The insurgent women who made Mexico's Independence possible

Women's role during the Independence was more critical than what history books say

  • 17/09/2020
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The insurgent women who made Mexicos Independence possible
The insurgent women. Photo:

Insurgent is one who rises against authority, and that is precisely what women from Independence were. Not only did they carry out fundamental tasks for the liberation of the country from the Spanish yoke, but at the same time, they rose against the mandates of the time, which consigned women to the private space, far from the political life of the country.

Each 15th of September, we commemorate the battle for Mexico's Independence; male sex predominates in the characters who participated in this heroic battle. Only two women are mentioned on that date: Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez and Leona Vicario.

There is a general perception that women carried out more jobs in the private sphere like house chores; however, it was not like that.

Women from all walks of life participated as spies, mediators, warriors, nurses, and cooks. Women who, in anonymity, put aside prejudices and social recognition to join the fight.

Women demonstrated that it was not necessary to take up arms to be part of a political movement. Changes could be made without having to kill someone or having to be a soldier. To be heard, women had to use intelligence, cunning, and deception to achieve their objectives, explains Alejandra Dávalos Rayo, historian and academic of the UNAM.

"I dare to say that (their contribution) was just as important as that of the men. However, they have an added value: they did something that was not expected of them because they were being educated for something else, so supporting a political movement was, to a certain extent, a form of rebellion."

Women without stereotypes

Leona Vicario and Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez are considered heroines of the independence fight for their role. "For their time, they were what we would say: 'quite advanced' and very, very audacious. They did not fit into the stereotype of a submissive and docile woman."

However, they used these stereotypes to their advantage. They used it to act as a link and go unnoticed at conspiracies because no one mistrusted them. Alluding that men carried all that, for them, it was much easier to pass on messages, exchange letters, etc.

Women's role lost in history

Throughout history, women's role in Mexico's Independence has remained opaque. Only Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez and Leona Vicario and little by little "La Güera" Rodríguez make it in the books, torsos, and main avenues.

Educator Alejandra Dávalos explains that this situation is "because at first it was not believed necessary to write history with a gender perspective. Furthermore, that was not the role that women wanted to share; something else was expected from them."

"Currently, things are changing a lot; there is a need to voice those who did not have it because there were many women. But these issues currently in research institutes will take a long time to reach books of public text in public schools, "she says.

Regarding the role of insurgent women, concerning Leona Vicario and Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, the UNAM academic explains that these women had the support to develop and be independent. "They weren't typical 19th-century women from 'I'm going to knit, I'm going to pray, I'm going to educate my children, I'm going to find a husband as soon as possible.' No, they were other types of women," she says.

Even contemporaries writers point that "La Güera" Rodríguez was "too smart to be a woman."

However, Alejandra says that you couldn't talk about machismo at that time. "Awareness about machismo and the fact that it can be changed. The idea of a social construction appears in the 1960s." She explains that "what is true is that roles were assigned and women asked to be obedient, sometimes submissive, practically speak when asked, get married, and raise children. That form of political opinion was not expected from women. For men, their reasoning was relied on and from women-only passion. "

Insurgent Women

Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez

Known as "La Corregidora" for being the wife of the Corregidor of Querétaro, Miguel Domínguez, she was a conspirator in Querétaro. She lent her house to carry out meetings where the Independence movement was planned. In her home, she received Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, and Juan Aldama. She was part of the insurgent movement, and she was the one who warned that they had been discovered, giving them an advantage and starting point to Independence.

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Leona Vicario

She participated in a secret society known as "Los Guadalupes," in which they were in charge of keeping Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos y Pavón informed about the Spanish strategies to fight them since she belonged to the viceregal society.

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Maria Ignacia Rodriguez

Known as "La Güera" Rodríguez provided her support for Independence. She had a loving relationship with Agustín Iturbide, whom she encouraged to bring about the Mexican liberation.

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Gertrudis Bocanegra

She was known as one of the main conspirators and built a communication network in Pátzcuaro and Tacámbaro. As she went to her hometown to organize the revolutionary forces, she was captured and tortured with the intention that she would expose those responsible for the movement. When they did not get a response from her, she was sentenced to death and shot. For this reason, she is recognized as the heroine of Pátzcuaro.

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Traducción: Valentina K. Yanes