Cruising Buenos Aires: Queer subjectivities in Alejandro Modarelli’s ‘El amargo retiro de la Betty Boop’.
Eamon McCarthy, University of Glasgow
Modarelli’s story ‘El amargo retiro de la Betty Boop’ opens the collection Rosa Prepucio (2011) with an elegy to cottaging. Solana (2017) has already shown that the camp nostalgia in this text should not be viewed simply as a melancholic elegy to a lost way of life and I want to explore the ways in which the narrator boldly affirms the need for queer spaces that resist the normalisation of same-sex desire between men along carefully delineated lines. In the story Modarelli explores the marginalised gay male experience, with an emphasis on effeminate men, but also including ‘el puto viejo, el puto feo, el puto pobre’ [‘the old fag, the ugly fag, the poor fag’] (Modarelli 2011: 12). He places these experiences against the backdrop of the shift from dictatorship to democracy in the 1980s, noting the changing ways in which homosexuality was viewed within society. He presents his reader with a diverse range of people that fall within the very broad category of men who have sex with men and he specifically highlights the ways in which the modernisation of spaces within the city erases and curtails the breadth of queer subjectivities because of the regulation and closing of spaces that had been used for cruising. Moreover, he argues that political and economic shifts in Argentine society demonise the poor, create a culture of consumerism, and lead to more homophobic abuse towards effeminate gay men, as well as the killing of men who have sex with men. In other words, he shows that modernisation and progress are not all-encompassing and he highlights that they homogenise identities. In this paper, I want to think about the ways in which diverse sexual practices and queer subjects have been overlooked, marginalised or displaced as a more narrowly delineated homonormative subject emerges not out of the bathroom stall, but rather from other, more central queer spaces including the disco or sauna, which Modarelli dismisses as spaces for ‘pájaras iguales’ [‘birds of a feather’] (2011: 9).