In this remarkable book historian Daniel James presents the gripping, poignant life-story of Dona Maria Roldan, a woman who lived and worked for six decades in the meatpacking community of Berisso, Argentina. A union activist and fervent supporter of Juan and Eva Peron, Dona Maria's evocative testimony prompts James to analyze the promise and problematic nature of using oral sources for historical research. The book thus becomes both fascinating narrative and methodological inquiry.
Dona Maria's testimony is grounded in both the local context (based on the author's thirteen years of historical and ethnographic research in Berisso) and a broader national narrative. In this way, it differs from the dominant genre of women's testimonial literature, and much recent ethnographic work in Latin America, which have often neglected historical and communal contextualization in order to celebrate individual agency and self-construction. James examines in particular the ways that gender influences Dona Maria's representation of her story. He is careful to acknowledge that oral history challenges the historian to sort through complicated sets of motivations and desires-the historian's own wish to uncover "the truth" of an informant's life and the interviewee's hope to make sense of her or his past and encode it with myths of the self. This work is thus James's effort to present his research and his relationship with Dona Maria with both theoretical sophistication and recognition of their mutual affection.
While written by a historian, Dona Maria's Story also engages with concerns drawn from such disciplines as anthropology, cultural studies, and literary criticism. It will be especially appreciated by those involved in oral, Latin American, and working-class history.
Daniel James is Bernardo Mendel Professor of Latin American History at Indiana University. His previous books include Resistance and Integration: Peronism and the Argentine Working Class, 1946-1976 and The Gendered Worlds of Latin American Women Workers, also published by Duke University Press.
About the Series ix Acknowledgments xi I. Prologue. The Town with No Plaza: Memory and Monuments in Berisso's Centro Civico 1 II. Dona Maria's Testimony 29 III. Interpretive Essays 1. Listening in the Cold: The Practice of Oral History in an Argentine Meatpacking Community 119 2. "The Case of Maria Roldan and the Senora with Money Is Very Clear, It's a Fable": Stories, Anecdotes, and Other Performances in Dona Maria's Testimony 157 3. "Tales Told Out on the Borderlands": Reading Dona Maria's Story for Gender 213 4. A Poem for Clarita: Ninas Burguesitas and Working-Class Women in Peronist Argentina 244 IV. Epilogue 281 Notes 299 Index 309