The contributions of women to the development of Latin America have often been overlooked. Latin American historians have traditionally focused on the achievements of leaders of liberation and independence movements, revolutionaries, and dictators, many of whom are men. Likewise, other disciplines such as economics and political science have tended to dismiss gender concerns in analyses of instability, underdevelopment, and poverty in the region. However, the women's liberation movement has resulted in a growing interest in gender inclusivity. With the growth of research being done on women's studies in Latin America, it is imperative to consider a feminine perspective in the analyses of gender issues. As such, a female perspective is required to enable dismissal of the stereotypes and assumptions about the role of women in developing nations. Any discussion about the development of Latin American nations must address the cultural contributions of women. Thus, this essay aims to explore the contribution of women authors in the development of Latin American culture.
Since time immemorial, women have established themselves as outstanding novelists and poets. The variegated anthology "Landscapes of a New Land: Short Fiction by Latin American Women," edited by Marjorie Agosin, spotlights the literary works of different accomplished female authors from Latin America (Agosin). The book is a landmark collection that seeks to rescue the voices of women authors of Latin America. The exhibition recounts the works of legendary women authors such as Maria Luisa Bombal, Luisa Valenzuela, and Carmen Naranjo, among other distinguished writers. This collection aims to display a wide range of language use, imagery, and themes encountered in narratives written by Latin American women. The anthology is grouped into various parts that discuss diverse themes such as love and its mysteries, Latin American culture, and children's literature, among others. The book explores numerous themes that look into the life, position, and experience of women in Latin society and the world at large.
The culture of political intolerance persists in many Latin American nations. There exists widespread corruption, authoritarian regimes, and repressive powers in many countries in Latin America. The "Open Letter," a piece by Helena Araujo of Colombia, profiles the impunity with which the Latin American governments violate the laws and torture their citizens. Besides, the freedom of the press is almost gaged in many Latin American nations, especially in Colombia. Araujo tells the story of a reporter who had been threatened and beaten upon enquiring about a file containing a prisoner's testimony (pg. 91). Also, the cases of torture are rampant in Columbia, as Araujo recounts the story of a student who had been tortured before being forced into exile in Mexico. Further, Elvira exclaims that "They torture people! They can't deny it!" confirming the prevalence of impunity in Latin American societies (pg. 92). Despite the rampant cases of torture, the authorities are quick to deny any wrongdoing claiming that there are no political prisoners.
Likewise, in her story "The Compulsive Couple of the House on the Hill," Carmen Naranjo tells of the politics in Latin America while referring to a profound criticism of the false ideologies in the society. In her story, Naranjo writes of the entitlement that leaders and politicians acquire when they seize power and become alienated from the people they serve. In the story, the young mayor in his first memo categorically directs that “someone less important should take care of small nuisances, as only the most important matters should come to my attention, those things that require a difficult and intelligent solution.” (pg. 121). Naranjo’s story is a reflection of the authoritarian and repressive regimes that exist in many Latin American countries, where democracy and free will are often suppressed. Through these stories, it is evident that a gendered perspective is crucial in highlighting the political inadequacies that exist in Latin American societies.
The Theme of Exploitation
The theme of exploitation has been discussed in length in this anthology. Peruvian author, Laura Riesco, in her piece "Jimena's Fair," explores the theme of exploitation in a world fragmented by contrasting desires and pursuits of exploiters and the oppressed alike. The author uses symbolic bars to allude to a divided country, where the poor are exploited by the rich. However, the rich inhabitants, despite having the riches and being exploiters are also trapped in enclosed and fearful bars. Jimena finds herself trapped behind enclosed and fearful gates, the old nanny warning her not to go outside. “You can sit here for a while before it gets cold, but don’t go playing in the dirt and don’t even think about opening that gate,” the old nanny warns Jimena (pg. 135). Jimena is disheartened when she realizes that the fence and the gates that enclose them do not protect their family from outsiders but only serve to keep her barricaded in the back yard. She refers to this backyard as a “dry piece of land” because it is neither a garden since it is a dusty place with no grass or flowers nor a barnyard since there are no animals.
Beyond their home, Jimena becomes aware of the existence of many people trapped in the camps being exploited by her family. The trapped poor people are so many such that the old nanny grumbles to Jimena that the “company will have to build another camp someday.” (pg. 136). Further, Jimena contemplates the fate of the poor people, but when she asks questions, the adults become unconformable, only providing evasive answers. In the end, Jimena unafraid, feverish and dizzy from anticipation “runs towards the fair without turning around even once to look back.” (pg. 148).In the face of extreme exploitation in many Latin American nations where the rich exploit the poor, Laura Riesco, provides hope for the exploited that soon they will walk away from oppression and runs towards freedom and emancipation.
In summary, the contribution of women authors in the development of Latin American culture cannot be understated. Indeed, women writers have played a crucial role in the development of arts in Latin America. Through their literary works, leading women authors have shed a spotlight on the issues and concerns that bedevil the society in many Latin American nations. These issues include political intolerance, authoritarian regimes, repressive powers, exploitation, and torture, among others. With the advent of oppressive and authoritarian regimes in many Latin American nations, women have come out of their private spaces to begin to advocate and champion for an end to oppression mainly through the arts. Thus, this essay has explored the works of different women writers such as Helena Araujo, Carmen Naranjo, Laura Riesco, among other distinguished writers who have used their literary prowess to draw public attention to the political inadequacies that exist in many Latin American nations. Indeed, the anthology, "Landscapes of a New Land," reveal the possibility of a new world order of gender equality where women's contributions are noted and appreciated.
Agosin, Marjorie. “Landscapes of a New Land: Fiction by Latin American Women.” White Pine Press, 1992.
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