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Hosts, Guests and Parasites in Helena Maria Viramontes' “The Cariboo Café”

Jesús Benito Sánchez


The correlation between immigrants and parasites is a common theme in political discourse. The nation-state assumes the role of a living organism that allows the entrance of an alien, a guest of sorts, who, in turn, endangers the wellbeing of the host. Such is the initial vision of the migrant woman in Helena Maria Viramontes’ “The Cariboo Café” (1995). Drawing from Michel Serres, Jaques Derrida and Mireille Rosello, this article analyses the story from the perspective of the hospitality framework. The figure of the parasite appears as a liminal figure that establishes a symbiotic relationship with the host both on the social and the linguistic levels. As a disturber of peace and order, the parasite disrupts the traditional relations with the abused guest. In the story, the café owner’s gatekeeping activities, both linguistic and ideological, become suspended. The opposition between host/guest-parasite, legal/illegal, inside/outside opens to an infinite range of possibilities between alleged polar opposites.


parasite; hospitality; hostility; immigration; guest; host; chicano

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Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies

ISSN: 1137-6368