Narrative Voices and the Liberation Movement in the Mexican State of Chiapas

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This book focuses on a series of indigenista novels of Chiapas, Mexico published between 1957 and 1994 and examines these works of fiction as mirrors of important social, political, and economic realities plaguing contemporary Mexican society, in particular Chiapas. From this narrative sequence, a liberationist discourse emerges that reflects the ideas of Liberation Theology and its approach to the plight of the poor. The authors portray a set of obstacles that impede the liberation process and, in doing so, project movement toward the authentic liberation of the native inhabitants of their novels. Through the theoretical framework of liberation thought, this book shows how literature, specifically the novel, can transcend the boundaries of genre and transform itself into a participant in the debate on multiethnic identity in Mexico. With the 1994 uprising led by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Chiapas has become a global symbol for marginalized voices that struggle to gain a legitimate space in Mexican society. The novels treated in the book outline the context which led to the “¡YA BASTA!” of the EZLN. The content is presented within an interdisciplinary context and, therefore, is attractive to a variety of fields.


“Fiction often provides insights into pivotal political events that are not available through other sources. Professor Wendy Caldwell’s study of recent Chiapanecan fiction is an excellent example. Her examination of this body of work is a valuable contribution to the understanding of the origins of one of the seminal events in contemporary Mexico….. The focal point of this study is the florescence of Chiapanecan indigenista fiction over the last three decades of the twentieth century, a literary outpouring that had not received sufficient scholarly attention before this publication of Caldwell’s work. Her discussion of these novels identifies several common themes, the most outstanding of which is the process of liberation as expressed in these pages. She makes clear, however, that this liberation process is not only a literary phenomenon but also represents fundamental social and political change that has considerable explanatory value in understanding the causes of the Zapatista uprising of 1994 and the larger quest for democracy in Mexico in recent years. In this approach, she relies on the ideas of Brazilian philospher/pedagogue Paulo Freire whose writings on liberation theory have had a major impact in education, theology, and sociology not only in Mexico and the rest of Latin America but also in a worldwide frame of reference.” (From the Commendatory Preface) John A. Britton, Professor of History , Francis Marion University

“Professor Caldwell breaks new ground in a much needed study of contemporary literary production in Chiapas, Mexico, especially in this period in between the generation of work ending with the later novels of Rosario Castellanos in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. and the dramatic rise of the Zapatista movement in the early 1990’s…..This important literature has too long been marginalized, and there could not be a more opportune time than the present moment to bring these Chiapanecan voices to the attention of a broader reading public….Professor Caldwell’s translations of selected passages from the novels help increase access to these works for the English speaking reader and her scholarly bibliography is a very helpful tool for further study…..I recommend this monograph to colleagues and students in course on Central American and the Maya.: - George L. Scheper, PhD, The Johns Hopkins University School of Professional Studies

“Wendy Caldwell’s book brings to the attention of English-language readers the novels from Chiapas, Mexico, that deal with the life and struggles of the indigenous people of that region….What Caldwell’s work shows is that the mid-to –late-20th century indigenista novels of Chiapas not only reflect the seemingly-eternal themes of oppression and marginalization of the indigenous people, but also foreshadow the real-life struggles for justice and social consciousness within the region. Bringing together the theory and theology of liberation with a political-economic understanding of southern Mexico, Caldwell’s analysis of indigenista novels provides a welcome addition to scholarship on Latin American literature in general and the indigenista novels of Chiapas in particular.” – Carol Hendrickson, Professor of Anthropology, Marlboro College

Table of Contents

Commendatory Preface
Introduction: A New Dawn for the Pueblo: Writing from the Margins
1. Reviving Zapata in Modern Mexico?
2. Finding Unity in Diversity: Voices of Liberation
3. Reconstructing the Conflict in Chiapas Through the Novel
4. Women of Corn: A View Through the Gender Lens
5. Identity from the Roots: Land Reform in the Novel
6. Toward the Kingdom: Solidarity Movements and Liberation

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