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Life & Arts

New Book Puts Women At Center Of Mexican Revolution

Book cover with an illustration of a revolutionary woman with butterfly wings.
Courtesy Trinity University Press

"Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico" tells war stories of women in the 20th century and beyond, who became part of Mexico's "collective DNA."

From Texas Standard:

Military history is often told from a male perspective. But a new book about the Mexican Revolution aims to change that.

"Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico: Portraits of Soldaderas, Saints and Subversives" is a collection of wartime stories from a female perspective, set during the revolution and beyond. One of the editors, San Antonio-based artist Kathy Sosa, told Texas Standard that in many ways, the Mexican Revolution was a woman's revolution.

Author Sandra Cisneros, with long black hair and thick bangs, holding the book "Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico."
Writer Sandra Cisneros contributed two essays to the book.

"They wouldn't have been able to fight that revolutionary war if their wives and girlfriends and sweethearts hadn't come along to make their food, wash their clothes and sometimes pick up guns and fight, and sometimes become military leaders in the effort," she said.

The core of the book is about women who contributed to the Mexican Revolution, which lasted from 1910 to 1924. Writer Sandra Cisneros wrote an essay aboutrevolutionary Teresa Urrea. But novelist and screenwriter Laura Esquivel wrote about a figure who came long before the revolution: La Malinche – a Nahua woman from Mexico's Gulf Coast who was sold into slavery and became Hernán Cortés' translator. Sosa says today, La Malinche is both "reviled" and "celebrated" as an indelible part of Mexican identity.

"We asked ourselves, well, who are the women in our collective DNA?" Sosa said. "And so we look back into the prerevolutionary period for figures like La Malinche, like the Virgin of Guadalupe ... and then the the postrevolutionary period, people who are not still alive today, but who [were] fighting the civil rights revolution in our country."

Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands, and possibly more, Mexicans who migrated north into Texas during the war, their stories are often omitted from Texas history books. Sosa says it's an ethnic bias that needs to change. It's also a gender bias. She says we're so used to hearing stories of "great men" during war, but we hear little about women's contributions. She hopes the book begins to fill that gap.

"If you're a little girl from here, if you're a Latino from here, you don't read about that ... time period that's covered in Texas history books; it's almost like it didn't happen," Sosa said. "It's very late for us to be realizing this, but it's not too late to write it into the Texas history books."

She says learning and sharing this history is important because, after all, it's Texas' history, too.

Trinity University Press is holding a free event to launch the book, on Zoom, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. CST.

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