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Six: On Memory and Resistance: Motherhood, Community and Dispossession in Zora Moreno's Coqui Corihundo Vira El Mundo (1981).

La sangre inocente nos cubrio de duelo. Los gritos de

Muerte despertaron a un pueblo.

Cuerpo acribillado, que leccion encierras: para el pobre,

El Cielo: pa'l rico, la tierra!

Innocent blood covered our grief.

The shouts of Death woke a people.

Riddled body, what lesson you hold:

for the poor, Heaven: for the rich, the Earth!

-Ruben Blades and Willie Colon, "Desahucio"


The story of Adolfina Villanueva has been mythologized in various cultural forms, from song to graffiti and theater. Adolfina Villanueva was an Afro-Puerto Rican woman who was murdered by the police while she attempted to protect her family from eviction on February 6, 1980. By looking at the transformation of Adolfina's life and death into cultural memory, I argue that the repeated performances of her as subject transmits an embodied knowledge that provides an alternative Puerto Rican identity to the exclusionary mythology of the gran familia puertorriquena.

Nowhere is the power of Adolfina's mythology more evident than in the lyrics of the song Desahucio [Evicted] by salseros Ruben Blades and Willie Colon. Located in the epigraph of this essay, the line of one stanza reads "Innocent blood covered our grief/the shouts of Death woke a people" (Curet and Blades, 1995). These lyrics contest the official police narratives that mark Adolfina as a criminal and danger to the police. Instead it avows her innocence and rewrites her death as both sacrifice and murder. Furthermore, in understanding Adolfina as innocent victim and understanding her death as part of a mythology of sacrifice, Blades and Colon (and, as I will touch upon later, Moreno) use familiar mythologies of Christian sacrifice to mark the inevitability of her death. Furthermore, the singers use the imagery of "un cuerpo acribillado," or a riddled body, to convey a lesson taught to them. Rather than remain silent, this riddled corpse speaks the lesson Adolfina embodies for the Afro-Puerto Rican residents of Loiza, Puerto Rico. This line, "For the poor, heaven: for the rich, the Earth" (Curet and Blades, 1995), is quickly understood to be a maxim that speaks to the reality for Loicenos (residents of Loiza), namely in the continued use of state-sanctioned police violence and the spatial politics of class and race.

As one of the first plays that remembers Adolfina Villanueva, Zora Moreno's 1981 play Coqui corihundo vira el mundo or Anastasia [The Story of Anastasia] questions the legitimacy of a culturally homogenous nation by negotiating the multiple logics of myth, history and identity. In addition, she employs the local dialects of Anastasia as a marginalized, black female subject to demonstrate the power of other knowledges and vocabularies for marginalized subjects. In drawing from the past, Moreno offers an opportunity to re-member and re-make the past so that the future still holds new conditions of possibility.

Coqui corihundo vira el mundo (1981) or Anastasia (as it was later renamed in 1987) details the story of Anastasia, her husband Antonio, and their children, as they are in the process of being evicted from their home. Based on the real story of Adolfina Villanueva, the play opens with Adolfina reading her children a book entitled Historia de nuestros indios, or History of our Amerindians as a bedtime story. The story is interrupted by the arrival of Don Viramundo, a real-estate developer, who has purchased the land where Anastasia and her family reside. After a brief discussion, Don Viramundo leaves, incensed that the land has yet to be vacated in a timely fashion. The tension of the play resides in the opposition between Don Viramundo and Anastasia as they disagree on who the rightful owner of this house is. As the play continues, scenes of local life including children playing with earthworms and hens, a birthday party and music, are contrasted against the conniving legal machinations of eviction between Don Viramundo and his lawyer....

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Menzies, Stephanie Gomez, Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies
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Author:Menzies, Stephanie Gomez
Publication:Wagadu
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1U0PR
Date:Dec 22, 2017
Words:663
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