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Common Reading 2023: Partido by Hiram Perez

Partido — Hiram Perez

“Partido” is a nonfiction story about a young boy navigating the masculine and heteronormative stereotypes placed on him by his father.

Discussion Questions

  1. Has there ever been a time when you felt like you disappointed someone you looked up to? How did that make you feel?

  1. Have your parents or guardians ever said something to you that you still remember to this day? What was it? Do you think it has had a positive or negative impact on your life?

Class Activity

Get a piece of scrap paper. Think of a hurtful word or a phrase that has been used against you in the past. Then scribble over it, crumple it, and/or rip it up!

Introduction — Mirta Suquet

How does it feel to discover your parents' disapproving or rejecting gaze? What are the potential effects and long-term psychological damage this rejection can produce?

In "Partido", a powerful essay by Hiram Perez, a father violently threatens his eight-year-old Latino son: "Papo, if I ever find out you are a maricón, I will kill you and then kill myself." The word maricón—like marica or mariquita—is a homophobic insult still widely used in Spanish-speaking countries. It comes from the common feminine noun María, from which words such as mariposa (butterfly) and marioneta ("marionette") are also derived. In the first dictionary of the Real Academia de la Lengua Española, in 1734, the word already appears with its meaning of "effeminate and cowardly man," which relates gender expression with moral behavior. Being called effeminate is one of the worst insults for a man in some Latin American contexts, marked by machismo, homophobia, and misogyny. In this case, the parental insult attempts to reject an identity long before the child is fully aware of the gender stereotypes associated with forms of bodily and emotional expressiveness. The child internalizes the "fault" and searches endlessly for the meaning of the "betrayal" in his body: "a hand gesture," some glances, or "shyness, another sign that I am partido."

In Spanish, two phrases around male identity are related to the word "partido": ser un buen partido, or estar partido. Ser un buen partido (to be a good match) means to be a good provider-husband. Estar partido (to be cracked, broken) means to be effeminate. In the title, “Partido,” Perez has left the phrase incomplete. By omitting the verb, he could be referring to either identity—the conservative ideal of masculinity, which is what the father wants for his son or another identity that defies it. The child of the story faces a crossroads that will define his future: either to replicate the father's image or to break it and remake his own identity from the splinters.

The end of the essay picks up on the miscommunication between father and son and reinforces the two alternatives of the son's future, captured in the title. The father misreads the boy's gaze as lascivious. In the story, however, the child's gaze connects with a woman, communicating a "painful silence," suggesting a shared knowledge between them. Both have suffered the effects of toxic masculinity that assaults and harasses.

It is worth considering whether the child is, indeed, partido, but broken by the trauma of being haunted by the shadow of an ideal child. Failure could be defined as the inability to meet an expectation. In that case, learning from failure may mean learning to regulate and protect personal expectations and to take a healthy distance from the expectations of others that could overshadow us, distorting who we are and who we want to be. It also means becoming resilient and empowered, working intensely on rebuilding our self-esteem damaged by the distressing effects of childhood traumas.

Additional Resources

SU Inclusive Excellence

Learn more about Susquehanna's Inclusive Excellence initiative, which comprises all of SU's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, including the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and resources for LGBTQ+ people on campus.

SU GSA Instagram

Check out the Instagram for Susquehanna's Gender and Sexuality Alliance to get involved in the club and their events.

Coming Out: Living Authentically as LGBTQ Latinx Americans

This guide from the Human Rights Campaign provides resources for LGBTQ+ Latinx Americans. It is also available in Spanish.

making space, finding place [narrative]

The author of this essay talks about being queer and Puerto Rican, finding/making a place for yourself in "the Archive", and contending with homophobic language.

About the Authors

Hiram Perez teaches in the English Department at Vassar College, where he currently also directs the Women’s Studies Program. His first book, A Taste for Brown Bodies: Gay Modernity and Cosmopolitan Desire (NYU Press), was awarded the Lambda Literary prize (or “Lammy”) for LGBT Studies in 2016. He has published memoir recently in Tahoma Literary Review and Burningword Literary Journal. In 2018, he was awarded a Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts Summer Residency.


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