Contemporary Latin American Fiction

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?