Mexican women from all walks of life have left an indelible mark on our national history. Of course, the Virgen de Guadalupe is in a category of her own in this respect, for we’re talking of females who were born, raised, and lived in the geographical area that today we call Mexico, and whose participation in the everyday life of their communities left an imprint which to this day continues to have positive consequences for our nation.
The following are the five women who have most influenced and shaped the country since the years of the Spanish conquest to the present.
- La Malinche, the mythical mother of the mestizo nation. There isn’t any person more mysterious in Mexican history than this Indigenous woman who participated in one of the most amazing periods of human history: the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. Because of her linguistic skills, she was the most powerful female during the years of 1519-1521. As Hernán Cortés’ translator, she helped him successfully navigate his way through the complex, indigenous, political world. For this reason, Mexicans history condemned her unjustly to the role of traitor.
- Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a most excellent poet, essayist, and dramaturge. This intellectual powerhouse transformed culture and society from her cloistered life in a convent cell during the Colonial Period (1521-1821). In her writing, especially “The Response to Sor Filotea,” she anticipates much of feminist thought with an uncanny intellect that no one in Latin America, female or male, has ever matched up to the present day.
- Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, without her courage and resolve the independence movement of 1810 would have been aborted. Her timely action of warning Don Miguel Hidalgo of his impending arrest, along with that of his collaborators, greatly changed the course of Mexican history. We need to acknowledge this fact during the independence festivities of the 16th of September.
- Frida Khalo, this surrealistic painter lived for many years under the shadow of her husband, the giant of mural painting, Diego Rivera. With the advent of the feminist movement in the United States, her artistic legacy found a more deserving audience and recognition. In the new millennium, she has become a cultural icon recognized around the world, and today it is Rivera who lives in her shadow.
- María Félix, she may not have shown a great range of acting, but her movie roles, particularly the one she played in Doña Bárbara (1943), were essential in defining female Mexican-ness in the twentieth century. La Doña, as she was known until her death, was a key player in the Golden Age of Mexican film (1936-1957), whose influence continues to reverberate in a transnational Mexican society and culture that resides in both, Mexico and the USA.
The contributions of these five women were paramount in the creation of a political, cultural, and intellectual identity that gives Mexico its uniqueness in the world’s family of nations. Without their existence, Mexico just wouldn’t be the country we know today.
A slightly different version of this postcard titled, “5 Incredible And Powerful Women Who Changed Mexico Forever” was published in Cultura Colectiva, a Mexican online magazine, on the anniversary of the assassination of Zapata, April 30, 2019.