Magda Por­tal and the Dream of Revo­lu­tion in Peru

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Biography -

Myrna Ivonne Wal­lace Fuentes, Univer­sity of Ok­la­homa Press (OC­TO­BER) Hard­cover $34.95 (376pp), 978-0-8061-5747-4

A poet, jour­nal­ist, and key leader in Peru’s Amer­i­can Pop­u­lar Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Al­liance, Magda Por­tal was nick­named by her op­po­nents as a “Most Scan­dalous Woman.” Myrna Ivonne Wal­lace Fuentes looks at both Por­tal’s life and her work in a well-re­searched and com­pre­hen­sive biog­ra­phy of the same name.

In her twen­ties, Por­tal came to promi­nence on both poetry and rev­o­lu­tion­ary fronts si­mul­ta­ne­ously, win­ning a pres­ti­gious award for her writ­ing and then pub­licly re­fus­ing it at the cer­e­mony as a way of tak­ing a stand against the Peru­vian gov­ern­ment. Liv­ing in ex­ile in Mex­ico, she joined the APRA and helped spread rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas through­out Latin Amer­ica. Most Scan­dalous Woman does a strong job of ex­am­in­ing Por­tal’s role as the most prom­i­nent woman’s voice in the move­ment, as a tar­get of the Peru­vian gov­ern­ment’s crack­down on the ARPA who spent time in prison, and as the editor of the party’s news op­er­a­tion. Through her ef­forts, ARPA be­came one of the most im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal move­ments on the non­com­mu­nist left, un­til Por­tal and oth­ers broke with the party in the 1950s.

Fuentes makes reg­u­lar use of Por­tal’s own poetry to con­vey her thoughts on cur­rent af­fairs, un­der­scor­ing both Por­tal’s gift with lan­guage and her brav­ery in ex­press­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas. Por­tal’s jour­nal­is­tic work also fea­tures promi­nently, and Fuentes con­sis­tently un­der­scores the added de­gree of dif­fi­culty Por­tal over­came as a prom­i­nent woman in a male-dom­i­nated move­ment, whether with the chal­lenge of pro­tect­ing her daugh­ter while on the run, or with the so­cial mores that made her an icon­o­clast for us­ing her voice.

Fuentes also ex­am­ines Por­tal’s sex life, her re­la­tion­ship with her mother, and the sex­ism she ex­pe­ri­enced even within her own party. The re­sult is a thor­ough por­trait of a strong woman who was a gi­ant in her era and whose legacy re­mains im­por­tant.

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