Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War

Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War

Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War

Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War

Synopsis

In this first book-length study of the role women played in two of the most momentous revolutions of the twentieth century, Tabea Alexa Linhard provides a comparative analysis of works on the Mexican Revolution (circa 1910-1919) and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Linhard was inspired by the story of the "Trece Rosas," about thirteen young women who, after the Spanish Civil War ended with the Nationalists' victory, were executed. One of the women, Julia Conesa, was particularly influential. In a letter she wrote to her mother a few hours before she faced the firing squad, she said, "Do not allow my name to vanish in history." Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War is Linhard's attempt to respond to Julia's last request. Although female figures such as the soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution and the milicianas of the Spanish Civil War are abundant in writings about revolution and war, they are often treated as icons, myths, and symbols, displacing the women's particular and diverse experiences. Linhard maintains a focus on these women's stories, which until now-when presented at all-have usually been downplayed in literary canons, official histories, and popular memories. She addresses several existing gaps in studies of the intersections of gender, revolution, and culture in both the Mexican and the Spanish contexts. The book is grounded in transatlantic studies, an emerging field that bridges disciplinary boundaries between Peninsular studies and Latin American studies. In this case, the connection between the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War is a natural consequence of the disjointed conditions out of which arose the cultural texts in which fearless women appear. Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War will be especially valuable to scholars of early twentieth-century Peninsular and Mexican literature and culture. It will also be a useful resource in gender studies and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of revolution, war, and culture.

Excerpt

The story of Fearless John, the youth who went forth to learn what fear is, or "Juan sin Miedo" in Spanish, is a popular folktale. The main character's predicament is well known: in spite of facing the most terrible and frightening appearances, he does not sense an ounce of dread or terror. Yet Juan envies the sensation that everybody who surrounds him seems to know all too well but that he has never experienced. Secretly, he suspects that learning what terror or dread is will open up a whole new world of sensations. Unacquainted with fear, Juan also lacks feelings, emotions, and curiosities. The young country lad therefore embarks on a journey to discover the missing sensation. Juan finally stumbles upon fear when he least expects it: as a leaf falls from a tree and lands on his nose, or as a raindrop wakes him into cold sweat and horror. Finally, the feelings he never knew but that he had been longing for open up to him thanks to a trivial event. The story's end is happy one, as the young man's restored fear makes him experience an entire array of emotions he had not known before.

Yet not all stories of fearlessness share such a comforting conclusion. Women participating in revolutionary struggles in the early twentieth century—particularly the Mexican Revolution (1910–1917) and the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)—became fearless, a quality that undoubtedly had two contradictory meanings. Losing fear connotes courage, as fearless women are not afraid to participate in a violent and uncertain revolutionary struggle. Yet lacking fear also connotes insensitivity, as exposure to the brutality of revolution and war bereaves fearless women of feelings and emotions. Rather than being antagonistic, both understandings of fearlessness represent two sides of the same coin. Thus, the expression "fearless women" at the same time refers to emancipating possibilities and domesticating gestures that permeate most representations of revolutionary women. The term emancipation refers to the ways in which ideological narratives ascribe to women participating in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War possibilities, responsibilities, and access to the public domain. Within discourses of emancipation, the traditionally domestic, private, and feminine domain is no longer understood as separate from the traditionally public and masculine domain. Moreover, revolutions also reveal that the boundary between the public realm and the private or domestic realm is a gendered construction. Dis-

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