Otherness in Nunca pasa nada

The themes that manifest in Nunca pasa nada reflect our contemporary globalized reality and the notion the value of humanity is put into question. The narrative, which takes place in the suburbs of Madrid, centers upon the untraditional marriage between Nico and Carmela, and their relationship with Olivia, their Ecuadorian housekeeper. Hired to care for their child, Berta, and to look after the house, Olivia must repay the debt she incurred when moving to Spain in search of employment. A discourse surrounding the strong dialogical relationship between Global North and Global South manifests thematically throughout the novel. I found the way Ovejero portrays the Latina protagonists to vacillate between standard Spanish stereotypes of Latin Americans and a true representation of the immigrant condition and struggle. Olivia’s housemates reflect this clichéd and pejorative representation of the seductive exotic Latina; often Ovejero situates Jenny and Carla in discotecs drinking and dancing to salsa and reggetón with Spanish men. This hypersexualized vision of the Latina immigrant is reinforced by Julián, who suggests the women use their sexuality and exotic identity to prostitute themselves to repay their debts: “[Olivia] tendría que haberle preguntado a Jenny. Ella se había hecho dos plazas de tres semanas cada una, y sólo con eso había podido pagar la deuda e incluso ahorrar. Seis semanas de poner el culo y ya está: libre como un pájaro” Ovejero (287). This vision of the Latin American woman as the exotic Other reflects a colonial discourse of domination and contemporary enslavement at the hands the powerful masculine identity.

Similarly, the themes of racism and xenophobia are woven through the novel. I argue that Claudio serves as a true voice of the other protagonists´ subconscious; the blatant racism he projects when referring to Olivia and the notion of Otherness is similarly reflected in the actions—while with more subtlety—of the novel´s Spanish protagonists. In a conversation Claudio has with his mother about what will make him a respectful and agreeable child, he responds without pause “La criada de Nico. Dile [a mi padre] que me regale la criada de Nico y tendrá un hijo que respetará sus canas y lo honrará más allá de lo que exige el cuarto mandamiento. … [Ella] no será muy cara” (Ovejero 162). Claudio´s polemic behavior in the novel concerning the idea of otherness serves as a commentary regarding the devalued condition and disposability of the Latin American immigrant.

Similarly, Nico´s sexually predatory behavior toward Olivia, along with the fact he employs her as an undocumented immigrant without a proper work visa and insurance effectively demonstrates the undervalued nature and exploited condition of the Latina immigrant. As the dominant masculine employer and financial key to Olivia´s mother´s health, Nico exploits Olivia, who, while uncomfortable with the sexual nature of their relationship, feels she is indebted to his generosity. While Nico is attracted to Olivia, appears to view her through a lens of inferiority and, therefore, as a disposable commodity for consumption. This is precisely exhibited in a conversation through the matter-of-fact emotionless manner he describes Olivia´s death in a conversation Nico has with the school´s director of studies: “´Nuestra asistenta ha tenido un accidente, ha muerto. En fin. Es un horror. Tenía diecinueve años.´ No le pareció que ninguno de los dos reaccionase debidamente a la noticia. No esperaba que le dieran el pésame, pero desde luego sí que mostraran algo de interés, aunque fuese por mera cortesía Se limitaron a mirarlo en silencio como a un alumno que tiene que dar cuenta a alguna infracción” (Ovejero 279). The reader notices that Nico exhibits more concern over the death of Laika, the family dog, than the death of the housekeeper who looks after his home and child. Ultimately, I found Ovejero’s representation of Otherness in Nunca pasa nada to be both compelling and unsettling, as it shifts between a true representation of the harsh reality of the immigrant condition and standard and biased stereotypes applied to Latina immigrants. It makes the reader consider a sector of the population created by our contemporary globalized reality that is often profoundly undervalued.

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