Browdy De Hernandez, Jennifer. WOMEN WRITING RESISTANCE: Essays on Latin American and the Caribbean. 2003. South End Press, USA.

“Justice forgets about the dead women of Juarez”
On that mountain near
El Mozote in El Salvador
Where they took them away
Young girls as petite as their rag dolls.”

from Death in the Desert: The Women of Cuidad Juarez by Marjorie Agosin.

Nearly all the writers in this collection now live and teach in the USA, an ironic situation when one considers the role of the USA in supporting the oppression that many of them fled. Cherrie Moraga, a USA born Chicana, recognizes this when she asks herself: How can I, as a Latina, identify with those who invade Latin American land? George Bush in not my leader, I did not elect him, although my taxes pay for the Salvadoran Army´s guns. We are a living breathing contradiction, we who live en las entranas del monstruo.

Twenty women writing resistance represent a wide historic and geographic range, from the island of Antigua to the mountains of Guatemala where Rigoberta Menchu witnessed massacres of peasants to cities in Argentina, the birthplace of Ruth Irupe Sanabria who credits her spirit of resistance to her mother and her mother´s parent who passed down to her a disdain for supremacy and oppression.

Elena Poniatowska of Mexico observed and documented a massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Tlatelolco in 1968, an event which is only now beginning to be discussed in the new neoliberal Mexico. She says, “In these pages there echo the cries of whose who died and those who lived on after them.” The stories of the many who participated and watched in horror as children and youth were murdered are heartrending in their detail. The demonstrators were sealed into a square and shot by troops on the ground and from low—hovering helicopters.

In the final essay, Julia Alvarez reflects on the life of Salome Urena, a poet whose words inspired the new free republic of Santo Domingo and then founded the first school for women there. Her daughter, Camila, lived a conservative academic life in the USA until she was 64 year old when she left to work in Cuba. When questioned she said: Vine a ayudar: I came to help. Alvarez says that this comment gives her courage, the courage to change things through very simple actions. She quotes Toni Morrison: the function of freedom is to free someone else.

In her closing words Alvarez warns against the mistake of copying the power structures of those we resist and says, “I trust that connective, consensus—building, hand—on process which I think of as a traditionally female process with its roots in the kitchen, women working together. Here, let me help you with that.”

Filed under Book Reviews, Jennifer Browdy De Hernandez