Book Review: Gender, Militarization, US Latina/o Culture
Ariana Vigil ‘s book War Echoes: Gender and Militarization in US Latina/o Cultural Production just arrived. It is so exciting for me as I have followed her work for many years. I am one of the many who make the cultural productions she writes about. It feels wonderful and validating that someone is looking at the work of artists and cultural workers in this larger context.
Vigil celebrates art in the struggle against war. “…despite my explicit criticism of U. S. militarism and growing suspicion of any military endeavor, I continue to be inspired and humbled by the expressions of solidarity and commitment to justice exhibited by the authors and activists that are the subject of this study.”
Vigil views militarism from the post Vietnam War era and focuses on Central America and the Middle East. From a feminist standpoint, she examines the male perspective of those who supported and participated in revolutionary war like Alejandro Murguia in Southern Front and those who, after participating in the imperialist U.S. Iraq war, reject all war, like Camilo Mejia in The Road to Ar Ramadi. How are militarization and gender related? What is the connection of Central America to the Iraq wars?
Vigil discusses Murgia’s writings in the book’s first chapter on “Gender Difference and the FSLN Insurrerction” where she reviews Lourdes Portillo and my theatrical film Despues del Terremoto/After the Earthquake in great detail with the focus on class, gender, race and sexuality. For Vigil, the book and the film offer two different modes of contending with ethnic, gender, sexual and other differences in the movements against U.S. imperialism. “Despues del terremoto’s portrayal of the life of Nicaraguan immigrants in the United States depicts differences due to gender, age, class and nationality far removed from revolution and at the same time suggests that an alternative path exists between masculinist revolutionary engagement and Western consumption as liberation. Most important, both works share a commitment to the liberatory possibilities of art.”
I met Vigil when she was as a young graduate student and came to interview me about our film Despues del Terremoto/After the Earthquake which is about a young Central American refugee in San Francisco in the late 1970’s. Later, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariana Vigil, as a new university professor, for La Raza Chronicles on KPFA-fm when she first embarked on this hefty project. She helped me to engage our listeners, pushing aside the seemingly impenetrable forest of theory to get to the trees of reality. The book has developed these questions further since then. Vigil introduced me to the work of Camilo Mejia when as a GI he protested the war in Iraq. I then interviewed him for LA RAZA CHRONICLES/KPFA- fm as well.
WAR ECHOES is especially affirming. I have been a peace activist throughout this nations’ headlong march into imperialist wars since the early 1950’s; having participated in struggles for civil rights, mulitculturalism, ecological balance and in solidarity with international liberation struggles. I create “cultural products” such as poetry, radio, film theatre, blog posts, and spoken word as my tools. This book affirms art as a path for fighting back and surviving waves of oppression. I like the book’s title, WAR ECHOES because echoes is a noun and verb, it can be read two ways. Either way we are sick of wars. This century has been one of US invasions, regime changes or support to dubious destabilizing forces in other countries
To say that I enjoyed this book means that I enjoyed it as a tough and rewarding workout for my brain and a liberating one for my spirit!