Issue #140 Hija de Perra: Writings from a Poor, Aspirational, Sudaca, Third World Perspective

Hija de Perra: Writings from a Poor, Aspirational, Sudaca, Third World Perspective

Julia Eilers Smith

Portrait of Hija de Perra with a white cat. Courtesy of the artist’s personal archive.

Issue #140
November 2023

“Negative Anthropology” is a new series of essays, translations, and historical texts that center on disability, sexual dissidence, technics, race, and anti-colonialism. Although the materials in the series do not pursue a single shared argument, what joins them is a focus on the gap between forms of insurgent or resistant activity and the models of political representation and visibility that deny the force and legitimacy of such forms. Set within the profound shifts in technical, social, and ecological relations that mark the mutations of capital over the past two centuries, the series borrows its title from a term used by Günther Anders and Ulrich Sonnemann. In their accounts, “negative anthropology” names a reckoning with the human through what it is not: through the distance from the ideals historically posed for and imposed on it, and through the limits and failures of prospects for meaningful social transformation. Departing from that often philosophical work towards questions embedded in social and cultural history, the texts in this series consider the ways that even seemingly radical political frameworks—including those that rely on notions of of community and pride—have often been unable to account either for subjectivities that are not legible within their parameters or for the potent kinds of collectivity and action that start not from any presumed commonality but in the negative space around what gets understood as human in the first place.

—Evan Calder Williams, Contributing Editor


A drag performer, activist, essayist, and educator, Hija de Perra (HdP) made her debut in the early 2000s as a go-go dancer and singer in Santiago de Chile’s alternative nightlife scene. She was deeply immersed in punk, anarchist, and drag circles, making regular appearances at rockabilly shows, tocatas (concerts), sex and disco clubs, as well as other underground parties. Her eccentric performances featured props, bold makeup, and elaborate, handmade costumes that often revealed her prosthetic breasts and vagina. In her staged interventions, she loosely integrated elements from both pornographic and horror film genres, infusing her performances with shock and derisive humor. The artist embodied an aesthetic of monstrosity and what she referred to as “inmundicia,” or “filthiness,” repudiating any association with normality, and instead proudly exhibiting an aberrational, multi-sexual identity.

Her profoundly transgressive practice was a response to and reflection of an evolving political landscape in her native Chile as it transitioned from the Pinochet dictatorship to a democratic neoliberal system. During this post-1990 shift, various governments aimed to advance women’s rights and LGBTQ+ inclusion through what were considered progressive policies. But for much of this period, these efforts gained limited traction beyond decriminalization.1 While a broader array of civil rights have been made law in recent years, HdP’s work preemptively resisted any attempt at assimilation into mainstream culture and liberal politics, tarnishing the image of a clean and sanitized society that relied upon the political discourses of tolerance, inclusion, and diversity.

In an effort to wrestle with the inconvenient subject of “deviant” sexuality in her country (as Chile persisted in punishing LGBTQ+ people via public-indecency and age-of-consent laws), the artist deployed her performance-activism across multiple platforms, never relinquishing its distinctive intensity and extravagance. Apart from her work as a performer and singer, she also navigated Santiago’s marginalized and institutional circuits as an actress, recording artist, emcee, and educator. She maintained strong ties to local activism, delivering speeches and actively participating in Pride parades and marches to advocate for sexual diversity as well as human and reproductive rights.

In the years preceding her untimely passing in 2014 at the age of thirty-four, from AIDS-related complications, HdP expanded her reach into the realm of formal academic discourse. Building connections with institutions in both Chile and Argentina, she deepened her engagement with students and intellectual communities. Her active involvement culminated in her participation in university-hosted events, where she gave lectures on safe sex, published theoretical texts, and delivered talks on gender and sexual dissidence.

Theory and Discourse: Lecturing with “Show”

Initially invited to academic conferences to present her performances, HdP began to be approached for more formal speaking engagements and scholarly publication. Student and research groups at the University of Chile in Santiago were committed supporters of her work, providing platforms for the dissemination of her thinking and writing.2 Her initial foray into university lecturing came at a 2010 gender-theory conference organized by students from the Faculty of Law at the University of Chile. During a roundtable discussion, she expressed that she had “no intention of being ‘queer,’” explaining that the imported term pigeonholed her “unclassifiable” and “already unstable” identity.3

Hija de Perra faces the camera in a black-and-white photograph. Courtesy of the artist’s personal archive.

HdP delivered a sharp critique both of Chile’s dominant sexual culture and of the way academic and cultural discussions of the late 1990s and early 2000s applied queer theory to gender and sexuality in her country. She criticized the lack of attention and credit given to the “lesser forms” of gender- and sexually nonconforming thought, knowledge, and experiences that exist outside of academic orbits. In this way she identified a contextual dissonance stemming from the widespread dissemination of queer theory in South America, where it was (and still remains) in vogue in university circles, influencing the discursive positioning of sexually nonnormative practices and local subcultures.

HdP’s lectures were as theatrical as they were theoretical. Her flamboyant personality and uninhibited discourse stood in stark contrast to the formalities typically associated with university gatherings. As noted by Chilean writer and activist Juan Pablo Sutherland, “What interest[ed] her, as a whole, [was] to make an irruption in the academic space, but an irruption with show, with performance.”4 During her lectures, she would dramatically toss the pages she read from into the air. She incorporated nonacademic, personal, and sexual language and references into her talks, seeking to “break with the rules of the academy.”5 Drawing upon first-person accounts, her writings were rooted in her own sexuality and solidly grounded in her experience as a “new mestiza latina from the Southern Cone.”6

While maintaining her parodic approach, HdP adeptly tailored her discourse to resonate with the already critical academic audience, giving her “filthy” interpretations theoretical underpinnings. Her lectures and writings drew inspiration from postcolonial theory, feminist and queer critique, and the rich intersections of these fields. (It is worth nothing that the majority of authors she quotes in her texts are Chilean.) Through her work, she delved into the enduring colonial violence and oppression perpetuated by the “Western conceptualization of sexuality” in Latin America, as well as the rigid enforcement of gender binaries within its societies.7

Filthy Interpretations

One of HdP’s most influential works, her 2012 lecture “Filthy Interpretations,” powerfully voices her resistance to having her identity framed solely through the lens of queer theory.8 The piece was subsequently published as a posthumous essay in 2014, in the Chilean academic journal Revista Punto Género. In this seminal text, HdP passionately advocates for the validity of the knowledge and practices that circulated among gender- and sexually nonconforming people long before queer theory spread throughout the southern hemisphere. She challenges the way some Latin American theorists applied—and sometimes misapplied—queer theory to the region, and explains how thinkers like her came to perceive this endeavor as a neo-colonization of knowledge.

The opening narrative of “Filthy Interpretations” exposes the profound consequences of the arrival of Western notions of sexuality in Latin America, brought there by the “violent conquistadors.” HdP describes this as a “new and deadly thinking” that was brutally enforced through pillaging and other forms of violence—a legacy that persists today under the guise of civilization.9 Sexual practices that are now deemed debased or immoral in contemporary Latin America were, as HdP contends, celebrated during the pre-Columbian era. She then proceeds to explain how the people of the Southern Cone region continue to grapple with the enduring influence of norms inherited from the era of Spanish conquest.

Hija de Perra delivers a lecture in this installation view of the exhibition “En Aguante” presented at Liberia, Bogotá, 2019. Photo: Sebastián Bright.

By referencing Spanish colonization, HdP highlights the presence and importance of precolonial histories. At the same time, she emphasizes the hierarchical systems that were established to maintain Northern dominance over the South. Provocatively, she likens the arrival of the term “queer” in Latin America to the mystical ships of colonization, bringing with them the familiar “Western conceptualization of sexuality.” Both, she argues, heralded “new orders of sexual classification and declassification.”10

These “new understandings of Gender,” she asserts, “pile up at our borders and hem us in with new labels to advance and understand the exercises of existence and sexual difference.”11 While not overtly imposing territorial dominance, these new forms of understanding delegitimize and colonize prior forms of knowledge.

HdP’s argument provides an intersectional framework that extends beyond sexuality alone. She asserts that our understanding of sexual and gender identities cannot be divorced from the structural realities of “social class, race, education, and geographic location,” which “all influence the concept of gender, although some who love heterosexual norms don’t want to open their little, conservative eyes and see the reality that’s right under their noses.”12 Early in the text, she establishes her specific geographical location as the basis for her perspective: “Today I speak geographically situated in the South, but it often seems that I am validated by speaking, as it were, from the North, as if following the dominator’s matrix of thought, which continues to guide us.”13

Moreover, the author emphasizes that the term “queer” and its theoretical foundations must remain open to reinterpretation and deconstruction in accordance with the particular context(s) in which they are applied. She explains that in Latin America, queer theory has become dominant in discussions of nonnormative gender and sexuality; despite its emphasis on fluid boundaries, it in fact reinforces and normalizes categories, cutting from consideration other experiences and frameworks, such as those from “maricona culture.”14

Her skepticism regarding the ennobled status that the concept of “queer” has attained in the southern hemisphere becomes even more apparent when she poses a pointed question: “Can we enjoy ‘queer’ shopping in our latitudes?”15 With this question, HdP highlights how the term and the theory are often treated as a form of currency among those familiar with academic jargon.

Even though HdP calls for the recognition of a culturally specific conception of what was called “queer” in Latin America, throughout her work she always remained sharply critical of nation-building perspectives. Indeed, she offered a framework for a hemispheric approach that maintained vigilance against the uncritical implementation of nation-based forms of theoretical and cultural knowledge.

A World of Fabulous Opportunities

It is crucial to emphasize that HdP did not outright reject queer theory. On the contrary, she recognized that it provides the “possibility of subverting and displacing those notions of gender that have been naturalized and reified in support of cis-masculine hegemony and heterosexual power,” and that it “challenges the idea that certain gender expressions are original or true, while others are secondary and false.”16 For HdP, queer theory held a “hopeful message” and presented a “world of fabulous opportunities.”17 Her primary argument was for a more nuanced interpretation of identity and for the recognition of other narratives within and outside of the academic sphere.

Hija de Perra at a Pride march in Santiago, Chile, in 2009 paying tribute to the renowned feminist poet, educator, diplomat, and the first Latin American to win a Nobel Prize in literature, Gabriela Mistral. Courtesy of the artist’s personal archive.

Towards the end of the text, HdP shares a vision in which queer theory fulfills its utopian promise: “Can I dream that ‘the queer’ will continue its legacy of resistance and liberty of expression and not be transformed into a fashion or norm?”18 This dream evokes José Esteban Muñoz’s notion of queer futurity, or utopia, which he describes in his book Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (2009). Muñoz’s idea of queer futurity refers to a relational and collective “modality of critique” that exists in the present but is imbued with potentiality. “Queerness,” Muñoz writes, “if it is to have any political resonance, needs to be more than an identitarian marker and to articulate a forward-dawning futurity.”19 This stance aligns closely with HdP’s position, particularly as it pertains to the potential development of queer thought in Latin America.

While we can identify such links to other vital queer thinkers, HdP’s texts and lectures perhaps most importantly enacted confrontations not internal to contemporary theory but with social commentaries and discourses imposed on her body and the bodies of others. Her character was firmly anchored in discourse in its broadest sense, and it functioned as a means to reclaim the criticality of a dissenting body. Yet rather than enacting a generic relation to sexual dissidence, this can be seen as a historically specific response to the fetishization of nonconforming sexual and gender identities and their commodification by the market, a process that reduces them from political subjects to products.

A voice and inspiration for numerous nonnormative sexualities in Chile and abroad, HdP made a plea for sexual transformation in her country, advocating for the de-stigmatization of nonreproductive sexualities, the advancement of education free of sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, and the liberation of desires. In an interview, she was once asked if she would ever enter into “the norm.” She responded, “I am blessed, and I’ll continue my dissident legacy until the end of my days. And I could also be an alien, and my days will never end, and I’ll be eternal.”20 Through annual events organized in her memory and the ongoing dissemination and activation of her texts, videos, photos, and music, Hija de Perra’s family, friends, longtime fans, and new supporters remain dedicated to preserving her work and legacy. This commitment has allowed her provocative and uncompromising politics of sexual dissidence to endure far beyond the specific context in which it originally emerged.


Until 2022, same-sex marriage was unrecognized in the country. Same-sex civil unions were not legally recognized until 2015, when socialist president Michelle Bachelet signed the Agreement on Civil Unions (AUC) law. Contributing significantly to this victory was the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), which had spearheaded a successful public-awareness campaign. Legalized “therapeutic abortion,” in which procedures are only permitted in extreme cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the fetus is unviable, or the pregnancy resulted from rape, was not legalized until 2017, three years after HdP’s death. Abortion rights were a central concern of HdP’s work and became a catalyst for a number of her performances and activist interventions.


The Center for University Critical Studies was the first to publish one of her texts, which appeared in a collection of essays on gender theory titled En Reversa (2010). HdP was prominently featured on the book cover. Additionally, Revista Punto Género, a magazine dedicated to gender and sexuality issues at the University of Chile, published two of HdP’s essays. The first, “The End of the Retrograde Idealization of Sexuality Is the Magical Spiral of the Eternal Multisexual Apocalypse,” was published in 2012, while the second, “Filthy Interpretations: How ‘Queer Theory’ Colonizes Our Poor, Aspirational, South American, Third World Context, Perturbing People Enamored of Heterosexual Norms with New Gender Constructs,” was published posthumously in 2014. The latter appears in this issue of e-flux journal, in both the original Spanish and in English translation.


Hija de Perra, “Arte en Acción, Temporada 2,” interview by Pato Munita, Arte en Acción Chapter 4, ArTV, 2013 and 2015. Author’s translation.


Juan Pablo Sutherland, interview by Julia Eilers Smith, Santiago de Chile, November 28, 2018.


“Entrevista Hija De Perra & Wincy,” Revista Fill, YouTube video, January 23, 2013 . Author’s translation.


Hija de Perra, “Interpretaciones inmundas de cómo la Teoría Queer coloniza nuestro contexto sudaca, pobre aspiracional y tercermundista, perturbando con nuevas construcciones genéricas a los humanos encantados con la heteronorma” (Filthy Interpretations: How “Queer Theory” Colonizes Our Poor, Aspirational, South American, Third World Context, Perturbing People Enamored of Heterosexual Norms with New Gender Constructs), Revista Punto Género, no. 4 (2014): 11. All translations from this text by Casey Butcher.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 9.


The lecture was presented in 2012 at the 3rd Queer Art Fair of Mendoza, hosted by the National University of Cuyo in Argentina.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 9.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 12.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 10.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 13.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 10.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 10. The term “mariconas” derives from its masculine form, “maricón,” which is akin to “dyke,” “fag,” or “faggot” in English, conveying the idea of sexual deviance. “Mari” serves as a references both Mother Mary and Marianism, which play an important role in many Latin American societies. Words such as “maricón,” and “mariconas” provoke a displacement, or a carnivalization, of the revered and sanctified figure.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 14.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 15.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 14.


HdP, “Interpretaciones inmundas,” 16.


José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopias: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (NYU Press, 2009), 87.


“Entrevista Hija De Perra & Wincy.”

Latin America, LGBTQ+
Queer Art & Theory, Negative Anthropology
Return to Issue #140

Julia Eilers Smith is a curator and writer based in Tio’tia:ke / Mooniyang / Montreal. She currently serves as the Max Stern Curator of Research and Collection at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University.


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