The slum, the government, the mafia, the Virgin Mary, corrupt police, prostitutes, transvestites, thieves, drug dealers, cumbia, excess: a pageant of diverse elements combine in the pages of this epic novel deemed to be a ‘revelation for contemporary literature’ and ‘pure lyrical dynamite’ (Andrés Neuman). Slum Virgin tells the story of Cleopatra, a transvestite who renounces prostitution after the Virgin Mary appears before her. Following the divine messages she starts receiving, Cleo becomes the leader of the shantytown she lives in, transforming it into a tiny utopia. Quity, journalist and narrator for most of the novel, knows she’s found the story of the year when she hears about this newly revered nun. But her incursion into the world of the shantytown constitutes a passage to a new life as she finds herself irrevocably seduced by the captivating subject of her article.
The language of this novel is perhaps Cabezón Cámara’s biggest accomplishment as she delicately weaves colloquial speech with references to antiquity and classical literature. The densely-packed, fast-paced prose pulls the reader into the story as the author turns phrases with dexterity, refusing to whitewash the reality of the poor and downtrodden yet jumping deftly from dark tragedy to biting comedy in a way that makes the reader laugh out loud.