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From this house towards the inside , on the other side, there was an entrance. Who would dare go there? Italics mine, In this intricate area of the city, as in the majority of barrios created by land invasions informal settlements , improvisation predominates.
Urban planners define these as places where the design process follows no logic in adapting space to material but, on the contrary, it is a matter of adapting material to space Lara, Studio : 1. Even so, narco-trafficking is a violent universe, not only because of the practices deriving from its illegality but most of all because of the corrupt actions of the authorities, who seize profit or drugs while hiding behind the rhetoric of the war on crime and practice violence with impunity.
Nevertheless, the complex universe of narco-trafficking must be understood in its specific expressions and determined historical moments. This lack of content simultaneously constitutes the war against narco as a violence machine and reproducer of empty signifiers. The genre registers the local language with which narcos are named and tells their complex stories. It is no accident that Transas appears when Argentina acquires an important place in the transport of illegal drugs as a port of shipment to Europe.
In all cases, we are dealing with the character of the narco, but also with the marginal groups that are burdened with the stigma of crime in every society. Transas is a text with complex levels of representation in which the author shows the necessity to experience and adapt the narrative genres to the violent reality of the villa. A work of art is a closed universe, complete, and criticism emerges in its wake to situate it in concrete time and space. Only then can we interpret what artists communicate and reflect on their aesthetic proposals To tell stories of the violence that currently assaults a region implies—in the majority of cases—taking enormous risks, confronting dangers and submitting oneself to intense personal transformation.
The rigor of the task of criticism is measured by its capacity to signify this permeability and to recognize—in the tone, rhythm and style of the narrative—how violence becomes a written work. This requires thinking of the work of the cronista, whose work is a product of the violence he narrates, and of his personal experience as part of the violence that he narrates. The majority work in print media, a few work in television.
Some come from very prestigious media with national coverage; others work in areas of the media that have less impact. The majority of stories take place in marginal areas. The journalists come to the workshop seeking to write stories that are not simply news, but that recover the humanity of both victims and perpetrators. They feel a surprising need to master a language that mainstream news has led them away from, to take on the challenge of converting the narco-trafficker into a character, to recreate the environment of the villa without repeating a vocabulary that stigmatizes poverty.
They all speak of the difficulties of gaining the confidence of sources, of analyzing judicial records with a sufficient dose of skepticism in order to transform the facts into a story. The first difficulty that a narrator of violence faces is the risk of thinking that the magnitude of the horror comes across in the story and that atrocity is enough to sustain a narrative and give it political transcendence.
Reality is not sufficient to produce literature. At the same time, everyone knows that only a well-told story reveals the magnitude of what is narrated, and, eventually, impacts readers. This is a never-ending issue. These forms of suffering are similar and unbelievably repetitive, resulting in the difficulty of narrating the structure of violence while avoiding the constant threat of the commonplace and of stigmatization. The second risk is the desire to be the author of the story.
This is due to the fact that complex networks of corruption in the contexts of Guatemala or Mexico cross the conflicts of mid-level drug-dealers. The degree of violence in those contexts make it necessary to keep a greater distance from the subject, and as a consequence, the stories they narrate are different. The tensions between these worlds have to do with the gray areas in which the police, the legal apparatus, the political point person in the barrio called punteros , and even the white-collar criminal who launders money, all operate.
All those elements also have to be understood as part of a literary search. When the cronista includes these efforts in his story, there is more suspense and more emotion in the text. As such, he calls on the readers to experience the process through which violence becomes text. With much sensitivity to the use of vernacular speech, Cumbia tells the myth of a thief transformed into local saint. He is assassinated by members of a police quad that runs a security agency which establishes its reputation through the use of a firm hand, to the detriment of the youth in the villa.
Each defends the honor he lends to his work, and, so as to enhance the reputation of the thief chorro —the protagonist of Cumbia —the dealer transa appears as a dark character. This is where the material for the drama that the cronista will write can be found. These positionings have to do first with what I call the melodramatic discourses about allocating or obtaining resources that are key to human existence, and which cross all classical and contemporary literature.
So, demystifying these trenches, in the sense of how they are articulated, they are rhetoric that serves to achieve and affirm identities. Interview . In Transas he not only recovers their humanity, of which he had deprived them in Cumbia , he also demonstrates a common narrative strategy: the act of withholding, of deciding not to speak.
To portray a character concisely, to not describe them fully because of ignorance, fear or morals , is an effective way to portray his opponent, his challenger, his enemy. What is silenced about a character can easily result in stigma, but it is also the best way to show the qualities of his rival.
The silence that surrounds the transa in Cumbia is a conscious decision on the part of the cronista who wants to narrate the tragedy of an urban thief as a modern epic.
For this reason, he returns to the barrio eagerly seeking out stories about transa in order to give voice to those he had deprived in his previous book. That is why the tone of the book must be established in the first chapter, because the pact with the reader is established in that chapter. He commands the journalistic slang of sensationalism and he has researched police and court files as well as the psychiatric reports that unite and separate illegality and power.
But the measure of his story is reality, and he returns to reality to show his face. It is windy, making it hard to balance the raft. And at that instant, it was hard to tell if it was the wind, or la mai, if the mother and la mai, if Olray—who? We all feel bad. I am grateful for having been two steps behind , far enough not to be faulted for the mishap. Emphasis mine, The readers know from where the story is being told and who guides our travels through the world of the transa.
As all elements that make a story, the scene of the raft is a game of equilibrium. The task is to write about the misery of others without stripping them of their dignity; to produce investigative work without converting the book into a news report; to portray men whose masculine code appears to come from a manual with enough dramatics for it to seem like a personal characteristic; and the women who suffer the weight of this code without reducing them to victims.
This fact—incorporated as an event in the story—challenges the classical criteria of objectivity. This implies adapting literary genres to reality. In this story the logic of adaptation is implacable: Alcira tells him her life story and asks him to hold her son at the baptism.
They Alcira and Jerry are united by love and children and they are divided by the codes of their work, his as killer and hers as transa.
The first word of Transas is her name, Alcira. Alcira is the daughter of Bolivian immigrants, born in Argentina; an uncle raped her as a child; her mother mistreated her; she was widowed twice before ago 20 and left with an infant child and the story that her dead husband had not told her: he was a narco.
She is pursued by this legacy and the ambitions of her former in-laws. When she began to earn her own living, she worked selling drinks in a cabaret and then started her career as a transa. The limits of the respondent are also the limits of the interviewer: this research should never be invasive.
He listens, keep quiet for a few seconds, and at last shows enthusiasm. The trajectory leading to a question can add suspense to the story. The secret to every interview is trust. The source insists on loyalty and the cronista assures it and writes. The tactics of the interview can be based on methods ranging from basic survey methodology to the most elaborate methods of anthropology. From the point of view of someone who writes a page story about massacres that occurred in a barrio, all based on interviews, there is an element that applies to all of them: time.
The development of a character depends on the time the interviewee gives to the cronista. If the interview is short, the character will at most have intensity, but not depth.
Her ethic is what the reader comes to understand the most; her misfortunes are the drama of the story and also its success. Although we do not share her criteria, we understand why Alcira gives orders to kill in order to stay in business. The character that gives the cronista time is the one who gives the story depth. This, like all stories of narcos that we read or imagine, is driven by treason.
The commander wanted to train future soldiers to grasp the deep significance of treason. The members of the workshop had read and re-read texts by Rodolfo Walsh and Truman Capote before the beginning of the workshop. Even though Transas follows the path of those books, it deviates from them in that the executioners are not easily recognized, or at least it is not easy to distinguish them from the victims.
The descriptions of Alcira are sifted through conventions of thrillers in which the point of view of the criminal predominates, with the intention of showing a complex reality in which the truth is constructed on the basis of concrete experiences of corruption, abusive police, punteros, and of various dark aspects of power that makes narco-trafficking function.
Perhaps the strongest similarities to Walsh and Capote are in the diversity of voices that tell the story. In Transas there are more that 40 characters, all with something to say. In the neighborhood they call her Maria Buena and she is a puntera of Paraguayan origin.
Beyond its hilarity, the anecdote shows the fluidity of the genre. Although she agrees to give the cronista information about the world in which she lives, she knows that doing so puts them both in danger.
The advantage of the cronista over the reporter is that he can contextualize while he investigates. Using the idea of choreography to describe assassinations and massacres allows him to employ the notion of violence as a composition requiring various subjects, which also responds to its own traditions and genealogy. The idea of choreography simultaneously implies the use and waste of civilization and barbarity, the stigma of atavistic violence attributed to the poor of Latin America because of their origins, near or far, in a rural past, and the various forms in which violence has been recycled in the recent decades.
More than an analytical category, the notion of choreography of violence illustrates a reality in which we are all implicated, performers and spectators, narrators and readers, and victims and victimizers.
From here stems the necessity to comprehend its routines. It is a vice for which the publishing markets prepare us. To protect oneself from bullets in the bathroom is not a metaphor. In the writing, it is.
To write about the villa the cronista must know the villa profoundly, and that places him in a vulnerable place. However, writing demands security, a place from which you can look out but which is at the same time a refuge. When the narco, the transa or the common resident of the villa enters the narrative territory of the cronista, he transforms into a character.
Alarcón - Si me querés, quereme transa
Si me querés, quereme transa