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  • Ray L.

Feminism in Latin American Literature

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Colonialism drastically changed the way women were perceived in Latin America. In the Andean mountains, indigenous women had equal standing with indigenous men, until the conquistadors introduced a gender hierarchy. This gender hierarchy, at which men are placed at the top, severely limited indigenous women’s freedom and social roles. In pre-colonial Mexico the current day gender binary did not exist, until the Spanish conquistadors introduced it. Although most Latin American countries have been free from colonial rule for over a century, these patriarchal ideals still exist among them, as seen in Naomi's Lindstrom’s Article: “Feminist Critic of Latin American Literature.”

Feminism investigates the traditional statuses assigned to women and men. A common misconception is that feminism aims to knock down men, when in reality feminism seeks equality for all genders. In order to properly combat feminism, feminists must consider all the intersections of femininity, such as women of color, femme presenting trans people, etc. Oppression of any group intertwines itself in everything, one cannot properly combat sexism without discussing misogynoir, the dangers of white feminism, TERFs, and the sexism found in individual minority communities, such as the machismo ideals found in Latin American communities.

The effects of a colonial gender hierarchy and machismo is still seen in many pieces of Latin American writing and the portrayal of Latinas in media. For years many male authors in Latin America have “rel[ied] on cultural notions of femininity,” which, as we've established, places men above women in terms of status and freedom. For many years now sexism is often a large criticism of Latin American literature, but Latina authors have been writing their own stories for centuries, speaking on their own suffering, as seen with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s poems dating back to 1691.

Today we are seeing an increase in Latina- authored stories. Lindstrom mentions several academic articles written by Latinas that comment on their own take on femininity from the eighties, but Latinas continue to publish their own stories in all sections of writing into the 21 century. Some of my personal favorite latina authors are Silvia Morena-Garcia and Elizabeth Acevedo. An increase of Latina writers and promotion of latina led works, contributes to a larger base of women voices and better representation in Latin American literature, and better representation for Latinos in all literature across the world.

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