Nellie Campobello, Rosario Castellanos, Elena Garro and Elena Poniatowska, all born in the first half of the twentieth century, explore in a unique genre - a combination of memoir, autobiography and historical novel - some of the myths about women current in Mexico at the time. Prime among these is that of the madre abnegada, the self-sacrificing mother, devoted exclusively to her children at the expense of her own fulfilment. In this study the mothers' dissenting voices are exposed, as are the feelings of the daughters who appear devoted to their mothers but feel resentment at what they perceive as their mother's emotional distance. The antithesis of the madre abnegada is the mujer mala, the whore, a notion the author also questions by revealing the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship, through which women may perpetuate their own oppression.
Highlighting the voice of the 'other', Mothers and Daughters reveals the broad spectrum of people (children, the indigenous, the poor, the impoverished landed gentry, as well as women) who found themselves excluded from the material benefits of reform and progress that followed the Revolution.
TERESA M. HURLEY is currently teaching at the University of Exeter.