Women Who Live Evil Lives

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Essay #2 (Women Who Live Evil Lives by Martha Few and Autobiography of a Slave by Juan Francisco Manzano) In the book Women Who Live Evil Lives by Martha Few, Few makes the argument that despite the vast ethnic and gender discrimination that plagued Santiago de Guatemala during the time of the Spanish inquisition, women especially women of color were able to exercise more cultural authority then historians have previously acknowledged. Her analysis of the perspective of the “mujeres de mal vivir” or “the women who live evil lives” tells us the often overlooked story of women who to use Few’s words, “drew on ideas and practices of religion and the supernatural and reformulated them to assert their authority and power in the local community”(5). She goes on to say that “Women then used this authority and power to overtly challenge gender, racial and colonial hierarchies and intervene in conflicts and problems in daily life”(5). This new found perspective for examination allows us a better understanding of the hierarchical aspects of both the culture at large as well as the slave culture. Within both of the cultures, societal role was often determined by ethnicity as well as gender and Few points out that the perspective of historians has always been shaped by the assumption that this discrimination led to the utter oppression of those in marginalized groups. Women Who Live Evil Lives serves to denounce this general assumption by telling stories of women who despite having all the cards stacked against them, managed to assume places of “cultural authority” in both slave society and the society at large. In order to effectively analyze Few’s argument about cultural authority, we must first take a look at the gender and racial distinctions that existed in Santiago de Guatemala during the time of the Audiencias. Ethnic discrimination, was a major part of colonial
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