A Woman’s Realm
The history of agrarian Bolivia has been analyzed and narrated almost entirely from male perspectives. The group of women quoted in this selection belonged to elite landowning families and were interviewed in the mid-1990s, when they were in their sixties to eighties. They recalled their own lives as children, the memories of their mothers and grandmothers, and everyday life on haciendas around La Paz and Lake Titicaca before the agrarian reform of 1953, which overturned the hacienda regime.
The testimonies depict the lives of women tied to the land, livestock, and artisanal manufacturing, in opposition to the world of politics, careers, and honor in the public sphere. They remember the distinctive spaces that women occupied, and how administering their possessions and even those of their husbands gave them greater autonomy. While the women recognize that they were the owners of the land and of people’s lives, they also remember a common culture with indigenous communities that encompassed elements from food to spirituality. This stands in contrast to the enormous separation and segregation between elites and indigenous communities in the present.