By Susan Antebi (auth.)
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Additional resources for Carnal Inscriptions: Spanish American Narratives of Corporeal Difference and Disability
As in “Coney Island,” here the slippage between the mechanical and the human coincides with the revelation of corporeality as monstrous. Martí writes, “Y los creadores de este puente, y los que lo mantienen, y los que lo cruzan, parecen, salvo el excesivo amor a la riqueza que como un gusano los roe la magna entraña, hombres tallados en granito, como el puente” (Crónicas, 147) [And the creators of this bridge, and those who maintain it, and those who cross it seem—but for the excessive love of wealth that gnaws at their intestines like a worm—men carved out of granite, like the bridge itself ] (Selected Writings, 141).
As exile and observer, Martí undercuts the euphoria of the Coney Island ambience, of which the freak show is a fundamental element, by revealing its fraudulent and cruel representations, and by identifying with the outsiders—although only partially—rather than with the masses, thus both subverting and redefining the dynamics of the performance. Identification, however, works indirectly—or obliquely in Martí’s text—for although the melancholic and marginal status of the freak does evoke the exile’s similar position, as described above, the freak, unlike Martí, functions in the text as a staged body, visible to the speaking subject and to other viewers of the scene.
Society. S. culture, yet for an 1881 Coney Island, much of this display was marked by uncertain transformation, specifically by an immigrant population with no guarantee of social or economic integration into the new society. “Coney Island indeed helped to displace genteel culture with a new mass culture,” writes Julio Ramos, citing from Kasson’s history of Coney Island. For Ramos, this new mass culture, and its implications for the displaced or compromised role of U. S. intellectuals, serves as a point of contrast to Martí’s critical position as Latin American intellectual subject in opposition to the culture industry (22–22).