Partners in Conflict: The Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Labor in the Chilean Agrarian Reform, 1950-1973 / Edition 1

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Partners in Conflict examines the importance of sexuality and gender to rural labor and agrarian politics during the last days of Chile’s latifundia system of traditional landed estates and throughout the governments of Eduardo Frei and Salvador Allende. Heidi Tinsman analyzes differences between men’s and women’s participation in Chile’s Agrarian Reform movement and considers how conflicts over gender and sexuality shape the contours of working-class struggles and national politics.
Tinsman restores women to a scholarly narrative that has been almost exclusively about men, recounting the centrality of women’s labor to the pre-Agrarian Reform world of the hacienda during the 1950s and recovering women’s critical roles in union struggles and land occupations during the Agrarian Reform itself. Providing a theoretical framework for understanding why the Agrarian Reform ultimately empowered men more than women, Tinsman argues that women were marginalized not because the Agrarian Reform ignored women but because, under both the Frei and Allende governments, it promoted the male-headed household as the cornerstone of a new society. Although this emphasis on gender cooperation stressed that men should have more respect for their wives and funneled unprecedented amounts of resources into women’s hands, the reform defined men as its protagonists and affirmed their authority over women.
This is the first monographic social history of Chile’s Agrarian Reform in either English or Spanish, and the first historical work to make sexuality and gender central to the analysis of the reforms.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Partners in Conflict is a rich and complex narrative of social and political change, backed by deep research and theoretical insights into questions raised by feminist scholarship having to do with sexuality, gender, and patriarchy. It will become a landmark in women’s history, the history of peasants and rural society, and the history of labor in Latin America.”—Thomas Miller Klubock, author of Contested Communities: Class, Gender, and Politics in Chile’s El Teniente Copper Mine, 1904–1951

“Combining the highest achievements of social history with oral testimony, Partners in Conflict enjoys the objectivity of one and the subjectivity of the other. Tinsman’s book sets a new standard for clarity, argumentative force, and simple stories that will live with readers for a long time to come. This is not just a local study, it is a major contribution to understanding how sexual and gender relations contribute to social change and the creation of a new humanity.”—Temma Kaplan, author of Crazy for Democracy: Women in Grassroots Movements

“Pathbreaking in its use of gender analysis to illuminate agrarian reform and the Allende era, including women’s work, sexuality as a terrain of contest and the role of masculinity in rural social movements and politics. Tinsman opens up a new dimension.”—Peter Winn, Tufts University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Heidi Tinsman is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine.

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Read an Excerpt

Partners in conflict

The politics of gender, sexuality, and labor in the Chilean agrarian reform, 1950-1973
By Heidi Tinsman

Duke University Press

ISBN: 0-8223-2922-0

Chapter One

Patron and Peon Labor and Authority on the Great Estates

In the 1950s, the Aconcagua Valley was one of Chile's most beautiful, wealthy, and productive agricultural areas. Surrounded by the protective and majestic heights of the Andes and bathed by the waters and tributaries of the Aconcagua River, the Aconcagua Valley's 36,600 hectares of cultivated land produced almost 10 percent of Chile's annual agricultural output and boasted a diverse production of wheat, alfalfa, hemp, vegetables, and flowers, as well as some of the country's oldest and fastest growing fruit orchards and vineyards. Such range was rare and fostered by Aconcagua's proximity to the Valparaiso port and its unique temperate climate that allowed multiple growing seasons. Its estates were owned by some of Chile's most prominent families, while its proximity to Santiago and famed natural splendor made it a favorite weekend and summer retreat for the urban elite. Mineral springs in Santa Maria, renowned wineries in Panquehue, and the luxurious town plazas of San Felipe and Los Andes provided monied travelers with ample comfort and bucolic views of seemingly lush prosperity.

The Aconcagua Valley was also a place of acute inequality and human need. Seventy percent of its 101,763 peopleresided in rural areas where some one hundred large estates relied on the labor of thousands of impoverished subsistence farmers and landless workers. Spacious colonial houses with patio gardens, servant staff, and imported furniture rose above crumbling adobe peasant huts with no electricity or running water. The Aconcagua Valley's richest landowners reaped per capita incomes over a thousand times that of their laborers, sent their children to be educated in Santiago and abroad, and enjoyed intimate political and familial ties to Chile's financial and industrial elite. Campesinos struggled for the meanest survival. They entered work in early childhood, had an average life expectancy of forty-five, and suffered some of the nation's highest rates of illiteracy, malnutrition, and infant mortality.

As with inequalities throughout rural Chile, disparities in Aconcagua flowed from land monopolies and an oppressive labor system. Although less exacerbated than elsewhere in the country, land in the Aconcagua Valley was solidly concentrated in the hands of a few. In 1955, less than 9 percent of property owners controlled 82 percent of irrigated land, and 3 percent of farm units accounted for 95 percent of all agricultural land. Huge estates-those over two thousand hectares-alone accounted for 60 percent of irrigated land. In contrast, some 900 campesino families owned tiny farms, or minifundia, under five hectares. Another four hundred less impoverished, but still poor, families were small producers with farms between five and twenty hectares. Together, the minifundia and small producer sectors accounted for over 80 percent of all property owners, only 8.3 percent of agricultural land (see Tables 1 and 2).

Reinforcing inequalities in land and wealth was the inquilinaje labor arrangement that tied campesinos in semipeonage to estates in return for rights to land. The inquilinaje system dated from Spanish colonial times when royal grants of land and labor consolidated wealth and political power, creating powerful landowners with entitlements to the labor of Indians, mestizos, free blacks, and poor whites who worked in exchange for subsistence rights. Although inquilinaje had changed considerably by the 1950s, it remained foundational to agricultural labor relations throughout Chile. Under this system, the campesino, or inquilino, exchanged labor on an estate for a combination of benefits called regalias (from the word gift), including access to small plots of land, pasture rights, food, housing, and fuel. Since the eighteenth century, inquilinos had also received small cash payments, but in the 1950s regalias and in-kind goods still comprised 70 percent of an inquilino's compensation. Traditionally, inquilinos resided on the estate, dedicating part of their labor to estate production and part of their labor to their land regalia, which could be farmed for petty commercial as well as subsistence purposes. Depending on a regalia's size, which in the 1950s ranged from a quarter to ten hectares, inquilinos were required to give a portion of their produce to the landowner. Inquilinos could opt to devote all of their own labor to the regalia instead of to the estate by providing a replacement worker in their stead. However, during harvest and planting seasons, inquilinos were obligated to work on the estate. During these times, they were also required to provide an additional laborer, called an obligado (obligated one), whose compensation inquilinos paid themselves. This practice dated from the nineteenth century, when a boom in Chilean wheat exports to California and Australia encouraged landowners to bring more land under cultivation and more firmly wedded inquilinaje to commercial production.

By the mid-twentieth century, inquilinaje reflected a growing crisis in Chilean agriculture as well as government efforts to exercise an expanded regulatory role in the countryside. Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, attempts to encourage industrialization and assure cheap food for urban workers resulted in government price supports and subsidies for agricultural growers as well as state complicity with landowners in depressing rural wages. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the state continued this policy in an unsuccessful move to halt the decline in Chile's agricultural productivity and to reverse a growing balance of trade deficit in agricultural imports that would total 120 million dollars by 1964. Although government assistance to landowners was commonplace throughout most of Chile's history and indicative of the seamless connections between landowning and political power, agrarian policy between the mid-1920s and the 1950s was crafted with an eye toward managing national economic development as a whole and, in particular, toward satisfying the needs of the expanding urban middle and working classes.

Such populist impulse gave rise to the first national labor legislation, including the 1931 Labor Code, which formally defined different categories of agricultural workers and specified their obligations and entitlements. Later legislation in 1948 and 1953 established standards for determining the value of in-kind payments of housing and land, mandated that at least 25 percent of an inquilino's compensation be paid in cash, and entitled agricultural workers to the "family allowance" (asignacion familiar), a subsidy for children and dependents. Although such laws were unevenly enforced at best, they encouraged landowners to reduce the number of inquilinos on their estates in favor of workers who earned most of their compensation in cash. The mechanization of dairy and grain production after the 1930s further reduced the need for inquilinos by making more forms of work seasonal.

By the early 1960s, inquilinos comprised only a quarter of the paid labor force in the Aconcagua Valley and other parts of central Chile. The majority of estate laborers worked for cash wages, supplemented by in-kind payments of food, fuel, and sometimes housing, but without rights to land. Out of the Aconcagua Valley's total paid agricultural labor force of 7,458 workers, 24.3 percent were inquilinos, 16.2 percent permanent workers, and 59.3 percent seasonal workers. Of seasonal workers, some worked more than others. Roughly a third were officially classified as "temporary workers" who received a daily wage and labored for between three and six months annually; the remaining two-thirds were "occasional workers" who labored less than three months annually and were paid piecerates for labor-intensive jobs processing fruit, flowers, hemp, garlic, and tobacco. By the mid-1960s, laborers working less than three months a year accounted for almost 40 percent of the Aconcagua Valley's entire paid agricultural labor force (see Table 3).

But if inquilinos did not constitute the numeric majority, the inquilino labor arrangement shaped all labor arrangements on the estate. Inquilinos comprised the core, stable workforce of estates over two hundred hectares, and the contracts of permanent and seasonal laborers evolved as complementary to, rather than competitive with, those of inquilinos. Inquilinaje constituted a coherent labor system that was heterogeneous in form, involving both noncapitalist and capitalist arrangements, both inquilinos and wageworkers. Neither permanent nor seasonal laborers depended on cash wages alone since both received over 20 percent of their compensation in-kind. This practice followed from the inquilino arrangement, which, compounded by the fact that inquilinos received most of their compensation in-kind, functioned to depress all agricultural wages. In 1962, the average per capita cash income of campesino families in central Chile was less than fifteen dollars per month.

Permanent and seasonal workers also made up an integral part of the inquilinaje system in that significant numbers of these laborers (as high as one-third in Aconcagua)were the children, spouses, and extended family members of inquilinos on the estates. Others were from households in the minifundia and small producer sectors, which could not absorb all family labor, and which were part of, rather than separate from, latifundia arrangements as a whole. Similarly, as much as half of all occasional laborers were migrants, called afuerinos (from the Spanish word outside), consisting almost exclusively of men who constantly moved from province to province. The heterogeneous nature of inquilinaje was key to guaranteeing landowners a flexible and cheap labor force. The arrangement of drawing most laborers from subsistence farmers inside or at the edges of the estates allowed landowners to hire or discharge workers on a seasonal basis and to undercompensate them, since it was assumed that substantial parts of their needs would be provided by subsistence agriculture. This latter assumption had a particularly adverse impact on permanent and seasonal workers compensated primarily in cash. A survey of Aconcagua by the National Statistics Institute found that 51 percent of campesino households relying on wage labor earned less than the minimum subsistence salary (sueldo vital, calculated as the cost of survival, as opposed to the higher minimum wage), while another 32 percent received only slightly more. This made in-kind payments of food and fuel all the more important. For workers with no access to subsistence cultivation, it made life especially hard. These completely landless campesinos resided in some of the poorest neighborhoods around nearby towns or in shanty settlements on the outskirts of the estates.

Gender, Family, and Division of Labor

Inquilinaje relied heavily on gender hierarchies within campesino families. By the late 1950s, Chile's paid agricultural labor force was overwhelmingly male, and almost all inquilinos were men. According to the census, women comprised only 9 percent of paid agricultural workers in the Aconcagua Valley, only 4 percent of all permanent workers, and less than 1 percent of inquilinos. Of the 664 women who did earn wages for agricultural labor, more than 80 percent were seasonal workers employed less than six months a year, and over half of these worked less than three months. Such paltry employment reflected a dramatic shift from the recent past. As Patricia Garrett and Ximena Valdes have shown, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, women comprised almost 20 percent of all inquilinos, working primarily as milkmaids, but their numbers plummeted following the mechanization of dairy in the mid-1930s. Indeed, women's loss of work as inquilinas accounts for almost the entire decline in inquilino positions between the 1930s and the 1960s. Whereas the number of inquilinas dropped by 84 percent during this period, the number of male inquilinos declined only by 3 percent. By 1964, a full 99 percent of Chile's 46,961 inquilinos were male. In the Aconcagua Valley, men made up more than 96 percent of inquilinos and permanent workers combined, and more than 87 percent of all seasonal workers (see Tables 4 and 5).

Male inquilinos were usually heads of household, and they depended heavily on the labor of family members. The replacement and obligado workers supplied by an inquilino as mandatory substitutes or supplements to the estate were usually drawn from the ranks of the inquilino's male children and relatives. If such workers received compensation at all, they were paid with food and housing, not cash. The inquilino's family members also carried out subsistence farming on the regalia, and the inquilino's wife usually supervised them during his absence. Regalias grew beans, potatoes, and other vegetables for family consumption, as well as commercial crops such as tobacco. All such cultivation was highly labor intensive, absorbing even the energies of very young children. Adult women, assisted by children, additionally took responsibility for raising the family's chickens, pigs, and goats, and for transforming animals and animal products into cheeses, butter, and empanadas (meat pies) for family meals or for sale in nearby towns.

Male permanent and seasonal workers also depended on the labor of female family members, including wives and daughters, mothers, aunts, and sisters. When husbands and other adult men sought work on the estates, women took charge of planting and cultivation. When men were around, women worked by their sides in more gender-specific tasks. Men plowed while women planted beans and potato buds. Women pulled and bound tobacco leaves while men hung the bunches in curing shacks and carted them to town. As in the case of inquilino families, women minifundistas and small producers took primary responsibility for farm animals and the marketing of eggs and milk products. But gender divisions of labor were never rigid, and women frequently performed traditionally male tasks such as digging irrigation canals and building fences. If a wife fell sick, her husband milked the goats.

Women's unpaid agricultural work was crucial to the maintenance of the inquilinaje labor system as a whole. The flexibility of women's labor allowed male family members to be seasonally available to the estates, providing a place for them to return to during periods of unemployment. Women's meat and dairy products provided a significant part of the family diet as well as supplemental cash income. Campesina women were exclusively responsible for preparing the family's food, delivering meals to male family members working on the estates, sewing and laundering the family's clothes, haulingwater, cleaning, and raising children. As Florencia Mallon and Carmen Diana Deere have each argued in different Peruvian contexts, campesina household labor was vital both to campesino survival and capitalist profitability. Campesina women's labor not only reproduced the agricultural labor force, it generated productive value. It produced goods and services for family members that did not have to be purchased, allowing landowners to pay less than the full cost of getting an able-bodied worker into the field.


Excerpted from Partners in conflict by Heidi Tinsman Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Maps and Tables
Introductions 1
1 Patron and Peon: Labor and Authority on the Great Estates 19
2 Binding Ties: Campesino Sexuality and Family Negotiations 55
3 Making Men: Labor Mobilization and Agrarian Reform 82
4 Promoting Gender Mutualism: Rural Education, Mothers' Centers, and Family Planning 128
5 Struggling for Land: Worker Bosses and Campesina Militants 171
6 Revolutionizing Women: Popular Unity and Female Mobilization 209
7 Coming Apart: Struggle, Sex, and Social Crisis 247
Epilogue: 1973-1988 288
Notes 297
Selected Bibliography 347
Index 361
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