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  • War Echoes: Gender and Militarization in U.S. Latina/o Cultural Production by Ariana E. Vigil
  • Liz Montegary (bio)
War Echoes: Gender and Militarization in U.S. Latina/o Cultural Production. Ariana E. Vigil. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2014. 250 pages. $26.95 paper. $85.00 cloth.

Warfare, Ariana E. Vigil argues, is “a significant catalyst for social, political, and artistic developments” (3). Without obscuring the devastating effects of armed conflict, War Echoes: Gender and Militarization in U.S. Latina/o Cultural Production shows how histories of US state violence and ongoing processes of militarization reverberate through Latina/o cultural productions and inspire creative strategies for forging collective identities and transnational solidarity. In this literary cultural studies project, Vigil approaches the texts in her archive not as static “products” to be comfortably consumed but as dynamic “productions” in which artists and audiences join in a “continual process of creating and enacting” (7). She situates these war narratives with respect to particular cultural and political contexts to “offer a more complex account of the ways U.S. Latinas/os have participated in, protested against, and formed relationships with U.S. militarism” (2). By placing gender and sexuality at the center of her analysis, she understands these texts as “vehicles for thinking about” the linkages between oppressive state regimes, heteropatriarchal nationalisms, and intimate relations (21).

In her introduction, Vigil describes her archive as providing a “glocal” perspective. She positions her work as building on the traditions of transnational Latina feminism and transnational feminist literary and cultural studies (8); yet, she takes issue with what she perceives as the failure of transnational approaches to address the interplay between local experiences and global structures (5). Glocal, she believes, allows her to advance a multi-scalar analysis of everyday life’s entanglement with political and economic realities while also attending to the militarized regulation of race, gender, and sexuality in different US Latina/o and Latin American spaces. In doing so, she not only answers the call for a transnational Latina/o studies that engages how US Latina/o identities are “a consequence of U.S. militarism and neoliberalism” (10) but also resists the [End Page 232] “homogenizing potential” of the category Latina/o by illuminating the “continuities and discontinuities” within Latinidad (18). However, at times she seems to conflate the terms transnational and non-national, a move I found confusing given how the transnational identities she describes are always forged in relation to and through negotiations with the nation-state.

The first three chapters of War Echoes: Gender and Militarization in U.S. Latina/o Cultural Production illustrate how texts grappling with the residual effects of US military intervention in Central America instigate “new and necessary considerations of Chicana/o and Latina/o positions and perspectives” (17). Vigil showcases narratives that mobilize multiple voices to make sense of the state and interpersonal violences that ravage different Latina/o populations in uneven ways. Chapter One, “Gender, Difference, and the FSLN Insurrection,” juxtaposes Lourdes Portillo and Nina Serrano’s film Después del Terremoto (1979) against Alejandro Murguía’s collection of short stories Southern Front (1990). While both texts emerge from the Nicaraguan solidarity movement and gesture toward new identity formations, Lourdes and Portillo advocate a transnational praxis organized around “communication and the recognition of difference” (61), which is at odds with Murguía’s desire for a pan-Latina/o identity based on “violence, domination, and sublimation” (63). Chapter Two, “‘I Have Something to Tell You’: Polyvocality, Theater, and the Performance of Solidarity in U.S. Latina Narratives of the Guatemalan Civil War,” reads Sr. Dianna Ortiz’s testimonio The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth (2002) alongside Ana Castillo’s 2005 play inspired by Ortiz’s story. In addition to deploying multiple subject positions to denounce rape, torture, and state impunity, Ortiz and Castillo ask audiences to “bear witness” to militarized (sexual) violences and to “take action” against such injustices (86). Chapter Three, “Demetria Martínez’s Mother Tongue and the Politics of Decolonial Love,” examines what can happen when lovers allow histories and politics to enter their romantic lives. Chronicling the failed relationship between the Chicana...


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