Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Beauty Salon (Part III and IV)- Mario Bellatin| Self-Care Workshop

Part III

Exercise Three

The narrator of Beauty Salon believes that establishing boundaries is essential to developing care work. For example, they only accept (gay) men experiencing an advanced stage of the illness. In the novella, like in real life, there is a major stigma around the disease. The narrator and guests are dying from this disease as well as dealing with a society already against them.  (Pages 10, 11, 51-55)

Think about your boundaries and limits.

How do you set, or would like to set boundaries around work, school, social media use, or relationships?

.Sectioning school work (for example through the Pomodoro method)

.Intentionally stop working during the weekend and/or take advantage of the weekend as a period of self-care and socialization.

.Deleting or removing social media apps from your phone or restricting time on them.

.Understanding how social media works in terms of logarithm and data and how they alter your attention and focus.

.Develop consciousness on social media addiction and how the logarithms first feed from you but then model you and your media consumption.

How can you communicate your self-care needs to others in your life, such as family members, coworkers, or friends?

.It is difficult to raise boundaries and communicate self-care needs with immediate family members and within exploitative job environments. However, it is important to raise and reflect on the question as your well-being is at stake.

Presentation (s)

Khaneja,Mahima K

Gordon-Gatica,Diego Joseph

Part IV

How to narrate a pandemic?

Realizing that there were many others with nowhere else to go, [they] reluctantly began to take them in, too. [They]’d taken it upon [themselves] to establish a place in which the sick could die in a way far more respectful of life than any of their other meager options provided, at the same time contending with the mysterious plague and the sick society in which it thrives by escaping into a beautiful if sometimes troubling world of his own creation. 

What [the narrator] has given to them, and Bellatin to us, is a model for dying, and for living; for treating the abject body with honesty and respect, despite its difference and decay—perhaps because of it. Even if it seems too much to say. Bellatin offers a different way of reading, and of telling, a story—one in which what is unsaid, incompletely rendered, allows respectful room for discovering and conveying more than we might have imagined, or were told that we could.

Maggie Riggs

What did you think of the narrator and their way of telling the story? What is your opinion on the ending of the novella? How did it leave you feeling and what message did you take away from it?



Brooks,Tiana Ablessing


Exercise Four

A manifesto is a public declaration of principles, beliefs, or intentions issued by an individual, group, or organization. It is a written statement that outlines a specific set of ideas, values, or goals.

In groups write a self-care manifesto. Use these open questions as guidance:

What “gives you life”? What is your “yes”? How can you build a community of support around your self-care routine? Who are some people in your life that you can turn to for accountability and encouragement? How can you translate that routine into your student life?


Here’s an example of a short self-care manifesto based on what you wrote last week:

We believe that self-care is a fundamental aspect of a healthy and fulfilling life. Therefore, we commit to prioritizing our well-being through the following actions:

  1. We will listen to our bodies and mind and honor our physical and emotional needs.
  2. We will set healthy boundaries and learn to say no when necessary.
  3. We will cultivate positive relationships that uplift and support us.
  4. We will take breaks when we need them and make time for rest and relaxation.
  5. We will nourish our bodies with healthy food, exercise, and adequate sleep.

Collective Self-Care Manifesto

We believe self-care is essential to maintaining wellness, joy in life, and a successful future. We do not want to be defined by productivity or profit. We will constantly interrogate how we can emphasize and practice freedom.  Hence, we commit to following these lifestyle choices:

  1. We will fulfill our bodily needs and pamper ourselves.
  2. We will learn discipline over our willpower to maximize our potential.
  3. We will learn not to identify ourselves with our failures and instead be kind to ourselves. 
  4. We will leave ample room for recovery and reevaluation. 
  5. We will be firm in our boundaries. We will give ourselves space from others when needed with high awareness about consent.
  6. We will prioritize our happiness and self-fulfillment. We will be open to new life experiences.
  7. We will not people-please, and we will learn to do what we need to do for ourselves, even if sometimes it seems selfish. We will build relationships with people that reciprocate the same energy.
  8. We will be more responsible with our financial budgeting and our distribution of time and energy. We will aspire to balance.
  9. We will speak our minds and not let things marinate inside our heads. We will prioritize our mental health. We will practice mindfulness and meditation to secure our inner peace. 
  10. We will respect other’s people healthy goals.

Asynchronous Blog Post on Beauty Salon


1. Read the novella Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin and the essay “Difference and Survival” by Audre Lorde.

2. Engage with both readings through ONE of these prompts

(200-word minimum; Deadline: Wednesday 3/29 before the class)


Analyzing and integrating the following quote from Audre Lorde, discuss how does the novella challenge traditional notions of beauty and gender? What commentary does it make on societal norms and expectations?

“Which differences are positive and which negative are determined for us by a society that has been already established, and so must seek to perpetuate itself, faults as well as virtues… and of course so long as the existence of human differences means one must be inferior, the recognition of those differences will be fraught with guilt and danger.” (Lorde, 174)


“To excel is considered a positive difference, and so you will be encouraged to think of yourselves as the elite. To be poor, or of Color, or female, or homosexual, or old is considered negative, and so these people are encouraged to think of themselves as surplus. Each of these imposed definitions has a place not in human growth and progress, but in human separation, for they represent the dehumanization of difference.” (Lorde, 174)

Thinking on this quote by Audre Lorde, elaborate on the narrator’s decision to transform his Beauty Salon into a mortuary. How does the narrator deal with the imposed idea of being a surplus?


“I must choose to define my difference as you must choose to define yours, to claim it and to use it as a creative before it is defined for you and used to eradicate any future, any change… the house of your difference is the longing for your greatest power and your deepest vulnerability. It is an indelible part of your life’s arsenal.” (Lorde, 176)

Using this quote by Audre Lorde as inspiration, examine how the narrator “claims” his difference as a source of creativity and vulnerability.

Beauty Salon (Part I and II)- Mario Bellatin| Self-Care Workshop

Part I

Entry Question

Do you remember your initial thoughts about the Covid 19 pandemic? How did your thinking process evolve during those first days? How does the pandemic reframe your understanding of self-care and care work in general?

Mario Bellatin is one of the most celebrated living Mexican writers. Bellatin is the author of dozens of unique novels that have won numerous international literary awards. Bellatin’s works have been translated into 21 languages.

Beauty Salon

.Mario Bellatin’s Beauty Salon (1994), translated by David Shook, is a parable (a short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a spiritual principle) about human bodies living and dying on the margins of society. The novella or short novel is invested in the possibilities of keeping dignity under circumstances of illness and social decay.

.One interpretation of Beauty Salon is that it serves as a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic that ravaged Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time it was published there were about 116,000 to 174,000 reported cases of AIDS in Mexico. 

.Following that interpretation, the beauty salon, now called “The Mortuary” becomes a safe haven for people infected by the disease (living with AIDS) who are rejected by mainstream society. However, the narrator never offers concrete information about the plague or communicates how it is transmitted. (Pages 17-18)

In what ways does the portrayal of the disease in Beauty Salon parallel the AIDS epidemic? How does this add to the social commentary of the novella?

.In today’s terminology the unnamed narrator could be considered a non-binary, queer person. By turning their beloved beauty salon into a hospice for victims dying of the plague, the narrator, also a sex worker, prompts readers to consider our collective attitudes toward the human body—in illness, in death, in poverty, and in opposition to dominant conceptions of gender and sexual behavior.

Pushing the Gender Binary


Self-Care Workshop

Exercise One

What does self-care mean to you?

.Finding a balance between what you need and what you want.

.Focusing on yourself, setting boundaries.

.Recharging the social battery.

.Identifying your needs and prioritizing the most important thing(s) for you.

.Doing fun things you enjoy in your job, in school, and with your family.

.Activities that help to de-stress and take your mind off of responsibilities.

.Indulging in favorite foods.

.Going for a drive, a walk, or a run to clear your mind.



How do your personal, academic, or job responsibilities impact your ability to practice self-care?

.Between work and school, there’s not much time for self-care.

.Deadlines at times restrict the possibilities of carving space and time to do self-care.

.Job and school routine numbs you.

.No financial freedom.

.Lack of privileges.

.Home life is also work life.

.Sometimes the expectations of family, friends, or romantic partners can affect your self-care.

What are some ways to overcome these challenges?

.Trying to take a day of rest.

.Understand when you need a break and allow yourself to take a break.

.Staying organized using a planner.

.Work on your time management skills.

.Indulging in a spa-day.

.Going to therapy.

.It should not be minimized to one thing.

.One should understand that “money comes and goes” but not health.

Part II

Entry Question

What is the significance of the setting in the novella? How does it contribute to the overall mood and tone of the story?

Exercise Two

.Curiously, the narrator is more concerned with describing the fish he houses in the elaborate aquariums of the salon-turned-hospice than talking about the illness. Thinking about the aquariums becomes a way for the narrator to cope with the destructive reality of the pandemic. (Pages 7, 11)

Inspired by this observation, think about activities and practices that made you feel good and recharged (even if briefly) while you were in the lockdown. Make a list of those activities and prioritize them based on how would you like to (re) engage in them.

If you prefer:

What are some self-care practices that have worked well for you in the past?

Share with a partner.


.Walking in the park or in the neighborhood.

.Reading for fun.

.Changing the diet.

.Skin care

.Resting through the day.

.Exploring new places in the city.

.Listening to music, exploring new musical genres, or going to see live music.

.Putting together and sharing a playlist.

Presentation (s)


Zaman,Mohammed Akbaruz

The Sickness and the Ill

The ill are refugees from the social institutions that purport to care for them, but with a very narrow vision of what “care” actually entails—hospitals will not allow them to die there, not with any degree of respect or dignity, at least. The narrator’s distrust of religion reflects his belief that religious institutions, too, impose upon the ill.

The ongoing AIDS crisis as context

How does the novella’s portrayal of the mysterious disease that afflicts the characters reflect the current societal response to AIDS? In what ways does the commentary on the fear, stigma, and discrimination associated with the disease continue in México and Mexican American communities?

Creative Writing Workshop

Exercise One: Speed Reporting


With three classmates report on the following questions:

.What source are you expanding?

.What character are you developing and what is the character’s background?

.What makes this character stand out from other characters in that fictional world?

.What country, city, and/or environment are you taking into consideration as a context?

.Will your story be presenting a different narrative point of view from the original source or is it a spin-off (an expansion of the plot)?

Exercise Two: Getting to know your character, stepping into their shoes


In an index card answer these questions:

.What are the character’s goals and ambitions? What do they want to achieve within their context?

.What are the character’s strengths? How do these attributes impact their decisions and interactions with other characters in the story?

.What are the character’s fears, weaknesses, and insecurities? What makes them doubt themselves?

Exercise Three: Writing a paragraph in the character’s voice


Write a paragraph for your character that present their point of view on one of the central conflicts you are developing. It could be the first paragraph you write in their voice or you can continue working on your draft. As you write your paragraphs take into consideration the following questions about their interior life, quirks, and idiosyncrasies

.What are the character’s beliefs and values? What principles do they hold dear, and how do they justify them?

.What are the character’s secrets and hidden desires? What are they hiding from others, and what do they truly want at this particular moment in your fictional narrative?

City of Clowns (Part III and IV, pages 65-133)- Daniel Alarcón


.As a result of his mourning, Chino’s subjectivity, professional commitment, and even socio-economic stability are put into question.

.Through Chino’s story, Alarcón addresses governmental corruption, (sub) urban decay, lack of economic opportunities, rural displacement, racism, and anti-blackness, and as a byproduct, general urban violence. As a whole, Lima is experiencing deteriorating circumstances and people are taking to the streets to demand social justice.

.This state of emergency points towards a national (and perhaps global) crisis, but it also lets us discover the inventive ways that people are using to survive, speak up to power, narrate their realities, and create spaces for achieving self-reliance and hope.

Unpacking the title/central concept of the story

Read the following paragraph and discuss your understanding of the title: City of Clowns

I thought about clowns. They had become, to my surprise, a kind of refuge. Once I’d started looking for them, I found them everywhere. They organized the city for me: buses, street corners, plazas. They suited my mood. Appropriating the absurd, embracing shame, they transformed it. Laugh at me. Humiliate me. And, when you do, I’ve won. Lima was, in fact, and in spirit, a city of clowns. (68)

How Sheila Alvarado represents this reflection and furthermore a vision of a city “organized” by clowns?

Reflecting on the images

Look and discuss the images created by Sheila Alvarado. How do they expand the following topics present in Alarcón’s story?

.Fatherless Realities/ Collapsing Patriarchy

.The city as an attractive menace

.Movement and migration

.Socio-economic struggles/disparities

.Uncovering repressed memories

Class Presentation (s)




Group Discussions

Elaborate on Chino’s transformations into a piraña. What are his motivations to assume this personality?

Elaborate on Chino’s transformations into a clown. What are his motivations to assume this personality?

Pick two different sections of the second half and discuss how Sheila Alvarado illustrates Chino’s fallout with his father and mother. How does she compose Chino’s conflicting states of mind?