Let Me Speak! A Bolivian Woman Miner’s Revolutionary Life
Thursday, 18 August 2011
Reviewed: Let Me Speak!: Testimony of Domitila, A Woman of the Bolivian Mines, By Domitila Barrios de Chungara, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978).
The life experiences of Bolivian mining activist Domitila Barrios de Chungara traverse some of the most important and tumultuous events in 20th century Bolivian history. Her account of this life in the book Let Me Speak! offers a view from the trenches of militant, leftist organizing within the country labor movements and beyond.
Chungara’s account provides insight into the National Revolution of 1952, the failed guerrilla insurgency in Bolivia led by Che Guevara, the country’s brutal experience in the Cold War, and the frequent coups, dictatorial crackdowns and popular uprisings that marked the Andean country’s rocky century.
Let Me Speak! begins with Chungara’s descriptions of the labor she and her fellow workers go through. This work is excruciatingly difficult, and involves little sleep, poor income and a lack of sufficient food, housing and services. As a woman, Chungara’s labor does not end with her work in and around the mines; she has to take care of her children, help them complete their school work, prepare food for the family and conduct an endless round of tasks both day and night to keep the family alive and able to work and attend school.
In a typical example of Chungara’s analysis of this labor, she said, “I think that all of this proves how the miner is doubly exploited, no? Because, with such a small wage, the woman has to do much more in the home. And really that’s unpaid work that we’re doing for the boss, isn’t it?” She explained, however, that by participating in the union as a woman she gained power over her work and freedom through advocating for women’s rights both in the workplace and at home….
Read the entire review on Toward Freedom