If there is anything that I love, it is a strong feminist, holding firmly her belief in all women’s potential to contribute to the world. Women’s rights have made great strides, thanks to women and men struggling throughout the world to open up venues for deep conversations, profound analysis, and difficult questions.
A debate that has raged throughout feminism, and most definitely in the Americas, is how the issue of socio-economic class and educational level has influenced the construction of feminist paradigms and agendas. In Latin America, many women who fight daily for their sisters’ chances to succeed reject the label of feminist because of a perspective that feminism is only a tool of the upper class. However, in Cuba, a mighty feminist presence has existed for over a century, and many of the women of the front line of this battle for rights and voice are proud to call themselves feminists.
The situation in Cuba is decidedly different from that of her Latin American sister countries. The singularly intimate ties between Cuba and the USA (thanks to Louis A. Pérez for that phrase) over the last 150 years, be they fraternal or bellicose, have some impact on the development of gender roles. The other undeniable element in the establishment of particularly strong feminist voices in Cuba has been the Revolution (1959-present)–whose theoretical tenets include a commitment to achieving equality among all persons regardless of gender, race, or other elements.
Despite the challenges that have kept Cuba from fulfilling her promise of the theorized utopia, the last 50+ years have seen the rise of some of the most educated women in the world, who face some of the most trying economic times. Cuban women straddle the divide between intellectual feminism and in-the-trenches fighting for existence feminism.
Perhaps the sharpest and most consistently loud voice of Cuban feminism is that of writer, critic, editor, and former university professor Mirta Gloria Yáñez Quinoa. The homage done to her at this year’s Feria Internacional del Libro in Havana, marking the second tome of her critical anthology Cubanas a capítulo, is commented at length in this article by one of the brightest young journalistic minds in Cuba today, Helen Hormilla. “Mirta Yáñez, feminista de actitud y pensamiento“, published in La Jiribilla, is a must read for anyone who is interested in Cuba, women, feminism, or just damn good writing.
And keep your eyes open for Yáñez’s new novel, Sangra por la herida/The Bleeding Wound, which will be released in an English/Spanish bilingual edition by Cubanabooks in 2014.