The Mexico – US border area, and especially the urban centers of San Antonio, Laredo, Los Angeles and El Paso served as center stage for essential parts of the precursory work for the 1910 Mexican revolution. On the either sides of the boundary separating the two nations, issues of anticlericalism, liberalism, anarchism, class, nationalism, identity and race were solved with revolutionary fervor and executed through periodical publications, memoirs and autobiographical narratives by female authors who had become extremely involved in calling attention to issues of gender, in addition to the nationalist strife in Mexico for democracy. Within the issues articulated by the differing factions of the revolutionary movement in Mexico, a small but essential number of periodicals published in the Spanish language in the United States. These periodicals talked about and stressed on the growing concern for the emancipation of women and the patriarchal authority that the government had subverted by including women in the fight and struggle for justice. The women could accomplish this at times through the manipulation of genders for their own certain nationalist advantages (Lomas 50- 74).
Through unsigned editorials and articles, certain periodicals like the El Obrero meaning the worker, and the La Voz de la Mujer meaning the women’s voice proclaimed themselves as tools of politics of the predecessor revolutionary movement. Just the same, another periodical named the Pluma Roja, meaning the red pen, proclaimed and acted the same for the internationality anarchist movement. The writing of certain women like Jovita Idar who continually wrote and published articles in the periodical La Cronica, which her family owned, further increased the problems brought about by the articulation of gender by their removal of the borders in geopolitics, by focusing on cultural and political practices across the border and knowingly establishing a discourse that was transborder (Lomas 50- 74).
Despite the political imposition of the twentieth century of a physical national boundary, separating the United States from Mexico, each seeking to establish its national culture differently, the position of the Mexican women in the society in the borderlands was still determined by the ancient 19th century social norms of the Mexican culture. As the revolutionary movement continued to develop, it provided a field that was extremely fertile for the re- emergence of nationalist attitudes among the Mexican US population, and established the space to redevelop the responsibility and roles of women in the society (Lomas 50- 74).
The liberalism of this revolutionary movement strengthened the secular perspective that openly disagreed the narrative that had become master in that era; the Catholic Church narrative. Although only a few of the women in the borderline areas had the required cultural capital to express themselves and come up with these expressions in writing, the women who id had the capacity to come up with other ways of doing so. Up to today, no one has virtually recognized or acknowledged the work of these women as political and social activists and their written and intellectual contributions. This either is largely due to gender discrimination or due to political affiliation, as no one in Mexico has recognized his or her work and efforts. In the United States, these factors, in addition to linguistic and racial biases, have sentenced their work to oblivion. However, the stories of these women and their efforts to get the stories published represent the realities of individuals, the importance of whose daily lives transcends the challenges resulting from political, national, class and gender boundaries (Lomas 50- 74). This paper shows the importance, and the influence the lives of these women, and their work had on US, and the influences of the Anarchist movements of the Latin America on the United States.
Latino and Hispanic women in the United States have been involved and engaged in journalism for numerous years, utilizing their skills in multilingualism to reach and communicate across cultures and spread news and ideas throughout the nineteenth century up to the Common Era. The press in Hispanic countries provided information and knowledge essential to the Latin American and Hispanic communities and helped to preserve and foster the values of culture that we can still witness today. Just the same, these Hispanic presses provided columns of special interest commonly associated with magazines, bookstores, and publishing houses and promoted education to spread the ideologies of the external and internal writers. In the late 19th century, the women Hispanic writers became extremely influential in the press. One of the commonly known women writers from a Mexican background during those times was Casanova de Villaverde who was a Cuban activist and abolitionist and a political activist (Lazo 78- 123).
This woman wrote for the America Latina and could come up with articles about revolutionary and movements for freeing Cuba, though she was from a conservative family. A writer later married her and they moved to New York from where she and her husband continued to take part in the fight for Cuban freedom. In the early 20th century, several other women and especially those from the borderline between Mexico and Texas became instrumental in spreading the news about how concerned they were for the civil rights and freedoms of the Mexican citizens and the dislike they had for the then president in the Hispanic periodicals and newspapers. Idar was among these women when she begun to write for her father. It was her family that later organized and led the first Mexican Congress in Texas to safeguard the rights of Mexican- Americans (Lazo 78- 123).
It was also during this time that Idar and her family helped found the women organization called La Liga Femenil Mexican that focused mainly on reforms in the education sector. At almost the same time Leonar Villegas de Magnon, another educator and activist begun to write the local dailies and joined another women movement called Junta Revolutionaria. These two women participated in a small organization called La Cruz Blanca that specialized in helping soldiers who became wounded. It was from these experiences that Villegas gained news and ideas to write about the experiences people and nurses in Juarez had in the magazine The Rebel. Other women later joined different organizations and begun writing for different newspapers relaying their fears, concerns and ideas (Arrizón 90- 112).
The revolution discourse did not know any boundaries. Words, language, concepts and corridors crossed forth and back along the US- Mexican border as easily as the famous revolutionary Francisco Villa. The Partido Liberal Mexicano was an organization of anarchists that carried slogans with them from Mexico to the US across the US- Mexico border. As it follows, numerous female writers wrote for the newspaper of Pertido, which people called Regeneration, on both of the sides of the border, but mostly in the US in Los Angeles where the group finally settled in 1910. Women such as the Villarreal sisters, Sara Estela Ramirez, Blanca Moncaleano, Maria Talavera and Teresa Arteaga all contributed and participated in the agenda of the revolutionary as activists, revolutionists and journalists. The revolution then developed some kind of resurgence during which the women writers wrote essays, edited their own newspapers, magazines and journals. Most of these women who were after political exile in the southwestern part of the US wrote prolifically, championing the revolutionary as a women’s revolutionary and criticizing the then president Porfirio Diaz, who was also a dictator (Arrizón 90- 112).
In this essay, we are going to look at three particular women and the effects that their work and efforts in politics and society had on the US and the rest of the society. The here women to be looked at in this case are Blanca de Moncaleano, the Villarreal sisters, Andrea and Teresa and Luisa Capetillo. These women were extremely essential in influencing the other women through writing. The three women wrote for and contributed a number of essays to the famous feminist newspaper called Regeneration that reaffirmed the intent of the organization and its writers to politicize women. The essays that these women and their colleagues had are crucial because they show how a few women the Party and its ideologies influenced- and transformed- the ideologies of the women while writing their own stories. In their essays, the women undertook different approaches from the one the men writers used, and disputed implicitly, the ideology of the Party on women. Through their activist agendas of feminism, the female writers represented a doubling- an explicit agreement that was struck between the male leaders- when as feminists they begun an internationalist revolutionary movement, but by fighting for their own agenda, the women spoke and spoke feminism that was third space (Perez 54- 63a).
Blanca Moncaleano is the first writer we are going to look at in this paper. Whereas Teresa and Andrea Villarreal and Sara Estela Ramirez in the 1900s defied the catholic ideology that the Catholic Church had well established, and one of the newspapers they worked for called the La voz de Mujer called for democracy that was liberal through movements and revolution. In the years that followed another newspaper, the Pluma Roja proposed that the only solution to unequal rights, discrimination and oppression was anarchism. These women movement founded the Pluma Roja in Los Angeles during the second stage of the revolution. Blanca de Moncaleano was the editor and the director of the newspaper from the periods between 1915 and 1913. Although there are no signs that this newspaper was based on political ideologies or as a result of a female political movement, it was developed to create networks with the international anarchist movements across the borders (Perez 54- 63a).
There is not much known about this writer, but John hart says of her, ‘in early June 1912, Juan Francisco Moncaleano, a Colombian military (and his dynamic wife), arrived in Mexico after a brief stay in Havana (inspired by the news of the Madero led revolution)’ (Gutierrez 305). Scholars have argued that Blanca’s father was a professor in a Colombian university who also became the founder of the newspaper called Luz. The Moncaleano family based the paper in the Mexico City. According to Hart, this ‘… was a remarkable paper. Moncaleano used it to publicize the hopeless cause of Flores Magon and the Partido Liberal Mexicano, the anarchist program of which he enthusiastically endorsed and whose leader he deeply admired, (Gutierrez 305).
Unlike the nationalist ideologies represented by other news papers such as the La voz de la Mujer, the Pluma Roja had not interest and did not acknowledge or believe in national borders. For the newspaper, the need to reinstate the position of the female population in the society was at the middle of its fight for political, social and economic freedom, and was part of the ideal notions of anarchism. For the newspaper and his writers, the patriarchal authority that remained unquestioned, upheld by the state and religion, was the target of its criticism (Perez 54- 63a). The feminist stance this woman took was of great influence to other women and the US Latin movement. She supported both the revolution and the fight for women rights. Her righting often was about encouraging women to take a forefront in matters affecting their country and other women. Her stance with these two main events made her extremely essential in the war against dictatorship.
This remarkable woman meant for most of the essays that appeared in the newspaper for the women who the writers encouraged to break from the norm by acquiring more knowledge. The program of the anarchists, as defined by the newspaper, searched for a society that was egalitarian in which the female writers had fully powered the women. It proposed the freedom of women from three main oppressors who the women activists identified as religion, the state and capital. Blanca de Moncaleano was the director of the paper and she not only talked to the women but also to the men, as she encouraged them to convert their wives who were enslaved and obedient to partners who could think for themselves. For instance, the title Men, Educate Women looks like a call for the male population to educate their women, in truth Blanca wrote the article to address the issue of the significance of letting women educate themselves. The phrase, ‘men, allow women to educate themselves and to think on her own…’ (Lomas 62) can further confirm this claim.
The articles that were signed, and probably written by Blanca de Moncaleano, are probably the most passionately critical of the men who participated in the fight for liberation and who were at least conscious of their own enslavement and suppression of women. Of these men Blanca wrote, ‘consumed by their supposed superiority, conceited in their ignorance, men believe they can achieve the goal of human emancipation without the help of women’ (Iomas 62).she denounced the source of the power of men by confronting apathy from the male writers. She further expounded her militant, firm stance through the motto of the newspaper which went like,’ before me, the star of my ideal. Behind me, men. I do not look back…’ (Lomas 62).
All the papers that Blanca was involved with including the Pluma Roja, La Voz de la Mujer and El Obrero had an effect on their readers and audiences as they talked in detail about issues pertaining gender. It is highly possible that the audiences of this phenomenal female writer included PLM partisans and activists. According to certain scholars, the audience of the writer and her work included the general sympathizers from the Chicano- Mexican community and the intermittently active laborers, artisans and lower middle class individuals. Other audiences included the local leadership cores in most of the Chicano, chapter offices, district organizers, and local journalists who acted as the interpreters and transmitters of the policies of the movement. The well- educated, bi- national leadership, and the self- taught were also essential audiences of the writer (Norma 32- 46).
Generally, Blanca de Moncaleano was a Mexican journalist who firmly supported the rights of women and their revolution. Her articles showed a formidable stance that none of the other writes, especially the male writers, had ever shown. In most of her articles, she talked about freedoms and rights of women. In one of her many articles, Blanca criticized the subjugation women experienced at home by arguing that, women have rights equal to those given to men. She argued that God did not place women on earth for procreation, or to wash dishes and wash clothes. By naming and acknowledging the confinement of women in the family, the writer participated with a feminism that bespoke of the social conditions that dictators and male oppressors accepted as the norm for women. She, therefore, largely called for the liberation of women by urging them to break away from their prescribed duties and roles entirely (Perez 54- 63a).
The next critical writer in this paper is Luisa Capetillo. This Puerto Rican activist took a long stance in protesting and fighting against human right violations and abuses that the government and other entities executed against women and the proletarian class. Her fight for freedom and rights obtained emancipation for both the women and men workers and resulted to a system that would deliver emancipation to women from their oppression by men (Meruelo 4- 113). Her fight was no different than that of Blanca, and their efforts were extremely useful in influencing the direction of the revolution by writing articles that were insightful. Both of these women, and the Villarreal sisters, as we will see later, used their articles to mobilize individuals and to incite them against their tyrant leaders. They encouraged women and men to fight for their freedom and that of the women. Their fight saw the revolution through. Without their efforts, as we have seen, the battle would not have been won.
Her concerns were also directed towards the future of children in relation to the emancipation of women from men. The patriarchal cultural and tradition mores of the society in the Puerto Rican culture in the early 1900s stated that women should stay home and take care of their families. In addition to this, it was the norm that women remain submissive to the men, and especially their husbands, while their male counterparts acted as the financial supporters, household heads and remained sexually free. The society expected more of these cultural expectations of the women who were elite than normal women, since they were more involved with the powers than the traditions regulated. Women who were elite also had more time at their hands with the domestic helps, and did not have to cook wash, or take care of their children. On the other hand, the proletarian women usually stayed and worked in the elite homes, and, as a result, had little time in their hands, and this made them vulnerable to the wishes of men and sexual expectations (Meruelo 4- 113).
Capetillo viewed all this in a different way. She had a view that was progressive of the women and the abilities they possessed, intellectually, also as workers. Capetillo, through her writing, questioned traditional norms developed by the Catholic Church concerning women in the institution of marriage, even to the point of denying the significance of marriage. She encouraged for the sexual rights of women and for open relationships, and defied cultural norms and requirements, specifically if they denied women any of their rights and freedoms. For example, this writer often wore male pants, choosing what she called comfort over what she thought was a social norm that was oppressive and uncomfortable that the society forced women to follow (Meruelo 4- 113). It is clear from her articles that her father or her family never led her to feel inferior because she was a woman. She writes of her father and mother, ‘ Mi opinion acerca de las libertades, derechos y deberes de la mujer…’ (Capetillo 2). This shows were her motivation and support came from.
For one to understand fully how this writer came to establish such beliefs and ideas, it is essential to understand her background. Capetillo received an education that only the elite in the society received, but she also grew up as a proletarian. This situation placed her in a conflicting situation as to what society or class she belongs. Furthermore, she declined to identify with the elite society because her parents had strong ideas from the European revolutionary, though they received a progressive education. In her lifetime, she wrote for a number of anarchist newspapers in New York and Puerto Rico. The writer also wrote and published five books. Her work, plays and short essays reveal and show the obsession she had with improving the men in Puerto Rico and the dire economic situation of the Puerto Rican women. Her anarchist ideals that drove her actions and her fierce fight to educate the people of Puerto Rico about their rights and friends also get revealed in her work. Her first two books are about how the working class population should come together and demand for the government to provide for them better living conditions and to recognize and acknowledge their enslavement by the upper class and their blind following of the doctrines and ideologies of the Roman Catholic Church (Meruelo 4- 113).
The last of her two books focus and emphasize more on the sexual rights of the women and the roles they can play as leaders in their organizations. In all of her books, the writer used her writing to teach and guide women to become independent and positive, something that the writer seemed to be intensely engaged in her later time in her labor career. The significance of the writer to scholars and historians is that through her specific style she was able to attain certain goals in the fight for the emancipation of women and rights and freedoms for both women and men. She was so crucial because she served as a role model for the rights of women as she broke the chains of tradition, though not usually successfully (Meruelo 4- 113).
She was not the same as the other women activists especially in the way she cultivated her ideas. More importantly, what made this female writer so fascinating was the fact that she challenged traditions and social norms by mixing with men in politics, at a period when women did not dare appear in public without the company of a man. For example, when she described her experiences in one of her books, the ideal crusade where she usually met with other members of the labor union to discuss issues pertaining the labor movement. In addition to this, the female writer when she decided to go against the customs and the traditions of the society in a patriarchal society, her wearing of male pants when it was frowned upon in the society for women to dress as so and her progressive works of literature and activism (Meruelo 4- 113).
Capetillo embodies and represents both drives and forces in figurative and literal sense: her rejection of marriage, her wearing of inappropriate clothes, and support of free love certainly show the fierce drive the woman had. Her arguments for a society that was classless, exaltation or praise of the masses in the working class, the penalty position that did not support death and her pleas on both men and women on how to run their homes and educate their children would also rest in the ethical drive or force earlier mentioned (West- Duran 142- 154).
The last anarchistic women who had great influences in the US were the Villarreal sisters Teresa and Andrea. Andrea and Teresa Villarreal responded the same the messages of Guerrero and Flores Magon to women when they called for men to the revolt. In the headlines of the newspaper they wrote for, the Regeneration, the two sisters asked, ‘men what are you doing here…. Go, go to Mexico to conquer for us and for our children: LAND AND LIBERTY’ (Perez 7a). In addition, of themselves, the Villarreal sisters said that as women they had the right to demand for strength from the individuals who did not want to fight. To besiege men, the two sisters emphasized the strengths of women over their weaknesses, maybe as a way to intimidate and coerce the revolutionaries who were reluctant. The two women were based in Texas, San Antonio and the two women journalists published the El Obrero and the La Mujer Moderna, respectively edited and published by Teresa and Andrea (Perez 54- 63a).
The two women embraced the fundamental tent (international solidarity among women) of the party in the combat newspapers. The two sisters were originally from Coahuila but they had to move to Texas so as to avoid persecution by the oppressor Porfirio Diaz. Their disobedience and hatred for the dictator led to the mistaken kidnapping of Teresa and later arrest in Mexico. The Mexican officials released her immediately and announced that her arrest was mistaken because they had intended to capture Andrea, who was the more outspoken of the two. The rebellious speeches that Andrea gave fueled her reputation. She, however, sought to correct her reputation and notoriety by arguing that it was not fair for the authorities to call her the Mexican Joan of Arc. This was because it was not possible for her to go to Mexico on a horse at her soldier’s head and because she was not able to fire a gun, as her hands were too small to do so (Perez 54- 63a).
Teresa Villarreal just like her sister was a labor organizer, feminist, and revolutionary who gave her support and that of her sister to the PLM, or he Partido Liberal Mexicano and the Mexican revolution. The two sisters published and edited two newspapers the La Mujer Moderna and the El Obrero. In these newspapers, the two women published articles that talked about and addressed the proletariat and encouraged for the participation of all women and all men in the Mexican revolution fight for a government that was democratic and that which respected the rights and freedoms of its citizens. In addition to the educational, economic and cultural improvements for the populations, the emancipation and the freeing of women from the power and oppression of men, traditions and state was also included in her fight for justice and democracy. Most of their family supported their activities, as their brother and father were also strong supporters of the Partido Liberal Mexicano, which was against the ideologies and the dictatorship and power of the then dictator president Porfirio Diaz (Palomo Acosta and Winegarten 54-90).
As a result, of the repression of their activity by the regime of the oppressive president, they had to move to Texas. After this time, they moved to Missouri, St Louis exploiting the advantage the expo had imposed on the state and attracted numerous radicals from all over from many causes. In this area, they developed associations that were friendly with the organizations in the US with whom they shared similar interests. Some examples of such organizations included the Socialist Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the American Federation of Labor. By 1909, the two sisters had established an environment that was fertile enough for their ideas in San Antonio, to spread their ideologies and campaign against those of the dictator president Diaz through the Mexican press in exile (Palomo Acosta and Winegarten 54-90).
The Mexican press in exile served the people and the communities from the Mexican community in the south side of the United States. Since the leadership, which was mainly made of males, was constantly under watch, the two sisters and other female writers like them played major roles in the revolutionary movement. They performed tasks that helped further the revolutionary cause like carrying messages, intelligence reports and supplies. One scholar recalled how these women took on responsibilities that scared men because of the increased threats in the movement. He observed that Texas women were particularly active in the revolutionary and had to continue to carry out their duties and work in cases where men felt that they could not continue working (Perez 78- 98b).
These three women are just some examples of some remarkable women who performed great tasks in the revolutionary movement, and in turn influenced other women and the rest of the society greatly through their writings, essays, narratives and poems.
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Capetillo, Luisa. A Nation of Women: An Early Feminist Speaks Out. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2004. Print.
Gutierrez, Ramon A. Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage, volume 1. Mexico: Arte Publico Press, 1993.
Lazo, R. Writing to Cuba: filibustering and Cuban exiles in the United States. North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2005. Print.
Lomas, Clara. Transborder Discourse. Print.
Meruelo, Maria Sabat. Radical Proletarian Social Reformer, 2007. Print.
Norma, Valle Ferrer. The Story of Luisa Capetillo: A Pioneer Puerto Rican Feminist. Volume 4 New York: Lang, 2004. Print.
Palomo Acosta, Teresa and Winegarten, Ruthe. Las Tejanas: 300 years of history. Volume 10 of Jack and Doris Smothers series in Texas history, life, and culture. University of Texas Press, 2003. Print.
Perez, Emma. The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History. Indiana University Press, 1999b. Print.
Perez, Emma. Chapter 3. The Poetics of an (Inter) Nationalist Revolution. Print
West- Duran, Alan. Luisa Capetillo in Translation: Notas Pare un Testimonio. Print
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