Carlos Andrés Gómez begins: “Black, brown, indigenous, mestizo, Latino, the only consistency we know is absence. Whether of justice, or of food, or of opportunity, we live obese on the fatness of grief.”
In school we tried to consider whether the sense of absence in Vallejo were analogous to, or perhaps even incarnated the Lacanian lack. Jean Franco’s book seemed, in certain paragraphs, to suggest it. We did not want to reify or essentialize by saying (although Mariátegui did say it, and Larrea did so in a different framework) that it had to do with racial or ethnic background, or even cultural doubling or layering.
Professors, whether they knew anything about Vallejo or not, said that to seriously discuss anything about his work related to ethnicity, or to suggest that he was anything but one hundred percent Western, was to cast the poet as a tragic mestizo, and his work as less than universal. Later it was possible to speak of coloniality and marginality. But I never wanted to force these concepts one hundred percent, lest I fall into the trap of biographical and content-focused deciphering which plagued and plagues Vallejo criticism. His politics were no mystery, and I was and am interested in his use of language.
But C.A.G.’s words, evoking those forbidden contexts directly, sound a familiar language: “consistency . . . absence,” “obese on the fatness of grief.”