North Park University, Chicago
Since the end of hostilities and the signing of peace accords in the 1990s, Central America has largely disappeared from the world's political conscience and imagination. Literature in the isthmus has turned from a testimonial vein which certainly, and intentionally, contributed to the wide appeal for solidarity from northern neighbors and foreign sympathizers to more personal discourses such as the memoir, the interior journey, the exploration of the erotic, un ir hacia el individuo, in the words of Sergio Ramírez (cited in Villalta 95). Nilda Villalta explains that [c]on el fracaso y reajuste de varios proyectos políticos en Centroamérica se observa que la historia privada ha tomado mayor importancia y son los temas de la existencia los que predominan en el momento presente. Mucha de la producción literaria actual ve introspectivamente hacia el hombre mismo explorando la posibilidad de que el individuo avance a pesar de que la sociedad no lo haga (95).1 I would add that not just el hombre mismo but also women especially, and Salvadoran writer Jacinta Escudos specifically, have continued to insist that their voices be heard, following a tradition established by their sisters who composed testimonies and poetry of resistance during the civil wars.
Escudos, whose short story collection Contra-corriente (1993) emerges in the post-war period of transition, pursues somewhat different themes but with her eye always directed to tensions experienced by women and, more broadly, by a variety of social pariahs in a repressive patriarchal society.2 She turns inward often through one of her favorite literary devices, the stream of consciousness or estilo indirecto libre, to examine the consequences of domestic violence, emotional battery, human bestiality, and stultifying social mores. There is very little dialogue in Contra-corriente. In this sense, her work reflects Ramírez's and Villalta's observation about the increased emphasis on the individual in post-war writing. But I would disagree with Ramírez, who considers this fin-de-siglo trend un recuento hacia atrás en la historia (Villalta 95). Escudos, in my view, is not simply enjoying the luxury of a peacetime romp with her inner self. Hers is not a look or gesture backward, nor a throwback to a narrow world of self-obsession. The stories of Contra-corriente are rooted in the very real context of post-war El Salvador and, at the same time, speak to the pain of woman's experience and the existential angst of a more general human condition. She forms part of a larger postmodern current of female writers gaining visibility not only in Central America but also around the world.
Escudos offers no easy answers, tidy endings, or moralizing conclusions. Nor does she explore the possibility of personal advancement against a backdrop of societal failures, as Villalta suggests. For Escudos, the personal becomes political, just in the fact that she has published her often bleak stories. In Contra-corriente, Escudos creates characters who are lonely, abandoned, and/or alienated. In her vision, I will argue, society and its rules designed to help us get along ironically cause us to feel more alone than ever.
Escudos opens the collection with Hirohito, mi amor,3 a story interestingly narrated from the point of view of Hirohito, the macho cat. He sets the tone of male domination. Briefly, Hirohito describes how Teodora, the feline queen of his heart, wooed him first, how she abandoned him for the cat next door, and then how she shamelessly began bringing a multitude of lovers home to what had become the proverbial cat house. Scandalized, he begins to stalk her, dispuesto a hacerla escarmentar o a matarla (14), ready to teach her a lesson or even kill her. Throughout the story, the narrative voice vacillates between referring to her(object) and using the accusatory, intimate tú (you). Hirohito also moves through verb tenses, describing events in the preterit (their affair, her transgressions), moving to the infinitive and the present as he examines his feelings and options for action, and ending in the future and subjunctive to express the violence he will inflict upon her until she once again submits to him (in his dreams):
¿Cómo no lamerte? ¿Cómo no morderte? Cómo no tirarme encima y estrecharte y oler tu sexo mojado y oscuro, alborotado por el presentimiento de mi carne, de mi miembro que entra dispuesto a comerte, cuando de pronto pareces arrepentirte y me empujas y me muerdas, cochina traidora, pero ahora te tendré y aunque te escondas bajo la cama y dentro del armario y corretées por el jardín y subas al techo y vaya a buscarte y te atrape y te escapes y te siga de nuevo, ya violento, ya a matar, calcularás mal, y te atraparé en la cocina y me arañarás y me gritarás con furia y me empujarás mientras te tomaré, cederás poco a poco y te entregarás, ¡serás mía Teodora del cielo! (14-15)
The narrative tension builds and the rhythm accelerates as verbs and conjunctions tumble forth in the run-on sentence. It reaches its climax when he has want he wants.
Several elements of the story draw our attention. First is the discourse of female possession by the male. Hirohito reminds his reader and Teodora that only he tenía derecho a llegar, allí donde sólo yo la podía oler y escuchar y sentir y tocar (13), and that he would tenerte mía para siempre (11). In the few instances where he does actually use her name, it is more often than not mi Teodora or Teodora mía. Second, we note the highly charged erotic atmosphere of the text: he assures her he would do anything for her mientras pudiera tenerte...como hembra, navegar en esa oscura gruta marina con olor a océano que es tu sexo, salado y amargo... (12). Perhaps the sensuality is more fundamental or natural to this world of animals although the ruminations and ramblings of the narrator give the story the flavor of a fable or allegory. The erotic gives way to a third important element, that of violence. Lovemaking, as we have seen, is often described sadomasochistically as a crescendo to violence. He stalks his beloved, espiándola, persiguiéndote sin tregua, dismissing her as la muy puta (13) when she enjoys with others what he wants for himself. The very first sentence of the story (and of Contra-corriente, for that matter) positions the male gaze and announces his dangerous obsession: Tengo que vigilarla, verla desde lejos, a veces escondido como un ladrón al acecho... (11). As Escudos announces elsewhere in Contra-corriente, love is death (37). If he cannot have her, no one can.
The story of Hirohito and Teodora is emblematic of Escudos's portrayal in this collection of the basest of human behavior, which she equates with animalism. In a recent novel, she has coined the word zoociedad to describe such a world full of bestiality (Cortez 4). The scorpions of Hereje, the cats in Ultima cena con el presidente, the sharks, dragons, dinosaurs, birds, and elephants of ¿Recuerdas la primera vez que vistes un elefante?, and the circus animals in La última función continue the theme throughout Contra-corriente. We are reminded of Julia Kristeva's concept of the abject as related to the strange liminal space that animals occupy, the abject being what disturbs identity, system, order [...] what does not respect borders, positions, rules [...] the in-between, the ambiguous, the composite (Matos 1). Since civilized society can never completely relegate the animal to a secure space, rabid dogs run everywhere (1), metaphorically infecting humans. In Escudos's world, the boundaries are blurred: we find animals that act human and humans that resemble animals.
In a related study that helps inform this one, Roberto Sosa: fabulador y creador de un nuevo bestiario, Steven F. White brings the question of the human zoo to Central American literature of the political crises of the 1970s and 1980s. White analyzes the historical roots and moral significance of Sosa's depiction of authoritarian regimes as beasts: ...[H]ay una indagación profunda sobre una zona transitoria de la fábula y la evolución que habitan los dictadores militares, caracterizados por Sosa como monos, cerdos, serpientes, buitres, y lobos. El propósito del bestiario contemporáneo de Sosa comparte la naturaleza esencialmente ética de los bestiarios medievales en que los animales existían para proporcionar lecciones morales que le servirían a la humanidad en su afán de regenerarse (327). The carry-over of animal imagery to the post-war period and the continuing ethical critique are evident in Escudos's work, where the residue of military bestiality is now portrayed in a more general machista violence. Escudos hastens to remind us that women are equally capable of inflicting violence (Interview). In Hirohito mi amor, bestial behavior degrades and dehumanizes, exploiting others for one's physical needs, destroying them when they no longer serve one's purposes. Consumed by his violent passions, Hirohito ends up isolating himself, foreshadowing the destiny of most of Escudos's characters, victim and victimizer alike.
It is significant that, in this the first story of the collection, the male narrator announces one of the principal themes of both the story and the book, ...que algo no era como antes (12). A love affair gone awry, la pura pasión que de pronto se convirtió en pesadilla (11), we can read the pronouncement at several different levels. At one, he chafes at his abandonment or betrayal at the hands of his lover; at another more allegorical level, the theme of change marks the period of post-war transition in El Salvador. Moreover, Hirohito mi amor also recalls the critically acclaimed 1959 French movie of a similar name, Hiroshima mon amour (director Alain Resnais).4 An anonymous online review suggests that the central theme of the film is the necessity to come to terms with the horrors of the past... (1) since the main characters have painful memories of the Second World War and, of course, the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Likewise, film critic David Phillips has noted the role of memory and its processes in the film (2). Something similiar can be said about the short story and the way history is processed, further underscoring the socio-political context of Contra-corriente. Relationships have changed, former friends and lovers have betrayed one another, alliances have been broken, the world is no longer paying attention to Central America, which once again is alone.5
The stories which follow Hirohito develop the theme of human alienation through imaginative though dark strategies. Related to the bestial is the grotesque, both invested with irony in Contra-corriente. We have seen animals acting more humane than humans, humans, more bestial than animals. Likewise, El congelador de papá surprises the reader with a horrific ending following a happy love story. It is all the more shocking because of its brevity and speed and its matter-of-fact style. Narrated from the point of view of the children, the story begins: Papá y mamá son famosos de nuevo (27). The first time, they were chosen como el matrimonio modelo de la nación, complete with tres lindos hijitos (27) and a television program dedicated to their exemplary marriage. Their second moment of fame comes as the children describe their father's interrogation by the police. Apparently, he explains, his wife complained to him that she was sexually unsatisfied with him; his machismo wounded, he strangled her and disposed of her body. One day as they forage through the freezer for ice cream, the children discover their mother: [E]ncontramos un montón de paquetes empacados como los de la carne que venden en los supermercados, cada uno rotulado con lo que contenía: hígado de mamá, pierna de mamá, sesos de mamá, sexo de mamá (28). The ending is wickedly humorous as the reader imagines the father in the kitchen like any housewife, meticulously labeling freezer paper bundles with names of various cuts of meat. The irony of deceptive appearances delivers the shock.
The other example of the grotesque is completely devoid of humor. Pequeña biografía de un indeseable recounts the accidental conception, birth, and early life from the point of view of an unwanted child. Yo fui una X the child was a mark on the calendar next to the name of the man with whom his mother, Lina Miranda, thinks she slept that night (45). Throughout the pregnancy, she curses the fetus, hiding her condition from everyone. She hopes to suffer some kind of accident that will put an end to the pregnancy. But [a]dentro, yo me daba cuenta de todo....Yo estaba como quien dice, entre la espada y la pared, aunque debería decir, entre su pellejo y sus tripas (47). Although the child knows he is connected to his mother through the umbilical cord and totally dependent on her, he realizes he is utterly alone. Lina does not mask her desprecio toward him; he is her pecado (48). She gives birth in the outhouse, dropping him first on the wood floor, then literalmente en medio de todas las cochinadas de la familia...en la inmundicia...en la porquería (49). Saved by a miracle and shielded from the awful truth by the rest of the family for years, he nevertheless finds out when the town drunk calls him Caquita Miranda (50). He leaves home for the anonymity of the capital where he turns to a life of crime, finding a perverse pride in his fearlessness: Nadie puede ser superior a este muchacho que, desde el primer día de nacido, triunfó sobre la mierda y la muerte (51). The abandoned orphan fulfills the destiny his mother wills for him.
Escudos's use of the technique of stream of consciousness and interior monologue el estilo indirecto libre is particularly suitable for her examination of the solitude and despair that sometimes result from the meaningless of the traditional woman's role. Bañame los ojos con ceniza tells the story of a wife who takes a lover to escape [el] manicomio del aburrimiento doméstico (21), ten years rodeada de niños empleados y perros [sic] (25). As she awaits a rendez-vous with her lover in a steamy hotel room, she has the feeling she is being observada (21). Guilt, paranoia, drowsiness in the noontime heat, anticipated erotic pleasure she is ambivalent about her emotions and the events that actually take place. As she imagines a presencia invisible (22), she drifts off into a dreamworld where no era dueña de mi mente (22). Suddenly, she hears voices: degenerada escuché nada más me di vuelta rápido porque la voz no era la de él [her lover] y además tenía que tocar la puerta porque nadie en el mundo tenía otra llave de aquel cuarto más que yo y los dueños del hotel era mi esposo y yo toda desnuda soñando descaradamente con otro hombre tanto que pensé pudo haber leído algo de aquel sueño a través de mi cabeza no supe qué hacer qué decir no pude ni intentar el gesto de taparme con la sábana... (24). She ends her delirium as her husband ends her life although she insists she is still dreaming but cannot open her eyes: el incompre[n]sivo de mi esposo me vació el tambor del revólver en la boca (25). Is she dead or is she suffering a nightmare? She concludes the story, perturbed by another voice coming from behind her: Bañame los ojos con ceniza y cómete mi sexo con tu boca (25). It is her lover. Completely withdrawn into her inner world, she has trouble returning to reality or distinguishing it from her dream. Terror and violence lurk just beneath the erotic veneer.
Loneliness and solitude lead to the female narrator's madness in Viejita necia. The ninety-year-old woman tells her reader that she never had children because she did not want them to end up as she did, sola en el caserón(39) obviously a self-fulfilling prophecy. Over fifty years earlier, her lover abandoned her in death. They had promised each other that the first to die would return to visit and comfort the one who was left, but he never did. Nevertheless, his memory is engraved en el cemento de mi soledad (42). He was el amor en persona, atento, solícito, un caballero fino y galante como ya no los hacen... (40). In a narrative tease, surprising details about her sanity and her relationship with the perfect man reveal themselves slowly. We learn he had been married, but she settled for sharing him rather than being alone. She admits that her loneliness has driven her to speaking to her birds and cats and plants. Finally, she reveals her ultimate act of insanity as she goes to the cemetery to dig up his coffin. Me quedé de viejita loca (39). She explains that she is one of those born con la cruz de ceniza de la soledad grabada en la frente (43), destined to be alone, doomed to go mad.
Similar narrative strategies lead us through the tortured mind of another woman to a surprising conclusion. Ultima cena con el presidente opens as a woman's voice tells us: Otra vez me dejaron encerrada (53). We wonder whether she is a prisoner or a patient. She is alone in her room, and le tengo horror a la soledad (54). Her husband's visits fail to cheer her: he accuses her of compulsivity, of being a slave to the clock, of relaciones libidinosas con los gatos (54), of taking Black lovers, of practicing Haitian witchcraft. Others tell her it is a question of learning to behave herself, de ser un poco más normal (54), to recover her composure. ¿Recuperar urbanidad, moral y civismo? she asks ironically (55), perhaps not fully convinced. We discover she is in an asylum. Little by little we learn more about her past, for example, that her children had to be sent to the United States while she recuperates. At the middle point of the story, after reminding her of all he has done for her, her husband explains he has brought her to this place para que todos podamos olvidar de una vez lo que pasó (56). What happened? she asks, suddenly recalling the official dinner with the president of the Republic and setting into motion the events leading to the conclusion of the story. Bored with the superficial conversation of the womendebo jugar de acuerdo a las reglas, sonreír y ser estúpidamente encantadora... (57), she longs to join the stimulating conversation at the men's table. Instead, she feels increasingly isolated, extraña, ajena (57). Her husband sends her notes and hateful glances reminding her to behave herself. Instead, she methodically removes her lipstick from her bag and proceeds to apply it in front of everyone, then her toothbrush and toothpaste, brushing and spitting into the dessert plate. She succeeds in scandalizing the guests. Fue por eso que me trajeron aquí, she concludes, aunque aún no estoy segura si fue por lo del cepillo de dientes, por mi amante haitiano o por todo lo demás junto, como si alguna de ésas cosas tuviera algo de malo (58). Is she crazy, we ask ourselves, or is she the victim of an oppressive social order?
Pushing further, Escudos describes a solitude that leads to suicide. Los reproches de Marilyn is an imagined interior monologue in the mind of Marilyn Monroe, who is vacillating in her decision to kill herself, opting for one more chance at life: ...en el último suspiro me arrepentí y sentí no sé qué deseo estúpido de vivir de nuevo y pensé en ti (65). But the person she tried to call never answers the phone. She ends the story declaring que nunca antes de eso me había sentido más sola (65). We know the ending.
Another female protagonist rebels against her destiny of self-sacrifice in Hereje. A female scorpion, she understands her life cycle: after her birth, she eats the body of her mother and begins her life of solitude: No tuve pues familia alguna, ni patria, religión, moral o tradiciones a las cuales debiera algún tipo de lealtad. No heredé nada ni llevaba conmigo más que mi desnudez, mi cuerpo entero cargado de inocencia y mi corazón lleno de silencios (35). Soon she herself will mate in a fleeting instant of absolute happiness, then proceed to devour him beso por beso hasta saciar mi vacío, tenerlo dentro de mí misma, pieza por pieza, mordisco a mordisco, esposo mío una vez, absoluto y para siempre... (37), understanding that the act of love will also be her death as well. For when her own children are born, they will devour her in turn, resuming the círculo de rituales (37). She cannot bring herself to kill her mate, wanting to love him one more night and convince him to live together with her y olvidar la soledad a la que nos había condenado la naturaleza (37). He refuses and leaves, fearful of loving her para siempre (38), afraid to believe in her. Her experience teaches her why she is alone. Love kills. She chooses not to love him rather than to destroy him. As a metaphor for human existence, the life cycle of the scorpion suggests the impossibility of loving and living in relationship or community. The scorpion will die anyway, perhaps, like the lonely Marilyn, of an act of self-inflicted violence.6
The longest and perhaps most profound story of the collection, Pequeño incendio en la Plaza de la República, is a discourse on the context of an attempted suicide. Narrated by a woman in the second person which creates an intimate yet out-of-body, accusatory tone the woman wakes up in a hospital room. We follow her mind's eye as she identifies familiar sounds, tastes, and sights while her body slowly comes back to life. She moves back and forth between reality and dream a strategy used in other stories fantasizing an escape. The man of her dreams, literally, will rescue her, ese amor de hombre que solamente existe en las películas y que tú, idiota, crees puede encontrarse en la vida real (83). An empty illusion. The text abruptly shifts the scene to the street, and the reader wonders if she has indeed run off or if she is still dreaming. Again in another Escudos technique already familiar to us, we learn midway through the story the reason for her hospitalization: she slashed her wrists. The narrator describes the moment and the feeling: para ti era el fin del mundo: la muerte es un acto silencioso y extremadamente personal (84). In a dialogue with un hombre...en tu camaher alter-ego, her conscience, or Death itself? she examines her motives: Usted está sola....No somos importantes para nadie... (85). He encourages her not to return a su infiernillo cotidiano de antes o se volverá loca... (85). In an interior monologue, she questions her own reasons for wanting to live a life that is so unhappy, a life in which she has tried to live by the rules, the moral teachings of society and the church. Ironically, in such a moral world, one survives by lying, but she cannot: Ya no puedes. Te cansaste. De engañar, de aparentar, de fingir... (89). She never feels rewarded or fulfilled; instead, she is living a lie, a slave to conformity and una mediocre tranquilidad que a veces la gente confunde con la felicidad (87), a robot existence, una vida que decapitó tu verdadero yo (88) explaining her avoidance of the first person. She is, in fact, a failure: Aceptas la derrota (87). The reader is left hanging, however, as to the protagonist's course. In the concluding paragraphs, it appears she is drawn to another suicide attempt: Quieres la vida completa, no la sobrevida. Y decides buscarla en otra parte (89). As she is reconsidering her options, she notices the man has fallen asleep. She will not awaken him. Why not, we ask. Does she not want to flirt with death again? Will she resist suicide? Or is this the end of dialogue, of two persons interacting with each other? Is she now completely alone to fulfill her death wish? Escudos is ambivalent, perhaps preferring to emphasize the tortured musings of the mental journey while leaving open its destination.
What hints does Contra-corriente give for successfully embracing life and going beyond the mere act of survival? The bright spot in the collection is Domingos familiares, a story narrated by a man who finds himself and his family overwhelmed by la crisis económica del país (75). Apparently, in better times the family enjoyed weekend outings together, but with the increasing price of gasoline and restaurants, they rarely leave home. The narrator notes that la armonía doméstica se derrumbaba (75), as the family gets on each other's nerves and goes on strike against him. He decides to take them house hunting for entertainment, drawing up their Sunday itinerary according to the newspaper classified ads. What starts out as a simple pastime becomes outlandish improvisational theater: family members invent strange identities, change the accent of their spoken Spanish, and even assume new names for the occasion one becomes don Marlon Brando. They avoid discussing their anticipated disguises ahead of time, tratando de sorprendernos unos a otros con nombres novedosos, vestidos particulares o historias que queríamos contarle [sic] a los dueños (79). Sundays en famille eran un éxito. La paz y la harmonía reinaban de nuevo en nuestro hogar (79). Feasts of the imagination enjoyed in each other's company provide the few moments of comic relief in Contra-corriente until one of the clan decides they should actually buy a house. Hoy, she announces as they prepare for their visit, vamos disfrazados de gente normal (79). From that moment, everything changes. Preoccupied with redecorating, they no longer have time for their Sunday outings. Harmony turns to indifference. Family members begin disappearing one by one, eventually leaving the narrator alone in the house. He concludes the tale describing how he, too, packs up and moves out: Nunca volví a saber nada de ninguno de mis consanguíneos (80). What appears to be a promising move toward community ends in utter solitude. The joy the family finds in its burst of creativity is swallowed up in a distracting materialism and lost in a consuming boredom and alienation. The narrator is no different from his counterparts in Escudos's other stories.
It is difficult to find much hope in Contra-corriente. The last story, La flor del Espíritu Santo, is futuristic in its description of an environmental catastrophe, provoked by selfishness, stupidity, and war. Nevertheless, the opening paragraph reads like an indictment of post-civil war El Salvador. The female narrator has just lost her job following the announcement of the closing of the greenhouse where she works: Que la crisis económica, la deuda externa, la escasez del petróleo y las guerras, así como las epidemias y los factores climatológicos mundiales, conformaban un espectro cuyo parámetro influenciaba de manera negativa a proyectos que no brindaban ningún tipo de utilidad práctica, material, exportable o comerciable (103). She refuses to join the few employees who protest, having been previously silenced by colleagues with whom she did not get along. She muses on the lost art of thinking and writing: Las computadoras hacen todo. Pintan, escriben poemas, componen música, hacen cálculos matemáticas y gráficos estadísticos, miden la temperatura ambiente y hasta hablan (107). One can be jailed for thinking. Nor does she feel any emotion for anything but the plants under her care. Long ago she ceased worrying about people: Donde hay personas siempre hay destrucción. Ahora la naturaleza está muerta (108). She wanders in the black and white world with her gas mask, one day making her way back to the deserted greenhouse in search of una chispa de color que pudiera indicar vida dentro de aquel abandono (114). She finds it, la Flor del Espíritu Santo, una orquídea que crecía salvaje en El Salvador, antes que Centroamérica se hundiera, rescued long ago by people who were once eager to preserve endangered plants and animals. She feels something close to happiness, almost smiling. She will care for the flower and algún día florecerá (114). But rather than give in to too much hope, she ends the story and the collection tentatively, as we have seen in much of Escudos's other writing. She tells us she hopes to arrive home safely but that there is no guarantee that the plant will make it through the contamination. Without the plant, the future is indeed bleak. As readers, we have no idea where the story is going. The spark of color, the promise of life is almost out of place as we consider the rest of the stories in Contra-corriente.
So many open endings to Escudos's stories point to a larger context of unfinished business. Indeed, Escudos's characters suffer from a general existential angst because they find themselves alienated and alone in a hostile world. However, something in the overall tone of the collection is peculiar to post-war El Salvador as well. It appears solidarity has disappeared with the signing of the peace accords. Solitude is what remains, everyone for him or herself, to lose oneself to the indignities of crass consumerism. The point is to survive, sobrevivir, instead of really living, vivir. One advances by virtue of his or her ability to lie, to exploit, to dominate, and to degrade. Society has disintegrated to an animal existence, dehumanizing to all, especially to women. Madness and suicide are common responses. Despite her dedication of the book to anti-heroes, desperados, orphans, the living dead, the irreverent, the locos, the amoral the emotionally and spiritually marginalized and to the valiant que se arriesgaron a la muerte por creer en/ el amor y a todos los que nadamos contra-corriente./ Para ustedes y para mí este libro/ con el verde color de la esperanza, there is much to despair, little to cheer. Escudos's stories exude such little hope with so few signs of connectedness that the reader suspects the reason for the open and ambiguous endings maybe be defensive, to keep from having to conclude anything in such a dismal state. Perhaps the strongest act of defiance in Escudos's world is the act of writing itself, creation in the face of destruction.
© Linda J. Craft
vuelve 1. Explaining the present dynamic of Central American culture, Beatriz Cortez and Ricardo Roque Baldovinos note the complexities of the history of the region. Although many North Americans and Europeans are tempted to equate Central American literature with the testimonial genre and little else--believing that nothing exists now but a gaping cultural hole, Cortez and Baldovinos counter that Central America is una región viva cuyo rostro está en perenne modificación, no sólo como resultado de los conflictos bélicos recién concluidos sino también de otros procesos tales como la inmigración y su reciente inserción a un mundo globalizado (1). Today's cultural production in El Salvador, for example, exists and even flourishes amid processes of globalization and transnationalism. It is reasonable to assume that access to the internet, the realities of migration, and the ease of travel and communication have shaped to some extent the worldview, artistic expression, and thematic interests of Central American writers, including Jacinta Escudos. Indeed, Escudos herself maintains a website: <http://www.geocities.com/jescudos/bibliografia.html>.
vuelve 2. I stress the fact that I place the text, not Escudos herself, in the postwar current. She has elaborated her formation and noted she began writing at the age of thirteen well before any hint of war (Interview).
vuelve 3. At the end of the story, the author explains that it is dedicated to her cat, El Gran Emperador Hirohito, who disappeared mysteriously December 20, 1990.
vuelve 4. The screenplay is by Marguerite Duras, one of Escudos's favorite writers.
vuelve 5. Escudos expressed surprise at my somewhat broad socio-political reading of the story. She explains: Era nada más meterme en la cabeza de mi gato (Interview). She wanted to explore how a cat might view reality. On the other hand, she admits to the rather unpleasant atmosphere of post-war El Salvador, where the peace has not been exactly peaceful (Int.). But she has not connected the two worlds.
vuelve 6. In La última función, scorpions are used to entertain the children at the circus. A performer puts a torch to a circle of gasoline he has poured around their cage. Rather than cross the line of fire to escape, the scorpions commit suicide by poisoning themselvesto the delight and laughter of the audience. They take pleasure in another's pain.
*Dirección: Associate Professor Mary Addis*
*Realización: Cheryl Johnson*
*© Istmo, 2004*