Woman as Witness: Essays on Testimonial Literature by Latin American Women

By Linda S. Maier; Isabel Dulfano | Go to book overview

Testimonio

Present Predicaments and Future Forays

ISABEL DULFANO

The genre of testimonio, originally recognized as a separate category within academic circles by Casa de las Américas in the 1970s has recently been challenged from within the ivory towers by many of its founding theorists. This process is implicit in a volume of essays edited by Georg Gugelberger, The Real Thing: Testimonial Discourse and Latin America (1996), and further manifested in David Stoll's latest indictment of the Guatemalan activist in his Rigoberta Menchú and The Story of All Poor Guatemalans (1999). These academics appear to reject the ideological premise of testimonio, which assumes the possibility of giving voice to the subaltern, and question testimonio's veracity and viability. In short order, they have dethroned testimonio's celebrated icon, Rigoberta Menchú, and exhibited a general apostasy toward the genre as well as the primary promulgators of the testimonial mode of expression.

Many testimonios written since the 1970s feature principally women authors. In the Central American region, we find a plethora of indigenous writers who voice their perspective vis-à-vis criticism of the dominant socioeconomic and political structures of class and ethnic relations in their respective areas. The trend among academics seems to question the proposition of testimonio, to attempt to desanctify its keenly centered position as the epitome of “resistance literature” and thereby repudiate its validity. As a consequence, the reorientation of Western academe's bias with respect to the production of testimonial literary writing in Latin America prefigures a negative future for the dissemination of the works of two groups. In particular, both women and indigenous authors have zealously appropriated testimonio as axiomatic for their self-definition. Clearly this is a priv

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