Brace Scholar Emily Sánchez ’18 on the Power and Narrative of Sisterhood

Sánchez’s research was inspired by “The Bridge Called My Back,” an anthology of stories from women of color.

“Stories have been fueling Peruvian and Peruvian-American women to rise from systematic racial and gender oppression,” said Emily Sánchez ’18 in her Brace Student Fellow presentation “Forging Justice: The Power and Narrative of Sisterhood.”

Last Saturday in the School Room of Abbot Hall, Sánchez shared her research on Peruvian women and highlighted the importance of narratives in Peru and the United States. Sánchez said that American feminism has been silencing women of color and their stories for decades.

“These unauthentic places of support that encourage non-acceptance are destructive to social justice movements,” said Sánchez.

The Brace Center for Gender Studies, which works to educate students on topics regarding gender, equity, and inclusion, selected Sánchez as one of this year’s Brace Student Fellows. The Brace Student Fellow program allows recipients to study and research gender issues on any topic of their choosing.

Emily Ortiz ’19 appreciated Sánchez’s presentation on an intellectual level as well as on a personal one.

“I think her presentation was very powerful, especially for us women of color on campus. A lot of what she said really resonated with me. I didn’t know much about the struggles of indigenous Peruvian women before this, but I’m glad I learned what I did today,” said Ortiz.

Sánchez decided to do her research on Peruvian women last year with the help of her advisor, Carolina Artacho, Instructor in Physics. Sánchez said that she had wanted to explore the subject of sisterhood since her Lower year.

“Emily was talking about her grandmother who didn’t know how to read or write until she was 60 years old… So to bring that story with her and for her to amplify those stories and share them in spaces… gives power and sisterhood to the people that are here,” said Artacho.

In her Upper year, Sánchez read “The Bridge Called My Back,” a collection of stories written by women of color, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa. This book inspired Sánchez to learn more about Peruvian history, particularly its history of armed conflict and controversial leaders Alberto Fujimori and Abimael Guzmán, through the lens of indigenous peoples.

“I noticed that [“This Bridge Called My Back”] was also a power, a product of sisterhood. So many women had come together and placed their stories in this wonderful book, and it’s all women of color,” said Sánchez.

“I also started getting more into [Peruvian] history… I had heard that Alberto Fujimori was involved, and I had heard about him in my family before. He’s a very controversial figure on his own… So then I decided to combine these two in some way or another,” said Sánchez.

Sánchez began her presentation with the sociopolitical context of the Shining Path, a communist party that emerged in Peru around the 1970s and 1980s and began the country’s armed conflict. 

She described the sexist, derogatory language used by its leaders at Peruvian women and the experiences that hundreds of innocent indigenous women faced when they were wrongly jailed on account of conspiracy with the Shining Path.

“Many soldiers raped, tortured, and even killed the jailed women, most of whom were innocent… Indigenous women became a scapegoat,” said Sánchez in her speech.

According to Alex Kruizenga ’18, the powerful narratives helped audience members become more aware of the silenced groups in the presentation.

“It was just really jarring to see from first-person points of view what really happened to these women and what really comes from things like this,” said Kruizenga.

Sánchez emphasized the importance of listening to the narratives and stories of others who have traditionally been silenced as an essential element of combatting discrimination.

Sánchez said, “From the narratives women used during the armed conflict, which eventually brought Alberto Fujimori and Abimael Guzmán to jail, to the defiant narratives of Peruvian-American women, narratives have been creating political and social change that combat racial and gender oppression. We, women of color, are leaders.”