Las Olvidadas -- Gendered in Justice/Gendered Injustice: Latinas, Fronteras and the Law

52 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2015

Date Written: 1998


Es sinceramente un inmenso placer compartir en este evento historico que nos permite colectivamente discutir, en varias fases y contextos, el concepto de la justicia en los estados unidos de america. Mas que nada, y hoy en dia mas que nunca, es imperativo analizar el concepto de la injusticia en la distribuci(m de la justicia en este pais el cual esta formado, firmado y .fundado en el principio de igualdad de y justicia para todas personas. Pero lo que es obvio cuando se considera la situaci6n de las Latinas en este pais, y lo que intento enfatizar en este ensayo, es que la igua/dad como concepto constituciona/ es so/amente una meta, ya que en lo cotidiano el concepto es poco mas que fantasia. Now imagine also being poor, uneducated and scared, seeking refuge from a spouse or partner who beats you up, an employer who threatens to report you to the authorities, harasses you, rapes you, or simply refuses to pay you. Imagine a government that wants to ship you and your children off, deprive them of an education and even health care. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It is significant and symbolic to be part of a re/consideration and re/evaluation of the notions of justice, especially when distributive justice and the sacrosanct rights to equality and justice for all are becoming increasingly shrinking if not degenerating concepts, enjoyed by an "all" that has become a narrower group of persons. Indeed, in this cyber-age it would seem appropriate to think of virtual equality as the constitutional reality.

In the context of the theme of this conference -- Penalties, Prohibitions & Punishment: Who Can Get Justice in the United States? -- this Article focuses on a class of persons that, although neither small nor unimportant, has been wholly ignored and marginalized in the legal discourse: Latinas. The title of this Article Las Olvidadas means "the forgotten ones" (women), a female gender-specific meaning that can be conveyed in the gendered Spanish language by the mere use of two words rather than the three needed in English. And although the gendered nature of the language could be another story altogether, to be explored in another space, it is really symbolic of Latina invisibility. In Spanish every word is gendered, and the "neutral" or global is male. This grammatical rule renders the normativity of the male, everyday Spanish-speak emblematic of Latinas' plight; we are simply languaged out of existence in the public world of speech.

The dearth of information on Latinas, regardless of the fields one researches, ranging from law to psychology and from education to poverty, is evidence that Latinas are olvidadas. The Latina consistently is lost in the statistical reporting maze. She either falls under the general category of Latino, the male-gendered ethnic descriptive, or in the catch-all of "minority" women where the Latina is undifferentiated from the Black, Asian, American Indian, and other women of color. Yet, as this piece will show, some aspects of Latinas' lives such as language, family and culture are not shared with all other women of color. These differences merit disaggregated consideration, evaluation, and reporting on Latinas to permit an understanding of Latinas' particular needs, conditions and positions.

This Article will study Latinas in the United States and develop a framework that aims to eradicate injustices Latinas experience by importing the voices of las olvidadas into the heart of rights-talk, thus placing Latinas in justice. First, the piece will identify who the olvidadas are-unseen, unheard, and virtually non-existent in the world of law as well as in the myriad other worlds they inhabit. Parts III and IV consider structural roadblocks-first external and then internal-that conspire to perpetuate Latina invisibility and disempowerment, keeping Latinas from justice. Part V presents the locations and positions of Latinas who suffer intimate violence and of Latinas in the legal professions as examples of the formidable fronteras, effected by the conflation of external and internal structural barriers, that obstruct Latinas' travel to justice. Finally, the work proposes a discursive model that places multidimensionality at the center of any inquiry and promotes respect for differences (including sex, race, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, language, class, religion, education, ability, national origin) yet eliminates marginalization and facilitates participation of Latinas in all spheres of life.

Keywords: justice, equality, women, "las Olvidadas", invisibility, disempowerment, Latinas

Suggested Citation

Hernández-Truyol, Berta Esperanza, Las Olvidadas -- Gendered in Justice/Gendered Injustice: Latinas, Fronteras and the Law (1998). 1 J. Gender Race & Just. 353 (1998); University of Florida Levin College of Law Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Berta Esperanza Hernández-Truyol (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

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