17 November 2009

Alina Troyano

One of the effects of the original macaronic verse was comic; writers used more than one language in a text to make their readers or audiences laugh. The comic impulse has not disappeared from multilingual literature. In the performing arts, for instance, there is Alina Troyano, described as "a Cuban lesbian performance artist whose work skewers racial, cultural, and sexual stereotypes." Here are typical verses from her:

"Hello people, you know me, I know you.
I am Carmelita Tropicana.

"I say Loisaida is the place to be. It is multicultural, multinational, multigenerational, mucho multi. And like myself , you've got to be multilingual.

"I am very good with the tongue."

Modern multilingual writing, however, is much more complex than macaronic verse. With the more subtle and more sophisticated tools now available to writers, modern writing is deadly serious, though it draws laughs. Here is how Lisa Alvarado writes about Troyano: "In the preface [of the book I, Carmelita Tropicana: Performing Between Cultures (2000)], there is a reference to Troyano's use of 'innuendo, bilingual puns, double entendre, burlesque, parody, political farce, biographical revisionism, and an irreverent appropriation and collaging of popular culture.' She draws text from popular movies, past stereotypical icons, and popular music. While the style is irreverent, her themes are hardly light. In placing expropriated material in another context, it becomes reinvented, with layers of new meaning and ultimately a critique of the original manifestation itself."

As in most cases of comic writing (or performing), we have to go beyond the smiles to appreciate the frowns.

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