The Consumption of Simulacra: Deconstructing Otherness in Katherine Anne Porter’s Mexican Conceptual Space

Travis Hubbs


American border literature has a long history of using the concept of Mexico as a space where national anxieties may be projected and alleviated.  Since the mid-nineteenth century, the sedimentation of this Mexican conceptual space has formed layers of simulacra that are produced and consumed according to the supply and demand of an increasingly globalized economy.  Katherine Anne Porter's treatment of her Mexican conceptual space breaks from that of her predecessors in its honesty, complexity, and puzzling ambiguity.  This article examines the psychological utility of foreign Otherness, the historical precedents behind the Mexican conceptual simulacra, and the consequences of Porter's attempt to escape the cycle of production and consumption to which American portrayals of Mexico traditionally succumb.  Porter and her characters in "Flowering Judas," "Maria Concepcion," "That Tree," "The Martyr," and "Hacienda" attain a status of both consumer and consumed. Her attempt to save the Mexican conceptual space from the global market of simulacra can be viewed as a maternal quest, both futile and honorable, that perpetuates Mexican Otherness while simultaneously exploring the possibilities of its liberation.  In this respect, Porter's short fiction set in Mexico marks a turning point for America's relationship with its southern neighbor as a whole.    

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