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Issue No. 16 - Chaos

Book Review: Susana Vargas' "Mujercitos"

Book Review: Susana Vargas' "Mujercitos"

©Susana Vargas, Mujercitos, 2014. Courtesy of Editorial RM. 

Generally, when the arrested are escorted from police car to precinct, they hide from the camera behind their hats or hands. However, as curated by Susana Vargas in Mujercitos, one group seems to enjoy the attention of the flashbulbs, posing for their red carpet moment—the transvestites of Mexico between 1963 and 1986. Originally published by the Mexican periodical Alarma!, known as nota roja for it’s bloody content, these images of men dressed as women stir controversay in a country with a strong religious, conservative, machismo patriarcy. In this thorough collection of the original newsprint tearsheets, mujercitos, or “effeminate men,” are photographed in a highly stylized, sexualized way. All of the articles published by Alarma! are aggressively disapproving of the mujercitos including headlines like, “They say they love one another, but they’re disgusting!” “After this, the end of the world.” and “We have to control homosexuality.”

0-MUJERCITOS GRAVURE 30 sept en p-70
0-MUJERCITOS GRAVURE 30 sept en p-70
©Susana Vargas, Mujercitos, 2014. Courtesy of Editorial RM. 

In spite of the disapproving text, a lot of the mujercitos were asked to pose for the tabloid pictures, and for the most part, the pictures are flattering— this as opposed to the usually published crime scene photos of them viciously murdered. Through the lense, the mujercitos are able to turn what could be a shameful photograph into a glamourous opportunity to spit in the face of Mexico’s societal homophobia. At it’s most superfical, the magazine promoted the widely held belief that this lifestyle is immoral, but it also inadvertantly displays the transvestities as beautiful, informs other questioning men in which neighborhoods they can find the mujercitos, and, perhaps most importantly, showing them that they are not alone.

0-MUJERCITOS GRAVURE 30 sept en p-119
0-MUJERCITOS GRAVURE 30 sept en p-119
©Susana Vargas, Mujercitos, 2014. Courtesy of Editorial RM. 

The book was designed by Olivier Andreotti, and was inspired by the original pages of the newspaper, creating a very raw, authentic presentation of the scandalous headlines.Susana Vargas contributes an essay on the subject, addressing why she chose Alarma! specifically, stating that the magazine generally features flattering, feminine photographs of mujercitos, but alongside text that is demeaning and homophobic. Her research career focuses on gender identity in North and Latin America, and previous works include, Aprehendiendo al delincuente: crimen y medios en América del Norte (Apprehending the Offender: Crime and Media in North America). The foreword was written by Cuauhtemoc Medina, Mexican art critic of great renown.

By Lucy Watermann

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