Maria DiFrancesco, Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, presented a paper entitled, “Trafficking in the Third-Space: Migrant Bodies and Pateras in Nieves García Benito’s Por la vía de Tarifa” at the Mid-Atlantic Conference of Hispanic Literatures held in Lincoln, NE (October 12th-14th, 2012).
In the late 20th century, and in the wake of Francisco Franco’s death, new economic opportunities and increasingly progressive socio-political movements made the Iberian Peninsula a utopic Promised Land, attractive to migrants, particularly those from the African continent. Early on, many made their journey to Spain in pateras, small, unstable boats traditionally used for duck-hunting transformed into vessels used for human trafficking. The regularity with whichpateras came to be used made their presence in Spanish newspapers, fiction, film and music dealing with migration somewhat commonplace. Yet, even when a patera is present in a narrative, it is not always the most patent symbol of human trafficking. DiFrancesco argued that Spanish authorNieves García Benito explores the fluid symbolism of pateras while interrogating notions of identity in her book, Por la vía de Tarifa (1999). While at times the role of thepatera is palpable in García Benito’s works, at other times it seems more the case that the physical body of the migrant and the waters over which he travels become themselves extensions of the patera. DiFrancesco proposes that all three—patera, migrant and water—function as what Homi Bhabha calls “third-spaces”: sites of subversion from which cultural transformation is born.