Marvel Moreno: Between Struggles and Silences in the Literary Caribbean | Rock & Art
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Marvel Moreno: Between Struggles and Silences in the Literary Caribbean

With the arrival of Women’s Month, Rock & Art and Prometeo join forces to commemorate the importance of the female figure within society.

The story of Marvel Moreno is, sadly, common. While she has stood out as one of the most prominent Colombian authors in the contemporary literary scene, addressing her legacy involves exploring crucial themes such as machismo, inequality, censorship, and cultural heritage. Her latest work, published posthumously, El tiempo de las Amazonas (The Time of the Amazons), bears witness to the censorship and silence surrounding an author whose literary value has linked her to renowned figures like Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez.

Marvel Moreno’s Caribbean

Marvel Moreno‘s story is undeniably linked to the Colombian Caribbean. She was born in Barranquilla in 1939, into a wealthy family with economic problems. Her father, a lawyer, was also the one who introduced her to the literary world. Her mother, much more traditional, placed great importance on the social codes of the time. In her eyes, Marvel’s independence and exploration were seen as rebellion and indiscipline.

During her school years, she was expelled from a Catholic school after showing an inclination towards Darwin’s evolutionary theories. She was also the first woman to enter the economics faculty at the University of Atlántico. Her open nature clashed with her mother’s pressure to conform to the social standards of Barranquilla at the time. Marvel Moreno was crowned the Carnival Queen of Barranquilla in 1959, a role reserved for the city’s privileged class, and the pressure to marry a man from the coastal elite was constant for the author.

Marvel Moreno

The Caribbean in which Marvel lived was summarized in three words: bourgeois, macho, and classist. In that context, the author developed a revolutionary outlook that never managed to converge with the space she inhabited. In 1962, she married Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, a journalist, writer, and diplomat, and father of her two daughters. Both came from different backgrounds. Plinio, from the center of the country and newly arrived in Barranquilla, was unfamiliar with the high society of the city where Marvel resided.

Their relationship lasted 18 years, and despite having a second marriage, after Moreno’s death, Mendoza’s figure remained fundamental in her legacy and its limited dissemination.

Marvel Moreno and the Representation of Women

“Love should prevail over social conventions and sexuality allowed men and women to assert themselves in the world, to conquer their independence.”

Marvel Moreno, El tiempo de las Amazonas

In 1971, Marvel moved to Paris. From there, she looked at the horizon of her native Caribbean, which she would later capture in her work. “I have discovered that to write about Barranquilla and the life we ​​had in Barranquilla, it must be done from afar,” Mendoza commented at a conference at the Barranquilla International Book Fair in 2018.

From Paris, Marvel Moreno’s literature reflected on the female roles entrenched in Barranquilla’s traditional domestic environment. Moreno wrote two novels – only one saw the light during her lifetime – and two collections of stories. Each work rescued the role of women amidst macho oppression on the Caribbean coast.

The women Marvel portrayed in her work were divided into two types: on one hand, there were the mothers. These were patriarchal references reflecting the values ​​that her own mother had instilled in her. This trait is noticeable in works like Algo tan feo en la vida de una señora bien (Something so ugly in the life of a proper lady); in it, the protagonist highlights the macho behaviors and the inquisitive vision of an oppressive mother. The figure of the grandmother, on the other hand, is revered, representing love and portrayed as an ally.

Censorship and Silence

Marvel Moreno’s literature exposed the experiences of the author. Suffering, repression, resistance, and lack constituted the foundation of her literary production. But despite receiving recognitions like the Grinzane – Cavour Literary Prize, her work was relatively unknown and little read in the country. Her writing, which condemned machismo and social censorship towards women, shared the same fate as the reality she denounced herself.

Moreno’s last creation, El tiempo de las Amazonas, faced a prolonged process before its publication, taking 25 years after her death to see the light. Its publication materialized after discussions between defenders of her work and the author’s family – including Mendoza and her two daughters – who sought to archive it. Censorship was the main obstacle this work faced, requiring a thorough evaluation by the publishing house Penguin Random House to determine its literary worth and subsequently decide on its publication.

Marvel Moreno’s case becomes relevant, especially in the context of Women’s History Month. Her work not only addresses the inequality, classism, and machismo that still affect many women today but also suggests the persistence of these challenges even after the author’s death. Marvel Moreno and her writings testify to the search for a voice and space in an environment where patriarchal dynamics prevail over the intrinsic cultural value of a work.

Marvel Moreno’s life and literature represent a testimony to the complexities women face in their search for voice and space in a society marked by oppression. Marvel Moreno’s legacy resonates as a call for reflection on the persistence of patriarchal dynamics and the ongoing need to question and challenge the structures that limit the cultural and literary expression of women.

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