MEXICO CITY (AP) – Leona Vicario defied convention.
Financial and intelligence gathering key to Mexico’s fight for independence two centuries ago, Vicario broke gender barriers and publicly refuted allegations that she made such sacrifices for her country just to win the affection of the man she loved.
As Mexico prepares to celebrate its independence party on Wednesday, the 210th anniversary of the call that leader Miguel Hidalgo made in 1810 to free himself from the Spanish colonizers, some academics and activists believe that the country has yet to fully embrace the figure. de Vicario and his progressive positions on equality.
She was not in charge of rebel armies nor was she executed like Hidalgo and his successor José María Morelos. But Vicario challenged not only the foreign mandate, but also a society that considered women unworthy of public office.
It is significant that Vicario is the center of official attention this year, at a time when Mexico suffers high rates of violence against women and other contemporary evils.
On August 21, a bronze statue was unveiled in honor of Vicario, showing her with her fists on her hips, on Paseo de la Reforma, an important avenue in Mexico City. Although Vicario also received a state funeral in 1842, his name is inscribed on the Mexican Congress building and a town bears his name, some say it needs more recognition.
It is necessary « to incorporate it into textbooks, to make its story reach children and young people by all possible means, » said Celia del Palacio, author of the historical novel « Leona » and researcher at the Center for Cultural and Communication Studies of the Veracruz University.
Vicario was born in Mexico City in 1789. He studied extensively at a time when such an education was generally denied to women, even those of economic resources. His parents died in 1807, leaving him a fortune with which he financed rebel activities. The Spanish authorities discovered his secret role and Vicario fled. She was arrested, ended up being prosecuted, escaped and had her property confiscated. She married the independence character Andrés Quintana Roo and had children. He returned to Mexico City in 1820 when the authority of the crown was crumbling.
After independence, a newspaper published its rebuttal to the politician Lucas Alamán, who hinted that Vicario campaigned against Spain to win the affection of Quintana Roo.
« Not only love is the motive for women’s actions, » Vicario wrote in 1831.
“As for me, I know how to say that my actions and opinions have always been very free, no one has absolutely influenced them, and at this point I have always acted with total independence, and without paying attention to the opinions that people have had. that I have estimated ”, he added.
“I am persuaded that this is how all women will be, except the very stupid ones, or those who, as a result of their education, have contracted a servile habit. There are also many men of both classes, ”he added.
The historical documents also relate « her guts and her utter rebellion against the authorities’ attempts to control her or tarnish her image, » said Amy Wright, associate professor of Hispanic studies at the University of San Luis in the United States.
In defending herself, Vicario « was possibly not considered worthy of being an example, » and that dynamic persists in many societies today, he added.
« How acceptable is it for a woman to be openly rebellious, to speak out strongly to authority? » Wright wondered.
The official tributes to Vicario coincide with an anguish that does not subside in Mexico. Activists seized the facilities of the National Human Rights Commission at the beginning of the month to demand that the organization carry out more investigations and processes into the cases of abused or missing women.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says that he welcomes legitimate concerns, but that his political rivals are behind some of the protests.
Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, wife of the president and promoter of national culture, accompanied the head of government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, during the presentation of the statue of Vicario.
Gutiérrez Müller said that Vicario « risked everything » for national independence. He also compared the donations he made to the insurgents with recently released videos of López Obrador’s brother receiving money from an official several years ago. The president assures that they were contributions to his political movement and were not acts of corruption.
Vicario « also gave money and they didn’t record her, » Gutiérrez Müller said, implying that his brother-in-law did nothing wrong.
Activist Verónica Cruz, who has helped imprisoned women to have abortions, pointed out that the government is hostile to some women activists and that highlighting the figure of Vicario is « politically correct. »
In a progressive biography of 1910 commemorating the centenary of Mexico’s independence, the intellectual Genaro García refuted the perceptions that Vicario was a secondary element of support for the leaders of the independence struggle, and assured that Mexico had not. honored enough.
The inscription on the new statue says that Vicario was a journalist, although there is little evidence to support that claim. Del Palacio, the historical novelist, assured that Vicario was known to send information to the insurgents, but that he could not find a « trace » of it in the rebel publications of the time, whose articles were generally unsigned.
Del Palacio speculated that it was difficult for conservative generations to welcome the outspoken and itinerant Vicario. He said that another defiant figure, Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, has been projected as « a woman who from the domestic space was able to perform an act of heroism, » by warning Hidalgo and other conservatives gathered at her home about the arrival of Spanish troops.
« Leona has a lot to continue teaching women and men, » said Palacio, who highlighted three aspects: Do not settle, do not give up in the face of adversity and confront power.