Arab Studies; Colonialism; Diaspora/Refugee Studies; Gender/Women's Studies; Maghreb Studies; Modernization; Pop Culture; Transnationalism; Urban Studies;
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This paper explores tropes and practices of prostitution in Hispanophone memoir and fiction, recreating northern Morocco’s urban landscapes from the 1920’s through the 40’s, when Tangier became emblematic of the decadent Mediterranean port city in the global colonial imaginary. Most of the city’s subaltern foreign nationals were Spanish; Spanish women participated in prostitutional networks across northern Morocco and into the French Algerian province of Oran. Spaniards were also present as transient cosmopolitan consumers of sexual tourism. I focus on a novel, a memoir, and travel accounts published as magazine articles whose authors’ differential positionalities as Tangerines or metropolitan travelers offer contrasting narratives of sexualities on sale during Tangier’s years as an International Zone (1923-1940, again 1946-1959) initially jointly administered by the British, French and Spanish, later joined by Italians, Belgians, Portuguese, Dutch, Americans and Russians. Born into the Spanish working classes of the city and holding odd jobs throughout his life there and later in Madrid, Ángel Vázquez (Tangier 1929-Madrid 1980) remains an elusive figure, alternatively effaced and celebrated. His novel, La Vida Perra de Juanita Narboni (1976) is periodically cited as one of the greatest achievements of twentieth century Spanish literature by Spanish critics. Vázquez describes Tangier as a whore in his private correspondence, narrating his definitive move from Tangier to Madrid in the wake of Tangier’s passing from International jurisdiction to independent Morocco. Juanita, his novel’s narrator and central character, blandishes whoredom constantly in the interminable monologue that constitutes the narrative, casting accusations of whoredom to distance herself from disreputable modern practices making young women’s sexuality visible in public space. Whereas Vazquez’s novel, an intimate, affect-laden tribute to the author’s lost world, mobilizes what he calls the language-memory of his mother and her working-class Christian and Jewish women friends to represent early twentieth century Tangier, Hispanophone narratives anchored in the modernist spectator positionalities of Spanish colonialism evoke memories and practices of prostitution otherwise. The Barcelona-based illustrated weekly Algo (1929-1930’s) directed by M. Jiménez Moya printed travel narratives. Authored by metropolitan journalists intent on Orientalizing North Africa, they casually portray the ubiquity of commercial sex, associating it with the persistence of slave traffics inviting and legitimating European intervention. El Barrio de las Bocas Pintadas, published in Barcelona in 1954 by Arabist Luis Antonio de Vega (Bilbao 1900- Madrid 1977) romanticizes the modern landscape of commercial sex available to the traveler, introduced by French administrations to Morocco and Algeria.