Hispanic Heritage Month: Remember the Adelitas

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This week is ending but Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) is just beginning and you should know that we have lots of food for thought and fuel for you to take action in your classrooms as we celebrate and honor the profound and important contributions that our Latinx sisters and brothers have made to our culture. We urge you to take a look at the resources we have already available as a good starting point to get you in gear for HHM.  We have a little bit of everything. Interested in the Young Lords? Here you go. Wondering about Garifuna? Look no further.  Want to explore Afro Salvadorans? Ok, voila! Maybe you want to know more about a woke warrior like Dr. Marta Morena- Vega.  You can check out all of our Hispanic Heritage Month posts from last year. But these posts are just a primer and we hope to help you delve deeper into more content throughout this month. Most importantly, we remain guided by the Sankofa principle and that’s always a good place to start.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 11.30.15 PM.pngToday we want to take a look back at a part of history that is often not taught and even more rarely celebrated; the story of women warriors. Way before we started hashtagging “#notmypresident” in resistance to 45, folks have been giving dictators, despots, tyrants and oppressors the boot. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) was brought on by the people’s rejection of President Porfirio Diaz, who was considered a dictator.  The revolutionaries were in favor of Francisco Madero, who was seen as the real choice of the populace.

Although male leaders are often the focus in understanding the revolt and the decade long fight for a social reform, the role of Mexican women in this period should not be forgotten. The Adelitas, also known as Soldaderas were women participating in the military conflict of the Mexican Revolution. Women filled a range of roles in the struggle from front line soldiers to camp followers. However, most women did not achieve rank in the armed forces. 

(Image of Amelio Robles)

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Significantly, a few women  assumed male identities by using the male versions of their names and became prominent in their roles. Two such figures were Angel (Angela) Jimenez and Amelio (Amelia) Robles. Jiminez would go between her female and male identities as part of her strategic moves in the fight for justice and peace.  She eventually was acknowledged and given the rank of lieutenant.  Robles however fully embraced a male identity and demonstrated leadership in the Revolution while fighting alongside prominent freedom fighters such as Emiliano Zapata. The military accepted Robles’ claim as a male and gave him the title of colonel and by the 1970s he was awarded the medal for Honorary Legionnaire of the Mexican Army.

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The name “La Adelita” came to be synonymous with women taking part in battle but it originates with the actual name of a popular Mexican folk song that honors the heroic women who gave their lives for the Revolution.  According to historian, Alicia Arrizon, “the song’s origins are thought to be inspired by a Durangan woman who had joined the Maderistas movement at an early age.” However, because there is little proof of her identity, the term “La Adelita” describes any woman who took part in the Revolution. You can listen to the song in the video below:

The story of Las Adelitas not only highlights the contributions of women but also points to the rich and complex history of Mexico, especially in light of the social and political climate here in the United States today. Uncovering this history with your students provides many opportunities to look critically at the racist and fear-mongering rhetoric of the alt-right about Mexico, border walls and the possible changes to DACA legislation. It is worth noting that U.S. interests played a role in the Mexican Revolution as well. Therefore, it is so important that we remind our students that resistance has always been the way of our people, especially in the face of fear and hatred. It is even more important that our children know that women and men stood together for what they knew was right and that they sacrificed equally for the liberation of our people.

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Oh, and let’s be clear, Mexican Independence Day is September 16th not Cinco de Mayo.

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