By Susan Antebi (auth.)
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Additional resources for Carnal Inscriptions: Spanish American Narratives of Corporeal Difference and Disability
21 In addition, although freak shows were enjoyed by a broad sector of the population, and even 32 Carnal Inscriptions considered appropriate family entertainment, in large part thanks to the efforts of P. T. Barnum earlier in the century, the dime museums of New York’s Bowery during this period catered primarily to a working-class immigrant population (Bogdan 35). S. 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.
At the same time, Martí’s and Tablada’s evocations of corporeal difference as monstrous participate in the reflection and production of a Latin American tropology of monstrosity, historically linked to the figure of Calibán and to the colonial historiography of the Americas. Caliban’s Tropology Early colonial figurations of monstrosity in the Americas return repeatedly to the cannibal. Cannibalism, as Michael Palencia-Roth has written, becomes “the particular New World signifier for monstrosity,” thanks to its role in both Christian theology and classical teratology (40).
In human affairs, nothing equals the marvelous prosperity of the United States of the North. Whether or not deep roots are lacking in them . . this is what the times will tell] (“Coney Island” 318). Judgment of the potentially shallow quality of the United States will be momentarily suspended here, at least in gesture. It is clear, however, that a cautionary tone will continue to hang over the images of grandeur and prosperity that come to characterize Martí’s vision of the New York beaches. Martí’s references to the freak show, though brief, demonstrate a provocative duality, consistent throughout the text, between the subject’s rejection of and adherence to the scenes he describes.