Debris and Poetry: A Critique of Violence and Race in the Peruvian Eighties
Olga Cristina Rodriguez-Ulloa
Lafayette College, US
Prof. Rodríguez-Ulloa specializes on contemporary Latin American culture and literature, with emphasis on the Andean region, with a decolonial feminist approach. She is currently writing about the intersection of race, sex and violence in contemporary Peruvian culture. Her teaching interests include visual culture, non-fiction literature and film, interdisciplinary studies.
By turning the figure of the colonial chronicler Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala into an indigenous migrant during the tumultuous nineteen eighties in the poem “His Body Was an Island of Debris” (1987), Domingo de Ramos critiqued the transhistorical nature of colonialism, as it manifests through the displacement and killing of thousands of indigenous peoples. I interpret de Ramos’ work as an opportunity to center ideas about race, an analytic overlooked in the literary criticism of the time. His portrayal of migration mobilizes a poetic critique of the main discourses of Peruvian literary studies that conveniently left racial hierarchies unchallenged, even while being invested in the new political potential of migrants. This specular relationship that de Ramos creates between himself and Guamán Poma allows him to ponder about his own positionality in the literary field of the eighties, which was uncritically participating in the migrant trend almost exclusively through De Ramos’ personae.