Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Material Lusts: Socio-economic Desires in Nineteenth-century Spanish America

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2011), 88, (7), 795–809.

Abstract

Novels such as Alberto Blest Gana's Martín Rivas(Chile, 1862) and Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera's Blanca Sol (Peru, 1889) exemplify nineteenth-century Latin American narratives in which lower-class women are trafficked to upper-class men, exchanging sex for social advancement and material gain, but at the same time, the narratives also critique such intersections of desire. These representations of the economies of desire structuring sexual and class relationships indicate an anxiety about the increasing fluidity of class barriers in societies making the transition from an economy based on agriculture to one based on industry, a transition accompanied by a growing middle class and a declining aristocracy. At a time when the increased circulation of capital meant commodification of goods, as well as of bodies, and the growth of markets both literal and figurative, these narratives call attention to the intersection of the personal and the economic and to its potential drawbacks.

Novelas como Martín Rivas de Alberto Blest Gana (Chile, 1862) y Blanca Sol de Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera (Perú, 1889) ejemplifican la tendencia narrativa en el siglo XIX hispanoamericano de presentar historias en las que las mujeres de la clase baja son vendidas a los hombres de la clase alta por avances sociales. A la vez, las narrativas critican estas intersecciones de deseos. Así indican una ansiedad sobre la fluidez de las barreras de clase en las sociedades experimentado el cambio de una economía agricultural a una economía industrial, un cambio acompañado por el crecimiento de la clase media y la pérdida relativa de poder de la clase aristocrática. En un momento cuando la circulación aumentada de la capital significaba la cosificación de los bienes tanto como de los cuerpos, las novelas llaman la atención a las intersecciones de lo personal y lo económico y a las posibles desventajas.

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Skinner, Lee