This special issue of the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies contains five articles that critically explore a variety of representations of masculinities from four different Latin American cultures, namely those of Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico and Colombia. Chronologically, the texts that are the primary objects of study range from a previously unpublished letter written in Colombia in the 1860s to a classic novel of the Mexican Revolution, experimental writing from the 1960s Mexican literary movement La Onda, an iconic Cuban film of the 1960s, and a late 1970s Salvadoran collage epic.
Since the 1980s there has been a noticeable increase in studies of masculinities and representations of those masculinities globally. In this intellectual context, the idea for this special issue emerged from the editors’ interest in the potential relevance of R. W. Connell’s theory of a plurality of masculinities for the analysis of representations of men and masculinities in Latin American cultures. As a first stage the editors convened a panel at the Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS) annual conference in Liverpool in 2008, which successfully brought together a variety of approaches to the subject. From the earliest discussions it was evident that such a project would necessitate engagement with two major research problems. The first of those problems is the movement of ideas between disciplines. For instance, Connell’s landmark work in the field of sociology, Masculinities (1995), analyses hierarchical ‘gender orders’, themselves constituted by particular and localized ‘gender regimes’, with the dominant model of masculine identity categorized as ‘hegemonic masculinity’. The concept would seem relevant to any field of study in the arts and humanities but it raises a particularly important methodological question for contributors to this issue: can highly complex sociological theories of gender identity formation or, indeed, cognate theories from any other discipline, be fruitfully employed in the analysis of Spanish and Latin American cultural texts? [End Page 641]
The second problem is the dominance of Western perspectives on representations of Latin American men and masculinities. In at least one of the many studies partly inspired by Connell’s works, Chris Haywood and Máirtín Mac an Ghaill’s Men and Masculinities (2003), there is a call for further study of the extent to which ‘academic concepts developed and used in [British, American and Australian] contexts have limited purchase in different social and cultural arenas’, especially in developing countries (149). One highly successful attempt to address this difficulty can be found in Matthew Gutmann’s treatment of the myth of the Latin macho in The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City (1996), an ethnographic study which challenges traditional stereotypes related to machismo with more culturally grounded concepts such as hombría. Within Spanish and Latin American cultural studies there is also a growing body of extant cultural critique that successfully demonstrates the permeability of disciplinary boundaries while simultaneously challenging Western modes of analysis with nuanced, culture-specific criticism. Paul Julian Smith’s groundbreaking The Body Hispanic: Gender and Sexuality in Spanish and Spanish American Literature (1989), for example, examines a wide range of Hispanic texts in the light of theories expounded by intellectuals as diverse as Marx, Lacan, Irigaray and Kristeva. More recently, Robert McKee Irwin’s Mexican Masculinities (2003) and Mark Millington’s Hombres in/visibles: La representación de la masculinidad en la ficción latinoamericana, 1920–1980 (2007) have drawn on an equally wide range of critical theory while establishing a sharp focus on the literary construction of Latin American masculinities. A key aspiration of this special issue is to emulate the success of such works in breaking down disciplinary boundaries at the same time as privileging Latin American perspectives.
The focus of this issue in the first three articles is literature. Harris’s article, drawing critically on Connell’s conceptualization of masculinities as ‘configurations of social practice’, and on bell hooks’ analysis of ‘patriarchal masculinity’ as a social disease, reads Los de abajo (1915) as a critique of three patriarchal ‘gender regimes’ and introduces the innovative notion of ‘patriarchal affect’. In this way, the article resists a form of Western essentialism that defines a unitary model of Mexican masculinity in terms...