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¡Mujeres con moral de vencedor!

21 July 2010

¡Infantes de Marina! Infantes de Marina, hombres con moral de vencedor!

¡Nuestro lema es la victoria por mi patria y por mi honor,siempre en culquier misíon!

Perhaps the Mexican marines will need to tweak their traditional shout.

Although there is a long history of Mexican women serving with the military, or as soldiers and officers, going back to Aztec times.  The Aztecs weren’t prone to celebrating their defeats, but this was one they couldn’t overlook, and which poet, playwright, wit and historian Salvador Novo would later retell in one of his most famous, and outrageous radio plays:

In The War of the Fatties, a campy, tongue-in-cheek retelling of an episode from the Mexican Trojan War, naked fat women from Tlatelolco discombobulate Tenochtitlan’s invading army by squirting them with breast milk. Told with satiric allusions to the policies and tactics used by Mexico’s current ruling party, PRI, to consolidate its power, the play unfolds a history of vain rivalry and decadence, intricate political maneuvers, corruption, and unchecked ambition that determined the course of Mexican history for two centuries before the Spanish conquest.

María de Estrada was one of the best fighters in Cortés army (she was a deadly lancer), surviving el noche triste, a battle in which the women of Tenochtitlán joined in driving the invaders from the city, not only raining down rocks, flowerpots and arrows on the fleeing conquistadors and their allies, but joining the the street fights and firing arrows from canoes.

During the war of Independence, women served mostly indirectly, as they did throughout Mexican history, as cooks, nurses, foragers, and spies… although — especially in the Revolution —  Las Adalitas were not simply a romanticized version of camp followers, but fighters and sometimes officers in their own right.  Lyn, when she wrote here, said of these Revolutionary soldaderas:

The women were hungry, filthy, tired, overworked, neglected, generally unappreciated, and often suffering from illnesses. That doesn’t take away from the fact that they were devoted, supportive, and played a very valuable role in the fighting forces they “served” in.There hasn’t been a lot of detail written about the role of women in the Mexican Revolution, but among the lower class, many women became soldaderas, fighting soldiers, or victims.

With the “professionalization” of the military during the Second World War (or, as it is known in Mexico, “La guerra contra nazifascismo”) the Mexican military took on the bland, “usual” characteristics of any modern military force.   Female military personnel were relegated to administrative and medical duties, and — at this time — only three percent of active duty military personnel are female.

But, either catching up with the 21st century, or — in the circular way time works in Mexico — returning to where we should be, women are again serving.    In 1998, Lt. Elsa Karmina Cortés Vorrath became the first female naval pilot.  But it was only this year that combat positions in the Marines were open to women.  “Drug warriors”  Clara and Inés are two of the first fifteen “few good women” assigned to marine combat duty.

Photos by Arturo Bermúdez, from “Mujeres combatientes”, by Jorge Alejando Medellín in M Semanal.

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