A collapsing archipelago sustains the collapsing body of a woman artist assisted by audiences who dress her up, apply makeup, and witness her contortions and grimaces. An unsuspecting public is invited to share “sustento,” a clear liquid that could be anything but inevitably will nourish the ephemeral construction of a performative community, of those brought together by blind faith. Whether dancing on the street or in an art gallery or museum, in Puerto Rico or Chile or the Dominican Republic or the United States, since 2013, Awilda Rodríguez Lora (La Performera) becomes La Mujer Maravilla as a resignified queer reappropriation of William Moulton Marston’s Wonder Woman, not as a DC Comics superheroine or as Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s La Borinqueña or Gabby Rivera’s America Chavez, but rather as a hurricane-ravaged colonial subject draped with a bikini of the Puerto Rican flag as she decries femicides and inadvertently partakes of the collective grief and rage of the hemispheric protest movement of Ni una menos. Moving between Rubén Ríos-Ávila’s “la raza cómica” and Walter Mercado’s “raza cosmética” (to cite Diana Taylor), embracing the anarchist legacy of Luisa Capetillo, but also the insights of Rita Laura Segato’s critique of the war on women and the long legacy of Puerto Rican beauty queens and Miss Universe pageant winners, all while negotiating Blackness, decoloniality, “locura,” and “translocura,” Rodríguez Lora offers an empowering yet also profoundly melancholic, circuitous cartography of pain and hope; a vivid, apt metaphor for contemporary Puerto Rico.
Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is Professor and Chair of the Department of American Culture and former director and core faculty member of the Latina/o Studies Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is also Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Women’s and Gender Studies. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he received his AB from Harvard (1991) and his MA, MPhil, and PhD from Columbia (1999). He is author of Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora (University of Minnesota Press, 2009) and of Escenas transcaribeñas: Ensayos sobre teatro, performance y cultura (Isla Negra Editores, 2018) and coeditor with Deborah R. Vargas and Nancy Raquel Mirabal of Keywords for Latina/o Studies (New York University Press, 2017). His book Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2021 as part of the Triangulations: Lesbian/Gay/Queer Theater/Drama/Performance series and received the 2021-2022 Sylvia Rivera Award in Transgender Studies from CLAGS, the Center for LGBTQ Studies at the City University of New York. He has coedited queer issues of CENTRO Journal, Sargasso, Latinx Talk, and Hostos Review/Revista Hostosiana and has published two books of fiction, Uñas pintadas de azul/Blue Fingernails and Abolición del pato. Larry performs in drag as Lola von Miramar since 2010 and has appeared in several episodes of the YouTube series Cooking with Drag Queens. He is currently writing a book on contemporary Puerto Rican performance.