Thursday, May 30, 2024

Chicanonautica: Poetry and/or Violence in La Gallera

by Ernest Hogan

The cover snagged me like a fishhook through an eyeball. Blazing red, black, and yellow. Screaming roosters. Fighting cocks. I had to pick it up.


It was La Gallera by Ramón Palomar. In español. The blurb called him “el James Ellroy español” and compared him to Jim Thompson. Hmm. Could it be something that could help me in my never-ending struggle to improve my Spanish?

I checked it out and read it with the ready on my phone. And enjoyed it.

Set in Spain—there’s a lot of joder rather than chingar—in the year 2000, it recalls a simpler time before smartphones, and cocaine was more organic than the synthetic drugs of our troubled era. 

Gallera, according to means either “coop” or the feminine version of gallero, a fondness for cockfighting, a cockfighting fan, or breeder of fighting cocks. Though there is a woman who gets sexually aroused by cockfights in the first chapter, the title seems to refer to the coop, in a literal and metaphorical sense. Like the Mexican film genre—search in YouTube for movies with gallero or gallo in the title—the point is that people have a lot in common with roosters in the ring.

Rather poetic. As Alejandro Jodorowsky said, “Violence is poetry.”


La Gallera could be called noir (French for black—why not negro?) but leans more to the conjoined hardboiled literary subgenre. The movies are remembered more than the books. Sigh. Polamar has a James Ellroy/Jim Thompson feel for crime and criminals. Spain provides a lot of fresh elements to the mix. There’s a Puerto Rican colony. Words used in odd ways are probably underworld slang. The coke dealers are Columbian but the irony of the New World invading the Old isn’t made apparent. Even back in 2000, American pop culture references abound. 

The description of a woman’s breasts as being like Flash Gordon rocketships is worthy of Raymond Chandler.

More fresh blood glittering in the sun than midnight shadows and neon reflected in dark, rain-slicked streets.

It gave me my crime fic fix, while showing me a few new things. Maybe it was that it was in Spanish but it seemed like surrealist poetry—without the hot-blooded Hispanics, surrealism would have been mostly dull exercises in Freudian/Marxist theory. Acts of violence become Luis Buñuel scenarios, but it may not be the intent.

I will be looking for more of Palomar’s work. I’ll recommend them to “you nameless assholes who don’t understand Spanish” as William Burroughs so delicately put it. That is if they're ever translated.

He may end up suffering the same fate as Paco Ignacio Taibo II, which reminds me, I should reread some of his detective novels . . .

La Gallera would make a great movie, but if Norteamericano corporate entities continue to dominate “Hollywood” (that is no longer a physical place), Anglo sensibilities that allow roosters to be sacrificed only to the likes of Colonel Saunders wouldn’t want to invest in it, but maybe some futuristic Santeria will have us living on Planet Gallera in a few years.

Ernest Hogan commits literary mayhem. His latest book is a Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song: 15 Gonzo Science Fiction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ernie your writing always takes me beyond my normal. Yeah, i am more of a bullfighting girl, I must have been one in another life. That is, I must of been a bull or bull rider. Just the thought of a bull/bull fight/ matador makes the deepest part of my soul quiver a bit. I went to a bullfight once just to see why that might effect my soul. But, this life time… my body says “GROSS”, but i did keep my eyes open and at times turned my head away. Never had another real urge to do that agsin.