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Latin American women

From the politics of activism for the defence of human rights, from science to art, Latin American history is peopled by women who have dictated laws and changed epochs. There are those who have dominated the political scene, leading governments for years and fighting to conquer power. And those who every year in the first week of October find the evangelizing strength of popular piety to walk 67 kilometres as a sign of veneration for Our Lady of Luján, patroness of Argentina (shown here on the left). There are those with strong ideals who have fought in the name of a right, of a moral principal or of civil equality, and then there are those who mark an epoch and who signal an important turning point. 

This is the case of Frida Kahlo, born in Mexico in 1907, the first woman painter to sell a painting to the Louvre and the first Latin American artist to present her work in a Paris gallery. Or there is the case of Evita Perón who died when she was only 33 years old. She was the first woman in Latin America to be a candidate – in 1951 – for the vice-presidency in Argentina: her entry into politics was to signal the end of traditional Argentine society. Politics for Evita and art for Frida were the key to their entry into traditionally male areas. Evita was to take advantage of precisely this difference to insert herself into the political scene without disputing, at first, the division of life into male and female areas. Frida instead was to plan an itinerary which started with gratitude for her roots and ended with the right to take part and be politically present in the community. For both what was personal was also political. This is the common thread that unites the histories and different moments of Latin American women: the political dimension of solidarity which extends from Rigoberta Menchú – Nobel Peace Prize (1992) and depository of the culture of the South American Indians, one of the few indigenous people who survived the genocide in Guatemala – to Estela Carlotto, the indestructible leader of the abuelas, the brave “grandmothers” of Plaza de Mayo, whose resistance was not born as a political movement but on the contrary from an elementary human response. These were women from various social classes, for the most part modest, who grew up with respect for social and family authority and with the wish for a normal daily life. They arrived spontaneously at political action from the universality of values and human rights, trampled upon by the authorities. Since the end of the 1970s they have undertaken incredibly lucid, practical and effective political work, which will be the seed from which the consolidation of the current democracy of the countries in South America will grow. Since the 1980s there have been other women who develop community strategies oriented to the renewal of social structures, and who are able to share in the successes of others, rather than seeing them as a threat to their own egos and to the affirmation of their own subjectivity. What methodologically characterizes the Latin American women of these years is their constant reference to real and concrete social events from which derive the conditions for exploitation in various fields. (silvina pérez)

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