I am a woman.
I am a woman.
I am a woman born of a woman whose man owned a factory.
I am a woman born of a woman whose man labored in a factory.
I am a woman whose man wore silk suits, who constantly watched his weight.
I am a woman whose man wore tattered clothing, whose heart was constantly strangled by hunger.
I am a woman who watched two babies grow into beautiful children.
I am a woman who watched two babies die because there was no milk.
I am a woman who watched twins grow into popular college students with summers abroad.
I am a woman who watched three children grow, but with bellies stretched from no food.
But then there was a man;
But then there was a man;
And he talked about the peasants getting richer by my family getting poorer.
And he told me of days that would be better and he made the days better.
We had to eat rice.
We had rice.
We had to eat beans!
We had beans.
My children were no longer given summer visas to Europe.
My children no longer cried themselves to sleep.
And I felt like a peasant.
And I felt like a woman.
A peasant with a dull, hard, unexciting life.
Like a woman with a life that sometimes allowed a song.
And I saw a man.
And I saw a man.
And together we began to plot with the hope of the return to freedom.
I saw his heart begin to beat with hope of freedom, at last.
Someday, the return to freedom.
There were plans overhead and guns firing close by.
There were planes overhead and guns firing in the distance.
I gathered my children and went home.
I gathered my children and ran.
And the guns moved farther and farther away.
But the guns moved closer and closer.
And then, they announced that freedom had been restored!
And then they came, young boys really.
They came into my home along with my man.
They came and found my man.
Those men whose money was almost gone.
They found all of the men whose lives were almost their own.
And we all had drinks to celebrate.
And they shot them all.
The most wonderful martinis.
They shot my man.
And then they asked us to dance.
And they came for me.
For me, the woman.
And my sisters.
For my sisters.
And then they took us.
Then they took us.
They took us to dinner at a small private club.
They stripped from us the dignity we had gained.
And they treated us to beef.
And then they raped us.
It was one course after another.
One after another they came after us.
We nearly burst we were so full.
Lunging, plunging—sisters bleeding, sisters dying.
It was magnificent to be free again!
It was hardly a relief to have survived.
The beans have almost disappeared now.
The beans have disappeared.
The rice—I’ve replaced it with chicken or steak.
The rice, I cannot find it.
And the parties continue night after night to make up for all the time wasted.
And my silent tears are joined once more by the midnight cries of my children.
This poem was written by a working class Chilean woman in 1973, shortly after Chile’s socialist president, Salvador Allende, was overthrown. A U.S. missionary translated the work and brought it with her when she was forced to leave Chile. This is to be read by two people, one reading the bold-faced type and one reading the regular type.
The period of rice and beans for the poor woman in the poem occurs after the election of the socialist, Salvador Allende, as president of Chile. Allende was elected in 1970. He was overthrown in a military coup in September 1973 after a long period of destabilization launched by the wealthy classes and supported by the US government and US corporations such as International Telephone and Telegraph. Along with thousands of others, Allende was killed by the military. The coup, under the leadership of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, launched a period of severe hardship for the working and peasant classes. Although Chile currently has a civilian government, the military is still the country’s most powerful institution.
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