miércoles, 14 de octubre de 2009

The female masculinity of Mistral, the queer mother of the nation.

Fiol-Matta, Licia. A Queer Mother for the Nation. The State and Gabriela Mistral. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

This book is key to understand how intentional and deliberate was the deployment of modernizing nationalist narratives in Chile, and Gabriela Mistral's participation on them. It shows, furthermore, how Mistral was highly influential to the crafting of Chilean and Latin American gender and racial ideologies.

Fiol-Matta's careful research verses on Mistral's relationship to the Chilean (and later Mexican and Latin American) state cultural politics and how she established a persona that played along with the state's gendered, raced, and sexualized deployments of "national culture." Mistral contributed to the creation of images of motherhood and nationalist womanhood while in her own life not adjusting to heterosexual patterns of sexual performance nor of national identity. The fact is that she consciously made her image to coincide with a mythical image of womanhood, aligning it with nationalist discourses of progress and modernization that positioned the image of the female-schoolteacher as a model of exemplary female citizenry and patriotic subjectivity.

Fiol-Matta reflects on some unsettling aspects of this:
- Why was the state invested on Mistral's queer figure, her unequivocally ambiguous sexuality, or straigth-forwardly, why was the state interested in her female masculinity?
- What kind of maternal discourse is unfolded through her image as the Schoolteacher of America, and the Mother of Chileans?
- How did a queer achieve the status of the guardian of the Chilean heterosexual family?
The author explores the complicated ways that heteronormativity, racism and queerness are intertwined in her public persona and performance. For example, the image of schoolteacher functions as a sort of transitioning figure between the children's real mothers (with whom the state is in competition) and the state. Also, because symbolically children in Chile are all "huachos" —orphans of father— her image would be fit to be offered by the state a site of constant identification and disidentification for the citizens.