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Article

The Birth Control Pill and Family Planning  

Karina Felitti

World population growth became a major topic of international discussion after World War II and in the context of the Cold War. According to some analysts, academics, politicians, and representatives of international organizations and private foundations, the fall in birth rates was essential to avoid the depletion of natural resources and, in geopolitical terms, would stimulate economic development in the developing world and thus prevent and mitigate social conflict. This analysis gained strong support and met with some resistance. In 1968, the United Nations defined access to family planning as a human right. That same year the encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae criticized family planning programs, not only in moral terms but also in defense of personal freedoms and the sovereignty of each country. Additionally, and contrary to the expectations of a large part of the Catholic community, the document only considered natural contraceptive methods legitimate, thus creating a deep division between those who supported the contraceptive pill and those who would abide by this decision. Studies of recent history that compare global and local dynamics, as well as new perspectives on the Cold War (in terms of the questions, sources, interpretative frameworks, and methodologies they propose), examine local organizations and the different ways in which each country negotiated and took on this issue. The United States played a key role in promoting family planning in different countries around the world and particularly in Latin America, given its geographical proximity and the anxiety caused by the success of the Cuban Revolution. In this region, the distribution of the birth control pill and the first family planning programs also sparked debates, support, and resistance at the governmental level and in different political, academic, activist, religious, and media contexts. In several countries, health professionals came together to develop family planning programs to reduce the high number of clandestine abortions in illegal contexts and their consequent effects on public health. This context also saw a budding recognition of the right women had to make decisions about their own pregnancies. The distribution of modern contraceptives was aligned with the agendas of Second Wave feminist groups, who demanded access to the means that would allow them to have a sexual life that was not tied to marriage or reproduction. In some cases, they faced the limits and repression of authoritarian governments and resistance from some left-wing writers, politicians, groups, and organizations who thought the current sexual revolution was a distraction imposed by imperialism. Given the importance of the Catholic Church in Latin America, the encyclical Humanae Vitae was welcomed by conservative actors who opposed the model of sexuality proposed by feminists, secularized enlightened middle classes, and other countercultural movements that supported the ideas of the sexual revolution. However, this document also found support in more radical sectors of the same Church that, in conjunction with some leftist groups, especially those involved in the armed struggle, rejected US interference in population issues. According to documents from these organizations and member testimonies, the sexual revolution, the pill, and feminisms hindered the birth of new generations of activists who could support the ongoing social and political revolution. Given these circumstances, the history of the birth control pill’s distribution and the implementation of family planning programs in Latin America must be considered in the context of regional and country-specific political, demographic, cultural, and religious issues.

Article

The Bracero Program, 1942–1964  

Juan R. García

The Bracero Program began in 1942 as a temporary wartime measure but was extended repeatedly until 1964. During that time, more than 4.5 million braceros received contracts to work in the United States, primarily as agricultural laborers. Before the program ended, braceros worked in thirty-eight states in the United States, with the majority contracted by eight states. With the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941 and the subsequent sinking of two Mexican vessels by German submarines, Mexico and the United States entered into a bilateral agreement. In actuality, there were two bilateral agreements, the first extending from 1942 to 1949, and the second, enacted as Public Law 78, starting in 1951 and culminating in 1964. Throughout the program’s existence Mexico strove to ensure favorable conditions under which braceros were to be contracted, especially in light of the strong opposition to the program among a number of sectors in Mexico and the long history of discrimination against people of Mexican descent in the United States. Like Mexico, the United States faced opposition to the contract labor program from both employers and labor unions. Employers were wary of too much government interference in their ability to secure a plentiful and cheap labor supply, while labor unions viewed the program as a threat to organizing efforts and as an obstacle to achieving better working conditions and pay for agricultural workers in the United States. The Bracero Program also deeply affected the braceros themselves in both positive and negative ways. And it had a profound impact on the families of the braceros who left to work in the United States. The program was plagued by a number of issues and problems, primarily resulting from a lack of enforcement and widespread contract violations. Despite the problems associated with the program, both countries touted its benefits, not only to their economy, but to the braceros themselves. The braceros did not passively accept their fate and challenged their treatment in a variety of ways. Although the Bracero Program ended in 1964, its legacy continues to affect US–Mexican relations to this day. Furthermore, former braceros and their descendants have undertaken a movement to demand reimbursement for wages promised them under the requirements of the Bracero Program.

Article

Carmen Miranda: Race, Gender, and Camp Culture  

Kathryn Bishop-Sanchez

Carmen Miranda (b. 1909–d. 1955) was a Brazilian singer and actress who made her debut on the radio in the late 1920s and soon became one of the most popular voices in Brazil. She recorded close to 250 singles, many of which were major hits, starred in five films (four with the Cinédia studio and one with Sonofilms), and gave innumerous performances on the most elite stages of Rio de Janeiro, such as the Urca and Copacabana casinos. Her signature look was a stylized version of the typical Bahian woman’s outfit, known as the baiana, complete with an abundance of bracelets and necklaces, platform shoes, and a whimsical turban that served as a base for all kinds of adornments. In 1939, she was invited by the Broadway impresario Lee Shubert to perform in his musical review The Streets of Paris and moved to New York with her band Bando da Lua to bring authentic Brazilian music to North America. A success overnight, Miranda would then be invited to star in her first US film, Down Argentine Way (1940), with 20th Century Fox, and would be cast in thirteen subsequent films. Carmen Miranda’s iconic look was immediately recognizable and became prime material for imitations by both male and female impersonators in theater, film, and cartoon media. Her excessive femininity, imbued with style, exaggeration, and playful deception, and her inclusion in musicals governed by theatricality and artifice, made her a productive site for camp interpretations that have remained in vogue to this day.

Article

Digital Resources: Piedra Rodante (Mexico’s Rolling Stone Magazine)  

Luis González-Reimann and Eric Zolov

The short-lived Mexican countercultural magazine, Piedra Rodante (Rolling Stone), is a unique and invaluable primary source for researchers interested in the global sixties from a Latin American perspective. From December 1970 to January 1972, Piedra Rodante reproduced translated articles and interviews from Rolling Stone magazine, together with original reporting by Mexican music critics and writers on a vast array of topics relevant to youth in the context of late 1960s and early 1970s Mexico. Piedra Rodante was launched by a young advertising executive, Manuel Aceves, a follower of the US and British countercultural and rock scene. In 1971, Mexico’s own countercultural movement, known as La Onda, was bursting with artistic creativity as well as marketing potential, especially in the music industry. In the wake of the 1968 student movement, however, Mexico’s government was wary of the untethered political potential mobilized by La Onda (epitomized by the outdoor rock festival, Avándaro, held in September 1971). With little warning, the government shuttered Piedra Rodante as part of a broader suppression of La Onda throughout the culture industry. Absent a missing issue 0, this fully digitized collection of issues 1–8 is the only complete set available to the public.

Article

Everyday Life in Argentina in the 1960s  

Isabella Cosse

The 1960s in Argentina was a time convulsed by profound social, cultural, and political changes. Reflecting on the effect these processes had on the everyday, conceived as the spaces and routines involved in the reproduction of life that vary according to social class, generation, and gender, provides a valuable perspective for studying historical phenomena. It gives substance to and evidences the social nature of personal experience. Through that prism, the study of everyday life will be the gateway to understanding the turbulence produced by cultural effervescence, growing consumerism, the expansion of the media, the problems triggered by economic instability and escalating inflation, and the ruptures caused by political and social radicalization and the rise of repressive violence.

Article

Gender and Sexuality in Brazil since Independence  

Sueann Caulfield and Cristiana Schettini

Over the past forty years, increasing attention to gender and sexuality in Brazilian historiography has given us a nuanced understanding of diverse ways in which women and men in Brazil’s past experienced patriarchy, racism, and other forms of oppression. As gender historians have shed light on how racialized and patriarchal gender and sexual roles have been reconstituted in different historical contexts, empirical studies in the field of social history have focused primarily on the historical agency of women, particularly non-elite women, who lived within or pushed against the confines of prescribed gender roles. Pioneering histories of sexual minorities have accompanied this trajectory since the 1980s, although this subfield has grown more slowly. A few nodal themes help to explain transformations in gender relations during each of the major periods of Brazil’s social and political history. Under the empire (1822–1889), honor is the entryway for analysis of gender and sexuality. Gendered standards of honor were critical tools used to mark class and racial boundaries, and to traverse them. Historians of the imperial period also stress the centrality of gender to the social, cultural, and economic networks built by members of various occupational, familial, and kinship groups. During the First Republic (1889–1930), the focus shifts to state vigilance and social control, together with debates over modernization of sexual and gender norms, particularly regarding urban space and prostitution. In the Vargas era (1930–1945), patriarchy and racialized sexuality formed the core of intellectual constructions of the nation’s history and identity, at the same time that homosexuality and women’s and worker’s rights generated intense debate. A new emphasis on domesticity emerged in the context of developmentalism in the 1950s, helping to spur a reaction in the form of the counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The dictatorship (1964–1985) went to great lengths to suppress challenges to gender and sexual norms as part of its broader strategy to demobilize society and repress oppositional political movements. These challenges reemerged in the 1970s, when feminists and sexual minorities gained much greater visibility within a new wave of social movements. The 1988 constitution articulated these movements’ aspirations for social justice and equality through its foundational principal of human dignity. Significant legal changes followed over subsequent decades, including recognition of equal labor rights for domestic and sex workers, affirmative-action policies, and the legalization of same-sex marriage, in 2011. Despite notable setbacks, the momentum toward gender and sexual equality at the start of the 21st century was remarkable. This momentum was halted by the political coup that ousted the first woman president in 2016. The anti-feminist mood that accompanied the impeachment process underscored an overarching theme that runs through the historiography of gender and sexuality in Brazil: the centrality of gender to the major legal and political shifts that mark the nation’s history.

Article

Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in 20th-Century Costa Rica  

Patricia Alvarenga

Proposals challenging male authority gained strength in Costa Rica during the 20th century and, especially at the turn of the 21st century, and questioned naturalized sexual and gender identities. The effects of these discursivities are varied. The experience of feminists, of middle-class women outside these discursivities, and of women of the subaltern classes demonstrate the plurality of meanings attributed to gender relations as filtered through subjective experience. The introduction of alternative identity proposals destabilizes the established parameters of sexual and gender identities, but, at the same time, produces new conservative discursivities that limit the potential for change. Two feminist movements, one that reached its peak in the 1920s and a second that arose in the final decades of the 20th century, brought about substantive changes in female identities, revealing the power relations that underlie the discursive representation of patriarchal power as eternal and immutable. An assessment of contemporary feminism based on the experiences of its protagonists shows the movement’s significant gains as well as the challenges and weaknesses it has faced over its history, the most important of which may be how to reach beyond the sphere of well-educated, heterosexual, middle-class women. In conclusion, public discourses that have politicized gender and sexuality in Costa Rica are creatively constituted in the social world, according to what changes appear attainable at different moments of history. Carved out by actors committed to change, these discourses have achieved substantive transformations in institutional structures and subjectivities. However, present experience shows clearly that every affirmation of identity is precarious, and that the gains achieved require the ongoing, active engagement of civil society.

Article

Masculinities, Consumption, and Domesticity during the Perón Era  

Natalia Milanesio

Supported by a multiclass alliance including the working class and some sectors of industry and the military, Juan Domingo Perón’s government (1946–1955) industrialized the country, modernized and expanded the state, transformed local and national politics, empowered the labor unions, and substantially improved the standard of living. Perón combined a strong nationalistic and anti-oligarchic discourse with concrete material benefits like high wages, the expansion and consolidation of the retirement system, paid vacations, housing subsidies, and full employment that ensured the political support of large sectors of the working population. Like the workers, various other traditionally disenfranchised social sectors took center stage. The very poor became the main beneficiaries of the charities run by first lady Eva Perón; women won the right to vote with a law passed in 1947 and were mobilized and politicized by the Peronist Party; and children were recognized by the government as the true heirs of the new Argentina built by Peronism and thus subject to co-optation and indoctrination. At the same time, internal migrants, attracted by the promises of a better life and industrial employment, left the countryside and small towns in the interior for the cities, propelling a profound process of urbanization. The cultural, social, political, and economic changes that marked the Peronist years had major consequences for gender relations, roles, and identities, transforming the ways of being a man or a woman in mid-twentieth-century Argentina. Those changes profoundly reshaped discursive and symbolic representations of masculinities as well as social and cultural expectations of manhood across different social classes while creating the political, social, and economic conditions that facilitated the transformation of masculinity as a lived, everyday experience.

Article

Violence and Sex in the Work of Armando Bó and Isabel Sarli  

Victoria Ruétalo

Director-producer-actor Armando Bó made films featuring nude appearances by the voluptuous star Isabel “Coca” Sarli that challenged the social constraints that were taking hold in a more restrictive and violent Argentina. The period from the fall of Juan Domingo Perón in 1955 until the end of the “Guerra Sucia” or Dirty War in 1983 marked a volatile time in the history of Argentina, with ever-increasing acts of state violence. It coincided with a parallel in the film industry: the state began to intervene in production and exhibition practices through laws that limited what was seen on the screen, until censorship was formally legalized. The work of Bó and Sarli falls perfectly within the historical period of onscreen and offscreen violence. The enterprise began in 1956, and their final film was released in 1984 (after the end of the dictatorship and the death of the director). The couple produced films that suffered from the aggressive effects of censorship—through the cutting of specific scenes that displayed the female body—and reflected the growing violence in everyday life. Films like Carne (Flesh, 1968) and Furia infernal (Ardent summer, 1973) tell simple stories of seemingly weak females and aggressive macho males. A closer look at their narratives, however, reveals a more complex femininity and masculinity, one where violence begets violence. Throughout the twenty-seven films they made together, Bó and Sarli consistently revealed sexuality and gender issues at a time when these were invisible in Latin America.