“Fotos y recuerdos” : decolonial ephemera strategies in twenty-first century Latina literature
This project theorizes how Latina authors mobilize alternative archives by insisting on the centrality of the ephemeral in their texts and the communities they represent. In what I call “decolonial ephemera strategies,” the authors I study—including Norma Cantú, Denise Chávez, and Nelly Rosario—represent and incorporate different kinds of ephemeral materials throughout their works, varying from paper dolls to family photographs to shopping lists. Whether depicted visually on the page or included through narrative plot, these authors build alternative archives from racialized and gendered ephemera, thereby elevating the intimate—and often precarious—everyday lives of U.S. Latinas. The archive as a literary device couples the ephemerality of Latina histories with the permanence of the traditional archive, and in doing so disrupts the binary between precarity and permanence that often defines how we interpret knowledges as illegitimate or legitimate. Thus subverting this relationship through an accessible vehicle like literature, these authors combat the continued violence against Latinx bodies by critiquing three harmful narrative constructions surrounding Latinidad in a twenty-first century political climate: documentation as a measure of cultural citizenship, the disparate effects of climate change on Latinx communities, and the persistent objectification of Latinx bodies through exoticization and commodification. Through these narrative strategies, Latina authors push the boundary between literary and archival storytelling, demonstrating how literary works can become more portable, accessible, and community-centered archives.