On Wednesday 3 May, the department of Modern Languages and Cultures welcomed guest speaker Leda Lozier from the University of Georgia to deliver a presentation entitled “Mapping Narratives of Exclusion and Gender Violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (1980 to 2016)”.
To open the presentation, the speaker reflected on her adolescence growing up as a young Honduran woman in the 1980s and 1990s, and how she had believed her country to be peaceful, despite its proximity to its neighbouring countries Guatemala and El Salvador. She referred to the sense of ‘distance’ from violence that Hondurans spoke of at this time, as a misguided discourse which failed to encapsulate the nature of gender-based oppression across the region.
Referring to Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo, best known for cutting herself and inscribing the word ‘Perra’ (meaning ‘bitch’ or ‘whore’) on her body in order to protest against the wave of sexualised and violent crimes against women in Central America, Leda spoke of being inspired by this visceral performance art to explore the Northern Triangle as cultural and political space which produces and perpetuates violence against women. She then went on to explore the literary and artistic representations of Central American women in the work of Honduran novelist and poet, Maria Eugenia Ramos and her short story, ‘Sunday Night.’
A central issue raised throughout the presentation was the role of local level narratives in legitimizing violence towards certain female groups (such as gang member affiliates, or guerrilla fighters) and how they obscure the reality of all women’s susceptibility to violence within the socio-cultural setting of Central America. Throughout the analysis of gendered representations of women through art and literature, however, the audience was given insight into how the prevalence of extreme gender-based violence towards women in the region cannot be interpreted solely as a consequence of militarized violence. Rather, violent and sexualised crimes against women stem from structural and masculinist processes, which engender the female body as always potentially vulnerable to violence. The seminar thus shed light on how gender-based violence is rooted in a historical legacy of structural and gendered inequality in the region, and happens to women ‘because they are women.’