"THE WOMEN IN MY country have allowed themselves to be more imbued with the fatal consequences of the morbid and corrupt relations with the Yankee than the men," an anonymous Dominican author (most likely a man) claimed in 1921, in the midst of the occupation of his country by U.S. marines. (1) One might attribute the comment to a nationalist looking for someone to blame. Or perhaps to a man whose woman chose to love a marine instead of him. But, absent the vitriol, was it wrong? Did women under occupation have a different relationship with forces of occupation than did men?
The three longest Latin American occupations in U.S. history, those of Nicaragua (1912-1933), Haiti (1915-1934), and the Dominican Republic (1916-1924), are all well documented and may be good places to attempt to answer those questions. These were all hierarchical societies where class, race, and gender differences were discernible and meaningful. At the same time all three underwent similar processes of having their governments and, to a varying degree, other institutions taken over, or at least indirectly controlled, by the same foreign power. They therefore present the opportunity to analyze both differences and especially similarities in the ways women responded to occupation and how these responses were different from men's. To attempt these tasks, one must focus not only on women who openly opposed or supported occupation but on the vast majority of women who, ignored by outside observers, nevertheless struggled to adjust to foreigners wielding guns. Their voices are hard to hear, but they do exist, scattered in the three languages, five countries, and dozens of archives in which the research for this article took place.
A study of women during these occupations does, as the Dominican writer suggested above, uncover a different response from that of men, but rather than more "morbid and corrupt," I suggest that it was more personal and ambivalent. Women responded to these occupations in ways that reflected gendered aims, a consciousness of women's needs and grievances as distinct and worth pursuing. Those aims were less formally political than those of men but still political in the sense of fighting against power structures that harmed women. Latin American women's activities under U.S. occupations indicated what might be intuitive but rarely highlighted in the scholarship of gender and international relations: that women respond to occupations as women first and as nationalists second.
VICTIMS AND SYMBOLS
Historians have barely scratched the surface of women's resistance to U.S. occupations in Latin America, a neglect that allowed misconceptions born in the occupation era to survive. This is understandable since U.S. government and other archives concerned with occupations do not have collections or even boxes devoted to issues concerning women. At most, a scholar might find a folder on prostitution as a concern of marines, but often even that is subsumed under "public health" concerns. Because of this "invisibility" of women, only a few scholarly articles have discussed them under any of these three occupations, and only peripherally. (2) Major books on the occupations devoted attention to women but tended to provide anecdotes rather than comprehensive analysis. More commonly, given that the bulk of the evidence about these occupations comes from Navy and State Department archives, historians focusing on gender have emphasized not women's agency but rather imperial agency, the sexist imperial "gaze" of Yankee occupiers. Mary Renda's brilliant Taking Haiti, for instance, applies a cultural studies lens to masculinity and paternalism within U.S. imperialism rather than to the consciousness of women. (3) As a result, Renda's work unwittingly relegates women to the role of recipients of the occupations, as objects of primitivist desire, victims of rape and sexual harassment, or characters in pulp fiction.
Delving into the agency of women fills a gap in the history of the occupations and of women in Latin America. Looking at women's responses across three occupations also allows for comparisons and contrasts that will be of interest to scholars of Latin America and of empire generally. These comparisons add texture to the rich feminist work already done exploring cross-national genderings of colonization, whether overtly military or not. (4) Doing all of the above, finally, responds to current trends in the history of U.S. relations with the world by exploring the intersections of military strategy, feminist consciousness, masculinity, nationalism, imperialism, and race.
These case studies also complicate the broadest theoretical question of the impact of occupations on women's political power. Most who have studied this question wrestled with the dilemma between feminism and nationalism. The reigning interpretation says that occupations, like other forms of imperialism as discussed by Cynthia Enloe, have pressured feminists to abandon or suspend their fight in favor of more immediate struggles of national liberation led almost exclusively by men. (5) In the last few decades the occupation of the Palestinian territories and Iraq have underlined the dilemma. (6) On Iraq, Nadje Al-Ali and Nicola Pratt recently restated the argument that nationalists have once again superseded the feminist movement, not only by claiming their greater importance but also by assigning to women subservient nationalist roles as transmitters of national culture and rhetorical pawns. (7)
Documents from Latin-American occupations, produced almost entirely by men, tended to solidify this interpretation of women as victims or symbols* Anti-occupation activists noted hundreds of times that U.S. marines raped and harassed women and inflicted other suffering on "women and children." Leaving these victims nameless was a rhetorical tactic meant to stir in nationalist men a sense of outrage and of duty to protect their honor rather than to redress individual injustices. (8) An example was the ode of Dominican poet Fabio Fiallo, "The Anguish of Santo Domingo: Holy Crusade to the Women of America." It read in part:
There the wind blows ashes of a fire Which devoured women, children and old men; Here rises the tomb of an immature virgin, killed By the multiple outrages of savage soldiery. ... Do you turn pale, Matrons, Do you tremble for your sons? Are you frightened, maidens? Do you fear for your honor? And do you flee, terrified, carrying a picture of The awful doom which the Saxon is preparing for you? Go chaste maidens; run, worthy matrons, Carry to your men the startling vision Of our wasted fields, the hearth in ashes, The virgin profaned, the sons in torture. On guard, noble women; bring out of lethargy In which they lie sleeping, your brave men, And in the face of common danger, form at last the alliance Of the brave cubs against the grim vulture. (9)
Fiallo not only invokes the very real fear of sexual violation but also paradoxically circumscribes the role of women in resistance: to flee, to fear, to inform men of U.S. atrocities, and to call men to arms. Women, in other words, are not to fight back.
Likewise, anti-occupation leaders portrayed women as symbols of the downtrodden nation's pathos and sentimentality. Dominican historian Jose Ulises Franco praised a schoolteacher who handed her nation's flag to a Dominican lieutenant to replace the U.S. flag upon the departure of the marines. In an act that transferred Catholic piety onto nationalist devotion, all the women present kissed the ground, prompting the otherwise stony lieutenant to break into tears. (10) Dominicans and others repeatedly assigned women the marginal role of invoking the pure sentimentality of nationalism. It followed, just as it did Fiallo's verse, that women were to avoid a set of political acts reserved for men, such as armed struggle, political writings, and political speeches. In all cases women were to refrain from expressing anger, sarcasm, ambivalence, or any other tone that might convey authority, individuality, subtlety, or national division.
Fiction by nationalist men also asserted the symbolic (im)potency of women. Writers under these three occupations produced over a dozen novels and plays that portrayed relations between occupiers and occupied. (11) The most remarkable recurrence in them is the depiction of romantic relationships as allegories of international politics. Two plays, one Haitian, the other Dominican, even had titles that both translated as Marriage, Yankee-Style. (12) And within these relationships, women, more often than not, played weak and capricious characters who gave in to marines, while male counterparts displayed true nationalist conviction. (13)
Women's realities were more complicated than men's rhetoric, fiction, and collective memory would make us believe albeit not self-consciously feminist. The occupations of Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic did take place in a proto-feminist age without female suffrage and little trace of even first-wave feminist organizations. So why would women defend a nation that gave them no political rights? Women who organized politically did so largely for the antioccupation cause. Paradoxically, however, this political subsuming into men's political goals gave women a key space in which to prepare themselves for their own struggles: They articulated arguments that were somewhat different from those of men; they sometimes found success where men did not; and, most important, they transcended the role of victims or symbols that men assigned them.
The historical scholarship on women in resistance to U.S. occupations has focused on the possibility of women fighting alongside guerrillas, with the intent of finding historical antecedents to contemporary guerrilla women. (14) This emphasis is misplaced because it looks for evidence of equal participation among women and men where little existed and neglects equally meaningful political participation at the margins of violent resistance.
Women could certainly be violent in the face of foreign occupation. The 1912 Nicaraguan civil war was a case in point, especially in Leon. In August of that year, when a Honduran general entered the town, insurgents trapped his 450 men in a square surrounded by houses and fired upon them. A British consul noted that "an unpleasing feature of this engagement, or rather massacre, at Leon was that the women were armed and fought with even greater ferocity than the men." (15) A few days later a U.S. captain wrote in his diary that he was unable to leave Leon because of hostility on the railroad: "Even women spat at us, many women were armed with rifles and machetes, it was a crazy mob." (16) And in the single most humiliating event of the U.S. intervention in that war, Navy Captain Warren Terhune and his troops fled their own train as Leonese inhabitants attacked it, forcing the bluejackets to march thirty miles back to Managua. "Oh, you don't know that crowd," explained Terhune upon his return. "They're bloodthirsty. Even the women spit in your face. One of those female demons sharpened her bolo on the very window where I was sitting in the train." (17)
Later, in the 1920s, women fought as guerrillas, though they were few and may never have been accepted by men as full-fledged armed combatants. In the Dominican Republic, historian Bruce Calder notes, "women and sometimes whole families joined the insurgent bands." (18) To "join" a band was not necessarily to fight in one. And the evidence for fighting does exist, but it is slight. One marine noted that a band of insurgents of thirty-three included three women, yet he added nothing about their role within the band. (19) Another incident showed direct participation by a woman: In 1919, marines looking for "bandits" approached the back door of a suspicious home. As they did, "a woman flung herself at Sergeant Davey and grappled with him." (20) He shook her loose but insurgents immediately fired upon the house, which hid another insurgent and his four children, some of whom were "severely wounded" by the …