Gender Violence in Twenty-First-Century Latin American Women’s Writing argues for foregrounding the violence and contempt against women in the region, which are routinely addressed as collateral to other problems. This volume does not seek to provide an exhaustive study of contemporary Latin American writing on gender violence but focuses instead on ten twenty-first century female writers whose work portrays violence against women within the diverse cultural and political contexts of their countries.
This study recognises the efforts made by some governments in the region to modify their legal systems to guarantee on paper the rights and integrity of women. Yet, the lack of resources and women’s perspectives allocated to these issues show how the governments often silence and undervalue the topic. We thus refer to political violence against women as the proverbial “skeleton in the closet” in such a vast region.
Addressing this issue in Latin America is a complex task due to the specific political and economic problems affecting every country, including structural poverty, corruption, the war on drugs, gang violence, the migration crisis and a production model that subordinates women and others to global market interests. The violence against women also reveals how the male chauvinist ideology reproduces the social and political dynamics of past military regimes, such as Videla’s in Argentina and Pinochet’s in Chile, and those in force in deteriorated systems like Díaz-Canel’s in Cuba.
In taking such violence “out of the closet”, this volume wonders: what does the “resistance literature” to the patriarchal ideology show about each country? What places do female bodies and sexuality occupy in the dispute among male powers for the control of territories in the area? These questions open a space for bridging sociological treatises about gender/women’s studies and the literary approach to how women’s bodies and integrity are mistreated in the region.
The selected writers argue against both subtle modes of violence that happen via silence and discriminatory attitudes, and lethal modes of violence like femicides, disappearances and forced abortion – and the impunity over them. In short, these writers protest the male-led dynamics of violence that devalue women as disposable individuals and appropriate their voices, bodies, sexuality and spaces.
In Argentina, Quien no (Who Does Not?) by Claudia Piñeiro deftly addresses women’s existential dilemmas about their role as wives and mothers in a patriarchal and traumatised society. In Chicas muertas (Dead Girls), Selva Almada presents the chauvinistic and disciplinary rural environment that abandons cases of gender violence and femicides and stigmatises the victims and their families. In Mexico, Lydia Cacho addresses the trauma caused by dysfunctional and misogynistic family environments in #EllosHablan (#TheyTalk), and Fernanda Melchor in Temporada de huracanes (Hurricane Season) masterfully addresses the lethal gender and sexual violence in marginal rural Mexico. In Cuba, Cien botellas en una pared (One Hundred Bottles on a Wall) by Ena Lucía Portela and Negra (Black) by Wendy Guerra address how young women confront a stagnant political-social system led by prejudices against those who challenge the system, mainly young and intellectual women and sexual minorities. In Colombia, Delirio (Delirium) by Laura Restrepo explores how the female body is found at the intersection of delirium and political impunity, while Acaso la muerte (Perhaps Death) by Alejandra Jaramillo Morales presents women as paying the price for the corruption and violence in the 1970s and 1980s. In Chile, Diamela Eltit’s Fuerzas especiales (Special Forces) uses the moral destitution of a young woman who lives in a deprived area of Santiago to create a fierce critique of military, technological and gender-based violence. Carla Guelfenbein’s Contigo en la distancia (In the Distance with You) begins as a mystery thriller and ends as a very human story of jealousy, love and revenge.
Our goal is to continue the analysis of the representation of gender violence in fiction started here in a future volume about other countries in the region, such as Brazil, Venezuela and Central America.
This guest post was written by María López, who is a Reader in Sociology at London Metropolitan University.