“…Her face was a perfect balance of make up and chimera. Valentina never seemed completely done up, she never exaggerated the tone of rouge, or lip pencil, she never wore wigs. Her midnight auburn tresses were all hers; the starved yet well-muscled, frame hers; the risqué, but never clownish, sense of fashion, all hers. It took her years to obtain the happy transformation of her body into pure luxury; years leafing through beauty magazines, catalogs of haute couture, make up manuals…the most beautiful and daring of all dragas on the coast…” (Febres 58)

Discussion question/ topics:

1) Valentina Frenesi as Sirena Selena’s role model?

2) Is she like the mother or maternal figure she never had?

Quotes: Valentina Frenesi (in relation to Martha)

“…Valentina took care of him while he was recuperating. She made him give up the street, and she worked double to pay for medicine, bandages, food. She prepared chicken broth, rice, mashed potatoes, and small pieces of stewed veal to settle her protégé stomach…” (Febres 67)

“…Promise me you wont let this ever happen to you ever again…” (Febres 67)

“He had to return to work the streets now and then. Those nights Valentina watched him like a hawk. She waited on the corner with a hit of coca in her hand, ready to alleviate the fear of death that came over Sirenito as soon as he climbed into a client’s car. Valentina made all the arrangements herself; out of the corner of her eye she memorized the license number of the car…and she made him renew his promise never to let anyone stick it in him again, not even for all the money in the world…” (Febres 69)

“…And I would die if something happened to you again…” (Febres 69)

Discussion questions/ topics:

1) Differences between Martha and Valentina or any similarities…

2) Family (motherly/sisterly figure) vs. businesswoman- is there a balance or does one overcome the other in Valentina?

Quotes: Understanding Sirena Selena

“Pero se murio, Tina. She died. No one else in my family has lifted a finger for me. So I just have to take care of myself. Use what I have to my advantage. And where else can I do that? Where am I going to earn cold hard cash?” (Febres, 66)

“…and Sirena feeling like the unhappiest being on the face of the earth, threw himself into the cotton-filled breasts and the muscular arms of his hermana-she was more family to him than his own.” (Febres 66)

“…With his silent crying he could tell his sister everything, better than with words-the pain of abandonment by his mother, the death of his grandmother, the sleepless nights looking for a place to rest, the anxiety of living with the constant danger of a run-in, fed up with everything, mistrusting even his own shadow, accustomed to being unloved, used to the filthy lust that thrives in the street, esa calle, that was his home and his grave…” (Febres 67

Discussion Question/ topics:

abandonment, insecurity, need for instant gratification…does it lead to Sirena Selena’s way of life? or is it mostly because she’s only ever associated herself with drag queens? So is it more influence of needs or influence of the environment?

Quotes: Similarities between Leocadio and Sirena Selena

“…Not Leocadio. He just likes to stay at home or clean houses with me or spend hours fixing up the patio, sweeping leaves. Sometimes the patrona lets me take him to her house and he keeps himself busy looking at the plants and thinking up new ways to combine them in the gardens…and he really clings to me” (Febres, 56)

“…When he began to feel better, Sirenito started to help with makeup sessions, to run errands, to take care of pieces of Valentina’s wardrobe, to choose bases that obscured more effectively the shadow of her beard. Alert to any need of his hermana’s, he spent the whole day cleaning the apartment…” (Febres, 67)

Discussion questions/topics:
Leocadio’s and Sirena Selena’s qualities..delicacy, girl resembling, clingy..fear of rejection and abandonment? Do you see any similarities between both characters? Do you think Leocadio’s childhood is a parallel of Sirena Selena’s life?

Quotes: Regaining sight

…Before when he was overcome with melancholy, he would hum tunes or sing bits of the chorus, but the bolero itself escaped him, as if he suffered from an illness that made him forget the words as soon as he remembered the melody. However, that night, for some reason, he remembered an entire bolero and then another and another. Abuela…she was bringing all the boleros to his breast, word for word, the perfect memory of their melodies. Each song made his face hot, made him feel things that he had dispatched as useless…” (Febres 69)

“…Sirenito regained his sight. He waited for the client to release his face and drive him back to his corner. He took the money in payment for his services and got out of the car. He didn’t even count the bills…his abuela’s boleros were all the wealth he needed to protect himself from nights on the street forever…” (Febres 70)

Discussion questions/topics:

Grandmother’s influence? What did her presence symbolize?

How did Sirena Selena’s memory of his grandmother change him?

Quotes: Understanding Hugo

“The people looked at him without seeing him, or pretending that they didn’t see him, the son of Don Marcial Graubel, that feeble white boy who looked like a girl” (Santos- Febres 104)

“Maybe the party will let Hugo out of the bad mood he’s been in for months now. What is going on with him? Nothing seems to suit him lately. Who know, maybe he’ll be impressed with how careful and efficient I’ve been….and finally he’ll be happy. Who knows, maybe after the guests leave, he’ll want to….where did I put my lingerie? I should take it out and leave it on the bed…just in case.”( Febres 74)

Discussion questions/topics: Hugo’s confused sense of masculinity a result of his childhood experience with women?
How has this affected him and how he views women now? Does he show a general hostility with his wife? Could this be a result of his resentment towards his dad and women in general?

Quotes: Hugo’s masculinity with Sirena Selena

“He took a cigarette from his pocket, lighted it, moved over to a wicker chair, and sat down. As if in a movie theater, he watched the delicate, wicked boy- woman gracefully setting the stage for her intricate love song?” ( Santos-Febres 107)

Discussion questions/topics:

Is Hugo demonstrating masculine qualities as he gazes at Sirena Selena?

Hugo (gazer) vs. Sirena Selena (gazed)?

Gender roles personified between both characters? Dominant vs. Submissive?

Hugo’s infatuation with Sirena Selena…is it sexual or based off of his curiosity? Do you think he’s in some way repressed his true sexual identity?

Quotes: Martha’s Transformation

Without heels I couldn’t walk from here to the corner, not even if I had a gun to my head. “It took so much work to learn the difficult art of mastering the stilettos and the thin straps, at the beginning of her transformation. A whole year it took her to forget the mannerisms of the Pentecostal youth she once was; to learn about glamour, begin collecting dainty poses, the eyelash-batting, the smiles of famous singers, the undulating runway walk, until she found the perfect combination of her new identity” (Santos-Febres 90)

Discussion questions/ topics: Can identity be truly replaced? Do you think these drag individuals have an over exaggerated perception of life after sex-change operations? Is life truly any better or will effects linger after that? (think psychological effects)

Clips and Questions:

Do you think the performance of drag in and of itself can skew or threaten an individual’s own sexual identity?

Do you think it just applies to those who “haven’t come out of the closet” yet or can it go beyond? Confessions of a Drag Queen

Do you think that it can serve as a foundation to help those who are undecided about their sexuality? In what ways? Confessions of a Drag Queen 2


Last, F. M. (Year Published) Book. City, State: Publisher.

Santos-Febres, Mayra. (2000) Sirena Selena. New York: Picador












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