CC -- Gender Studies

Para entendernos: diccionario de cultura homosexual, gay y lésbica[To Understand Us: Dictionary of Homosexual, Gay and Lesbian Culture]. Ed. Alberto Mira Nouselles. Barcelona: Ediciones de la Tempestad/Llibres de l'Índex, 1999. 777 p. 23 cm. ISBN 84794803806: Ptas. 4,995.00

An RREO Original Review 

"How do you say 'queer' in Spanish?" asks a student. Turning to Para entendernos (PE) will not give the answer, as queer is itself an entry. But the term and its analogues have already made it into Spanish-speaking academic/intellectual circles: teoría torcida ("twisted theory," as in the title of Ricardo Llamas's 1998 book); or teoría marica ("sissy theory," as in a review of several English-language books).

As "queer theory" becomes part of theoretical discourse, this new dictionary appears on the scene, calling itself the "first Hispanic dictionary of gay and lesbian culture…" But not all of the entries are in fact Hispanic: of the first 252 entries (A-C), fewer than one-third deal with Spain or Latin America. That even the perspective of PE is not always Hispanic is acknowledged in the lengthy introduction: "a large portion of the entries come from similar dictionaries and encyclopedias published in the UK, the US and France." Mira also notes how poor the field is in terms of studies applied to the Hispanic gay and lesbian experience, so PE makes a significant contribution to its cultural field. Entries original to PE are signed with the author's initials (there are 9 contributors in addition to the editor).

At times PE's treatment can be uneven: there is an entry each for Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico, but not one for Argentina, although that country's Manuel Puig is included. The US Latino experience is covered with separate entries on Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, and Jaime Manrique, but there is no mention of the narratives of Michael Nava or the theoretical work of Tomás Almaguer.

Perhaps the most informative articles are those on the different gay and lesbian groups (Casal Lambda, Collectiu Gai de Barcelona, Coordinadora de Colectivos Feministas y de Lesbianas del Estado Español, Coordinadora Gai-Lesbiana, Frente Homosexual de Acción Revolucionaria), as well as a general overview of gay and lesbian activism within Spain (two pages). Just as interesting is the entry for canción española, "queering" the musical landscape. The general entry for Spain is by far the longest (5 pages) and is based on what appeared in The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (1990).

There is an alphabetical index of entries, but with no indication of page numbers in the body of the text. PE includes a selected bibliography, "mostly of books of general or theoretical nature, available in Spanish." Both the bibliography and the introduction note David Foster's Latin American Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes: a Bio-critical Sourcebook (1994) as a pioneering work but do not include his Spanish Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes: a Bio-critical Sourcebook (1999), a similar study for Spain, perhaps because it appeared after this dictionary was published. For a more detailed bibliography, one would also have to consult Robert Richmond Ellis'sThe Hispanic Homograph: Gay Self-Representation in Contemporary Spanish Autobiography (1997) and Paul Julian Smith's Laws of Desire: Questions of Homosexuality in Spanish Writing and Film, 1960-1990 (1992).

In spite of the limitations noted, this is the first of its kind, and it deserves a place in our collections. Also to be noted is the publisher's web site with backlist at <http://www.teclata.es/index/>.

Adan Griego (Stanford University)

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Last update: September 7, 2001 [RD]
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