Out of the Wings

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La chunga (1986), Mario Vargas Llosa

English title: La chunga
Notable variations on Spanish title: La Chunga (The Woman of our Dreams)
Date written: 1986
First publication date: 1986
First production date: 1986
Keywords: morality > honour, identity > gender, identity > sexuality, power > inter-personal/game play, women > marginalisation of, morality > crime, morality > justice-revenge, identity > ethnicity, power, history > narrative

A ruthless pimp, Josefino, with his enigmatic girlfriend, Meche, enter La Chunga’s shady bar on a fateful night. The impenetrable Chunga serves Josefino and his gang drinks but she keeps a quiet authority as they gamble the night away.  When Josefino is flushed out of the game, he sells Meche to the proprietress, Chunga, to get back in the game.  Meche is never seen again.  The possibilities of what happened to Meche that night are played out before us, though we cannot know where reality ends and fantasy begins.


The action takes play in the outskirts of the run-down Peruvian city of Piura.  La Chunga is a tough and headstrong woman who runs a bar frequented by pimps and gamblers.  Four men – El Mono, José, Josefino and Lituma – meet to drink and gamble every night.  We learn that in the past the pimp of the group, Josefino, came with his then-girlfriend, Meche - a young, beautiful and naïve girl, who he sold to La Chunga for one night, in return for cash to go on gambling when he was washed out of the game.   Since that night, Meche has been nowhere to be seen.  Now, some months later, the four men are restless with curiosity about what happened.  They are fascinated and titillated by this unknowable encounter between two women, and each scene enacts the men’s respective private fantasies of what passed between Chunga and Meche that night.

  • Vargas Llosa, Mario. 2006. Obra reunida. Madrid, Alfaguara

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 19 September 2011.

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