The Tropical Gothic and Beyond: El Grupo de Cali’s Legacies for Contemporary Latin American Literature, Cinema, and Culture

Felipe Gómez G.


The creation and development of a tropical gothic is arguably the most important legacy of El Grupo de Cali, an interdisciplinary collective led by writer and film critic Andrés Caicedo Estela, and filmmakers Carlos Mayolo and Luis Ospina, during the 1970s in Colombia. In El Grupo’s tropical gothic, the conventions of the literary and cinematic gothic undergo a process of transculturation and tropicalization. With this transformation, Caicedo, Mayolo and Ospina postulate a dark reality that is urban and violent, and in which youth have protagonist roles both as agents and victims of violence. The revival of the monster within this tropical gothic reveals itself as intrinsically linked not only to the influence of cinematic tropes such as Hollywood B-series vampire films, but also to the connections between local myths and legends and forms of structural violence rooted in socioeconomic, political, racial and sexual oppression. Beyond the development of a tropical gothic aesthetic, the innovations of Caicedo’s literary writing include the insistence in locating youthful characters in urban, countercultural scenarios defined by elements of popular culture such as film, popular music, or drugs. These characteristics effectively locate his writings on the flip side of magical realism and act as complements to the Grupo’s tropical gothic in their efforts to narrate the experience of the modern tropical Latin American city.

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