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WOMEN AND NATION BUILDING - 'THE INHABITED WOMAN'

WOMEN AND NATION BUILDING
In the quest to reinsert Mexican women in ‘official’ masculine history of nationalism which excludes women, Guti?rrez Chong observes “a tendency to stress, the passive and traditional role of women as opposed to a more dynamic and enterprising project of the masculine world. for McClintock, men and women have different trajectories vis-à-vis the modern nation: ‘while women present the traditional face of nation (inert, backward-looking, and natural), men represents the progressive feature of national modernity (forward-thrusting, portent and historic)’….we do not find elements in these affirmations that undermine the importance of nationalist symbolism, which, were it not it not to exist, would make any nationalism unthinkable…[meaning that] the body or the heroic feat of women is neither a trivial nor minor affair. In short there are several roles which women assume in nationalisms, it is not only a question of seeing women as symbols or ‘garments’, but as social actors who are implicated in national processes in differing ways.? (2-3)

The view of women as passive is rather a fictional construction of women by men; after all if they are the ones (through patriarchy) who decide what gets included and/or excluded in their history, it’s very easy for them to dismiss women’s roles in nation building, on the basis of these false images of women they have created. Hence the need for a feminist intellectual practice that will place women at the centre of reconstructed historiography of nation building.
‘The Inhabited Woman’ is Belli’s bid towards this reconstruction. Itza, just like Gutierrez Chong questions this trivialization of women’s participation in these ‘public’ spaces of nationalism. Despite the fact that she out there in the battle field (away from her domestic sphere of operation) she laments “…I was not allowed to participate even though they took me into battle…There were moments when I felt my sex was a curse? (91). She goes on to assert her heroic accomplishments “I was strong and more than once my intuition saved us from ambush. I was caring, and often the warriors came to me to talk about their feelings. I had a body capable of bearing life in nine moons and withstanding the pain of birth. I could fight, was skilled as any with my bow and arrow. I could cook…But they did not seem to appreciate these things? (91) isn’t it obvious that women are the reproducers of a nation? That a man cannot fight to defend this country on an empty stomach? Surely this is contribution that seeks to be acknowledged. Why should nationalism be described in the hegemonic sense of heroic history?
Even though it’s difficult to give Lavinia all the credit for her brave participation in the National Liberation Movement (given the fact that she was inhabited by Itza), I wonder; is Belli trying to demonstrate that patriotism in this way overrides race and class (as Itza fights for her country through Lavinia)? Or does this inhabitation illustrate the ‘differing ways’ in which women participate in national building; Itza fights with her brave spirit while Lavinia fights with her body? Through these two characters, Belli makes the eclipsed (women and indigenous people) visible.
Gutierrez Chong underscores the different ways in which women participate in nation building through Josefa. She argues “For official historiography, her heroic act was not the transmission of ideas or ideals of winning battles or making one’s mark, it was rather the ability to emit a whisper at PRECISELY THE RIGHT TIME (9) (my emphasis). Any struggle involves planning where everyone involved plays a role (public or private). There are those who plan and those who execute the plan, and those who provide a conducive environment for the plan to occur (in the same manner that a theatre production includes those on the stage (visible) and those backstage (invisible) but both are equally important). Josefa’s was giving a signal at the right time. Belli underscore this need to keep to the plan through Lavinia’s initiation into the revolutionary movement. As she checks her rear-view mirror, she remembers “But Flor insisted on the need to follow the “security measures? to the letter. She was never t take anything for granted? (194). Sebastian further emphasizes the importance calculating time “You’ll get better at calculating time more accurately. It is not a good idea to arrive too early, nor too late. It can look suspicious if you drive around too much.? (195). Now can anyone imagine if both Josefa and Lavinia missed the time? Should participation still then be judged by the visible?