This week in my Spanish class we read the short story “El Recado” or “The Letter” by Elena Poniatowska. The story is a love letter written by a woman to her boyfriend who is a soldier, which we read as part of our unit about women and their role in society and relationships. I found that it relates to this class in its treatment of women in relation to men. In “El Recado,” the unnamed narrator appears to be extremely passive in comparison to the man she adores, provoking questions about feminist ideas and gender roles.
The text says “I know that all women wait. They wait for future life, for all those images forged in solitude, for all that forest that moves toward them; for all that immense promise that is a man” (Poniatowska). When we discussed this story in class, we were asked if we thought it was a feminist text. I thought this question was surprising because to me, the answer was obvious. The narrator waits day by day for her soldier to return without taking actions of her own. I believe this shows that she is dependent on the man in the relationship, an idea against feminist ideals. However, it is possible the Poniatowska wrote the story in this way so as to make a point of this relationship in society.
The narrator, who can be characterized by her loneliness and desperation, and her soldier seem to hold stereotypical gender characteristics. The soldier is described as strong, with a back likened to a wall. This image holds connotations of strength and stability, while the woman seems emotional. These descriptions give the impression of the stereotypical differences between men and women. Among these differences between genders presented in the text are those related to war. The narrator wishes she could be older, so as not to be so concerned with love. This seems to suggest that women are romantic and capricious while men, such as in the one in the text, have the strength to go to war and support a relationship. This could be extended to stereotypes that women could not commit the violence necessary for war. This especially reminded me of this class and the discussions we have had about women in the military.
Although this story was written in the 1960s, a period when women were beginning to embrace some more freedom and independence in light of new feminist movements, the narrator does not reflect this progress. The woman in this story seems to hold a much more conventional role. As she sits and waits day after day for her soldier to return, her life is paused. This seems not to inspire progress in the role of women, but rather stalls it.Here is a link to an English translation of the story so you can take a look and form your own opinion.