Victor Goldgel-Carballo deposited Unwilling Impostors, Willing Victims: Passing in Two Nineteenth-Century Cuban Novels in the group LLC 19th-Century Latin American on MLA Commons 8 years, 4 months ago
A light-skinned mulata passes for white and begins a romantic relationship that ends tragically, revealing the intransigence of racial barriers; a mother raises her biological daughter as her step-daughter, so that she might adopt a white identity; a multiethnic society is shaken by dreams and anxieties of social mobility: These are some of the traits shared by Ambarina (Virginia Auber, 1858) and Carmela (Ramón Meza, 1887), the two novels analyzed in this essay. While critics have tended to focus on the turning points in passing narratives—e.g. the moments when what is supposed to be the truth is exposed, or when the disparity between the apparent and the real provokes a tragic outcome—, I argue here that these novels elicit a different kind of reading from us. Even though passing acquires maximum visibility when it fails, or when the impostor is framed as such, its core might instead reside in a quotidian and active not-knowing or looking the other way, a phenomenon sometimes complemented by the existence of subjects who ‘pass’ without any intention to do so.