Women of the Mexican Revolution
Women, as military at every level in the Mexican Revolution, have captured the fascination of movie goers for decades. Our personal favorite is Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), the 1989 film from the Laura Esquivel novel of the same name. Gertrudis, one of the sisters in this story, is lured into the revolution by her lust for a handsome soldier, joins the movement, and eventually ends up in a brothel, disowned by her mother. Gertrudis is a fictional character but her real life counterparts led lives as thrilling and desperate.
These female soldiers, soldaderas, are seen in photos with rifles, pistolas, on horseback, with children and men, often their husbands, with whom they fought stalwartly, not simply as companions. They were given duties, offered help in any way they could, forging ahead to set up camps and keep fires burning, and sometimes working as prostitutes (often given no choice) to keep the military from abandoning. Many battled bravely alongside their male counterparts.
María de Jesús González was a secret agent. She was able to disguise herself and pass herself off as a man to complete tasks for Carranza’s army. Catching this spy was difficult due to the fact that María returned to her dresses and hairdos, once her mission was accomplished. Not to be confused with another María de Jesús González, the murderess madam, the revolutionary María had high aims in the Mexican cavalry. When she was interviewed by First Chief Carranza, he was duly impressed by her knowledge of the battles of Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo and others, and installed her in the ranks of his army as a spy.
Rosa Bodilla never relinquished her feminine garb. Having joined Zapata’s army with her husband, she took his title and place when he was slain. Given his title, she was henceforth known as Coronela Rosa Bobadila vied de Casas, the widow of Casas, and gave orders as any other general, respected and revered by the men.
Amelia Robles became Amelio following the revolution. As a revolutionary transgender, Robles found the perfect opportunity to defy norms of the day and take on the gender with which they identified. They abandoned their home in order to join the Zapata army, presenting as a woman. Slowly but very effectively, they took on the masculine identity they would live with the remainder of their life. Considered a war hero, he reestablished himself in his community as a man and was recognized in death as a male.
For an excellent read and more information about women in the Mexican Revolution, we recommend Soldaderas in the Mexican Military by Elizabeth Salas.
Que es cómo es.