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Excerpts from Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas

OBOS Transformed Worldwide: U.S.


In the first stage of adaptation, 19 groups of 12 Latin American countries presented their adaptations of one or several chapters that they themselves selected. Each chapter was adapted by at least one group, and ideally by two, to offer various perspectives of the national differences in Latin America. Some chapters, for example, those that are dedicated to physiological information about anatomy and reproduction or pregnancy and birth, changed very little. Other chapters, such as those on abortion and AIDS, offer radical changes that reflect the enormous political and medical differences in Latin America. Each chapter was revised by an editorial group of Latin American women in Boston. This editorial group, at different stages made up of Rose Muñoz, Mayra Canetti, Elena Brauchy, Lucia Ortiz-Ortiz, Miriam Hernández Jennings, Ester Shapiro, María Laura Skinner, and María Morison Aguiar, organized the comments and changes offered by the Latin American groups and added information about Latin American women in the United States, incorporating information, materials and resources of many groups of the entire region. We collaborated with various groups that have centers of documentation or databases of Latin America and the Caribbean, and we incorporate these materials to enrich the perspective and the resources that the book offers. Many women offered us materials and support. This book would not have been possible without the generosity, creativity and commitment of the groups that fight for justice for the woman in Latin America and the Caribbean. We are especially grateful to Nirvana González of “Taller Salud” (Health Workshop), to Leopoldina Rendón of CIDHAL, to Isabel Duques of ISIS in Chile, and to Adriana Gómez of the Health Network for the Women of Latin America and the Caribbean.

After these multiple processes of adaptation, Veronica Nielsen-Vilar was named editor of the book in Spanish, to give consistency to the language and to the voice. Veronica demonstrated a great spirit of collaboration. She insisted that each sentence was as direct and simple as possible to facilitate the use of so much information, and to preserve its content and social framework. The voice of this book is her voice; patient and lyrical. Thanks to her extraordinary talent as a translator, we have created a book that recognizes the regional differences of Spanish, but achieves communication in a more universal manner.

One decision that we debated passionately was the decision of whether we should direct ourselves to the readers of the book using “tu” (you- familiar form) or “usted” (you- formal form). The custom in many of our countries is to use “usted” as a symbol of respect, and even more so in a medical context. We decided that a book like this, whose utility depends so much on establishing a conversation on the most private subjects of our lives, needed the intimacy of “tu”. Also, we wanted to communicate in a way that would express mutual respect, solidarity and equality between all of us who share a common struggle. Keeping in mind how important respect is in our culture, we also recognize the ties that unite us, and with this trust we speak to each other as friends and sisters.

During the editing and adaptation process, we asked ourselves if the book could be utilized by Latin American women in the United States, or if we saw the necessity to create another adaptation in Spanish for those Latin and Latin American women in this country. However, we did not want to divide our energies or our communities by creating two separate books in Spanish; furthermore we thought that as the new Latin American diasporas in the United States, we have very strong ties with our countries of origin. Many of us, second and third generation immigrants, value our Latin American language, culture and identity, although sometimes we prefer certain aspects of the North American life. We further recognize, that the individualism of North American feminism does not satisfy us in our personal and social relationships. Parts of our own political movements emerge from an interest to combine the two cultures to live with the best from each one. Our own experiences as immigrants, refugees or in exile are useful subjects in the North, the South and the Center of the Americas. In exploring the political implications and the practices of the life of an immigrant, we can create a book that recognizes our similarities as well as our differences. We realize that what unites us as women of the north and of the south is the bond of language and the cultural cross mix of Europe, Africa and the indigenous cultures of our continent. For the Latin American women in the United States, the book offers a way to understand the movements of women in support of the health of Latin America, and with this knowledge, to nourish our own understanding and political activism. We have all, as women of the world, learned from the heroism of the mothers of the “missing” of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay and of the Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchú, exiled for many years. All these women created political revolutions demanding justice for their children, brothers, fathers and family members. Their examples have transformed our ideas as to what is possible to achieve with political movements although they may be under circumstances of repression and life threatening danger. The decision to dedicate ourselves to an adaptation in Spanish for both communities helped us to understand that the book would initiate conversations with possibilities to transform relations between two worlds and unite us profoundly.

Because the book was written in Spanish, and also due to space considerations, we did not present much about the extraordinary work of our colleagues in Brazil. Their many activist groups for women’s health and justice are named in our list of groups and organizations, at the end of Chapter 4. We know the enormous loss that this decision represents, and we hope that in the future an edition in Portuguese is developed based on the projects and experiences of the Brazilian women.

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