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Voices of Resistance

Voices of Resistance: Testimonies of Cuban and Chilean Women

Edited and Translated by Judy Maloof
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Voices of Resistance
    Book Description:

    Latin American women were among those who led the suffrage movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and their opposition to military dictatorships has galvanized more recent political movements throughout the region. But because of the continuous attempts to silence them, activists have struggled to make their voices heard. At the heart ofVoices of Resistanceare the testimonies of thirteen women who fought for human rights and social justice in their communities. Some played significant roles in the Cuban Revolution of 1959, while others organized grassroots resistance to the seventeen-year Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Though the women share many objectives, they are a diverse group, ranging in age from thirty to eighty and coming from varied ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The Cuban and Chilean women Judy Maloof interviewed use the narrative form to reinvent themselves. Maloof includes narratives from a poet, a tobacco worker, a political prisoner, an artist, and a social worker to demonstrate the different faces of their struggle. In the process, these women were able to begin to put together their fragmented lives. Speaking out is both a means for personal liberation and a political act of protest against authoritarian regimes. The bond that these women have is not simply that they have suffered; they share a commitment to resisting violence and confronting inequities at great personal risk.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4813-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Acronyms
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Women’s Testimonies of Revolution and Repression
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book contains testimonies of Cuban and Chilean women who come from different walks of life: revolutionaries, human rights organizers, homemakers, workers, and intellectuals. Included here are the personal narratives of a poet, a tobacco worker, a maid, a social worker, a university professor, a journalist, a political prisoner, a secretary, an artist, and a documentary filmmaker, among others. The women are of diverse races—black, white, and mestizo. A Chilean woman proudly asserts that she is of Mapuche (indigenous) descent and attributes her strong fighting nature to that heritage.¹ Some of the women are from large cities, others from...

  6. Cuba:: Six Views of Revolution

    • 1 Women and the Cuban Revolution
      (pp. 21-40)

      To understand the revolutionary struggle in Cuba and the role ofwomen in Cuban society, one must look first at Cuba’s heritage as a colonized country. Unlike the South American nations, which fought and won their wars for independence from Spain early in the nineteenth century (1810-24), the Caribbean islands ofCuba and Puerto Rico remained under Spanish domination until the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898. Cuba’s first war for independence—the Ten Years’ War of 1868 to 1878—failed; it was not until after Jose Marti had led the country into its second war for independence (1895-98) that this...

    • 2 Naty Revuelta Cultural Worker
      (pp. 41-52)
      Naty Revuelta

      My memories of my childhood are varied, as you can imagine. For the most part, I was a rather happy kid. I’m from a family of mostly professionals. We lived a comfortable life, without too many problems. My parents got divorced when I was only three or four years old. My mother remarried a man who worked as the finance director of a transportation company, and we had a relatively high standard ofliving. I remember feeling very proud of my uncles, who had all completed university degrees and had become professionals.

      I remember my maternal grandfather with special affection. He...

    • 3 Aída Pelayo School Teacher and Revolutionary
      (pp. 53-61)
      Aída Pelayo

      When I think of my childhood, I think of my parents, grandparents, uncles, and cousins. We Cubans are rather tribal in that we’ve always lived close to our extended families, and we still do. I had a pretty normal childhood, with the usual ups and downs of growing up. At first I attended private schools in the town where I was born, but after we moved to Havana when I was in the second grade, I began to study in public schools. It was then that I started to become aware of my Cuban identity. At this public school, I...

    • 4 María Antonia Carrillo Afro-Cuban Dance Troupe Director and Artist
      (pp. 62-67)
      María Antonia Carrillo

      I was born in 1939 in the province of Cienfuegos. Before the Revolution this province was called Las Villas. I don’t know if I can even say I had a childhood. It wasn’t much of a childhood. During the early years ofmy life everything was such a struggle. My family was very poor, and we were struggling to survive. There were so many ups and downs. My grandparents lived here in Havana. My father worked cutting sugarcane in season, and during the off season he would come to Havana and work with my grandfather at the Cuatro Caminos market. He...

    • 5 Zoila Elisa Alfonso González Tobacco Worker and Union Organizer
      (pp. 68-75)
      Zoila Elisa Alfonso González

      My name is Zoila Elisa Alfonso González. I was born in 1915 here in Havana. My father was a Spaniard from Madrid, a Communist who had been imprisoned in Spain for his beliefs. Upon his release from prison, he moved to Cuba. Although my dad was Spanish, he hated the repressive colonial regime here, and even took up arms and fought alongside the Cubans in the second war for independence. He admired José Martí and used to teach us all about the life and writings of this national hero. My father also explained to us a lot about Communism, socialism,...

    • 6 Nancy Morejón Afro-Cuban Poet and Journalist
      (pp. 76-91)
      Nancy Morejón

      Like everyone, I have many childhood memories. I have even been tempted to write about these memories because I think that my childhood was a very special stage of my life. It was not only a time when my personality was formed (just as it is for everyone) but an area full of mystery, full of magical things. I was born and raised in Havana. During my childhood and throughout all my life the city of Havana has been very important to me. The city has always had a central place in my memories. My family and Havana, resonant Havana,...

    • 7 Belkis Vega Documentary Film Maker
      (pp. 92-105)
      Belkis Vega

      I was born near the end of 1951, and by the time of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, I had just turned seven. Therefore I don’t remember much from before the Revolution, except for some very strong memories about how my family was divided and torn apart. I come from a middleclass family; my parents were professionals, and I never lacked for anything during the imperialist years. My family was very close; I have fond and happy memories of my childhood. I remember the Revolution as something very beautiful and even romantic. But of course I was too young...

    • 8 Toward an Interpretation of Cuban Testimonies
      (pp. 106-114)

      It is important to note that the tone of these Cuban texts is for the most part triumphant. The Cuban Revolution, although beseiged, was successful; all these women participated in one way or another in that struggle. Some of them (Pelayo, Revuelta, Carrillo, and Alfonso González) were directly involved in the rebellion against Batista; others (Morejón and Vega) took part afterward, as artists in support of the revolution’s goals. All of them are still committed to continuing the Revolution, though not unwilling to be critical ofsome aspects of it. These Cuban testimonies, however, are not uniform. The interviews of the...

  7. Chile:: Seven Voices of Opposition

    • 9 Chilean Women and Human Rights
      (pp. 117-134)

      Although there are few records tracing women’s political activities during the period of Chile’s industrialization, beginning in the 1900s, some Chilean women were politically involved early in the century. Patricia Chuchryk observes, “As early as 1913, in the northern mining regions of Chile, working-class women organized the Centros de Belen de Zarraga to address the exploitation of women workers” (1989, 150).¹ Meanwhile, Luis Emilio Recabarren, the founder in 1912 of the Socialist Workers Party (Partido Obrero Socialista)—which would later become the Communist Party—was writing newspaper articles calling for women’s liberation and women’s suffrage. And throughout the 1920s, women...

    • 10 Elena Maureira Speaker on Behalf of the Disappeared
      (pp. 135-144)
      Elena Maureira

      My name is Elena Maureira. I am from a family of peasants from Buín, near the small town of Isla de Maipo. I was born in a rural area in the coun tryside, on a smallfundo[farm] called Santa Victoria. But I was baptized and received my First Holy Communion in Maipo. I got married in Maipo.

      I met my husband, Sergio, when I was living with my aunt in Santa Victoria. She had a small store there, and I was helping her out. Sergio used to come to buy flour at the store. He was still in school...

    • 11 Mirta Crocco Social Worker and Community Activist
      (pp. 145-160)
      Mirta Crocco

      Let me begin by telling you how I became involved in the struggle for human rights here in Chile. I am the oldest of four children. I was born and raised here in Valparaiso. I’m from a middle-class background; my family is politically conservative. In this regard, I am an anomaly, the only one in my family who was active in the opposition to Pinochet and involved in the human rights movement.

      My parents couldn’t afford to send me to the University in Santiago. That is why I entered the School of Social Work here in Valparaiso. I felt an...

    • 12 Elena Pinilla Domestic Worker and Political Militant
      (pp. 161-170)
      Elena Pinilla

      My name is Elena Pinilla and I was born in 1952 in a mining town on the outskirts ofValparaiso. My father was a miner, just as my grandfather had been. Since my dad was a miner, I could have developed a social consciousness at a young age, but I didn’t. I had a happy childhood. At the Melon cement mines in Polpaico, I do recall that sometimes there were miners’ strikes there, and I remember a dramatic difference in the quality of housing between the miners and the managers: miners lived in overcrowded two-room apartments, and owners and managers lived...

    • 13 Alicia Oyarsún Military Wife and Mother of Political Prisoner
      (pp. 171-180)
      Alicia Oyarsún

      My name is Alicia Oyarsún. I am fifty-one years old. I would like to speak to you about three different stages in my life: my childhood, my married life, and my life after my son was taken prisoner. I remember my childhood as being rather sad and unhappy. My mother died when I was only eleven years old, and my father was a sailor who used to drink too much. Actually, he was an alcoholic who got violent and abusive when he was drinking. After my mother died, my dad left my three brothers and me with my grandparents. My...

    • 14 Rosa Alfaro Secretary and Widow of Slain Youth Leader
      (pp. 181-189)
      Rosa Alfaro

      Myname is Rosa Alfaro, and I’m thirty-two years old. I’m from a workingclass family. I was born and raised here in Valparaíso. My mother worked as a maid, and my father was a carpenter. I am one of six children.

      One of my most important childhood memories was the election of Salvador Allende. I was nine years old at the time. My mom was very active in the campaign, and my older sisters also helped out. It wasn’t just my own family; everybody here in the neighborhood supported Allende. Everyone around me was active in his electoral campaign. It was...

    • 15 Belinda Zubecueta Political Prisoner
      (pp. 190-193)
      Belinda Zubecueta

      I had just turned fourteen when Salvador Allende was elected. I remember that the Popular Unity government really tried to bring about social justice. Allende was concerned about the marginal sectors of society and committed to giving the children of working-class parents enough to eat, a good education, employment opportunities, and access to culture. This was a giant leap forward for us as a nation. It was also the first time that a Socialist had ever been elected president anywhere in Latin America. Allende’s election offered hope to the popular sectors of Chilean society!

      But of course, it became clear...

    • 16 Chiloé Sasso Student Living in Exile
      (pp. 194-210)
      Chiloé Sasso

      When trying to describe the past, we find ourselves faced with a series of personal elements that turn out to be that which enables us to put the past in a comprehensible context. I say “comprehensible” because a child does not understand the true meaning of life’s events at the time. A recounting of our past carries with it our present—who we are. This is because we are what time and circumstances have made us.

      My past and my melllories of the coup in Chile go back to when I was ten. A few years before that, without understanding...

    • 17 Political Awareness in Chilean Testimonies
      (pp. 211-215)

      From the standpoint of their present social and political roles, several of the formerly apolitical women I interviewed in Chile recounted their awakening of class and gender consciousness. For example, Mirta Crocco, a social worker by profession, explicitly addressed the nature of her political education as she became more and more committed to her work with thepobladoras.Her increased awareness of class inequities was followed by political action; she eventually became the president of CODEM, one of the most important Chilean human rights organizations. Likewise, Alicia Oyarsun and Elena Pinilla both told how they were radically transformed through their...

  8. Conclusion: Self-Fashioning through Narration
    (pp. 216-223)

    In the foregoing narratives, memories are the cornerstone upon which each woman structures her story. The intersection of individual recollections with historical memory is rendered visible in these selfconstructions. Further, each woman’s personal testimony contributes to the nation’s collective memory and documents historical events from a nonofficial, nonpatriarchal, feminine perspective. It might be argued that in so doing, the testimonies record the intersection of the struggle for personal and for collective survival. The cultural critic Stuart Hall (1989) has suggested that identities are stories we tell about history, a retelling of the past; these stories also constitute a site ofmemory....

  9. Notes
    (pp. 224-239)
  10. References
    (pp. 240-248)
  11. Index
    (pp. 249-255)