Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America's Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present

By Susan Kellogg | Go to book overview

5

Fighting for Survival through Political
Action and Cultural Creativity
Indigenous Women in Contemporary South
and Central America

If globalization, modernizing aid, and political and cultural changes—especially war, urbanism, and changing ethno-racial categorizations—often carry negative consequences for South and Central America's indigenous women, there female autonomy and activism sometimes found their fullest expression in native Latin America. In parts of the Andes, where women's political energies express themselves very directly and openly, this is especially the case. No one expressed these energies and her ideas better than Bolivian Domitila Barrios de Chungara (see fig. 5.1), political activist and wife of a miner, who described herself and her beliefs by saying:

I'm proud to have Indian blood in my heart. And I'm also proud of
being the wife of a miner. I'd like everyone to be proud of what they
are and what they have, of their culture, their language, their music,
their way of being, and not accept influences from abroad so much,
try to imitate other people who, ultimately, have given little of worth
to our society.1

A range of visual images—from the almost naked, exotic, sexual-yet-notsensual Yanomami women depicted by Napolean Chagnon and his collaborators in their well-known ethnographic films of the Amazon to the serious and dignified Kuna women of Panama depicted in many photographs2—also exhibits the variety and dynamism of female roles. Like the words of Barrios

-127-

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