The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
How we cite our quotes:
For those of you who missed your mandatory two seconds of Dominican history: Trujillo, one of the twentieth century's most infamous dictators, ruled the Dominican Republic between 1930 and 1961 with an implacable ruthless brutality. A portly, sadistic, pig-eyed mulato who bleached his skin, wore platform shoes, and had a fondness for Napoleon-era haberdashery, Trujillo (also known as El Jefe [The Boss], the Failed Cattle Thief, and Fuckface) came to control nearly every aspect of the DR's political, social, and economic life through a potent (and familiar) mixture of violence, intimidation, massacre, rape, co-optation, and terror. (1.preface.3)
Trujillo had almost total power over every aspect of Dominican life. One of Díaz's points in this book is that too much power can make anyone a little weird. When Trujillo, who was already more than a little out there, achieves total power, he starts bleaching his skin and wearing platform shoes and Napoleon-era clothes. The problem is that no one has the guts to say: "Hey, you're doing some bizarre stuff, Trujillo." Probably because if they did, he'd have 'em killed, lickety split.
Considered our national "genius," Joaquín Balaguer was a Negrophobe, an apologist to genocide, an election thief, and a killer of people who wrote better than himself, famously ordering the death of journalist Orlando Martínez. Later, when he wrote his memoirs, he claimed to have known who had done the foul deed (not him, of course) and left a blank page, a página en blanco [blank page], in the text to be filled in with the truth upon his death. (184.108.40.206)
Balaguer was another Dominican dictator. We think this detail about the blank page is pretty interesting. Isn't this how things work in totalitarian states—those in power get to decide what information is disseminated to the general public? Or, you could say, what pages in the history books remain blank?
Beli, who'd been waiting for something exactly like her body her whole life, was sent over the moon by what she now knew. By the undeniable concreteness of her desirability which was, in its own way, Power. [...]. Hypatía Belicia Cabral finally had power and a true sense of self. Started pinching her shoulders back, wearing the tightest clothes she had. Dios mío, La Inca said every time the girl headed out. (220.127.116.11)
Wao talks a lot about political power—the kind of stuff a dictator like Trujillo has. But here, Díaz points out that everyday citizens have power, too. Take Beli. Once Beli becomes a woman, she has men swooning over her. She uses her beauty to her advantage. This, we should note, is also a type of power the book explores: the power that stems from one's sexuality.