The consequences of civil war are complex and often goes ignored. By exposing the thoughts and experiences during the critical time can lead to a better understand the aftermaths of war such as: living in poverty, dealing with grief, and desensitized by death. Thus, the essay exposes the trauma and social issues through the perspective of women in a post war society by using feminist and sociological approaches. The paper provides analysis of literature written by women who have experienced the consequences of the civil war in Central America and gives insight through their writings. Therefore, the literature used to reflect on the social and psychological effects of war and grief are, La Familia O El Olvido: Family or Oblivion, by Elena Salamanca which is compilation of poems and short stories to reveal the struggle women faces post war as it compares to “Highway Without an Ox,” by Claudia Hernandez, an article describing the extent grief can go. The purpose is to address the life after civil war to those who are neglected in society.
Women’s perspective often goes untold, even more so the social and psychological effects of death. Post war literature comes in a variety of forms and structures. The ones going to be used to reflect women and the effects of living through a gruesome civil war are a collection of poems and vignettes from the 2017 book, La Familia O El Olvido: Family or Oblivion, by Elena Salamanca, and the fictional story in the article, “Highway Without an Ox,” by Claudia Hernandez. Select poems and vignettes from the work of Salamanca will be used to analyze in the Feminist and Sociological Approach as it relates to post war society and the trauma, and as it compares to the article “Highway without an Ox.” Both texts are unique, detailed, and absurd in their own way which serves a purpose of describing and having the reader captivated to help develop their understanding of the literature. More points to be reflected on are poverty, age, and grief. In these specific post war literature centering women’s perspectives express an importance for detailing the effects of war and trauma, in addition; to the desensitization of death within a demolished society. Moreover, while the text incorporates feminism and social structure of post war society as a vital element to consequence to violence; so is knowing who the author is and how their literature is created.
El Salvador’s post war literature, the authors play an important role in the content because for the most part those who write on this topic have some relation to the war. For Elena Salamanca there is a deep connection with the topic and themes shown in her book. In the article, “Elena Salamanca,” from Cuenta Centroamerica: Portal Literario, describes Salamanca’s life which was the influence for the topics she writes about. Elena Salamanca was born in 1982 in San Salvador, El Salvador. Salamanca is a scholar with a Doctorate in History from the Colegio de Mexico with a focus on Central American struggles in Mexico and civil wars in El Salvador. The article described her inspiration to write comes from politics, history, literature, and primarily the war in Central America, and the women in her life which were affected by the war. Additionally, the author uses everyday scenarios and objects to reflect on the war as a way to connect with the readers more appropriately. The article states, “Quiza sea por esto que la Guerra sea uno de los temas centrales en su obra. La guerra y las differentes estrategias que el ser humano desarrolla para sobrellevar la violencia” (Cuenta Centroamerica: Portal Literario 1), to translate the quote in short describes Salamanca’s work reflects inhumane treatment, trauma, and doing anything to survive during and after war. The author uses her research and devotion to reveal the perception from those who went through the war, while also reflecting on her experiences and how she saw the people around behave during and after the war.
Authors who are creative and want the reader to follow their work in a specific way that will guide them on how to read and understand the purpose and message. Elena Salamanca, who believes in writing for those whose experiences and voices go unheard, wants everyone to be able to read her literature. Thus, she translated her books into English, Spanish, French, German, and Swedish. Salamanca also provides the reader with instructions of how to read and understand her collection of poems and vignettes. For example, the book begins with a section titled, “Filigree,” which provides the definition of Filigree as, “What can be read in between the lines. If a watermark filigree is visible when held up to the light, a filigree, in this case, is the indention or impression that written words leave on the blank page underneath…These writings are my filigrees” (Salamanca 14). Therefore, Salamanca instructs the reader to not read her short poems and stories for face value, but to look deeper into the content to receive understanding. The author uses metaphors, allusions, and repetition to give the impression of life being unstable. Furthermore, the poems and stories are gentle and delicate with vague endings leaving them unfinished, reflecting on thoughts and life after the war. Another example is seen visually on the cover of the book as the ink and visibility of the stamped image becoming lighter and lighter, slipping into oblivion. Each of the stories and poems are interwoven in their connection with women’s perspective and behaviors of feeling empty and unamazed.
"Furthermore, the poems and stories are gentle and delicate with vague endings leaving them unfinished, reflecting on thoughts and life after the war."
From a social standpoint, women have and still face inequality, even more so Women of Color in countries at war. The voice, perception, and experiences of trauma is exemplified in, “Fish,” from the literary work by Elena Salamanca. The story details an impoverished woman eating not so much a meal, food nonetheless, consisting of sardines, tomato, carrot, and half a cucumber. The meal alone describes her status in society as an unemployed female who cannot afford extravagant food or even to use the whole vegetable as she still rations after the war has ended. Furthermore, “Fish” gives the impression of the alienation and neglect of a country not helping its people move up the economic ladder and providing psychological aid after the war. The author states, “The eyes, as if an onion has been chopped, swell with water…The eyes, assuming an onion has been chopped, redden…The eyes, under the assumption that the strong odor of chopped onion lingers in the room, will cry. The sardine in the mouth, under the assumption that it was a fish will swim” (Salamanca 28). By using the definition of filigree, one can interpret that there is no onion present in the scene, but instead the women are crying over a death or a traumatic experience as if an onion has been cut. Additionally, the sardine she is eating uses the saliva in her mouth to swim, simulating the women’s wishes for the person who passed away would return back to life. To connect with another post war literary work, Claudia Hernandez in “Highway without an Ox,” describes grief of losing something which cannot be replaced which held of much value when it was alive. the article states, “He wept in his frustration at not being able to replace the ox with his own person” (Hernandez 82). The passage shares insight on the different expressions and behaviors of grieving one’s loss as, some want to hide their feelings and others publicly expose the raw emotions. In addition, both texts give the reader an understanding of post war society from the emptiness, struggle to survive based on class, and lack of priority. Furthermore, the idea of memory being affected by the trauma will continue to affect the person as they become separated from those of most value to them.
Grief is thought to be natural to any living thing. Thus, grief is experienced in many different ways, from simple to complex forms. In Elena Salamanca’s book, the vignette titled “The Needle Threader,” details the relationship between young and old women, death, and grief as a girl loses her grandmother in 1st person. The young girl shows a deep admiration, connection, and value for her grandmother despite her age. In the story, women who are elderly are seen as delicate and incapacitated, yet the elderly women themselves seem to be independent and suffering from a void even as generations after the war has passed. For example, the young girl compares a heart shaped pillow that is used to hold needles and pins, however when the needles and pins are removed, holes are left in the pillow and are not capable of being mending together. Therefore, the heart shaped pillow is the grandmothers who are in pain and abandoned by their family and those related to them who have died. The holes in the heart and mind of the grandmother will also never be mended. This comparison introduces the event of the young girl feeling pain and a void due to her grandmother’s death, which leads her to transform herself physically to replicate her grandmother’s appearance. The book states, “One day my mother came, and she said my eyes had turned blue; she told me I looked beautiful with my white hair. I wanted to see myself in the mirror I tripped on the sewing table. Everything fell, the threads, the scissors, the pins, and the mirror broke into seventy pieces. Seventy times needles” (Salamanca 76). The character’s actions explain her grief of wanting to hold onto something that is gone forever and attempts to bring it back by becoming what is lost. However, it is impossible to bring back someone from the dead as they are irreplaceable. In similar aspect, in the article story, “Highway without an Ox,” by Claudia Hernandez shares a story of a man who had killed an ox which roamed a highway, because animals held a higher value then humans, the man grieved and was in agony for the loss of the Ox. The article states, “That was why he had decided to take its place, stand at the curve in the road, and contemplate eternity from there, pretending to be an ox. And he couldn’t quite pull it off. He asked people what they saw when they saw him, and people said they saw a man, a man with his back to them by the side of the road” (Hernandez 82). The man did all he could to become an Ox on his own. However, with the help of a women, he used parts of the Ox (such as the horns) and mutilate his own gentiles to transforms to an Ox as a way to replace what is gone. Yet, the man still had light in his eyes, to which an Ox does not, and the fact the ox itself will never returning back to life. The ox and the grandmother become the symbol of death and the missing as the people grieving trying to recover from a traumatic experience. The absurdity and allegory of the story is what gives the reader the information to understand that when something is missing or someone dies, the grief is so intense we want to find a replacement or seek a way to become it or them.
"The passage shares insight on the different expressions and behaviors of grieving one’s loss as, some want to hide their feelings and others publicly expose the raw emotions."
After seeing so much death, blood, sadness, and destruction, the people’s eyes and mind become unamused and desensitized. To become desensitized, it takes a process of repetition and constant interaction with an object, visual, or experience that it becomes normalized. In “Blood” from Salamanca’s work, describes a meat market in which blood and the smell of meat invades the atmosphere where people walk through unbothered by the rot, blood, smog, and flesh. Firstly, the repetition of the mention of blood, gives emphasis to the story to the gruesome and tragic events of the war, as well as, the normalization of blood and death of both animals and humans. Furthermore, “Blood” expresses a difference between the elite and the poor. The poor having to live day by day in the stench and reminder of death, which they have become accustomed too. The elite generals are clean, unstained, and immaculate virgins because they are disconnected from the reality and are too of a high status to have blood and dirt on their hands. A quote from the text states, “All this blood for a city” (Salamanca 18). The story and the quote signify the destruction of the city resembling a massacre and a jaded society. The people are desensitized from the blood and smell of rotting carcasses because of all the trauma they have experienced during the massacres. In relation to “Highway without an Ox,” death of a human was normal, while an animal held more of status then a human because the war had created this ideal of human being worthless and were killed by the hundreds. Claudia Hernandez write, “If we had realized it was a human being, we wouldn’t have stopped the car. We wouldn’t even have slowed down. But our eyes deceived us into seeking the silhouette of an animal at the side of the road” (Hernandez 82). The value of humans and animals became distorted after the war and killing a human was normal. Both stories share an eerie view of a society which suffered trauma from a civil war.
War impacts everyone and everything, from their thoughts and memory to their behavior. Trauma, grief, and desensitized from death is greatly portrayed in post war literature. Salamanca provides a Feminist and Social point of view through short stories and poems which a reader must read between the lines to understand and grasp the meaning of the text. Salamanca’s writing is both absurd, vague, and delicate which reflects the character’s symptoms of PTSD and emptiness as consequence of the war. In “Highway without an Ox,” by Claudia Hernandez expresses the allegory of desperation of wanting to replace what is gone and missing which was once of high value. Both texts share similar themes of using words to reflect the struggle and surrealistic way to survive. The voices of the abandoned and neglected are to be told through literature and other forms of written testimony.