Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lideresa y otros asuntos: respuestas a unos comentarios//"Lideresa" and other things: responding to some commentaries

One  of the regular readers of this blog is a friend who doesn't want big bad Google to have any more of his/her information that it already has, so will post no comments on the blog but instead sends them to me via email. I usually respond privately but then you (whomever you are beyond the 16 brave souls who are willing to let the world know they are "followers") don't get to hear the benefit of our dialogue, so I thought I'd share some of this.

In a recent post (which I wrote solely in Spanish and haven't translated into English yet; sorry), I used a word, "lideresa", to mean a female leader.  "Lider" is the masculine variant. Apparently this word does not exist in Spanish, or at least not the Spanish that my friend, a native speaker from Cuba, speaks. Spanish, however, like every language in the world, is adapted in different countries, different situations, and even local or regional variations within the same country. The Spanish spoken in Havana's "inner city" neighborhoods is not the same as the Spanish spoken in the countryside. And so it is here in Guatemala. The organization with which I work, a women's organization, does a lot of leadership training for women, and lideresa is a term frequently used in their discourse.  

They --and many other women activists here in Guatemala -- also make a point of using both male and female pronouns and other identifiers. Spanish, as anyone who struggled through it in high school knows, is a gendered language. Nearly everything -- a table, a flower, a radio station -- is gendered either male or female. We were taught that when one refers to mixed groups of people ("we" or "you" or "the students"), one always uses the male identifier ("nosotros" for we, "ellos" for them) to include both male and female participants.  Only when one is referring to an all-female group (an all-female group of teachers would be "las maestras", but a mixed group would be "los maestros").  However, nowadays, at least among the circles in which I travel, the women (and some of the men) make a point of saying "ellas y ellos" -- they (f) and they (m) -- rather than letting "ellos" stand for everyone. "Hermanas y hermanos" (brothers and sisters), rather than just "hermanos." It will be interesting to see how widespread these changes in everyday usage become.

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