In a country that is known for its patriarchal views and the marginalization of women, some of the women on this list used the power of their words to promote equality. Today Bolivian women are in every position of power and its thanks in part to feminist icons like Adela Zamudio who used her poems to empower and enlighten. The nation is home to the largest population of indigenous people in South America and their voice and struggles are also represented in some of the publications on this list. Bolivians are among the largest group of migrants from South America in the U.S. with estimates around 200,000 and yet little is talked about when it comes to these feminist pioneers and their rich literary contributions.
This week, we’re reflecting on these positive and influential mujeres and why they need to be on your bookshelf.
Considered one of Bolivia’s most successful contemporary writers, Giovanna Rivero has received awards and acclaim for her short stories. Rivero, 46, has published four short story collections including “Las Bestias” published in 2005 and awarded the National Literary Prize of Santa Cruz. In 2006 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and later earned a master’s degree and doctorate in Latin American literature from the University of Florida. She has taught at her alma mater, the University of Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Ithaca College. Her latest book, “The Darkest of the Forest,” is the sequel to “La Dueña De Nuestros Sueños,” (“The Owner of Our Dreams”) and it follows the three protagonists from the original novel as they enter adolescence and one’s battle with bipolar disorder.
Bolivian poet María Mujía is one of the nation’s first Romantic poets and one of its first female writers following its independence. She was born in 1812 and blind by the age of 14 but that didn’t stop her from writing more than 300 poems and a novel. She’s known for her honest and lyrical prose and melancholy and dark verses that led to her being known as the “La Alondra del Dolor” (“The Lark of Pain”). Her body of work was collected by Gustavo Jordán Ríos and published under the title “María Josefa Mujía: Obra Completa” in 2009.
Historian, writer and publisher Blanca Wiethüchter is considered one of the most iconic poets in Bolivian literature. She was born in La Paz in 1947 and starting in 1975 she published fifteen collections of poetry along with several essays, short stories and a novel, “El Jardín de Nora”. She was a professor at the University of San Andrés and organized the creative writing program at the Bolivian Catholic University. She died in 2004 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Yolanda Bedregal de Cónitzer
Poet and novelist Yolanda Bedregal de Cónitzer is commonly known as “Yolanda de Bolivia”, and is the founder of the Bolivian National Union of Poets. Through her works, she explored themes of isolation and loneliness and became known for her portrayal of human emotions. She published her first book “Naufragioi” in 1936 and released more than 20 collections of poetry, narrative and anthologies in the span of her career. Her work is commonly divided into three stages: the first stage explores the human condition, the second focused on symbolism, and the third centers around religion and the darker aspects of life. She died in La Paz on 21 May 1999.
Matilde Casazola is a beloved singer and songwriter who has published thirteen books of poetry. She began writing when she was just 8 years old, taking inspiration from her environment, something she continued to do throughout her career. She published her first book of poetry in 1967 while she was in exile in Argentina where she developed her writing. Her most important works include “Obra Poética” published in 1996 which compiled 12 of her poetry books, and “Canciones del Corazón para la Vida”, a songbook that includes forty of her compositions of writing and music. In 2016, she received the National Culture Award in Bolivia. “My poetic works have often come to me in the darkness of sleepless nights, that is to say they’ve sprung from my conscious as well as my subconscious thought, and more or less in an onerous state. Melodies arise in my mind; they enchant me, and I try to memorize them. The majority of these melodies come with a poetic idea, too, so trying to decipher them and put them on paper is an interesting adventure,” she told the Bolivian Express.
Liliana Colanzi Serrate
Award-winning author Liliana Colanzi Serrate, 37, has published three short story collections including “Our Dead World” published in 2016. The novel, translated to English in 2017, tells the story of marginalized people and the contrasts between traditional and modern worlds in relation to indigenous history and colonization. In 2015 she won the International Aura Estrada literary prize, given to Spanish-speaking authors under 35 who live in Mexico and the United States. Colanzi studied social communication at the Private University of Santa Cruz de la Sierra and has a master’s in Latin American studies from the University of Cambridge, she currently teaches at Cornell University.
Ana María Romero de Campero
A prominent activist and journalist, Ana María Romero de Campero is also known for her literary works promoting democracy and human rights. She was the former Minister of State, first Defender of the People and president of the National Senate. Her books include “Not All Nor So Holy, Chronicles On Power”, about her time in the Ministry of Press and Information and the democratic resistance to the military coup. Her 2005 fiction novel “Crossed Wires” was inspired by her experiences in the Latin American Bureau of the news agency United Press International in Washington DC. Among the numerous awards she’s received, she was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the “1,000 Women for peace in the world” initiative in 2005. She passed away in 2010.
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Cada 11 de octubre se celebra en Bolivia el Día de la Mujer Boliviana; es por el natalicio de su escritora más importante, y una de las precursoras del feminismo en su país: Adela Zamudio. Nació en Cochabamba y desde pequeña se interesó por la escritura; cuando llegó al tope de la educación ofrecida para mujeres en la época, siguió instruyéndose. A los 15 años publicó el poema Dos Rosas bajo el seudónimo Soledad, y a los 25 años sus poesías en El Heraldo, pero su primer libro, Ensayo poéticos, fue recién a imprenta en Buenos Aires en 1887. A esta publicación se sumaron después el compilado de poesía Ráfagas en 1903, e Íntimas, una novela de 1913; mucho material, desde cuentos a poemas y hasta obras de teatro, llegaron a imprenta tras su muerte. Es en Ráfagas donde aparece uno de sus poemas más famosos, llamado Quo Vadis, con el que se enfrentó a la Iglesia Católica. Criada dentro del catolicismo reinante en la época en América Latina, Adela Zamudio se volvió un nombre famoso en su país no sólo por sus poemas en estilo literario romántico, sino que por batallar por el laicismo en el aula. Tuvo una lucha epistolar con el Padre Pierini, sacerdote que después sería obispo, y que vio en Zamudio una enemiga de la fe. En Quo Vadis, Adela Zamudio escribió: “La Roma en que tus mártires supieron/ En horribles suplicios perecer/ Es hoy lo que Los césares quisieron/ Emporio de elegancia y de placer”. Además, la escritora dejó plasmado en sus poemas la precaria situación que vivían las mujeres. Otra de sus poesías famosas es Nacer hombre, donde ironiza sobre las infidelidades masculinas o el derecho a voto. Adela Zamudio siguió luchando por la educación de las niñas y niños de Bolivia, y se convirtió en directora. En su tumba se puede leer el siguiente poema: “Vuelvo a morar en ignorada estrella / libre ya del suplicio de la vida, / Allá os espero; hasta seguir mi huella / Lloradme ausente pero no perdida”. #mujeresbacanas #adelazamudio
Considered Bolivia’s finest poet, Adela Zamudio is also the founder of the nation’s first feminist movement. She was born in Cochabamba in 1854 and published her first poem, “Two Roses” when she was 15 with the help of her father. She went on to become the director of a girls’ high school where she did something that was unheard of at the time- she promoted women’s rights. Her poems are considered intellectual and question religion and other ideologies, mainly focusing on society’s struggles, the revolution, and inequality. She refused to accept societal norms and battled with loneliness hence the pen name “Soledad”, which she used to publish several of her works including the controversial “Quo Vadis”. In 1926 she was given the Bolivian Crown of Distinction award, the country’s highest literary honor. In recognition of her feminist beliefs, Bolivian Women’s Day is celebrated on October 11, her birthday.
Isabel Ibañez was born in Boca Raton to Bolivian immigrants and is set to publish her first book in 2019. The graphic designer, blogger and writer majored in creative writing and history and is a mentor in Pitch Wars for the young adult category. Six years ago she founded the design and stationery studio 9th Letter Press and though she recently sold the company she remains their lead designer. Her debut novel, “Woven in Moonlight”, is a Bolivian-inspired fantasy that tells the story of a 17-year-old weaver who plans to overthrow the corrupt monarch of Inkasisa, it’s set to be released in the fall of 2019.
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