Paquita la del barrio : Singing Feminine Rage
Arizona State University
Contemporary Latin American folklore and popular song presents a wide array of female singers, stretching at least as far back as the origins of radio and filmmaking, passing through television, and before that cabaret culture and its female performers from at least the second half of the nineteenth century. Singers like Lucha Reyes, Violeta Parra, Mercedes Sosa, Amparo Ochoa, and one could even include here the Chicana Linda Ronstadt (who sings in both Spanish and English) have international reputations and enjoy a wide distribution of their published work. There are, to be sure, significant differences between these women as regards social and cultural ideologies and the audiences that they have customarily attracted. Yet, as a whole, they constitute a broad spectrum of female and feminist musical activity and, as a particularly eloquent detail of a postmodern sensibility, have, in the case of those traditionally disdained as "too commercial" and "too popular/populist" significant examples of cross-over identity. This will be shown to be especially true of Paquita.
These singers enjoy the privileged position assigned to women as a figure that is both mythic and marginal, as both a transcendent signifier of a female superiority vis-à-vis the misery of earthly existence and, contrarily, as the sign of the way in which women are the paradigmatic victims of that misery: "woman" as the social construct that bears both the ideologemes of how misery may be transcended and of how that misery must be invested in a specifically designated scapegoat. In both cases, to be sure, woman is a subalternized sign of the patriarchal hegemony which is able, insistently, to deny any independent social reality to the sign of "woman" or the social subjectivities agglutinated under it. The ways in which these women are called upon to "sing their own lives," the concomitant right of their assigned privilege, necessarily requires them to sing the roles to which they have been assigned.
Thus, Mercedes Sosa is heard for the way in which she emblamatizes the genocide of the cultures of the American Indians, those of remote provinces, those of individuals who have been left impoverished in the midst of Latin America's most prosperous nation. Violeta Parra, whose suicide sealed her status as the quintessence of the woman who can never quite achieve any significant symbolic space of her own, who is always left as an appendage to a higher masculine order (in this case, the thoroughly masculinist and, therefore, unrelentingly sexist and homophobic left of the 1960s and 1970s), is best known for a particularly memorable song that served as something like an anthem of revolutionary promise, "Gracias a la vida," despite her own suicide in repudiation of the joyfulness of life.
Mexico's Lucha Reyes carried the resonance of suffering in her voice, and the vast bulk of her recorded musical performances are deeply imbued with it, even those that strike a defiant pose like "La tequilera" one of her virtual signature songs. Reyes seemed always to perform on the verge of the suicide that she will, of course, finally succumb to. And yet she was never able to cross over from what was inalterably charged with sentimentality and suffused with intense pain. Amparo Ochoa, by contrast, dealt in songs that lauded legendary feminine figures as paradigms of Latin America's historical margination, as in "Maldición de Malinche," for example, or in "Jugar a la vida" which attempts to describe how the life of a prostitute functions as a model for urban women.
Finally, the nostalgic recitation of Linda Ronstadt's collection Las canciones de mi padre evokes a type of implicit protest against the dominant Anglo culture with which Ronstadt is principally identified by American audiences, a traditional Mexican culture that is being implacably obliterated in the more and more Americanized Hispanic Southwest.
It is in the context of these singers that the voice of Paquita la del Barrio (born Francisca Viveros in Alto Lucero, in the sate of Veracruz) stands out as surprisingly unique in Mexican popular culture and, for that matter, in Latin American culture in general. Although Paquita's roots lie with the "tradición arrabalera," Paquita, who began her career as a singer in the 1960s, distances herself from several of the paradigmatic structures of the popular song. Her principal performance venue is a Mexico City restaurant, the Salón Aries (Zarco 202), in the neighborhood in which she was raised (Guerrero, north of the Parque de la Alameda). This building is the house in which she lived as a child, and she continues to make her home in the upstairs over the restaurant. The Salón Aries maintains a lower-middle-class atmosphere reminiscent of old-style cabarets and tents, and there is virtually no concession to the trappings of modern establishments or places designed to attract a tourist crowd: the overall appeal is strictly and proudly Mexican and working class.
Paquita dresses like the torch singers of yesteryear; she combs her hair back severely and holds it in place with gel; and she makes no attempt to hide what she is: an overweight woman in her late fifties with no particularly charming physical traits, not, at least, from the point of view of conventional Western femininity. Moreover, her artistic presence is characterized by a detached inwardness and timidity that apparently makes it difficult for her to connect in open extroversion with her audience, and she sings in almost a graceless fashion, handling her body and the mike clumsily, muttering every so often at the musicians of her band who occupy the tiny stage with her, beneath primitive and unforgiving spots. She pauses to wipe the sweat from her brow with the cocktail napkins the waiters pass up to her with the written requests for her to sing specific songs from her audience, only to then crumple them up and throw them on the ground when not distractedly continuing to hold them in her hand.
Paquita has never been particularly concerned for the large-scale commercialization of her person and songs, despite the fact that, in the last ten years she has become a favorite of middle-class and professional-class audiences; prior to that, she was often dismissed as "de mal gusto." For example, there is no place in the Salón Aires to sell her tapes or the CDs that are now made of her work (cheap, perhaps pirate copies, of the former can be found in market and street stalls, while the latter are available in any local music store in Mexico). After each show, Paquita agrees to pose, always distantly timid, with her loyal fans for polaroid snaps. These photographic sessions can last as long as one of her shows, and one suspects that here is where the real money is made and not in the almost insignificant minimum order required (less than $3.00); there is no cover charge for the show.
One is tempted to see Paquita as almost the parody of a torch singer from the old days, with her virtually graceless physical presence and her decidedly unfeminine hairdo (at least in terms of the fantasy arrangements of the vast majority of Mexican female stars and prevailing norms of feminine beauty in Mexican fashion venues). Indeed, one could even venture to say that there is something about her that recalls a drag-queen imitation of Loretta Holloway, Billie Holiday, or Sophie Tucker in bad times. The following is the description provided by Roberto Ponce in an article dated 21-VII-1996, in the "Cultura" section of the magazine Proceso:
La elegante Paquita suda. Lleva vestido de lentejuelas plateadas diseñado por ella y su costurera Lupita, anillos y aretes brillantes. Por sus largas pestañas caen lágrimas que apresura a secar con servilletas que brinda el público, escritas con títulos de sus canciones. Camina pausada con zapatos de tacón alto por el pequeño escenario y gira su mano impecable cuando el cuarteto norteño Oro Negro atrasa el tiempo de la polka o el vals. Se frena. Mira directa a los ojos de la gente y arranca su acento con frases de pena, entregando el bolero que provoca coros de catarsis[.]
The foregoing comments describe basically static aspects of Paquita's artistic persona, but they hardly capture the way that, when she sings, as distracted as she may appear to be, as out of sorts with her musicians as she may act, and as brusque as she may react to audience requests, she has the latter in the palm of her hand and, indeed, one suspects that the "rough" aspects of her act are part of the "authentic" charm her fans come to see, whether as part of a consciously cultivated presence or not on her part. Paquita's lack of polished pretensions clashes with the sophistication of the downtown nightclubs and the singers in vogue on MTV. Rather, her performance appeals in a seductive fashion to an audience avid for clear and intransigent messages based on shared emotional experiences and without commercial tricks and sentimentalizing distractions. Paquita's work is, to be sure, commercial in nature, and it would be a mistake to suggest that it is defined by any political or ideological program. However, Paquita appeals conservatively to well established ideological parameters, both in the definition of erotic roles and in the parameters of sexual relations, and unlike the typical capitalist quests for new markets through new packaging, Paquita is content to adhere to a closed and readily identified discourse of love that is not likely to yield readily to artistic innovations as regards musical style, poetic content, or performance characteristics. Or, perhaps, to view the matter somewhat differently, the genius of Paquita's packaging lies with enforcing a nostalgia toward a music, the ambience in which it is performed and the ambience that it evokes, that is in many ways reminiscent of the golden years of the beginnings of commercial music in Mexico, on the radio, in films, and in live performances.
It would be a a big mistake to think that Paquita's songs are directed exclusively or primarily to women. It is true that the bulk of her repertory dozens of titles from which she draws the contents of each performance in conformance with the express requests of her audience functions something like an inverted tango, in the sense that in the tango, it is the man who sings of his betrayal at the hands of a woman, centers on the woman who announces betrayal by the man and thus declares the angry rejection of the latter for his villainy and treachery. Yet Paquita's texts seem to transcend a simple appeal to how women are deceived by men, such that they end up appealing to a public whose principal interest is in acceding to a lyrical discourse that speaks honestly about facts of life in Mexico that all have, to one extent or another, partaken of. It is an urban reality marked by profound defects in the relations between the sexes, a reality of personal experiences circumscribed by the narrow limitations that are an integral part of the lives of the vast majority of a society that, within the confines of the internationalization of Mexican culture, surely feels that it has few musical outlets for its own expression. To be sure, popular music in Mexico covers a vast territory, but the question is to what extent Paquita's music charts an alternative to dominant forms, whether they be the old chestnuts of the canción ranchera and the bolero (mostly marked by a sentimentalized version of romantic relations) or glitzy routines of Madonna wannabes (mostly marked by cynical versions of late capitalist modalities). Certainly, Paquita's songs do not engage in deep sociological analysis, nor do they intend to. But they do capture a harsh reality of social life in the Mexican megalopolis as it is encoded in sentimental relationships.
Paquita does not write her own songs, but rather commissions them, offering suggestions as to what she would like them to say. A reader of an earlier version of this essay complained that there was a problem with the fact that Paquita's compositions are written by men, as though that were somehow a determining feature. Even if Paquita did not contribute to the actual composition of her songs beyond suggestions for their content, what she does with it as part of a performance is what, from the point of view of creative a cultural product, matters. This means both the ways in which she inflects the words and sentences of the song, and also the entire array of body language that she so expressively and characteristically brings to her enactment of these songs. The performance of already extant texts is a double semiotic process, since it involves not only interpreting them in the movement from their prior existence to the performance act itself, but it also means using the protocols of the enactment to induce in the audience another level of interpretation of those texts: the performer interprets the texts and the audience interprets the performer's interpretation of them. To circumscribe an understanding of how meaning takes place around such texts by suggesting that they are fixed in such and such a realm (or excluded from another realm) because of certain facts of their composition is simply to misunderstand the enormously complex ways in which cultural production takes place and the multiple levels of interpretation it sets into motion. By the same token as it is naive to believe that a text written by a man cannot have a feminist meaning (in whatever sense the qualifier is defined), it is equally naive to believe that, were Paquita or some other woman to write her lyrics, that would render them in her enactments substantially more female-marked or feminist than they are.
I would propose that the best way to characterize the overall sense of Paquita's lyrical enactments is in terms of "feminine rage," as it is defined (under the heading "anger") by Kramarae and Treichler and by Kahane (see also, in passing, radical feminist perspectives on rage by Daly). Paquita's texts not only sing of the suffering of women in the game of love, nor do they only describe in detail the innumerable occasions on which the woman feels herself to be betrayed, and is, in fact, betrayed. Furthermore, they are not limited to recounting the everyday humiliations and the large-scale indignities of being a woman in a macho society. In Paquita's neighborhood, the woman does not merely cry aloud the machinations of man as a son-of-a-bitch, but she goes on to inventory in detail exactly all of the ways in which they are SOBs. The result is a merciless deconstruction of macho ideology via the relentless detailing of the forms in which the honor and dignity that underlie the value of macho manhood the ground zero of patriarchal authority can be considered to be as illusory as it is laughable (hence, the degree of ridiculousness that tinges many of Paquita's songs). Feminine song is usually the realization of a discursive contradiction: the woman who is conventionally expected to suffer in silence is permitted to vocalize only when she undertakes it in a way that is "worthy" of her sex that is, in a tone that is long-suffering, pathetic, and lachrymose. By contrast, man, in the fashion of Agustín Lara (who is famous for his songs on brothel themes) can sing for the woman, confirming in an oblique fashion the fact the suffering of women takes place at the hands of the masculine agents of the patriarchy.
Paquita violates the prevailing conventions of the female vocalization of love betrayed in at least three dimensions:
1) By engaging in such an energetic style of singing, one that comes close to cantatory shouting, she breaks with the criterion of discretion that demands that pain be expressed well in measured terms befitting the style of a lady. Lucha Reyes also sang with all her heart, but one could feel the suffering with which she invested every word, and her style involved therefore a rhetorically heightened articulation of an appropriately deeply-felt emotion.
2) However, Paquita is not engaged in articulating her suffering: the suffering took place before the composition of the song and its enactment, and the site of the song is not one of pain but of anger. Thus, the laws of decorum for the expression of a convincing suffering, of a legitimate and moving outpouring of pain, do not apply. They are, rather, replaced by the histrionics of rage. Paquita rages, and the raging of her songs synthesizes the emotion of a woman who has left suffering behind: she has suffered so many times that she is inured and there are no longer any surprises. She knows from which side the blow will come even before the man who is going to strike it knows he will do so. The woman's rage blots out the crocodile tears of the macho, just as its rhetorical torrents (e.g., often over-the-top images and figures of speech) sweep away any attempt by the man to mount a refutation, a countertext that would provide a justification and a mea culpa. But, of course, nothing can prevail against the forceful volume of the voice of the enraged woman, and even less with the musical backup, something akin to heavy metal ranchera. As the subtitle of Nehring's book on punk rock music states, "Anger Is an Energy."
3) Paquita is not content to describe the circumstances of her betrayal. Of greater importance is the enunciation of a pattern of revenge that constitutes a way of transcending woman's humiliation. There are even texts where the woman deceives before she can be deceived (e.g., "Tres veces pequé"), which is a form of specifying a proper form of female subjectivity in the face of masculinist domination. To be sure, such a narrative scheme can be interpreted as a perverse reenactment of patriarchal power, and, as such it is seductive as a variation on the theme of beating the other at his own game. However, an alternative interpretation is that such a move constitutes a subversive resemanticization of betrayal by the male. Since woman cannot, in any reasonable way, lay any sustained claim to the level of power wielded by men, especially in matters of love and sex, woman's betrayal of man is resemanticized as a project with effects substantially secondary to those of betrayal by a man. Furthermore, such a project is more a subversive project than an effectual undertaking, since the imbalance of power makes the attempt by the woman more a defiance of the laws of love than an effective accomplishment. Therefore, what is being dealt with primarily is the seductive assertion of the potential of the woman for an agency that a woman may strive to put into practice and not just the conduct of a social or sexual equal. Certainly, the image is what counts here: that of a woman who claims to be in sufficient control of her body and her emotions such that she can, in effect, have the jump on treacherous masculinity, when, indeed, that treachery depends on the very reality of the fact that female agency is effectively blocked at every turn. When Paquita sings "Invítame a pecar/invítame a pecar/invítame o te invito yo," she is speaking of an agency that she attributes to herself and of a legitimation of sinning as a woman might choose to define it, most specifically in terms of a deliberate exercise of sexual rights such as are, in fact, quite scarce in the lived reality of her audience. To this extent, then, hers is a highly utopian imperative but one which, through the concomitant agency of her singing, she wishes to figure as reasonable and realizable.
I would like now analyze in detail specific compositions taken from Paquita's shows, such as the song "Esa es la puerta," a text that exemplifies clearly the theme of feminine rage:
Si te sorprende que me tome yo esta copa
no es por la pena de que vas a abandonarme
Estoy contenta, voy a tomarme otra a tu salud
porque por fin vas a dejarme
Esa es la puerta por la que una vez llegaste
y te adentraste hasta el fondo de mi alma
Ahí está abierta, desde aquí se ve la calle
Y te suplico que la cierres cuando salgas
Es mi cumpleaños y me voy a ahogar en copas
con mis amigos que vendrán a festejarme
Yo te suplico de favor, si no te importa
quiero estar sola y a tí se te hace tarde
Esa es la puerta por la una vez llegaste
Ahora que salgas, por favor no des portazo
No se te olvide que una vez por ella entraste
a refugiarte derrotado entre mis brazos
No te sorprenda que me tome yo esta copa.
One's attention is immediately called to the substantial difference between the tone of this song and the conventions of the traditional bolero. In the bolero, the female voice is likely to engage in a detailed lament regarding her having been abandoned by the man. She will describe the circumstances of her discovery of betrayal, the emotions she felt and the ways in which she reacted. She may inventory fetishes related to any one of the stages of the amorous relationship, and, clearly, one is left with the impression that the song is, as an object experience physically and with dense sentimental repercussions for the one who sings it and, presumably, for the one who hears it, a fetish itself of paradigmatic proportions. This is especially true in terms of accompanying iconics of the bolero, such as record covers, publicity posters and photographs, decorations on the song sheets and such: these details enhance the fetishization of the song itself as cultural event.
Paquita, by contrast, changes the discourse principles completely by erasing the controlling predicate of lamentation, the base conceptual point of reference for everything the bolero might articulate. Hers is, rather, the predicate of rejoicing: abandonment by the man is an occasion for a sensation of release rather than betrayal, of joy rather than despair, and of praise of an integrity that the woman has recovered by being back on her own rather than the fearful sentiment of solitude (from the point of view of the heterosexist paradigm, being left alone is to have to confront the specter of onanistic solitude, and the suspicion that the fetishized song is always a form of displaced masturbation cannot be ignored). Thus, the woman celebrates by raising a glass of drink in toast, and her song is an icon of this toast, an alternative enactment of it in which the erotic fetish is eliminated because it cannot connect with the figures and tropes by which the bolero recirculates the practice of entoned lamentation.
This composition, like the bolero in general, is built around vocatives, by contrast to the lyrics of the Argentine tango, where the trecherous/deceitful/disappeared love is rarely addressed directly. Thus, the bolero is as much song to an individual as it is about that individual, and it is as much about getting in the last word in a dialogue that is supposedly truncated by the disapperance or, in this case, the banishment of the beloved as it is a description of the circumstances by which that dialogue, the love affair it articulates, becomes suspended. When Paquita supposedly addresses the object of her scorn with recurring motifs such as "?Me estás oyendo, inútil?" a veritable leitmotif that occurs from one text to another, it is not expected that the addressee will be given the opportunity to answer the question. Moreover, when Paquita uses such a leitmotiv to look at, or seem to look at, men in the audience, it assumes a secondary register by which feminine rage encompassess the entire social inventory of "man." This exemplum of feminine rage is one of Paquita's trademarks, much to the delight of her audiences, who, as is customary with such trademarks, wait expectantly during her performances for it to be trotted out. It is significant to note that this epiphonema accuses the macho of being "inútil." That his, by contrast to the image of the overbearing masculine agent, Paquita's man is worthless, does not function ("no sirve"), all with rather sarcastic and demeaning implications of sexual impotence.
The motif of the toast opens and closes the song being discussed here, thereby underscoring the inversion of the abject commonplace of having once again to be alone in the world, lost, aimless, undefined because of the lack of a male point of reference that will shape her with his love and its metonymic entailments. In a society in which women can only be identified and can only identify themselves in terms of their relationship with a man (the principle of phallocentrism: the irreducible grounding of all sexual identity, and, therefore, of all social identity, in societies in which the sexual is never not present in the construction of subjective identities), the act of closing off abruptly and definitively this sort of totalizing dependency and to defiantly confront the world is a gesture toward female signing as a sign of female liberation. Moreover, to sing thus in public (the boleros, while of course "really" sung in public, are often feigned to be sung in private, in the solitude of abandonment) models how woman who has been done the favor of being abandoned must assume the responsibility and the right to stand up to the world and its, for her, demeaning erotic imperatives.
Moreover, if one of the subheadings of the theme of abandoned woman is how she is left unprotected, exposed, cast out into the cold and loveless world, banned from the masculine-marked domus, in "Esa es la puerta," the inner realm, in fact, belongs to the woman. The house is hers, and it is the man who is thrown out and who has the door locked in his face, and it is the woman who will remain inside, protected and succored by the four walls that will no longer have to contain the agent of her betrayal. In this figural construction, the house as refuge represents the recovering of a space of female integrity that antedates the circumstantial appearance of the macho to which the woman is able to retain once he has been shown the door. The trope is evidently an Edenic one: the privileged realm is invaded by the man, but he and he alone is the one who is cast forth.
It is also evident that "house" here is a metaphor for the body of the woman, her desire for an integrity that is as much physical as it is psychological, one that is larger than the transitory presence of the macho in her life. That is, her integrity is not defined by the man, as goes the principles of the Adamic patriarchy, but in fact stands independent from man and is in excess of him. In this way, the man's presence in her life is a transitory household inconvenience.
Latin American song is replete with examples of women who decry the disappearance of their man; I use "women" here in the sense of a subject position, rather than as a conventionally gendered person, since the tradition of the romantic song in Latin America, such as the bolero, the canción ranchera, and the balada have allowed for men to sing such songs, either as standing in for a women, reversing roles, or, as part of a historical gay subculture and its more movement-identified contemporary manifestations, cross-gendering as female social subjects, as in the case of Juan Gabriel (Geirola). I don't claim that Paquita's text is unique, but sung with the emphasis and the full scales of rage with which she is accustomed to marking her performances, it stands as a quite a singular declaration of female independence in the midst of a popular culture that is usually characterized by its intransigent masculinism.
"Subasta" (composed by Santiago Escobar S.) brings together synthetically the three themes that I have been underscoring with respect to Paquita's songs: woman as agent, as in "Invítame a pecar"; the woman who declares her independence from man, as in "Esa es la puerta"; and the woman thirsty for love but who must discover and accept the fact that man is not up to any sort of emotional undertaking:
Quién da más, por este corazón,
sediento de pasión y de ternura.
Quién da más, por este gran amor
que tiene la ilusión de una aventura
Con pesar lo voy a rematar,
ya que tú no le das amor ardiente.
Desde hoy, con el mejor postor
se va este corazón a amar intensamente
Y es que yo en realidad,
tengo necesidad de hacer esta subasta,
tu amor ya no da más, y yo quiero en verdad,
gozar como Dios manda.
Tú no me importas ya porque no aguantas
Y es que yo en realidad,
tengo necesidad de hacer esta subasta,
tu amor ya no da más, y yo quiero en verdad,
gozar como Dios manda.
Tú no me importas ya porque no aguantas.
There are many songs in which a woman offers herself, without the discretion imposed by the conventions of feminine modesty, with or without the resources provided to her by the technology of modernity and an urban life that encourages and even obliges women to look out for their own interests. But what is singular about "Subasta" (and one will recall that the interconnected themes of love as a raffle, as lottery, as a gamble are also bolero commonplaces) is the affirmation from the outset that a man will never be able to rise to the occasion of the sentimental demands of a woman. As an inversion of the patriarchal scheme whereby woman takes her measure from man, the proposition of woman as emotional superiority corrects the masculinist proposition of woman as excess, as an uncontrolled/uncontrollable hysterical overflowing of the boundaries of a proper social order, one in which sexual desire is only one of many things, but certainly a highly notable one, that are contained by patriarchal sobriety. Here, by contrast, the point is to show the lack of the latter, a term that is chosen advisedly, since woman is customarily construed under the sign of a lack, the lack of the penis. But it is man who is lacking here, and the lack is to be defined in terms of emotion, sentiment, love, and, indeed, even adequate sexuality (one is reminded of the delightful trope proposed by the American novelist Rita Mae Brown,"Venus envy").
Therefore, a verse like "Y yo quiero en verdad gozar como Dios manda" becomes highly underscored, as a refutation of the Law of the Father that mandates the inferiorization of woman's erotic potential. Indeed, the very fact that a woman may have any sexual desire at all is, in conformance with millennial social and religious ideologies, patent proof of her sinful nature. But Paquita defends explicitly the right of women to experience sexual pleasure, although, where contemporary urban culture supports this privilege with the principles of modernity (e.g., equal sexual rights, female independence, full subjective agency), Paquita retains a dimension of Mexican popular culture by invoking divine support, something quite striking in a culture that traditionally invokes God for the purpose of circumscribing, invigilating, and controlling the female body.
One might be tempted to extract from such a definition of the disequilibrium between the legitimate project of female pleasure and the dreadful limitation of male response a sort of intransigent feminism bordering on vengeful lesbianism, which after all is provoked by man in his incapacity to satisfy the vital, erotic necessities of woman. However, this would be yet another form of masculinist sexism and certainly a very thin definition of lesbianism, as either a psychohistorical phenomenon or as a specific project of desire. But what is legitimate is to affirm in some sort of categoric way the very real limitations women face in their pursuit of what might be for them an erotic project (as opposed, of course, to what it might be for men).
"Esa es la puerta" too is grounded on rage, rage over the fact that the masculine other will necessarily come up short regarding the demands placed on it by the woman and the position she is staking out in her song. Yet this rage is mediated also by Hélène Cixous's laugh of the Medusa in the face of all of the dimensions of male impotence, an impotence in which sexual performance is just one reflection of emotional and sentimental impotence. "Subasta" transgresses the norms of the feminine singing voice, since this voice will not agree to assuming the guilt projected on her by the limitations of the macho: if man does not pay attention to a woman, it is supposed to be her fault, a defect in her femininity and her inattentiveness to the amorous project the patriarchy puts before her. As a consequence, she ought only merit the scorn of men.
But here woman offers herself on a silver platter (which is even more explicit in those songs in which sin itself is specifically named), rejecting at the same time what is offered to her because she understands that the Other not a specific other, but the generic Other is always going to come up short. The rage that comes through in Paquita's songs goes beyond the simple enumeration of the sufferings of rejected and abandoned women, beyond the verbal tears that are forgettable because, even where such tears are justified, they are trite in their insistent repetition in the vast Latin American popular repertoire. Paquita's rage is that of a woman who knows how to use it as a device for self-protection and, more than anything else, it is the rage of a woman who also knows how to set it aside because, after all, "te piso como a un gusano y luego hago mi vida."
Brown, Rita Mae. Venus Envy. New York, Bantam Books 1993.
Daly, Mary. Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.
Geirola, Gustavo. "Juan Gabriel: cultura popular y sexo de los ángeles." Latin American Music Review 14.2 (1993): 232-67.
Kahane, Claire. "The Aesthetic Politics of Rage." State of Rage; Emotional Eruption, Violence, and Social Change. Ed. Renée R. Curry and Terry L. Allison. New York: New York UP, 1996. 126-45.
Nehring, Neil. Popular Music, Gender, and Postmodernism; Anger Is an Energy. Tousand Oaks: Sage, 1997.
Ponce, Roberto. "Paquita la del Barrio, en los años de su bar: "Nunca pensé tener éxito, pero mi voz no se parece a ninguna." Available online at: http://proceso.web.com.mx/1029/1029n28.html
"Rage." A Feminist Dictionary. Ed. Cheris Kramarae and Paula A. Treichler. Boston: Pandora Press, 1985. 379. See also "Anger," 51-52.