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From Grandmother to Granddaughter: Salvadoran Women's Stories

Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 267
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  • Book Info
    From Grandmother to Granddaughter
    Book Description:

    The life histories and testimonies of nine Salvadoran women from different generations shape this intimate portrayal of contemporary El Salvador. The authors interviewed a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter from three Salvadoran families: La Familia Nuñez, members of the upper class; La Familia Rivas, from El Salvador's growing middle class; and La Familia García, from thecampo, the Salvadoran peasantry. The voices we hear convey a deep sense of the world of Salvadoran women and how life is lived in that Central American country today.Each woman tells her own life story, and interspersed with recollections of childhood, marriage, and childrearing are revealing accounts of El Salvador's turbulent political past and present. Reflected in the stories are the vast changes in educational and occupational opportunities for women and the shifts in male-female relationships. Class differences are still a fundamental part of Salvadoran life, but changes are occurring in this area as well.From Grandmother to Granddaughteris a vivid and authentic portrait of today's El Salvador that convincingly illustrates how individual lives can reflect the larger changes within a society.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92450-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Map of El Salvador
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    For the second time in three years I find myself writing a book about women. I have asked myself repeatedly (as psychologists are wont to do) why my work has taken this particular direction. And I am now convinced that the two main reasons are the two individuals I name in the dedication to this book—my daughters, Talya and Maya. In short, the process of becoming and being a father to two girls seems to have moved me to the point where womenʹs lives and writing about women have become an absorbing interest. Call it ʺfeminism,ʺ I guess; and...


    • Niña Cecilia
      (pp. 19-41)

      At sixty-seven years (as she claimed), or perhaps seventy-four (as we reckoned), Cecilia de Nuñez has the manicured and matronly look of a Salvadoran older woman of means. She is short and plumpish but carries herself with the slow, quiet grace of one whose place in the world is secure and respected. Having spent her childhood on her parentsʹfinca(farm) 35 kilometers west of San Salvador, she now lives with her husband in a four-bedroom house in one of the capitalʹs attractive old neighborhoods. However, it was not there but at her daughterʹs even more fashionable residence that we...

    • Monica
      (pp. 42-69)

      The Altamira section of San Salvador covers a hillside southwest of the city. It is one of the capitalʹs newest and most elegant neighborhoods, and many of its residences and mansions have a panoramic view of the city below. An armed sentry protects the entrance and massive walls surround most of the homes. Even its recreational park, Bosque Altamira, has a uniformed guard to provide security for the maids or (less often) mothers who bring the nattily dressed children to its comfortable playground.

      Monica Nuñez de Solares has been living in Altamira for four years together with her husband and...

    • Paulina
      (pp. 70-90)

      We first met Paulina in September 1996, on the same afternoon we met her grandmother and mother. Having discussed our project for an hour or so with Niña Cecilia and Monica, we then asked to meet Paulina. Monica went off to fetch her from the upstairs bedroom where she was doing homework, and in moments Paulina was standing before us: a thin, sad-eyed girl with her long black hair pulled back, still dressed in her school uniform of blue skirt and starched white blouse. She attempted to be polite and acquiescent, but it was apparent that she was not there—...


    • María
      (pp. 93-112)

      On January 16, 1992, after twelve years of civil war, the government of El Salvador and the FMLN guerrilla organization signed a peace agreement. As part of the settlement the government agreed to redistribute some 134,000 manzanas of land to landless and land-poor families. The government also gave these people loans to pay for the land (and has since pardoned almost all the loans) and compensated landowners for the expropriations. Of the 33,600 recipients of this land, the vast majority were former combatants, either government soldiers or guerrillas. In general, each person received about 4 manzanas of land that adjoined...

    • Lupe
      (pp. 113-137)

      Just a minuteʹs walk up the winding dirt path from Maríaʹs house is the house of her mother, Lupe. It is the uppermost house in the residential area. Beyond it, the communityʹsmilpasbegin—each one sown withmaízorfrijol, depending on the season. And still farther up the slope is Mount Guazapa, a tree-covered peak that was the site of fierce skirmishes during the civil war.

      Around Lupeʹs house is a small grove of banana trees that grows almost up to the front porch. In size and structure, the house itself is a replica of Maríaʹs place. But...

    • Niña Dolores
      (pp. 138-158)

      Of the twenty-one houses in the community of Henríquez, five have yet to be rebuilt and refurbished. In one of these Niña Dolores has been living for four years now, some 75 meters down the dirt lane from Maríaʹs place. A wire fence separates it from the newly built kindergarten.

      Like all the original houses of the community, Niña Doloresʹs one-room structure is smallish—perhaps 7x3 meters—and is constructed of ill-fitting wood planks, a tin roof, and with plastic tucked here and there to keep out the rain. The floor of the house is simply hardened earth. A hammock...


    • Dulce
      (pp. 161-187)

      We begin the middle-class familyʹs stories with Dulce Rivas de Gutierrez, in part as a narrative shift from the other families, but above all because her life and struggles have been pivotal in lifting her mother, herself, and her children from the poverty of the lower class to the greater stability of middle-class Salvadoran society. And while her story has its own singular style, the struggle links her to other Salvadorans who have managed, or are managing, to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.

      Today, at forty-nine years, Dulce is a primary school teacher and has...

    • Niña Julia
      (pp. 188-212)

      Just a fifteen-minute drive to the west of Dulceʹs house is the suburb of Merliot—one of many districts that have sprouted in and around the capital in recent years, principally to house the cityʹs growing middle class. As in other such districts, the conveniences and trappings of this new wave of life are in evidence: supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, and that hallmark of suburbia, the shopping mall. Small, boxlike cement houses are the preferred (or at least, the affordable) architectural form here, each one with a car parked out in front.

      Niña Julia Rivas has lived in Merliot for three...

    • Sara
      (pp. 213-234)

      Sara Gutierrez Rivas is the youngest of Dulceʹs three children. At twenty-one years, she is a slim and shapely young woman who moves with the gentle and sure grace of a dancer. Three small silver earrings peek out from under her long brown hair, and a purple heart-shaped amethyst hangs on a gold chain around her neck. Like her mother, she has huge coffee-colored eyes. Yet in Sara there is seldom a sadness, but more often a radiance—the radiance of a young woman in love with life.

      Currently, she is in her third year at La Universidad Centroamericana, studying...

  9. Some Afterwords
    (pp. 235-250)

    This book was originally intended to end on the optimistic note from Sara, hersí, síto life: an incomplete ending perhaps, but one with a certain emotional appeal. However, some of our early readers felt there needed to be more analysis, so in January 1999 the three of us met again to come up with a new ending. We decided to do it in dialogue form. But where, we wondered, should we start?

    GLORIA: The main point, it seems to me, is one that rings out loud and clear in all the stories of the women in this book—...

  10. Chronology
    (pp. 251-254)
  11. Glossary
    (pp. 255-256)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-258)