Concept of Gender to the Past in Guatemala and Nicaragua Free Essay Samples & Outline

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Sample Essay On Concept of Gender to the Past in Guatemala and Nicaragua


Government regimes that have ruled Guatemala and Nicaragua during the twentieth century have resulted in significant social problems that affected the cultural structures of many communities, unbalanced rules regarding gender roles, and enforced patriarchal laws that dehumanised women and children. In Nicaragua, the villagers depend on coffee picking as their source of income. Women and children form the largest labor force in the coffee estates mainly because patriarchal laws position men into better jobs than their female colleagues.

Male counterparts in every household whether wealthy or peasant had authority over their wives and children. A husband had control over his wife’s body, labor, wages, and property (Dore 214). Besides, men were allowed to commit adultery as long as it was discrete and did not affect the other family; however, a woman’s infidelity was met with harsh criticism by the society and permitted grounds for divorce or even murder by the husband, fathers, and brothers (216).

Unmarried women and daughters were subjected to male dominance unless the senior male emancipated the daughter legally by granting her independence. Patriarchal authority and Nicaragua’s civil code of 1867 placed women in the same class as children stating that both groups were all equal. The public had the power to make decisions regarding a woman’s legal rights; thus, enslaving them in the hands of their husbands. Due to this, freedom for a woman was guaranteed by the death of the man where widows would claim more privileges such as owning property, signing contracts, and acclaiming wages.

In Guatemala, gender inequality was evident in the market places that were crowded by women traders. Gender and ethnicity dictated how people lived their lives in the locality. Due to the popularity and rise of patriarchal nationalism, the liberal government enhanced male concessions and increased inequalities between men and women to marginalise and reduce the influence of women in the market (Carey Jr 582). The regime imposed harsh rules on women denying them the chance to sell their products in open market. Women performed many of the duties in the coffee plantations; however, laws such as the corvée labor legislation and the vagrancy law, which operated in ensuring laborers for large landowners, only applied to the male population.

Moreover, municipalities never recognised the efforts of female vendor’s participation in the growth of the economy, and they resulted in imposing rules such as household tax without informing the women in the markets. The Guatemalan society ensured easy access of men to opportunities such as education, employment, and wealth; thus, failing to recognise women’s creativity in contributing to businesses that would support the well-being of their families. Equally important, Kaqchikel parents denied their daughters an opportunity for education stating that the system would induce indolence among their children. Women were economically discounted towards their role in the growth of the Mayan community; however, oral history contradicts this notion and provides evidence of women traveling to other parts of the region to sell their products.

The government denied women the opportunity to sell their wares outside market zones because they believed that their activities supported monopoly; thus, women were arrested, and heavy fines would follow.

Powerful regimes in Nicaragua and Guatemala imposed various strategies to enslave women and subdue them to their male counterparts. In Nicaragua for example, the expansion of the coffee production prompted the government to unleash a land privatisation mechanism and a debt peonage strategy that dismantled the culture of the landed peasantry in Nicaragua. The society in Diriomo was in earlier times dictated by social class, but since the introduction of land privatisation, the system transformed to gender and race stratification.

Diriomo’s municipal government organised labor drafts that forced peasants to pick coffee and work under peonage, without forgetting a significant number of the laborers were women. According to Dore, the increased demand for coffee resulted in a patriarchal from above system, which consisted of dominant coffee planters who introduced complicated gendered rights, concessions, and coercions that formed a system of patriarchy from above (219). The patriarchy enforced extreme power to the coffee planters such that some landowners expected women to provide sex as an obligation. Consequently, the patriarchy from above resulted in the formation of patriarchy from below, which made the peasant men register their wives and children to the labor regime.

In Guatemala, the government embarked on a program to move traders from public spaces to enclosed buildings. The move was aimed to reduce the influence of Mayan women who had dominated and controlled the modus operandi of public spaces during market days. Moreover, the Estrada Cabrera and Ubico regimes tried to reorganise the marketplace based on goods rather than people; however, the traditional traders resisted the move stating that the strategy interfered with their businesses. Additionally, the Guatemalan government also introduced stringent laws that prohibited women from selling their products out of the enclosed buildings. The legislation had no moral grounds but only operated to control the movement of women in the marketplace. Cabrera’s regime implemented the use of employed spies, draconian police force, and labor drafts (mandamientos) to curtail the individual freedom of women.

Inconclusively, the oppressed population in Nicaragua resisted the system of patriarchy from above by hiring a Diriomo lawyer who would represent them in a court of law. Peons complained of abuse and improper pay off wages by their masters; however, due to the influence that coffee planters had on the society, they would rework the evidence provided by the complainant, in the end winning the case. The plant owners such as Don Alejandro Mej´ıa would provide false information in the courtrooms to indicate how they pay remuneration to their workers including food and clothing.

Some workers would accuse their masters of sexually offending their wives and daughters to seek justice and patriarchal protection from the court. In Guatemala, Mayan women resisted operating their businesses in the new market buildings claiming that the enclosed structures marginalised their sales. The women would express their power and resistance by spreading their wares on the streets to create an environment where the estranged could move around freely. Moreover, women would respond to the strict regulations of cleanliness by ignoring the laws and continuing with their activities regardless of the warnings given to them by the municipal officials.

Mayan women also demonstrated their power by resisting the government’s plan to reorganize the market based on goods. Maximiliana Chonay was arrested for refusing to take the place that corresponds her position in the market. Chonay’s actions were meant to disrupt the government’s attempt of imposing a capitalist market in Mayan. Furthermore, Mayan women would cause disagreements over modalities of production and exchange to seek the attention of the government. Many would infringe the stated laws and monopolize their products, an act they would confess in the courtroom without objection.


Works Cited

Carey Jr, David. “Hard Working, Orderly Little Women": Mayan Vendors and marketplace Struggles in Early Twentieth - Century Guatemala.” Ethnohistory 55.4 (2008): 579-607. Print.
Dore, Elizabeth. Patriarchy from Above, Patriarchy from Below Debt Peonage on Nicaraguan Coffee Estates, 1870–1930, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.