into Canto Grande on 6 May. Upon meeting resistance once again, they carried out another military assault on the LTC, this time killing over fifty prisoners, again mainly after they had surrendered.123

Angel of the island The consequences of giving one’s life and body to the party are explored in ‘Ángel de la isla’, one of a collection of short stories by Dante Castro Arrasco entitled Parte de Combate (1991). Although Castro was never a member of Sendero, he was a militant of a different revolutionary group, the Cuba-affiliated Movimiento 26 de Junio (26th of July Movement). This group was also committed to armed struggle and Castro went several times to fight in defence of the revolutionary government in Nicaragua. It was for writing fiction, however, that he was imprisoned in Peru. After his story ‘Ñakay Pacha’ – a story about Sendero that would later also appear in Parte de Combate – was published in a student magazine in 1987, he was arrested for being an apologist for terrorism. Consequently he was placed in the same cellblock in Castro Castro as the senderistas. There he met a survivor of the assault on El Frontón who told him the story on which he based ‘Ángel de la Isla’. The senderistas expelled him from their block for his ‘revisionist’ tendencies and he was released after about a month.124

Gorriti, Sendero, 167. Translation from The Shining, 105.

122

Rénique, La voluntad, 90.

123

Interview with the author in April 2017.

124

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In the story, the heterotopian aspects of El Frontón are given a rather different inflection by the author’s close engagement with the physicality of the slaughtered body and with the perception of a temporality that links the Sendero eschatology to that of the story of Lazarus. Rather than the historical time of the Sendero account of the LTCs, Castro story replaces revolutionary historical time with biblical time of resurrection. The story ends with a note stating that it was written in ‘Callao, 1986’, the poor limeño suburb that overlooks the island on which El Frontón was located. In an appeal to the central conceit in Juan Rulfo’s novel, Pedro Páramo (The Burning Plain), it is narrated by a wounded senderista, Mario, from within a mass grave after the massacre at El Frontón. But Mario is no ghost; rather he is a survivor of the massacre, who recalls the battle through flashbacks as he tries to struggle free of his wounded companions’ bodies. Within the fosa (grave) the collectivization of bodies finds its horrifying inversion: the integrity and discipline of the parade ground reduced to fragments – the necrotopia laid bare. Hay cadáveres que pesan mucho, otros que se despedazan con sólo tocarlos, pero el barro y la sangre abundante que chorrea por todos lados, facilita que uno resbale entre peso y peso. There are corpses which weigh a lot, fall apart at the slightest touch, but the blood and the mud which flows up on all sides makes it possible to slide between them.125 In the opening paragraphs Castro uses the first person plural as Mario recalls how the senderistas continued to sing together during the last moments inside the pabellón: ‘Había que corear lo que apenas escuchábamos, nos mandaba Ricardo, hasta que de Ricardo no quedó sino un guiñapo bañado en sangre y luego seguían los otros y los otros cayendo en medio de la zanja.’ (We must chant in unison, came the barely audible order from Ricardo, until Ricardo was nothing more than a ragged, blood-soaked mess which followed the many, many others falling into the ditch.)126 Within the pit, such recollections give him the strength to continue, ‘Era como una lucha cuerpo a cuerpo contra todos los muertos dentro de la garganta de la tierra.’127 (It was like a struggle, body to body against the dead in the gullet of the earth.) As he struggles to squeeze his wounded body out from between those of his dead companions, he hears the voices of several of his comrades who

Dante Castro Arrasco, ‘Ángel de La Isla’, in Parte de Combate (Lima: Editorial Manguaré, 1991), 67. Available online at http://www.angelfire.com/dc/combate/index.html. 125

Ibid., 65.

126

Ibid., 66.

127

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are still alive crying out. While speaking to the ominously named Eulogio, a newcomer to the island, who arrived with his shoulders dislocated from torture, the swelling bodies seem to drown out his voice: ‘Su voz se perdió entre tantos cadáveres que se empezaban a hinchar.’128 (His voice faded as many of the bodies began to swell.) Mario tries to rally his comrade – ‘Hay muchos mártires, Eulogio. ¡No sucumbas! Habla del partido, de la guerra’ (There are many martyrs Eulogio. Don’t succumb. Talk about the Party, about the war) – but he has fallen silent.129 Mario’s description of the horrifically abject decomposing bodies around him as ‘mártires’ is a hollow euphemism that renders his attempt to inspire his dying comrade impotent and meaningless. In this story, the ‘luminosa trinchera’ (shining trench) has become a ‘zanja’ (ditch) into which no light penetrates at all. Rather than giving a sense of luminous vision, the story privileges the senses of touch and sound and smell: ‘Las sensaciones iban desapareciendo como en una zambullida en lo oscuro, como en un abismo pestilente cada vez más hondo y extenso donde no podía llegar ni un aliento, ni una voz del mundo ruidoso.’ (My sensations faded as I if I was diving into darkness, into a stinking abyss that grew ever deeper and wider where no air or voice from the world of noise could penetrate.)130 He realizes that the hole in which he is trapped is in fact a defensive trench that the senderistas had dug in preparation for the assault on the Pabellón Azul. Their military failure is thus emphasized in the way their own defence mechanism has become their grave. The eschatology of historical Sendero time has ended, and duration is now measured only by the necropolitical state of the decomposition of the bodies around him. This final image of death and depersonalization, which comes as the culmination of senderista subjectivization in ‘Ángel de la Isla’ recalls Gorriti’s description of the senderista ideal of dying as ‘snatching laurels from death’, of death as ‘a kind of sublimated sensual possession’.131 In the story, however, the narrator has failed to snatch glory by surviving the massacre. Within the grotesque sensuality in the account, a kind of abject sublime, a new myth asserts itself. Squirming in the darkness trying to find a way out, the blood of his dead comrades eases him between their bodies: ‘El barro de sangre me ayuda a acomodarme entre muerto y muerto, pero a veces me encuentro con las paredes de la zanja y eso me desmoraliza. “¡Mística, carajo!”’ (The mud made of blood helps me to squeeze between the corpses, but sometimes I find myself against the walls of the ditch and

Ibid., 69.

128

Ibid., 68.

129

Ibid., 66.

130

Gorriti, The Shining, 105.

131

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this demoralizes me. “Mysticism, dammit!”.)132 Castro continues with his horrifying literalization of the sendero metaphors. Here the ‘river of blood’ has become the trickle that lubricates Mario’s escape. This exclamation not only acts as self-motivation for the narrator, it also implies the presence of a greater driving force behind his struggle. Whether this is in fact the ‘pensamiento guía’ (guiding thought) of ‘Presidente Gonzalo’ or whether an even higher entity is deciding his fate is a possibility raised by the story’s conclusion. Trapped in the darkness, unable to find his way out of the trench through the bodies, Mario hears the scrabbling of what he believes to be the fingernails of another man. The scrabbling is a dog which he recognizes as El Negro, who had lived in the cellblock. As if one of the dead dogs which were hung on lamp posts by the Sendero to announce the beginning of their armed struggle had returned, El Negro becomes his guide, the ‘ángel’ of the title and leads Mario to the edge of the bodies. Together they escape down a tunnel that the senderistas had constructed as an escape route from the Pabellón Azul. On emerging, however, they are met by soldiers. They decide not to kill Mario because they reason that God must have had a hand in his survival. The imagery of Christian resurrection is repeated when one of the soldiers sarcastically refers to him as ‘Lázaro’ (Lazarus). The soldiers spare Mario but shoot ‘El Negro’, causing him to break down in tears. The soldiers who capture him are disgusted by his weakness and take it to be evidence of his callousness towards the other senderistas: ‘Puta que eres huevón, baboso de mierda … ¡Tanto muerto y tú llorando por un perro!’ (Fuck, you’re a fool, stupid piece of shit … Death all around you and you’re crying over a dog.)133 The narrator’s distress over the death of the dog signals a moment where he is confronted by the reduction of the subject by both the state and Sendero to the life that can be killed but not murdered. Besides being a condemnation of the massacre carried out by the government of Alán García, Castro’s story can also be read as a warning against the surrender of the body to collectivism and ‘historical’ time through the literalization of the metaphors of Sendero rhetoric. The horrifying reduction of the integrity of the bodies, blending and merging in a muddy ditch also stands as a refutation of the Sendero view of bloodshed as cleansing. It reveals the precarious foundations of the LTCs and also implies that the conventional models of disciplinary power that they resembled do not give a full account of ‘biopower’, aspects of which would seem to greatly exceed it. By staging the rescue of the individual from the morass of the collective through a miraculous Lazarus-like resurrection, Castro’s narrative implies, in stark contradiction to Arguedas’s moment of transcendence,

Castro, ‘Ángel’, 69.

132

Ibid., 72.

133

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that a Christian path could provide salvation from the violence of both sides, while also suggesting a similarity between the messianism of Sendero mythology and that of Christian eschatology. The final scene suggests that the protagonist might not only have been resurrected from the collective death imposed by Sendero but also restored to the time of the individual. The utopian aspect of Castro Arrasco’s story becomes that of Christian salvation, an act of transculturation comparable to the utopian politics of Arguedas in El Sexto. That most revolutionary and creative of political forces – utopia – allows the most dystopian of prisons to become heterotopian sites of conflicting and overlapping struggle, political creativity and imagination. The heterogeneous cultural unconscious of the Peruvian political prison, touches on three different forms of utopian thought: ‘Andean’, Communist and Christian. The attendant ‘temporalities’ of these three forms inform the heterotopian transformation of the prison as a utopian space through different modes of bodily sacrifice and martyrdom. Under the Blochian schema, the politics of prison utopianism has involved the redefinition of the prison as a utopia – that is the utopian attempt to reconcile individual time with historical time. In terms of the hegemony of the prison, the prison utopianism of Arguedas cannot escape the bind of Olguín’s ‘prisoner-writer-prisoner’ dialectic. The ‘meta-utopianism’ of Arguedas’s El Sexto, however, escapes easy classification as either hegemonic or counter hegemonic. While on the one hand it betrays a racial logic that supports the hegemony of the prison as a means of punishing criminals in the same way as the texts in Chapter 2, on the other hand the prison is re-signified as a space of freedom for the production of political thought. The propagandistic and deadly representations of the LTCs, on the other hand, did constitute a serious challenge to the hegemony of the prison, albeit through a suicidal necropolitics. The LTCs succeeded in radically redefining the prison, at least symbolically, by filling the ‘emptiness’ of prison time with their own eschatological and millenarian version of ‘revolutionary time’. The representation of the deaths of both Cámac and the senderistas is also an instance of heterotopian thinking in relation to the dying body. The Sendero experience reveals the proximity of the ‘biopolitical’ concern with the living body to the necropolitics of those bodies which are already condemned to die and whose deaths are of more political consequence than their lives. Resistance and power thus draw on the same resource, the necropolitical body, dying because of the neglect and abuse of the state in the present but in the service of the imagination of the ideal state. And beneath the visions of disciplinary power lies the possibility of the destruction of the bodies being disciplined. The texts in this chapter imply that any ‘revolutionary’ politics that aims to attain sovereignty from within prison will have to reckon with and even partake in a deadly necropolitics. This is because the prison remains the means through which state sovereignty – even

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defined in Mbembe’s more lethal reformulation of Foucault as the ‘power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die’ – continues to function.134 The lethal purpose of the prison is also the theme of the first half of the final chapter in which I look to ways in which it has been resisted by a new class of political prisoner: those criminalized by the War on Drugs.

Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, 11.

134

4 Prison Writing and the War on Drugs

The declining power of the Soviet Union and the defeat of the militant left meant the consolidation of neoliberalism as the hegemonic economic system across most of Latin America.1 As the threat of communism waned in the 1980s, the Reagan administration ensured that ‘drugs’ came to displace it as both international and domestic bogeyman.2 With encouragement from the United States, democratizing states across Latin America redirected repressive institutions and practices developed during the Dirty Wars against the new threat.3 The intensity of the military and police action in the drug wars varied, but at times in areas of Mexico, Colombia and urban Brazil the violence periodically spiralled to levels normally present in zones of all-out war.4 In all cases, however, the War on Drugs meant increases in the number of people imprisoned.

Indeed, as Dawn Paley argues, in many cases the drug war directly facilitated the entrenchment of neoliberal capitalism. See Drug War Capitalism (Oakland: AK Press, 2014), 19. 1

The term ‘War on Drugs’ was originally promoted by the Nixon government, members of which later admitted that it was conceived as an excuse for repression of the anti-war hippies and black people. Tom LoBianco, ‘Report: Nixon’s War on Drugs Targeted Black People’, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/john-ehrlichman-richard-nixon-drug-war-blacks -hippie/index.html 2

Erika Robb Larkins, ‘Performances of Police Legitimacy in Rio’s Hyper Favela’, Law & Social Inquiry 38, no. 3 (1 September 2013): 562. 3

See Joseph Murray, Daniel Ricardo de Castro Cerqueira, and Tulio Kahn, ‘Crime and Violence in Brazil: Systematic Review of Time Trends, Prevalence Rates and Risk Factors’, Aggression and Violent Behavior 18, no. 5 (September 2013): 471–83. Also IISS, ‘Armed Conflict Survey Shows Conflict Moving into Cities around the World’, accessed 3 September 2017, https://www​ .iiss.org/en/about%20us/press%20room/press%20releases/press%20releases/archive/2017 -dfba/may-5e94/armed-conflict-survey-2017-1167. 4

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Largely responsible for this increase is the fact that in 1986 the United States made aid payments and trade benefits contingent on an annual ‘certification procedure’ which required drug producing countries to cooperate with its policies, by meeting quotas for the number of people imprisoned.5 Peasant farmers who grew coca, heroin poppies and marijuana were scooped up in large numbers, as were petty street dealers and drug mules.6 There were large increases in the numbers of incarcerated women, who played minor roles in the drug trade and were easy to target.7 Activists, scholars and politicians of many persuasions have roundly condemned the devastating consequences of the United States’ policies as a form of neoimperialism, an excuse to bolster the armed forces and security apparatuses of its political allies and to punish its political enemies.8 In this context many make the case that those imprisoned under drug legislation must be considered political prisoners. This position is, however, severely undermined by a culture industry that incessantly replicates and amplifies the most lurid and violent aspects of ‘narcocultura’ (narcoculture). The popularity of shows featuring the likes of criminal kingpins such as Pablo Escobar and Joaquín Guzmán represents an ongoing challenge to a nuanced or political understanding of the reality of those targeted by antidrug legislation.9 The texts addressed in this chapter are by prisoners whose writing navigates the boundary between political and criminal in very different ways. Some seek explicitly to disrupt this divide by insisting on the ‘criminal’ prisoner as a political subject, while others work to reinforce it. All attest to the extent to which the War on Drugs has also been enforced as a class war that cuts across intersecting vectors of race and gender. In a fitting transition from Chapter 3, I begin with William da Silva Lima’s memoir Quatrocentos contra um: Uma história do Comando Vermelho (1991), an account of how the repression of political dissidents by the Brazilian dictatorship played a role in the formation of one of the country’s most successful trafficking organizations. While it is most often cited for the insight it gives into the early

Solimar Santos, ‘Unintended Consequences of United States’ Foreign Drug Policy in Bolivia’, The University of Miami InterAmerican Law Review 33, no. 1 (2002): 137. 5

Coletta Youngers and Eileen Rosin, Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of U.S. Policy (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2005). See also Julia Buxton, The Political Economy of Narcotics (London: Zed, 2006), 137. 6

7

Hernández, ‘¿Del estado multicultural?’, 304.

Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism (New York: Holt, 2006), 217. Also Buxton, The Political Economy, 140. 8

Niamh Thornton, ‘Narcos and Cartel Land Fall into the Same Trap – an Obsession with One-Sided Storytelling’, The Conversation, accessed 3 September 2016, http://theconversation .com/narcos-and-cartel-land-fall-into-the-same-trap-an-obsession-with-one-sided -storytelling-48273. 9

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operations of the gang, the text also makes a case for an understanding of organized crime as self-defence by an imprisoned class. Although it does not deal in detail with the War on Drugs directly, it contains two key moments from its ‘pre-history’ that epitomize the new penal order. As a continuation of the tradition of testimonio, the texts in this chapter share many of the features I outlined in Chapter 1 and involve, in the words of John Beverley, the promise of ‘literature as social action’.10 However, they do this in dramatically different ways. Marching Powder, an English language account of an English drug trafficker imprisoned in Bolivia, is a perfect illustration of how certain aesthetic practices and modes of narration are complicit with ‘neoliberal’ penal regimes and obstacles to a political understanding of prisoners victimized by anti-drug legislation. Finally I address the writings of the Colectiva Editorial de Mujeres en Prisión Hermanas en la Sombra (Sisters in the Shadow Editorial Collective of Women in Prison), a group which came together in the CERESO (Centro de Rehabilitación/Reintegración Social – Centre of Social Rehabilitation/ Reintegration) of Atlacholoaya in Morelos, Mexico and produced a series of texts in collaboration and solidarity with activists, writers and academics. Their work represents a genre of prison writing that might be characterized as a literature of solidarity: texts which seek not only to expose the injustices wrought by the carceral practices as part of the War on Drugs but also to actively mitigate and even resist the most egregious aspects of contemporary penal regimes.

Revolutions in crime: The birth of the Comando Vermelho While the Sendero Luminoso was transforming prisons into fronts in its struggle to overthrow the Peruvian state, another organization was projecting power from within the prison system of Rio de Janeiro. Like Sendero, the group that would come to be known as the Comando Vermelho also talked of revolution and resorted to lethal violence in its struggle for power. But its members moved across the frontier that divides the criminal from the political in the inverse direction to the senderistas. While the Peruvian Maoists began as revolutionary movement which justified its indiscriminate violence in the name of Revolution, the genesis of the Comando Vermelho was among a group of ‘presos comuns’ (common, i.e. not ‘political’ prisoners) who adopted the language, tactics and ideology of political prisoners they met in prison. Beverley, Against Literature, 84.

10

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By the mid-1980s the Comando Vermelho had become the largest drug trafficking organization in Rio de Janeiro, controlling not only the prison system but also the majority of the city’s favelas.11 Such was its power and territorial control in the 1990s and early 2000s that sociologists and political theorists turned to the language of statehood, speaking of ‘parallel’ and ‘dual’ power to describe its dominance over the marginal areas of the city.12 But the aspect of its history that fascinated the press and inspired several feature films is the contested story of the group’s contact with the political prisoners. Unsurprisingly, those on the political left have claimed that the idea that the political prisoners organized a violent gang that became so powerful that it threatened the entire city is a myth propagated by the right.13 Scholars have argued that the group was ‘inadvertently created’ by the state as the ‘bastard child of the dictatorship’.14 The most intimate account of what happened is Quatrocentos contra um: Uma história do Comando Vermelho, a memoir by William da Silva Lima, aka ‘o Profesor’ (The Professor). The book was written in the late 1980s while he was in hiding in São Paulo. His wife Simone would later claim that the couple were running a sewing business in that city but Carlos Amorim suspects he was in fact setting up a São Paulo branch of the Comando.15 He was incarcerated again in 1991, the same year it was published.16 The first edition was edited down from a 400-page manuscript with the help of César Queiroz Benjamin, a former member of the militant group Movimento Revolucionário 8 de Outubro (MR-8).17 A feature film of the story was made by Caco Souza in 2010.18 But while the film embraces the sensationalized narco-aesthetic popularized by City of God and Tropa de Elite, the original text paints a more nuanced and complex view than its appropriation by the culture industry would imply.

Ben Penglase, ‘The Bastard Child of the Dictatorship: The Comando Vermelho and the Birth of “Narco-Culture” in Rio de Janeiro’, Luso-Brazilian Review 45, no. 1 (1 January 2008): 128. 11

See Elizabeth Leeds, ‘Cocaine and Parallel Polities in the Brazilian Urban Periphery: Constraints on Local Level Democratization’, Latin American Research Review 31, no. 3 (1996): 47–83; Erika Robb Larkins, ‘Performances of Police Legitimacy in Rio’s Hyper Favela’, Law & Social Inquiry 38, no. 3 (1 September 2013): 553–575. 12

Carlos Amorim, Comando Vermelho: A história secreta do crime organizado (Rio de Janeiro: Record, 1993), 36. 13

Leeds, ‘Cocaine’, 49; Pengalese, ‘The Bastard Child’, 120.

14

Amorim, Comando Vermelho, 131–132.

15

Ibid., 132.

16

Amorim, Comando Vermelho, 34.

17

Caco Souza, 400 Contra 1: Uma história do crime organizado (Co-production between: Destiny International, Globo Filmes, Lereby Productions, Manga Rosa Filmes, MegaColor, Playarte Pictures, 2010). 18

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The memoir begins by citing the Brazilian constitution of 1824: ‘As cadeias serão seguras, limpas e bem arejadas, havendo diversas casas para a separação dos réus, conforme suas circunstâncias e a natureza de seus crimes.’ (Prisons will be safe, clean and well appointed with different buildings for the separation of the prisoners depending on their circumstances and the nature of their crimes.)19 This ironically placed quotation sets the tone for a text that is primarily intended as a bitter critique of the penal system and the causes of crime and recidivism. Although the denunciation of the penal regime is da Silva’s stated goal, he was well known as one of the founders of the large and effective criminal organization. Unsurprisingly, da Silva does not describe the contemporaneous functioning of the gang in any detail but his focus on its origins is where the enduring interest with Quatrocentos contra um lies. It is an unusual account of the relationship between political prisoners and (in da Silva’s term) ‘presos proletários’ from the point of view of the latter.20 The narrative opens with an escape attempt from the prison of Milton Dias Moreira in 1983. The complex had been specially constructed to house political prisoners who were then amnestied, their spaces filled by da Silva and his companions. By 1983 da Silva had already spent twenty-three years in prison. The escape is narrated in a breathless third person singular as the men work together, tunnelling frantically to escape the enclosure. On emerging they are detected, shot at by the police and badly beaten. As he lies recovering, da Silva resolves once again to write about what he has experienced: […] quase todos os meus companheiros não podem mais oferecer o seu testemunho, e o silêncio a eles imposto talvez seja o que me mova com mais força nessa difícil empreitada. Morreram todos à minha volta. Um a um – sistematicamente, regularmente, implacavelmente – foram morrendo. De tiro, de fome, de vício. Em cada vez, o mesmo pensamento, tardas vezes compartilhado: alguém precisa contar. Talvez o Saldanha o faça com mais paixão; Nanai, com mais fé. Com mais humor, o Mimoso; Nelson, com mais talento; Aché e Caô, com mais graça. Alkmin o faria com mais coração. Mas Todos Morreram.21 Almost none of my companions can give their testimony now and the silence imposed on them is perhaps what motivates me most strongly in this difficult task. They all died around me. One by one – systematically, regularly, inexorably – they died. Shot, starved, victims of their vices.

William da Silva Lima, Quatrocentos contra um: Uma história do Comando Vermelho (São Paulo: Labortexto, [1991] 2001), 17. 19

Ibid., 59.

20

Ibid., 25.

21

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In every case, the same thought, shared so many times: someone needs to tell the story. Maybe Saldanha, the most patient; Nanai, the most faithful; Mimoso, the wittiest; Nelson, the most talented; Aché or Caô, the funniest. Alkmin would do it with the most heart. But They All Died. It is as a reluctant survivor that da Silva resolves to tell his story, not for himself, but in a spirit of remembrance and testimony for the comrades who have perished. By recalling his friends and their personal attributes, da Silva affirms that any one of them could also have told the story, outlining the quality of the community he has known and the tragedy of its members’ deaths at the hands of the penal regime. The opening of the text gives a sense of the skills that allowed da Silva to become a leader in prison. He is a master communicator, often condensing his critique into pithy, ironic dictums. Da Silva had an impoverished childhood. Shunted between his separated parents and grandparents, his most vivid early memory is when the police arrived to take him from his mother and return him to his father’s house.22 This violent state intervention into his intimate life was a grim foreshadowing of what is to come. When he first enters prison as a teenager after a robbery in the early 1960s, he discovers that there are elements in the population who remember and are still influenced by the political prisoners of the Estado Novo. Incarcerated members of the opposition group the Aliança Nacional Libertadora (National Liberation Alliance) had left behind them ‘presos comuns politizados, questionadores das causas da delinquência e conhecedores dos ideais do socialismo’ (politicized common prisoners who question the causes of crime and know about socialist ideas) who maintain small libraries and talk of revolution.23 The influx of new political prisoners after the 1964 coup is friendly with the common prisoners. Da Silva is given Os sertões (Rebellion in the Backlands) by Euclides da Cunha and gets involved with poetry and theatre groups. He is freed but rearrested and sentenced to another six years for robbery. As the dictatorship continues, increasing numbers of political prisoners enter the prisons, bringing with them texts by the likes of Regis Debray and Che Guevara.24 In 1969, after one of guerrilla groups aids in a mass breakout, the political prisoners are separated and sent to the feared prison of Cândido Mendes on Ilha Grande, an island just off the coast between Rio and São Paulo. Da Silva remains but gets in trouble for the inflammatory content of a newspaper he is involved

Ibid., 28.

22

Ibid., 36.

23

Ibid., 38.

24

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in publishing. He too is sent to the island, where according to an old saying ‘o filho chora e a mãe não vê’ (sons weep and mothers look away).25 Conditions are terrible. Da Silva is placed in a cell made for five but occupied by thirty men, the guards (most of whom are sent to work on the island as a punishment) are particularly corrupt and the stronger prisoners routinely sexually abuse the weaker.26 After eight months da Silva is freed and returns to the street. His time inside has not convinced him of the value of participating in the tedious work of legal, capitalist labour: ‘A prisão me profissionalizara no crime. Com quase trinta anos de vida e mais de dez na cadeia, não via como voltar atrás.’ (Prison had professionalized me in crime. At thirty years of age having spent over ten inside, I could see no way of going back.)27 Instead he returns to stealing and mugging. He is soon arrested again but sent to the Departamento de Operações de Informações – Centro de Operações de Defesa Interna (DOI-CODI), the intelligence agency notorious for torturing suspected political prisoners. In an episode which Penglase identifies as a ‘perfect example’ of what Michael Taussig called the ‘mimesis of violence’ – in which repressive powers ‘produce’ their imagined enemies – da Silva is tortured for four days before confessing that he belongs to the ‘organização de fumaça’ (the organization of pot smokers).28 Soon he is back on Ilha Grande. This time he is placed with political prisoners in the Galeria B, a section of Cândido Mendes reserved for prisoners being held under the Lei de Segurança Nacional (Law of National Security – LSN). The LSN was a repressive law implemented by the military government in order to suppress the dissident political groups, some of whom financed their activities with bank robbing. It meant that the state was able to prosecute them along with traditional robbers like da Silva and conceal the numbers of political prisoners. The Galeria B contains members of organizations, including the Aliança Libertadora Nacional, the Movimento Revolucionário 8 de Outubro (8th of October Revolutionary Movement), the Vanguarda Popular Revolucionária (Popular Revolutionary Vanguard), the Vanguarda Armada Revolucionária Palmares (Palmares Revolutionary Armed Vanguard), the Ação Popular (Popular Action) and the Partido Comunista do Brasil (Communist Party of Brazil).29 During this crucial time in the formation of what would become the Comando Vermelho, there are about thirty political prisoners and ninety ‘comuns’. Among the latter is a man who becomes a close friend of da Silva,

Ibid., 39.

25

Ibid., 34.

26

Ibid., 47.

27

Penglase, ‘Bastard Child’, 125–126.

28

Amorim, Comando Vermelho, 20.

29

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Nelson Nogueira dos Santos, a fiercely intelligent autodidact who loves reading and classical music. A natural leader, he does consciousness raising work and dreams of uniting all prisoners against their true common enemy.30 There was some cooperation between both groups, although the political prisoners were keen to maintain their identity as political prisoners and distinguish themselves from the ‘comuns’. Because of the law under which they were held, they were collectively termed the ‘Leis de Segurança Nacional’ (National Security Laws or LSN) but they soon became also known simply as ‘a Falange LSN’ (the LSN Gang), ‘o Fundão’ (the Foundation) or simply ‘o coletivo’ (the collective). As da Silva puts it, the ambiguity around those defined by the term became their ‘trademark’.31 According to political prisoner José Carlos Tórtima, the political prisoners had nothing to do with the formation of the gang. He does, however, describe how some of the non-political prisoners agreed to abide by the code of conduct developed among the political prisoners and even joined them in a hunger strike.32 For his part, da Silva laments the extent to which the political prisoners want to separate themselves, contrasting it with the behaviour of earlier groups: ‘eles não se misturavam, rompendo assim, talvez sem saber, uma velha tradição das cadeias, em que revolucionários e presos comuns, ao compartilharem o mesmo chão e o mesmo pão, cresciam juntos num mesmo ideal.’ (They didn’t mix with us, thereby breaking, unwittingly perhaps, with the old prison tradition in which revolutionaries and common prisoners slept on the same floor, broke the same bread and grew together in the same ideals.)33 Contrary to the idea that common prisoners were taught by the political prisoners, according to da Silva it was the determination of the latter to separate themselves from the former that led to the formation of the Comando Vermelho. Tinham suas razões, mas não éramos obrigados a aceitá-las. Para esvaziar a luta pela anistia, a ditadura negava a existência de presos políticos no país. Nesse contexto, interessados em garantir sua visibilidade para a opinião pública nacional e internacional, os membros das organizações armadas dos anos 70 lutavam para isolar-se da massa, comportamento considerado elitista por nós. Seu discurso era coerente, mas frágil: a existência ou não de presos políticos no Brasil não seria uma questão decidida pelo fato de eles estarem isolados, mas pela força do movimento de oposição à ditadura. O desejo de isolamento indicava, entre eles, a hegemonia da classe média, cujos espaços de reintegração

Silva Lima, Quatrocentos, 56.

30

Ibid., 55.

31

Amorim, Comando Vermelho, 36–37.

32

Silva Lima, Quatrocentos, 57.

33

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no sistema voltavam a se abrir, no contexto da política de distensão do regime. Nós não tínhamos essa perspectiva, nem nos seria dada essa chance. Nosso caminho só podia ser o oposto: a integração na massa carcerária e a luta pela liberdade, contando com nossos próprios meios. They had their reasons but we were not obliged to accept them. In order to undermine the struggle for amnesty, the dictatorship denied the existence of political prisoners in the country. In this context, interested in guaranteeing their visibility in national and international public opinion, the members of the armed groups of the 1970s fought to isolate themselves from the masses, a behaviour we considered elitist. Their discourse was coherent but fragile: the existence or otherwise of political prisoners in Brazil was not going to be a question decided by whether or not they were isolated, but by the strength of the opposition to the dictatorship. The desire for isolation indicated the hegemony of the middle classes amongst them, whose spaces of reintegration into the system were reopening in the context of the regime’s decline. We did not share this perspective and we would not be given that chance. Our path could only be the opposite of theirs: to integrate with the imprisoned masses and to struggle for freedom, counting only on ourselves. In the terms used by Daniel Roux to describe the situation of political prisoners in Apartheid South Africa, the political identity of the militants depends on ‘the exclusion of the common law prisoners, who are incessantly placed outside the ambit of solidarity and the political’.34 The latter are highly conscious of the contradiction: ‘“Existem trinta presos políticos na Ilha Grande”, escreviam em seus documentos. “Somos noventa presos proletários”, respondíamos, com uma ponta de mágoa e provocação.’35 (“There are thirty political prisoners on Ilha Grande”, they wrote in their documents “We are the ninety proletarian prisoners” we responded, with bitter provocation.) With this scathing formulation, da Silva marks a moment which can, in retrospect, be read as a key turning point in the political and power dynamics of post-dictatorship Brazil. It is the moment the middle-class left chose to save itself even if this meant consigning the others to the fate of ‘bare life’ – to be killed or die without redress. By da Silva’s account, this left him and his companions with fewer options. Faced with the hypocritical abandonment of the revolutionaries, da Silva and Nelson take steps to consolidate a community of ‘proletarian prisoners’ by addressing their individualism. Members of the collective held frequent meetings in which they discuss internal and more general problems and have collective readings in which they read Leo Huberman’s Man’s Worldly

Roux, ‘Writing the Prison’, 559.

34

Silva Lima, Quatrocentos, 59.

35

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Goods and Wilfred Burchett’s Vietnam: The Inside Story of a Guerrilla War.36 They develop a code of behaviour with simple rules: no member was to steal from other members, sexual assault is prohibited, and conflicts from the street must remain outside the prison. Violence against the guards is also forbidden, except in the case of escape.37 The first task of the organization, now referred to as o Fundão (the Foundation), was to spread its influence within Cândido Mendes. It produced a series of demands, including an end to punishment beatings by guards, freedom of movement during the day, an end to abuse of visitors, and for them to be permitted to stay on the island for the night.38 Its greatest initial achievement, the ‘verdadeira revolução na cadeia’ (true revolution in the prison), was the successful prohibition of prisoner-on-prisoner violence.39 In a recent interview da Silva told reporter Ioan Grillo that he was also proud of the method they developed for resisting violence from the guards. If a prisoner were being beaten, others would pile on top of him to protect him. The practice reminds Grillo of the fasces – the bundle of thin sticks which, bound together, becomes strong – the symbol that gave its name to fascism.40 As the regime begins to weaken, da Silva sees that the gulf between the two sides will mean the difference between life and death. Despite the fact that they have been convicted for the same crimes under the same law, ‘aos presos políticos foi dada anistia, enquanto nós fomos lentamente aniquilados’ (the political prisoners were given amnesty while we were slowly annihilated).41 In order to survive, the Foundation turns to lethal violence itself. A member of the collective assaults another member, breaking the pact of non-violence. Suspecting he is working with a rival gang, the Foundation decides to execute him: ‘Quem, diante de nós, quissesse manter os velhos hábitos das cadeias – estuprando, assaltando e matando – , que se preparasse para enfrentar conseqüências.’ (Whoever wanted to continue with the old habits of prison – raping, robbing and killing – had to be prepared to face consequences.)42 Da Silva feels that the group had no choice, ‘Ao contrario dos poderes constituídos não teríamos autoridade para executar qualquer outra pena ou castigo. Que fazer?’ (In contrast to the constituted powers

Ibid., 57.

36

Ibid., 60.

37

Amorim, Comando Vermelho, 40.

38

Silva Lima, Quatrocentos, 60.

39

Ioan Grillo, Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), e-book, chapter 10. 40

Silva Lima, Quatrocentos, 69.

41

Ibid., 70.

42

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we had no authority to administer any other punishment. What to do?)43 We can speculate about whether there might have been other sanctions and punishments, corporal or otherwise, that an organized group of people can impose on an individual without killing them. What the Foundation seems to recognize is that killing is the surest route towards power. In retrospect the execution is the foundational violence of the gang itself, a demonstration of the ‘power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die’ – in other words, its claim to (necropolitical) sovereignty.44 The killing also attracts press attention and leads to further conflict with the authorities, now armed with proof of the difference between political and criminal prisoners. They decide to disperse the leaders of the Foundation and da Silva, Nelson and others are sent to an even harsher prison back on the mainland, Água Santa, where they are held underground in horrendous conditions. Despite their own lethal behaviour, the Foundation took the defence of other prisoners extremely seriously. When a prisoner kills his cellmate over a piece of bread and the authorities do nothing, Nelson begins a hunger strike.45 As da Silva observes, a hunger strike by a ‘common prisoner’ is very different to those carried out by the political prisoners; despite being joined by other members of the Foundation, Nelson receives no support from outside. Confirming his position as homo sacer, authorities react by withholding salt and sugar. After forty-three days Nelson dies. He is as da Silva puts it, ‘o primeiro homem a morrer em greve de fome no Brasil, na defensa de seus direitos e dos direitos dos demais prisioneiros’ (the first man in Brazil to die in a hunger strike in defence of his rights and in defence of other prisoners).46 Drawing on Foucault’s definition of the ‘biopower’ of the modern state as the right to ‘make live and let die’, Patrick Anderson addresses the relation between hunger striking political prisoners and the state. He proposes that it is ‘precisely through the refusal to recognize the power of hunger striking that the state produces its own power, not in taking the lives of marginalized subjects, but paradoxically in enforcing their continued survival’.47 By this logic, the Brazilian state’s indifference to Nelson’s protest indicates the weakness of its power – a weakness that will be confirmed by the rise of the Comando Vermelho. For da Silva, however, Nelson dies a martyr’s death for the prisoner class. To recall Mbembe, ‘the martyr … can be seen as labouring

Ibid., 69.

43

Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, 11.

44

Silva Lima, Quatrocentos, 74.

45

Ibid., 75.

46

Patrick Anderson, So Much Wasted: Hunger, Performance, and the Morbidity of Resistance (Durham: Duke, 2010), 26. 47

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under the sign of the future. In death the future is collapsed into the present.’48 In the short term, Nelson’s martyrdom causes an inspection of Água Santa after which da Silva is transferred out. In the longer term it indicates that the only way forward for the Foundation will be necropolitical. After several further moves and escape attempts, da Silva is sent back to Ilha Grande, where the Foundation is now at war with rival gangs. More killings and more dispersals spread the practices of the Foundation throughout the penal system.49 On Ilha Grande they organize a cooperative to improve conditions by helping the poorest prisoners with food and basic necessities. Fearful of the collective reaction, the guards become more respectful, and in 1979 the regime even accedes to the long-held aim to allow visitors to spend the night.50 The stability provided by the Foundation allows members to concentrate on the true goal: ‘Não se pode falar em tomada geral de consciência política, mas houve organização, ajuda mútua, respeito pelos direitos humanos. Pudemos então permanecer concentrados em nosso ideal: ir embora.’51 (You couldn’t really speak of a generalized political awakening, but there was organization, mutual aid, respect for human rights. We could now concentrate on our ideal: getting out.) In 1980, this is precisely what da Silva achieved. Delighted to be on the street again, he and other members send what they can back to the Foundation. He denounces as fantasies the press stories that claim that all former members of the group were obliged to send a percentage of their earnings to finance further escapes.52 Another press fantasy arises which comes in the form of the moniker which defined the group: the Comando Vermelho. The name originates, according to da Silva, in a report by the director of the prison on Ilha Grande.53 As da Silva notes, the language was not chosen by accident; the ‘Red Command’ is a military term directly evoking the communist threat of the weakened urban guerrilla groups. Although the military regime was officially ceding power, he wryly observes that it left in its wake a repressive apparatus designed to combat them: ‘Coincidência ou não, vivera-se o ocaso da guerrilha urbana, fenômeno que deixara na orfandade um aparato repressivo ainda cheio de vigor, desejoso de exibições de força e utilidade.’ (Coincidentally or not, the urban guerrilla was in decline, leaving behind it an orphaned repressive apparatus still full of vigour and desperate to demonstrate its strength and purpose.)54

Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, 37.

48

Silva Lima, Quatrocentos, 88.

49

Ibid., 92.

50

Ibid.

51

Ibid., 94.

52

Ibid., 95.

53

Ibid., 96.

54

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But in one of the most frequently quoted lines from his text, da Silva predicts defiantly that it will be impossible to get rid of the Comando Vermelho: O que eles chamavam de Comando Vermelho não poderia ser destruído facilmente: não era uma organização, mas, antes de tudo, um comportamento, uma forma de sobreviver na adversidade. O que nos mantinha vivos e unidos não era nem uma hierarquia, nem uma estrutura material, mas sim a afetividade que desenvolvemos uns com os outros nos períodos mais duros das nossas vidas.55 What they called the Red Command could not easily be destroyed: it was not an organization but rather, above all, a behaviour, a way of surviving in adversity. The thing that kept us alive was not a hierarchy or a material structure, but rather that affection that bound us together in the hardest periods of our lives. In describing the group in terms of intangible bonds, da Silva invokes the revolutionary power of solidarity and affinity forged in struggle. The Comando Vermelho is positioned as growing organically from the oppressed prisoner class. Soon every bank robbery in Rio is attributed to the Comando Vermelho by the press; the police bolster their reputation by claiming all their arrestees are members and arrestees themselves claim affiliation in order to gain protection while incarcerated. Many of the free leaders of the group hide out in favelas, but da Silva ventures into the city centre, is recognized and captured once more. Shortly after this, in the episode which gives the text its name, another fugitive member, Zé Saldanha, gets into a televized shootout with the police. He manages to hold out for eight and a half hours against 400 state agents, increasing the mythological status of the Comando still further. Before long it is the dominant criminal organization in Rio de Janeiro. Because he wrote the first edition when he was living in hiding, da Silva’s narrative shifts its focus away from the history of the organization towards more personal matters. As it spread its influence into the favelas and moved beyond bank robbing and into drug trafficking, it controlled and ‘protected’ swathes of marginal Rio de Janeiro. It never became a conventional gang, operating rather as a loose network, a ‘group of friends’ who supported each other in struggles against police and rival gangs, often defined, as it was in its early days, more by its common enemies than by centralized command structure. Penglase finds that favela residents identified the Comando as representing a ‘way of thinking and acting’

Ibid.

55

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and argues that the group’s behaviour outside can only be understood in the context of its prison origins.56 Some of these principles which have survived include the method of operating in a loose network of interlinked cells and working with each other most closely when it came to fighting common enemies in the form of the police or the rivals gangs the Amigos dos Amigos and the Terceiro Comando Puro.57 Perhaps its most significant progeny was the Primeiro Comando do Capital (First Command of the Capital or PCC), the São Paulo-based prison gang that was initially formed in reaction to the massacre of over 100 prisoners in Carandiru in 1992.58 Inspired and supported by the Comando Vermelho, it has now spread through hundreds of prisons in Brazil, eclipsing the Comando Vermelho in power and influence.59 It is tempting to compare the fate of the Comando Vermelho with that of revolutionary groups that were present at its genesis. Da Silva did precisely this when he was arrested in 1991. In a recorded statement to police, he stated that ‘comprovamos, sem soberba, que conseguimos aquilo que a guerrilha não conseguiu, o apoio da população carente’ (we modestly confirm, that we gained what the guerrilla did not, the support of the poor).60 Lucia Murat’s feature film Quase dois irmãos (Almost Two Brothers) (Rio de Janeiro, 2004) is, as the title suggests, premised on the idea of the political left and the Comando Vermelho developing along parallel paths.61 It tells a fictionalized version of the story through the lives of two men, one poor and black, the other rich and white, who know each other as children, meet in prison as a political prisoner and ‘preso comun’, form an alliance and go on to wield power of different kinds, one as an elected politician and the other from behind bars as a gang leader. Murat’s film portrays both sides compromising their principles as they ‘became the state’, to recall John Beverley’s phrase. There are certainly ways in which operation of the Comando Vermelho calls to mind Charles Tilly’s classic essay on the formation of the modern state as a form of organized crime. It conquers territory, neutralizes internal and external threats to its ability to monopolize violence, provides

Penglase, ‘Bastard Child’, 123.

56

Geoffrey Ramsey, ‘Pure Third Command’, InSight Crime, 02 2014, accessed 11 June 2015, http://www.insightcrime.org/brazil-organized-crime-news/pure-third-command. 57

Graham Denyer Willis, The Killing Consensus: Police, Organized Crime, and the Regulation of Life and Death in Urban Brazil (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015), 36. 58

By 2017 the two factions were at war with each other. ‘Contexto: facções foram aliadas no crime por 20 anos’, O Globo, 11 January 2017, https://oglobo.globo.com/brasil/contexto​ -faccoes-foram-aliadas-no-crime-por-20-anos-20756457. 59

Amorim, Comando Vermelho, 130.

60

Lúcia Murat, Quase Dois Irmãos (Almost Brothers), Drama (São Paulo: Elo, 2004).

61

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‘protection’ to its clients and extracts resources from those same clients in order to facilitate other activities.62 This recalls closely the activities of the Foundation in Cândido Mendes when it fought for stability in the late 1970s, although da Silva claims there was also an ideological dimension. Stability was ‘a condição para que construíssemos uma identidade’ (the condition on which we could construct an identity).63 This identity was defined by loyalty, discipline, obedience and a commitment to struggle but was afforded by their monopoly on violence. There is a sense in which da Silva’s account also witnesses the return of the disciplinary prison (this is what he mourns in his opening epigraph, after all). His ‘true revolution’ was the ‘change in behaviour’ defined by bodily discipline. Da Silva is reticent about the idea of a growing political consciousness in terms directly comparable to those of the militants but it is clear that what the Foundation achieved was, to recall Foucault’s phrase, an ‘altering [of] minds’.64 Collective action and bodily discipline are the vehicles for the transformation of the dead, wasted time of the prison, spent in fruitless conflict with other prisoners or authorities, into the productive – political – time focused on gaining liberty. But despite or rather because of their extraordinary effectiveness as prisoner defence organization, the Comando maintained a symbiotic dependency on the system that it was founded to escape from. In Quatrocentos da Silva predicts how this symbiosis would only grow stronger the more repressive the state became. The Comando arose because of the continuity between the dictatorship and the neoliberal democratic state that succeeded it because for those in da Silva’s position there was no difference. Neoliberal Brazil is in Wacquant’s phrase, a ‘dictatorship over the poor’.65 Reading da Silva forces us to consider the possibility that organized crime is a response to the redirection of the violence of dictatorship towards the poor. It is, by this account, an answer to their exclusion from the ‘we’ of the political prisoners. While da Silva makes a case for a nuanced, political understanding of the relationship between imprisonment and a trafficking gang, the text addressed in the next section shows how prison writing can have profoundly depoliticizing effects. Marching Powder paints a picture of a carceral context deeply penetrated by a free market which acts to distort and obscure the realities of imprisonment.

Charles Tilly, ‘War Making and State Making as Organized Crime’, in Bringing the State Back In, ed. Peter Evans, Dieter Rueschemeyer, and Theda Scocpol (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 171. 62

Silva Lima, Quatrocentos, 63.

63

Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 125.

64

Wacquant, ‘Toward a Dictatorship over the Poor?’

65

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A neoliberal synecdoche Da Silva’s perspective on the re-targeting of the repressive institutions of the dictatorships towards the poor recalls Loïc Wacquant’s argument that in fact neoliberalism involves not the overall shrinkage of the state, but rather the withering of what Bourdieu (1999) calls its ‘left hand’ (the welfare state) and the expansion of its ‘right’ (the penal state).66 Through this formula Wacquant links the War on Drugs and the rise of neoliberalism – an ideology which paradoxically defends minimal state intervention in some areas of life while overseeing an unprecedentedly large increase in incarceration. In the United States, a country which Wacquant calls the ‘living laboratory of the neoliberal future’, the growth in privately run prisons goes some way towards explaining neoliberalism’s favouring of the expanded ‘right hand’ of the state.67 In general most Latin American states have not followed the United States (and the United Kingdom) in formally privatizing the penal system. The reasons are numerous, but as I have suggested elsewhere this is less likely to be because too many people of influence are already privately profiting informally from the functioning of prisons that are officially run by the state.68 In Bolivia the penal landscape has been heavily marked by US prescriptions under the infamous Ley 1008 (Law 1008), enacted in 1988 by the government of Jaime Paz Zamora, under intense pressure from the Reagan administration.69 Like similar laws across other ‘major’ drug producing countries including Bolivia, Brazil Peru, Colombia and Mexico,70 the law makes US aid payments to Bolivia dependent on a ‘certification procedure’ which requires that the president of the United States certify by 1st March every year that countries involved are ‘fully cooperating with US antinarcotic policy’ by demonstrating a commitment to filling its quotas.71 The law has been criticized for being unconstitutional, a violation of international law, for discriminating against the poor and for threatening the national

Wacquant, Punishing the Poor, 6. Of course the small state aspect to neoliberal ideology has often acted as a smokescreen for its true function: to facilitate the transfer of economic power into the hands of private and often internationally controlled business interests. 66

Ibid., 63.

67

Joey Whitfield, ‘Other Neoliberal Penalities: Marching Powder and Prison Tourism in La Paz’, Theoretical Criminology 20, no. 3 (August 2016): 358–375. 68

Santos, ‘Unintended Consequences’, 134.

69

Bureau of Public Affairs, Department of State. The Office of Electronic Information, ‘Annual Presidential Determinations of Major Illicit Drug-Producing and Drug-Transit Countries’, accessed 4 September 2017, https://2001-2009.state.gov/p/inl/rls/prsrl/ps/17092.htm. 70

Ibid., 132.

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sovereignty of Bolivia and its cultural traditions.72 According to the law, anyone accused of offences relating to involvement in the cocaine industry is immediately incarcerated. Even the most minor drug-related charges carry mandatory prison sentences and suspects are required to remain incarcerated throughout a judicial process that in practice takes three to four years to reach a sentence. That is to say, suspects are not being held because they had been convicted of drug-related crimes, but only to satisfy the demands of the quotas.73 Rather than tackling large-scale traffickers, Law 1008 provides the semblance of combating drug trafficking while all it achieves in reality is punishment of the poor.74 This is the context that gives rise to Marching Powder: a True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail, a memoir by English cocaine smuggler Thomas McFadden and Australian backpacker Rusty Young. McFadden spent four years and eight months in the prison of San Pedro between 1996 and 2000. Once known as ‘el Panóptico de La Paz’, the institution occupies a large city block five minutes’ walk from the Calle Tarija, where a cluster of bars and hostels cater to the backpacker market.75 McFadden became famous for organizing tours of San Pedro for foreign travellers who paid bribes and a fee to gain access and be shown around by prisoners. The tours became so popular that they were listed in the Lonely Planet Guide to Bolivia, which described San Pedro as ‘one of the world’s most bizarre visitor attractions’.76 Young met McFadden on one of the tours and was so entranced by his charisma and personality that he contrived to stay in the prison with him and write down his story. Marching Powder is narrated in the first person in simple, conversational prose, in the manner of a testimonio. The narrative unfolds in fifty-one short, episodic chapters, some dealing chronologically with specific events and anecdotes from Thomas’s ordeal, others simply describing an aspect of life in San Pedro, from horrible violence to the minutiae of the economic system. The narrative tension relies largely on the content and as Young puts it, ‘the types of true stories that are so bizarre they seem like fiction’.77 The reasons why San Pedro is ‘as strange as fiction’ are revealed to readers gradually. The state maintains only a minimal presence at the gates of the prison and everything inside operates through informal markets.

Ibid., 136.

72

Ibid., 137.

73

Despite promises to do so, Morales did not significantly reform Ley 1008.

74

For a history of San Pedro see Eugenia Bridikhina, Orígenes penitenciarios en Bolivia: Historia de la fundación de la cárcel de San Pedro (La Paz: Ministerio de Gobierno, 1997). 75

Deanna Swaney, Bolivia, 4th ed. (Melbourne: Lonely Planet, 2001), 159.

76

Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden, Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail (London: Pan, 2003), 12. 77

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Thomas states that ‘the way things worked in San Pedro was extraordinary. Everything was about money. And I mean everything.’78 On arrival, he is surprised to discover that he has to pay an entry fee, el ingreso, to the police who guard the prison. Inside San Pedro is a complex and highly stratified society in which prisoners are not assigned a cell, but rather must purchase one from another prisoner. A small minority of rich inmates, such as highprofile former politicians and drug lords, live in luxurious apartments in the ‘five-star’ section of the prison, but there are also four-, three-, two-, oneand even zero-star sections. Life inside San Pedro is regulated by a form of prisoner-organized direct democracy. Each ‘section’ is presided over by a committee of elected prisoners who administer the budget of the section and decide who can be admitted as a member. On joining, each new member must pay a fee to the committee and may then proceed to buy a cell if he can afford it, and cell prices fluctuate widely according to supply and demand. Many prisoners’ families live with them inside the complex, with children and other residents who have not been charged with crimes allowed to leave during the day. Prisoners are not provided with food, but may buy it from the shops and restaurants, all of which are run by other prisoners and are open to members of the La Paz public, who visit in order to take advantage of the cheap food prices. If prisoners fall sick, they may pay to visit the prison doctor – himself a prisoner – who might prescribe them medicines from the pharmacy, also run by prisoners. In order to survive in San Pedro, everyone must have an income and, as in the Bolivian economy outside, the most lucrative is the cocaine trade.79 According to Marching Powder, many prisoners work in cocaine factories located in the lowergrade sections. Thomas explains to the tourists that the purest cocaine in Bolivia is manufactured inside San Pedro, before persuading them to buy some from him. As Thomas’s friend ‘Ricardo’ explains to him, ‘San Pedro prison, apart from being a social microcosm, is also a micro-economy that operates under basic capitalist principles. In fact, it’s probably more efficient than the whole Bolivian national economy.’80 The markets are regulated by a rough coalition of the prison authorities and the institutional forms of prisonerorganized direct democracy. The apparently relatively peaceful functioning of the market in San Pedro as described in Marching Powder has led to two academic articles that use it as a major source in arguments lauding

Ibid., 81. Emphasis in original.

78

Depending on the source, in the 1990s cocaine and associated products were estimated to account for between a third and three quarters of Bolivian GDP. Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, ‘“Coca Is Everything Here”: Hard Truths about Bolivia’s Drug War’, World Policy Journal 22, no. 3 (1 October 2005): 108. 79

Young and McFadden, Marching Powder, 107.

80

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the prison as a positive example of free market economics. David Skarbek reads it as an example of the success of Nozickian (right wing) ‘anarchy’ while Crystal Downing finds that the economic system fosters rehabilitation through ‘necessity based entrepreneurship’.81 The commercial appeal of the spectacle has not gone unnoticed internationally. The film rights to McFadden’s story were bought by Brad Pitt’s production company, which contracted Brazilian director José Padilha as director and Don Cheadle was lined up to star as Thomas (although he was reportedly replaced by Chiwetel Ejiofor).82 The appeal of Marching Powder to readers (academic and otherwise) relies on its truth claim. Like a capitalist iteration of the classic ‘subaltern’ testimonios whose veracity was the key to their function as ‘social action’, Marching Powder relies for its commercial impact on a claim to extra-literary authenticity and an alleged ability to provide access to a ‘truth’ inaccessible to traditional literature. But the main material effect of the book – the ‘social action’ it spurred – was the tours which continued in the decades after McFadden’s release, thanks in no small part to the commercial success of the book. These tours promise to provide tourists with an authentic experience and are analogous to the act of reading the text itself but both the tours and the book present an image which is horribly distorted. In her ethnography of San Pedro, Francesca Cerbini describes how, at their height, the tours included staged fights: En los períodos de mayor afluencia el precio subía y los reclusos escenificaban peleas por cuchillos, se hacían cortes en el cuerpo y fumaban crack para ofrecer un espectáculo más ‘atractivo’ y más afín a las expectativas de los visitantes, que ansiaban chocarse a cada vuelta de esquina con peligrosos asesinos y famosos narcotraficantes, transformando así el presidio en un safari. Estas imágenes artificiales tomadas del imaginario esterotipado de las películas se confundían con la realidad de este penitenciaria, saturada de campesinos, emigrantes y trabajadores ‘ocasionales’ cuya economía depauperada les había trasformado en mano de obra barata para el narcotráfico. Y al final, una vez satisfecho del deseo de aventura dentro de la más remota y oscura de las instituciones estatales, estos turistas terminaban el recorrido apartando la mirada, entre sonrisas piadosas y limosnas regaladas a los presos en peores condiciones.83

David Skarbek, ‘Self-Governance in San Pedro Prison’, The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy 14, no. 4 (2010): 569–585; Cristal Downing, ‘Bolivian Prison Entrepreneurship: An Unexpectedly Successful Rehabilitation Method?’ Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy 6, no. 4 (12 October 2012): 339–349. 81

BBC, ‘Chiwetel Ejiofor Set for Drug Dealer Role’, BBC News Online, 2014, http://www.bbc .co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-27761786. 82

Cerbini, La casa de jabón, 18.

83

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In the periods of greatest affluence the price rose and the imprisoned men staged knife fights. They turned the prison into a safari, cutting their own bodies and smoking crack in order to offer a more ‘attractive’ spectacle, closer to the expectations of visitors eager to find dangerous murderers and famous drug traffickers round ever corner. These artificial images, taken from the stereotyped imaginary of cinema, became confused with the reality of the prison, full of peasants, emigrants and ‘casual’ workers whose impoverished economic circumstances had transformed them into cheap labour for drug traffickers. And at the end, their desire for an adventure in that most remote and obscure of state institutions satisfied, these tourists end their tours with pious smiles and offerings to the prisoners in the worst conditions. The tourist gaze warps the conditions within San Pedro to the point that prisoners were mutilating themselves in order to satisfy a perceived demand. When I was in La Paz in 2011, I heard that work on the film version of the story had stalled after researchers realized that one of the truth-claims upon which the text is predicated may not in fact have been true. While it is, of course, highly possible that some processing of cocaine was taking place within San Pedro, it is highly unlikely that the entire production process, which requires enormous amounts of bulky coca leaves to make relatively tiny quantities of the final product, could take place within its walls. Rather, the claim of the unique purity of San Pedro’s cocaine is identical to that made by any dealer in the world: that their product is of uniquely high quality. Marching Powder is just one example of a whole genre of prison memoirs by drug smugglers from the Global North who have ended up in prison in the Global South. The Cocaine Diaries: A Venezuelan Prison Nightmare, by Jeff Farrell and Paul Keany (2012), is another instance of a Banged Up Abroad type text, originating in Venezuela.84 Keany’s story, even more so than Marching Powder, presents itself as a text with a social conscience which aims

The popularity of sensationalist documentary shows such as National Geographic Channel’s Banged Up Abroad, in which every episode features a Westerner who has ended up imprisoned in a non-Western country, attests to the assimilability of ‘exotic’ penal contexts in the Global South to spectacular commodification by the North. In that programme, the dramatic tension relies on the difference between the subject and the context in which they find themselves. Texts of a similar nature are also popular. A sub-genre of prison memoir consists of sensationalist prison stories that have in common the theme of a naive Westerner being thrown into a shocking Third World prison and having to learn to survive. Examples of this genre include Warren Fellow’s The Damage Done: Twelve Years of Hell in a Bangkok Prison (1999), James Miles and Paul Loseby’s Banged Up Abroad: Hellhole: Our Fight to Survive South America’s Deadliest Jail (2012), or Christopher Parnell’s Hell’s Prisoner: The Shocking True Story of an Innocent Man Jailed for Eleven Years in Indonesia’s Most Notorious Prisons (2003), to name other recent examples. 84

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to have concrete impact: ‘I’m writing this story because I have to. It helps me deal with my demons. [I]f it stops just one person from doing what I did, it will be worth it.’85 These high-minded intentions are slightly undermined by the blurb, which promises ‘an unforgettable cocktail of drugs, riots, rapes, beatings, murders and kidnapping’. ‘Touristic’ testimonios like Marching Powder not only have the effect of entrenching neo-colonial hierarchies but also, by presenting Bolivian prisons as ‘extreme’ and unjust examples, have the effect of normalizing penal regimes in Global North by creating an ‘unrecognizable’ penal construct.86

Out from the shadows There is another kind of prison writing to be found across Latin America that can best be described as the literature of solidarity. It is not widely distributed but is to be found on the shelves of the NGOs, church organizations and academic institutions that help to produce it. It comprises collectively produced volumes composed of short, sometimes fragmentary texts of different genres by diverse groups of prisoners. Like the classic texts of testimonio, these volumes tell the stories of people who would never have been able to publish without support. Often the process of production is itself a form of activism: these texts are written and published with the aim of influencing local conditions through both the content and the practice of writing. There are many examples, but I concentrate here on two from Mexico produced by one of the most impressive solidarity organizations I have come across, the Colectiva Editorial Hermanas en la Sombra.87 The collective grew out of a collaboration between activists and women imprisoned in the CERESO of Atlacholoaya in the southern state of Morelos, an institution actually considered to be a ‘model’ prison because of its infrastructure and facilities.88 The group originated in 2007 when the poet, editor and prison activist Elena de Hoyos ran a literacy workshop called ‘Mujer, escribir cambia tu vida’ (Woman, writing changes your life). The workshop was for imprisoned literate women who were interested in

Jeff Farrell and Paul Keany, The Cocaine Diaries: A Venezuelan Prison Nightmare (London: Mainstream, 2013), 19. 85

Whitfield, ‘Other’, 371.

86

Examples from other countries include Teresa Moya Suta and Sandra Patricia Lizarazo Medina, Fugas de tinta: Crónicas, cuentos y relatos escritos desde la cárcel (Bogotá: Roca, 2009); Theo Roncken, Gloria Rose Marie de Acha, and Freddy Arce Balcazar, Desde la cárcel (Cochabamba: CEDIB, 1996); Edgardo Lozano Lozano, Luz de libertad (Lima: Centro de Estudios Literarios Antonio Cornejo Polar, 2002). 87

Hernández, ‘¿Del estado multicultural?’, 314.

88

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literary writing.89 Legal anthropologist and activist Aída Hernández Castillo, who had visited the prison to support political activists, suggested designing a second workshop to involve some of the imprisoned indigenous women, many of whom were illiterate, and in some cases spoke limited Spanish. In the resulting workshop, named Historias de vida (Life Stories), writers from the first workshop acted as the interviewers and scribes. The resulting narratives were published as Bajo la sombra del Guamúchil: historias de vida de mujeres indígenas y campesinas en prisión90 (In the Shadow of the Guamúchil Tree: Life Stories of Indigenous and Peasant Women in Prison), named after the only tree in the prison yard, under which the indigenous women sit and sew. Following the success of Bajo la sombra, the editorial collective was formed. It included three non-imprisoned members: de Hoyos, Hernández and the publisher, activist and performance artist Marina Ruiz. A decade later, they have produced a substantial body of works including Mareas Cautivas (Captive Tides, 2012), a diverse collection of life stories, poetry and reflections; Bitácora del destierro (Compass of Exile, 2013), short narratives about different aspects of imprisonment; Divinas ausentes (Divine Absences, 2013), a collection of poetry; Libertad anticipada (Anticipated Liberty, 2013), three long essays by de Hoyos, Hernández and Ruiz. Other volumes such as Fragmentos de mujer (Fragments of woman) were created in the prison using artisanal techniques and involving many more participants. The collective has also produced three films, two documentaries Bajo la sombra del Guamúchil and the Ariel-nominated Semillas de Guamúchil ahora en libertad (Guamúchil Seeds, in Liberty Now, 2016), and the animated film Amor, nuestra prisión (Love, Our Prison, 2016), the latter two directed by anthropologist and film maker Carolina Corral who has also joined the collective. The group has also made a series of podcasts titled Cantos desde el Guamúchil. Hernández, de Hoyos, Ruiz and Corral of the ‘Grupo de Apoyo’ have also published academic reflections and one formerly imprisoned member, Leonarda Zavaleta, has written an autobiography Sueños de un cisne en el pantano (Dreams of a Swan in the Swamp) (2016), also published by the collective. Taken as a whole, the collective’s publications affirm their political identity as ‘hermanas en resistencia’ (sisters in resistance).91 I focus on Bajo la sombra del Guamúchil Rosalva Aída Hernández, Elena de Hoyos and Marina Ruiz, Libertad Anticipada (Cuernavaca: Astrolabio, 2013), 12. 89

Águila del Mar et al., Bajo la sombra del Guamúchil: historias de vida de mujeres indígenas y campesinas en prisión (México: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social: Grupo Internacional de Trabajo Sobre Asuntos Indígenas, 2010). 90

Marina Ruiz, ‘Hermanas en resistencia: experiencia colectiva de producción editorial’, in Libertad Anticipada, eds. Rosalva Aída Hernández, Elena de Hoyos and Marina Ruiz (Cuernavaca: Astrolabio, 2013), 87. 91

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and Bitácora del destierro, both accounts of how their authors survived repressive juridico-legal regimes and formed collective identities through shared practice and mutual aid. I also draw on the academic writing of the non-imprisoned members of the support group. Eight of the nine chapters in the 2010 edition of Bajo la sombra del guamúchil (a second edition with additional stories was published in 2015) tell the life story of an illiterate imprisoned woman, as disclosed to one of the other members of the collective in semi-structured interviews. Some of the former group, such as Leo Zavaleta, learned to read and write and later modified their own stories.92 There are many patterns that emerge over the course of the stories. Flor, Altagracia, Morelitos, Leo Zavaleta and Lupita are imprisoned for the Orwellian misdemeanour of committing ‘crimenes contra la salud’ (crimes against health), the law that covers drug-related crimes in Mexico. As in Bolivia, Mexico is under pressure to incarcerate certain numbers of people because of the United States’ annual certification procedure, which demands proof of cooperation with anti-drug efforts in the form of statistics on arrests and seizures.93 In spite of the impression given by the media focus on efforts to capture major kingpins, in reality, as in Bolivia, the state has targeted the poor and vulnerable. An illustration of this is the fact that only 10 per cent of convictions for ‘crimes against health’ involve amounts of drugs worth more than $400.94 Hernández questions whether the imprisonment of the women in Bajo la sombra can even be attributed to the minor forms of involvement of which they are accused. Rather she argues that they are vulnerable to imprisonment because they are already affected by the ‘multiple injustices’ of their positions on intersecting hierarchies of age, race, educational level, linguistic ability and, perhaps most pervasively, gender. In her terms, ‘Indigenous women are now hostages of the War on Drugs, while the Mexican government promotes the success of its security policy by incarcerating the most vulnerable social echelons: peasant, poor, and indigenous women.’95 The stories in Bajo la sombra privide ample evidence that police are likely to violently and sexually assault women,96

Hernández, ‘Introducción: Historias de exclusión’, in Águila del Mar et al., Bajo la sombra del Guamúchil: historias de vida de mujeres indígenas y campesinas en prisión (México: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social: Grupo Internacional de Trabajo Sobre Asuntos Indígenas, 2010), 13. 92

Concepción Nuñez, cited in Hernández, ‘¿Del estado multicultural?’, 305.

93

Azoala and Bergman cited in Rosalva Aída Hernández, Multiple Injustices : Indigenous Women, Law, and Political Struggle in Latin America (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2016), 195. 94

Hernández, Multiple, 169.

95

Hernández, ‘¿Del estado multicultural?’, 326.

96

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collude with abusive male family members97 and pressure illiterate women into signing confessions they cannot understand.98 A particularly unjust example is the case of Morelitos, an elderly Náhuatlspeaking woman who tells her story to Suzuki Lee Camacho, a middle-class woman of Mexican Korean origin. Morelitos’s story is typical of women targeted by drug legislation. She was born into extreme poverty and survived physical, often sexual, violence at the hands of family members. From early childhood, she is given less food than her brothers and is brought up believing that her main purpose is to bear sons herself. Such treatment continues at the hands of her husband, who initiates their relationship by raping her and marrying her when she is just thirteen. He regularly beats her, blaming her for every daughter to whom she gives birth.99 She is sixty-three when she is arrested while travelling to Mexico City by bus, accused of smuggling drugs by soldiers and taken to the CERESO where she is told that she has already signed a confession. This document is read to her but she cannot understand because at that time, in her words, ‘con trabajos hablaba español’ ([I] could hardly speak a word of Spanish).100 Morelitos ended up spending years in prison and was finally released after pressure from the collective causes her file to be reviewed, but she died only six months later due to a gastric ulcer that had developed while she was in prison.101 Hernández writes that when she suggested the Life Histories workshop, her interest was in learning about the experience of indigenous women in the justice system, but stories like that of Morelitos demonstrated that there were forms of violence which had affected their lives long before incarceration.102 In the first story in the collection, a Nahua woman who used the pseudonym Flor de Noche Buena (Poinsettia) also tells her story to Suzuki Lee Camacho. The narrative describes Flor’s poverty-stricken childhood; her father is violent and abusive and she survives a great deal of sexual violence from other men. As she puts it, ‘En aquel entonces las mujeres no opinábamos, únicamente obedecíamos.’ (Back then we women didn’t express opinions, we just obeyed.)103 She is imprisoned for giving some marijuana belonging to her husband to her sister. Her lack of Spanish means Carlota Cadena, ‘Altagracia: Apenas si teníamos para sobrevivir’, in Bajo la sombra del Guamúchil: historias de vida de mujeres indígenas y campesinas en prisión, eds. Águila del Mar et al. (México: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social: Grupo Internacional de Trabajo Sobre Asuntos Indígenas, 2010), 35. 97

Lee Camacho, ‘Flor de Nochebuena: Nacieron mujeres, ahora se aguantan’, in Bajo la sombra, 27. 98

Lee Camacho, ‘Morelitos: Su palabra contra la mía’, in Bajo la sombra, 41–42.

99

Ibid., 47. Translation from Hernández, Multiple, 267.

100

Hernández, Multiple, 268.

101

Hernández, ‘¿Del estado multicultural?’, 318.

102

Camacho, ‘Flor de Nochebuena’, 25.

103

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she cannot understand what happens during her trial and she is handed a ten-year sentence. Collectively, the stories in Bajo la sombra constitute a damning condemnation of the Mexican legal and police institutions and the ways they collude with patriarchy, misogyny and racism. But in mitigation of the relentless violence that they describe, the stories in Bajo la sombra also witness forms of solidarity and affection that cross boundaries of class, race and imprisonment. The orality of the women’s narratives is indicated by quotation marks, which sometimes give way to the narrative voices of the literate interlocutors. As Flor describes the harsh physical conditions of her childhood, Lee Camacho interjects with a creative interpretation of her words, ‘En el momento, al oírla, me imagino algo muy parecido al desierto, donde hay escasez de agua, calor y depredadores.’104 (In that moment, on hearing her, I imagine something like a desert with hardly any water, with heat and predators.) She is surprised that Flor does not understand Spanish, commenting that it must have been like arriving in a different country.105 At Flor’s most difficult moments, when the predators turn out to be sexually violent men, Lee Camacho interjects, ‘Veo la tristeza reflejada en su rostro al recordar este episodio tan doloroso de su vida. […] No puedo evitar llenarme de rabia, de impotencia.’106 (I see the sadness reflected in her face as she remembers this painful episode in her life […] I can’t help but be filled with rage and impotence.) The pain reflected from past is also reflected onto the interlocutor, her empathy evidenced by her anger. Lee Camacho’s interventions signal how the process of collective authorship forges bonds of affective solidarity. When Morelitos speaks about the domestic violence that characterized her childhood, Lee Camacho comments that the same thing happened in her own house.107 Patriarchal violence becomes a site of solidarity. At the end of the narrative, Lee Camacho comments that in spite of the terrible hardships she has heard she is inspired by Flor’s tenacity. She thanks her for narrating her story and ends with a declaration that Flor’s strength will inspire her in the future: ‘Mil gracias, y aunque el destino algún día nos separe, por siempre mis recuerdos de nuestros diálogos y tu ejemplo me ayudarán a recuperar la energía que me mueve a continuar.’ (A thousand thanks and although we will one day be separated by destiny, my memories of our dialogues and the example you set will help me to recover the energy to motivate myself to continue.)108

Ibid., 20.

104

Ibid., 23.

105

Ibid., 24.

106

Ibid., 38–39.

107

Ibid., 28.

108

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The collaborative processes of writing the texts necessarily create community by forging links between indigenous and non-indigenous, literate and illiterate women. As one of the participants writes in an article in an internal magazine: Considero importante el taller de Historias de vida porque me abre la puerta a un mundo desconocido, el cual debe atenderse para eliminar las desigualdades que se viven en el país, principalmente […] En lo personal, me permite vivir una experiencia nueva en el mundo de la escritura y sentirme orgullosa de apoyar a quienes han guardado silencio por mucho tiempo, con mi escritura seré portavoz de aquellas que se atrevan a contar su historia. Para las mujeres analfabetas este taller esta siendo un medio para liberar su historia, desahogarse con un oído dispuesto a escucharlas y recuperar el valor de ser mujer que la sociedad les arrebató.109 I consider the Life Histories workshop important because it opens a door for me onto an unknown world, which must be recognized if we are to eliminate the inequalities lived in this country […] Personally, it allowed me to live a new experience in the world of writing and to feel proud to support those who have been silent for a long time. With my writing I will be the mouthpiece of those who dare to tell their stories. For the illiterate women this workshop is a medium by which they liberate their stories, and recuperate the value of being women which society had taken from them. The writer here found herself empowered through her empowerment of others. By her account, they are cast as agents and she is their ‘mouthpiece’ and ‘medium’, demonstrating how the narrative practice disrupts the hierarchy of literate and illiterate. The construction of community as it plays out in Bajo la sombra is reminiscent of Judith Butler’s work on the politics of precarity. The experience of the Colectiva seems to fit closely with her elaboration of a politics of community based on a shared recognition of ‘politically produced’ precariousness. Drawing also on the work of Hannah Arendt, Butler writes that collective action based on a shared recognition of precarity is a way to claim rights that have not existed a priori by performatively calling them into existence. In Butler’s terms, ‘The “I” is thus at once a “we”, without being fused into an impossible unity. To be a political actor is a function, a feature of acting on terms of equality with other humans.’110 For Butler, as for the collective, the key to this kind of politics is in finding the correct balance between individual and collective practice. Anon, cited in Bajo la sombra, 13.

109

Judith Butler, ‘Performativity, Precarity and Sexual Politics’, Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana 4, no. 3 (2009): vii. 110

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In another text by the Hermanas, Bitácora del destierro, even more individual voices come together to give readers a complex, polyvocal picture of imprisonment. Bitácora is divided into nine sections, each focusing on different aspects of life inside: arrival, adaptation, the body and eroticism, the pain of separation, reflections on life inside, death, the wardens, the power of writing, and identity. Fourteen members of the collective (including the support group) contribute pieces that are highly diverse in length, style and tone, representing a contrasting range of approaches and attitudes. In its form, the text recalls Santiesteban’s Dichosos los que lloran in the way it builds an impression of many aspects of prison life through a collage of images, incidents and affects. Unlike the pervasive negativity of Santiesteban’s stories, here there are occasional moments of humour and levity. The cumulative effect is one of moving through the experience of imprisonment and of combining individual experience into collective knowledge. The form exemplifies Butler’s definition of acting in terms of equality, ‘I’s here are also ‘we’ without ‘fusing into impossible unity’ that might erase the voices of individuals. Many of the contributions are harrowing, detailing confessions made under torture, the trauma of separation from family members, loneliness and abandonment, the fear of being transferred to other prisons. The most painful perhaps are in the section entitled, ‘El afuera: lo que más duele’ (Outside: the thing that hurts most), sharing the suffering of mothers separated from their children. Rosa Salazar writes to her children that she still prays for them, although she knows they do not care, ‘Ustedes me han olvidado, pero sepan que yo no los olvido. […] A lo mejor soy mala, pero algún día se acordarán de mí y ya no voy a estar.’ (You have forgotten me but you should know I have not forgotten you. […] Maybe I am bad, but one day you will remember me and I won’t be here.) In a few simple sentences, she condenses the devastation of years of social abandonment. Other pieces, by contrast, speak of the importance of humour, reiterate the warm feelings and gratitude that the members of the collective feel for each other and affirm the importance of the collective. Most striking is the extent to which Bitácora represents a fundamentally different approach to community. Unlike the political identities in accounts such as Quatrocentos contra um, collective identity here is premised on radical inclusiveness. Some of the most positive moments occur in sections where they might be expected such as ‘El cuerpo en el centro: amor y erotismo’ (The body in the prison: love and eroticism) and ‘La escritura: arma de resistencia’ (Writing: a weapon of resistance) in which the writers pay homage to their lovers and the role of the collective in what Galia Tonella calls the conversion of ‘lo cruel en lo verdadero’ (cruelty into truth).111 More unexpected is Chapter 7, simply Galia Tonella, ‘¿Qué es el taller de literatura?’ in Amatista Lee et al., Bitácora del destierro: narrativa de mujeres en prisión, ed. Elena de Hoyos, Rosalva Aída Hernández, and Marina Ruiz (Cuernavaca: Colectiva Ed. Hermanas en la Sombra, 2013), 132. 111

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called ‘Custodias’ (Wardens), which expands the community to include even that usually unloved group. Contributing anonymously, one of the custodias writes that she secretly feels a great affinity with the prisoners: ‘Nunca los he juzgado. Eso no me toca a mí. Yo los veo como mis semejantes […] aunque lo duden me he llegado a encariñar con ustedes. Quisiera decirles tantas y tantas cosas que no me alcanzaría la gaceta […] Para ustedes y su familia mi respeto, cariño y admiración.’ (I have never judged you. It is not my place. I see you as similar to me […] although you might doubt it I have come to feel affection for you. I want to say so, so many things to you that there is not enough space […] To you and your family my respect, affection and admiration.)112 In an even more unusual piece in the same chapter, ‘El mundo de las custodias’, Tonella begins by writing that her purpose is to dispel the myths of the prison. Despite what you might assume, she writes, everyone has positive qualities: ‘Cada una es especial, cada una tiene cosas maravillosas que la sociedad también se ha encargado de poner como gente sin corazón y sin escrúpulos, cosa que no es cierta’113 (Every woman is special, every one has marvellous qualities although society has wrongly tried to paint them as heartless and without scruples.) Her contribution goes on to list twentysix wardens by their first names, paying homage to their fine qualities. With this reversal, Tonella mimics a platitude usually aimed at prisoners (that everyone has some good qualities) but applies it to those who guard them. In Tonella’s account, the positive qualities of the wardens are often not immediately evident, but she has learned to recognize them over time: ‘Judith: su aspecto severo da miedo, he de confesar que al verla, me dio terror, pero éste desapareció cuando su sonrisa me mostró la bondad de su alma. Hoy me llena de paz.’ (Judith: her severe appearance is frightening, I must confess that she terrified me when I first saw her, but it disappeared when her smile showed me the kindness of her soul.)114 The guards are appreciated for their friendliness, beauty and the way they hold babies, the example they set by studying, the support they give during trials and even for their strictness in following the rules. Tonella’s homage is delivered in a neutral tone, ‘siempre de una manera respetuosa y cariñosa, nunca con el afán de faltarles al respeto’ (always in a respectful manner, never with the desire to disrespect them) but the very fact that she does so challenges the hierarchy of prisoner and guard, offering a gentle, ambiguous, but tactically Anónima, ‘Habla una custodia’, in Amatista Lee et al., Bitácora del destierro: narrativa de mujeres en prisión, ed. Elena de Hoyos, Rosalva Aída Hernández, and Marina Ruiz (Cuernavaca: Colectiva Ed. Hermanas en la Sombra, 2013), 121. 112

Galia Tonella, ‘El mundo de las custodias’ in Amatista Lee et al., Bitácora del destierro: narrativa de mujeres en prisión, ed. Elena de Hoyos, Rosalva Aída Hernández, and Marina Ruiz (Cuernavaca: Colectiva Ed. Hermanas en la Sombra, 2013), 124. 113

Ibid., 125.

114

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astute form of resistance. It is perhaps relevant that Tonella is a relatively well-off, middle-class person, imprisoned for ‘white-collar’ crime and her perspective on the custodias and tactics of resistance should be seen in this light.115 The polyphonic, contradictory picture of imprisonment in Bítacora is another example of the ambiguity of prison writing as ‘resistance’ literature. What aspect of the writers’ circumstances is it resisting? De Hoyos goes so far as to suggest that ‘Algunas de ellas parecieran ser más libres adentro del reclusorio que afuera.’ (Some of them seemed to be freer inside the prison than outside.)116 A side effect of reading Bitácora del destierro after the overwhelming violence and abuse outside the prison catalogued in Bajo la sombra is a sense of relief that at least in prison, surrounded by other women and protected physically from most men, the members of the collective are safe from the threat of rape and violence that characterized life outside (although they are at risk from the police whenever they are transferred). A parallel might be drawn with the male political prisoners in Arguedas’s El Sexto who found themselves more freely able to express themselves in the confines of the prison, surrounded as they were by their allies and protected from their enemies. That a prison seems in any way preferable to freedom is, of course, a damning criticism of misogyny and patriarchy at a societal level and the fact that women’s prisons can provide some spaces of safety from the predations of men is hardly reason to defend them. Rather, it is testimony to the strength of the collective in subverting a space of punishment and oppression. The tactics and politics of the Colectiva Editorial are antithetical to those of the other collective from earlier in the chapter, the Foundation, but there are some points of comparison. Both are united by the desire to construct community and security in a place which is designed to inhibit both. While the political identity of the Foundation was, as we saw, focused outward on escape by any means, the sorority of the sisters is focused on mutual aid on an emotional and locally material level, on peacefully supporting each other to achieve what de Hoyos calls ‘libertad en el encierro’ (freedom in enclosure). In contrast to the all-out war declared on the prisons by the Comando Vermelho, de Hoyos sees acceptance of aspects of their situation as an important part of their internal liberation: ‘Se han liberado también de la ira y el resentimiento ante la impunidad, enalteciendo la sororidad y la construcción de una comunidad de “mujeres sabias” en reclusión, como Rosalva Aída Hernández, ‘Book Section on the Hermanas’ (private email), 15 November 2017. 115

de Hoyos, ‘Epílogo: El derecho feminino a la palabra escrita’, in Águila del Mar et al., Bajo la sombra del Guamúchil: historias de vida de mujeres indígenas y campesinas en prisión (México: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social: Grupo Internacional de Trabajo Sobre Asuntos Indígenas, 2010), 138. 116

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un espacio de denuncia y crítica social.’ (They have liberated themselves from anger and resentment in the face of impunity, promoting sorority and the construction of a community of “wise women” in prison, as a space of denunciation and social critique.)117 Anger and action are replaced with consciousness and critique. It is easy to see how these contrasting forms of external and internal liberation fall along conventionally gendered lines. The sorority of the women of the Colectiva celebrates a certain vision of what it means to be a woman– its values consist in family, fortitude, kindness, forgiveness and love for the other. Some members of the Grupo de Apoyo (in whose writings is to be found a different perspective to de Hoyos) express concerns that the success of the collective works against its ability to perform an active challenge to the penal system. In her articles and books about the group, Hernández states that it is important to recognize that the project neither ‘atenta ni desestabiliza al sistema penitenciario, ni a sus efectos de poder sobre los cuerpos y mentes de las mujeres presas’ (attacks nor destabilizes the penitentiary system, nor its effects of power on the bodies and minds of the imprisoned women).118 Anticipating critique by abolitionists such as Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Ben Olguín, who criticize ‘reformist’ projects for potentially reinforcing penal systems, Hernández counters that insistence on penal abolitionism would be not only ahistorical but also demobilizing.119 There are practical structural reasons why no project of this length and sustained nature can risk challenging the penal system directly, relying as it does entirely on the goodwill of the prison authorities.120 Marina Ruiz writes of the difficulty of having to cooperate with the system: ‘Primero, porque es insertarse en un sistema que de hecho es vertical y patriarcal, donde a las mujeres no sólo se les castiga por ser infractoras de la ley sino por ser mujeres […] Como grupo de apoyo hemos tenido que adecuarnos al orden del sistema y participar en él con todo lo que eso implica.’ (First because it means inserting ourselves into a system which is vertical and patriarchal, where women are punished for being women […] as the support group we have had to accommodate the rules of the system and participate within it with everything that implies.)121 She also writes of the difficulty of

Hernández et al., Libertad Anticipada, 9–10.

117

Hernández, Bajo la sombra, 17. She makes a similar point in Hernández et al., Libertad Anticipada, 67. 118

Hernández et al., Libertad Anticipada, 67.

119

Ibid., 20.

120

Marina Ruiz Rodríguez, ‘Flores en el desierto: Ensayo sobre las relaciones entre mujeres de adentro y de afuera del Cereso Morelos en el marco de un proyecto artístico-literario’, in Resistencias penitenciarias: Investigación activista en espacios de reclusión, ed. R. Aída Hernández Castillo (México: Juan Pablos, 2017), 231–232. 121

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producing horizontal relationships and overcoming the inevitable divides and hierarchies within the workshop, created by the fact that some members are free and others not. Although its texts are valuable tools in the abolitionists’ arsenal, the politics of the collective are not abolitionist. Indeed it is quite likely that projects like the Sisters in the Shadow paradoxically enhance the reputation of the CERESO Morelos as a ‘model’ prison. The pluralistic narratives in Bítacora are equivocal: on the one hand, they strongly evidence how processes of criminalization are ‘social’ – gendered and racial. On the other hand, some narratives, even those by innocent participants chart conventional trajectories of guilt and redemption.122 The importance of a positive vision of the prison for the participants is addressed in another of Tonella’s contributions aimed at the dispelling of myths entitled ‘¿Sales peor o hay readaptación?’ (Do you come out worse or does rehabilitation exist?) Los mitos dicen que la cárcel es la escuela de los capos, que te corrompes irremediablemente. Otro mito es que sales reformado. Los dos son una gran mentira, como en la vida común, afuera triunfa y empeora el que quiere. Es cierto que estás más cerca del pecado, sí, pero también de la salvación. Abundan los grupos religiosos que te quieren ayudar, hay escuela a la que vas en ocasiones por aburrimiento y terminas aprendiendo, he visto en un año más de cinco personas que han aprendido a leer y escribir.123 The myths state that prison is the school for the capos, that you get irredeemably corrupted. Another myth is that you come out reformed. Both are a big lie. Like in everyday life outside people either triumph or get worse depending on what they want. It is true that you are closer to sin, but also to salvation. There are lots of religious groups that help people, there is a school you go to sometimes because you’re bored but you end up learning, I have seen more than five people learn to read and write this year. Tonella’s arguments illustrate that an anti-prison stance that uncritically considers the prison to be the ‘producer’ of crime is potentially unhelpful for imprisoned people for whom a narrative of rehabilitation is important. Some contributions by the writers of the collective, even innocent prisoners

See also Leo Zavaleta, Los sueños de un cisne en el pantano (Cuernavaca: Hermanas en la Sombra), 113–114. 122

Galia Tonella, ‘¿Sales pero o hay readaptación?’ in Amatista Lee et al., Bitácora del destierro: narrativa de mujeres en prisión, ed. Elena de Hoyos, Rosalva Aída Hernández, and Marina Ruiz (Cuernavaca: Colectiva Ed. Hermanas en la Sombra, 2013), 48. 123

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such as Leo Zavaleta, reinscribe tropes of a trajectory of guilt124 and reform through imprisonment125 while others demonstrate the injustice of the penal system. That writing offers a route to ‘salvation’ is another iteration of the opposition between ‘writing’ and ‘prison’ that I explored in Chapter 1. The collective aims for subalternized women to ‘write themselves out of prison’, to which end it is tactically necessary to participate in a system that valorizes writing and literacy as markers of ‘rehabilitation’. Indeed for Tonella, the fact that it is possible to learn to read in prison is one of the reasons why it is not such a bad place. Perhaps the most effective aspect of Bítacora lies in the fact that it describes a relatively neutral experience. As Charys puts it ‘la cárcel te come o te da de comer’ (prison can eat you or it can give you food).126 Unlike the atrocious violence that has characterized most of the male prisons addressed here, the CERESO Morelos is depicted as an environment with sometimes kind guards and levels of violence that are low relative to those outside. It seems, in other words, to function more or less as a ‘model’ prison of its status should. The suffering caused in Morelos is not, as in many other examples here, in the extreme violence of tortures, rapes and murders, but in the violence of severing people from their families and communities. The writings of the Colectiva foreground, therefore, the inherent, banal violence of social separation that is the basic function of any prison. The texts in this chapter have offered three very different modes of survival under neoliberal penal regimes. Survival through the participation in community can be the difference between life and (social) death – a means of escaping the zones of bare life for those criminalized by the War on Drugs. In each case the mode of writing reflects the mode of survival. Marching Powder takes advantage of and contributes to a touristic discourse that reproduces divisions between criminal and non-criminal, prisoners and nonprisoners. Da Silva’s memoir is a cautionary tale of where the division of political and ‘common law’ prisoners can lead, his text a belligerent defence of a gang as a prisoner solidarity organization that acts to give ‘political’ meaning to ‘criminal’ actions. The writings of Colectiva Editorial also give political meaning to situations that are otherwise categorized as criminal

María Elena Basave, ‘Lo que vale la pena’, in Amatista Lee et al., Bitácora del destierro: narrativa de mujeres en prisión, ed. Elena de Hoyos, Rosalva Aída Hernández, and Marina Ruiz (Cuernavaca: Colectiva Ed. Hermanas en la Sombra, 2013), 75. 124

Leo Zavaleta, ‘La escuela’, in Amatista Lee et al., Bitácora del destierro: narrativa de mujeres en prisión, ed. Elena de Hoyos, Rosalva Aída Hernández, and Marina Ruiz (Cuernavaca: Colectiva Ed. Hermanas en la Sombra, 2013), 42. 125

Charys, ‘La cárcel te come o te da de comer’, in Amatista Lee et al., Bitácora del destierro: narrativa de mujeres en prisión, ed. Elena de Hoyos, Rosalva Aída Hernández, and Marina Ruiz (Cuernavaca: Colectiva Ed. Hermanas en la Sombra, 2013), 46. 126

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but via communities created through entirely peaceful means. Despite their differences in origin and outcomes, Quatrocentos and the writings of the Colectiva both affirm the strength of solidarity and the fact that through collective action, political personhood can be created in zones of abandonment and bare life.

Beyond the Prison

Ocultar un prisionero es ocultar una chispa. Lo que se le arroje para esconderla, con el tiempo, que todo lo seca solo servirá de combustible.1 Hiding a prisoner is like hiding a spark. Whatever you throw on it to conceal it, with time, which dries it all up, will only serve as fuel.2 BIÓFILO PANCLASTA

Latin American prison writing not only protests against the conditions of its creation, it also exposes and analyses forms of violence and injustice that go far beyond the prison walls. Sometimes it works on behalf of groups – political, ‘criminal’ or hybrids like the Fundão – , sometimes it advocates on behalf of individuals like Thomas McFadden or Álvaro Mutis. In Latin American prison writing, the prison is a space in which the state is at its most repressive, but is also absent, in which the hierarchies that characterize society outside can be intensified and reinforced, but also broken down. Prison writing bears witness to the formation of new social relationships, some oppressive, some working towards liberation. The definition of prison writing that I have used – that it is writing about prison by people who have experienced prison – means that it is most united by its epistemic authority. This authority means that even the most fictional of these texts confront readers with the question of what to do with the Biófilo Panclasta ‘Carta dirigida a Aurelio de Castro’ in Biófilo Panclasta el eterno prisionero: Aventuras y desventuras de un anarquista colombiano by Orlando Villanueva Martínez, Renán Vega Cantor, Juan Carlos Gamboa Martínez, and Amadeo Clavijo Ramírez, (Bogota: Alas de Xué) 1992, 159. 2 Biófilo Panclasta, Seven Years Buried Alive (Online: Ritmomaquia, 2013), 15. 1

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knowledge that has been disclosed: knowledge of prison systems revealed to be profoundly unjust, inevitably dysfunctional and relentlessly violent. The confrontation prison writing offers its readers can be broken down into a provocation and a challenge. The provocation arises because of the testimonial function of the genre. The challenge lies in the fact that although all prison writing is protesting against the prison, it is not at all united in the kinds of change it envisages or makes possible, the means by which to attain it or the precise role it can play in that change. It is by elaborating the provocation and the challenge of prison writing that I bring this study to a close. In texts like La isla de hombres solos readers are explicitly placed in the position of judge and jury, prompted to judge a protagonist who acts – in that case – as a proxy for an author who uses literature as a vehicle of his own redemption. Other texts entreat readers to evaluate the prison system more broadly. In the opening note to Hombres sin mujer, Carlos Montenegro plead for readers to reserve judgement on his work and to direct it instead towards the system it describes: ‘El que acuse estas páginas de immorales, que no olvide que todo lo que dicen corresponde a un mal existente, a que por lo tanto es éste, y no su exposición, lo que primeramente debe enjuiciarse’ (he who accuses these pages of immorality should not forget that they correspond to an existing evil, and it is therefore this, and not its exposure, that he should judge first). From this provocation to ‘judge’ – an entreating impulse that runs through Latin American prison writing – several conclusions can be reached about the prison as a system of punishment. First, prison writing affirms the coloniality of the prison. Every one of the texts studied here is symptomatic of the fact that Latin American prisons are institutions that reinforce the ongoing power dynamics of colonialism and white supremacy. With the exception of the political prisoners and very occasional ‘white collar criminal’, these texts evidence the fact that imprisonment affects those already marginalized, economically, racially and in terms of mental health and ability. Characters from Macaco in Hombres sin mujer, El pianista in El Sexto and Abel in Diario de Lecumberri speak to a long history of imprisoning the disabled. Second, Latin American prison writing undermines any notion that the prison serves to rehabilitate or reform its victims. Without exception, these texts bear witness to the fact that prisons are places of trauma that foster harmful practices of all kinds. Sometimes this is expressed through the common trope that the prison acts, in León Sánchez’s words, as ‘La Universidad del Crimem’ (university of crime).3 An extreme example is the evolution of the Comando Vermelho into a gang that compels prisoners in the prisons it controls to participate as gang members even after they have left prison. Other texts, such as those of the Colectiva Editorial Hermanas

3

León Sánchez, La isla, 183.

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en la Sombra, offer more constructionist accounts of how penal systems produce ‘criminals’. Where prison writers have experienced prison as a space of positive personal transformation, this is a result of non-state groups and individuals working actively to challenge the prison, from the political parties that organized with each other in El Sexto in the 1930s to the Colectiva Editorial Hermanas en la Sombra in CERESO Morelos in the present day. Third is the striking fact that the harms of imprisonment have not diminished or significantly changed over time. There are many more similarities than differences between the earliest and most recent texts analysed here. Today, the region’s prisons are zones of ‘bare life’ in which prisoners can be killed or left to die with impunity, just as they were in the first half of the twentieth century. Even more striking is that changes in political regime from dictatorial to democratic do not necessarily alter the conditions of imprisonment at all. Da Silva’s memoir raised the possibility that the return to democracy in Brazil may even have made things worse for the subalternized classes as the state redirected the repressive apparatus of the dictatorship towards them.4 Chapter 2 traced a remarkable continuity between power dynamics in Cuban prisons over more than six decades and a major change in regime. The installation of democratic governments may have meant shifts in the sectors of the population vulnerable to criminalization and imprisonment but not in the harshness of the conditions. And the worst prison massacres in Latin American history – the killings of the Senderistas in the Peruvian prisons in the 1980s and the Carandiru massacre in São Paulo 1992 – both took place under democratic regimes. What follows from this third point is a warning to treat projects that do claim to modernize or improve the prison with suspicion. The Colectiva Editorial Hermanas en la Sombra is currently in crisis, thanks to the fact that CERESO Morelos has been ‘accredited’ by the American Correctional Association, the trade association of the US prison industry, committed to raising standards by certifying prisons across the United States and the world.5 Under the guise of guaranteeing improved conditions and a less corrupt system, the authorities have enforced division of prisoners into cells, preventing them from moving freely, restricting the numbers of books they are allowed and making the activities of the Colectiva almost impossible.6 In sum, prison writing affirms that the prison is the physical embodiment of state-sponsored structural oppression under the false guise of rehabilitation, sustained through radically different political regimes. It confirms prison abolitionist Angela Davis’s assertion that ‘[i]mprisonment is associated with the racialization of those most likely to be punished […] their class 4

Da Silva, Quatrocentos, 96.

Shane Bauer, ‘My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard’, Mother Jones (blog), August 2016, accessed 3 October 2016, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-private-prisons​ -corrections-corporation-inmates-investigation-bauer/. 5

6

Rosalva Aída Hernández, ‘Book Section on the Hermanas’ (private email), 15 November 2017.

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and […] gender structures the punishment system as well’. Latin American prison writing implies that if we are in any way interested in changing these power dynamics, if we care about whether or not a ‘democratic’ state is violent, then the prison must be central in our thinking. Davis’s claim, and the provocation of this prison writing, is that we search for alternatives and that the starting point should be the abolition of the prison rather than its reform. It is an aim that requires us to think much more broadly than the prison, and that is precisely the point. But the challenge of prison writing is that it is by no means united in how it allows us to think beyond the prison. Davis warns that ‘[a]lternatives that fail to address racism, male dominance, homophobia, class bias, and other structures of domination will not, in the final analysis, lead to decarceration and will not advance the goal of abolition’.7 Expanding on how to achieve this goal she states that ‘[a]n attempt to create a new conceptual terrain for imagining alternatives to imprisonment involves the ideological work of questioning why “criminals” have been constituted as a class and, indeed, a class of human beings undeserving of the civil and human rights accorded to others’.8 Despite the fact that Latin American prison writing confronts readers with the necessity to decolonize systems of justice, this writing is also symptomatic of same punitive or and colonial logics that underpin the prison. Given that the contexts in which it is written are designed to increase racial division, gender difference and exacerbate ‘criminality’, this is hardly surprising but it does mean it is just as likely to reinforce ideological notions such as the criminal class as it is to question them in the way Davis proposes. These contradictory compulsions are most strongly present in Diario de Lecumberri, Hombres sin mujer and Dichosos los que lloran. Indeed, the condemnation of the prison in the Cuban texts is bound up with racist hegemonic notions of masculinity that explicitly work to shore up the position of the white, non-criminalized majorities. Writing by politically radical prisoners is likely to include condemnation of criminalized groups as part of its protest against the prison. Racism and eugenic urges are present in the ‘utopian’ thought of Arguedas as a result of his encounters with sectors of the population on the lowest floor of the prison of El Sexto. And the revelation of the lurid truth of violent, criminal ‘reality’ can be a powerful source of cultural, political and – as we saw with Marching powder – financial capital for prison writers. Prison writing can thus shore up the hegemony of the prison through sensationalizing the pain of prisoners for commercial gain. It can normalize their suffering and reinforce myths which are iterative of the colonial violence of both the prison and the (post) colonial Latin American state.

7

Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?, 108.

8

Ibid., 112.

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And yet prison writing can also be central to efforts to transform imprisonment. The projects of the Colectiva Editorial Hermanas en la Sombra avoid the pitfalls of both individualism and consumerism. Through its collective form, their writing precludes the construction of identities based on division or exclusion, overcoming barriers of race, age and ability. Their attainment of ‘libertad en el encierro’ (liberty in enclosure) gestures towards forms of ‘escape’ based on solidarity and radical inclusivity. Their writing offers a model of collaboration and collective resistance that can serve as inspiration for reformers and abolitionists everywhere. There is another challenge within prison writing with regard to the state. As the comparative reading of prison writing affirms, state power in Latin American prisons is often exercised by systematic abandonment and neglect rather than close surveillance and control. Cerbini calls this a ‘kind of anti-panopticon’ by which states control by incarcerating and then ‘looking the other way’, not unlike God in La isla de los hombres solos. A tension arises because even though the state is the source of oppression, for some prison writers ‘more state’ is also the solution. La isla de los hombres solos represents a subalternized prisoner’s attempt to gain recognition for himself before the law and the state and as such is haunted by the spectre of the idealized penitentiary. By rehearsing the shift from sovereign violence to disciplinary ‘reform’ León Sánchez endorses ‘gentler’ forms of incarceration based on greater state intervention.9 Such endorsement of a truly ‘reforming’ penitentiary can be understood as a tactical move, a form of resistance to conditions of arbitrary state violence or the violence of complete abandonment. Like the fiction of democracy or of the egalitarian state, something akin to the ‘disciplinary society’ is a powerful image that can be appropriated by prisoners. And ‘bringing the state back in’ – in the sense which Beverley imagines as ‘subaltern statism’ figured as orderly ‘disciplined’ prisons – may indeed be a practicable step on the road to penal reform. But the contemporary situation in CERESO Morelos should counsel caution. The tension around the state is also present in the examples of the Sendero Luminoso and the Comando Vermelho, which indicate that effective, if extremely violent, modes of prisoner rebellion operate by reproducing aspects of state sovereignty within the power vacuum of the prison. The cases of Sendero and the Comando affirm the effectiveness of collective action in the face of overwhelming oppression, but they also demonstrate the risks associated with basing any collective resistance or the constitution of political identities on violent sovereign control and the exclusion of others.

It even found its echo in the imposition of ‘discipline’ by Sendero Luminoso albeit a discipline that was crushed by the most comprehensive display of sovereign state violence. 9

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This is perhaps the most important function of Latin American prison writing. It documents diverse instances of prisoner protest at what Zaffaroni calls the ‘on-going genocide’ in Latin American prisons in ways that have the potential, in the words of Firehawk and Ben Turk, to ‘provide an informed and grounded analytic of state repression, carceral power, and resistance that is invaluable to abolitionist thought and strategy’.10 Even prison writing which stops short of opposing the prison outright contains lessons for abolitionists and prison rebels, but they can be instructive or cautionary. From the short-lived Republica de San Lucas in La isla de los hombres solos, the fleeting moments of transgressive, interracial love in Hombres sin mujer, to the party-based organizing in El Sexto, the collective self-defence in the early days of the Fundão on Ilha Grande and even the economic creativity in San Pedro, Latin American prison writing acts to memorialize and imagine models of rebellion. What these moments have in common is the power of collective action. At its extremes this has lead to tragic consequences as in the massacre at El Frontón and the violent fate of the Comando Vermelho. Extreme though these examples are in the way members committed their lives to the cause, they affirm the ability of committed people working in together to resist the most oppressive situations. The feat of creating defensive communities of solidarity in spaces in which hierarchies of race, gender and state power collude to divide and destroy horizontal power relations is remarkable. The lessons of prison writing are especially important in the current political climate in which reactionary political discourse casts foreigners as racialized, criminal threats, and nation states are physically fortifying their borders and deploying the techniques of enclosure and imprisonment against migrants and refugees. In this context it is clearer than ever that the abolitionist movement needs also to be an internationalist project, concerned with opposing the borders and indeed walls between nations. In documenting and imagining rebellion of all kinds, prison writing offers readers models of potential resistances to the most oppressive elements of the nation state. The voices from the Latin American prison are urging those who hear them that the prison in its current iterations is a place of inevitable violence. It increases rather than reduces violence and social harm, exacerbating, rather than tackling its root causes. The abolitionist programme set out by Davis advises us to make a start on alternatives and begin a process of decarceration. For Davis, the first steps lie in ending the War on Drugs by decriminalizing drug use, legalizing and regulating the drug trade, and ending the incarceration of the mentally ill and those convicted of crimes

Firehawk and Ben Turk, Freedom First (Online: Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee), accessed 20 August 2017, https://incarceratedworkers.org/freedom-first, 3. 10

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of poverty. Beyond these relatively simple measures lies the construction of an alternative system through which to deal with social harms, based not only on restorative, but transformative modes of justice. These kinds of systems are already in place across Latin America: some indigenous justice systems are even enshrined in law, other alternatives such as those of the Zapatistas operate uneasily alongside the state. There are many others who have analysed and put these systems into practice far more effectively than I could, and to describe them has not been the purpose of this book. But it should by now be clear that prison writing has a central role to play in undermining the powerful fictions that sustain the prison today.

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INDEX

Note: Page references with letter ‘n’ followed by locators denote footnote numbers. abandonment 23, 101, 173, 179, 193 abolition. See also reform; revolution chain gangs 53 death penalty 29 penal 3, 11–15, 19, 24, 34, 45–7, 58, 60–2, 176–7, 183–6 slavery 12 Ação Popular 153 Agamben, Giorgio 107, 125, 138 Água Santa (Brazil) 157–8 AIDS 84, 96 Aliança Libertadora Nacional 153 Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA) 111–15, 120, 122, 134 American Correctional Association (ACA) 183 Amigos dos Amigos (ADA) 160 Amorim, Carlos 150 anarchism 1, 12 Anderman, Jens 27 Anderson, Patrick 157 ‘Ángel de la isla’ 140–5 Angola 96–7 Anitua, Gabriel 14 Antes que anochezca 25, 84, 90–6 Apartheid 46–7, 155 archive 37 Arenas, Reinaldo 25, 66, 69, 84–5, 89–96, 98, 101, 104–5 Argentina 9, 23, 26, 27 Arguedas, José María 19, 24, 25, 108–22, 143–4, 175, 185 armed struggle 13, 123–45, 152–60 Associação de Proteção e Assistência aos Condenados (APAC) 8

Avelar, Idelber 18–19 Ayacucho 125, 128 Bajo la sombra del Guamúchil 168–72, 175–6 Balzac, Honoré de 44 Banged Up Abroad 166 Barnet, Miguel 85 Beasley-Murray, Jon 20–1 Beck, Erwin 30, 40, 54 Bejel, Emilio 72, 76, 80 Belaúnde Terry, Fernando 128 Beltrán, Alberto 49 Benavides, Oscar R. 111, 116 Bentham, Jeremy 4, 6–7, 109, 133 Beverley, John 18, 20, 31, 33–4, 62, 149 biopolitics 9, 73, 107, 109, 134, 136, 138, 144. See also body; power, disciplinary biopower 122, 143, 157. See also body; panopticon; power, disciplinary Bitácora del destierro 168–9, 173–5 blackness 16, 20, 58, 66–9, 73–6, 81–2, 102–3, 105, 113, 119, 120. See also indigeneity; race; whiteness Bloch, Ernst 109, 144 body 4, 5, 90–2, 109, 112, 125, 143–4, 158, 174. See also biopower; chains; death; discipline; hombre nuevo; hunger strike; necrophilia; necropolitics; rape; sex; torture; violence ‘docile’ 53–4, 62, 134 social 9, 86, 90–2

INDEX

Bolivia 14, 23, 25, 69, 162–7 boom, the 18–19, 30 Borges, Jorge Luis 41 n.2 Brazil 5–9, 23, 25–6, 147–8, 150–61 bugarrón 75, 87, 94. See also body; masculinity; sex Burgos-Debray, Elizabeth 39 Butler, Judith 77, 136, 172–3 Cabrera Infante, Guillermo 83–4 Cabrera Moreno, Julio 136 ¡Calurosa recepción! 130–3 camp, the 86, 107, 138 Cândido Mendes (Brazil) 5, 152–8, 161, 186 Canto Grande (Peru). See Miguel Castro Castro Carandiru (Brazil) 160, 183 Carbó, Sergio 72–3 Carpentier, Alejo 85 prize 97 Casa de las Américas 41, 88, 97 Castro Arrasco, Dante 109, 124, 140–5 Castro, Fidel 67, 87, 105 Castro-Gómez, Santiago 16 Castro, Mariela 104 n.2 Centro de Rehabilitación/ Reintegración Social (CERESO) Morelos (Mexico) 149, 167–79 Cerbini, Francesca 23, 165, 185 chains 29, 34, 55–7 Charrière, Henri 40 Charys 178 Chávez, Yeidy 124, 133–4 Cheadle, Don 165 Cheng, Yinghong 86, 88–9 Christianity 53, 118, 128, 139, 143 ciudad letrada 15–16, 18, 30, 33, 42 Civil Rights 19, 184 class 2, 3, 4, 11, 25, 60, 111, 171, 184. See also letrado; revolution; subaltern ‘criminal’ 24, 47, 50, 104, 184 literature and 16, 17, 19, 39, 42, 45, 51 middle- 40, 110, 155, 170 prisoner- 52, 75, 83, 145, 157, 159

201

and race 69–70, 74 -war 148 working- 17, 32, 86, 135 Cold War 8, 25, 158 Colectiva Editorial de Mujeres en Prisión Hermanas en la Sombra 25, 149, 167–79, 182–3, 185 coloniality. See law of literature 18, 24, 110, 167, 182 of power 3–4, 119 of the prison 10–12, 28, 107–8, 182, 184 Colón Pichardo, Maikel 67–8, 74, 82 Comando Vermelho (CV) 25, 148– 60, 175, 182, 186. See also Foundation Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación (CVR) 125–6, 135 Connell, Raewyn 67–9, 74, 95, 105. See also masculinity consciousness. See standpoint Cuban 67, 87 feminist 32 Latin American 18 political 87, 106, 167, 176 prisoner 23, 32, 57, 154, 173, 182 revolutionary 89 working class 17, 32, 39 Cornejo Polar, Antonio Corral, Carolina 168 Cortázar, Julio 18, 41 n.2, 100 Cortés, Carlos 41 crime. See drug traffickers; dictatorship; fear; Foucault; murder; rape; torture constructionism 14, 45, 46, 60, 77, 177, 183 ideological views on 8, 11–15, 25, 45–8, 50–1, 58–9, 83–4 organized 13, 60–1, 149–51, 160–1 political 32 and race 60 war 10 white collar 175 cruelty 9–10, 13, 47, 99, 104, 106, 173 Cuba 3, 5–6, 8, 25, 63, 65–106, 140, 183–4

202

INDEX

Cuban Revolution 18, 66–8, 85–91, 95–6, 101, 104–5 Cunha, Euclides da 152 Cusack, Igor 87 Davis, Angela 11, 183–4, 186 death 12, 47–55, 84, 152, 170. See also abandonment; death penalty; martyrdom; necropolitics; sovereignty; suicide camps 107 Sendero and 121–44 social 178 as transcendence 115–16 death penalty 53–4, 157. See also abolition Debray, Regis 152 Degregori, Carlos Iván 126–7 Deleuze, Giles 20–2 democracy 8, 10, 26, 108, 161, 183–4 amongst prisoners 164 Departamento de Operações de Informações–Centro de Operações de Defesa Interna (DOI-CODI) 153 Derrida, Jacques 20 n.4, 33 dialectics 24, 34, 38, 51, 57, 144 Diario de Lecumberri 25, 31, 43–51, 57, 62, 182, 184 Dichosos los que lloran 25, 66, 96–106, 173, 184 dictatorship 10, 19, 108, 183. See also postdictatorship Argentina 26–7 Brazil 148–62 Costa Rica 53 Cuba 69 Peru 111, 119 Southern Cone 8, 26–7 Uruguay 21, 26–7 Dirty Wars 25, 147. See also dictatorship; ‘disappearances’ disability 43–4, 76, 114–15, 182 ‘disappearances’ 26–7, 174 disciplinary prison 7, 61, 133, 161. See also body disciplinary society 4, 7, 21–2, 54, 61–2, 109, 124, 134, 185

Discipline and Punish 4, 22, 109. See also power; disciplinary prison; disciplinary society; panopticon; sovereign power Downing, Crystal 165 Draper, Susana 16, 21, 26–7 drug traffickers 13, 148, 150, 159–60, 163–5, 167 Dumas, Alexandre 43 Dussel, Enrique 3–4 Echevarría, Roberto González 17–18, 37, 39 Ejiofor, Chiwetel 165 El apando 22 El Callao (Peru)130, 134, 137–8, 141 El Castillo del Príncipe (Cuba) 5, 70 El Frontón (Peru) 5, 128–45, 186 El Morro (Cuba) 5, 85, 91–5 El Salvador 9 El Sexto (novel) 24–5, 108, 110–23, 129–30, 144, 175, 182–4, 186 El Sexto (prison) 111–19, 129, 183 El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo 110 empathy 104, 115, 171 emphasized femininity 67, 74 epistemic privilege 2, 31, 181. See also consciousness; standpoint epistemic violence 30 Epps, Brad 75, 83, 86–7, 90, 105 eschatology. See Christianity; time Escobar, Pablo 148 Estado Novo 152 eugenics 119, 163, 184 neo- 24, 47, 50 Europe law 15 modernity 4–6 power 109 prisons 3–7, 9–10, 28, 53, 83 Facundo 6 fascism 111, 156 fear. See homophobia; racism of blackness 102, 119 of collective action 121, 158 of crime 8, 60–1

INDEX

of death 139 of prison 35, 37, 49, 152, 173 of revolution 74, 114 feminism 32, 67, 72. See also consciousness; solidarity Firehawk and Ben Turk 186 Flor de Noche Buena 170–1 Flores Galindo, Alberto 117 Fornet, Ambrosio 88 Foucault, Michel. See biopower; Discipline and Punish; power, disciplinary; heterotopia; racism; sovereign power; state the archive 37 on constructionism 7, 46, 78 on pleasure 95 on prison 4, 7, 22, 69–70, 134, 161 on subjugated knowledges 17 Foundation, the 154–61, 175, 181, 186. See also Comando Vermelho (CV) Franco, Jean 9–10, 18–19, 33 Franklin, H Bruce 19–20, 24, 31–2, 34, 57, 59 n.1 free market 21, 25, 161, 165. See also neoliberalism Fuente, de la Alejandro 69 Fuentes, Carlos 18, 31 Fujimori, Alberto 121, 140 Fukuyama, Francis 121 Fundão. See Foundation; Comando Vermelho (CV) futurity. See time García, Alán 134, 143 García Linera, Álvaro 33 García Márquez, Gabriel 18, 31 gender. See masculinity; hegemony; emphasized femininity binary 75 of criminalization 177, 184 of emotion 81 hierarchies 3, 6, 10–11, 93, 169, 186 identity 70, 77, 91 maintenance of 72, 76 perspective 27, 80 resistance 176 shifts in 54, 77, 79

203

stereotypes 74 violence 79, 93, 99, 171, 196 genocide 12–13, 40, 127, 135, 138–9, 186 González Pagés, Julio César 66, 68, 105 Gramsci, Antonio 52–3, 67, 69 gringos 116, 119 Guadelupe, José Luis Pérez 23–4 Guardia Gutiérrez, Tomás 53 guards 24, 29, 43, 47, 60–1, 80, 100, 100, 103–4, 111, 116, 156, 174, 178 Guatemala 9, 40 Guevara, Che 87, 152 Guzmán Loera, Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ 148 Guzmán Reynoso, Abimael 125–8, 130–1, 133, 135–9, 143, 148 Haitian Revolution 74 Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri 20 hatred 30, 59, 114–15, 117 Havana 5, 69, 70, 85, 90 hegemony. See also state class 155 literature 51, 61–2 race and 82 of the prison 3, 22, 53, 59, 62, 83–4, 96, 144, 184 relevance and workings of 20, 24, 51 Hernández Castillo, Rosalva Aída 11, 168–70, 176 heterochrony 128. See also time heterosexuality 16, 68, 79, 87, 93, 104–5. See also masculinity heterotopia 108–9, 111, 131, 123–4, 139, 141, 144 hombre nuevo 86–91, 96 Hombres sin mujer 25, 65–6, 70–96, 101–2, 182, 184, 186 homophobia 65–6, 86, 88, 104, 184. See also under fear homo sacer 127, 147, 157. See also death; martyrdom; sacrifice; sovereignty homosexuality 16, 65, 72, 78–82, 85–9, 90–6, 104, 119

204

Hoyos, Elena de 167–8, 175–6 humanism 9, 108–9, 117 human rights abuses 26–7, 158, 184 hunger strike 154, 157 Ilha Grande. See Cândido Mendes illiteracy 16, 29, 32, 34–5, 37–8, 57, 169, 170, 172. See also literacy; letrado imperialism 18, 39, 116–17, 148 Incas 117, 121 indigeneity 9, 11, 19, 29, 32, 40, 108– 12, 120–1, 131, 168–72, 187 Inkarri myth 126 Instituto Nacional Penitenciario (INPE) 133 Inter-American Court of Human Rights 12 Jameson, Fredric 31–2, 109, 111, 121–2, 124, 128 Jim Crow 19 Jones, Steven 53 Khrushchev, Nikita 125 Kirk, John 86 knowledge. See consciousness Kropotkin, Petr 7 n.3, 12 Laclau, Ernesto 20 La isla de los hombres solos 25, 30–1, 34–41, 51–63, 182, 185–6 La Paz 164, 166 La utopía arcaica 120, 121 Law. See letrado; coloniality coloniality of 9–18, 58, 105, 186 and literature 17–18, 38–42, 52, 78, 182 Lazarillo de Tormes 17, 38 Lecumberri (Mexico) 5, 31, 43–51, 182, 184 Lee Camacho, Suzuki 170–1 Leis de Segurança Nacional (LSN) 153–4 Lenin 125, 133 León Sánchez, José 25, 29–30, 32–45, 48, 51–63, 77, 184 letrado 16–18, 31–4, 39, 42, 51

INDEX

liberalism 5–6, 35, 53–4, 60 liberal subject 46 Lima 118, 128, 131 literacy 16, 167, 178. See also illiteracy; letrado literature. See abolition; letrado; hegemony; memoir; prison novel; testimonio; short story; subaltern and coloniality 18, 47 heterogeneous 110 and the law 17, 39, 42, 185 as popular culture 19, 33, 37, 40, 57 prison 2, 19, 45–7, 57, 149, 166–7, 182 as resistance 24, 31, 51, 54, 69–70, 101–2, 149, 160, 175, 185 as social action 149, 165 of solidarity 167, 175 subaltern 19, 30, 34, 39, 47 working class 39 Long, Ryan 47 Los hijos que nadie quiso 97 Los ríos profundos 110 love 71–2, 80–1, 92–3, 102–3, 173, 176, 186 ‘Luminosas Trincheras de Combate’ (LTCs) 25, 108–9, 123–5, 130–45 Lurigancho (Peru) 130, 134, 137–8, 140 Mallarmé, Stepháne 49–50 Mao Zedong 125, 133 Maoism 128, 136. See also Sendero Luminoso Marching Powder 25, 149, 161–7, 178, 184 Mariátegui, José Carlos 125–6 Martí, José 86, 97 martyrdom 1, 87, 108, 115–17, 137, 142, 144, 157–8 Marx, Karl 87, 133 Marxism 32, 113, 115, 118, 120–2, 125–7, 130, 133 Máscaras 101 masculinity. See homosexuality; race; rape

INDEX

complicit 67, 95–6 hegemonic 67, 69, 70, 73, 82, 84–8, 104–5, 184 perspective on prison 27 ‘subordinate’ 68, 74–5, 76–7, 91, 96, 102 massacres 123–4, 135–43, 160, 183, 186 Mbembe, Achille 107–8, 115–16, 127, 136, 145, 157 McFadden, Thomas 163–5, 181 memoir 24, 166. See also Antes que anochezca; Marching Powder; Quatrocentos contra um Menchú, Rigoberta 39–40 Mercader, Ramón 31 Mexico 3, 8, 11, 31, 85, 148, 167–79 Mexico City 5, 31, 170 Mignolo, Walter 3 Miguel Castro Castro (Peru) 132, 140 millenarianism 108, 125–6, 128, 139, 144. See also time modernity 3, 4, 6, 12, 16, 69, 82, 105, 120, 127, 138 Montenegro, Carlos 25, 65–6, 69–84, 92–5, 102–4, 190 Montevideo 21 Morelitos 169–71 Movimento Revolucionário 8 de Outubro 150, 153 Murat, Lucia 160 murder 9, 32, 34, 43, 50, 51, 93, 104, 113, 167, 178 Mutis, Álvaro 19, 25, 31–4, 42–52, 62, 113, 181 mutual aid 114, 158, 169, 175 narcotraficantes. See drug traffickers necrophilia 54 necropolitics 107–9, 115, 120–8, 136–9, 142–5, 157–8 neo-eugenics. See under eugenics neoliberalism 8, 121, 147, 149, 161–7, 178 Nogueira dos Santos, Nelson 151–2, 154–5, 157–8 Novísimos 96, 101–2 Nozickian anarchy 165

205

Olguín, Ben 24, 34, 38, 41, 47, 50, 51, 57, 176 orality 37–9, 57, 171 Orientalism 28 Ortiz, Fernando 73, 83 other, the 91, 118, 176 Padilha, José 165 Padilla, Heberto 89 Padura Fuentes, Leonardo 101–2 Palestine 107 Panclasta, Biófilo 1, 2, 12, 181 panoptic gaze 51, 62, 134 panopticon 4, 6, 28, 53–4, 133, 163, 185. See also power, disciplinary; disciplinary prison; panoptic gaze; Presidio Modelo Partido Comunista del Perú–Sendero Luminoso (PCP-SL). See Sendero Luminoso Partido Comunista do Brasil 153 Partido Comunista Peruano 111–15, 120, 122 Passetti, Edson 14 patriarchy 32, 67, 76, 79, 82, 93, 95, 96, 171, 176 pavonato 86–8, 89 Pavón Tamayo, Luis 86 Paz, Octavio 31, 42 PEN club 98 penal abolitionism. See under abolition penal minimalism 12 Penglase, Ben 153, 159 penitentiary 4–7, 10–12, 20–1, 28, 53, 61, 105–9 Pensamiento Gonzalo 125, 127, 130, 133, 134 Pentagonía 84–5, 90 Período Especial 96 police 13, 29, 34, 69, 90–1, 128, 147, 150–2, 160, 169, 171, 175 political prisoners 10, 11, 19, 22–3, 26, 91, 107–45, 175, 178, 181–6 definition of 20, 25, 42, 58, 59 n.1 relationship to ‘common law’ prisoners 20–1, 25–7, 46–7, 52, 111, 114–15, 149–61 Postay, Maximiliano E. 13–14

206

INDEX

post-boom, the 19 postdictatorship 21 posthegemony 22–1 power. See biopower; coloniality; hegemony; mutual aid; panopticon; resistance; sovereign power; state disciplinary 7, 9, 16, 21–2, 53, 61, 107, 109, 122, 143–4 within prison 23, 28, 35, 54, 61, 82, 93, 116, 157, 159, 164, 172, 183–6 ‘Presidente Gonzalo’. See Guzmán Reynoso, Abimael Presidio Modelo (Cuba) 6 Primeiro Comando do Capital (PCC) 160 prison novel 34–45. See also El Sexto; Hombres sin mujer; La isla de los hombres solos prisoners code 59, 76, 80, 154, 156 prisons. See abolition; Água Santa; Cândido Mendes; Carandiru; hegemony; CERESO Morelos; El Castillo del Príncipe; El Morro; El Sexto; Lecumberri; Lurigancho; Miguel Castro Castro; panopticon; Presidio Modelo; Punta Carretas; San Lucas; San Pedro as colonial institution 28 as metaphor 22–3, 111, 113 as symbol 2, 5, 16, 49, 63, 69, 144 as ‘university’ 20, 153, 182 Puig, Manuel 65–6 punishment cell 22, 71, 76 corporal 5–6, 17, 55, 156, 157 ‘gentle’ 4, 134, 185 myths 14 opposition to 11 of the poor 11, 35, 57, 163, 169 prison as 3, 28, 46, 69–70, 83–4, 144, 148 punishment and modernity 9 racism of 10, 16, 60 violent 53, 54, 56 of women 11, 176, 184 Punta Carretas (Uruguay) 21

Quatrocentos contra um 25, 148–161 Quechua 110–17, 120 Queiroz Benjamin, César 150 Quijano, Aníbal 3–4 quinquenio gris. See pavonato race 10, 32, 58, 60, 63, 66–9, 74–5, 82, 84, 106, 144, 148, 169, 171, 183, 185–6. See also blackness; whiteness; racism; coloniality racism 82, 102–5, 119, 171 of the law 10, 58, 61 of national consciousness 67 state 9 Rama, Ángel 15–18, 110. See also letrado; ciudad letrada rape 32 n.3, 34, 54, 59, 71, 76, 79, 83, 91, 94, 97, 99, 103–4, 114, 119, 167, 175, 178 Reagan, Ronald 147, 162 Red Iberoamericana y Africana de Masculinidades (RIAM) 66–7, 106 Redonet, Salvador 96 reform. See under abolition; rehabilitation; revolution legal 35, 107, 136, 163 of prisoners 177–8, 182 of prisons 5, 24, 53, 56, 62, 70, 78, 82, 176, 184–6 rehabilitation. See under reform myth of 177, 183 of prisoners 4–6, 35, 107, 133, 136, 182 through the market 165 writing and 41, 178 Rénique, José Luis 123, 128–9, 134 resistance of prisoners 23, 25, 45–6, 56, 61–3, 65, 108, 123–4, 144, 168, 176, 185–6 writing and 2–3, 15, 17, 66, 174–5 revolution 13, 142, 149. See also Cuban Revolution; Haitian Revolution in literature 19, 24, 32 in prison 62, 156, 159, 161 Revueltas, José 22, 31 Rio de Janeiro 149–50, 159–60 Ripoll, Carlos 87

INDEX

Roux, Daniel 22–3, 46–7, 52, 133 n.3, 155 Rowe, William 166 Ruiz, Marina 168, 176–7 Rulfo, Juan 42, 141 Sabás Aloma, Mariblanca 72, 76, 82 Saco, José Antonio 67 sacrifice. See martyrdom Said, Edward 99. See also orientalism Salazar, Rosa 173 Salvatore, Ricardo and Carlos Aguirre 4–7, 9, 53 Sánchez, Yoani 97–8 San José 54 San Lucas (Costa Rica) 5, 29–30, 34, 37, 40, 51–62, 186 San Pedro (Bolivia) 5, 23, 163–7, 186 Santiesteban, Ángel 66, 69, 96–106, 173 São Paulo 150, 152, 160, 183 Sarmiento, Domingo F. 6 Scandinavia. See penal minimalism Schwartz, Roberto 6 Sedgwick, Eve Kosovsky 96 Segato, Rita Laura 10, 16, 19 Sendero Luminoso 25, 109, 121–44, 149, 185 Serviat, Pedro 97 sex 34, 54, 65–6, 70–105. See also necrophilia; rape sexual violence 75, 79, 83–4, 93, 104, 113, 119, 153, 156, 169–71, 175. See also rape sex work 29, 32, 96, 103 shackles. See chains shit 1–2, 113 short story 29, 70, 96–7, 105. See also ‘Ángel de la isla’; Dichosos los que lloran Sierra Madero, Abel 72–3, 75, 80 Silva Lima, William da 25, 148–62, 178, 183 Siqueiros, David 31 situatedness 31–5, 59, 111. See also standpoint; consciousness slavery 6, 9, 12, 16, 58, 79, 91, 106 Sobanet, Andrew 35, 45 socialism 86–7, 121, 152 socialist realism 101, 131

207

Society Must Be Defended 9 society of control 20–2 solidarity 25, 33, 46–7, 52, 88, 98, 120, 149, 155, 159, 167, 171, 178–9, 185–6 Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr 40 sorority 175–6 sovereign power 4, 8, 12, 22, 53, 55, 61–2, 115, 122, 125, 157 sovereignty 4, 107–45, 163, 185 Soviet Union 89, 125, 131, 147 Spivak, Gayatri 16, 33 state 5–18. See also coloniality; hegemony; letrado; sovereignty absence of 9, 25, 163, 181, 185 hegemony of 20, 21, 34, 53, 63, 185 letrado and 51 nation state 6, 9–10, 15, 18, 61–2, 109, 124, 186 neoliberal 8, 147, 149, 161, 162, 178 as organized crime 150, 160–1 penal 7 racism 9 Sendero as 123, 128 subaltern 33–4, 57, 61–3, 183, 185 violence 26, 99, 143, 152 welfare 8, 60, 162 Stoll, David 40 subaltern 16, 30, 47, 59. See also letrado; testimonio identity 33, 47, 53, 73–4, 82 as organic intellectual 52–3, 59 position 16 and the state 20 n.4, 33–4, 61–3, 183, 185 writer 33, 52, 178 Sueño de un día de verano 97 suicide 84, 92, 108, 110, 115–16, 136 Sur: latitud 13 97 surveillance 4, 21, 134, 185 Tahuantinsuyo 121. See also Incas Taussig, Michael 153 Terceiro Comando Puro (TCP) 160 Teresa de Mier, Fray Servando 85

208

INDEX

testimonio 19, 24, 33, 39–40, 43, 48, 97, 111, 136, 149, 163, 165, 197 Tilly, Charles 160–1 time 48–9, 118, 123 n.3, 124, 125–8, 141–4, 161 eschatology 118, 128, 134, 141–2, 144 futurity 114–19, 139, 158, 171 teleology 57, 125 Tonella, Galia 174–5, 177–8 torture 8, 9, 10, 13, 26, 35, 55, 92, 113, 142, 153, 173, 178 tourism 163–7 transformative justice 187 transportation 53 Trotsky, Leon 31

Vargas Llosa, Mario 18, 41, 116, 120–1 Vilaseca, David 90 violence. See armed struggle; coloniality; rape; sexual; sovereignty; torture epistemic 30 foundational 157 mimetic 153 monopoly on 160–1 neglect 11, 23 political 109, 127, 144, 147 simulated 165–6 sovereign 4, 9, 10 state 24, 26–7, 61, 107, 157 systemic 51

unconscious 42, 144 Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción (UMAP) 86, 88 Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC) 85, 97–9 United Kingdom 162 United States foreign policy 8, 72–3, 147–8, 169 prisons 8, 11, 19–20, 79, 90, 162, 183 Uruguay 26–7 utopia 21, 107–39, 144, 184. See also La utopía arcaica prisons as 7, 21, 25, 63 Uxó, Carlos 102

Wacquant, Loïc 2, 7–8, 161–2 War on Drugs 3, 8, 11, 25, 147–9, 151, 153, 155, 161–3, 165, 167, 177–8, 186 whiteness 16, 32, 58, 67–9, 71, 74–6, 81–2, 101, 103, 105, 110, 116, 160, 182, 184. See also blackness; coloniality; race; racism Wilson Gilmore, Ruth 176

Valle, Amir 98 Vanguarda Armada Revolucionária Palmares 153

‘Yoss’, José Miguel Sánchez 98–9 Young, Rusty 163 Youtube 97 Zaffaroni, Eugenio 12–13, 15, 28, 186 Zapatistas 187 Zavaleta, Leonarda 168–9, 177–8