Reading Killer Women: Narratives Of Twentieth Century Latin America

Other Titles


In this study I examine Latin American representations about women who kill. The analysis of portrayals of female killers, who exist not just outside the law but also outside of traditional understandings of womanhood, reveals tensions of class, race, gender, and national identity. In chapter one, I explore the way La Quintrala has been represented and negotiated in the contemporary Chilean popular imagination through an analysis of a 1986 telenovela and a 2008 comic based on this figure. Furthermore, I examine Mercedes Valdivieso's novel Maldita yo entre las mujeres (1991), a feminist reconstruction of the legend of La Quintrala. I argue that La Quintrala has been positioned as a perverse mother to the nation, constantly evoked in the Chilean imagination only to be overcome/forgotten. In chapter two, I explore the language used in the contemporary media's sensationalist coverage of the case of Las Poquianchis and the social critique of Felipe Cazals's 1976 film. Additionally I study how Jorge Ibarguengoitia's novel Las muertas (1977) recontextualizes these working class women and their acts, using domestic details and mundane elements to ground the violence. However, the incongruous juxtaposition of the domestic and the intimate with the violence of the female characters creates a new perverse threat to replace that produced by the media. In chapter three, I discuss Jorge Franco Ramos's aesthetic appropriation of the image of the sicaria (female contract assassin) and the cultural and social factors that surround her through an examination of his novel Rosario Tijeras (1999). I investigate the ways in which this figure has come alive in the Latin American imagination as a popular icon of working class violence by engaging with class and social reality both in the novel and in the public's perception of the recent 2005 film Rosario Tijeras, directed by Emilio Maille. I argue that Franco's representation of the sicaria inscribes her both within novela negra and formula romance genres, which allows him to toy with, but also contain the idea of a female killer. In chapter four, I utilize Gioconda Belli's novel La mujer habitada (1988) to comment upon the perception of murder committed by women within political movements. I argue Belli casts her main protagonist as a sacrificial soldier, one who is willing to die for this new imagined nation. It is Lavinia's willingness to sacrifice herself for her country that lends legitimacy to her violence, rewriting it in positive terms, and allowing her to be embraced as part of that national history. I further explore the media's representation of Nora Astorga and the Sandinista's combative motherhood discourse.

Journal / Series

Volume & Issue



Date Issued





Effective Date

Expiration Date




Union Local


Number of Workers

Committee Chair

Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Degree Discipline

Degree Name

Degree Level

Related Version

Related DOI

Related To

Related Part

Based on Related Item

Has Other Format(s)

Part of Related Item

Related To

Related Publication(s)

Link(s) to Related Publication(s)


Link(s) to Reference(s)

Previously Published As

Government Document




Other Identifiers


Rights URI


dissertation or thesis

Accessibility Feature

Accessibility Hazard

Accessibility Summary

Link(s) to Catalog Record