“I believe in my dead, who are beyond, I believe in beauty, in justice; I believe in the power of childhood, in all that power concentrated in a very small body; I believe in intelligence, in literature, in stories, in passions… I believe in myself”. Camila Sosa Villada (Córdoba, Argentina, 1982) Sitting in one of the corridors of the Cartagena de Indias convention center, leaving behind the isolation resulting from the pandemic, to participate in a new edition of the Hay Festival His eyes water, perhaps as a reminder that life has not been easy.
“It is not for anyone”, she hastens to clarify, far from any victimhood, and quotes García Lorca: “Agony, agony, dream, ferment and dream / This is the world, friend, agony, agony”. For some more than for others, I think, while I take a tour of its history. Daughter of peasants: a humble woman who lost her mother when she was 12 years old and married at 21 “with a man who treated her badly and, at the same time, made her happy”, according to her words, and a simple man , who was beaten as a child “and forced to work almost as a child” and who became violent, perhaps because “he had learned the world that way.” Camila was the only child of that union (her father had two other children from another relationship) and came into the world in La Falda, a town of 5,000 inhabitants just over an hour’s drive from the capital of the province of Córdoba, where a transvestite fell into the same category as an alien.
The childhood years
“I felt very alone, unique in my species, misunderstood and without the possibility of telling anyone what was happening to me.” As a child she had no references to help her understand her gender condition, but she had readings that allowed her to escape from that place where no one seemed to be like her. “I had to focus on myself. I had readings done: Gabriela Mistral, Alfonsina Storni, García Márquez, Borges, what I did have were certain horizons, which had nothing to do with my gender, but with what interested me in the world, what interested me in life.
From the age of 12, he says, he began to dawdle around there, he began to write love poems for a classmate he liked and writing became his refuge, his escape and, eventually, his conviction.
He wrote little stories, love stories told from a girl’s point of view. “I wrote a little novel called “Soledad”, in which the protagonist fell in love with her gym teacher, and I passed it on to whom I considered a friend, she showed it to her parents and her parents said that she could no longer be more my friend, and they went to talk to the school so that they would kick me out. It was literature that created the first quilombo”.
His parents began to rummage through his things and found written evidence that a girl lived inevitably in that boy’s body. The whole town found out, “the gossips told it.” The “machotes” of the town began to harass her, they chased her with stones, they spat on her in the street, they pushed her out of the bowling alleys, out of the nightclubs, she couldn’t go anywhere. “I couldn’t go to my classmates’ houses to do work, because the parents wouldn’t let me in their houses.” Even her father “warned” her that if she didn’t change, they would find her in a ditch. “But I didn’t give up, I didn’t give up.”
The university, the night and prostitution
He didn’t give up, but he left. At the age of 18, he left his town and moved to the city of Córdoba, with the idea of studying biology, but also of escaping from the horror. “It was very dangerous for me to continue there.” However, he assures that he was wrong in the registration dates and when he arrived at the university there were no longer any registrations for the career that interested him. “So I chose communication because one of my stepbrothers studied there; In addition, it was a good option to write, to sharpen the pen and it seemed to me a fairly humanist, progressive faculty, although later I realized that it was pure nonsense, pure blowjobs, that they were not such a thing”.
From the first year he enrolled in a theater workshop offered by the social communication student center. There he met who is still his best friend and, without knowing it, a job that would change his life. In third year, together with his friend, he began to study theater as a career. “It was the first time I felt well treated; On the first day, the teaching assistant approached me and said: what is your real name, that way we no longer call you by your baron’s name. They crossed out my other name and gave me Camila; my classmates, my teachers began to call me that, it was something completely different from what I had experienced in social communication, until the night, the drugs, the lack of love, made me also leave the theater”.
He maintains that the street and prostitution came naturally. “It was inevitable, something that was known: transvestites can only go out at night, they pushed me to that, one day I was leaving the university and a car stopped me, it asked me how much I charged and I said: well, I’ll get up here. That was the first client I had and then I realized that I shouldn’t be alone because it was dangerous, so I started looking for red zones where there were other transvestites, and I was in one or two, which I didn’t like, I had seen one in a park leaving the university and I approached and they saw me small and adopted me”.
For a while she combined theater classes (she had already abandoned communication classes) with life on the streets and prostitution. “I felt like a trafficker, I was dealing in stories: I brought stories from the university to the transvestites and I brought stories from the transvestites that I met to the college, but it was very difficult for me, at night itself, because of the fatigue of being awake, drunk and drugged, it was very difficult for me to go to university, so I was always tired, a very great physical exhaustion, I dealt with it quite well until I got tired and left university”.
She stayed on the street, in Sarmiento Park, in the heart of the city of Córdoba, armed with a dagger to defend herself. “The threat was real, I knew that I had to be able to defend myself, just showing it was enough, besides, we had a very bad reputation, they said that we were dangerous, that we were capable of everything, that I was capable of everything, because I was young , had health, strength, tenacity, that energy of 20 years, which are so wonderful.
Redemption in the tables and literature
In 2008, one of her old classmates from the university, María Palacios, created, as a degree project for her degree in Theater at the University of Córdoba, a play called “Carnes tolendas, scenic portrait of a transvestite” and as the protagonist , from the story and the play, called Camila Sosa.
The piece was a success and from the four or five functions that they had to do as a requirement for the degree, they went on to do four a week, all with a full house. Camila was now a recognized actress and left the streets, as her parents had requested, a year before, through a promise to the Deceased Correa, a well-known character in the popular religion of northern Argentina.
In 2010, the filmmaker Javier van de Couter, who saw her in a performance of “Carnes tolendas”, offered her the main role of his debut film “Mía”, in 2012 Camila filmed the series “La viuda de Rafael”, at the which several plays and television series followed, until in 2017 he participated in “El cabaret de la deceased Correa”.
“The late Correa is a popular Argentine saint who died of thirst in the desert fleeing from some rapists with her son in her arms; The great unknown in the story is what happened to her son, because he is never spoken of again. In that play, towards the end, I play a character called Aunt Encarna, who tells how she found the late Correa’s son in Sarmiento Park and, while doing the play, I thought that this character was good for much more and I started to write “The story of Aunt Encarna and the shine in her eyes.”
From the late Correa to Las Malas
In 2018, Sosa met the writer, journalist, and translator Juan Forn, then editor of a collection called Rara Avis for Tusquets. “He told me: send me the strangest thing you have, I sent him about 30, 40 pages of that book he was writing and he told me: very well, let’s go ahead, continue writing.” The result was Las Malas, a fantastic autobiographical story, full of lights and shadows, joys, tragedies and miracles, based on that group of transvestites from Plaza Sarmiento that earned Camila the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz award for the Guadalajara International Book Fair in 2020.
Today Camila Sosa is a renowned actress and writer. A little despite herself, for many, that reference that she did not have when she was a child and tried to understand herself. “I don’t want to be a saint, far from it, or an inspiration to anyone; In addition, I am very narcissistic, I am very busy with myself, worrying about myself, I am not going to say that I fight for all transvestites, if this reverberates and echoes in others, welcome, I am not going to deny that either, but I am more worried about me and then everything else”.
So much so that he seems unaffected by comments from third-wave feminists that some consider transphobic. “I would not say that this is transphobia, I would say that it is an invitation that they make to us transvestites where they tell us: do something for yourselves, do not use feminism, invent your own party, your own political space, your own movement. That is very interesting to me. because feminism is also rotten, it is a movement that must be betrayed, In Argentina, how many years have they been faithful to Peronism, and are they faithful to radicalism? How many years have women been faithful to feminism? And feminism is a white movement, of women with money who rarely consider women black women, to prostitutes, so I say it’s time for that party to end or, at least, to leave early to have another one”.
Many things have changed since the time when Camila was 12 years old and seemed to have no place in the world. “Las malas” is a bestseller, in February he will stage “Carnes tolendas” again, he has written two new novels that will be published in 2022 and he is making the film adaptation of another of his stories, “Tesis de una domestication”.
“How are you feeling today?” I ask. “Pretty, gorgeous, interesting, intelligent, rich, with that ease that gives money for everything, that which is so hard for everyone to get and that I get in my savings bank in buckets; I feel better than at 20, than at 30, and I also see myself with less patience, I have less patience”.