August 21, 2012

Puta Mother for Queer Hijos de la Chingada

Consider this an exercise in put@esthetics working toward new epistemologies in jotería theological perspectives. The idea of put@ readings in jotería and theological studies has been an on-going discussion between myself and others, so consider this a rehearsal of the put@ performance jot(e)ología that I hope to continue unpacking through future posts.

Where do we locate same-sex desire in the postcolony? We are considered in many ways el otro entre los otros, negotiating this liminal space between race and sexuality that traps us into a space where our experiences remain silent and our existence remains invisible—deviant bodies on all accounts because our embodied realities resist normative trajectories of queerness and Latinidad.

Mexicans have an expression to describe those we consider the "others" and the deviants that resist what's normative: they are hijos de la chingada. They are strangers, enemies, rivals, and bad Mexicans. And these "others" are not defined other than just being sons of a mother as vague and indeterminate as themselves. It is a category of erasure that eliminates the existence of all the invisibles and incompatibles.

Who is la Chingada? She is the Mother. A mythical figure in Mexican culture that has been forgotten and erased almost just as much as the name implies. Chingar has many meanings in Mexico, it's sort of a catch-all phrase depending on the context. The word, most importantly, is loaded with sexual meaning: to fuck. The chingón is the macho and he rips open the chingada. The chingada is passive, penetrated, and open. The power dynamics associated with being la chingada reflect the masculinist impulses in place that make being la jotería a death-dealing category. Homosexuality in Latin America is based on sexual positionality, thus the only 'gay one' is the receptive anal partner. However, through the development of jotería studies we push back against the dichotomy of activo/pasivo and claim a sexual identity on our own terms. But in normative contexts, we remain to be the fucked.

La Chingada in it's mythical form, however, refers to La Malinche, the Mayan translator for Hernán Cortés, who has become one of the most condemned figures in Chicano culture. Although she is a historical figure, historians know little about the details of Malinche’s life. Instead, as her story has been mythologized, her name has come to stand primarily for the betrayal of the Mexican race and the danger of female sexuality. In his seminal essay on Malinche, Octavio Paz articulates what has become the most common interpretation of Malinche: "Her passivity is abject: she does not resist violence, but is an inert heap of bones, blood and dust. Her taint is constitutional and resides... in her sex. This passivity, open to the outside world, causes her to lose her identity: she is the Chingada. She loses her name; she is no one; she disappears into nothing-ness; she is Nothingness. And yet she is the cruel incarnation of the feminine condition."

I would consider Malinche to be a deeply queer figure through the ways in which she has been marginalized, erased, and how her sexualized body is a negative image. She is called La Chingada, but she also carries the label of a 'puta'—the whore, bitch, libertine, but also a verb to signal fucking. Put@ also refers to anyone whose sexual activities and gender performance transgresses normative trajectories. As la jotería we share in this liminal space with Malinche. She is a transitional being that brings us into an ideological communitas.

As my friend at "THE-OLOGIES" describes, "'Put@,' not unlike 'woman,' is a category that, politically mobilized, can only performatively identify in the presence of difference." These are deeply sexualized differences and markers of identity and it is this sexualization that cannot be overlooked. As sexual minorities and deviants, la jotería inherits the put@ marker of Malinche. We inherit the same erasure due to our sexual transgressions. I, however, call us to take ownership of that transgression in our theological development.

Through the performance of my queerness in academia and my cultural celebration of it, I believe that I engaging something deeply political, which some find to be very disturbing. But there is a power in that disturbance that shouldn't go overlooked. The crossing of sexual borders makes us the writers of our theologies. Marcella Althaus-Reid writes that, "Transgressions have always been with us. Sexual theologies are the opposite of idealistic processes. They are materialist theologies which have their starting points in people’s actions, or sexual acts without polarising the social from the symbolic. It is from human sexuality that theology starts to search and understand the sacred, and not vice versa. Indecent theologies are sexual theologies without pages cut from the books of our sexual experiences."

I believe that through engaging our sexualized histories, and the legacy Malinche passes onto us, we can begin to uncover something inherently sacred about our experiences. We create beauty and sacred meaning out of a put@/jot@ identity that has already been assigned to us, but no longer is that label a death sentence, it is my hope that it can function as a life-giving category.

Paintings: “Malinche: Lost in Translation” by Gilbert Reyes and "Cortés y la Malinche" by José Clemente Orozco


  1. A very insightful take on disrupting notions of put@identity. And thank you so much for introducing me to Marcella Althaus-Reid.

  2. I love coming to this blog and finding this piece. Thank You for so much! Very insightful and motivating.