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From Puerto Rico to Cuba: A Feminist View of Social Justice

Elizabeth Iglesias West Virginia University

Prepared for delivery at the 1998 meeting of the Latin american Studies Association The Palmer House Hilton Hotel Chicago, Illinois September 24-26, 1998

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From Puerto Rico to Cuba: A Feminist View of Social Justice Elizabeth Iglesias West Virginia University

Cuba y Puerto Ricoson, de un mismo pájaro las dos alas reciben flores ó balas sobre un mismo corazon ... Qué muchos si en la ilusión que mil tintes arrebola sueña la musa de Lola con ferviente fantasía de esta tierra y de la mía hacer una patria sola! A Cuba (Fragmentos) Lola Rodriguez de Tió

As a Puerto Rican woman and representative of " the other wing," I was warmly received in Cuba with the passionateverses of the distinguished Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodriguez de Tió. My impending presentation on Puerto Rican feminist perspectives created high expectations of rediscovering the commonalities we shared based on gender and cultural heritage. Lola Rodriguez de Tió was a woman whose life was characterized by a profound sense of political and militant spirit (Santos Silva, 1997). The strong connectionthat she felt while living in Cuba was reaffirmed through the significant recognition of her verses in the writings of the
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eminent Jose Martí. Similarly, the commonalities that I found with colleagues in Matanzas highlighted a natural connection between us; one which was easily conveyed through one Puerto Rican woman's words of struggle against oppression and her resistance for liberation.Our feminist discussions inspired questions about Puerto Rican and Cuban societies' acceptance of women's resistance to traditional and more modern sex-role expectations. From Puerto Rico to Cuba, our common roots have been differentiated by recent history and distinct sociopolitical circumstance; thus our psychological wellbeing and perceptions of equity have been influenced in a variety ofways. For nearly four decades, activism and resistance among Cuban women have been encouraged with slogans such as "the strengths of a woman at the service of the Revolution", and with their participation in a "revolution within a revolution," while some Cuban women call for a deeper analysis of gender biases which prevail in their society. During the same period, the collective identity of PuertoRican women has been subjected to a unique form of psychological colonialization. The younger generation of women is especially vulnerable, as confirmed by Dominguez(1996). In Cuba, the changing circumstances of the 1990s have created an urgent set of practical concerns for women that reflect new global realities.

In this essay I will present some commonalities and differences in theexperiences of Puerto Rican women and women in Cuba. Feminist assumptions are by no means widely acknowledged as essential to the full participation of women in our societies, and this paper contends that further analysis of feminist experiences can enhance the development of a healthy resistance in the younger generation of women. Beginning with a brief examination of feminist discussions regarding PuertoRican women and women in Cuba, this essay will present how feminist reconsiderations are essential for fostering young women's healthy resistance to
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oppression. I propose that reflecting on the past experiences of Puerto Rican women and women in Cuba with respect to social justice may have considerable implications for the resistance strategies employed by the younger generation of womenin both societies and that there are losses that result from lack of these.

Puerto Rican Women: Resistance and Resignation

For Puerto Rican women on the island, the decade of the seventies represented a time of new political discourse. In 1972, the first organization for women, Mujer Integrate Ahora (MIA) was formed following public hearings of the Human Rights Commission on "equality of...
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