Representations of genders and ethnicities in the historical fiction of Mercedes Valdivieso and Gustavo Frías
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This thesis analyses the ways in which Chilean authors Mercedes Valdivieso and Gustavo Frías re-examine and engage with ideas of gender and ethnicity through their fictional representation of Catalina de los Ríos y Lisperguer in their novels: Valdivieso’s Maldita yo entre las mujeres (1991), and two of the volumes of Frías’ projected tetralogy Tres nombres para Catalina: Catrala (2001) and Tres nombres para Catalina: La doña de Campofrío (2003). Catalina, known more commonly as la Quintrala, lived in seventeenth-century Chile. Born into the colonial elite, she was of Spanish, German and indigenous heritage. She enjoyed a uniquely powerful position in her society, inheriting the leadership of her tribe through her maternal ancestry. It is demonstrated here that in their texts, Valdivieso and Frías provide a critical deconstruction of the myth of la Quintrala. Historically and in previous fictional representations she has been considered particularly evil for her time; a murderess and parricide who scandalously refused to conform to the religious and societal norms imposed upon women during the colonial era in Chile. Valdivieso, from a feminist perspective, looks at the role of women while also examining the complex issue of ethnicity. Frías’ texts consider these same issues but offer a more detailed portrayal of colonial society. This thesis is interested in the modern reworkings of la Quintrala for how they illustrate the collective identities discussed as always fragmented and unstable, in a constant state of negotiation. It suggests that in doing so these novels subvert the dominating discourses that have for centuries subjugated specific members of society based on arbitrary hierarchies relating to gender and ethnicity.