Tales Told Out On The Borderlands: Doña María*s Story, Oral

Presentation By: MacKenzie
Berisso city of 70,000 (1980)
Armour and Swift meatpacking plants est. in first part of
Reached peak during WWII
Transatlantic Migration
Pop. of 50,000 by 1940s
Created the one of the first unions courted by Juan
Perón: Sindicato Autónomo de Obreros de la Industria
de la Carne lead by Cipriano Reyes
• Played a strong role in the release of Perón in 1945
• Source of inspiration for the foundation of the Partido Laborista
• Mobilized the working-class to support Perón
Received better work conditions and salaries
during 1946-55
 After Perón overthrow in 55 decline in large-scale
meatpacking plants in Argentina
 60s workforce was reduced rapidly
 1969 Armor closed
 Swift closed by the late 70’s
 Berisso maintained its population and remained
politically active
Born in 1915 in San Martin
 Married and moved to Berisso in 1931
 Starting working for Swift in 1944
• First female shop steward in the Swift Plant
Participated in creating the union
 Involved in political movement to support Perón
 Spoke in the Plaza de Mayo on October 17, 1945
 Traveled the country as part with Perón’s campaign
 Narratives
 Real
or not?
 Subjective
 “Blurring
 Mixing
of genres”
of stories
 Tensions
within stories
• Theme of Gender in story
Emphasized the respect and equality of treatment
she received from the male union leaders
Paints a picture of ideal marriage
• Mutual respect and understanding
Used her power to help other women
Those not a laborista opposed her being in the public
Union purpose was to lessen the vulnerable position of
women in the plants and limit masculine power and
authority over women.
Once I stopped in front of a foreman, this was when we had
already come to believe in unions and we could defend
ourselves better, this foreman said to a woman, "Senora,
you're useless," when I saw that the woman didn't say
anything I said to him, "This woman has a husband and she is
a wife and mother of a family, what right do you have to call
her useless?" "Well, she doesn't know how to work," he said to
me. "Have the decency, senor jefe, to call her aside and
explain to her what is happening, not insult her in front of
everyone, remember that you were born of a woman, not from
a plant, or weren't you born of a woman?" I said to him, the
impulsive one they called me, yes, Ia impulsiva, because I
shouted in their faces. Where does he get off telling her in
front of all her compañeras that she is useless? The woman
stayed there, like someone who had killed another person,
like a condemned woman. I said to her, "Lift your head up,
querida, you're not useless, you just arrived and haven't
adapted yet, you'll soon work like us.”-Doña
 Heavy
influence on Berisso community
• Berisso huge part in the Peronist Movement
 “Golden
Age” 1945-1955
• Increase of women outside the home
• Better work conditions and wages
“I said to him, "Colonel, I feel wounded many times
when my husband on election day says, the people
have voted, and I say to him, no the people didn't
vote, half the people voted, because a woman is a
citizen. . . . We can't allow the situation to exist
anymore, Colonel, where alcoholics, madmen, the
dead - he started to laugh at this – monks, vote and
we have to listen to our husbands, our fiancés, our
brothers, and our uncles tell us that the people
voted, aren't we the people, too, Colonel? . . .”
Perón turned to Reyes and asked him if I was a
doctora. "No-o-o," replied Reyes with a chuckle,
"she's a meatpacker.” - Doña
 Influential
 Political
 “Good Wife” and “Good
 Voice
for others
 How
can we approach the problem of
using such stories to better understand
the issue of gender in working-class
 Is there a way of reconciling the two
different sets of stereotypes about
gender present in her narrative?
 Emphasize
the presence of counterdiscourses expressive of oppressed and
repressed women’s voices
 Reframe experiences and make new
cultural possibilities
 New collective stories with new roles,
stereotypes, and resolutions
Doña María's story as a counter-discourse challenging
the authority of a dominant ideal of working-class
women is to simple
Does not include the ideas of new life-script, newly
found harmony that mixes personal history and socially
legitimized roles, and the power and efficiency of
communal and class naratives in working-class
Oral history is complex and holds contradictions thus
can be used to tell of the complexity of working-class

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