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The Image and Reality of the Tehuana/Juchiteca

(March 2008)

We have a fortnight to explore the parts played female icons and muses – the Tehuana and the Soldadera  - and by creative women during Mexico’s cultural renaissance

Today, I will talk about the Image and Reality of the Tehuana.

Next week, I want to get more into the work of creative women who were judged by the contemporaries as exemplifying “Mexicanidad”: Kahlo, Izquierdo and Isabel Villaseñor

See essays in by Carlos Monsivais, Vaughan, Cano, Rubinstein and Tuñon in Olcott, Vaughan and Cano, Sex in Revolution Gender, Politics and Power in Modern Mexico

See also Tabea Alexa Linhard, Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War (2005)

For the painters Maria Izquierdo and Frida Kahlo see the essays by Adriana Zavala and Sarah M Lowe in Mary Kay Vaughan and Stephen Lewis, eds., The Eagle and the Virgin Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920-1940 and, Jean Franco, Plotting Women Gender and Representation in Mexico 1989, Ch. 5 "Body and Soul", 102-28.

For Isabel Villaseñor, see Carmen Gómez del Campo and Leticia Torres Carmona, En memoria de un rostro: Isabel Villaseñor   México : LOLA de México, 1997.

In most of its military, political and cultural manifestations the Mexican Revolution was a male construction. Men monopolise the gallery of revolutionary heroes, controlled politics and even set the cultural programmes: Gamio, Rivera and Vacsoncelos.  Yet images of womanhood, not only the revolutionary “soldadera”, but the “coronela” and the “Adelita”, but also peace-time “modern” women - school teachers, athletes, professional, artists, actors - formed an essential part of Mexico's cultural revolution during the 1920s and 30s.  What constraints they worked under I will discuss next week.  

Today I want to explore an aspect of Mexico’s cultural revolution, the Tehuanas (the woman of Tehuantepec) whose assertive femininity seems to seems to challenge a view of the Revolution as unbridled masculinity and machismo.

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