Narratives of Struggle and Resistance in Latin America
Volume 12, No. 1 (2010-2011)
From the eloquent writings of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz to the Laurate winning testimonial accounts of Rigoberta Menchú, Latin American writers have used narrative as an expression of resistance against opression and injustice. Recognizing the power of narrative to promote social change, we dedicated our current volume to the analysis of cultural and social contributions which directly highlight the intersection of narrative, struggle and resistance in Latin America.
— The editorial board of the Florida Atlantic Comparative Studies Journal (FACS)
This study reexamines Clara Barton's mission in Cuba to bring aid to those suffering from hunger, disease and war wounds while battling with bureaucracy and gender constraints. Clara Barton was a quintessential frontline nurse. In the last quarter of the 19 th Century, she defined her work through the American Red Cross, an organization that she saw as a reform movement. From 1882 when she founded the American Red Cross, it became "her" esteemed neutral vehicle providing a means for her direct participation in frontline nursing care during hurricanes, floods or epidemics. In 1898, when she left Washington for Cuba she was 77-years-old at the zenith of her career. Barton's work in Cuba exemplified her unbroken link with nursing, a common creed, a collective identity, that transcended transnational boundaries. The link, however, did not include the common training. After the Spanish American War, the face of nursing and especially army nursing changed. The soldiers' deaths from disease ushered in major health reforms including the 1901 establishment of the Army Nurse Corp. The 77-year-old Barton was not a part of this new thrust and her nursing contributions dimmed in nursing history as did her presence within the Red Cross organization. Criticism of her work, her patriotism and even her person undercut her place in nursing history. The reevaluation of Barton's work, seeks to complement Cuban historiography at the end of the 19th century and to reevaluate her nursing roots.
In this paper, I discuss how key testimonial texts, or testimonio, re-script history, re-define literary conventions and re-inscribe otherwise ignored stories. I argue that Latin American women's testimonio directly challenges the authoritarian powers threatening peace in many countries. I use three case studies: I, Rigoberta Menchú, which denounces military discrimination against indigenous Guatemalans; The Little School, which reveals the Argentinian government's atrocities; and The Inhabited Woman, which criticizes the Nicaraguan government as well as the chauvinism of male revolutionaries. This essay seeks to further recognize testimonio as an empowering and powerful mode of women's resistance at the margins.
Emulating the mythical Pandora opening her box, the acclaimed Puerto Rican writer Rosario Ferré publishes her first collection of short stories entitled Papeles de Pandora (1976) opening the feminist debate in Latin America on gender stratified private space. In this collection, Ferré creates discursive spatial representations in which the feminine main characters rebel against the hegemonic social roles and identities allotted them. This paper investigates the story "La muñeca menor" exploring how, w ithin a well-defined narrative structure, Ferré crystallizes gender relations in the private space through her use of the fantastic mode. the Double, and figurative language to reveal how woman's cultural identity is a learned behavioral pattern established by the dominant power. The author lexically constructs this private space manipulating the use of the masculine and the feminine gender quality of Spanish nouns, thus exposing the intention of converting women into automatons or decorative dolls.
In this essay, I propose to explore several ways in which women spoke out against the dictatorship. This subject has been the focus of films and literature. First, I will examine it from a North American woman's point of view, as Beth Horman struggles to find out the truth about her missing husband in the film Missing. Then I will explore how Isabel Allende raised consciousness through her novel Of Love and Shadows . This book incorporates an actual event that occurred in Chile on November 30, 1978, when the remains of fifteen bodies were discovered in what had formerly been kilns in the countryside outside of Santiago in the village of Lonquén. Next, I will discuss the role of Ariel Dorfman's controversial play Death and the Maiden , who contributed a voice for many through his female protagonist, Paulina. Then I will take to the streets and meet the arpilleristas, who through their traditional tapestries, or arpilleras, have elevated consciousness throughout the world renouncing the crimes committed by the Pinochet dictatorship.
The rise of popular peaceful movements such as the Movimiento Estudiantil Venezolano, which has to some extent filled the power vacuum left by the old opposition, has opened a new national dialogue between voters and those opposed to the centralization of power in the executive branch. At the same time we cannot neglect the international political economic context of Venezuela as an oil producing nation highly dependent on the price of oil for its stability. Therefore, the argument presented here is that the possibilities brought forth by the opening of this new national dialogue, accompanied by a shrinking budget due to falling oil prices, could in time prove to be significant enough to lead to an eventual "democratic transition" in Venezuela.