"Runaway Mothers and Daughters: Crimes of Abandonment in Guatemala, 1898-1944" by Dr. David Carey, University of Southern Maine
Mon, March 29, 2010 • 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM • Garrison Hall, 4.100
During two of Latin America’s most repressive regimes—Manuel Estrada Cabrera’s (1898-1920) and General Jorge Ubico’s (1931-1944)— the Guatemalan legal system was both an extension of the state’s coercive and administrative apparatus and, ironically, one of the few escape valves available for popular dissent. As expressions of patriarchal power, laws often restricted women’s rights and freedoms. But courtrooms provided a venue where women could challenge gender hierarchies and curtail male privileges. Abandono or abandonment litigation offers rich material with which to study this process. Designed to protect children, abandono legislation overwhelming incriminated women for leaving their children or fleeing their husbands. Yet even as men drew connections between state power and local patriarchal control by asking the state to punish their wives, in practice these laws often emboldened women. Once in court to defend themselves, women often decried their husbands’ domestic violence, which in turn compelled judges to rule in their favor. Some women ignored the gender bias of these laws and sued their husband for abandono to collect child or personal support. But even in granting concessions to women, judicial officials ultimately maintained patriarchal power by acting as arbiters of gender norms and family morality. Using judicial records, this paper will explore the ways poor and working class men and women constructed and contested notions of gender, morality, and child rearing in their interactions with each other and the state.
Responder: Dr. Ginny Burnett, Professor of History and Latin American Studies, UT Austin