Mayra Santos Febres addresses sexual exploitation during slavery in new book

Puerto Rican writer Mayra Santos Febres, in an interview with EFE, reflects on the characters of her latest novel, Fe en disfraz (Faith in Disguise), which addresses the consequences of slavery for women who were sexually abused. The brief novel—only 115 pages—has a “strong erotic component,” as it tells of the torrid relationship between Martín Tirado, a Puerto Rican computer scientist, and Venezuelan historian María Fernanda Verdejo, whose lives come together at the University of Chicago.

Santos Febres stressed that in her new novel she was aiming at a length more accessible to the general public. She also pointed out that her goal was to find a forum for a discussion of the consequences of the sexual exploitation perpetrated during slavery. “The novel bears the burden of historical memory,” said the author, for whom his book recalls Carlos Fuentes’ Aura.

Santos-Febres explained that Martín Tirado is a computer scientist with a commonplace life and a linguist-girlfriend in Madrid bride whose life changes irrevocably when he relocates temporarily to work on a project in Chicago and meets the black Venezuelan scholar. Their relationship changes radically every October 31, when she dons the disguise of a slave. Santos Febres told the EFE interviewer that she had waited until her fourth novel to address the topic because she did not want to be labeled as a writer that only dealt with black topics and feared being misunderstood.

Santos Febres was a finalist for the Espasa Calpe Primavera prize for her novel Our Lady of the Night, and won the Letras de Oro Award (1994) for her short story collection Pez de vidrio. She also won the Juan Rulfo Short Story Award for Oso blanco (1996).

Santos Febres currently directs the writing workshop at the University of Puerto Rico.

For the original article (in Spanish) go to

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s