: El Fantasista () by HERNAN RIVERA LETELIER and a great selection of similar New, Used and Collectible Books available. Hernán Rivera Letelier is a Chilean novelist. Until the age of 11 he lived in the Algorta (Chile) ; El Fantasista (The Fantasista). ; Mi Nombre es. In this new novel, Rivera Letelier returns to his imaginary Pampa to bring us a moving win this momentous encounter –could this be the mysterious ” Fantasista”?.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Going Beyond the Salitrera: Contents Going Beyond the Salitrera: University Press of Florida, University of Virginia Press, Latin American and Latino Performing Arts. Edited by Jacqueline Bixler and Laurietz Seda.

Bucknell University Press, Known both as a prolific and leteliee well-received writer, the body of criticism to date on Rivera Letelier is, however, surprisingly scarce. The diegetic process by which the latter is brought to fruition is based on the dyad established between the trope of hrnan prostitute and the messiah. Rivera Letelier, however, deviates from the traditional d ethical juxtaposition of the two poles, and instead riverz an economic reading of these charac- ters.

That is, the author strays from the primordial exercise of compare and contrast by imbuing these characters with an economic hernnan, not unlike the superimposition of urbanized, neoliberal topologies onto the microcosmic towns and villages that the writer maps out, and which I will develop later.

The subsequent anxiety of identification within the textual space of the desert, that is, its failure to be regulated by the confines of the desert trope, are equally applicable to the figures of the prostitute and messiah who, like the spatial referent, heavily deviate from their tropic boundaries.

The author, however, does not men- tion the other messiah figures that repeatedly crop up in his work. The northern borders of the slender country are characterized by the arid and scarcely populated regions of the Atacama Desert.

In the early 19th century, speculators rl vast reserves of saltpeter in the Negreiras, Pampa Negra, and Zapiga regions, which contributed to a boom in exports of nitrates to Europe.

The industry and the region was at the center of the Pacific War fought between Bolivia, Chile and Peru inas national in- terests in the lucrative nitrate and saltpeter industries rose to a boiling point.

With the invention of synthetic fertilizers, foreign demand for nitrates took a mortal hit and many of the min- ing communities became ghost towns.

What is not lost in this historical unearthing of the salitrera is the similarity to the contemporary neoliberal boom, or what has more popularly been termed the Chilean Miracle first under Pinochet and in the years following the dictatorship.

It is, instead, a metaphorical probe into structure of spatial ve, as Rivea Letelier not only portrays but also redefines the space of the salitrera in contemporary Chilean literature.

El Fantasista

The backdrop of this infernal space is put to use as the reader is invited into the world of football rivalries between mining towns, as if their own identity depended on winning a match with twenty-two men and a beaten leather ball. We realize that the narrated setting is not as separated from broader discourses of power as we discover that the workers from Coya Sur, facing the closing-down of their mine and all its structures, must win a last derby game against the fear- some team of Coya Norte.

Their inhabitants, including the contadora, model their behavior, speech, and thought around the imported, larger-than-life cowboys, vedettes, and swash-bucklers that infiltrate the desert-space. The internal architecture of the town is pertinent as the company establishes separate zones of commerce, administration, and recreation, akin to urban centers. They are citizens of La Piojo and comulgate in the communal and functional spaces that are tracings of an urban secondspace.

It is at this moment that tantasista figure of the messiah emerges, as he be- comes a discursive counterpoint to the powers of globalization and economic subjugation. Fantassita also bears mentioning that the biblical trope in Rivera Letelier is not always that of the traveling Christ-like preacher as seen in most of his novelsbut is also that of the men who are metaphorically alluded to as saviors.

Books by Hernán Rivera Letelier

The protagonist of El Fantasista, for example, bears no physical resemblance to the aesthetic trope of the messiah. He wears the uniform of a popular team and is bowlegged due to a tumorous testicle that prevents him from running or standing straight.

His narrative function, however, does perpetuate an aura of fantasisya and sacrifice, as his virtuoso performances with the football are augured to save the poor villagers of Coya Sur from one last humiliating defeat to their privileged counterparts from the North.

El enviado de Dios. The episteme of neocolonialism is not lost in the construction the desert space in this novel, as Rivera Letelier signals towards the notion of a global South that rises from the microcosm of the mining town.

Hernán Rivera Letelier – Wikipedia

He, instead, spreads a message of common sense and wellbeing to those who care to listen to him in commu- nal get-togethers and meeting points. The break from a theological eth- ics in the characterization of the figure hints at the novels broader project of going beyond its spatial and tropic geographies, as El Cristo surmounts the mapped practices of the messiah.


Like the Christ figure of El Fantasista, however, El Cristo de Elqui plays a political role in the diegesis as during a train ride he warns of impending change and the takeover of the community by foreign forces. Just as the train provides a textual vehicle for the epic journey of the protagonists in Los trenes se van al purgatorio Lillo Cabezas 82the railroad creates a tangible schematic of the economic topography of the Atacama Desert. The salitrera, which at first may seem like a pristine yet inhospitable desert-text, is redefined by the narrative inclusion of the railroad, as it reminds the reader that even the desert is in- terlaced with economic systems of production and consumption.

The spatial considerations of the railroad track blur the borders between the urban and rural, as the rural becomes an interstitial space that permits the movement of urban factors and subjects, anatomically leteller from the organs of capitalism in the national body. On his rides he lehelier small packets of naturopathic medicine that he champions over western pharmacy, telling his patrons that the mixture of herbs along with a small blessing are more powerful than any pharmaceutical.


The authorities, which is to say the local judicial pawns of the multina- tionals, sense the political potential of El Cristo and hasten to quiet him. Upon arresting and brutally beating him, the police chief exclaims: Though innocent of the accusation, El Cristo does react to a general strike organized by the labor union, citing the need for greater pay and less working hours.

Fzntasista strike becomes the central axis around which the plot evolves, as El Cristo is increasingly viewed with suspicion as a leftist sympathizer who works against the interests of the multinationals. The satiric nature of his sermon comes full circle as he instructs his congregation: The built-in contradictions to his advice annul him as a political affront to the forces of globalization and neoliberalism, yet place him outside the traditional ethics of the messiah.

The inability to build a concise and coherent discourse against both the liberalized system of the mining companies and the theological principles of the church suggests an inherent displacement of the subject. What the text reveals through the misanthropic dialogues and actions of ed preacher is an uneasiness of identification, a need to go outside the topologic and topographic boundaries of the trope and, by extension, of the world of the salitrera.

The woman that he chooses for this role is Magalena Mercado, the lone prostitute of the mining town Providencia, also known as La Piojo.

The number of brothels per town is reflected in the poor conditions hernzn La Piojo, as: The figure of the prostitute is constructed along two distinct but connected tangents that convene in the sacred space of the brothel. On the one hand, we fantasiata exposed to her carnal nature and travails, as she willingly serves all the men, single and married in La Piojo, even giving them services on loan, ac- cepting payment after they receive their monthly salaries.

This latter practice, however, locates Magalena outside the traditional boundary of the mapped trope, akin to the figure of El Cristo. We can safely conjecture that his name collocates him with the many nameless Chileans who suffered economic hardship dur- ing the takeover of the salitreras and the subsequent failure of the industry. Like them he roams the landscape without hope or work, lacking a voice and ehrnan to the realm of those forgotten.

The brothel, primal to the establishment of the homoso- cial and patriarchy in the desert, is also an ecclesiastic and economic center. Her ideological positions in favor of the workers, and against the multinational company, are exemplified in her explanation of the working conditions in La Piojo to El Cristo. From this we can conjecture that the Gringo and the Peruvian as foreigners sucking dry the national resources of the country represent the contemporary preoccupation with allowing foreign multinationals free-reign under the auspices of neoliberalism.

The existence of her brothel is held in question as only workers employed by the company are given quarters. The rumors surrounding the saintliness of her work is called to attention when El Cristo is detained by the local police as they suspect him of stirring up leftist ideas in the camp. This turn crafts the secondspace of the brothel as an economic outpost of the multinational yoke, thereby infusing its structure with a decidedly non-rural characterization of space.

The brothel, more importantly, provides the only real physical structure that harkens to what Soja theorizes as thirdspace.

Thirdspace effectively is a combination of first and rivrra spaces, in a tex- tual and lrtelier structure that is tangible yet imaginary. Unlike the rest of the mining town that only really develops a sense of urbanity in a textual exploration of its secondspace, the brothel explicitly meshes its firstspace structure and related social practices with its ideational or symbolic rifera. This detail perhaps explains the critical misreading of Rivera Letelier, as it is only wl a symbolic and cartographic study of the Letelieer Piojo and other spaces such as Coya Sur can we begin to explore the urban secondspace and thirdspace of the salitreras.

The thirdspace of the fantasists as site of urbanity and neoliberal economics lstelier centralizes the position of the prostitute in the creation of an urban epis- temology within the nothingness of the arid desert-text.


Claudio Saavedra’s review of El Fantasista

This coincides with El Cristo asking her to assume her position within the biblical dialectic, though in a decidedly more carnal nature, leelier which Magalena refuses, citing that her work is too a commitment that she must keep. Her eviction is corporal and architectural, as she is forced to leave the town with all her belongings, including the life-sized fantasistta of the Virgin and her chicken Sinforosa.

Away from the urbanized assemblage of the mining town and its supporting infrastructures, Magalena is left to fend for herself in the arid, lifeless desert, in what should be a life-sentence. By setting up a business away from the power structures of El Gringo and the multinationals, Magalena establishes an alternative economic structure that she envisions to be the foundation of a new town. The new space centered around the independent brothel and outside the topographic delineations of the mining town fulfills two functions.

The new brothel reinforces the notion of the salitrera tivera a market, and by extension, the salitrera as urban through a simple set of equivalencies. The new structure, furthermore, underlines the importance of the brothel as a thirdspace, as it is not inherently identified by the company quarters that previously characterized it within the borders of La Piojo, but is instead a combination of the firstspace composed of the bed and Virgin statue, and the secondspace of the capitalist economy that it metonymizes.

It further suggests that a tangible and viable economic system exists outside the open-border dictates of globalization, as represented by the Gringo salitrera, built around the simplified factors of local supply and demand.

The intrinsic qualities of this independent venture against, what I argue, an urbanized topography of the Atacama Desert put forth a reading of the contemporary economic climate in Chile by Rivera Letelier, forcing us to reconsider the identidad pampina of a writer that has often been excluded from contemporary discussions of fantasiista collective identity. This latter point is harnessed by Arturo C. Flores, as he argues leteoier the recent novelistic production in Chile can be divided into two categories.

Fears of the military and military rule are letepier com- mented on in El Fantasista as the local villagers fear reprisals from the police, as they begin to hear that the military makes a habit of disappearing people in the bigger cities.

After establishing her new place of business on the heavily-frequented train lines, a new slew of customers line up at her door.

Business is, in fact, better than ever as she is able to attract workers from all the surrounding feudal mining towns, thereby surmounting the in-built structural limitations of the urbanized salitreras. His disapproval of the physical union between the business-minded prostitute and the misanthropic preacher evokes a popular discontent with the coming together of the commercial and political world.

The prostitute, we must remember, represents the entrepreneur that both sustains the local community and is in cahoots with the bigger foreign companies, whereas the messiah epitomizes the wandering politician who preaches hope and common sense to a populace that is reeling from the transnational economic machinations of globalized trade.

Her independent venture at the fringes of civilization, yet con- nected to the urban by the railroad, fall to the wayside at the opportunity of coexisting with the multinational, as the force of globalization dethrones any project of economic and spatial sovereignty. The return of Magalena to La Piojo and to the intimate chambers of El Gringo underlines the demystification of the saintly prostitute, as she is guided more by the characteristics of the latter and less by the former, keep- ing with her self-given last name of Mercado.

The reception she gets coincides with the beginning of a new year and a hypothetical new beginning for the reintegrated prostitute within the economy of the salitrera, signaling a leaving-behind of the anti-establishmentarianism evidenced pre- viously. Una historia que muchos quieren olvidar. By returning to La Piojo and reaffirming her role as the village harlot, Magalena Mercado transgresses the biblical binary that is salient in Rivera Letelier, furthermore negating the ideological possibility of challenging neoliberalism and the forces of globalization.

The second half of the binary, however, fares poorly, as he is forgotten and shies away from the public spot- light once enjoyed. The mystery surrounding the final days of El Cristo brings forth the action of resurrection, as the narrative comes full circle when Magalena leaves him and her dead chicken at the outskirts of La Piojo.

She entrusts the preacher to bury the chicken and to perform the appropriate rites as she is carted away in jubilant celebration to her previous abode. Staging Politics in Mexico: The Road to Neoliberalism. Editorial Planeta Chilena, Aguilar Chilena de Ediciones, Critical Studies of Cities and Regions.

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