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A symbol of the nation

14 February 2019

Do you recognize this woman?

She is one of the most famous women in Mexico that you never heard of, though most Mexicans have seen her picture.

A Mexico city barmaid, Victoria Dorenlas was a teenaged widow, working as a barmaid in Mexico City, a bar frequented by, among others, the muralist Jorge Gonzáles Camerena, her sometime lover, and regular model at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s. What may not be his best work, but certainly his best know, was not a mural, but a 1959 oil painting, “La Patría”. For a generation, it graced the covers of all textbooks published by the Education Department, and still does for some, having become an instantly recognizable national icon.

As for Victoria herself, not much is known. She was born in San Augustín Tlaxco, Tlaxcala sometime in the 1940s (indigenous births were not always recorded), had been married in her early teens to a politician’s bodyguard, widowed by the time she was 19, and other than her relationship with Gonzáles, who received a state funeral when he died in 1980, nothing is known of Victoria’s later life. As a person, she disappears from history. As an icon, she IS History (and, for many… trigonometry, geography, and chemistry as well).




Angie Magaña, ¿Qué fue de la mujer que aparecía en la Portada de los libros de la Primaria de hace unos años?, Tuul, 4 January 2017

Mauricio Obleo, “¡Quién es Victoria Donrenlas, la imagine de los libros de texto?” La Silla Rota, 13 February 2019.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 15 February 2019 8:07 pm

    There’s a statue of her in the plaza in front of the Mayors Office in Tlaxco.

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