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 Historical and sociological

Draft of paper: "Changing Status of Women in Mexico" (88 pages)
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Title: Draft of paper: "Changing Status of Women in Mexico" (88 pages)
Series Title: Elmendorf Papers Series 2: Early Career and Women's Studies
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Language: English
Creator: Elmendorf, Mary L. (Mary Lindsay)
Publication Date: 1973
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Full Text



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I. Pre-Conquest

II. Conquest

III. Independence

IV. Revolution to Present



Images of Women







I.- References Cited

II. Annotated Bibliography on Women in Mexico by Meri

III. Annotated Bibliography of the CIDAL collection by
Vivian Mota de Ortega

IV. Mexican section of Bibliography from Female and Male
in Latin America, Ann Pescatello, editor

V.. Supplementary Sources


I. Historical Background

II. List of Organizations

III. Recommendations


Mexico now is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the

world, both in area and in population, and, as such, strives for

independence, especially from its neighbor to the north, the United

States, and for international leadership, particularly leadership

among the Spanish American countries. Within Mexico today there are

many Mexicos, just as there have always been, ranging from the modern,

urban metropolitan area of Mexico City which is rapidly approaching

ten million people to another ten million Mexicans living in isolated

Indian communities still speaking their native languages. In many

ways the problems of women are concentrated at the two ends of this

spectrum, since their share of the nation's wealth is often a function

of whatever status they may have in the socio-economic group to which

they belong.

Ifigenia Navarrete made a very important contribution to the

literature on income distribution by her acute analysis of what

happened in Mexico between 1950 and 1957 The national product in-

creased by 148 per cent, from 38.8 million pesos to 94.4 million

pesos, but the position of the low income groups worsened considerably,.
Rapid economic development took place, but income distribution became

more unequal. (Hanke, 1967, p.111) In fact, 1% of Mexico's popula-

tion received 66% of the national income, while the other 99%, among

whom were many women, received 34%, giving them an annual per capital

income of $530, which is relatively high for Latin America. (Gonzales

Cassanova, 1968, p. 469)

Many people, both men and women, are questioning whether in-

dustrialization and increased modernization contain the answer to

Mexico's problem. Olga Pellicer presented an excellent analysis of

Mexico's move-away from a bilateral relationship with the United States

&- 2 -

and increasing rapid industrialization to an identification with

the problem of the developing nations, and so a new revival of its

continuing Revolution. Perhaps as there is new concern for Third

World people and oppressed groups, there will be an awareness of

the problems and potentials of women.

Thinking,of.the changing role of women in Latin America, and

Mexico in particular, I will be speaking of it from a personal point

of view, remembering it from the early forties when I was there as

a student/teacher; from the fifties when I lived there for a decade

as a wife, mother, and a professional -- the director of an inter-

national organization, working with government officials and villagers

throughout the country in self help and community development; and,

most recently, in the seventies, as an anthropologist, doing research

in Yucatan and again working closely with Mexican scholars.

During the last six months I have had the opportunity to work

closely with Latin American women and Latin Americanists as a part

of my assignment with the Ford Foundation on the changing roles of

women, with specific emphasis on Mexico. Much of the material which

is included in the contemporary section was presented at four major

conferences I attended during this time.

1. Science and Man in the Americas, co-sponsored by the American

Association for the Advancement of Science and the Consejo Nacional

de Ciencia y Tecnologla (A A A S - C 0 N A C Y T) held in Mexico

City in June-July, 1973. During this conference, a special three-day

event called Women in Science was set up by a group of Mexican women

in cooperation with Janet Brown, of A A A S. In a very brief period

of time, an outstanding group of women from many disciplines, in-

stitutions and countries, and political philosophies, were brought


together for the first time to discuss various aspects of women's

participation in economic, social and cultural activities. A mere

5.3% of the regular conference delegates were women. Some of the

woman participants,in the special session on women, were drawn from

this small pool. Others were from the National University and El

Colegio de Mexico, the Instituto Politecnico and various research

centers and government agencies. Only a few men attended.

2. Regional Population Seminar for Mexico, Central America and the

Antilles, co-sponsored by I M E S U N F PA and I E D, held in

June, 1973, in Mexico. Women were in less of a minority at this

conference than at the previous one, but still only 13 out of 51.

However, they played a minor role as far as discussion and official

presentation were concerned. A women's caucus was organized with very

specific recommendation that more women be involved in population

programs at every level, from village to United Nations. (See appendix

for translation of their recommendations)

3. The Second Seminar on the Problems of Indian Women, co-sponsored

by the Organization of American States and the Inter-American

Commission on Women (0 A S - C I M) held in Guatemala City in May-

June, 1973. Twenty-seven women, representing Indian groups from ten

Latin-American countries and the United States, most of them bi-lingual,

active in their home communities, emphasized again and again that

they wanted to discuss what they, as Indian women, could do to help

the problem of Indians as a whole. They revamped the agenda which

had been prepared for them, and reorganized the conference, selecting

their own presiding officers, etc. Their final recommendations are

attached as part of the appendix.

4 -

4. Ninth Tnteirnational Coggrsof _=thropol.Qgical .L a -a hnological

.Scinces, held at Chicago in September, 1973, with a pre-conference

workshop in Oshkosh. Several of the papers presented in the session

on Cross-cultural Perspective on the Women's Movement and Women's

Status were on Latin-American women with some specifically concerned

with Mexico.

Literal translations, or abstracts, have been taken from the

papers which have been presented at these meetings, some of which

will be published later.

I would like to refer specifically to two interesting articles

prepared by Encuentro de Muleres, (literally Women's Encounter) which,

were published in Punto Critico. The.first of these, called

"La Mujer en Mexico,", was prepared by Grupo 7 which included

various women members of the faculty of the National University of

Mexico, researchers at the Ministry of Education, and others. Their

opening statement in the..first-article is of interest:

The great power of the women's liberation movement is
not that it has resolved problems, but that it has
proposed new ways to approach the problem, thus getting
the women's struggle out of a dead-end street. This work
is committed to that tendency and hopes to open a debate
on the situation of the woman in Mexico. Thus it is more
"a tentative approach" to the problem than an exhaustive

The second article, called "La Mujer y el Trabajo" appeared in

December, 1972 after having been used "as basis for discussion in a

workshop on women's work in the Encuentro de Muieres held in Mexico

City on November 26, 1972.

Along with this material I have relied heavily on Mexican re-

search, with the hope that this would add an extra dimension to the

existing material already available from U. S. sources. In this

latter category.I would like to refer specifically to Ann Pescatello's
,",maT7 and Male in Latin Ameri" (1973) which contains a

5 -

collection of twelve excellent essays. Most were presented

originally at the Latin American Studies Association's Third

Biennial Meeting in 1971. Even though the geographic area

covered is Spanish South America, the Spanish Caribbean, and

Portuguese Brazil, much of the material is germane to understanding

Mexican women. Several articles, including Evelyn Steven's

Marianismo relate specifically to Mexico.

Along with articles, books and presentations I have included

personal comments made by outstanding Mexican women - scholars,

government officials, executives, writers and artists with whom I

have talked. Invaluable has been recent research and work in

process, such as Anna Macias' basic article "Mexican Women in the

Social Revolution" presented originally at the American Historical

Association meetings in December, 1971.

This report should be considered as a draft, an attempt to

catch the feeling, the mood, the concerns of the Mexican women. I

would like to say that I have recommended - and would like to again -

that research by the Mexican women be supported and translated and

published, in Spanish and English. As a non-Mexican, but an

avowed Mexicanist, I am well aware of the complexities of the

problems and of my necessarily ethnocentric view. Within a very

limited time and space I have tried to point out new trends, both

general and particular, and to indicate the oVer-all'changes in the

status of women.

In closing, I would like to quote from a memorandum which I

prepared for the Ford Foundation in July, 1973:

The truly salient fact which emerged from all these
conferences and from my private conversations as well,

- 6 -

was a strong feeling on the part of nearly all the
women (certainly the majority), that the problem of
women, per se, took secondary place to the Indian
problem, the development problem and the population
problem. At the same time, they felt an urgent need
for women to be more involved in solving the bigger
basic problem, which they see as being aggravated,
if not caused, by the consumerism of the over-developed
countries. There is fear, hate and near paranoia among
not only the Indian women, but the intellectuals as
well, of manipulation and control by the powerful
nations and companies. Some see the present women's
movement in the U.S. as a result of the dehumanization
of life, a cheapening of the total quality of life and
of women's roles within society.

This seemed, as I heard it, not so much a criticism of the

women's movement in the United States, as a questioning as to

whether industrialization, alone, was the key to liberation. It

seemed a plea-for judging the model, a plea to The Other Mexico,

(a) Critique of the Pyramid (Octavio Paz, 1972). The values of

a consumer society are being challenged.

Dr. Gloria.Gonzalez one of Mexico's leading economists,

discussed this.._rShe seemed to feel that if more women were in-

volved in plans_for industrialization, different choices of new

factories, new products would be made. "Why should this be left

to the politicians and the business men who often put power and

profit above everything else?"
And Antonio Carrillo Flores said, in his closing address

at the AAAS-CONASYT Conference, Human Rights in Today's World;

"Human rights, including women's rights, have to be fought for.'

The hope, it seems to me, in Latin America in general and

certainly in Mexico, is that women will have the right to

fight with men as equal humans for a better world.


A true social and racial synthesis would doubtless help
the status of woman in Mexico. At present she represents
one of the conspicuous wastes of the Mexican heritage;
for the considerable contribution she could make to
Mexico's social, economic, and spiritual progress is still
unutilized-- obliterated by the shroud of persistent custom.
Potentially she is one of the most valuable elements in
the Mexican social complex. The Revolution has not yet be-
gun to emancipate her. Nor will it achieve a thoroughgoing
emancipation of Mexico while one half of its population
remains to be set free.
(Gruening, 1928, p. 631)

I PPRE-COLOMBIAN SOCIETY: (Spanish Conquest 1519 - 1525)

Anyone who attempts to assess the role of women in Pre-Colombia societies,

has to admit that we have little real data on which to base any conclusions,

Chroniclers such as the Spanish Conquistadors and, later, the Friars ,-

Bishop de Landa and Bartolomeo ie las Casas and others, presented detailed

views of the indigenous cultures, but with a religious, cultural, and, it

must be noted, sexual bias which make their findings open to question. They

must be regarded as highly subjective sources.

A true and lengthy history of the Aztecs and the Mayas is Im-
possible to come by. The scantiest historical fact must often be
fleshed out with careful and well-informed surmise. For Middle
American history has survived to our time only fragmentarily.
Remains of temples, pottery, and other art have been handed down
from the Conquest or uncovered in buried or abandoned Indian cities.
They include pictographs and baffling notations in several hiero-
glyphic systems.
Those remains that escaped deliberate or accidental destruction
(hundreds of Maya books were burned by the Inquisition in Yucatan
alone) demand professional interpretation.

(Sunde4, 1967 p. 7 )

Historians and an�thropon ngists disagree radically even about specific

Indian groups such as the Aztecs. For instance Gamio (1916-Forjan.d patria)

and Leon-Portilla (La Mgier en la cultural nahuatl-1958), as anthropologists,

have felt that women had high prestige and played vital cultural roles

Some historians, however, have argued that women had an inferior place both

in Aztec and Mayan societies, based on their circumscribed duties. .A.Bandelier

concluded that among the Aztecs," the most degrading epithet that could be

applied to any Mexican, aside from calling him a dog, was that of woman."

(quoted in Gruening: 1929 p. 623�.' Anna Macias sys:

In general, Mexicanists in sympathy with the emancipation of women
usually argue that in Aztcc and Maya society the position of women
was inferior... ..... A feminist in Yucatan asserted in 1916 that
Maya women had always been "beasts of burden and the slaves of meno"

(. Macias, 71,p.l f.n.)

Thi: may have been true, in part, but, as Swedish anthropologist, Anna-Britta

Hellblom, notes in an excellent pioneer study, using material from the Aatec

codices, the role of women was reported in their relationship as wives and

mothers. In many of the pictures which richly illustrate the book, the woman

is portrayed in her home, with husband and children, with beauty and dignity,

"There is no explicit evidence of disdain of any of the Aztec --oman's activities"

(Hellblom, 1967, p. 229) In fact, they are given great importance in the codices,

even though few historians or analysts have noted this. While the father was

educating his sons, the mother was educating her daughters to perform their

special roles. These roles, however, were confined to the home in most cases,

and were sex-defined but not, perforce, considered of less importance. Hellblom

demonstrates, with a wealth of detail, that in Aztec society women were esteemed

in their roles as wife and mother. From very earliest childhood, females were

taught to be skilled and diligent housekeepers. A single woman was urged to work

at home and never outside. Her husband was selected by the gods, so that she had

to accept the choice and not try to find a man of her preference. She was to re-

main a virgin until she married, for, if she lost her virginity before marriage,

her husband would never forgive her or trust her. Once married, she was urged

to be a submissive and self-abnegating wife. A "good " woman was reserved and

patiently bore the reproaches of her husband tad hO? �ir-3aM.She treated her husband

tenderly and calmed and pacified him. She had to remain with her husband all

her life and could not leave him, even when he no longer wanted to live with her.

On no account could she cornit adultery, for it brought share on her husband's

family and, moreover, was punishable by death. "You are to stay inside the

house" reiterates an Aztec source, "as the heart remains inside the body."

(rellblom, 1967. p. 90, 91) (b7acias, '71) As Hellblom notes, women played

very important societal roles outside the home as well, from the usual production

of foodstuffs and clothing to many professional occupations of high status, such

a.s midwiving, serving in religious orders,' and being medicinewr_-omen, and even


iuznin)g businesses. Virve Piho eiotes Sahagin:

Tho comrnoner woman was especially active in tha maz'r-et as retail
vendor but also, in times, functioning as wholesale merchant.
And of course women excelled in the productive process as in the
fields of weaving and feathervork.

(Piho, 197U, p. 5)

But most of these activities were combined with the woman's primary responsi-

bility to her husband and children. Her husband was chosen for her for life

by the gods; adultery was punishable by death (for men as well as women)-

Wolf, (1962) p. 122-23 : woman is strangled, man is stoned. But the "bad"

woman, the woman who could not control her anger, who was unhappy with her lot,

who talked back to her husband, who was lazy or drank too much, or dressed too

gaily, or committed adultery - that woman, who, by the way, gets considerable at-

tention in Aztec sources, was despised and shunned. ( Hellbrom, 1967, p. 91)

A similar situation is reported in Mayan culture. (EL7endorj 1972, p. 3/11) We

all know that Aztec women who died in childbirth were called "valiant", "strong",

and "b-l.icosa", and went to a special heaven after de-th. (Hielblom, 1967, p.9- )

o li.ttl... i:; left of th-e culture that we nust depend on reconstructing what must

ha.-ve been f.-r. archreologic.l ram.T:in and new. fLr:tin7 T unch as. the 3onapak murals,

,igurines fr;'i Jaina and the co.ic", which , th'ms.lves, :,-.'b,-en in.tpreted by

L :.ri: :-iail fr. 1:0 i!. c-c Lc.ianf Croups in lic xi:: -oday, ma-y of w'hichI

,., k " in.:ly piu 1:Dir l;!uage, cultu . .n3 _usto . Efforts Such '.O

,..h ,', . l.;:- , I1,,2.1 Po T M, ICc O'!ro, .o''.ry o.l Y tof and others to rc

. :" 1::" " "-b;: " t' h o... ..... ................'..;<.. -._l.'.ie.; i .'SL, t'" . be: ; lik ,T- ough r;.is.. c. -

.-. .:u; .2 ' .ic l a i ies . 7ri L p.rh:'s oi've u. ,1:; . -: vi -- h-' . ..; ..;-ti.:.-

... ... ; , l!DT U .;" - .. .

�~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~)"5 z".1... .; ,4- -.- : ."[- "-z...-


To this end we need to re-examine the hierarchy of Gods and Goddesses and

the' relationships of their positions with the men and women of the time.

haing the M!ayans one of the most important deitiesIx Chel, the Earth -od-

dess had importance �. attested to by the many representations of her

which have been found. In fact, when in 1517 the Spaniard C6rdoba landed

on an island off the coast of Yucatan, he named it Isla Mujeres (Island

of Women) as a result of the numbers of idols he found there representing

the Goddeses of the country. (Tozzer, 1941 p. 9)

But more important to the understanding of Mexico today is Tonantzan (Our

.Mother), also named Coatlicue or Cihuacoatl (serpent woman, mother of the

Goads, weeping woman), a ubiquitous Mother Goddess who provided the early

Christian Fathers with an ideal transfer figure for the Virgin Mary, many

of whose characteristics she already possessed, thereby facilitating the

process of establishing the cult of Marianismo in Mexico. (Sundel 1967 p. 7)

In addition to these important Goddesses, there were cults of women priest-

esses and among the elite of pre-Colunmbian society there were well-educ-

ated and influential women, such as .Malintzin, better known as Malinche,

the Aztec maiden who became the mistress of Cortes and who, in her role as

hi interpret .:, betrayed her own people and brought about their massacre

by the Spanish canon and cavalry. (Gruening, 1928 p. 79)

ryas she voluntarily helping the conqueror or was s,'.e given to
hi. as a pre'.nt, or was sheo sold to him as is still the cust-
on in somr-e Indian groups t,) be used as a guide, informant
ai-d translator, but also as sexual object? None of the
historians and anthropologist.s present this possibility..
Ib't all of thrcn agree in st.Lating that she never was his
or ficial wife and that a !ady -,was brought ruom E.uropo to'
"pl:'y tat role in Lexico.
(Sau:h z and DoimingUez 1973 p. 3)

,.m-': -ht *-to, hcvr, tha.t -..rbLi G.:s, son . o the Cornqueror by
..': . ..inche ao na' o. ur 0 h Or. .r .. f St. James 1. i2e 7h.::. - .".i-'s

:v-. lv- - " :. onor.ous >"ith *:ecJ c .r ! t. reason 'i.-id is si-"ll ;tSday' u ,-L

:j -.- ii : .-ull.,+ . e;iiLh t.

-1 -


In order to understand the Spanish conquest of Mexico it is vital that

one remember the high level of civilization which had been reached in the

Aztec empire. When the Spaniards arrived, in 1519, Moctezumaa's capital city

was a carefully-organized metropolis, with a nobility and incipient middle

class, and, of course, with a servant or possibly slave class. The level

of material well-being was high and the population was larger than that of

any city in Spain. The invaders numbered a mere few hundred. They had come

to get gold and to get rich, and they had come from a country which very

probably demonstrated the worst aspects of the feudal oligarchies of Europe.

Finally, they were far from the control of the Spanish crown and, at least

during the first thirty years, they had an almost completely free hand in

exploiting the people, the land, and the resources which they found in

Mexico. \When Cortez finally conquered Tenochtitlan, with the help of the

Indian woman known as Malinche, his concubineguide and translator, and, with

the help of numerous rebellious tribes unfriendly to the Antecs, he and his

men behaved as though they had a carte blanche to satisfy their personal am.-

bitions. The result of this rapaciousness combined with an almost total

lack of control was devastating for the native population,above all,for the

women, who were not only slaves like everybody else but were the objects of

sexual exploitation as well. After all, no women had accompanied the dis-

coverersj not until much later were 3uropean women brought over to help form

the new aristocracy.

The Indian woman, under the Aztec Empire, had had personal dignity and

even certain specific rights which had been scrupulously recognized in

their own culture. When they lost their social position and became servants


to the Spanish conquerors, their general situation deteriorated. Not

only were they expected - whatever their previous social class - to

perform such activities as were formerly undertaken by a servant group,

but they were also expected to bear the children and satisfy the sexual

needs of the conquerors. In time, this resulted in a feeling among the

Spaniards that these were "bad women" and thus "fair game " for illicit

sexual relations.(Macias, p. 3)

The devaluation of women, as either articles of
luxury merchandise, if they were Spanish, or mere
sexual objects if they were not, became the norm...
while non-ahite men were exploited for their labor
by the dominant Spanish group, non-white women were
exploited for their labor and their sex by all males
in general. (Macias, p. 3)

After the initial period of gross and untrammeled rapacity, the

Spanish crown once again began to make its authority viable. Little by

little this resulted in some elementary legal protection for the Indian.

This is not to say that slavery disappeared, but rather that specific rules

and regulations regarding its exercise were put into effect and enforced by

the Viceroys and their administrators. It was during this later period

that the hacienda system began to evolve, a curious blend of European feudal-

ism and extractive exploitation of human and natural resources for the bene-

fit of Spain. Although the native Mexicans who were employed on the

haciendas did have some protection from a sometimes paternalistic hacendado,

once again the women members of the group were open to the most ruthless


By the mid-seventeenth century, something which must considered an

elite class of mestizos had emerged from the many unions between the Spanish

and the Indian populace. Among them was an extraordinarily-gifted woman,


- 3 -


Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. The following quotation throws some light on

the somewhat ambiguous status of the women of her time and class:

A gifted poet, she entered a convent in 1667 at the age of
16 because of her disinclination to marriage. As a
young nun, and patronized by two successive viceroys and
their wives until 1686, Sor Juana was able to write poetry
and continue her studies in literature, sciences and
theology. But despite her privileged position as a favorite
of the viceroys, she eventually had to fact the hostility of
a society that held all women to be inferior to all men.
Yfiting: poetry was one thing, but Sor Juana's interest in
scientific and theological questions raised a storm that is
reflected in her poetry and other writings. "I have prayed
God to subdue the light of my intelligence," she confessed,
"leaving me only enough to keep his law, for anything more
(according to some persons) is superfluous in a woman."
Seventeenth century society anywhere in the Western world had
little place for a woman of Sor Juana's talents. She met
such rising opposition to her intellectual interests that it
is not surprising that she spoke of dying long before her
death at the age of h4. "See how death eludes me because I
desire it," she wrote, "for even death, when it is in demand,
will rise in price." Throughout the remainder of the
colonial period an intellectual woman remained an anomaly in
colonial society. ( Macias, t71, p. h)

One special characteristic of the Spaniards whu came to Mexico was

their complete and total commitment to Catholicism. In a sense, there

were two conquests of Mexico, one by the Conquistadores,and another by the

Church. Much of what we know of the Colonial Period has come from the

early Friars, those ubiquitous and self-sacrificing missionaries, Franciscan

and Dominican for the most part, who were the chroniclers of the era. They

were also among the few who truly got closet to the local population, often

learning their languages and carrying to the common people what little

learning they received. In many ways the women were major beneficiaries of

the ministries of the early priests. To this day, it is the women of

Mexico who are the strength of the Church, who carry out the forms and

ceremonies of the Church, and who derive what little solace and status they

can from their identification with religious activities.


As in so manr cases, the religiosity of the women has had ambivalent

results. Eve.lyn Stevens traces the cult of Marianismo to the close af-

finity Mexican women have always had with the Church. (Stevens, '73!,p.95)

Ag ain, it must be remembered that a mere ten years passed between the

original Conquest and the appearance, on the hill of Tepeyac, in Aztec times

the place where Tonantzin (our mother) had been worshipped, of the

miraculous image of our Lady of Guadalupe. That the Catholic Church was

able to "convert" this image into a powerful force toward the acceptance

by the Indians of Christianity is simply one more testimonial to the de-

votion and skill of the early Fathers. This phenomenon has been explored

at length by Anita Brenner, whose book Idols Behind Altars, has documented

literally hundreds of cases of this kind of transfer.

The Colonial Period lasted really three centuries. It was a time of

comparative peace, overlaid with military and religious domination, with

almost complete absence of opportunities for self-expression or self-

government. It was a period of extractive exploitation of raw materials,

based on slave labor and a social system in which splendor and privilege

contrasted bitterly with misery and degradation.

Three hundred years rooted these traits deep
into the Mexican social fabric - one century has
not sufficed to eradicate them. No worse preparation
for self-government and the evolution of a modern
state could have been bequeathed to a people. (tuening, 1902,p.27)

- 1 -


There was very little change in the condition and way of

life of Most Mexican women immediately after the struggle for

independence of 1810 - 1821, since this was primarily a political

phenomenon. A small number of exceptional women were educated

in the few secular schools established up to 1855, but one could

say of most women, as was reported later in the Feminist Congress

in Yucatan, that "they lived, they made tortillas, and they died."

There was another life - really the "after-glow" of the old

viceregal society - lived by the upper classes, which was vividly

portrayed by Frances Calderon de la Barca, wife of Spain's first

minister to Mexico, 1838-40. Her descriptions in Life in Mexico

of political, economic and social situations add insight to the

situation of the early forties. The old monastic life still held

sway, and in society at large the old family names and titles had

not lost their prestige.

With the coming of the Reform movement after 1855, however,

several changes occurred which had a profound effect on Mexican

women, at least of the middle sectors. On the one hand the nunneries

were suppressed and women who,like Sor Juana, were disinclined to

wed, no longer had this alternative. But, on the other hand,

Benito Juarez and his associates offered women who wanted an educa-

tion and a chance to work outside the home opportunities on a scale

that had previously not existed.

An important figure in changes relating to women was Margarita

Maza de Juarez, who was not only wife b.t "colaborador" of Juarez.

In her personal life and actions she was a symbol of the ,austerity

and vigor of democracy" who supported efforts for liberal reforms

for women. (Alatorre, 1972)

- 2 -

For an excellent summary of the period, I have excerpted from

Anna Macias:

In 1861 Juarez said that the government would
actively promote primary education and that "the
education of women will also be attended to, giving
it the importance it deserves because of the in-
fluence women exercise over society.

Because of the upheavals occasioned by the French
intervention, very little progress was made until
the early 1870's. From 1874 to 1910, however, there
was a slow but steady increase in the number of
females attending primary schools, and a number of
female normal schools were established in the Federal
district and leading provincial cities in the 1870's and
1880's. By the end of the 19th century, some states
reported almost as many literate females as males.

Between 1888 and 1904 the first women were accepted
(sometimes reluctantly) in the schools of medicine,
law, and commerce in Mexico City. By 1904, when Mexico's
first woman doctor and woman lawyer joined a normal
school teacher in founding the intellectually distin-
guished feminist monthly, La Mujer Mexicana, there were
at least three woman doctors practicing in Mexico City
and twice that many enrolled in school. Near the end
of the Porfiriato, females even began to work in commer-
cial establishments without jeopardizing their reputation
as respectable women. By 1910 there were several
thousand middle-class women working at white collar
positions that had once been held only be men.

There is another side to the Porfirian coin, however.
While more middle-class women were studying and working,
the number of poorer women in Mexico who, lacking other
means of support, became domestic servants or fell into
prostitution increased alarmingly from 1877 to 1910.
Another sign of dysfunction in Mexican society is that
about 80% of the adult population lived in amasiato,
or free union, yet illegitimate children had no legal
rights to inheritance, and could not investigate their
paternity.(See Family)

The Civil Code of 1884 accorded to adult single women
almost the same rights accorded all adult males, but
married women really were treated as imbecilitas sexus...
Why a woman should have her legal personality erased
upon marriage mystified the few lawyers who favored
the legal emancipation of women; presumably the legis-
lators thought that absolute power by the husband over
his wife and children would make for absolute happiness
at home.(See Legal)



On the eve of the Mexican revolution attitudes toward
women, the sex mores, and the role either "good" or "bad"
women were expected to play in the society had changed
to some degree since the colonial period but could not
on the whole be said to have improved. Altogether the
legal and real situation of women in Mexico in 1910, and
of their sisters elsewhere in Latin America, was un-
enviable. Yet up to 1910 feminism had made little head-
way in Mexico, and as can be expected it was championed
almost exclusively by female schoolteachers and a handful
of other professional women who were beginning to study
or practice medicine, the law, dentistry, or pharmacy.
Only the bravest of these women became advocates of
woman's emancipation, for hostility to feminism, even of
the most moderate variety, was undisguised. In 1904 one
journalist who signed himself Pistache identified all
feminists with "bad" women,"The women who speak of
feminism are not good," he asserted, "and wish to call
themselves 'progressive liberals' because that sounds
better than what they really are." Other unfriendly
critics accused the feminists of being un-feminine.

(Macias, 1971, pp. 417 )

- 3 -

- 4 -


1850's: As early as the 1850's there were stirring of feminist
movements in Mexico, concentrating especially on work and
education rights. (Yucatan was the main locus of activity.)
Before that time, a few exceptional women had been educated
in "the few secular schools established up to 1855," but
these were rare. (Macias, 1971, p.4)

1855: Reform Movement effected several changes: the nunneries were
suppressed, cutting off one route of escape from the world.
But Benito Juarez and his associates were eager to offer
women a chance to work outside the home and educational

1861: Juarez had pledged to actively promote primary education,
emphasizing that "the education of women will also be attended
to, giving it the importance it deserves because of the in-
fluence women exercise over society." (Macias, 1971, p.5)

1867: Education beyond the primary level made available to women
in Yucatan. /

1880's: Female normal schools established in the Federal districts
and leading provincial cities

1870: One of the earliest Feminist Societies established:
La Siempreviva (Merida, Yucatan)

Civil Code for the District and Federal Territories (see below
under 1884) (Navarrete, 1969, p.110)

1910: Slow but steady increase in number of women attending primary
schools (Macias, 1971, p.5)

1874: Middle-class women begin to work outside the home as teachers.

1876: First labor congress organized in Mexico.

1880's: First labor strikes in Mexico; women strike in support of
the men and also organize their own strikes

1884: The Civil Code of 1884 accorded to single women almost the
sane rights as to men; married women, however, were considered
imbecilitas sexus. They were discriminated against on almost
ev2ry subject: "guardianship, tutorage, matrimony, child
custody, inheritance, and the rights of single women to leave
the parental home on reaching the age of 21." (Macias, 1971,
p.6) Legal separation established, primarily to the man's benefit.

- 5 -


1904: First women accepted in schools of law, medicine and commerce
in Mexico City.

1890's: Some women enter government service-

1904: First woman doctor and lawyer joined a school teacher in
producing the feminist monthly, La Muier Mexicana,

1906: First feminist organization, "The Admirers of Juarez," was
formed; spread ideas about women's emancipation, but met
opposition in the "intelligensia Porfiriatol" (Punto CrItico 8)

1910: Women not drafted when Revolution began, but when armed
forces began operation the peasant women went to war along
side the men, following with their children and their
metates, a sort of informal quartermaster corps. Some
were integrated into the armies, became officers and actually
commanded battalions.

- 1 -


In 1969 Maria Carmen Elu quoted an official of the Ministry

of Community Development of India, as saying "The greatest

revolution a country can know is the one which changes the con-

dition and way of life of its women.",, (Elu, '69, p. 162).

Certainly in Mexico during the Revolutionary years 1910 - 191-8 -

women's lives were changed as some took up complete management

of homes, farms, businesses and families. Others, particularly

the peasant women with their children and metates, joined the

troops, serving as needed quartermaster corps and as active

soldiers. In fact, each of the contending groups in the Revolution

had its marching song. The Zapatistas sang of "Adelita", the

female soldier, the Carrancistas, of "Valentina ", while Villa's

troops marched to "La Cucaracha".

Most Mexicanists will agree that historians have paid little

attention to the roles played by Women during Lhese upheavals,

as pointed out by the women of Group 7 in their August, '72

article in Punto Critico:
'In Zapata's ranks,' says Eric Wolf, 'there were
among the leaders as many women as men, women as
well as men colonels"' -- a statement which unfor-
tunately is not explored in the most exhaustive
studies of zapatismo...Notwithstanding, at least
in Puente de Istla, 'the widows, the wives, the
daughters and the sisters of the rebels formed
their own batallion and themselves rebelled to
avenge the dead under the command of a robust ex-
tortilla maker called La China.' (Womack, p.167)

The exclusion of the mention of women from historical studies

of this period can be seen as comparable to our treatment of

blacks in the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It is inter-

esting to note that the quotations are taken from two outstanding

U.S. male scholars.

- 2 -

Even though, during the years of conflict, women had proved

themselves equal to men both in the ranks and as officers, they

were not recognized or given political power afterwards.

'The fact that some exceptional women possess the
necessary qualifications to exercise satisfactorily
their political rights, does not demand the con-
clusion that these (rights) should be conceded
4o the woman as a class. The difficulty of making
a selection makes it necessary to deny this! ..This
statement reflects the position of the triumphal
carranista group which was victorious in the civil
(Punto Critico 8 , p, 26)

In order to understand more clearly the attitude toward women

during this period, we shall quote an extensive passage from the

historian Anna Macias (Macias, 1971, pp.8-9) which treats the first

divorce law in detail.

"That feminism did not make a triumphal entry into Mexico with

the coming of the revolution is clear when one examines the

political plms and the social reforms associated with Francis-

co I. Madero and Venustiano Carranza. Although both men re-

ceived support from a number of educated women and several

feminist societies, the only reform that directly affected

women in the period from 1911 to early 1915 was the divorce

law, Drawn up at the very end of 1914 and first promulgated

on January 25, 1915, the law provided for absolute divorce

for the first time in Mexican history.

"According to Carranza the law would be a powerful factor for

morality among all classes in society and would reduce con-

- 3 -

cubinage among the upper classes and free unions among the

poor. He argued that the principal reason amasiato or free

union was universal among the poor classes in Mexico was,

not so much because weddings were expensive, but because

legal marriage was indissoluble. He believed that poor

Mexicans had an 'instinctive fear of ties with irreparable

consequences,' and that by making divorce possible there

would be fewer free unions and illegitimate children. The

law would benefit upper and middle class women for whom

legal separation was seldom a satisfactory remedy for an

unhappy marriage. Carranza noted that because of custom and

the kind of education they received, most middle and upper

class married women could not support themselves. When and

if a marriage failed, the wife, not being able to support

herself and not being able to contract a new marriage,

became the victim of her husband and was, according to

Carranza, in a real status of slavery. He maintained that

there would be a decline in concubinage because a wife would

no longer have to tolerate her husband's adultery and could

sue for divorce if he kept a mistress.

"Although a few 'feministas exaltadas' or advanced feminists

advocated divorce in Mexico, the more numerous moderate

feminists opposed it on the grounds that it would hurt rather

than help most married women. It appears that Carranza's

divorce law was issued, not as a result of pressure from wo-

men, but rather from men, who, of one looks closely at the

- 4 -

law, stood to benefit from it more than women. The new law

retained the same, to Mexican feminists, odious double

standard that was part of the 1884 law which established

legal separation in Mexico. That earlier law automatically

granted legal separation to the husband whose wife committed

adultery under any circumstances. The husband's adultery

was grounds for legal separation only under certain condi-

tions, that is, if he committed adultery in the home, kept

a mistress, and created a public scandal by mistreating or

permitting his mistress to mistreat his wife. In addition,

the new law provided that while the man could remarry

immediately after a divorce was granted, the woman could not

remarry for 300 days after the divorce was final. This

stipulation did not protect any woman. Rather, a man marrying

a divorced woman was assured that she was not pregnant by her

first husband.

"Critics of the divorce law pointed out later that it did

not spell out the penalties for failure to make alimony or

child support payments. And the provision that tthe spouse

upon whom falls the obligation to pay . . . alimony may pay

an amount equivalent to a flat five years of support and

avoid any further payment, 4 was a disadvantage to a divorced

wife with infants or young children. This matter of alimony

and child support payments is significant, for Carranza had

noted in the preamble to the law that most married women

were not prepared to work outside the home to support them-

- 5 -

selves and their children. It appears that Carranza did

not accompany the new divorce law with a notable effort to

hire more women in government posts, to improve their edu-

cational opportunities, or to initiate other measures which

would help women be more self-sufficient. This may explain

why the divorce law did not receive much support from femin-

ists. The advocates of the law assumed that a divorced

woman would have no difficulty in remarrying, but a feminist

critical of the law asserted in 1921 that a divorced woman,

no matter how guiltless, was treated with scorn and contempt.

"On the national level, and until 1915 only the divorce law

directed affected women, which makes it clear why Ernest

Gruening concluded that the revolution did not purposefully

accomplish much for their emancipation. In fact, when one

considers that women played a vital role in the revolution

as soladeras, as couriers and propaganda agents for the

revolutionary forces, and as nurses on the field of battle,

it appears that they gave a great deal more than they received

from its national leader's . . ."

The following schematic list of feminist meetings, legal

and political events, shows in some detail the varied activity of

women, the intelligensia, the peasants and workers, the groups in

the Federal District, as well as the amazing activity in the pro-

vincial capitals during the post-Revolutionary period.

1st Feminist Congress (Merida) held in Mexico.



- 6 -

1916: held the first in Latin America in 1910.) There began an
(cont.) epoch of active women's participation, demanding their
rights; tenaciously opposed by most of the men in political
control. Carranza as well as Obreg6n and Calles at times
held back both the workers' movement and the struggle for
women's emancipation. (Navarrete, 1969, p.111)

1917: The Constitution of 1917, adopted at the end of the Revolution,
included several articles and provisions legally supporting
the rights and privileges of women. The Ley de Trabajo, or
Labor Law, together with the Family Relations Law, provided
such requirements as equal pay for equal work, regardless of
sex or nationality, shorter hours for night work, paid time
off and job security for pregnancies, obligatory day-care
arrangements where numbers of women were working, etc.
1918: Federal Election Law passed specifically excluding from
women the franchise in Federal elections, an exclusion
not contained in the Constitution of 1917.

1920: Congress of Women Workers and Peasants; demanded that tools
and land be given to peasant women, equal rights for workers.

1922: Women given right to vote in Yucatan, first State to do so.

1923: First Feminist Congress of Panamerican League of Women.
Major topic of the conference were birth control, the
political and social rights of the Mexican woman, and
"free love". All over the country housewives, workers,
women scholars and farm wives were fighting openly for
their liberation. (Punta Critica #8 p. 27)

1924: Elvia Carrillo Puerto, one of four women deputies in the
State Legislature of Yucatan.

1925: Elvia Carrillo Puerto established residence in San Luis
Potosi (where women had just got the vote) and announced
she would run for National office as member of the Chamber
of Deputies. She did run, was elected, but the Chamber
refused to recognize her credentials and did not admit her.
(Gruening 1928 p. 629)

1925: Liga de Mujeres Ibericas e Hispanoamericanas met in Mexico
"to turn their attention to matters concerning the improve-
ment of women." (Navarrete 1969 p. 112)

1930: Liga Feminina Pro Paz met in Mexico City to study the positive
contributions of women in the struggle against war.

1931: 2nd National Congress of Women Workers and Peasants; took
up such questions as distribution of land to women peasants,
equality for women in labor union struggles, the broadening
of popular education for women as crucial to any far-reaching
social or political changes.

- 7

1932: Passage of legislation for the Federal District and territories
giving women equal legal rights with men, the right to make
contracts, hold office or job outside the home, even the right
to sell joint properties, in that case with the husband's

1935: Pres. Cardenas appointed a woman, Palma Guillen, as the
official representative of Mexico in Colombia. A legal
opinion obtained at that time declared: "there exist no
reasons of whatsoever kind opposed to the recognition of
the citizenship of the Mexican woman". (Navarrete 1969 p. 113)

1937: Pres. Cardenas proposed to the Mexican Congress a Constitutional
amendment which would specifically recognize the citizenship
of women in Mexico. It was approved unanimously in both
Houses of Congress and by every State Legislature, but, because
of some ambiguity about who was to implement it, the law
was never put into effect until subsequent legislation as
late as 1955.

1947: Pres. Aleman recommended - and it was adopted - a law which
would give women full rights to vote and to hold office in
all municipal elections.

1953: Finally, a law proposed by Pres. Ruiz Cortines cleared the
way for complete participation in the political life of
the country, explicitly stating that women might vote in
any and all elections in the country, adding that they
might also hold any office, elective or appointive.

(See table 10, Navarrete 1969 for an account of numbers
of women subsequently elected to the Chamber of Deputies.)

-- 8 -

Mexico's entrance into World War II on the side of the allies

began a close economic relation with the United States, with rapid,

extensive industrialization. For women this meant the rise of

the middle class, their entrance into factories, and an acceleration

of migration from the villages. (see Labor)

Much was accomplished by and for women during this time. A

few individual women had reached the tops of their professions, but

as late as the middle 1950's they thought of themselves as "a gen-

eration of rebels." An article by Emma Gutierrez Suarez ("Generation

of Rebels: Women of the 50's," Mexico, June 1955) names some of the

key women who were active during this period, who had successfully

rebelled against "the shackles which kept them tied to their homes

and dependent on men. . ." It should be first noted that an im-

portant omission from her list was the editor-owner of Mexico maga-

zine, Anita Brenner. She is a well-known anthropologist and author

of two important studies, Idols Behind Altars and The Wind that

Swept Mexico.

Among the women listed, a number were "firsts" in their pro-

fession. The first woman to become a member of the Supreme Court

was Maria de Lavalle Urbina, now a permanent member of the Mexican

Commission to the United Nations and a member of the OAS Inter-

American Commission for Women. The first woman mayor of a Mexican

village was Maria Elena Ramirez. She was so popular that after

her death, the townspeople drafted her sister as her replacement.

- 9 -

The first woman ambassador from Mexico (to Sweden, later Switzer-

land) was Amalia de Castillo Ledon. She also founded the Mexican

Alliance of Women, was Undersecretary in the Ministry of Education,'

President of the Inter-American Commission of Women, and was the

first woman ever to address the Senate. (1952) Another woman

highly active in politics is the leader of the women's section of

the PRI (principle Mexican political party), Margarita Garcia Flores.

She is also a well-known economist. Adela Formoso de Obregon

Santacilia's primary contribution was as the founder of the Women's

University; she is a writer and orator. Another woman not mentioned

in the article who should be noted here is Dra. Maria de la Luz

Grovas, the founding president of the Mexican Association of Univer-

sity Women. She was one of the first women professors at the UNAM,

and set up a hostel in her home for young women from the provinces

who had come to attend the University. Perhaps the most famous

family of sisters in Mexico is the Amor sisters: one is a publisher,

one runs an art gallery, and one is a well-known poet and radio -

television commentator. And finally, the first woman from a fine

Mexican family to become a film actress was Dolores del Rio, still

acting today and a model for many Mexican young women. All of the

women mentioned, in fact, with the exception of Maria Elena Ramirez,

are still very active in their professions today.

At the time, Sra. Gutierrez felt that "prejudice against

women working . . . hes pretty much disappeared, " and that "men

tend to be proud of the accomplishments of their women." The vic-

tory for women in the 1950's was largely in the hands of these

pioneering women. But the success of the exceptional women did not

- 10 -

of course end the systematic discrimination against their sisters,

and Anita Brenner stated that she felt the Mexican situation was

worse in that respect than the one in the U.S. The achievements

of the 50's were great, nonetheless, and Sra. Gutierrez closed her

article in this way:

. . . here the rebellion of women has not meant
"we want to be as good as . . . or the same as . . .
men," but rather more simply, and profoundly, "we
want the right to be ourselves, to the fullest
extent of our capacities." And this, I believe, we
have fully attained.

Another critically important pioneer effort begun in the 1950's

was in the field of family planning. Dra. Edris Rice- Wray, who

had organized the first birth control clinic in Latin America (Puerto

Rico) against great odds,and opposition from many sources, came to

Mexico City to set up the Bienestar Familia. Her support consisted

primarily of women and couples in the early years. There was of

course great opposition from the Church, and the clinic was closed

down on several occasions by the government. Such was the strength

of sentiment against dispensing information on birth control at

the time. During this same period of time, Dra. Isabel Kelly was

working in the Ministry of Health on rural extention programs. She

made it a point to include the midwives and comadronas in these

programs, including their knowledge of folk remedies and instructing

them in basic hygienic practices.

Although women's suffrage in Mexico was not achieved completely

- 11 -

until 1953, Mexico was a pioneer in much other legislation for

equal rights and equal status of women. (Navarrete, 1969, p.123)

Mexico has had and still has proportionately more congresswomen,

more high government officials (see Navarrete, Cuadro 10, attached),

more doctors, dentists, lawyers, and so on, than the United States.

Within the educational system as well, the proportion of women

faculty to women students is much higher than in the United States.

(see Education)

The fact that women have begun to feel the urge to
develop themselves in new ways and to exercise more
direct influence on affairs outside the home, is un-
doubtably of high importance for the future of Latin
America. The attitudes men adopt toward this new,
actually world-wide, development will, however, markedly
affect this movement, for it must be stressed that male
domination in the life of most countries there seems even
stronger and more resistant to fundamental change than
the entrenched power of the oligarchs.

(Gillin, 1959, p.388)

The abundant literature on contemporary Latin
America contains few references to the funda-
mental changes now affecting the lives of over
half its population -- women. The more than
3,000 doctoral dissertations prepared on Latin
American topics in the U.S. since 1900 shed
only a faint light on the distinctive role of
women in the past and on their possible future.

(Hanke, 1967, p.124)


The Mexican Revolution, despite the many drastic
changes it brought about, has not yet succeeded
in sweeping from the feminine mind the preconcep-
tions about her incapacity, her dependence on man,
and her absolute need for resignation that tradit-
ionally have weighed her down for centuries.

(Maria Elvira Bermudez, 1950)

Despite the radical changes of the last three decades, and

despite the rising awareness of the problems and issues of women's

liberation world-wide, it was quite evident at the recent AAAS-

CONASYT Conference on Man in the Americas (Mexico City, 1973)

that in the minds of the few male scientists and intellectuals

attending the sessions on "Women in the Americas" the stereo-

type of the woman in the home" is far from being surmounted. The

men's questions focused on what they would do if their wives

worked, who would take care of the children, who would feed them,

and whether or not their wives would become "de-feminized" if they

worked outside the home. To me this pointed up the real lack of

understanding which so many men still have of the implications of

women assuming an important role outside the home, and I thought

of what Dr. Agustin Yanez had said: "Que aspiracion maxima tiene

la mujer mexicana sino alcanzAt ue sus hijos, sus esposos, sus

hermanos, sean personas?" ("What greater ambition does the Mexican

woman have than to assure that her sons, her husbands, her

brothers, realize themselves as real human beings?")

- 2 -

Dr. Yanez, former Governor of the State of Jalisco and also the

former Minister of Education, is one of Mexico's greatest contem-

porary authors. Lewis Hanke called him "an example of an admirably

competent public servant; arnyet, this highly gifted man saw women

and the role they play in a narrowly limited way.

At the Conference, Maria Carmen Elu de Lenero made a very strong

statement that unless the nuclear family could be supportive of all

its members, allowing the wife as well as the husband and children

to find self-fulfillment, it would have to be replaced. The

applause which followed her statement made me feel that she was

truly speaking to the sense of the meeting. This was not just a

personal sentiment of her own, but related specifically to the ex-

tensive research which went into her two books, Muieres que hablan,

andlHace donde va la muier Mexicana?. Many of the statistics which

will be used in this paper are taken from these books, or from the

book written by her husband, Dr. Luis Lenero Otero, Investigacion

de la familiar en M4xico. All the research was based on nation-wide

surveys of 2600 couples and conducted over a period of years.

The average size of the Mexican family is 6.6, with what Elu

calls "an extraordinary percentage" of Mexicans feeling that a

family had to consist of eight or more children to be considered

large. (Elu, 1969 p.77) In Canada, for example, only 7.4% of the

people interviewed believed that eight or more were necessary for

the family to be considered large, but in Mexico the figure was

45.2%. (Elu, 1969, p.89). Concommitant with this, 2/3 of the

- 3 -

Mexican couples interviewed accepted the idea of birth control,

but only 1/3 practiced it. Of these, 50% of the couples used the

rhythm method. (Lehero, 1968, p.198) Considering these figures,

it is important to note that there is at least one known abortion

for every eight pregnancies in Mexico. (Lenero, 1968, p.198)

Dra. Blanca Raquel Ordonez, Director of Preventive Medicine at the

Social Security Institute in Mexico, did a pioneer study in 1970

on induced abortion before birth control techniques became openly

available in Mexico. She feels that much more research needs to

be done on decision making by women, especially in the choice of

birth control methods.

In modern city life, a family of the size needed to be consi-

dered large by almost half the Mexicans interviewed is not needed

in the same way as it might once have been justified in rural cul-

tures where every extra hand was needed to work the land. Obviously,

the factors at work here are deeply imbedded cultural ones, perhaps

best summed-up in the concept of machismo.

It is generally agreed that machismo is a Latin American phe-

nomena, with roots in old world culture, some people say Ibero-

American, some say the Mediterranean. Many of the constituent

elements can be found even today in It*y and Spain. "But the fully

developed syndrome occurs only in Latin America." (Stevens, 1973,

as quo-ed in Pescatello, p.91) Machismo is often thought of as

the cul: of virility, the chief characteristics of which are,

"exaggerated aggressiveness and intransigence in male-to-male inter-

personal relations, and arrogance and sexual aggression in male-to-

- 4 -

female relationships." (Stevens, 1973, as quoted in Pescatello,

p.90) In this discussion we shall concentrate on the second half

of the definition, as it relates to women and to the complimentary,

phenomena of marianismo.

The traditional stereotypes of the 'ideal' man and woman are

summed up as follows in Elu's, -Hacia donde va la muier Mexicana?,

using studies by Samuel Ramos and Margarita Loreto Hernandez as

her sources:

Man: strong individual, conqueror, dominant, argumentative

Woman: dependent individual, conformist, unimaginative, timid

(Elu, 1969, p.25)

Within this system, a man's 'maleness' is demonstrated largely by

his ability to make sexual conquests; and as these things are

easily boasted of, the only real proof of his virility is the

repeated pregnancies of his wife and/or mistress. To have children,

especially sons, is to affirm one's role as master. There is

evidence that in some rural v villages tat if a man is known to be

no longer capable of giving his wife children, she ridicules him

and turns him out. As for the woman, the symbiotic system of

marianismo assures that she will be compensated in other ways for

the life-long burden of multiple pregnancies and a husband who

must be unfaithful to her in order to assert his masculinity. The

subject of marianismo has been widely explored in various articles

by Evelyn Stevens (see bibliography). Her most recent article,

"Machismo and Marianismo," appears in the September/October issue

of Society. "Taking its cue from the worship of Mary, marianismo

pictures its subject as semi-divine, morally superior, and spiri-

tually stronger than men." She adds in another article, "Far

from being an oppressive norm dictated by tyrannical males, marian-

ismo has received considerable impetus from women themselves."

(Stevens, 1973, as quoted in Pescatello, p.99) The key to under-

standing this is the role of children. "Not to have children is

a tragedy for a woman, and among women there exists the conviction

that to have children, above all boys, is part of 'salvation,' an

expression which apparently is religious but refers more accurately

to social acceptance . . ." (Punto Critico #8) We have seen that

in Aztec society, barreness was reason enough for a husband to

send his wife away, scorned and ridiculed by men and women alike.

In my study of Chan Kom, I found that the only three divorces

granted in the last thirty years were due to barreness. (Elmendorf

1972) For the great majority who do bear children, however, the

status they enjoy as 'mothers' is very high. Beverly Chinas notes

that "A wife's status increases as her family grows, reaching its

highest when she herself becomes a mother-in-law to her sons' wives."

(Chinas, 1973, p.59) To a large extent, the love and even reverence

accorded to mothers in Mexico is due to negative impact of the

fathers' machismo role in childhood. This ties in directly with

another facet of the marianismo complex, the role of the madre

abneqada or mater dolorosa. Here, it is necessary for the husband

to play out all the irresponsible and even cruel manifestations of

the macho personality in order for the mother to fulfill her long-

suffering, self-sacrificing role, which she believes to be her

destiny. "The more closely the husband conforms to the stereo-

typed macho behavior the more rapidly his suffering wife advances

- 6 -

toward her anticipated beatification" (Stevens, "Machismo and

Marianismo, Society) In the same article she continues:

Women strive not to avoid suffering but to
make known their suffering, for their misfortunes
are the stigmata of incipient sainthood which are
further validated by the appropriate attitude of
abnegation. "The test of womanhood," comments a
sociologist, "is self-sacrifice."

In this sense, the woman in her role as mother may be said to

profit from the dichotomous nature of machismo which establishes

a positive role for negative values in the eyes of masculine

society. The man may succeed on one front only to lose on another,

for in seeing how he treats their mother, his children's sympathies

can lie only with her. More specifically, as Fromm says in his

study with Michael Maccoby, Social Character in a Mexican Village:

Sons are unlikely to accept the patriarchal pre-
tensions of their fathers. Rather, they retain
their primary attachment to the mother. In a
situation where men have felt impotent to fulfill
the male role, the image of the mother is strength-
ened as the one and only person who loves uncondi-
tionally, and who will always give the feeling of
being powerful, at least as long as the son remains
emotionally a child.
(Fromm-Maccoby, 1970, p.116)

Fromm and Maccoby see the;.society they studied as a patriarchy

interwoven with a matriarchy, with the main figure of attachment

for individuals;.._regardless of age, as the mother. "To hurt or

offend the mother is perhaps the most real and severe crime,

although not in legal terms nor even in terms of what villagers

consciously think about crime." (Fromm-Maccoby, 1970, p.114)

Men, it appears, have the 'outward and visible' signs of power;

women rule through the acknowledged superiority of their 'inward

- 7

and spiritual grace.' Quoting from Diaz-Guerrero in her article

in Society, Evelyn Stevens writes:

"In the Mexican family for one reason or
another, it appears that it was decided that
the father suld have the power and the mother
should have the love (and the power of love).". . .
This is an extraordinarily perceptive appreciation
of the dynamics involved in the male-female rela-
tionship . . . In sum, (the man's) efforts to
sustain his reputation as a macho in the world
outside of the home require that he relinquish
his claims to respect and love within the home.

(Stevens, Society, 1973)

- 8 -

Some social scientists believe that machismo is primarily a

lower class phenomena; others say that it cuts across all class

lines and in fact across all countries in Latin America. But I,

along with many others, have found that in the remnants of tradi-

tional Indian cultures, such as the Mayans of Yucatan, there is a

striking lack of machismo. Even though, of course, there is great

variation among Indian groups, in general it appears that the rural

Indian woman enjoys far more equality than her white or mestiza

sisters. This is partly due to the fact that, in Indian societies,

both men and women are workers, and "the male being no longer the

warrior of pre-conquest days has lost some of the bright plummage

which set him apart." (Gruening, 1928, p.631)

In the introduction to her recent study, The Isthmus Zapotecs,
Beverly Chinas observes that there are many ways "in which the roles

of the sexes are mutually dependent and complementary in terms of

everyday living, not only in the economic division of labor but in

every aspect of the social system." (Chinas, 1973, p.l) The

stereotype of the 'independent,' 'strong-minded' Zapotec woman is

of course well known in Mexico, but Dra. Chinas finds that their

aggressiveness ' is used primarily as a defense mechanism to ward off

masculine attentions, and has only positive things to say about

the role of women in the Zapotec culture and the effect which it

has on interpersonal relationships:

The phenomenon of machismo,, so often cited as a
male characteristic in Latin American cultures,
seems to be largely absent in intra-group relations
in Zapotec culture. Where such behavior is evident,

- 9 -

it is negatively sanctions. . . In San Juan
Evangelista, one is first a human being, an
individual, and only second and incidentally
a man or woman. While the sexes are usually
segregated, perform different tasks, wear
distinct clothing, and behave differently,
none of these differences is viewed as marking
the essential inferiority of one sex in rela-
tion to the other.

(Chinas, 1973, p.111)

In my study of the women of Chan Kom, a small village in Yucatan,

I had discovered much the same lack of machismo and a very strong

sense of cooperation:

One of the difficulties I have become continually
more aware of in analyzing the roles of Mayan
women is that these women feel themselves to be
a very real part of the mosaic of their community
life. They do not think of the men's part in the
community as being more important than their own.
As the women discussed their roles, it was as if
they were reciting the "rules of the game," or
perhaps the recipe for a good rainfall or harvest:
we prepare the food and take care of the chickens;
the men, they do this and that. The women were not
competing or comparing -- they were just describing.

(Elmendorf, 1972, 4/2)

In an unpublished PhD thesis, La Madre Abnegada, . Marigene

Arnold studies a mestizo village in Michoacan and observes that

the role of the self-sacrificing mother is only one of many.

Although it is generally believed that the 'ideal' Mexican woman

is highly passive, . Arnold contends that the villagers, both

men and women, feared those they called "las timidas., " Men

admired their humbleness, but "timidity is often equated with

stupidity, " and they are thought to make mismanaging wives. Women

fear them, stating that they are timid only with men; with other

- 10 -

women they are aggressive and argumentative. The other extreme

of behavior she observed was in women called "las gallons" (female

roosters). ". . . gallonas are admired for their ability to take

care of themselves . . . Yet the extreme development of this ideal

is also feared, mainly because it is assumed that such a woman might

become very sexually free and hombrada (man-like)." (Arnold, 1973,

pp.!6-17) She believes that behavioral stereotypes are situation-

ally geared, suggesting "a continuum of women's behavior . . ."

from one extreme to the other.

In another PhD thesis, Morality, Conflict and Violence in a

Mexican Mestizo Village, Dr. Lola Romanucci Schwartz did an in-

depth study of the women of the same village which Fromm and Maccoby

had investigated in Social Character in a Mexican Village. Her

chapter on "The Abandoned Spouse" was of special interest, question-

ing as it does the stereotype of the helpless woman abandoned by

her irresponsible husband.

Soon after coming into contact with the village we
were struck with the proud independence of the
women, by the prevalence of what we know as macha
attitudes . . . we find 23 cases of women who left
men to 4 cases of men who left women, and 2 cases
of mutually decided separation. Of the 23 cases of
women who left men, 20 of these are found in the
court record with the man sometimes bringing suit
to get his wife to return . .

(Schwartz, 1960,pp.81-84)

If we follow the woman as she migrates from the Indian and

mestizo rural villages and towns into the barrios surrounding the

large metropolitan areas, we must consider the excellent study

- 11 -

by Larissa Lomnitz, "The Survival of the Unfittest." Here she

concentrates on the socio-cultural defense mechanisms which the

urban dwellers have designed, often with considerable success.

She points particularly to the way in which women have made these

defense mechanisms work. The barrio (shanty-town) is viewed as

"a new form of social organization, designed to insure the survival

of the unfittest members of an urban, industrial society." (Lomnitz,

1974, p.2) This organization is based on units of four or five

nuclear families -- family used in the broadest sense -- which

form extended and compound families to make up a supportive net-

work, serving as the basic security for women and children. In

the actual nuclear family the woman is often older than the man.

The husband and wife really have "segregated conjugal roles," and

these are ones which other members of the extended family can take

over if necessary. The prescribed masculine role is one of irres-

ponsibility, and the woman "feels the necessity of enobling her-

self by suffering even if she by temperament may be happy and

capable." (Lomnitz, 1973, p.6) The man depends on his cuates

(friends, literally, twin-brothers) for affection and pleasure,

and the woman on her children and brothers. She is often more de-

pendent on her brother than on her husband; Lomnitz points out

that the role of brother is the only one in which the culture

permits the man to be responsible "sin pecar de debil" (without

the sin of appearing weak).

It is -interesting that Lomnitz finds the family in the barrio

to be "relatively stable, with few families incomplete because of

-- 12 --

the desertion of the man. When this occurs, the woman is apt

to return to a free union with another man without too much

difficulty. This marginal woman perhaps differs from the middle

class in that she is suffering, but strong." (Lomnitz, 1973b, p.7)

Among the members of the upper and, to some extent, middle

classes, these are some of the "leading themes and value orienta-

tions" (Beals, as quoted in Hanke, 1967, p.248):

First loyalty is owed to the family . . . Men
are superior to women and require a freer sex
life. The father is the authoritarian head of
the household. He has exceptional powers of
discipline. While the wife is cloistered, the
husband may have mistresses or a series of
promiscuous relationships without real danger
of divorce . . . The mother is the center of
the home. She forms strong ties with her sons,
to whomdie looks for moral sustenance and
economic support if widowed. Mexican motion
pictures abound in tear-jerking sentimentality
about relations between mother and son . . .
Women are both weak and passionate and hence
without aid they are unable to protect their
virtue. "Good" women, therefore, must be
sequestered and supervised . . .

All stereotypes must be continually questioned and re-examined,

however, and in the study by Dr. Luis Lenero Otero mentioned above,

he examines the truth of the models. A large number of the

couples interviewed did fit into the traditionally delineated

patterns of role playing at the same time, however, it was dis-

covered that the situation was not as closed as the machismo

stereotype would indicate, where the husband refused any respon-

sibility for household tasks and excluded the woman from important

-- 13 --

family decisions." (Lenero, 1968, p.196) In fact, in a large

percentage of cases, according to women informants,the decisions

on where to live, what furniture to buy, where the children should

go to school, and whether or not to have more children, were made

together. (Lenero, 1968, pp.328-329) Elu also notes that there

is strong agreement between male and female informants that the

decision on whether or not to have more children is made jointly.

(57.5% of the women state that this is the case, and 67.9% of the

men agree. 20.1% of the women said that the man makes this deci-

sion alone, whereas only 12.5% of the men felt that this was so.

On the lowest part of the scale, 7.0% of the women reported that

they alone made the decision; 3.2% of the men agreed.) (Elu, 1969,

p.136) It is important to note that the same research shows that

men have much more information about various methods of birth control

than do women. In the case of condoms and coitus interruptus,

the number of men cognizant of those methods was double that of

the women. (Ibid.,p.94)

Considering the socio-cultural factors at work, it is perhaps

not surprising that Elu discovered that the couples who decided

to marry in order to have children were most satisfied with their

married lives, while the couples who married for conjugal affec-

tion were the least satisfied. (Elu, 1969, p.144) Moreover, the

findings indicate that women are much more dissatisfied by marriage

in general than men; the major source of their unhappiness related

to their original ideals concerning married life. A "good" woman

is not expected to enjoy sex, nor is she instructed in it, and so

again it is not surprising that a full 50% of the women interviewed

-- 14 --

regarded sex as a "painful duty." Another 50% believe marriage

to be an obstacle to their personal development. (Ibid.,p.150-151)

Dr. Rogelio Diaz-Guerero presented an excellent paper on

"The Woman and the Socio-cultural Premises of the Mexican Family,

at the AAAS-CONACYT Conference (Mexico City, 1973). His statistics

were based on research which he had conducted in 1959 among selected

secondary schools in Mexico City. The same questionnaire and

research techniques were used again in 1970 to update the study.

The data analyzed here is based on the answers of girl respondents

in co-educational and all-girls schools. The various responses

demonstrate definite changes in attitudes toward male-female rela-

tionships and child-parent relationships, with differences also

notable between the school groups.

Among the girls interviewed in 1970, for example, significantly

fewer from both types of schools felt that "men are superior to

women." In the all-girls school only 24% (over 31% in 1959) believed

the statement to be true; in the coeducational school, 36% (over

47% in 1959) believed it.

Also in the all-girls school, many fewer young women felt

that the father should always "wear the pants,, in the family, or

that the father should necessarily be the head of the family.

(58% over 72% in 1959). In the co-educational school the percen-

tages remained almost constant. (65% over 63%)

Another significant change in responses dealt with the

girls' attitudes toward their mothers. In the co-ed schools there

was a slight increase in the percentage of girls who wanted to be

like their mothers; in the all-girls school there was a significant

-- 15 --

decrease in the percentage. (73% over 65% in 1959 as opposed to

57% over 72% for the all-girls school.) Also in the all-girls

school, fewer felt that men were inately "superior" to women.

(57% compared with 72% in the co-ed school.) Concommitant with

this, in the co-ed school there was a small increase in the number

of girls who felt that the wife should always be faithful to her

husband, and a small decrease in the same feeling in the all-

girls school. (91% over 84% in 1959 in the co-ed school; 92% over

94% in the all-girls school.)

Perhaps one of the most significant changes in response,

both in the coeducation and all-girls school, was in the belief

that the majority of parents should be "mas justos" (fairer) in

their relationships with their children. Speaking of this statistic,

Dr. Diaz-Guerero stated that Mexican children, both boys and girls,

felt that their parents were "abusing socio-cultural power." (see

table in index for complete responses) These changes in attitude

may prove to be highly significant, particularly in light of another

study by Dr. Diaz-Guerero which indicates that the 'socialization'

of the Mexican woman takes place more in regard to relationships

with her immediate family. (Diaz-Guerero, 1967, pp.139-141) As

this now very close and even formalized system of family relation-

ships breakdown, the change it will produce in the behavioral

attitudes of the Mexican woman should be profound.

From: Elu de Lenero, Maria del Carmen
�Hacia d6nde va la mujer mexicana? 1969



Nimn. tie hijos Mujeres Hombres

I a 3 hijos 0.9 2.7
4 a 5 hijos 20.7 29.4
6 a 7 hijos 33.2 32.4
8 a 9 hijos 14.3 14.4
10 y mv s hijos 30.9 20.6
No info-maci6n - 0.5
Totates: 100.0 100.0



Ndmero ideal de hijos

SMujeres Hombres

Ndmnero pensado tener

Mujeres Hombres

0 a 2 hijos 1.5 1.3 3.2 2.4
3 a 5 hijos 24.4 26.2 35.1 33.1
6 a 8 hijos 40.2 32.7 40.1 362
9 y mis hijos 25.7 22.4 193 19.6
"Los que Dios made" 7.7 15.7 1.8 7.4
No informacida 0.5 1.7 0.5 1.3

Totales: 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0


Muferes H ombres

Fin p.n- mayor i- Mayor
inp Saist- F satis-
cipal tf:cci&: cipat f cc-*
bus cado cnbuscado .faccon
al ca- encon- al ca- encon-
a ca- trada ca- trad
sarse d sars -

El tenechijos 21.0 47.2 25.8
El afecto del c6nyuge 54.1 27.6 47.2
La seguridadecon6mica 20.7 16.3 -
Un hog.ar donde ser atendido * - 22.0
No sabe 4.2 8.9 5.0

Totales: 100.0 100.0 100.0



From: Elu de Le'iero, Maria del Carmen
ZHacia d6nde va la mujer mexicana? 1969

CUAD~ 18


Hombres Mujeres

De orden religioso
En relaci6n a una satis-
facci6n personal en la
Temor de perder la salud
por el uso de m6todos
Costo econ6rmico de los
me todos
Por responsabilidad so-
No sabe la raz6n


55.7 67.5

313 16.2

6.9 11.9

i.1 1.0









Continencia total
Continencia peri6dica (ritmo)
Lavado vaginal
Preservativo masculine (cond6n)
Pildoras orales
Pastillas vaginales
Retiro (coito interrumpido)
Jalea espermaticida
Objetos intrauterinos








Hombres ?Mujeres

Por ser caro 3.4 1.6
Por temor a perder la salud 16.4 23.5
For escr.upulos religiosos 6.2 9.3
Por disminuci6n del placer sexual 13.0 4.9
Por ser ineficaz 38.4 47.6
Por desacuerdo del c6nyuge 5.5 4.4
Otras razones 6.1 3.8
No information 11.0 4.9




From: Lehero Otero, Luis
Investigaci6n de la familiar en Mexico. 1971

b) Informacian dada por la nujer sobre su vida conyugal y familiar

I p Iu I; II I .a 3 .y _ ll It
Distribucion de actividades . S. ; z ,
e"a famiiia z .z r C

31.01. Qu".:- asea la casa 0.20 67.94 0.81 0.25 23.69 5.96 1.08 0.07 - 100.00
31.03. Qui6n dice lo que se va a
comer 1.12 93.19 1.46 0.91 0.4! 0.98 1.83 0.10 - 100.00
31.09. Quid.a lava la ropa 0.33 63.59 0.07 0.07 27.48 2.24 0.95 0.24 0.03 100.00
31.11. Quidn arregla desperfectos
casa 62.76 15.52 7.90 0.54 0.41 4.98 7.52 0.17 0.20 100.00

Con los hijos:
31.04. Qui.n viste a los nifios 2.13 73.91 1.69 0.44 2.98 16.81 0.24 0.61 1.19 100.00
31.06. Quien juega con los nifios 2.54 22.84 12.74 6.10 1.15 47.37 4.17 0.95 2.14 100.00
31.07. Quien revisa sus tareas 10.23 38.56 13.39 5.05 - 5.46 0.68 0.64 25.99 100.00
31.08. Quidn acuesta a los nifios 0.64 75.26 3.49 1.52 1.13 15.76 0.37 0.44 1.39 100.00

Compras y pagos:
31.12. Qui6n hace las compras dia-
rias 3.59 81.43 2.54 1.36 4.17 3.33 2.13 0.37 1.08 100.00
31.13. Quien hace las compras ge-
nerales 8.68 67.43 4.37 9.63 0.44 1.15 1.59 0.17 6.54 100.00
31.16. Qui6n compra los regalos 23.48 33.41 9.02 21.21 - 3.35 0.51 0.51 8.51 100.00
31.18. Quidn hace los pagos 61.02 22.47 5.42 1.36 0.37 1.63 5.05 0.44 2.24 100.00

C- .- S t .3

Toma de decisions en la familiar 4

Con relacidn a la casa:
32.01. Escoger el lugar donde vivir 13.69 40.49 41.58 1.08 0.51 - 2.41 0.24 - 100.00
32.02. Comprar casa y cosas de
valor 11.56 45.00 39.58 0.85 0.34 - 1.97 0.54 0.16 100.00
32.03. Comprar muebles 16.20 37.95 42.43 0.34 0.47 0.03 1.36 0.47 0.75 100.00

Con relacidn al trabajo y economic:
32.04. De:-rinar total de gastos
me:.Ciua-s 26.36 39.38 32.94 0.07 0.27 - 0.47 0.41 0.10 100.00
32.05. Escc.-r trabajo actual 2. 90.40 5.02 0.17 0.14 - 0.85 0.64 0.44 100.00
32.06. Decil,: .i trabaja o no esposa 13.96 56.96 24.57 - - - 0.37 1.56 2.58 100.00

Con relacifn a los hijos:
32.07. Escoger escuela de hijos 23.42 15.35 42.02 0.03 0.14 - 0.61 0.44 17.99 100.00
32.10. Determinar castigo de hijos 25.79 32.36 34.00 0.03 0.03 0.03 0.07 0.51 7.18 100.00
32.11. Dar permisos do hijos a fies-
tas 8.03 23.6M 2C0.64 0.03 - 0.10 0.07 1.08 46.19 100.00
32.12. Tenor o no toner hijos 6.93 20.06 57.50 0.07 0.03 11.15 0.44 1.19 2.58 100.00

From: Lenero Otero, Luis
Investioaci6n de la familiar en Mexico. 1971


0 -
0 C Q0


4o t
I oE

0 0 t JtM M
0 j -1 p. t'J P
F tI- Ln --

0 ( . ~ . -O
0 O/i m l-J ~
C0 I) �o 00 0o
0 tno % iin LM

-^ -4J00
C.*J00 0

tUl -J -
1 D

C-) \O
W4\O _

---- --

w '0 -m tn 0 m\ C
w�J Ui NJ 00 C) 0%

0i 0 s 00 0i LJ -<] -rs 0

W til W 3- -

-. o n *-* Mt - sjo

t0 (9

0 , 0
En (

0 0

0 p


I OJ | I I �E2CO -on'Coo O

I o C-ti : : - -- n -

S:I I -r o'-j'- I l
0I 0 \0 00 f- C.) , -1 ln -



From: Diaz-Guerrero, Rogelio
" La mujer y las premises historico-socioculturales. 1973
(Paper presented at the AAAS-CONASYT Conference, June, 1973)

'Table I

Mixtas de .Vujeres

'-1. "y .atu-e '-en arer superior
to -o,-e ".

Y.,'-. T1he ,",n should weear the
-i.nn.s in the family.

41. It is -"uch better to be a
mn? than a woman.

11). 'The fatherr should alovys bhe
the he?' of the fa.mily.








1 ?70

-;'* 281

* 72-



48 1


w {-**

5 :30;;

* '"11 dHt'. .-re in er, ente.? es
-+ Socrio-'i)l1tu r-.. Pre ises (Pr�."isas Socio-Cultu.ras)

lo si^ ^ ii t tenii-lency
** :f.rec. sinifio'nt to 0.05
--- if..rence sinnific.nt to 0.01

s +



From: Diaz-Guerrero, Rogelio
" La mujer y las premises historico-socioculturalest' 1973
(Paper presented at the AAAS-CONASYTr Conference, June, 197.3)

Thble II

.istoric-Se io-CuLtural Premises on th7e :ole of '.oen in T'.exic.n Society



33. Women suffer -ore in their lives
than -en.

4L7. Most ;rirlsl/ant to be like their

103. Women should be docile.

96. A good wife should always be
f ithf'l to her husband.

,O. Youny- ",c�en should- not .o out
alone U' night wit.Ih-a man.













73 :




Secondary School
All rrirls



*i* *





*** -*a-


0 i





1_,0 * \.',.' ~~~ ~ ." .- . '"I0.9 e . i t e h 5

From: Diaz-Guerrero, Rogelio
" La mujer y las premises historico-socioculturalesV, 1973
S .(Paper presented at the AAAS-CONASYT Conference, June, 1973)

Table III

Hitoric-Socio-Cultrr.al Premises of Durhter/Father Relationsiis



' iYed

L. One shoull rne er doubt the
father's word.

8. A girl should1-. always obey
her parents.

2. A person shoill' tlayR respect
his nare, ts.







20. _h- - icrity of Yevicn *a'rnts 1959
s ho".'- . l" . "..oTe just" in their
rel.-sh -s it:- th-ir c hil .'-re .1970


Secondary Schools
Al1 mirls







o4 ~

57 -





We have covered the basic stereotype of the passive female - the

madre abnegada, the mater dolorosa, in the section on family. We've

also discussed the marianismo - machismo dichotomy- as presented by

Stevens in her various papers. There is also the ideaof the super-madre.
(Chbney -T--
Another type of woman gallon has been described by Arnold '73 and

Chaias '73.

In a paper on the"Stereotypes of the Mexican Woman in Mass Culturef

The Case of the fotonovelas'' 1Marie Claire Acosta presented the five types

of women with many of the characteristics of the above stereotypes. One of

the women portrayed in these fotonovelas which are cheap, photo-illustrated,

comic-type pamphlets, is the sweetheart, an object of eroticism, usually the

blonde European type. Another is the more traditional sweetheart type w.ho

comes from a good family, stays at home, or does "good works". Sometimes

this sweetheart works in industry, but usually with a family-related com-

pany. She might give up her virginity, but only if she is"in love". The

mistress is usually widowed or divorced. She doesn't work unless it is

absolutely necessary. Often she is set up in a casa chica, the second home

set up by so many Latin-American men. This mistress is loyal, tender and

generous-all that the wife is not.

In marriage, the wife gives up everything for her husband; is suffering,

understanding; lives for her children and sacrifices herself. She sometimes

reappears after forty, as grandmother or mother-in-law, playing the stero-

typed roles as described in Family. One of the most interesting portrayals

is the woman called the "devourer of men". The roles are inverted. The

woman is aggressive, rich and powerful, completely independent; lives to

satisfy her sexual appetite by devouring men, but she is never happy, always


*f I

-2 -


These fotonovelas are passed around from woman to woman in the

barrios, the beauty parlors and even resold in the market places for a

few pesos. For many women they are the only "literature" they see.

In the movies, we have had, as mentioned earlier, Dolores del Rio

not only served as a personal model in her independent step to leave a

wealthy family and to carve her own career, but stands for a certain kind

of severe Indian - mestiza beauty. Maria Felix, on the other hand,

"portrayed a different feminine image, no more the very sad and suffering

prostitute or the cabaret girl but the domineering female, the cold love

priestess who lends her body but never gives it." (Sanchez 1974 p. 5)

The image of the Mexican Revolutionary woman has been portrayed in

songs such as"Adelita", as mentioned earlier, and in murals, frescoes, and

various art forms. Rivera's widely-circulated pictures of the Indian

mothers with their children, the suffering mothers of Goitia, and the march-

ing soldadares of Orozco and Siquieros, all reconfirm the various stereo-

types as portrayed in literature and film.

One of the most powerful influences on the urban poor is television.

EVen in a barrio such as the one described by Lomnitz, 1973, over 35% of

the families have television. For these women and for domestic servants

television is their one way to divert themselves. Margo Smith tells of the

great influence of Maria, the maid on a television program, who becomes a

seamstress, in fact, goes to Paris and becomes a world-renowned dress

designer. This television program, called "Simplamente Maria" has had an

unbelievable influence on servants everywhere, but particularly in Peru,

as manift-tcd t...in part by the tens of thousands of them who turned out

for Maria's television wedding in a Lima church. " ( Smith '73, p.205)

Many of the domestics in Latin America, including Mexico, want to become

seamstresses like Maria.

-3 -


Sociologist, Cornelia Flora, has done a cross-cultural, cross-class

comparison of women's magazine fiction, testing the ideal of "the passive

female" relationship to social change, using material from MexicoyColombia

and the United States. She feels that "too many assumptions about women

in the world are based on examination of U.S. culture and the middle-class

woman." In.her conclusions she says:

Few models of females actively controlling their own lives
were presented positively in any of the fiction examined.
Although differences were present by class and especially
by culture in viewing passivity, the sex status of "female"
was most important in determining characteristics of :women
in popular fiction. Even the least passive images present
in U.S. working-class fiction.! did not mean totally active,
free women. Very few women were presented as acting in the
public realm. Almost always the definite authority of the
male is reinforced. The universal stress on female passivity,
plus the lack of class and national identification in Latin
American fiction, suggests the counter-revolutionary po-
tential of such literature, and the need to overcome the
values they represent to mobilize women for radical change.
(Flora '72,p.83)

But, if we think of patterns of dress as symbols of tradition vs.

emancipation, there have been striking changes during the last thirty years.

In the 40t's, the women of the town of San Miguel were never seen publicly

in pants - even when riding horses they would wear skirts and use a side-

saddle. In provincial towns I was always aware of the floods of women in

black, the nuns and the widows, in contrast to the bright skirts and shawls

of the peasants. In Mexico City there was a heterogenous mixture of re-

gional costumes and chic European dress, but never did one see women-in

slacks. In the 0' s, some women in the rural areas would be seen riding

horseback in jeans, and I would wear slacks - when on official business only -

under a full skirt for the same purpose. But to wear slacks on any other

occasion was to risk being ridiculed and even pinched, for it was considered

very exhibitionistic. Starting in the 60's, slacks began appearing on a



FIW women in Mexico City, mostly well-tailored pantsuits on upper class

women. And now in the 70's, pantsuits and slacks are even being worn to

embassy receptions, on the streets and in offices. People feel freer to

wear what they find most comfortable, and even older women in more isolated

villages are wearing slacks- sometimes under skirts. A school teacher in

the village of Chan Kom would teach in a mini skirt and change to slacks

afterward, much to the amazement of the townspeople. Along with pants be-

coming accepted dress, I have noticed through the years that fewer and

fewer women are wearing black in Mexico. The traditional period of mourning

has been cut by several years, and in a sense I consider this the end of

Mexico's "purdah", showing as it does a greater freedom from the rules o f

the church and the possessiveness of the husband even after death.

The myth of the traditional stereotype of the woman's
submissive, long-suffering, of abundant biological fecundity,
"locked up" in her house, lacking culture, ignorant,
fatalistic and uninterested in social, economic and political
life, is breaking up, while the image of a modern woman, with
her own aspirations, a rebel against suffering, a planner of
her life and her fecundity, responsible, integrated into the
life of her society, cultured and voluntarily promoting her
personal development, is emerging sharply.

Let us support and let us promote without reserve this awaken-
ing of a transcendent vocation in the Mexican woman, secure
in the knowledge that, now well under way, it will be of
benefit, for her as well as for her children and for the
entire society. (Elu,1969,p.170)

- L -


1. Sa--. or different cur:--Icula for cv-.rs and _,,irls?

S;- -e ;urricmlum for boh in primary. Highly centraizad (ationl)

.idminis trafion.a T^exto un~iio. Beginning to create n.v supplementary materials

for various social groups (ur-ban, rural, Indian, etc.) (7a.quez de Knauth, 1973)

(Cote: in time of Cardenas, separate free textbooks for rural and city schools.

Dropped in '59 in favor of te:cto Uinico - effort to -pull country together 1)

In secondary, theoretically also same curriculum, but larger numbers of

girls begin pre-teacher-training in the pre-normal school courses which do have

separate programs.

In preparatory - this process is accentuated,and measurable larger numbers

of girls are in normal and fewer in technological courses.

Thus: h0% of advanced normal students are women; only
8% of university students are women; and only
12.5% of technological and other students are women.

2. Percentage of girls in technical schools vs. general secondary school education?

1968 - Higher Education Total t. female 18.h%

University 8 %
Normal 0 %
Technical and other 12.5%

Intermediate Total female 25 %

Secondary 28 %
Vocational 8 ' %
Normal 5%

(Natem No sex-distinguished data for primary education. Estimated-50% female)

3. Coed ve . single sex schools?

All public primary schools are co-educational.

Many private schools are sLingle-sex.

Som public secondary schools also single sex. Mostly co-ed.

(Note: In 1969, at the primary leval, there ere LiO,.50
public school and 3,270 private schools, but the percentage
of increasGe in the number of private schools from 19o!-69
had ben 1Lvh2% larger; of public schools - 27 larger. In
196h there were 1,273 public and 1,535 private schools 1
A startling statistic! This may help explain Ahy more girls
than might be expected, go on to secondary school, since girls
normally prefer private schools when they have a choice. But
it is very probable that a major change has occurred since 1960',

he Percentage of girls who are at each level of school system?

See tables (above):- 50%


5. Nature of informal peer groups that surround students in school -
dating, sports, youth culture?

Sports - heavy

Political - very heavy Dating - ? (Probably
more related to other
environments than school,after
secondary, since few higher educ.
schools are residential.)

6. Higher education - % of women who attain different ranks?

No statistics which reflect sex distinctions at the university level,

but faculty figures are interesting:

All Higher Education

Female 7.3%

Technical and others

which means: Most women are taught by men!

7. Literacy rates?

Total population

Urban population

Male 70.18 %

Male 83.28 5%

Rural population Male 57.12 %

Female 60.74%

Female 74.5h%

Female ht.7h%

(All st'atistic on pages 1 and 2 are taken from Statistical Abstract of Latin
Amrict 1971 publisher by the Latin-Amnerican Center, University of Califor.ia,
Los Angelos, December 1972)

hBrtha Heredia, Psychologist at the National University, presented a

paper, "La Valoracion Social de la AMuj Ye -ito y Realidad" ("The Social

Value of the Woman-: tfyth and Reality") at the A A A S. Among the 1970

statistics quoted are:

Only 7 out of 100 children who start primary school finish it.
(50 per cent of those who start are girls). Of the graduates,
7$ per cent go on to secondary school. (35 per cent are women)
Fifty per cent of those who enter graduate from secondary
schools, with 79 per cent of their number entering the
Preparatoria. (18 per cent are women). Of the Preparatoria
graduates, 97 per cent go on to the University (21 per cent are
women) with 38.per cent finishing. (Page 8 - compiled from sev-
eral charts)
It is interesting to note that the number of women w,-ho
graduate from secondary school is larger proportionally than
the men. (Page 9) The higher the educational level, the lower
the percentage of women, but higher, percentage-wise,
graduating. (pp. 19-16)

The results of numerous investigations of the factors which
determine the occurrence of attrition has localized specific
characteristics of the potential dropouts; among others a poor
IQ, bad family adaptation, economic factors. belonging to the
feminine sex, anxiety, and deficient previous preparation....
e can affirm that the inclusion of the factor "belonging to
the feminine sex"' among the determrinants of attrition is more a
reflection of the social value of women, and not a factor in
itself which causes womrn to drop out. (Page 10)

Dr. Isabel Reyes [Laguna, Professor of Vsychology at the National

University, who has ,-orked extensively with Rogelio Di.-Guaerero in his

research, is actively involved in the field of childhood education and cur-

r-zntly doing research and studies of the Mexican version of "Sesame Street."

At the A A A S Conference in Mexico City, she pointed out that in the

Mexican Cultural patterns, and even in the educational system itself, women

w.re *encouraged to be pasive and even t'ense,4rLa a ser tonta" (teach her

to be stupid).



The following chart contrasts the percentages of men and women who terminate
their studies at a given level.
Male Female
None 8.3% 10.3%

1 - 3 years of study 19.7% 22.7%

4 - 6 years of study 28.7% 27.0%

7 - 9 years of study 13.2% 19.6%

10 -12 years of study 9.2% 14.0%

13 -15 years of study 6.5% h.9% (Elu,169, p.54)

It is interesting to note on this chart that there is a definite drop in

the numbers of women continuing beyond the 12th year of schooling, which was

clearly indicated in the Heredia data. As she noted, the percentage of

women who finish secondary school is higher than that of men, but a lower per-

centage - 18% compared to 82%, go on to further education, although an

increasing percentage of them graduate.

Ratios of students to teachers of the same or opposite sex point out some

significant differences in the experience of males and females. In the pri-

mary grades, where students are evenly divided between male and female, 89.6%

of the teachers are women. Thus, most girls have women teachers. But, in

the intermediate years, the situation changes. For all intermediate education,

25% of the students are female, only 33% of the teachers. In the "general

secondary" (what we would call "college-preparatory") program, 28% of the

students are female, but only 21% of the teachers. Matters get worse in the

vocational schools where 48% of the students are female, but only-28% of the

teachers. Even in normal school, where 63% of the students are female, only

4c'% of h-e faculty are women 1

Considering The reluctance of many Liexican parents to have their daughters

taught by aon, i i is easy E to s 3 s from these staTsist-ics :,'at the cdds _re

a a-ins: .-:cue: be: tau by wrom.en at an-y oint after ":ri-:ary school. From

.... ATI.Oi.N.

personal experience I have also observed that. men teachers in the prir._

schools tend to be most prevalent in the two last years, still further lower-

ing the odds that a girl widl complete primary school if she is not allowed

to attend -nwhen taught by a man.

In a roodern-day Mayan village I was told that girls had to drop out of

school when they were twelve "because their menses might start and they

shouldn't be in class with boys any longer." This same attitude might very

well he responsible for the increased number of secondary schools (private)

for girls. Certainly, in rural areas there is still a feeling that young

girls should be taught by female teachers. In fact, in 19h44, in Oxchuc,

Chiapas, when an anthropologist asked the villagers why the girls were not sent

to the rural school she was told "Because the witches harm the girls if they

go to take classes with the professor because he's a man." (Otero,19U.,p.19)

There is much evidence supporting this view that Mexican parents are

reluctant to have their female children taught by males. Within the indigenous

groups, this is a particularly strong taboo. Evangelina Araar' states: "The

probability is that after twelve years of age she does not have much to do

with people outside her group and even less if the teacher is male."

(E. Araha de S. 1973, p. 5)
In the seventeenth century Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz had recognized that

education was the key to improving the image of Mexican women. She urged

that schools for girls be established taught by "wise and virtuous" female

teachers. ( Macias, 1971, p. 23)

But jumping from primary education to the university level, it is inter-

esting to note that 16.7% of the higher university school population are women.

CO this number, 58.6% are in the School of Education, and O0.8;, are in the

School of Dentistry. /n all of Latin America, women have high percentages in

-6 -


the profession of dentistry. Many women have stated that they set up their

offices in their homes and so combined dentistry with their family obliga-

tions] Other departments preferred by women are the social sciences, chemistry,

and medicine. (See attached chart for break-down. Navarrete, 1969, p. 27)

Dr. Maria Louisa Rosas, Professor of Animal Husbandry at the National

University, spoke of the increasing number of women entering this field. She,

as other speakers, was encouraging support for women students to study and

relate their knowledge to practical problems of Mexico. She spoke, for instance,

of the killing of heifers for meat instead of raising them as milk-producers,

when Mexico had to import tons of powdered milk. She also felt that women

working in the extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture would be able

to relate to the nutrition problems of the rural families, better than men.

Mexico has been at the forefront in non-traditional educational programs.

I immediately following the Revolution of 1910 rura-l cultural missions, made up

of teams of young men and women, were sent out into the villages. These teams

taught Tanning, Domestic Science, Music, Masonry, etc. Education was broadly

conceived. These rural cultural missions went into isolated villages where

they had been invited and worked with the rural schoolteacher, often making

the school, itself, into a cornmnity center.

Special projects were also set up within the Ministry of Education in the

Deprtmen. of Indian Affairs by Manuel Gamio. This department, which is now

headed by Evangelina Arana de Swadesh, still carries out a number of inter-

esting projects. [o; the lcat of them involves the training of wh-t are

called "prorotoros culturales". young m n and women from villages where the

predominant language is other than Spanish. Their trainingZ involves preparation

for carrying, out simLpl teaching taoks, including lit -racy, p-:rsonal and public



health and other basic skills which can inorove their lives and increase

their possibilities for full participation in the national life. It was

early though- that women could not be used for these jobs, but the persistence

of such people as Dr. Alfonso Villa Rojas and Dr. Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran,

working in the Chiapas highlands in the early 150's, led to their being in-

corporated into the pzogramts of the- National Indian Institute*. Recently,

Evangelina Arana de Swadesh re-instituted the training of young Indian women

and reported them to be "astonishingly able", both in surmounting the linguistic

hurdles created by their nonolingual background and in relating newly-learned

materials to the realities of their village's needs.

In the 1950's, also, the Ministry of Agriculture initiated a series of

training programs for home demonstration agents, most of them women. They

actually came together in a "learning village", where they learned about new

developments in agriculture and farm management, then were assigned to villages

nearby. Despite favorable reports - many of which reached me during my nine

years as Chief at the CARE 11ission - the project was dropped. I was interested

to learn just this summer that it has begun again, as a "pilot project" in one

or two of the States I (Casseres 1972, p. 7)
The Ministry of Health and Welfare, also set up in the 5O's special

training programs for young women to work as "promotoras" in their field

he~ilth units. The midwives were also given special courses adding

techniques of sterilization and other new medical advances to their wealth

of skills. At the recent A A A S meeting where integral health was dis-

cussed it was suggested that more midwives, "curanderas" (healers), and other

lo.. experts, including shamans, be involved in the over-all public health

progrS-. Isabel Kelly, anthropologist who worked during the 5O's as con-

sultant for the Ministry of Health, said: "This is like rediscovering the

wheel! Didn't anyone read the reports of what happened in the 607s?" Once

aa.in,: projects with women are started as pilot programs without adequate

evaluation, 'ithoat funding and without follow-uDo

- 8 -


The program of the National Indian Institute (I N I) which Arnold Toynbee

aid was " the best example of applied anthropology in the world" when he

visited the program in Chiapas in 1952, also had brought in monolingual

Indian girls to be taught Spanish along with basic tools for community de-

velopment as a part of their over-all program. By 1961 the National Indian

Institute could report that three women had completed the training course

for official recognition as teachers, using the vernacular, in the schools

of predominantly Indian villages. By 1971, when a class of almost 800

completed this same program, 150 of them were women. (Modiano,1973, p. 89)

At a time when bi-lingual bi-cultural education has attracted major

attention in the United States, it is interesting to observe that Mexico

now has well over 25 years of experience in teaching monolingual children

in their mother tongue, and that the experience of Mexico has in many ways

been crucial to some decisions made, or being made, in the United States

about the efficacy of teaching first in the vernacular and then transferring
to the national language. We have not yet devised training programs

for young men and women to teach in these programs, nor have we created

any kind of status for bi-lingual teacher aides. It was precisely some

reco ni-ion of this sort which was being urged at the Conference of

Indid-- Worean of the Americas, since it was strongly felt that the potential

contri-utions to the educational system by even minic.ally-trained personnel

merited some such recognition, or titulo.

-9 -


For the Indian girl child,attending school is the beginning of a break

from the strict division of labor and work roles. If, however, some at-

tention is not paid from the beginning to a redefinition of the domestic

burdens traditionally carried by women, education will be only a partial

solution. These Indian women, the Mestizo women, and rural women in general,

will join the urban women in carrying dual roles as they become professionals

and leaders in their communities.

...there can be no change in the traditional role of
women unless the traditional role of men is changed
at the same time." (Jacqueline Chabaud, The Educa-
tion and Advancement of Women.)

No matter how equal educational backgrounds or legal status may be,

"'equality" remains an impossibility as long as women are expected to fulfill

dual work roles-at home and in the marketplace (while men operate only in

the marketplace.) Instead of gaining status with education and industrial-

ization, the rural woman will lose the feeling of dignity and importance

she has in her family and community.

If it is desired to develop a coherent plan aimed at giving
men and women equal opportunities in life; if it is desired
to teach children that the differences between individuals of
the same sex are at least as great as the difference between the
sex-s3 if it is desired to train these children to respect
others and to inculcate mutual understanding, then boys and
*;irls should together be taught a new school subject--domestic
economy. Ifen anid women w.';ill then be able to share domestic
dutiess" (Chabaud, 1971)

It is very probable that the realization of objectives like these is

still a lon;, va in .-he future, but the very fact that serious and re-

sponsiblje non and woman in Mexico are giving thought to this kind of

major shift in attitude toward the sexes is encouraging.

-10 -


If it seems odd to spend so much -ime talking abouL the educc-ticn of

Indi':s in Mexico, when, after all, the monolincl u-il Indians constitute at

most a tiny percentage of the population, it must be rei.me:Abered that even

amor.n Spanish speakers, in Mexico as in Peru, the native language is

[rc'..3n-tly the first language. Thus, in 19,8, when the then Secretary of

Educatic-n, Torres-Bodet, proclaimed a major educational reform, he stressed

the primacy of national over individual goals and the need for curriculLum

to be based on children's experiences and society's needs. At that

time the Mexican government saw the school as the focal point for com-

muniity development and the acculturation of the Indian as a means to the

modernization and industrialization of Mexico. The implications of this

policy for women 's education are obvious. Since a larger number of women than

men have traditionally been confined to the indigenous cultures, more ef-

fective schooling - particularly that which utilizes the vernacular -

will have a proportionately higher impact on the progress of women.(Modiano '73,p.88)
Education for women has not been an easy road. In 1910, Felix Palavicini,

later to be Minister of Education under Carranza, stated in his book Problems

of Education that education "de-feminized"women. He did not want to see

women compete with men and asserted: "An intellectual woman would produce weak

or degenerate children."

An-3. acias reports another negative aspect of women's education:

"S:nool teachers do not marry", wailed Senorita Garcia Ortiz before
her predominantly unmarried audience, asserting that the more
eda.cation a woman received the fewer her chances for happiness,
that is, for marrying and raising a family. WVhile her remarks
were resented by her auditors, they were aware that few men of
their acquaintance were interested in marrying a woman who was
their intellectual equal or superior. Senorita Garcia was ex-
pressing the traditional prejudice against educated women which Sor
Juana felt so keenly in the 17th century. (Anna Macias,1971,p.15)

-12 -


That prejudice against o men in education has not yet disappeared is

clearly attested to by some data from the United Nations Statistical Yearbook,

1969. These figures show that only about a third of secondary school gradu-

ates arnd a sixth of university graduates in Mexico are women. Mexico is

thought to be more progressive than Spain, yet in 1966, when both countries

reported exactly the same number of university students, 154,289, Spain had

34,936 women studying at the university level while Mexico reported only

26,758. (U.N., 1969, pp. 728 and 734)

In relation to other countries of the world, Mexico is not remarkable for

the numbers of women who are enrolled in higher education. The London

Economist (Spanish edition) reported in 1967 that 17% of all advanced students

were women. In the same table, Costa Rica has 46%, Finland 49% (the highest

listed), Chile 46%, and the U.S.A. 38%. Nearest to Mexico were El Salvador

with 19% and Kenya and Morroco, each with 16%! (Table 2 p.29)

Although it is as yet only an impression, it has been my feeling that this

rather deplorable level of female participation in advanced education is im-

proving. Nonetheless, it is clear that there is a long way still to go before

women will have moved far enough ahead to sustain a movement towards full

equality of education with men.

The situation is summed up rather pointedly by Maria del Carmen aLu:

As long as full- access to the University byjwomen is not a
fact, her personal development will still be severely
limited, even when the middle and working classes have
attained equality of education, both elementary and secondary.
The traditional stereotype which limits instruction for the
woman has by no means been overcome.
(ELu de Lefiero 1969,p.56)


Profession YIo.en
Carreras Pobl. Total tli ujeres 2/1
1 2 0


Sub total carreras

C. Quimicas
C. Sociales
C. Exactas
Nuevo ingreso

150 816

123 230

31 595
19 471
10 271
5 9400
7 535
1 683
2 525
18 899
2 524
47 039

25 194

17 030

4 505
3 513
2 623
2 253
1 434
8 407

Navarrete, 1969




PJentistzy -
Social Sciences
Natural Sciences


Fiente: Asociaci6n Nacional de Universidades e Institutos de
Ensefianza Superior, Educaci6n S-Upcrior en Mexi-
co, 1967.

El argument anterior, sugcstivo, y que dcsdc un
punto de vista costo-bcneficio justifica la preferencia
por los varones, puedc rcbatirse con otras raznnes, tal



Pais Total Mujcres 1/2
1 2 o

Estados Unidos 2 240 850 38
Uni6n Sovi6tica 1 310 550 42
Argentina 1 013 395 39
Finlandia 715 350 49
Francia 655 275 42
Jap6n 1 044 240 23
Costa Rica 435 200 46
Chile 382 130 34
R. A. U. 500 100 20
MEXICO (1967) 316 53 17
Nicaragua 182 40 22
El Salvador 184 35 19
Marruecos 94 15 16
Nigeria 100 10 10
Kenia 63 10 16

Fuente: Estimaci6n basada en el articulo ZIgualdad de Sexos?
de The Economist, edici6n en espailol, 15 de diciem-
bre de 1967.

en la Uni6n Soviktica; la proporci6n de mujercs era
tambien la mas alta, 38 por ciento y 42 por ciento, res-
pectivamente. En cambio, en Mexico el nimecro de estu-
diantes apenas si llegaba a 316 por 100 mil habitantes
y tan s61o el 17 por ciento eran mujeres vasee Cua-
dro 2). Por tanto, todos los passes deben estimular la


Most of the points brought out in this section have already

been dealt with in the historical sections, particularly the period

following the Revolution.

After the Revolution of 1910 there was a great deal of disa-

greement as to whether or not women had the right to vote and hold

political office. In fact, it was not until 1953 that women were

granted full suffrage. As the attached chart demonstrates, women

increased their representation in the congress from 1 in the first

years following suffrage to 4 in the next congress, doubling the

next year, and increasing to 12 in 1964. It has remained at that

number since then.

Although not equally represented, women are more fairly

represented in Mexico than in the U.S. at the national level in

elective positions, and are even more conspicuous in top positions in

civil service and government appointed posts.

We have no statistics available on Mexican women in state

government positions, but in Yucatan at the present time there

are three women mayors of rural communities. Even in the small

traditional community of Chan Kom, there is a woman on the town


All this is not to say that there has been little resistance

to women taking political office. As June Nash states in a foot-

note to her paper, "Resistance as Protest":

A classic revelation of the threat posed to men by
women's entry into political life is contained in
Turner's (1967) quotation of Col. Velarde who, after

- 2 -

the Mexican Revolution, stated his fear that
"the Latin character would be ended if women
lost their femininity and their charms as they
mixed in the tumult of political life.

(Nash, 1974, f ..1)

Contrary to what one would be inclined to believe, it has

been in the provincial areas in which there has been more acceptance

of women entering the political arena. It is interesting to note

that Yucatan, a traditional, Mayan area, was the first state where

women were allowed to vote and hold office in 1922. (Morton, 1962,

p.9) Chiapas, also a Mayan area, was the first state to establish

complete equality of political rights in 1925. (Ibid, p.11) In

1924 one of the four congresswomen in the state legislature of

Yucatan, ran for the national congress from San Luis Potosf and

won. The final vote was 4,576 to 56 but she was not allowed to take

her seat. (Gruening, 1928, p.629)

The political parties have women's sections which are organized

separately. Peasant women and labor are also organized for political

action. Maria Elena Jimenez, mentioned earlier, was appointed by

the president to work on reorganizing the Federacion de Cnampesinas

before being elected to the national congress. She feels that there

is a great reserve of potential political power in this group.

Some women have come to power politically through men and

others on their own merit. The first woman on the Supreme Court,

Maria Lavalle Urbina, who still holds one of the highest offices

in Mexico, is the daughter of a judge who encouraged his bright

daughter to go to law school. (N.B. She also is from Yucatan.)

- 3 -

She certainly reached her present position and kept it, however,

on the basis of personal brilliance.

Maria Lavalle Urbina is also the official delegate to the

Inter-American Commission on Women (CIM) as well as a delegate to

the U.N. She,and the wife of the President, opened the IXth

Leadership Training Seminar for Latin American Women in Mexico City

this summer. These CIM training sessions, sponsored by the OAS

have played a real role in raising the political awareness of

women in Latin America and their potential for action in the various

countries. The Overseas Education Fund of the Leagaeof Women Voters

has played a less active role in Mexico than it has in some of the

other Latin American countries, but it too has given organizational

skills and techniques to many groups of women who are using them

increasingly to great effect. For instance, the Indian delegates

to the OAS/CIM Conference on Indian Women in Guatemala took over

and ran the session using their knowledge from previous workdops.

For the range of activities and approximate participation in

major volunteer groups, I am attaching a list of voluntary organi-

zations from the appendix of Navarrete's La muier y los derechos

sociales. This list in no way represents the full range of volun-

tary activities of Mexican women, which still are concentrated on

charitable works related to the church. It is interesting to note,

however, that some of the professional groups such as women doctors

were organized as early as 1929. Also international and Pan-American

groupings of women were organized during the 1930's and still are

operating. A number of U.S. related clubs such as the Junior League

have organized in Mexico as early as 1927, and the Y.W.C.A. in 1933.

- 4 -

Mexico's branch of the A.A.U.W. was founded in 1925. In all of

these organizations women hold the offices and are the organizers.

In other situations a women's club is complimentary to the original

man's organization, such as the Damas de Leones. Associations such

as Planned Parenthood, Mental Health, Crippled Children, etc. have

both men and women board members and officers.

In the historical section, we have pointed out the various

phases through which the women's question was developed. It did

not seem to become a burning issue until after the Revolution of

1910-1918, when women were given very liberal socio-economic and

medical benefits under the new constitution, but were denied politi-

cal equality. Before that time, there was little organization for

specifically feminist purposes.

The major issue today rests on a link between the feminist

movement and fundamentally socialist movements which look for a

restructuring of society. One of the most vocal consciousness-

raising groups in Mexico is called Encuentro de Mujeres; the

following is an excerpt from their article "La Mujer en M4xico"

which appeared in Punto CrItico 8:

Until now women dissatisfied with their situation
have tried to enter the world of men and some have
had success, but the fact that some workers have
became capitalists has not abolished exploitation,
just as the fact that there have been women astro-
nauts has not ended sexist society. We insist:
either there is a solution for all women or there
is no solution for any woman. This presupposes a
change in structures, a radical struggle directed
at the roots of oppression.

from: Navarrete, Ifigenia Martinez de
La Mu er y los derechos sociales. 1969

(footnote, p.119) Among the public offices which have been undertaken
by women in Mexico we should mention the following: congresswoman,
senator, nayor, judge, first magistrate of the supreme court of the
federal district and territories, magistrate, minister, ambassador,
government representative before international organizations, etc.
Wemen have also carried out posts in the different ministries including
health, education, welfare, social work, nursing, social security,
ministry of the interior, agrarian reform, economic planning, ministry
of industry and commerce, public works, communications and transport etc.


Numero Periodo Total Hombres Mujeres Total Hombres Mujeres

159 - 151

12 210
12 208

45 1 069



S u :.' .,

1952- 1955
195S- 1961
1961 - 1964
195-- 1967
9.I: - 1970


1 070

1 025

1I .iiNa p--riodn compr'ndido entire el lo. de s5-ptiemhre y e! 31 de agasto.
Fuent..-: Diario (de Debates, Cmrnara de Diputados del Congreso de la Uni6n.

1 005


Most of the information and statistics on law and legal

change in Mexico has already been given as it related to the

various other sections of the report. The bulk of the material

is located in the section on post-Revolutionary Mexico.

We have observed that Indian women in pre-conquest times

possessed certain legal rights; the Aztec woman, for example,

could enter into contractual relationships, inherit and possess

property from either parent, and claim justice in the courts.

These rights naturally were lost to her at the time of the Conquest,

and were not regained for any women during the Colonial period.

In the course of the last two centuries a struggle has been taking

place to re-establish basic legal rights for women in Mexico.

During the second half of the 19th century, an extreme dichotomy

existed in attitudes toward women who on the one hand were ruth-

lessly exploited as cheap labor, and on the other hand considered

so weak and in need of male protection that their legal identity

after marriage was as imbecilitas sexus, grouped with idiots and

children. Adult single women were granted almost the same rights

as men under the Civil Code of 1884; at marriage, however, the

woman's legal personality was virtually negated. Hermila Galindo,

a leading feminist of the times, described the legal discrimination

against women in this way:

The wife has no rights whatsoever in the home. (She
is) excluded from participating in any public matter

- 2 -

(and) she lacks legal personality to draw up any
contract. She cannot dispose of her personal
property, or even administer it, and she is
legally disqualified to defend herself against
her husband's mismanagement of her estate, even
when he uses her funds for ends that are most
ignoble and most offensive to her sensibilities.
(A wife) lacks all authority over her children,
and she has no right to intervene in their
education . . . She must, as a widow, consult
persons designated by her husband before his
death, otherwise she can lose her rights to her
(Macias, 1972 p.6)

Dra. Macias comments that "presumably the legislators thought

that absolute power by the husband over his wife and children would

make for absolute happiness at home." (op. cit., p.6)

The Constitution of 1917 sought to change some of these

inequalities while still retaining some 'protective' legislation.

She was to be "equal" legally with men, and according to Article

123 would receive equal pay for equal work. Most of the protective

legislation dealt with her functions as a mother: women during the

last three months of pregnancy must not be required to perform jobs

requiring great physical effort; during the month after birth she

must be given time off with pay; during lactation they must be

given time off to nurse their children nurseries must be established

at any company with over a certain number of women, and so on.

(Navarrete, 1969, p.117-118) As Nora Scott Kinzer observes in

"Marriage and Family":

Surprisingly, imbecilitas sexus, the philosophical base
for patria potestas, which assumes that women are weak,
defenseless and stupid creatures, is a decided advantage
for working women. Since the legal status of women in
most Latin American civil codes is equated to idiots and

- 3 -

children, the working female, and particularly the
pregnant woman, is protected to a degree far greater
than her sister in the U.S.
(Kinzer, 1973, p.12)

Nevertheless, many of the protective laws and those guaran-

teeing equal rights to women were not and are .not put into effect

due to differences in local interpretation. This interpretation

varies from province to province, and perhaps it should be noted

here that Yucatan has been among the most liberal of these in

regard to women. In addition, there is still some dispute as to

the intentions behind the 'protective' laws themselves and their

actual effect on working women. The example of the law requiring

nurseries in establishments employing over 49 women has been cited

as one which actually militates against the hiring of women.

Another example is pointed out by Carmen Galindo in an article in

The News, Mexico City, dealing with an upcoming book which she

co-authored with her sister Magdalena, "Sex, Politics and Revolu-

tion. "

There's an apparent equality in the Mexican Con-
stitution and law, but look a little farther.
The commercial code, for example, says that a
married woman must have the written consent of
her husband to work. In other words, rather
than protecting women, the law protects men from
the insubordination of their wives.

Many other drawbacks still exist, of course, such as established

prejudices against women working in certain fields, occupying

positions of high responsibility, etc. (Navarrete, 1969, p.120)

Nevertheless, in most cases the legal machinery does exist which

- 4

could make future discrimination of this sort impossible to


Mexico has been a pioneer in establishing social
guarantees at a constitutional level. In many
aspects the legislation has moved ahead of the
socio-economic conditions of our reality. For
this reason, before taking pride in the goals
which we have achieved, it is of fundamental
importance to put as first priority the objectives
which remain to be accomplished. Social justice,
in the broadest sense, must constitute a goal for
which all Mexicans, men and women, must struggle.

(section by Gloria.Gonzalez in Navarrete, 1969, p.123)



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- 2 -

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- 5 -

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