Women in Latin American Guerrilla Movements: A Comparative Perspective

Citation:

Reif, Linda L. 1986. "Women in Latin American Guerrilla Movements: A Comparative Perspective." Comparative Politics 18 (2): 147-69.

Author: Linda L. Reif

Abstract:

Guerrilla warfare in Latin American revolutionary movements has until recently been regarded as an exclusively male domain of political behavior. North American analysts have tended to consider Latin American women's political behavior largely in terms of conventional democratic processes such as voting, reflecting both ethnocentricity and gender bias. Major works on guerrilla warfare have also failed to provide even cursory information on the role of women. Latin American women, however, have contributed to the guerrilla struggles of past revolutionary movements, though not in extensive numbers. With the influx of numerous women into the Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan movements, analysts have been forced to acknowledge and reconsider women's contributions to armed struggles. This paper delineates and compares patterns of women's participation in the guerrilla struggles of Latin American revolutionary movements. While some analysts have limited the term '"guerrilla" to forces fighting only in the countryside, others, including guerrilla leaders themselves, refer to both urban and rural forces. This paper assumes the latter definition. Guerrillas are members of political organizations operating in both rural and urban areas which use armed warfare for the purpose of changing societal structure. Latin America's historically dependent position in the world capitalist system indicates that past revolutionary struggles have been directed at colonial powers as well as internal political elites that arise from each nation's specific pattern of dependency. Three questions are discussed in regard to women's participation in guerrilla struggles. First, what factors constrain Latin American women's participation as compared to men's? Second, within gender, which classes face the least barriers to participation? Finally, what roles do "guerrilleras" most likely perform'? Expected patterns of participation are de-lineated in light of these questions. Guerrilla struggles in five nations are then compared to demonstrate the extent that the patterns of participation hold.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-state armed groups, Political Participation Regions: Americas

Year: 1986

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