Pilar is a capable, energetic merchant in the small, Peruvian highland settlement of Chiuchin. Genovena, an unmarried day laborer in the same town, faces an impoverished old age without children to support her. Carmen is the wife of a prosperous farmer in the agricultural community of Mayobamba, eleven thousand feet above Chiuchin in the Andean sierra. Mariana, a madre soltera—single mother—without a husband or communal land of her own, also resides in Mayobamba.
These lives form part of an interlocking network that the authors carefully examine in Women of the Andes. In doing so, they explore the riddle of women’s structural subordination by analyzing the social, political, and economic realities of life in Peru. They examine theoretical explanations of sexual hierarchies against the backdrop of life histories. The result is a study that pinpoints the mechanisms perpetuating sexual repression and traces the impact of social change and national policy on women’s lives.