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November 2010

Feature Article

Las Adelitas: Women Warriors of the Mexican Revolution

By Jim Cook

Mexico is a land of ambiguities, but few things Mexican are as ambiguous as the male-female relationship. Contrast the stereotype of the strong, all-dominating male and submissive female with the reality of female soldiers in the thick of combat, sometimes commanding units of male soldiers during the Mexican Revolution at the turn of the 20th century.

The Revolution was a terrible social catastrophe. As many as 2 million died out of a nation with a population of only 15 million. Today's United States, with a population of 300 million, would have to suffer a loss of over 40 million dead to make a proportionate comparison. During the Revolution's 10 years of bitter fighting, towns and villages and farms all over Mexico were destroyed, uprooting millions more. Some of those most drastically affected were women whose men went off to war, possibly to be killed or wounded.

The women left behind were subject to rape and abuse by soldiers of all sides. According to one estimate, conditions grew so bad that as many as 50% of the women of Mexico had to resort to prostitution at one time or another during the Revolution — just to survive.

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