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A late Día de la Madre post

11 May 2016

Or, rather, mostly repost from 2008 (when I’d started to write a history of Mazatlan, which I never did for one reason and another).

LaMaya

Although the “Great Depression” of 1929 affected Mazatlan just as it did everywhere else, the real blow to the economy came on 23 March 1933 with the passage of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, repealing liquor prohibition. Mazatlan had profited from the “noble experiment” – two of the city’s most profitable industries – smuggling and brewing – were hit hard. Times were tough. Margareta Montes Plata was tougher. As a ringer on the Cerveceria Diaz de Leon women’s baseball team, Margarita’s ten pesos per game helped get her family though the tough times, but weren’t enough.

With nothing but a strong pitching arm (which she attributed to a childhood spent making tortillas by hand and wielding a machete on the family farm) was desperate to find some source of income. What was then the Teatro Rubio (today’s Angelina Peralta) was desperate for any kind of act that would bring in a paying crowd. When woman boxer Josefina Coronada offered to put on an exhibition match, who knew it would be the start of one of the more amazing careers in the history of women’s sports?

The amateur trained for a month, won the bout and Margarita, fighting under the name “La Maya” boxed throughout Mexico and the United States, fighting 28 men and 5 women (she said “I prefer to fight men, they punch better”) before her early retirement in 1936.

La Maya’s only real problem with boxing had been the presumption that a women boxer was not lady-like. One Mazatlan parrandaro (a guy hanging out) probably wished he hadn’t told her one day that she wasn’t a “real woman.” she knocked him out.

And she was a proper Mexican lady. Her retirement from the ring came when, after marrying bullfighter Jose Valdez, she was expecting her first baby. For some reason, her obstetrician thought boxing might interfere with pre-natal care.

He said nothing about bullfighting. Say what one will about bullfighting, matadors from racial minorities, matadoras and openly gay matadors have been part of the sport for centuries before other professional sports. But, with a growing family – she would eventually have five children – and the bullring circuit requiring too much time away from home, she settled for the less exciting world of bicycle racing.

Widowed in 1961, and starting to feel her own age, she took up truck driving for several years. Rather than retire, she bought a gasoline station with her grandsons, continuing to take an active part in the business well into her late eighties.

 

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