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INTRODUCTION Senti, en la ultima pagina, que mi narrac10n era un simbolo del hombre que yo fui, mientras la escribia y que, para redactar esa narraci6n, yo tuve que ser aquel hombre y que, para ser aquel hombre, yo tuve que redactar esa narraci6n, y asi basta lo infinito. (En el instante en que yo dejo decreer en el, "Averroes" desaparece .) Jorge Luis Borges, "La busca de Averroes" I sensed, on the last page, that my narrative was a symbol of the man I was while I wrote it, and that to write that story I had to be that man, and that to be that man I had to write that story, and so to infinity. (The instant I stop believing in him, "Averroes" disappears.) Jorge Luis Borges, "Averroes' Search" USING Borges as an epigraph to a book that employs testimonio and feminist theories as its points of departure may strike the reader as odd. 1 This book in fact takes an unorthodox approach to testimonio by mixing it with fiction and theory to reduce its separation from other writing, to emphasize its medium rather than minimizing the pitfalls its written process creates for testimonio's political impetus. The medium's relationship with testimonial content, which seeks to break repressive silence, holds a critical key to testimonio 's lessons for the current period of debate about the nature of globalization and who participates in it. In other words, new perspectives on testimonios as non-idealized, subjective and still important tools for human rights-a purpose necessary to the crisis moments of revolutions, genocides and dictatorships-allows more room to approach testimonial texts as the mediations and translations of others' experiences that they are. There has been a shift to 1 I have come across one other instance of Borges used in an analysis of testimonio : Antonio Vera Leon uses "Borges y yo" in his 1992 essay "Hacer hablar: Ia transcripci6n testimonial" (188-9). 11 12 SUBJECT TO CHANGE this perspective on testimonio in the last decade, but the Rigoberta Menchu controversy shows the still heated conflict over these texts' transparent truth value. The dilemmas testimonio comes to represent bear interesting resemblance to those Borges's narrator faces, as does any narrator. Although a central point of contention has been the definition of testimonio and its related novela testimonial, a question addressed further ahead in this introduction, one can safely say that testimonio is based on the previously untold, first-person story of a real individual or group of individuals, commonly referred to as informants , witnesses, testimonial subjects, speakers, or narrators. This first-person perspective, the "real thing," becomes crucial to the account's authority. The informant either writes his or her own narrative , or in mediated testimonio tells his or her story to a journalist, ethnographer, or other transcriber. Mediated testimonial writing forms the focus of this study, although my conclusions are relevant to other variations. Testimonios generally carry the collective import of a group experience-a principal distinction from autobiographythrough a single witness or many witnesses, marginalized in some way. The texts therefore arise from a political urgency, ranging from abuse under dictatorship, to genocide of indigenous populations, to poverty, to insurgent guerrilla movements, to slavery. They thus rewrite or contribute to historical discourse about the particular nation involved, in order to question the status quo and attract national or international attention to the crisis at hand. While they often question dominant nationalist rhetoric, testimonial texts frequently work to construct alternative national identities or are used by others to do so. For example, in Elena Poniatowska's testimonial novel Hasta no verte, Jesus mfo the protagonist Jesusa Palancares denies her Mexican identity because of her almost complete disenfranchisement , but she still comes to represent Mexican characteristics that Poniatowska admires. This identity then crosses into an international context as the story is published. Understandably, the testimonio's production increased during the growing social upheavals of the 1960s, and the Cuban Casa de las Americas prize institutionalized the term as a "genre" in 1970. Nevertheless, testimonio's roots extend into the history of Latin American narrative's mixture of document, fiction and political engagement, and well-known testimonios predate the ''boom," such as Benita (1940) from Mexico and Quarto de Despejo (1960) from INTRODUCTION 13 Brazil, the latter studied in this volume. Testimonio as a textual mode written by or narrated through privileged intellectual channels combines long-time literary concerns with the act of writing and the revolutionary movements of...


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