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

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

Introduction

The Case for and Case History of Women's Testimonial Literature in Latin America

LINDA S. MAIER


Introduction and Statement of Purpose

With a few notable exceptions—seventeenth-century Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and nineteenth-century authors Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (Cuba) and Clorinda Matto de Turner (Peru)—there has been an absence of prominent women writers in Latin America until the twentieth century. Latin American women poets—Delmira Agustini (Uruguay), Juana de Ibarbourou (Uruguay), Alejandra Pizarnik (Argentina), Alfonsina Storni (Argentina)—flourished in the first half of the past century, and one—Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral—became the first Latin American Nobel laureate. A few women authors such as María Luisa Bombal (Chile) and Rosario Castellanos (Mexico) achieved literary celebrity in other genres. However, these women writers were curiosities in the male-dominated pantheon of Latin American literature.

Likewise, women writers were conspicuously absent in the Latin American boom of the 1960s and 1970s. Only with the advent of post- boom literature has Latin American women's writing attracted significant international attention. In fact, it may be argued that women writers— among them, Isabel Allende (Chile), Laura Esquivel (Mexico), Rosario Ferré (Puerto Rico), Elena Poniatowska (Mexico) and Luisa Valenzuela (Argentina)—are the movement's leaders and certainly its indisputable publishing phenomena.

Within the current of Latin American post-boom literature, that is writing produced since 1970, testimonial literature stands out. Georg M. Gugelberger characterizes it as “one of the most significant genres of

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