The Beautiful Face of Courage: The Adelitas Women of the Mexican Revolution


They looked for water and food for the soldiers, built barricades to protect them in the evening, healed the sick, carried the weapons. They went on foot to the sidewalk, following the battalions where husbands, fathers, brothers, and lovers participated. They are the soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution (1910), better known as “the adelitas”, and participated in all the sides that made up this armed movement: Maderistas, Zapatistas, Villistas, Carrancistas.

 
Many times they had the worst part of the war and some leaders never acknowledged their commitment to the cause. Most of them are anonymous faces and their drama barely appears in the history books. However, some of them were immortalized in the corridos, songs of the time that compiled the experiences of the Revolution.

 
In these corridos their leaders were portrayed, events were narrated and the female presence was reflected in the battalions, always faithful, brave, cheerful, self-sacrificing and even flirtatious, with a personality so typical that it inspired the rest of the group. They even had the courage to dance and find fun in hiding.

 
The photographs of the movement reveal their appearance: dressed almost always in their petticoats or long skirts, wearing scarves and hats. Other times they are practically disguised as men, only their eyes give them away. They rarely appear smiling. Their look had become stern and distrustful, however, they are seen preparing food, guarding their children in their rebozo, sharing the fate of the soldiers.

 

 The “adelitas” or “soldaderas” also occupied more strategic roles as spies, distributing propaganda or clandestine mail agents. Despite this, there were privileges to those who could not access, for example, horseback riding. Even when pregnant, they had to follow the troops walking. If their partner died, they could take their place in the battalion and this was how they could get to occupy military ranks. The greatest rank for a woman was that of a colonel, although almost all the troops had a woman who distinguished herself by her leadership and was the one who coordinated the rest of the women.

 
About how many women participated in the Revolution, there are no precise figures. You have to immerse yourself in the archives to know the names of these brave women and the tragedies they suffered: Petra Guerrera, Hermila Galindo, Juana Belén Gutiérrez, Coronela Caritina …

 
One of the saddest events occurred in 1916, at the Santa Rosalía station in Camargo, Chihuahua, when Villa snatched the train station from the Carrancistas. Ninety women Carrancistas were arrested and one of them shot Villa. Enraged, the “Centaur of the North” demanded to know who had fired at him. As none responded, they were all shot.

 
The “adelitas” or soldaderas were also part of the coveted booty in the clashes between the various revolutionary groups. They were wanted to rape them and thus disgrace the enemy. Thus, these brave and loyal women do not differ much from what other women have been in the wars of the world: consolation and relief, soldiers of a lesser category, cannon fodder. But they have also known to be the most beautiful face of courage.

 


 

Tulum Mystical Paradise


Spanish

The gentle murmur of the waves is a constant companion of the visitor to Tulúm, at the southern end of the Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo. 

The remains of that great walled city that was once the commercial and religious center of the Mayans, still rises majestically upon a small cliff that offers  incomparable views  of the Caribbean Sea.

@Mindaugas Danys

The Mayans originally named this city Zamá, meaning sunrise or morning, and dedicated it to the planet Venus, which represented Kukulcan, or plumed serpent. Kukulcan was to the Mayans what Quetzalcoatl was to the Mexicas: a hero elevated to the category of deity, lord of the winds; the ruler of commerce and farming. 

From the unobstructed panorama that Tulúm provides,the Mayans observed the heavens and paid special attention to the movement of the planet Venus as well as the rest of the heavenly bodies, and related it to the natural and social events of their environment.   

Thus, they were able to predict the seasons for planting and harvesting, favorable dates for going to war or establishing alliances with neighboring cities. 

On several of Tulúm’s buildings you’ll find images of Kukulcan plummeting down to earth.

Therefore, Tulúm was one of the most important cities in the Mayan World because of its strategic location, which served as a trading spot.

The Mayans were excellent navigators, so they established commercial trade routes for cocoa, salt, cotton, honey, ceramics, farm products, obsidian, turquoise, gold and copper.

 

 Today, Tulúm is especially attractive for travelers because it combines the beauty of the Mexican Caribbean with the mysticism of the Mayan civilization.

Tulúm makes us ponder the close interaction that the Mayans had with the sea, the heavenly bodies and with nature. 

You can still admire the mural paintings in the Temple of the Frescos. Tulúm is the third most visited archaeological zone in Mexico. 

Recently, the National Institute of Anthropology and History installed lighting and audio tour equipment to offer tourists the magical experience of discovering Tulúm at Night. Sound, darkness and stars establish a dialogue with stone to tell the visitor how life once was in this beautiful city that still throbs between the jungle and the sea.

The Aztec Sun Stone

 Español 

This huge monolith with at least 500 years of existence seems to speak to us from its silence of stone. The sunken eyes of Tonatiuh, the Aztec sun god, look out from the center of this cyclic sequence of glyphs and dates.

The impressive Stone of  the  Five Eras, has a diameter of  11.75 ft.,  3.22 ft. deep and weighs 24 tons; but above all, it is a work of art, the epitome of the warrior cosmogony and dazzling civilization that occupied the Valley of Mexico.

 

 

It is believed that the Aztecs named this monolith  Ollin Tonatiuhtlan meaning “Sun of Movement“, and refers to the era of the Fifth Sun. This era , according to the Mexica culture, would correspond to our present time, and which is expected to end with a series of earthquakes. 

Replica Showing Original Coloring

 

Despite its calendar-like appearance, some anthropologist maintain that it was used as a temalacatl, circular platform where the gladiatorial sacrifice was performed, and the blood and vitality of the warrior was fed to the sun god.

Obscure were the first centuries of existence of this monolith. It barely had a few years of splendor between 1512, when it was carved, and 1521, when Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, fell under the Spanish rule.

 

 The Spaniards abandoned the monolith near the Viceregal Palace, leaving it outside at the mercy of the elements. Then, in an effort to erase all signs of the magnificence of the Mexica culture, it  was turned face down and buried.

There it remained for two centuries until December 1790, when renovation works were carried out in the city, and was found just under half a meter of dirt, full of mud.

The discovery triggered many reactions. It was proof that the Aztecs were not uncivilized barbarians as the French and English thought at the time.

 

The Aztecs were a very civilized culture that knew and used the geometric circle, and were able to create a work of poignant beauty like that monolith.   So a few months after being discovered, it was decided it would be placed in the west tower of the Metropolitan Cathedral, so it could be admired by all who visited the beautiful city of Mexico.
That same year another Aztec monolith was found, the impressive Coatlicue (Earth goddess of life and death), a complex figure difficult to be understood by the Spanish conquistadors.

These two amazing discoveries ignited the sense of the Mexican people of their right to be an independent, sovereign nation..

Although obviously liberal influences from Europe had already permeated into 1790 New Spain’s society, undoubtedly the Sun Stone and Coatlicue became a spark that ignited the wish to rebel, the trigger that was needed to start the war for independence from Spain.

From its privileged location, the Sun Stone was a quiet witness to this and other battles, such as the American occupation in 1847. For more than 100 years it stood outside it was sheltered in the  Monoliths Gallery of the National Museum, in the Historic Center of Mexico City.

Its permanent location is now, and has been for decades, in the Bosque de Chapultepec at the world known National Museum of Anthropology.  It finally  has a place of honor and the central element in the impressive Mexica Room.   

 

Tequila The Landscape, History & Taste of Mexico

Spanish

The Essence of Tequila

Tequila is the national drink of Mexico and is certainly one of the most popular spirit beverages in the world. Tequila is made from blue agave.

Agave is a plant species that instantly brings to mind images of Mexico and represents the essence of being Mexican.  From the north, in Jalisco, to the south, in the Yucatan, various species of agave have marked the
and defined the landscape of our country, giving it a taste unmistakably linked to our identity. 

Its leaves are thick, fleshy, sharp, and– like cactus–store water in their interior in order to survive. There are over 200 species of agave of which almost all grow in Mexico.  They vary in shape, size and color.  The agave is such a rich plant that man has extracted from them fiber, paper, candy, vinegar, honey, sugar, and of course, three alcoholic beverages which are the pride of Mexico: tequila, mezcal and pulque.

In pre-Columbian times the Aztecs revered a species of agave known as “maguey” (Agave Americana), which they considered to be representative of “Mayahuel”, the goddess of alcohol who fed her 400 children with pulque that emanated from her numerous breasts. Mayahuel was also associated with the moon, femininity, vegetation and its life cycles.

A sacred beverage was obtained from the agave which could only be enjoyed on special occasions by the tlatoanis or rulers, priests or the elders. This beverage is pulque, which still remains popular in certain Mexican regions, mainly in the state of Hidalgo.

From another species known as henequen, from the Yucatan peninsula, the Mayans extracted a fiber to manufacture rope and rugs. Henequen was the engine for a huge industry in that zone at the end of the 19th century.

Mezcal is produced from the combination of various species of agave, a typical spirit from the Oaxaca region, whose handmade manufacture is a source of wonder and enchantment for visitors to this region of Mexico. It’s called mezcal because that’s the name of the heart of the agave, from which a delicious honey is extracted. In the Nahuatl dialect, mezcal means, “The house of the moon” and conceptually refers to the core, the essence; the center of something.

Finally, tequila is produced from blue agave or ‘Agave Tequiliana Weber’, the most famous drink in our country; an intensely flavored spirit associated with the lively and courageous character of the Mexican. It’s also an allegory of our history because it fuses the benefits of a native Mexican plant with the European techniques that Spain introduced during the colonial period.

In Mexico tequila is synonymous with celebration, pride and complicity between friends. The best of times are enjoyed with a few shots of tequila; with tequila you toast for success and its also with tequila that you drown the pain of disillusionment.  With a shot of tequila, unforgettable life stories are begun and with another we remember them! 

Las Pastorelas A Centuries Old Christmas Tradition

Spanish

In Mexico, Christmas is the best season of the year. With the fiesta-loving, lively nature that sets us apart, we Mexicans have styled this religious celebration very much in our own fashion. So much so that perhaps no where else in the world do so many traditions exist to celebrate it, from asking for room at the inn, to remembering the road Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem,  to piñatas, those big star-shaped clay and cardboard figures that are smashed with heavy sticks to release their sweets and seasonal fruits  as gifts to the children…

And the “pastorelas”!  There is no Christmas  Season without these pastoral  dramas of the Nativity. Whether in remote  towns or in the big Mexican cities, pastorelas set the stage for the whole of December and leave us, through their playful language and funny situations, the most important message of the season: Good always overcomes Evil.

Pastorelas are plays that recreate the biblical passage where the shepherds follow the Star of Bethlehem to find the Christ Child. In order to reach the birth place of the Redeemer, they have to experience a series of changes in fortune and confront the Devil, who will do everything possible to prevent them from completing their mission. It is at that moment that the  Archangel Michael intervenes to defend the shepherds  on their journey.

Well, that’s the general idea of the pastorelas. They are very different today; the fact is, they  were already very different  when  they were first presented hundreds of years ago, being one of  Mexico’s oldest traditions. Imagine that you are back when the Spaniards reached the New World and began to colonize its inhabitants, instructing them in the Catholic fait

In Tenochtitlan, the great capital of the ancient Mexicans or Mexica, people entertained themselves with an art form that combined song, theater and dance. Performances were greatly enjoyed in the plazas and open spaces, where the actors tended to make jokes,  pretending they were drunk, sang and gave recitations for the townspeople, who thundered their applause.

For the Mexica,  the play was not just a form of entertainment, but a way to communicate with their gods, as well. Before the altars,  in the smoke of the aromatic copal, the priests acted out battles, played warriors at victory and in their defeat. This is how they informed the deities  who ruled their days,  simultaneously handing down their history to the entire people.

The play was  so important for the Mexica that they had professional  singers, actors, dancers and buffoons; poets and orators, as well as memorization experts: remember that the Mexica had no alphabet, just a picture-based type of writing that represented objects or sounds. There were also people  who produced the ceremonial vestments, jewels, plumed feathers of exotic birds, and fabrics, something quite similar to what we would call today,  an innovative clothing designer.

When the Spanish conquered Tenochtitlan in 1521, these specialists ended up with no work and no stage. This situation actually lasted for a very short time, however, because the Franciscan monks who arrived in the New World between 1523 and 1524 quickly became aware of the Mexicas´  artistic sensitivity and took advantage of it to lay a bridge between two cultures that had nothing in common.

Already in Italy and Spain, the Franciscans had observed the advantages they reaped by teaching the faith this way.  Only a couple of centuries before,  the Iberian Peninsula had seen the initial representation of “autos” , that is, acts or actions inspired by the most important biblical passages or by the lives of saints. And they were quite successful.

As a result, it was completely natural for the Franciscans, in order to evangelize the indigenous peoples en masse,  to  explain the most important passages of Christ’s life graphically, through a play for example.

The pastorela tradition is said to have begun in a little town called Acolman, a short distance from the Teotihuacan pyramids, where the Franciscans arrived in 1528. Other versions say that Cuernavaca, i  n the State of Morelos, was the birth place of this deep-rooted tradition.  Whether Acolman, or  Morelos, the fact is that the force behind them lay in the Franciscans, and the artistic ability in the indigenous people.

Another truism is that Acolman is the origin of another beautiful Mexican custom. It was here that Fray Pedro de Gante gathered a group of natives  for the singing of hymns in celebration of Christmas, an event that would later turn into  “asking for room at the inn”.

With activities like this, the Franciscans earned the trust of the Acolman inhabitants and  introduced them to religious activities. In the beginning, they accepted the indigenous people´s belief that  the theatrical  presentations of biblical scenes had  a certain “power of purification”,  and consequently , flowers and songs were included “to keep evil spirits away”.

Within a very short time, the indigenous people took over the entire production of the pastorelas . They were the actors and musicians; they produced the sets and made the costumes… They are even thought to have translated or written the texts to/in Nahuatl, the language of the Mexica, something fundamental to the evangelizing mission of the stagings.

The indigenous people were much taken by the story…

Qué Chula es Puebla

At the foot of the legendary Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes is the majestic, peaceful city of Puebla.

They say that Puebla, a lovely colonial city, was entrusted to the angels when it was founded, and this is the source of its name: Puebla of the Angels.

Those of us who live in Mexico City are privileged to be near to Puebla, just an hour and a half away by a modern highway.

On May fifth, 1862, Puebla was the scene of one of the historical events that fill Mexicans with pride: the victory of our army over the French army, which was the biggest in the world at the time.

This success would not have been achieved without the heroic participation of the Zacapoazxtlas, the courageous natives of the region, who joined with the young General Ignacio Zaragoza, appointed by President Benito Juárez to defend the land from the French invasion.

Without knowing military strategy, they armed themselves with sticks and machetes, and overcame the French, ennobling the name of Mexico. From that year on, their feat has been commemorated on the 5th of May every year.

Taking advantage of the fact that another anniversary of this very important event was approaching, we had the opportunity to spend a marvelous weekend in Puebla.

When we arrived, we went directly to where the famous battle took place: the Loreto and Guadalupe forts. They are half-destroyed constructions now, but the idea of being at the exact place where  an event of such importance for our country was most exciting.

After staying there a while, we decided to wander about Puebla, appreciating the avenues and the colonial buildings, which are the best representation of colonial Mexico.

We went downtown. There we saw the typical town square or “zócalo“, with its bandstand, fountains and doves that fluttered all around. To one side, the great cathedral, the loveliest that the Spaniards built in Mexico.