Latin-American Women Writers: Class, Race, and Gender

By Myriam Yvonne Jehenson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2 "To Build Bridges"

Victoria Ocampo is one of the most revered and vilified of Latin- American foremothers. A writer herself, she was unswerving in her dedication to making younger writers known thorugh her influential journal Sur, and to fighting "against the wind and the tide," in order "to build bridges between "continents." 1 This chapter belongs to her because she constitutes an essential link in Latin American women's "matriheritage of founding discourses." Ocampo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 7 April 1890, and died there on 27 January 1979. Despite her acknowledged influence on and contributions to Spanish American literature, not until 1977 was she inducted into the Argentine Academy of letters, the first woman so honored ( Meyer, Against, 177-8). An uncoventional lifestyle and feminist beliefs ultimately generated a series of myths that made her subject "to both demonology and hagiography..." 2 Her life is inseparable from her work. Her extensive bibliography of books and articles written in French, Spanish, and English, plus the volume of books, interviews and articles written about her, all bear witness to the magnitude of her impact on Latin-American letters. A brief overview of Sur, the literary journal she founded, her ten volumes of Testimonios, and her six volumes of Autobiografía will demonstrate how far-reaching that impact was. 3

The eldest of six daughters from a wealthy Argentine family, Ocampo discovered early the discrepancy between societal expectations for girls and for boys, regardless of class:

Feminism was born in me when I was eight years old and I heard the nursemaids say to my male cousins: "If you cry, we're going to put skirts on you like a little girl. Men don't cry." This seemed intolerable to me... I knew very well that I had more endurance than those boys, that I did not cry when I was hurt... I wore skirts and I did not cry.... 4

An extraordinarily intelligent woman, she could not be admitted to a university because she was female. Nor could she fulfill her

-13-

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Latin-American Women Writers: Class, Race, and Gender
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • About the Author ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Chapter 1 - Latin American Women/ Women in Latin America 1
  • Chapter 2 - To Build Bridges 13
  • Chapter 3 - Man's Love... 'tis Woman's Whole Existence 23
  • Chapter 4 - Arms and Letters: the Power of the Word 41
  • Chapter 5 - To Build New Worlds 85
  • Chapter 6 - Indigenista and Testimonio Literature: "Let Me Speak" 119
  • Epilogue 149
  • Notes 155
  • Selected Bibliography 177
  • Index 193
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