The NACLA Archive of Latin Americana is a historic documentation project that grew out of NACLA's research, publications, and activist network and is now administered by the New School for Social Research in New York City.
Coral Herrera blows a blast of fresh air into the struggle for the respect for diversity. Her blog, her articles, her books, and her ideas examine pointedly the notions of the “obvious” and the “normal.” Coral is mainly interested in gender equality and the effect of romantic imaginaries on the way men and women relate to each other and see themselves.
A contributor to publications such as Uruguay’sLa Red 21 and Chile’s El Ciudadano, Coral Herrera is also part of a new generation of fighters who start with gender equality but refuse to stay there. Her writings analyze structural problems in Western societies and the discomfort that arises in the intimate lives of men and women. Her work conducts a deconstructive critique of the causes and consequences of societal norms and the imaginaries that we defend without knowing why.
Coral Herrera is a great enthusiast of new media, where she shares a large part of her work. But in addition to blogging, Coral also pursues an academic path, with a PhD in Humanities and Audiovisual Communication. Born in Spain, she moved to Costa Rica a few years ago, and has worked as a teacher and consultant for UNESCO, the United Nations Latin American Institute for Crime Prevention and Treatment of Delinquents (ILANUD), and the Spanish International Development Agency (AECID), at the Paris-Sorbonne University and in Madrid’s Universidad Carlos III.
Her main specialization is in gender, and her point of departure, romantic love. Thus much of the work that Coral Herrera has published online focuses on the defense of diverse loves, myths, and the political and collective dimension of how we understand love. In Los mitos románticos (Romantic Myths), for example, she traces some of the origin stories of societal glorification of heterosexual love:
Through romantic love, inoculating foreign desires, patriarchy also controls our bodies in order to hetero-direct our eroticism, and make us assume the limits of femininity and dream about the arrival of The Saviour (Jesus, Prince Charming…) who will choose us as good wives and offer us the throne of marriage.
Herrera draws on what she sees as the realm of “culture” to explore common societal limitations on love and acceptance:
In our Western culture, love is constrained, at least in the hegemonic cultural discourse. Homophobia is cultural, transphobia is cultural, racism and speciesism are cultural. Culture is where the fear of the other, of the different, grows; it is in culture where myths, goals, prohibitions, prejudices and social obligations are created.
Herrera also highlights the importance of the stories we tell ourselves—the ways certain imaginaries, ideals, and goals are passed down from generation to generation. She notes the limitations of trying to rework established narratives of gender and sexuality with an immediate cultural reversal, but she still dreams about the hopeful possibility:
The logical thing should be to transform the stories and tell new ones, change the idealized models that have become obsolete, construct flesh-and-blood heroes and heroines, create new myths that help us construct societies that are more just, egalitarian, environmentalist, cultured, and pacifist. Direct our efforts towards the common good, work to propose other realities, fight to construct new ones, instead of fleeing from emotional paradises and individual promises of salvation.
Her books are readily available on her blog, where Coral also shares her press articles, her YouTube channel, and her conferences and academic talks. Her last book Bodas diversas y amores queer (Diverse Weddings and Queer Loves) is a book she describes as lying “halfway between an essay and a story, in which theoretical reflections are mixed with personal anecdotes, life stories, and analyses of alternative romantic nuptial rituals.” Her work on marriage demonstrates the wit and incisiveness that dominate her writing:
Why do people get married on such a massive scale? Why are there some people who only get married once, while others get married seven times?...Why does everyone ask about a baby but it’s frowned upon if the bride is pregnant? Why do we make romantic videos of our weddings and torture our relatives for months? Why do women invest so many resources in finding a partner?…Why can’t three people who love each other live together and get married? Why do we get excited when we are offered marriage? Why do we want this so much? Why do people endure conjugal hell for so many years? Why are there people who never get married? What are weddings like in other cultures? What comes after weddings?
To offer a more thorough reflection on the struggle for gender equality on the internet, we will present Coral Herrera’s work in two parts. We will close this installment with the first part of an on-line discussion we had with Coral, in which we talked about the role of new media in the struggle for gender equality.
Read the interview at:
En Global Voices en español: