115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

“La foto no es buena”: Erasure, Memory, and Survival in Pedro Lemebel’s “La noche de los visones”

Gabriela Bacsan, Scripps College

In this paper, I analyze the recurring reference to a faded photograph in Pedro Lemebel’s “La noche de los visones.” Through the photograph, the chronicle reconstructs the lives and deaths of three locas amidst the AIDS pandemic in Chile. I argue that the chronicle challenges the construction of a homogenous loca narrative and frames survival in relation to neocolonialism and capitalism.


In this paper, I analyze the recurring reference to a faded photograph in Pedro Lemebel’s chronicle “La noche de los visones (o, la última fiesta de la Unidad Popular).” The chronicle is included in Lemebel’s Loco afán: crónicas de sidario (1996), a collection of writings mainly focused on the effects of the AIDS pandemic on the loca and travesti community in Chile. While “La noche de los visones” narrates that the photograph was taken in Santiago, Chile on New Year’s Eve, nine months prior to the coup d’etat, the recurring reference to the faded photograph in the chronicle allows the narrative voice to reconstruct the lives and deaths of la Palma, la Pilola Alessandri y la Chumilou, three locas from different socioeconomic backgrounds, amidst and beyond the AIDS pandemic. The photograph then functions as a device that anchors a collective, non-monolithic, marginal memory of the locas as non-normative subjects during the last months of the Popular Unity government, the dictatorship that followed, and the transition to democracy of the 1990s in Chile. I argue that, as the photograph challenges the historical erasure of the locas due to the AIDS pandemic, the chronicle also resists constructing a homogenous loca narrative. Instead, Lemebel’s “La noche de los visones” conceptualizes the loca identity as one that is intersectional and historically situated. I contend that, in doing so, the chronicle frames a narrative of survival for the locas beyond a depoliticized AIDS context and instead situates survival in relation to a historically and culturally rooted experience with neocolonialism and capitalism in Latin America.