Monday, October 29, 2018 - 12 pm

Wilson College Common Hour 2018
Food Matters: You Are What You Eat
Mondays at noon in the Learning Commons - John Stewart Memorial Library

Eating to Live, Living to Tell: Foundational Food in the Latina Testimonial Text - Amanda Eaton McMenamin

In the genre-founding Latina testimonio text, I, Rigoberta Menchú, An Indian Woman in Guatemala (1984), the transcriber of Menchú’s testimony, Elisabeth Burgos, explains: “A relationship based upon food proves that there are areas where Indians and non-Indians can meet and share things: the tortillas and black beans brought us together because they gave us the same pleasure and awakened the same drives in both of us” (2009, xvii). Since the testimonial genre itself depends on the empathies established between the testifier and the transcriber, food becomes foundational to the generation of testimony. Food initiates dialogue between the testifier and the transcriber and provides a common foundation of familiarity amidst unfamiliarity between Menchú, a poor indigenous woman from Guatemala, and Burgos, her bourgeois Venezuelan transcriber. I thus argue that food becomes the language through which and with which the Latina testimonial is shared. It becomes the symbolic sign—in semiotic terms—communicated between the women, just as their words are exchanged in the dialogues that form the very basis of their testimonial. In a context of the systematic oppression and genocide of Menchu's people, in which Latina women have often struggled to eat in order to live on a sustenance of maize—a highly symbolic sign of indigenous culture—  food connects these women and their worlds. In living, or surviving, they live to tell their stories and share in the dialogic testimonio, just as food is shared and consumed in communal fashion.

Amanda Eaton McMenamin earned her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and is currently Associate Professor of Spanish at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Recent journal articles include pieces on Bolivian activist Domitila Barrios de Chungara's testimonial Let me speak! (Ámbitos feministas, 2018), Argentine Luisa Valenzuela's short story "Other Weapons" (Short Story Journal, 2016), and Spanish realist Leopoldo Alas's masterpiece La Regenta (Verbeia, 2016). Recent anthology pieces include essays on the cinema of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar (Shifting Subjectivities in Contemporary Fiction and Film from Spain, Cambridge Scholars, 2018), transnationalism in Spanish Romantic the Duke of Rivas's El moro expósito (Making Strangers, Vernon Press, 2018), and food in the Latina testimonial text (The Routledge Companion to Food and Literature, Routledge, 2018), as well as various entries in two film encyclopedias—The Encyclopedia of Racism in American Films and The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Spanish Films (both with Rowman & Littlefield, 2018). Forthcoming work includes a variety of journal and anthology pieces, as well two edited volumes—The Companion to Cuban Cinema (Rowman & Littlefield) and ReFocus: The Films of Carlos Reygadas (Edinburgh University Press).