14. Mayra Santos Febres’ Sirena Selena (Part 2)

April 23
1. READ: Mayra Santos Febres, Sirena Selena (p. 108 – 160)
2. READ: Radost Rangelova, “Nationalism, States of Exception, and Caribbean Identities in Sirena Selena vestida de pena and ‘Loca de la locura’.”
3. PRESENTATION: Skylar Smith & Audrey Allyn

April 25
1. READ: Mayra Santos Febres, Sirena Selena (p. 161 – 214)
2. PRESENTATION: Imaani Cain & Chris Richard

These pages/videos might give you some additional information regarding some theoretical terms that came up when discussing the first half of Sirena Selena and which is important to keep in mind as we complete our discussion of the novel:

  • Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

(see 14:53 for section on Performing Gender)

Sirena Selena Slideshow

69 Responses to 14. Mayra Santos Febres’ Sirena Selena (Part 2)

  1. emilyvanburen2013 says:

    After just finishing Part 2 of Sirena Selena (pages 108-160) I have found that I have really come to enjoy this book. What I like most about it is the switching of characters perspectives from Sirena Selena to Martha Divine to Hugo Graubel, to Leocadio and Solange Graubel. The reader is fortunate to understand from the perspective of each character what each and every person in the story thinks about a given situation. For example, there is scene in part 2 where Solange Graubel and Sirena Selena have an encounter in the Graubel’s living room over why there were Calla lilies and a glass of brandy on the table in the living room. Solange asks Sirena why her living room has been changed, and Sirena Selena responds by saying, “Senora Graubel, don’t worry. I’ll only be here for a short time, and before you know it I will put the glass of brandy and the calla lilies back where they were” (132). At this point Solange leaves the room without saying another word and moves into her bedroom without a response.

    As the reader we hear what Sirena Selena thinks about the encounter as she goes on to analyze how sad and miserable Solange is. Sirena thinks to herself, “She suffers- she is a senora, but she suffers. A rich woman, but she suffers. She has furs, breakfasts each morning with fresh fruit shakes and croissants, but (insert a tear) how she suffers (132). At this same moment when Solange enters her bedroom, she begins to have a bit of a breakdown thinking about Sirena Selena and her husband together. This makes her upset (for obvious reasons) and she explains that Sirena Selena is the devil and says she will stand by her husband until he does something wrong (cheating on her with Sirena) then she will move to Miami where she can truly enjoy herself.

    What’s so interesting about these two women is that they see themselves as very different from one another, but they essentially want the same things. Sirena Selena wants to be famous, wants status so that her name can grow so she will never have to be “back on the streets,” and Solange wants status among her community. Solange wants money as well, she wants a place in the world and she knows she needs Hugo to achieve that status. Both these women don’t necessarily love where they are in their lives, but they deal with it to “live happily.” Funny thing is neither of them seems too happy to me…moral of the story, money, status, and power don’t guarantee happiness.

    • Desiree W. says:

      I agree with your statement so much, It is important to look that these two characters and their dynamics. Selena wants what Solange has and is completely confused as to why such a rich woman is so poor in the sense of happiness. It is clear that Selena views the world from a different perspective because she believes that money and fame will be the answer to all her struggles, so her confusion as to why Solange is so unhappy is skewed. There’s a saying that goes Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you temporary happiness. Solange wants love and status among her peers which is clear in the first portion of the book with how she flashes things around and carries on in public. This scene is curial and we will see her insecurities and kind of see Selena’s naïve side in the sense that she sees money as the main source of happiness.

      • I think that Solange just exhibits a dependence for Hugo. So to Ernie, I see what you mean that without Hugo she wont be happy yet I thin you are missing the idea that its all very strategic. I cant imagine living or being married with someone who I don’t love for the sake of status. It is plausiable that Solanges happiness come from status but to what extent will she sacrifice herself worth. As to Imaani, you also make a good point that Solange sometimes seems like she can function without Hugo he is merely a means to an end.

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      You are right, money, status, and power does not guarantee happiness. A lot of people are blinded by the “glory” that is assumed to come with money, fame and power. In fact, having money, fame and power brings more loneliness and sorrow because one thing is missing to make the picture complete, love. Solange could have all the money and status in the world, but without Hugo, she will not truly and completely happy. Money and fame doesn’t mean anything unless you are sharing it with the person you truly love.

      • Imaani Cain says:

        I disagree! I think Solange would be better off without Hugo; she mentions never trusted him from the start, and that she always knew something was off with their marriage. Solange seems to be grateful for the status, but apart from that, she doesn’t feel as if she owes anything to him. She even acknowledges that without Hugo, she would still be rich and that her children would still have a good education, as she has paid for five years’ worth of tuition in advance. She would probably be happier if she left him, but would also have a lack of influential power.

    • Skylar Smith says:

      I have to agree and disagree at the same time. Solange was forced in to marriage and it seems as if she gained her way through Hugo. She became rich from Hugo’s money, never really working or doing anything accomplished. Selena on the other does want the type of money that Solange has but she has been working hard, on the streets, to get where she is now. I do agree how they both want a sense of freedom and independence in this world but their means are completely different. We will not know if Selena will “live happily” if she becomes successful because we never get to now who Selena really is. On the other hand when Solange leaves Hugo, it seems as if it will be a better start to something new, even though Hugo had all of the money switched to a different account.

  2. There was a lot of things that stuck out to me in this reading. One of them was the tension between Selena and Solange. Their relationships with Hugo are currently both very different. Solange made it very clear that she did not marry Hugo for love, but rather so that she could obtain a higher status in society. Solange seems to be very threatened by Selena, and based on the relationship that is forming between Selena and Hugo, it seems as though she has a good reason.

    Though it may seem as though Solange is happy, it is obvious that she isn’t. Hugo is losing interest in her because she is getting older and the lack of love and passion is putting a strain on their relationship. Selena is filling the voids in Hugo’s life and Solange doesn’t quite know what to do about it. Despite what she is doing, Selena does seem to feel a sort of sympathy for Solange, however it doesn’t stop her from pursuing a relationship with Hugo. What I wonder is whether or not Selena actually loves Hugo, or if she if she is just trying to accomplish the same things as Solange was (wealth and status).

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      It is very tempting to conclude that Selena is seeking the same thing as Solange in Hugo. Since both Selena and Solange have similar ambitions, such as seeking power, wealth, fame, and progressing out of the previous living conditions, I can agree that Selena is just like Solange, and her interest in Hugo is strictly materialistic. However, Selena does have a more personal attachment to Hugo, that sometimes seems more genuine, than monetary. Although Selena feels pity for Solange, she feels stronger feelings toward Hugo, which only makes Solange more jealeous and miserable.

      • Nelson Veras says:

        I agree with Ernie. You can tell she feels jealous towards Selena because she even calls her a “monster”. I think Selena is trying to gain wealth and fame, but also wants a emotional attachment with Hugo. Selena comes from a corrupted family background and was basically abandoned as a youth. Developing a relationship with Hugo will be very essential to her considering healthy relationships have been hard to come across in her life.

    • Selena and Solange are a like in some ways. They both don`t mind being with or around people to get ahead. Solange is threatened because Hugo is her meal ticket and Selena is taking him from her. I think they both have interest in Hugo for the same reasons. This wealth and status you mention has a lot to do with why they both have interest in Hugo and I personally think neither one of them genuinely cares about him. Hugo on the other hand I do believe actually have feelings for both of themselves but he is guilty of using them for different reasons as well. He uses Solange to keep face and uses Selena for his personal pleasures.

    • Audrey Allyn says:

      I thought that the tension between both Solange and Selena was brought on by the fact that Selena threatens Solange. She knows that Hugo will have no problem running off with Selena because of his infatuation with her. Solange wants to be someone of power and she is using Hugo for that status. When Selena comes along she weakens everyone’s sense of power and brings on a sense of weakness to the guests, including Solange herself. I think that Selena found something unexpected in Hugo that she didn’t know she could feel or comprehend. Selena finds comfort in Hugo and enjoys the fact that she can make a man with so much power, powerless.

  3. Brittany Demers says:

    I can’t say that I was surprised when Solange got mad a Hugo for having Sirena around. I definitely saw that coming. Solange seemed like she was jealous of Sirena and I think she had a right to be. Hugo said he was just having her around to entertain the guests but as I read on I really felt that Hugo lost interest in Solange. I am unsure if I think that Solange did something to push Hugo away, but I do believe that Hugo has desires beyond anything that Solange could give to him. I think that it is safe to say that Hugo is not interested in Solange any more after reading chapter 29. Although, it is also true that Solange was only really interested in gaining certain things from Hugo. I think this must be why she dislikes Sirena. She doesn’t want to lose what Hugo can give to her. She doesn’t want to lose the status that Hugo gives to her.

    I thought that it was also important to note in chapter 30 how Solange seems to explain to herself that everything in her home is hers. It belongs to her. I think she is so worried about Sirena and what might happen with her around that this is why she gets so defensive. I also think that Sirena’s thoughts about Solange make her seem a little jealous of her for what she has. But, Sirena’s thoughts also seems to sympathize with Solange. Sirena knows that it is possible that neither of them will ever be what they actually want to be.

    • I think that Hugo never really had much romantic interest in Solange nor did Solange ever have much interest in Hugo. It seems as though they were both just using each other, as we talked about in class. Hugo was using Solange in order to obtain that family man image because it was better for his business, and Solange was using Hugo so that she could gain wealth and status in society.

    • Lauren Carabetta says:

      I think Solange has tried to fulfill her happiness with status and material things. I think she was so threatened by Sirena because all Solange had was her material things. She didn’t have an intimate relationship with her husband. Their marriage was arranged. I think Sirena noticed the pain that Solange had because she mentioned how she would use Solange’s pain when she sang. We didn’t get to know much about Solange but maybe she thought that it was her own fault Hugo didn’t want her, that it was something wrong with her. Maybe that caused her the most pain, the fact that her husband wanted someone else probably made Solange feel like she wasn’t good enough.

      • She most definitely uses tangiable things and socioeconomic status to validate herself and level of prestige. I agree that Solange, did feel like Selena always “one uped” her. Because of this Sirena was aware and was able to use Solange’s situation almost as a muse for her performance. Solange’s toxic relationship with Hugo proved to cause more harm then good.

    • I think Solange was kept around to maintain his ‘business man’ portrayal. Hugo clearly never had much of a romantic interest in Solange seeing as she claimed they haven’t had much intimacy during the first year of marriage. Solange did everything she could to please Hugo but in the end it wasn’t what he wanted or was looking for. What he wanted was someone like Sirena.

  4. Amber Jones says:

    In reading pages 105-160, my attention was caught on chapter 23 where it talked about love. Margot fell in love with a police officer who she had a sexual relationship. She used to imagine moving in with him and starting a serious relationship. But her dreams were crushed when the officer just disappeared out her life. Her love lost destroyed her, “ Love is bad in this life. Its bad for anyone, but for a loca, its death” (110). When I read this a sense of sadness overcame me, it made me wonder do males who dress like females or in drag suffer from loneliness? I also wondered if they are not taken seriously because of what they choose to do? It was evident that Margot was falling for the officer, “ For that one, Margot would have left the street, the business, she would have opened a hair and makeup salon” (109). Margot was willing to give up everything for a man was only using her for sexual advances.

    In regards to the reading Nationalism, states of exception, and Caribbean identities n Sirena Selena vestida de pena and Loca la de la locura it basically talks the relationship between transvestites and the spaces they occupy. At first I did not understand how these two correlated until Rangelova stated the different treatment Selena received in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. When Selena was in Puerto Rico she struggled immensely, she was excluded and suffered from rape. But when Selena went to the Dominican Republic she was living the life where she was accepted and loved. “ The concept of nationalism and nation-state in Sirena Selena is limited to the experience of crossing borders and passing from one island to another through the space of the airport and the customs office. These are the only spaces where one is identified as a citizen and as a national subject, where national and gender identity is constructed, and where it can be questioned” (Rangelova 84). I think by this the author was conveying the notion that it depends on what nation or space you are in that depends on how you are perceived by others. The author used Martha’s fear of going through customs because she did not want others to view her as a male. This made me wonder why do these inconsistencies between countries exist in the first place?

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      You pose a good question, why do these inconsistencies exists? How can nations with similar backgrounds, such as music, language, religion and certain customs, nations with similar socioeconomic status and similar social problems, have different treatments towards Selena? It all depends on her behavior towards her environment in my opinion. Maybe if she went to Dominican Republic first, she would have experienced rape, and after, in Puerto Rico, she would have experienced freedom. What do you think?

    • Brittany Demers says:

      I wondered about the loneliness too. I know that Margot was a prostitute, but I wondered how she never got the name (or at least a fake name) of the man she loved. I definitely think that her profession may be the reason why she is not taken seriously in this relationship and also the reason why she never got the police officers name. I think that this a good example of the police officer only using Margot for sexual advances. If he thought there was more to the relationship wouldn’t he have been more open with his information? I felt bad for Margot while reading this, but at the same time I kept questioning isn’t this a result of her profession?

      • Imaani Cain says:

        I think that Margot never got the name of the policeman because she didn’t want to cross any boundaries; she was already in trouble for being a sex worker and therefore on thin ice. She was attracted to the policeman, but maybe felt as if she didn’t have anything to offer him. She might’ve felt as if there was a line she couldn’t cross–the man wouldn’t turn her in, she got some form of physical contact that didn’t result in any harm being done to her body, but she couldn’t attempt to join the man’s life.

      • Jesse Drinks says:

        I agree with Imaani and think that Margot felt as if she was in debt to the officer. He was doing her the favor of not arresting her and allowing her to continue with her work so maybe she thought that she didn’t have the right to know his name. Also maybe she thought that eventually there would be more than him just picking her up at work for sex. Maybe she assumed that at some point they would get to know each other but things never got that far when he just disappeared.

  5. like others have mentioned the interesting part of this section was Solange versus Sirena. I thought about the way they paralleled each other, where Sirena may literally be a prostitute having sex for money, Solange seems to prostitute herself in a different way. She’s with a man she doesn’t seem to care about in order to gain the money and position in life that comes with it, and thinks that she’s earned everything by being with him, like when she explained how everything in the house was hers. The only difference between the two of them is that Sirena admits that what she does is for money, where Solange does seem miserable but it seems to be more because she is afraid to lose the life that she has.

  6. Joseph C. Sokola says:

    In this reading, the tension that arises between Sirena and Solange certainly makes sense, as Hugo has a great interest in Sirena and does not seem to care much for his wife anymore. While both women are materialistic and seemingly believe that money, wealth and possessions will lead to happiness, I think that Solange’s life is proof that money does not buy happiness, and that Selena’s pursuit of material gain will not lead to happiness. Another important aspect of the relationship between Solange and Hugo is that together, they are not happy at all, and are always fighting. Solange started her relationship with Hugo at a young age, just like Selena. Hugo also does not care much about what his wife says to him when she is angry, and he always does what he wants anyway, and I think that this is foreshadowing for what Hugo will end up doing if his relationship with Selena continues. Selena will eventually be just as unhappy as Solange seems to be at this point in the book, and I fear that Hugo’s interest in Sirena Selena will eventually prove to be detrimental to her and her pursuit of happiness.

    • Amber Jones says:

      I found it somewhat interesting that in the beginning of Hugo and Solange’s relationship he cared for her.I think the reason why he cared so much was because she was so young. If you correlated Solange and Selena you can see how Hugo is in lust with Selena because she is so young. I also found it somewhat odd for a lack of better words that when Hugo was with Solange in the beginning of their relationship he never really had sex with her, he would only pleasure her orally or finger her, which is odd when you think of a husband and wife relationship. I wondered why he was so afraid to actually make love to Solange? The trauma that he encountered at a younger age must of have mad him scared to even have sex with a woman again.

      • Nelson Veras says:

        You bring up a very interesting point Amber. Hugo doesn’t have sex with Solange in the beginning of their relationship which is unusual in a prototypical husband/wife relationship, especially at their early stages. Part of me wants to say that he was attracted to her external beauty, meaning her youth and beauty. As she got older he lost his emotional attachment to her and since he never had a sexual attachment to her it was so easy for him to seek for others. This is exactly why he is attracted to the young, attractive Selana.

      • The fact that Hugo never consumated the marriage was really sketchy to me. It made it seem obvious that he wasn’t marring her for love but self gain as a businessman. I did get the hint that Hugo was in fact hypnotised by Selena and obssesed with the idea of her since he had her stay over. Its no wonder Solange reacted the way she did. Solanges reaction couldve been seen as a typically feminine but what woman wouldn’t be if her husband was cheating with her with essesentilly a man? I would feel like I personally did something wrong and be just as melodramatic.

  7. Amy Hahm says:

    Something that stood out to me in the reading was Solange and Sirena’s relationship. Solange is constantly complaining to Hugo about bringing Sirena in for the performance. It is clear that Solange does not like Sirena. In fact, it seemed as though Solange felt threatened by Sirena, or even jealous. We discussed in class how calling someone a transvestite could be offensive or demeaning, Solange refers to Sirena as a transvesti, “’Hugo, how could you consider bringing a tranvesti into our house?’ Solange screamed, slamming their bedroom door.” (127). During the reading, it is quite apparent to me that Hugo has either lost interest in Solange, or has a huge interest in Sirena. I feel like Sirena is taking this into a personal battle. She is taking this situation to her advantage because Sirena wants to become a “senora” just as Solange has become a ‘senora’ from marrying Hugo.

    Solange had married Hugo only to benefit herself and her living situation. And Sirena seems to seduce Hugo to do the same. Hugo is very enthralled by Sirena, especially as Sirena suggests getting a hotel for her. It seems very suggestive to me, and Hugo goes right along with it, “Hugo Graubel follows her with his gaze. The pact is settled. ‘I’ll call the hotel right now,’ he answers from a distance, ‘to make the reservation.’”(138). I think Solange obviously does have a right to feel threatened and jealous, and Sirena does acknowledge how Solange is wealthy and has everything she wants, but yet she recognizes Solange is unhappy. I think this is a realization for Sirena that she cannot have everything she wants.

    • I agree with you about Solange being jealous of Sirena she has an amazing voice and is such an amazing performer. But I also believe that Solange is not the only one who is focused on herself I believe that it is just mainly a human trait we look out for ourself and do not truly care about others. Sierna performs for the money which also can be see as her doing things also for herself. Where as Solange I believe she just do not want to lose the things that she was able to gain threw her performances.

    • Jesse Drinks says:

      I also agree that Solange is jealous of Sirena because of the fact that Sirena is a threat that can take away the power that she wants. Hugo is the reason that Solange has power and if he continues to show interest in Sirena there is the increase in chance that he would leave Solange for Sirena.

  8. Lauren Carabetta says:

    It was interesting to learn more about Hugo on this section. On the outside, Hugo appears to fit the male dominance gender role. He is a wealthy business man who has a great deal of power over others in the business world. Hugo has power over the hotel staff. We found out that Hugo got the hotel manager his job and he uses that power to manipulate the manager to do what he wants. Hugo has the typical two heirs, a wife who has established status by marrying Hugo, business power, money, and a large mansion.

    I think Hugo’s outside identity is a facade. I think he puts up a front and behaves the way society and his family expects his to behave as an assertive businessman. While Hugo’s outside identity portrays a dominant masculine identity, his wife Solange has other views about Hugo. Solange was ashamed that Hugo didn’t want “to mount her like a man should.” Solange viewed Hugo as less of a man because he wasn’t “mounting” her. She attached masculinity to his sexual performance, something that is behind closed doors. It is interesting because Hugo performed oral sex on his wife, but she thought he should be engaging in penetration as part of his duty as a husband. She described his behavior outside of the public view. I think now Solange wants to stay with Hugo to maintain her status and power that she has gained as his wife. She wants to keep his outside identity she she can keep hers.

    • sorlyz says:

      I agree with your last paragraph about Hugo’s identity being facade to the outside world. Hugo seems to have struggled with his identity since he was young. I believe that Hugo is not sure what he likes but he makes sure his life portrays the typical business man. By marrying a young, good-looking woman, Hugo shows the world that he has his life together. He is “normal” and can fit in with society. I am curious to see where Hugo goes with Sirena..?

      • Amber Jones says:

        I believe people can go sometime living a lie until the truth is uncovered. Selena’s presence is surely going to expose Hugo and his underlying desire for him. We can actually see this when Solange sees Hugo take Selena’s hand. I think that Hugo can not contain himself when he is around her. I think Hugo’s worry goes away when he is around he, his image doesn’t matter to him anymore.

  9. Imaani Cain says:

    I didn’t think that the story was as clear this time. In between the chapters about Martha, Sirena, and Solange, there would be a monologue where I wasn’t quite sure who was talking. There was only one where I clearly recognized the speaker (it was Sirena’s abuela, speaking to her when they were younger and cleaning a client’s house), whereas with the others I was less sure. I was also slightly confused about Hugo’s infatuation with Sirena—before, he referred to Sirena with mostly female pronouns, but now thinks of Sirena as “that insolent boy” (Santos-Febres 138). Is Hugo becoming more at ease with his queerness, now that he has fully distanced himself from Solange (at least emotionally?) Or is he more attracted to Sirena’s youthfulness, seeing as he was still attracted to Solange back when she was a child as well (this reminds me of Nabokov’s “Lolita”, where the main character is attracted to the youthfulness of adolescent girls, as Hugo seems to also be).

    The remarks exchanged between Migueles and Leocadio made me angry, although they were not entirely unfamiliar. I had heard those ideas before, that Puerto Ricans are mainly lazy drug addicts. I wondered if Migueles was exaggerating his stories to Leocadio, or if any of his boasts (the German client taking him to the restaurant, getting drunk with the Italian) had happened at all.

    • Nelson Veras says:

      I feel as if Hugo is highly attracted to Serena’s youth more than anything. it is no coincidence that Serena is the same age Solagne was when they got married. Him distancing himself from Solagne only brings him closer to his true emotions which is why he is more at ease with his queerness. He was only with Solagne due to the “arranged marriage” which isn’t something that’s difficult to emotionally detach yourself from.

  10. In “Nationalism, States of Exception, and Caribbean Identities in Sirena Selena vestida de pena and ‘Loca de la locura’.” You can see how Selena moves in a transcience and fluidity. Well as Martha definitely seems to want to claim a space. In that I sense that Martha is more nationalistic and attached to be identified as she sees herself. Where as with Selena her androgyness correlates with her personality of not really leaning towards any particular label. Even in her show she is seen as mysteriaus or beautiful creature. However the code switching may identify her as a Latina, but not so much a Puerto Rican in specific. The whole point of even going to Dominican Republic is not because of any type of identity acceptance but because of the legality.

    In regards to Hugo and Solange is in the relationship to further his power in the corporate world because image. They were arranged almost as a business transaction. For example, a president is never seen without his first lady or children. Almost as if a man of older without a family is seen as unstable or even unprepared to “lead.” Solange also doesnt seem as sure of herself as Martha. Yet with her insecurities I dont think she doesnt ever really trust Hugo. It simply to further status as a Senora as explained on pg 130. It is very unhealthy how everyone is using eachother.

    • Skylar Smith says:

      I definitely agree how Martha is more nationalistic in a sense. She has a business that ties her to Puerto Rico, an identity within the state of Puerto Rico. Selena on the other hand never identifies with any space. She moves fluidly as you said from place to place, never really identifying with anything besides her performances and the pain through the boleros.

      I also agree how unhealthy it is that everyone is using each other. But in the world we live in, everyone uses someone for something. Solange could not simply get up and leave at any moment because she had no way to support herself. We finally see her leave because she has “money, jewels, stocks that will buy her appropriate status.” It’s a dog eat dog world out there and it seems as if Selena is learning to trust no one but herself now.

  11. sorlyz says:

    In this section of reading, I was most interested in Solange and her relationship with Hugo. Now that we have learned more about Solange, we understand that maybe there wasn’t love between the two. Solange was somewhat forced into an “arranged marriage” because her father continually introduced the 15 year old Solange to the businessmen he was in debt to. The only man to stick around and not run from the offer was Hugo. This made me wonder if Hugo has actually been interested in only younger “females”. The way Santos-Febres describes the interest Hugo has in Solange forces me to believe that Hugo is much more of a predator than I initially thought. Selena and Solange were the same age when Hugo became interested in them.

    Maybe this is why Solange has that edge of jealousy? Maybe this is why Solange cannot understand Sirena and her way of entertaining as a drag queen. I believe that if Hugo was not interested in Sirena, Solange wouldn’t have blown up and called Sirena a “monster”. I am not sure but did anyone else feel or see these similarities in the way I did?

    • Nelson Veras says:

      I definitely felt like that as well. Solagne feels threaten considering Hugo isn’t attracted to her anymore and is only keeping her around for status purposes. She wouldn’t have called Selena a “monster” if she didn’t feel threaten and that was her way of boosting her self-confidence up. She is getting older and Selena is the exact age that Solagne was when getting married. I believe Hugo will soon leave her, or vice versa, but at the end of the novel they will go their separate ways. Solagne already has money so is not like she cant afford not to.

    • Amber Jones says:

      I know a lot of people are saying that Solange is just using Hugo basically the same way that Selena is but in a sense I would have to disagree. Hugo is the one that takes care f her , provides for her so that makes me think that Solange feels obligated to him. Now that Selena is evident in their lives Solange is jealous because that is someone she has to compete against.

      • I agree with Amber as to Hugo is the one who takes care of her and provides for her which forced Solange to feel obligated to him. When anyone has to face any type of threat to what belongs to them people may seem to shut down mainly because that is another person wanting what you have or chancing after the same dream. Solange is simply worried about losing her fame because she knows that Selena has a remarkable talent.

  12. One of the major debates we have been having was whether or not Martha was helping out Selena for her own monetary gains or because she cares for Selena. Personally I believe that Martha only cares for Selena because she’s able to place a monetary value on her. The entire trip to DR Martha makes comments about what her own gains are and having to help Selena to achieve them. Even after Selena goes missing, Martha cares from a business standpoint – not a motherly standpoint. For someone who believes she is a motherly figure does not represent what a motherly figure is.

    One may argue what even makes up a motherly figure may vary depending on the circumstance. By definition, a mother is to “bring up (a child) with care and affection” (Google Dictionary). But Martha has neither care nor affection for Selenas wellbeing. It was pointed out in class that Martha may care for Selenas wellbeing in the sense of success and stability. But if my mother knew I was missing when I was supposed to be at work, I’m positive my mother would care more that I was alive than that I didn’t have a job. My mother always told me you can get a new ____ (in this case job), but never a new child.

    • Lauren Carabetta says:

      Martha and Selena had a complicated relationship. Martha definitely saw Selena as her money ticket. I think it is important to remember that all families are different and all family interactions are different. Martha was a mother figure to Selena in a sense, but their relationship was not that of a typical mother-daughter. Selena is not your average teenager, she has been on her own before and Martha is not her actual mother, she is someone who helped take care of Selena and made her into a star. I think Martha didn’t want to get too attached to Selena because she figured eventually she would leave. This can be seen when Martha was having trouble sleeping because she was worried about Selena and she was trying to act like she wasn’t sleeping because she was worried about the contract. Martha cared about Selena, but she knew she will be fine on her own. She cared about the money and about Selena, I don’t think it’s one or the other, it is both.

      • Imaani Cain says:

        I agree with Lauren. Martha is not Selena’s real mother, but her mentor. However, although Martha uses for as a meal ticket, Selena uses her right back; it’s not one-sided at all. There are no victims here, and both manage to get what they want on their own. Selena is the one who branches out first and manages to secure wealth/gifts from Hugo; Martha doesn’t attempt to find out what she is, but she knew that Selena would eventually leave her. She even says that she doesn’t blame Selena towards the end.

      • emilyvanburen2013 says:

        Imaani, you’re totally right about Sirena and Martha using each other as opposed to it being just one-sided. To be honest, I think that Valentina was more of a motherly figure to Sirena in terms of actually being caring and loving towards her than Martha was I think from the outside world it may have looked like Martha was the motherly figure, but Martha was so money hungry and always trying to get the next best thing, that she didn’t really have a caring side toward Sirena. Sirena was simply a means to an end for Martha, and the end was supposed to end with Martha making alot of money off of Siren’as talent. Honestly Sirena learned how to be so brutally money minded through Martha, so Martha really has no one to blame but herself and even recognizes that out loud in the book.

  13. Kaydo says:

    From the readings I still can’t really put my finger on whether or not Martha genuinely cares about Selena or she is just using her as an investment. Martha is seen as a powerful woman who tends to look out majorly for herself and whatever business venture she is getting into. On page 112 it portrays how Martha feels about Selena’s absence and it is not a happy one. Martha’s main concern is not that Selena is safe or without her support, but that Selena is not present for Martha to capitalize on her talent.

    Personally as a business owner I too would be concerned about my client not being available for business, but the question at hand whether or not Martha being a mother figure is no longer apparent after her display during the set up meetings for her audition. Even managers could have friendships with their clients and for Selena’s situation to be so unique, one would think Martha would almost be forced to play a motherly role.

    • I agree I was also confused when Martha did not seem to have any concern about where her daughter was or if she was safe. I know that in class we spoke about how Martha probably assumed that Selena could take care of herself given her independence, but at the same time I feel as though Martha only expressed anger about the fact that Selena went off on her own and wasn’t there for the business meetings. This is what makes me think that she was only using Selena in order to make money.

    • sorlyz says:

      Kado, I think that Martha has both maternal care and business care for Sirena Selena. Because Martha “discovered” Sirena and because she is young, Martha has taken responsibility for Sirena. I do think the Martha has more of a business relationship though. She always thinks about the money but when Sirena goes off to meet Hugo, Martha shows maternal care because she has sleepless nights and actually wonders if Sirena is okay.

    • Martha has proven to be very focused on furthering her personal goals but she has taken that mentoring role with Sirena which could be seen as both strategic and nurturing. Wether or not the relationship is completely genuine is irrelevant considering that both Martha and Serena are benefiting. To respond to the business part of your comment, I dont know if I would feel comfortable establishing friendships with someone who works for me. I feel like blurring those bounderies is detrimental to the specific role one was hired for.

  14. Amber Jones says:

    Pages 161-214

    I would like to focus on chapter 38 where we as readers get better insight on Solange. I thought this chapter was interesting because it correlates with Hugo’s so much. I remember in class on Tuesday how the question was asked do we think that Hugo is just playing a role and most of us agreed that he is. We touched upon the fact that their marriage was arranged as well. With all this being said we can also assume that Solange is also merely playing a role; she does not love Hugo. We can see this, ” Solange breathes deeply and calms down. No, she won’t play that role. She won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing her humilated, not Imelda Nacidit or Angelica de Menendez or any of the other harpues who are still down there, scrutinizing every detail of the evening” ( 171). So Solange in essence is playing a role as well, she wants people to think that they have a perfect family when in reality it is destroyed. Solange notices that Hugo takes Selena’s arm towards the bar, I wonder if Solange actually cares, does she think that it would ruin their image? Is she disgusted by him?

    Moving on when Hugo and Selena are together, Hugo removes her clothes and I think at this moment Hugo realizes the difference between them two. ” The perfumed curls and the face perfectly made up in tones of mauve- coral, the delicate body of skin and bones, the tanned, creamy skin, the tiny chest, the little shoulders, the narrow hips, and in the middle of that smallness a succulent verga, wide as a water snake, wide and thick, in the very middle of all that fragility” (176). When the word “verga” came up I honestly did not know what meant, but with some research it I concludes that it means “penis”. So when Hugo described Selena’s penis as small and succulent it made put age and gender together. He is not a fully grown man and this is discovered through his usuage of “small” and his usage of “succulent” proved that he desired him. For some reason reading this just made me feel uncomfortable because her was a grown man about to have sex with a young boy. I would deem this as rape.. what does everybody else think?

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      I have to agree that this scene between Selena and Hugo really made me uncomfortable. The imagery in this chapter was very explicit. According to the law, sexual acts under 18 years of age is considered child molesting or rape. However, I feel that if the feeling is mutually and they are both in accordance, then this scene, although weird, is not considered rape.

      In regards to Solange, I do feel like she is acting a role, she might not feel love for her husband. However, I do feel like she has some kind of emotion attachment to Hugo. If this wasn’t true, then Solange would have not gotten jealous at Selena when Hugo was really pursuing her. She feels threaten by Selena because she has the power to make Solange disappear for good. If this happens, a lot of things that she really is attracted to such as money and status will disappear from her life.

      • John Wilkinson says:

        I think what makes this scene further complicated is that Selena is not a typical child. Having fended for herself on the street and the sum of her experiences make her more adult like in the novel. Sometimes it felt hard to see Selena as being 15 and other times I forgot completely. The other complication is that Selena’s primary motivations are always economic. Despite having feelings for Hugo, her sleeping with him also has economic benefits, which in a way carry some relation to prostitution and serve to make the scene more uncomfortable.

    • emilyvanburen2013 says:

      Amber, in regards to your second paragraph, I too was uncomfortable with the interaction that took place between Hugo and Sirena in the gardens outside of the hotel. When I was reading it I think I was so confused about how I felt about the interaction because the way Hugo described Sirena was very feminine but then he ended describing the size of Sirena’s penis which is masculine. So not only is Sirena’s body confusing in terms of being both masculine and feminine but the way in which it was described by Hugo was as well. This was so confusing for me, because I as the rest of my class mates exist in a society where one is either feminine or masculine…not both. Therefore I would attribute the strange feelings i was having when reading this to that and more importantly to the fact that Sirena is so young. I agree with Ernie in our society sexual acts should occur over the age of 18 when one person is considerably older…however, Sirena did not live in the U.S. and was brought up a whole lot faster and differently than the average U.S. citizen. So I don’t know how to respond to the sexual activity occurring between them.

      • Skylar Smith says:

        I find it interesting how you see it as confusing how Sirenas body is seen as masculine and feminine. In the beginning of the semester Jorge asked the class whether or not you viewed yourself as masculine or feminine. Almost everyone said that they believed they had both feminine and masculine traits. I definitely do agree with how strange it was reading it especially when you keep in mind that he is only 15 years old. When you mentioned how you agree that sexual acts should be over the age of 18, I have to disagree. We live in a society where sexual acts are occurring earlier than ever. The Internet has provided information for the curious minds of the young children to practice it safely (hopefully).

  15. Imaani Cain says:

    I think that my idea of Hugo’s level of attraction to Selena was finally figured out. I don’t think Hugo was necessarily attracted to Selena’s gender, but her age instead. He seems to be obsessed with youth, likely because his own became so stunted and his father forced him to become a “man” before he was ready. Although this sounds sympathetic/romanticized, Hugo actually appears to be a pedophile.Like Amber said, there is mention of Selena’s body not being fully grown and references to his boyhood, which makes their relationship fall under the title of statutory rape (is Hugo in his thirties? I just assumed that he was).

    I also felt incredibly bad for Solange. Hugo is not being subtle at all, and I am sure that his clients are aware that Selena is a drag queen and therefore not biologically female. She rushes upstairs and assumes that everyone is speaking behind her back about how stupid she is. Solange is trapped; Hugo has half of his bank balance transferred so she can’t access it and get away from him. This made me realize just how despicable Hugo is; not only is he a pedophile, but he seeks to trap his wife in a relationship with him for fear of her leaving him and leaving him to be consumed by the gossip of their town. I think Selena was smart to leave him when she did; she clearly knew Hugo was bad news. I do think that she would have fallen in love with him, as Solange did, and would have been trapped just like she had if Selena had stayed with him for any longer period of time.

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      I feel like Solange fell in love with the things that came with Hugo, the money, the status, but she completely regrets marrying him once she saw his true colors as a husband. I felt like his actions of pushing her away by blocking her access to his wealth was a shady move. Hugo is indeed very selfish and has all his morals and values altered in a negative way. You don’t turn away from family as he did. I feel like he is alone and needs to find peace within himself, and being a pedophile is how he deals with it. Now he will be the laughing stock of the town when he realizes that his wife and drag queen are out of his life.

    • Nelson Veras says:

      I do feel that Solagne fell in love with what came with Hugo, the status and wealth, however we can’t disregard that she did fall in love with him after a while. It”s palpable with how she is reacting to the entire situation. She refers to Selena as a “monster”, “demon”, and a “it”. She does this in order to feel superior to her because all she can do at this point is bad mouth her. This is her showing masculinity in a way, as she wants to be superior of her opposition, but showing femininity because bad-mouthing is usually associated with females (no offense to any female).

  16. Desiree W. says:

    The ending of this book took by surprise somewhat. I predicted that Solange would leave Hugo, It was clear that he was not interested in her as he pretended to be. We all saw that Solange held on to Hugo for her own personal gain, not because she loved him and had a family for him but because she was expected to keep this title of dignity that she gained through the lifestyle Hugo created and successfully maintained. I wasn’t even shocked at how Hugo started to act towards the end of the story, he began to no care about his image because he believed that he had found someone who he could love and make him complete. We always had this underlying story that Hugo felt like he couldn’t love a woman fully because he wasn’t attracted to them, and that maybe his arrange marriage to Solange wasn’t a bad thing. I think that Solange’s father may have even known this secret and used his daughter as payment for his debts and Hugo benefited because now he had someone to complete his powerful image. Hugo wasn’t even moved to be upset by the fact that he lost his kids, even though he may not have been attracted to his wife. This is clear with his statement after her leaving to his accountant to move half of everything he owned into his other account. With this being said, can we say that love or the thought of finding your true love can make you lose your contact with reality?

    I bring this question up because Selena seems to be playing the game very well until she is shown affection from Hugo, and this throws her off guard. I think she taken aback by Hugo’s words and behaviors because she has never really had anyone show pure love for him, people tend to use and abuse him or he has watched the people he cares for get hurt badly by people they “love.” The bedroom scene after Selena’s performance was the most surprising to me, I think because Hugo’s actions were so predictor like along I never expected Selena to take charge and end up being the one that benefited from it all. Hugo along was painted at the ideal image of masculinity and Selena was this fluid little creature who played both male and female but even as a male was still very feminine. Selena robbed Hugo blind and all due to her playing on Hugo’s lust and love for her. I didn’t expect this at all and actually thought Selena would get played like Solange once he grew tired of her.

    • sorlyz says:

      I, too, predicted that Sirena would leave Hugo without a trace. What I didn’t predict was Sirena having feelings for Hugo. I believe that after hearing so many of the stories of heartbreak and lost love, Sirena was terrified of losing sight of making money because she was starting to have feelings for Hugo. It was visible in the way she was thinking about Hugo and how she didn’t leave the first time she slept with him that she liked him. Also, she said she couldn’t sing and displace her mind from the things her and Hugo were doing. Sirena had the capabilities of escaping when she would do sexual things with other men, but when it came to Hugo she was stuck and couldn’t remember the lyrics to well-rehearsed songs. I was just interested in how Sirena ran because of fear.

      • Well the signs were there about her potential interest in Hugo. There were a few red flags/signs of how she would feel about early on. Also the fact that she couldnt remember lyrics to song because of him, personally i feel like thats infatuation. When something occopies your memoies thst measns you got it bad.You wouldn’t think that Selena would catch feelings because of the initial tunnel vision she had for success. However it mmakes sense that she wouldnt to get close to Hugo to prevent anything to become an obstacle for business. Yet that was a good point you made regarding her not wanting to leave Hugo the first time. Its as if she always had the feelings.

    • I also do predict that Sirena would leave Hugo without a trace but he is her main source of provider and if Sirena still need financial support then why would she leave her only source of money. I also do not believe that Sirena has feelings for Hugo I believe that Hugo may have feelings for her but not the other way around. Often times people may not be able to mix business with pleasure and I believe that is what Sirenas main reason is she is afraid of losing everything that she has worked for.

      • Nelson Veras says:

        In response to Ayaa
        I feel that Selena left him because he realized the predicament he was in. Hugo married Solagne at a young age then lost attraction to her and left her. Selena may have felt as if in later years she can experience the same thing if falling in love with him. Hugo is unpredictable so after Selena blossoms out of his youth then Hugo might not be attracted to him and leave. Selena is avoiding abandonment, something she has had to face her entire life.

    • emilyvanburen2013 says:

      For some reason…and I really have no idea why, I didn’t think Sirena would leave Hugo. I thought she would leach on to him for his status and money so that she could benefit from both of these things. By the end of the story Hugo was so completely immersed in the thought of Sirena that he pretty much forgot about his wife and children. It was disturbing how easily Hugo was transformed from a man with a wife and children, to a man who forgot about his family and instead spent his time following around a young androgynous singer. I can’t say I was surprised that Sirena left Hugo completely high and dry, but based on the fact that she was money and fame hungry I thought she would feed off of his assets.

  17. John Wilkinson says:

    The Rangelova article addresses classification and surveillance in an interesting manner through the topic of transnational movement in literature, specifically Sirena Selena. The specific scene that highlights this is as Martha and Sirena are travelling to the Dominican Republic. Recalling the situation of Maxine, who was humiliated and harassed by security upon discovering her to be a man, she becomes terrified. What the article interestingly points out is that in transnational travel, the concern for safety of a country contributes to a develoing culture of surveillance regarding all incoming persons and objects. What appears to be as simple, and tedious, as customs, becomes a means through which to catalogue all incoming persons and the various aspects about them. Further, her identity is not something Martha wishes to have to hide, but would rather express it at all times. However, the fear of discovery and subsequent humiliation force her to take on the role of the “deceptive transgendered person.”

    The application of Post-Colonial theory as well as well as economic movement frames Santos-Febres’ work within a broader context that encompasses not only gender identity, but also political and economic identity. Characters who have higher economic safety not only have luxury and status, but a freedom of movement not exhibited in others. Unhappiness can simply be escaped through movement. By contrast, Martha and Sirena are, in a sense, migrant workers looking to better their economic situation. Martha is trying to reconcile her identity by raising money to pay for surgery and Sirena is seeking economic safety. To them, the transnational movement to the Dominican Republic carries a far more severe scenario than the tourists Sirena is to entertain. In fact, the application of economic understanding complicates gender and its fluidity: thought Martha identifies as a woman, Sirena is primarily motivated by economic gains. As more of a discussion topic, the thought occurred to me that this novel was published immediately before the September 11th attacks in 2001 and I would be interested in seeing how those attacks and the attempts to step up national security would change the novel or reality for the Marthas and Sirenas

  18. Hugo`s relationship with Solange and Selena is what stood out in this section. We keep coming back to this idea of using other people to get ahead and both Selena and Solange interest has to do with money. Selena has always had to survive the hard way. She was a prostitute and drug dealer so her getting money by doing something that comes so natural to her was thought of as easy. Selena is motivated by Hugo`s infatuation of her. She uses him to get to where she wants to be in spite of him showing her that he actually cares. Hugo in this section finally is honest with himself and starts to show it. His feelings for Selena becomes present and Solange ends up taking the kids and leaving him. Solange although was only with Hugo for status and luxury does however feel some type of way because of Selena and Hugo`s relationship.

    Solange is so jealous of Selena because Selena has taken away her dream life. It is obviously that Solange understands why Hugo wants Selena. She mentions how Selena`s voice is sweet but it appears that Solange cannot make out why. I do not think Solange was heart broken but more upset that she would have to change her ways of living. She was embarrassed and ashamed and I think that was why she left. Being with Hugo allowed her to live the life she desired and now someone who was not even a women had taken that away from her. Hugo was willing to have sexual relationships with a young boy and Selena was willing to allow this to reach fame and fortune. The ending of the book was interesting. It made me think differently of Selena even though I never expected her to actually care about Hugo anyway. This shows how strong someone`s desire and lust can be.

    • Nelson Veras says:

      Just like you, I never expected Selena to truly gain feelings for HUgo and if she did they will be mixed feelings. Selena has been abandoned before and has seen negative outcome in relationships, specifically Martha. With that being said, I feel like Selena never fully trusted Hugo. He was more infatuated with her youth and beauty and it almost feels like he doesn’t truly know Selena. Selena’s life seems like an entire “act” as he’s trying to gain fame and wealth during the process. He understands Hugo can get her that, but an emotional attachment seems like a lot to ask for because of her past betrayals.

      • Joseph C. Sokola says:

        I would agree that I never imagined that Selena would ever have true feelings for Hugo based on the fact that she is more interested in money and fame, and it was surprising to see Selena caring about Hugo. I thought that Selena was similar to Solange in the sense that they are both materialistic and concerned with possessions more than love, but Selena seems to be changing by the end of the book. The relationship between Hugo and Selena seems to include Selena tolerating Hugo’s advances while Hugo is obsessed with her youth and appearance. I do think that a common theme in this novel is people being used for the gain of another person, as both Selena and Solange used Hugo for his status and money. Hugo seems to have used Solange for an image, and uses Selena to satisfy his sexual desires. The ending of the book certainly did make me view Selena a little differently, as she finally freed herself from Hugo’s grasp on her life.

    • John Wilkinson says:

      I think what is important about Hugo’s character in the story is his unease with his own sexuality. I agree with you that Hugo uses Selena. I think he does so in order to have the best of both worlds and appease both his desires and conscience. With Selena, he can pretend to live up to his family’s machismo ideals and have a relationship with a woman. However, at the same time, he is able to express his homosexually desires. I think what is interesting about Solange, is that she seems to be created by Hugo. His lack of attention has led her to attempt to experience or enjoy life in other ways. Being wealthy, spending money and consuming seems to be one of those ways. If Solange can’t have a relationship with Hugo, she can take the mirage of status and respectability she should have with him.

  19. emilyvanburen2013 says:

    I was surprised and a little let down at the way the book ended. I liked that all of the characters ended up in the same hotel, between Hugo and Selena and then Martha and the men she was meeting with and finally Leocadio and Miguel dancing in the bar area. I feel as if the stories came full circle in terms of all the characters ending up in the same place, and I really enjoyed how the author had Martha see Leocadio and how she predicted his future, and saw the light in his eyes and how he would affect the world. “He was yellow like a cat, with gray eyes warning of a storm and something else, a sacrificial air about him that would make anyone’s hair stand on end. Not even he himself knows how strong he is! The other one had better prepare himself, the smaller one is going to get him all tangled up” (210). This was probably my favorite line in the entire book. When all the characters lives were told in different stories as if they had nothing to do with one another, and then they came to cross each others paths, it somehow made me look at the bigger picture and understand how all of these characters who had seem so different before, seem so similar now.

    It also led me to think about how in our own lives there are probably people who we cross paths with every day who are struggling from problems similar to our own and how you can be in the same vicinity of others and never truly understand what is going on in their lives. This book cleared up a lot of questions and misconceptions I had held about the LGBTQ community such as, being gay is not a requirement for performing drag. I am sad that I did not learn more about this community a long time ago, but am glad that now I am much more knowledgeable about the differences in sexual orientation and the inner workings of those who perform drag!

    • Iris Foley says:

      This book cleared up many misconceptions about drag for me as well. I also assumed that everyone who performed drag was homosexual but I now realize that that’s not the case at all. Similarly, I never really thought about the real creativity and performance that goes into drag. I always kind of thought of it as more comedy than art, but I was wrong.

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