By: Mónica B. Ocasio Vega
How are Puerto Ricans informed about prostitution? Is it ironic people learn more about this theme from fiction tan from the local news? Those were the questions Nivializ Toro, undergraduate comparative literature student at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, examined for her undergraduate research Prostitución en Puerto Rico, entre esclavas y libertas: Sirena Selena, Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer y el discurso periodístico sobre lxs prostitutxs.
She presented her research on March 6 at the Luis Celis Building, as part of the V Coloquio ¿Del otro La’o?: perspectivas sobre sexualidades “queer”. (Fifth colloquium, from the other side?: perspectives on queer sexualities).
More than 25 people attended the round-table discussion, which focused on the reality that prostitution is not a dutifully examined area in the local news-papers.
Toro’s undergraduate research is basd on feminist theories. She examined two novels by author Mayra Santos-Febres: Sirena Selena vestida de pena and Nuestra Señora de la Noche and also collected articles from El Vocero newspaper . She found weak information on the matter.
Toro noted an interesting contrast: both of the novel’s protagonists are transvestites who work in prostitution; however, the local newspaper doesn’t specify sexuality when reporting news about prostitution.
Furthermore, the discussion focused around theoretical aspects of Toro’s research and how it may affect Puerto Rico’s society in relation to prostitution. One attendee, Social Sciences professor Luis Nieves Rosas, asked if the protagonists were presented as male figures at any point in the novels. Toro explained that they were not specified points in the texts that the protagonists were described as male figures, instead as drag queens, which contributes to the confusion regarding prostitution.
At the end of the discussion the audience had a chance to clarify doubts and question the speaker. Toro responded to all of the audience’s doubts and questions, complementing the discussion in session.
As a first time presenter Toro was satisfied with the event. “I loved presenting. It’s definitely something I would like to do again,” she said in an interview. “It is pleasing having an audience interested in the theme” of her research, she added.