In the historiography of gender in the Dominican Republic, the stories of female martyrs loom large, substituting maternalist sacrifice for a more substantial treatment of women in the national narrative. This is particularly true for the twentieth century, in which the female collaborators with the authoritarian regimes of Rafael Trujillo (1930–61) and Joaquín Balaguer (1966–78) act as villainous foils for their saintly counterparts. This latent historiographical violence against women—in addition to the actual physical violence inflicted by the regimes—has created historical silences that work against reconciling with this difficult period in the Dominican past. This essay deconstructs the mythification of female actors in the historiography and argues that the dominant narratives of “evil” and “saintly” women stilt understandings of the past, perpetuate a paternalist model of governance, and frame women’s political participation around rigid expectations of maternal behavior and sexual propriety.
Of Celestinas and Saints, or Deconstructing the Myths of Dominican Womanhood
Elizabeth S. Manley is an associate professor of history at Xavier University of Louisiana. She is the author of The Paradox of Paternalism: Women and Authoritarian Politics in the Dominican Republic (2017) and the coauthor (with Ginetta E. B. Candelario and April J. Mayes) of Cien años de feminismos dominicanos (2016). She has published articles in the Americas, the Journal of Women’s History, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History.
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Elizabeth S. Manley; Of Celestinas and Saints, or Deconstructing the Myths of Dominican Womanhood. Small Axe 1 July 2018; 22 (2 (56)): 72–84. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-6985771
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