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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Specters in the Sand: The Urban Hauntings in Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders


This project studies the city in 20th century Latin American literature and explores the relationships between the city, its protagonist-inhabitants, memory and haunting. I propose that the city functions as the medium by which the protagonist-subjects are haunted, most often by memory, but sometimes by an actual spectral figure. By reading and theorizing from these texts through a spatial lens, we might recognize how urban spaces are at work in producing the social and vice versa. I plan to study how the authors of these texts expose broader political and social issues relevant to the context of each text.

In a slight departure from looking at capital or major “centralized” cities, this particular chapter will look at texts in which the border city (U.S.-Mexico border) is the setting. A text that trenchantly weaves together all of these aspects regarding the border, the results of globalization, identity, migration, and gender, is Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders (2005). I aim to productively complicate the various characterizations of the border and produce richer readings and more complex analyses of larger border questions. Analyzing the city in border texts questions the notion of city as “center” and the center/periphery model in general. I hope that this chapter will complicate conventional notions of the “city” as a centralized megalopolis and offer the border city as the “new” Latin Americanized, transnational urban space, with its unique characteristics and hauntings. In this way, the term “city” will have to be rethought and redefined.

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