Anna in the Tropics

by Nilo Cruz

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Why is Palomo's sexuality ambiguous in Anna in the Tropics?

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During most of the play, the audience knows Palomo primarily as Conchita’s husband; he seems to be a secondary character. It is clear they are no longer close and that the wife has a far more romantic outlook than the husband. As the action progresses and Conchita is drawn to Juan Julian, the lector or reader, Palomo criticizes the reader obliquely by criticizing the book he is reading, Anna Karenina. Conchita uses this as an opening to talk about the problems in their marriage. “You don’t make love to me like you used to,” she states.

As her husband hems and haws, fishing for words, she reassures him. At this point the possible issue of sexual identity arises. Conchita again uses the book to help make her point.

"It’s all right, Palomo. It’s all right. (She touches his arm.) There’s something that Anna Karenina said and I keep repeating it to myself: “'If there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.'” I can try to love you in a different way. I can do that. And you should try to do the same . . . ."

Later, after it is clear that Conchita is having an affair with Juan Julian, Palomo accuses her of being in love with him, and she shoots back, accusing him.

PALOMO: You’ve been looking at him the whole night. You’re still in love with this man.

CONCHITA: Maybe just as much as you are.

PALOMO: I don’t like men.

During the rest of the scene, Conchita tells him some details of her love-making with Juan Julian. Although she claims it is because this might give her husband some ideas about how to make love to her, it seems rather that she knows speaking about having sex with another man will excite him because she knows or strongly suspects that he is gay. The ambiguity is important because the audience cannot be sure if Conchita herself is sure, as she tells her husband that “'nothing makes sense to me anymore.'”

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