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Oye Loca

From the Mariel Boatlift to Gay Cuban Miami

2013
Author:

Susana Peña

Oye Loca

Illustrates the development of a Cuban American gay male culture in Miami

During a few months in 1980, 125,000 Cubans entered the U.S. as part of a massive migration known as the Mariel boatlift. Drawing from first-person stories of Cuban Americans as well as government documents and cultural texts from both the U.S. and Cuba, Susana Peña reveals how a historical event shaped the formation of an entire ethnic and sexual landscape.

This wonderful work unravels the complex and messy strands of emergences, disappearances, visibilities, and erasures of the loca, the gender, and sexually transgressive Cuban male homosexual figure who arrived in America via the Mariel boatlift. Susana Peña carefully and sensitively excavates through layers of historical and cultural abjection in order to persuasively demonstrate how the loca’s stigmatized exilic trajectory is intimately connected to the advent of a Cuban American gay culture in Miami.

Martin F. Manalansan IV, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

During only a few months in 1980, 125,000 Cubans entered the United States as part of a massive migration known as the Mariel boatlift. The images of boats of all sizes, in various conditions, filled with Cubans of all colors and ages, triggered a media storm. Fleeing Cuba’s repressive government, many homosexual men and women arrived in the United States only to face further obstacles. Deemed “undesirables” by the U.S. media, the Cuban state, and Cuban Americans already living in Miami, these new entrants marked a turning point in Miami’s Cuban American and gay histories.

In Oye Loca, Susana Peña investigates a moment of cultural collision. Drawing from first-person stories of Cuban Americans as well as government documents and cultural texts from both the United States and Cuba, Peña reveals how these discussions both sensationalized and silenced the gay presence, giving way to a Cuban American gay culture. Through an examination of the diverse lives of Cuban and Cuban American gay men, we learn that Miami’s gay culture was far from homogeneous. By way of in-depth interviews, participant observation, and archival analysis, Peña shows that the men who crowded into small apartments together, bleached their hair with peroxide, wore housedresses in the street, and endured ruthless insults challenged what it meant to be Cuban in Miami.

Making a critical incision through the study of heteronormativity, homosexualities, and racialization, ultimately Oye Loca illustrates how a single historical event helped shape the formation of an entire ethnic and sexual landscape.

Awards

Honorable Mention, Best Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association

Oye Loca

Susana Peña is director of the School of Cultural and Critical Studies and associate professor of ethnic studies at Bowling Green State University.

Oye Loca

This wonderful work unravels the complex and messy strands of emergences, disappearances, visibilities, and erasures of the loca, the gender, and sexually transgressive Cuban male homosexual figure who arrived in America via the Mariel boatlift. Susana Peña carefully and sensitively excavates through layers of historical and cultural abjection in order to persuasively demonstrate how the loca’s stigmatized exilic trajectory is intimately connected to the advent of a Cuban American gay culture in Miami.

Martin F. Manalansan IV, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

An important contribution to the growing body of work examining the relationship between the state, sexuality and migration through the proficient deployment of interdisciplinary method.

Latino Studies

¡Oye Loca! makes an outstanding contribution to migration studies, gender and sexuality studies, and Cuban and Caribbean studies. Susana Peña provides a rich account of the way a convergence of events can create a particular historical moment that transforms communities.

New West Indian Guide

Oye Loca

Contents

Introduction

1. From UMAPs to Save Our Children: Policing Homosexuality in Cuba and Miami
before 1980

2. Obvious Gays and the State Gaze: Gay Visibility and Immigration Policy during the
Mariel Boatlift

3. Cultures of Gay Visibility and Renarrating Mariel

4. Pájaration and Transculturation: Language and Meaning in Gay Cuban Miami

5. Narratives of Nation and Sexual Identity: Remembering Cuba

6. Families, Disclosure, and Visibility

7. Locas, Papis, and Muscle Queens: Racialized Discourses of Masculinity and Desire

8. ¡Oye Loca! Gay Cuba in Drag


Conclusion

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index