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Elena Poniatowska and Her Feminism Essay

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Updated: Aug 25th, 2020

Elena Poniatowska is one of the most popular Mexican female writers, whose works are devoted to the reality of the oppressed, the underprivileged, and the marginalized. Her outstanding personality, as well as her literary contribution, makes her feminist ideas highly respected even by men (Brewster 113). She was convinced that women were even more victimized than they were considered to be, mainly because all their sufferings passed unnoticed. Thus, the primary objective of her journalism and fiction was to break the indifference of the society and to open people’s eyes to the problems of those who are silently excluded from public life (Petersen 104).

She was actually more than just an author – she was, in fact, a kind of intermediary, a transmitter of the events that were commonly concealed from the general audience. Although she had successfully performed this mission before the beginning of the 1970s, the real acknowledgment came to her when her fourth book, Hasta no verte Jesús mío was published. This book is a monologue of Jesusa Palancares, an old Mexican woman, who looks back at her life full of hardships and recollects a lot of events and characters from the history of Mexico (Pérez 265).

Her next work, La noche de Tlatelolco (1971), is a series of photographs with actual quotations that are devoted to the course of the students’ movement which happened in 1968 and reached its final climax when the participants were killed by governmental forces. This publication was followed by Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela (1978), which is a collection of letters written by Angelina Beloff to her lover Diego Rivera, who had left her. The most comprehensive work is Fuerte es el silencio (1980), which comprises a number of articles devoted to highlighting different aspects of the life of the exploited groups of society (Castillo 51).

Despite the fact that Poniatowska focuses on the opinions and the experience of her protagonists, the presence of the author cannot pass unnoticed. She skillfully combines fictional characters with real facts. Poniatowska reveals her ideological sympathy to the oppressed women quite clearly. All her works produce the impression that she constantly challenges commonly accepted traditions, rules, and stereotypical images. Her female characters usually live at the mercy of their fathers and husbands remaining voiceless throughout the narrative. They never receive due appreciation for their love and devotion, and they usually lose the men that they love (Jörgensen 171).

Despite her evident merits as a writer, Elena Poniatowska is often criticized for her style that, according to some critics, is difficult for foreign readers to understand and appreciate. Besides, the combination of the real and the fictional makes the narrative hardly credible. Others also point out that, unlike other feminists, she does not offer any way out for women and does not even try to solve those problems that are raised in her books (Marquez 11).

As far as I am concerned, I was deeply impressed by Hasta no verte Jesús mío and cannot agree with the critical reviews of Elena Poniatowska’s novels. It seems to me that these chronicles managed to obtain great significance due to the fact that without them a lot of people would still be completely unaware of the issues the author tries to draw our attention to. Her works give a researcher a great source of information concerning the cultural, economic, political, and psychological atmosphere of the country of that time. Moreover, in the eyes of any concerned reader she achieved something of even a higher value: in her novels devoted to women, Poniatowska managed to bridge the gap existing between indifference and love.

Works Cited

Brewster, Claire. “Elena Poniatowska: Then, Now and Forever.” Diálogo 17.1 (2014): 113-118. Print.

Castillo, Debra A. “Engaging Intellectuals: Andrés Henestrosa and Elena Poniatowska.” Mexican Public Intellectuals. Palgrave Macmillan US, 2014. 45-69. Print.

Jörgensen, Beth E. “Feminism and the Mexican Woman Intellectual from Sor Juana to Poniatowska. Boob Lit by Emily Hind (review).” Hispanófila 168 (2013): 170-172. Print.

Marquez, Ivan. “Performativity, social ontology, and the uses of narratives in latin America.” Comparative Philosophy 6.1 (2015): 9-16. Print.

Pérez, Ramona. “Practising Theory through Women’s Bodies: Public Violence and Women’s Strategies of Power and Place.” Feminist post-development thought: Rethinking Modernity, Post-colonialism and Representation. Ed. Kriemild Saunders. London: Zed, 2002. 263–79. Print.

Petersen, Amanda L. “The ruinous maternal body par excellence”: Coatlicue in the Mexican Imaginary (from the monolith to Elena Poniatowska).” Letras Femeninas 40.1 (2014): 103-118. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Elena Poniatowska and Her Feminism." August 25, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/elena-poniatowska-and-her-feminism/.

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