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[ PM L A

theories and
methodologies

The Thinking Voice:


When Listening
Trumps Celebrity
IN THE BRIEF SPAN OF 1952–68, PUERTO RICO SPED THROUGH ITS
INDUSTRIALIZATION PROCESS. MIDDLE-CLASS RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUC-
licia fiol-matta tion dotted the city of San Juan. Hotels replaced the mansions along
its Condado waterfront. The spanking new Medical Center prom-
ised health for the sickly, undernourished population, a health that
the developmentalist program of the Commonwealth of Puerto
Rico—Operation Bootstrap—desperately needed, as it endeavored
to offer a cheap, obedient, and presumably bilingual labor force
to American capital.1 The “Golden Mile,” the financial district es-
tablished in the area of the sometime royal hacienda, Hato Rey,
emerged as the centerpiece of a new downtown. The mythic mall
of Plaza Las Américas (formerly a cattle ranch that bred cows for
the milk industry) became the social hub of a polis that increasingly
turned to consumerism for its exercise of citizenship. Newspapers
and magazines were filled with consumer fantasies of every variety.
Along with everything else that was dazzling and new, Puerto Rico
consumed a new object for sale, the celebrity pop star.
Of the various pop artists that came of age in Operation Boot-
strap Puerto Rico, Lucecita Benítez was possibly the most musically
gifted and the most iconic. She entered the celebrity arena slightly
after the peak of developmentalism, exactly before the society’s steep
and painfully obvious fall from its carefully crafted modernization
fantasy. Her body’s hypervisibility through successive iconic stages
LICIA FIOL-MATTA, associate professor of
Latin American and Puerto Rican stud-
(the dashing auteur of the 1960s, the socially conscious artiste of the
ies at Lehman College, City University 1970s, the hyperfeminine diva of the 1980s) exists in contradistinc-
of New York, is the author of A Queer tion to the decline of the country’s dream of progress. Yet, also in
Mother for the Nation: The State and Ga- contradistinction to her mutable, celebrity-dictated image, the con-
briela Mistral (U of Minnesota P, 2002) stant in her career is the crucible that was her voice in Puerto Rico’s
and scholarly articles on gender and
social history and music culture.
sexuality in Latin America and the Ca-
Lucecita intuited the thinking voice.2 The thinking voice is an
ribbean, from Sor Juana to Myrta Silva.
She is completing a book manuscript on event that can be apprehended through but is not restricted to mu-
voice, gender, and music, under con- sic performance. It exceeds notation, musicianship, and fandom, al-
tract to Duke University Press. though it partakes of them all. No artist owns the thinking voice; it

1092 [ © 2011 by the moder n language association of america ]


126.4 ] Licia Fiol-Matta 

cannot be marshaled at will or silenced when Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You

theories and methodologies


inconvenient. Its aim is not to dazzle or en- Love Me” (“Yo que no vivo sin tí”), and Pino
thrall, although it may do so. Lucecita lived Donaggio’s “La vita” (“La vida”). Her voice’s
her long career negotiating the twists and beauty, as well as her youthful good looks,
turns of celebrity culture in late colonialism. perfectly suited the colonial fantasy of success
Yet her endurance as a star does not result through increased consumption. Artists’ lives
merely from successful navigation of celeb- were favorite consumer objects in the 1960s,
rity and serendipitous coincidence with his- and Lucecita became the most appealing such
torical events. Her vocal phenomenon may object in mid-1960s Puerto Rico. Her many
be regarded as an unwitting outmaneuver- albums displayed the image of a beautiful
ing of celebrity culture whereby something woman through a pastiche of European and
resistant, the thinking in the voice, points American models. Playing the vinyls on a
to, as Jean-Luc Nancy writes, “participation, portable record player magically conveyed
sharing, or contagion” versus the “imaginary the illusory confidence, even braggadocio, of
capture” of the visual, which has dictated the Puerto Rico’s dependent, accelerated mod-
terms of the artist’s critical and popular re- ernization. The principal fantasy of this time
ception (10).3 Lucecita opened up the visual concerned the wondrous leap forward of
register dominant in celebrity culture to an entire society into the middle class, and
Nancy’s “resonance” of listening by orient- middle- class taste reigned and determined
ing the listener toward the intangible sense of print, aural, and visual expressive encodings
hearing through her multifold performances in the late colony.
across decades of Puerto Rican and Latin Lucecita’s most important track of the
American life. This event of music, voice, and 1960s is undoubtedly “Génesis,” a ballad that
listening that is the thinking voice is repeated haunts the Puerto Rican collective memory
in other musical celebrity examples through to this day. Under contract to her first man-
time and space and possibly in nonmusical ager, Alfred D. Herger, Lucecita competed in
celebrity contexts where performance, voice, the first edition of the Festival de la Canción
and embodiment are key. Latina (later renamed the Festival OTI), held
Lucecita’s reputation was made on her in 1969 in Mexico (fig. 1). She was a member
talent at delivering high melodrama—for of the Puerto Rican cohort. Lucecita handily
example, in her Spanish remakes of the Dix-
ies’ “Chapel of Love” (“Vete con ella”), Dusty

FIG. 
The auteur. Lucecita
Benítez performing
“Génesis.” Primer
Festival de la
Canción Latina,
Mexico City, 1969.
Costume designed
by Martin.
 The Thinking Voice: When Listening Trumps Celebrity [ PM L A

won the first prize for singing, while Gui- formance of the Mexican pop idol José José,
theories and methodologies

llermo Venegas Lloveras, also Puerto Rican, who, barely a year later, sang “El triste” with
won the first prize for songwriting. Puerto similar pomposity and symphonic accompa-
Rico experienced these first prizes as an apo- niment, as well as a Little Prince costume).
theosis. Throngs greeted the singer at the Lucecita’s performance struck a disqui-
airport; children watched her arrival on tele- eting, dissonant chord. The public marveled
visions brought into the schools; newspapers at her bravura but was shocked by her mas-
documented a parade for her through down- culinity; the Mexican press commented on
town San Juan. Lucecita met with the leaders her masculine wear and hairdo,5 and gossip
of the two dominant political parties, Gover- about her sexuality soon followed in Puerto
nor Luis A. Ferré of the pro-statehood party Rico. After four or five years of pleasing
(the New Progressive Party) and Senator Ra- images meant for ready consumption and
fael Hernández Colón (then president of the singular performances that did not strike
Senate, elected governor as the candidate of a nerve in the social fabric, Lucecita’s first
the pro–status quo Popular Democratic Party moment of artistic maturity surprised ev-
in 1972, defeating Ferré). Neither politician eryone. This icon clearly did not conform to
wasted the opportunity to be photographed the well-honed imaginary of the Caribbean
with the star and to appeal to the public’s woman either visually or sonically, as it had
heightened affect. been drawn in campy stereotypes of danc-
“Génesis” correlated with both the fear of ing bodies since the classic Ninón Sevilla ve-
annihilation that the Cold War implanted and hicle Aventurera (1950). Certainly Lucecita’s
Puerto Rico’s colonial anxiety over its “small- costume, a native version of the Yves Saint
ness,” which became more intense as the Laurent female tuxedo, helped capture the
cracks of a failing economic miracle started public’s imagination. Lucecita sported a boy-
to show. We sense musical overcompensation ish look reminiscent of Italy’s Rita Pavone,
in the song’s symphonic, semiclassical ar- who was all the rage. Pavone was probably
rangement and wall-of-sound recording, with the model for Lucecita’s new look, but there
bombast to spare.4 “Génesis” alludes to the are no apt models for her vocal performance.
destruction of the world from its first verse She had spoken of learning to sing by listen-
(“Cuando nada en la tierra quede / que tibie ing to Lucho Gatica’s rendition of the classic
el sol” [“When nothing on earth remains / bolero “El reloj.” Contemporaries, in part en-
for the sun to bathe in its warmth”]) and ends couraged by Lucecita’s manager, compared
with an image of love’s survival, as a flame her with Olga Guillot, sometimes accusing
gently rising from the disaster. The lyrics’ Lucecita of imitation. She possessed a dif-
stark portrayal of the immediate future runs ferent instrument with a wider register and
head-on into the orchestra’s musical embel- rock-stadium power. She had truly let it rip
lishments (recalling Hollywood movie music) and initiated an auteur phase in which she
and the artist’s elaborate melodramatic sing- identified with the predominantly masculine
ing. Anyone with access to the Internet can position of the songwriter. Part of her trans-
witness the magnificence of the singer’s voice gression involved her incursion into realms of
and her spectacular performance onstage meaning reserved for the male creator.
four decades after, thanks to YouTube. Lu- Lucecita’s performance of “Génesis” re-
cecita’s performance of “Génesis” catapulted mains disturbing and nonnormative, despite
her into celebrity status beyond Puerto Rico, being her ticket to a celebrity beyond 1960s
providing a blueprint for future Latin Ameri- covers of pop hits from the United States and
can baladistas (including the 1970 debut per- Europe and being remembered as a moment
126.4 ] Licia Fiol-Matta 

of pride for Puerto Rico. In 1969, her star culture that had made her famous. Her reso-

theories and methodologies


body, up to then a veritable Deleuzian assem- lute queerness onstage and her capacity to
blage, was forever altered by the eruption of a outvocalize anyone in an asphyxiatingly het-
thinking voice and proved capable of rattling eronormative society had the potential to be
Latin America’s long fascination with queer world-transforming. In this context, Lucecita
stars only as the confirmation of naturalized, and her team’s adaptation of black pride ico-
nationalist gender roles. Lucecita triggered nography must have come as something of
the work voice can make us go through, call- a relief to multiple sectors because, however
ing forth what Mladen Dolar invokes when he startling the Afro may have been, it was fasci-
writes of the voice as a “bodily missile.”6 This nating, readable, containable, deployable, and
voice showed at the moment when bounty of punishable, while her voice in performance
talent coincided with the uncanny alignment and its queer embodiment demanded more
of celebrity culture with global danger and complicated thought.8
colonial and neocolonial shifts, when mascu- Her signal track of the 1970s is the hit
line embodiment erupted through the con- song “Soy de una raza pura” (“I Belong to a
ventional, fashion-driven vehicle of celebrity Pure Race”), another classic of the Puerto
in modernity’s periphery (with its grossly un- Rican late colonial sound track. The graphic
even distribution of capital and its increasing artist Antonio Martorell created an intense
emphasis on commodified symbolic culture). album cover to illustrate the song, represent-
Only a few months later, in 1970, Lu- ing Lucecita with her Afro in the nude, her
cecita inaugurated her second iconic moment. arms outstretched, using red and blue to cre-
Fashion, to which the artist’s body so natu- ate a powerful and alternative image of the
rally took for the camera lens, probably led star body in a racist, homophobic, sexist, and
her and her team to the “African look,” as it classist society (fig. 2). Musically, the track re-
was called at the time. In Lucecita’s mythol- fers to blackness by enlisting elements of soul.
ogy, this change was about black pride, social Lucecita works mostly melodically, with her
justice, and control of her image. It was about typically crystalline delivery but without her
snubbing TV producers and radio’s infamous characteristic melodramatic technique. Audi-
payola.7 All these elements are present in this ence members waited, some in thrall, others
artiste incarnation. Yet all artists in a celebrity in disgust, until the moment when the artist,
culture must engage in multiple negotiations performing live on television, raised her left
to stay at the top. We are not privy to the con- fist in the verse “también sé gritar, ¡a guerra!”
tents of any such negotiations or to the artist’s (“I also know how to cry out, To war!”). She
interiority. The consensus that Lucecita grew inscribed, through a momentary dissonance
into an enlightened black identity, discarding in the star body, the proindependence and
an inauthentic 1960s celebrity as a whitened, diffusely leftist gesture forever into the song
oppressive image, may occlude the complexi- and collective memory.
ties of Lucecita’s career as well as her mercurial It was, yet again, the artist’s performance
personality and star tendency to speak in the that made “Soy de una raza pura” a classic
terms reserved for divas, a discourse that can and touchstone. It climbed the charts and rep-
be delightful but is hardly ever transparent. resented an unusual moment when celebrity
Any exercise of a thinking voice in the and the thinking voice coexisted. The artist,
colony at the close of the 1960s and into the however, felt estranged from her recording
explosive 1970s was dangerous. Lucecita was and image. A closer look at the iconography
a celebrity and made money and therefore of 1970–73 reveals an unexamined tug-of-war
could defy the expectations of the consumer between the tuxedo and the Afro—social,
 The Thinking Voice: When Listening Trumps Celebrity [ PM L A
theories and methodologies

FIG. 
The artiste. Cover
of the album
Lucecita (Hit Parade
61), 1973. Cover
design by Antonio
Martorell.

mainly sartorial and visual signs that the art- cantar, pero no hablar” (“I can sing, but I can-
ist most likely experienced as secondary to the not speak” [“Con Lucecita”]).
sonorous event of the voice. Having become In 1974, finally freed from contractual
overdetermined by the social (read mostly vi- obligations to Paquito Cordero, Lucecita was
sually), Lucecita risked losing her grasp of the ready to create true artistic trouble with the
thinking voice; she risked merely being con- landmark concert Traigo un pueblo en mi voz
sumed as a celebrity, albeit a nonconforming, (“I Bring a People in My Voice”), in which
controversial one. Although as a young artist she switched to a cantautor (“male singer-
she had stated she coveted fame, when fame songwriter”) repertoire, mostly penned
arrived it left her a little cold, perhaps because by two Argentines: the folk-revival icon
it became notoriety. It no longer was about the Atahualpa Yupanqui and the sentimental
thinking voice. The artist lost interest in ce- (bordering on corny) Alberto Cortez. Unfor-
lebrity and singing, lamenting, on the release tunately, no recording of the concert is com-
of her “Soy de una raza pura,” that “yo puedo mercially available. The gorgeous program
126.4 ] Licia Fiol-Matta 

booklet provides a visual trace of this brief FIG. 


but significant attempt to change the terms of Attempting to exit
Lucecita’s celebrity existence, encapsulated in celebrity. Program
the limpid image of the artist singing, sim- booklet cover for
ply emanating sound from an open mouth Traigo un pueblo
(fig. 3). Yet this contestatory, scintillating con- en mi voz, May
1974. The cover is
cert appearance soon gave sway to a conser-
printed in black,
vative mode featuring a stylized performance
white, and grays.
of progressive politics, joining middle-class,
corporatist taste in music with a vaguely
left-leaning repertoire, an unlikely marriage
structuring the 1975 concert En las manos del
pueblo (“In the Hands of the People”).
Troubled with what her own vocalizing
had become, Lucecita arrived at the quandary
of vocality, of the human voice: “The voice
is sound, not speech. But speech constitutes demonized as a leftist extremist. While in
its essential destination” (Cavarero 12). Vo- 1969 the Cold War had intersected with her
cal performance, as it existed in the colony performance of “Génesis” and other songs in
in the mid-1970s, was possibly curtailing her her repertoire in a putatively positive way, her
attempts at speech. She started to mention 1975 performances transected world crisis and
writing a book about her life. She enrolled in the Cuban Revolution in a way that proved
classes at the University of Puerto Rico, where near catastrophic for her career; her celebrity
she could be spotted performatively travers- was all but wiped out. The state had succeeded
ing the Río Piedras campus, surrounded by a in making her notorious.
dancing coterie of hip women. She appeared Despite continual harassment and diffi-
in political protests, sang in union events and culty landing gigs, Lucecita remained stead-
for an array of left-wing groups, and expressed fast in her commitment to the independence
sympathy for the Cuban Revolution, activities of Puerto Rico and to social justice. She
that would continue for the rest of the decade. thus became intrinsically related to mean-
As part of her exploration of what voice ing and truth beyond the realm of celebrity.
meant, Lucecita embarked on a trip to Cuba in Through the Socialist Party’s annual Festival
the summer of 1975, just after the concert En de Claridad and other such open-air events,
las manos del pueblo. There she participated principally Puerto Rico’s numerous fiestas
in various consciousness-raising activities and patronales, or patron-saint town festivals,
sang at the opening of a school in Matanzas. she retained a live connection with an audi-
When she came back, she found that her na- ence. Still, left circles, looking to the futu-
tive country had declared her persona non rity of the “new man,” had a hard time with
grata, contrary to 1969 and her triumphant sentimental song, deeming it an instance of
return from the Festival de la Canción Latina. “false consciousness” unless it straightfor-
Lucecita was blacklisted. She could not record wardly represented equality between a man
or appear in entertainment venues or on tele- and a woman. Indeed, the topic recurred in
vision, and her songs were not played on the the Socialist Party newspaper’s estimable cul-
radio. Notwithstanding her previous celebrity, tural supplement, En rojo, in which a wide
vocal brilliance, and unending supply of “It,” array of articles dissected the nueva canción
she could not find work and became further and nueva trova movements and the potential
 The Thinking Voice: When Listening Trumps Celebrity [ PM L A

harm sentimental songs could portend for under her own label, Lobo. The second Lobo
theories and methodologies

“the masses.”9 The left’s support of Lucecita release, Éxitos callejeros (1984), was apoliti-
was important but partial. It ultimately did cal, but the singer’s deployment of a think-
not know what to make of her and continued ing voice resurfaced at the intersection where
to be patriarchal and normative, homopho- fans across classes, many women, many
bic, and sexist, thereby reducing thought. queer, met as nomadic subjects (Deleuze and
Eventually, because of her dire financial Guattari), outside the political deadlock in
situation, she accepted somewhat perverse the island nation. Different from the abstract
but well-paid invitations to appear at private appeal of “Génesis” in the Cold War and from
parties of wealthy liberals, where she was in- the liberal-to-left recourse to the people or the
variably asked to perform “Génesis,” a song nation during the debacle of the 1970s, the
she had outgrown. For these occasions, she call of this music was to the calle (“street”).
was outfitted after this elite’s taste, in designer The meeting ground proposed was abjection,
gowns evoking a normative femininity that a sort of bottom power, a sentimental politics.
was the opposite of the 1969 “caped tux.” Thus, “Éxitos callejeros” is a musician’s term
elites manipulated the artist through their for a repertoire played live in street festivals
twisted and privatized exercise of memory and other such events, from which most of
and their acquisition power. They purchased the working musician’s income derives, a
a memory of the elusive moment when Puerto repertoire that in theory diverges from the
Rico broke into world fame but stripped this songs chosen for recording in an album.
performance of thought and reformatted it to Therefore, in a way the title alludes to the
comply with heteronormativity. work that Lucecita had gone through, toiling
It is incorrect to blame the artist’s so- through years of downfall and then relative
called difficult personality or her alleged per- obscurity, performing for left-wing, inde-
sonal afflictions or her political “turn” for the pendence, and social-justice causes in Puerto
derailment in her career, as many commenta- Rico. Indeed, the concerts and continued ap-
tors, fans, and associates have done. Several pearances in open-air events kept alive, so to
social actors—right, left, and center—had speak, the artist’s symbolic representation
a share, in part through damaged or absent of such causes, even if her performance mo-
listening and a refusal to “think” voice. The tifs were almost completely altered from the
right was the most problematic, since it aimed 1960s and 1970s and the politicized voice had
for outright suffocation of the voice. Imitat- ostensibly disappeared.
ing repressive regimes in South America and All the tracks re-create conservative por-
Spain, the state promoted what Daniel Party trayals of heterosexual love, sometimes in the
has termed the “placer culpable” (“shameful moment of sex, sometimes unrequited love.
pleasure”) of the 1970s balada, supporting The repertoire belonged to established balada
artists who worked in this dominant, pre- stars, like Roberto Carlos, Raphael Martos,
sumptively apolitical, and certifiable celeb- Ángela Carrasco, and Rocío Dúrcal. It is
rity music (72–78). Lucecita had little choice probable that Dúrcal, a Spanish singer, was
but to return to the more normative realm of the primary model for Lucecita’s new look.
celebrity as it was expressed in music culture In the album’s signature track, “Fruta verde,”
in the aftermath of the 1970s. copied with few modifications from Dúr-
Her third and final iconic moment hap- cal’s 1983 recording, her performance works
pened with her turn to hyperfemininity in a saucy content into a melodramatic tour de
the 1980s. Lucecita resorted to producing force targeting the “feminine” listener and in-
her own records, eventually releasing albums jecting pathos into a casual song. It is a depar-
126.4 ] Licia Fiol-Matta 

ture from the more abstract versions of love unrequited love that re- create a depressed

theories and methodologies


that Lucecita had represented until then and a affect. Her fandom divided into two camps.
vast improvement over Dúrcal’s rather blood- One delighted at the artist’s change and pre-
less interpretation. She gleefully unleashed sumptive end of the long political-song night-
kitsch, her main 1980s code, inciting the jou- mare. Another experienced something akin
issance of soap opera in her listeners. (In fact, to a loss of meaning, a cultural melancholia.
both versions were soap opera themes: Dúr- Full disclosure: I was one of those forlorn fans
cal’s was used in Spain, Lucecita’s in Argen- who continued attending concerts through-
tina.) Low-budget and low-tech, the song was out the 1980s waiting for the real Lucecita to
recorded in a makeshift studio, in the home of come back. Like all fans worth their salt, I
her former artistic director and the “Génesis” was convinced I knew what she should sing. I
arranger, Pedro Rivera Toledo. It was squarely did not like the repertoire, costume, affect, or
aimed at lowbrow taste, coded as feminine.
anything else of this 1980s incarnation. With
As such, the recording went against the grain
time and study and critical listening, I’ve re-
of her more typical masculine identifications.
alized that a thinking voice lurks also in that
Fans responded with near frenzy at her
last iconic moment of her career.
encapsulation of hurt yet soulful feeling in
Nearing seventy, Lucecita is still singing
this virtuosic power ballad. Bafflingly, Lu-
cecita is not regularly included in lists of and occupying her role, however emptied,
Spanish-language pop divas of the time, al- as la voz nacional de Puerto Rico (“Puerto
though arguably she executed the full melo- Rico’s national voice”). Yet no renewed ico-
dramatic form in a more masterly way than nicity emerged after the 1980s. Instead, she
the singers on such lists. Virtuosic vocal regularly recycled her three prior avatars into
breaks, pitch contrast, and climaxes, delivered concerts appealing to the nostalgia market. In
in a haunting low register, distinguished her the neoliberal 1990s, anything could be con-
from other pop stars, male and female, with sumed, and everything was flattened to suit
their thinner, higher voices and monotonous consumption, so that her live appearances,
renditions. Her delivery overcame the clichés CD releases, and rereleases of her old records
that abounded in the songs, as all the while all became the same cultural-nationalist
she cut an imposing figure in a feminine, product, drained of a thinking voice.
full-length gown or elegant suit, salon hair,
and sequins or star-studded jewelry (fig. 4).
Despite the accoutrements, she was as strik-
ingly butch visually as were her performances
musically, doling out pianissimos and fortis-
simos in equal measure.10 Possibly her butch-
ness is the reason she is excluded from diva
lists. Compare her performances to those of
her counterparts across the Spanish-speaking
world, and she emerges as unmistakably, ar-
FIG. 
The diva. Cover
restingly queer in a voice that thinks.
of the album
The success of “Fruta verde” led to a se-
Criollo folklore
ries of records in which Lucecita exploited (Grabaciones
fans’ desire to hear her performance of can- Lobo 001), 1983.
ciones cortavenas (literally, “slit-your-wrists Photograph by
songs”), exaggerated, sentimental songs about Jochi Melero.
 The Thinking Voice: When Listening Trumps Celebrity [ PM L A

From queer masculinity (the auteur economic program intended to spur the modernization
theories and methodologies

of Puerto Rico through the replacement of a rural with an


of “Génesis”), through Puerto Rico’s “wild
industrial economy. It was the centerpiece of the found-
transference” in the political sign in the 1970s ing in 1952 of the current political entity, the Estado Libre
(the artiste of “Soy de una raza pura”), to hy- Asociado (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico). The program
perfeminine yet butch normativity (the diva relied heavily on a corporate tax exemption for United
of “Fruta verde”), she showed remarkable States companies that operated in Puerto Rico, provid-
ing cheap labor to the companies, and on state-sponsored
dexterity as an artist reluctantly immersed mass migration to the United States. The heyday of Oper-
in celebrity culture and paradoxically con- ation Bootstrap occurred roughly between 1955 and 1970.
strained precisely by her innate star quality 2. I employ “thinking” after Heidegger: “Everything
and capacity to transmute visually. Against thought-provoking gives us to think. But it always gives
that gift just so far as the thought-provoking matter al-
any demand on the artist to confess to sala- ready is intrinsically what must be thought about” (4).
cious truths that would settle and confine her 3. “[T]he visual is on the side of an imaginary capture
voice’s meaning, throughout her career her (which does not imply that it is reduced to that), while the
reticence—her desire to signify only her per- sonorous is on the side of referral/renvoi (which does not
imply that it exhausts its amplitude). In still other words,
sona and keep her person to herself—stands
the visual is tendentially mimetic, and the sonorous ten-
out. Unwittingly or not, she danced around dentially methexic (that is, having to do with participa-
celebrity’s strictures and kept the focus on vo- tion, sharing, or contagion), which does not mean that
cal performance, impelling her public toward the two tendencies do not intersect” (10).
thought through the sense of hearing and 4. The festival’s contract stipulated that the winner
record the winning song right after the festival’s conclu-
the act of listening. This is, in Heideggerian sion. It was then released as a single.
terms, the “gift” of the thinking voice. 5. “La cancionista puertorriqueña Lucecita, vistiendo
In terms of community, something Lu- ropa masculina y corte de pelo a la usanza varonil, pero
cecita cared about since she was young, the con personalidad muy femenina, interpretó de forma im-
presionante la canción titulada ‘Génesis’ en representa-
artist was left with a trite insistence on love
ción de Puerto Rico para obtener la mayor puntuación”
and an unresolved demand for restitution. (“The Puerto Rican singer Lucecita, wearing masculine
“Puerto Rico doesn’t love me,” she has re- dress and hairdo, but with a very feminine personality,
peated insistently. Yet, as listeners today, we was impressive in her performance of the song titled ‘Gé-
can orient our sense of hearing to what is alle- nesis,’ representing Puerto Rico and obtaining the high-
est score in the competition”; Inclán; my trans.).
gorical in the voice, to its pastness, tuning into 6. “In a curious bodily topology, it is like a bodily
the artist’s call to restitution by listening to missile which separates itself from the body and spreads
“the contemporaneity of the audible” (Nancy around, but on the other hand it points to a bodily inte-
16). More than most artists of her time, Lu- rior, an intimate partition of the body which cannot be
disclosed—as if the voice were the very principle of divi-
cecita embodied and stood by voice’s desire sion into exterior and interior” (71).
to articulate truth and speech in unjust late 7. For examples of Lucecita’s self- discourse at this
colonial modernity and its celebrity culture. time, see the interviews by Magali García Ramis (“La
As an object culled from recordings, footage, transfor mación de Lucecita” [“Lucecita’s Transforma-
tion”]); by Luz Raquel Ávila (“Lucecita en el Coliseo: ‘A
recollections, archives of images, and print,
mí no me controla nadie’” [“Lucecita at the [Roberto Cle-
through which she lives in a celebrity afterlife, mente] Coliseum: ‘No one controls me’”]); and by Manuel
she continues to compel us to think voice. Ra mos Otero and Rosario Ferré (“Con Lucecita” [“With
Lucecita”]).
8. For a groundbreaking discussion of Lucecita’s Afro
and its reception in the early 1970s, see Rivero 72–85.
9. Nueva canción and nueva trova refer to late-1960s
and early-1970s musical movements in Chile and Cuba,
NOTES respectively, with a wide continental appeal. These move-
1. “Operation Bootstrap” is the English for Manos a ments were left wing, anticommercial, and often revival-
la Obra, or, literally, “put your hands to work,” the 1947 ist, aligned particularly with Salvador Allende’s Popular
126.4 ] Licia Fiol-Matta 

Unity Front (nueva canción) and the Cuban Revolution Cavarero, Adriana. For More Than One Voice: Toward a

theories and methodologies


(nueva trova). Philosophy of Vocal Expression. Stanford: Stanford
10. Eliseo Colón Zayas perceptively analyzes Luceci- UP, 2005. Print.
ta’s album covers and the semiotic codes through which Colón Zayas, Eliseo. “Imagen discográfica e identidades:
her 1980s visual butchness is visible. Colón follows Rich- El caso de Lucecita Benítez.” ANIMUS: Revista Inter-
ard Dyer’s influential, semiotic analysis of lesbian stars. americana de Comunicaçao Mediática 2.2 (2003):
88–103. Print.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus:
Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Mas-
WORKS CITED sumi. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987. Print.
Dolar, Mladen. A Voice and Nothing More. Cambridge:
Benítez, Lucecita. “Con Lucecita.” Interview by Manuel
MIT P, 2006. Print.
Ra mos Otero and Rosario Ferré. Zona de carga y des-
Heidegger, Martin. What Is Called Thinking? Trans.
carga 1.6 (1973): 22–23. Print.
J. Glenn Gray. New York: Perennial-Harper, 1976.
———, perf. “Fruta verde.” By Rafael Pérez Botija. Éxitos Print.
callejeros. Lobo, 1984. LP.
Inclán, Ramón. “‘Génesis,’ canción de Puerto Rico, arriba
———, perf. “Génesis.” By Guillermo Venegas Lloveras. en el Festival.” El heraldo de México 11 May 1969. Print.
Génesis. Hit Parade, 1969. LP. Nancy, Jean-Luc. Listening. New York: Fordham UP,
———. “Lucecita en el Coliseo: ‘A mí no me controla na- 2007. Print.
die.’” Interview by Luz Raquel Ávila. Avance 11 Nov. Party, Daniel. “Placer Culpable: Shame and Nostalgia in
1974: 54–57. Print. the Chilean 1990s Balada Revival.” Latin American
———, perf. “Soy de una raza pura.” By David Ortiz and Music Review 30.1 (2009): 69–98. Print.
Tony Croatto. Lucecita. Hit Parade, 1973. LP. Rivero, Yeidy. Tuning Out Blackness: Race and Nation in
———. “La transformación de Lucecita.” Interview by Ma- the History of Puerto Rican Television. Durham: Duke
gali García Ramis. Avance 6 Aug. 1973: 20–25. Print. UP, 2005. Print.