However, over the years, history book publishers have not followed suit and described the soladeras in a positive way. For instance, one of Casaola's most well-known photos is of a harried soldadera in a train station. The photograph's saturated colors make the scene deeply emotional and compelling, with a feeling of urgency and dynamic motion. The spontaneity of the picture and transparency of reality provide an historical accuracy and high degree of precision. Yet, the caption of one history book, for example, relates how many of the soldaderas were forced to ride on the rooftops of the trains, instead of inside the wagons. Many of the women died early deaths when the train sped through dangerous ravines and cliffs. This was anything but a supportive interpretation of the photograph and not why Casola took the photographs.
On the other hand, Casola's photographs, especially this one in the train station, did encourage other artists to create their own works about the soldaderas. The prominent muralist Wayne Alaniz Healy says of the woman: The photograph shows how the Revolution was "taking place in her very eyes." Larry Yanez' 1981 montage "Adelita," which includes an interpretation of Casola's train station photograph along with the Virgin Mary, a Mexican flag and a large tostada, emphasizes how soldadatas have been irreverently commercialized and commodified over the years. Yolanda Lopez states that she finds commercialized versions of soldatas "to be a revealing expression of how American culture perceives Mexicans and, by extension, Mexican-Americans. I find what we have visible in mass culture is a corrupted artifact passing itself as Mexican culture. And this false Mexican culture….lives in the everyday items with our eyes, ears and culture-hungry minds. It runs parallel to Chicano culture
In the "Adelita" mural by Carlos Almaraz, Adelita stands in the forefront before rows of neatly standing revolutionary soldiers, who symbolically stand for Chicano militants. Although Adelita is the central focus of the artwork, her traditional military clothing and classic native features make her appear more as an allegory than a true historic figure. Adelita is wearing a simple dress; the torso is decorated with renderings of revolutionary bandoleers. However, any actual symbols of warfare are diminished by the rebozo demurely draped over her head, which makes her look more like the Virgin Mary. Such religious depictions of the soldaderas may lessen the erroneous idea that these women had loose morals and unrestrained sexual encounters with the male soldiers. Yet, at the same time, such artwork has diluted the importance of the soldaderas to Mexico and the United States. Instead of showing the women's great historic influence on the country, the artwork makes them out to be secular icons of nationalism. Feminism, nation and myth: La Malince, Rolando Romero.
Over the years, the soldaderas have been controversial because of male-centered ideology; many people do not appreciate how these women had gone against the patriarchal norm and joined the ranks of what Cherrie Moraga calls a "long line of vendidas."
Rather than becoming important historic figures, they became mythic and nonrepresented figures. Maria Herrera-Sobek says that some artists purposely wrote about and pictured these female soldiers in this way, so "to neutralize the woman by making her a love object and thus presenting her in a less threatening manner"
For the same reason, much of the artwork and photographs of the soldaderas over the years have not been complementary or presented the wrong message. For example, some folk ballad lyric sheets during the Mexican Revolution included inaccurate illustrations. For instance, an image of a soldadera dominates a 1915 song sheet for "Corrido de la Cucaracha" that depicts a woman with a European appearance. In addition, although it is not elaborate, her dress is more intricate than the simple dresses seen on peasants during this time period. The woman is also very feminine with a ruffled dress and lace collar and a plump, classically female figure. She even wears slippers, which is not something that women soldiers ever wore; they appeared either barefoot or in boots. As a result, this illustration negates the horrible reality many faced in rural Mexico. In another illustration of what is supposed to be soldaderas, the women are dressed in prim white dresses and look gentle and nonthreatening. One even has a large lace collar, which completely is alien to women fighters
In another photograph, a group of women are lined up, each with a rifle aimed forward into the air. These women are less stylishly dressed, most wearing a blouse and skirt rather than a full dress and a bandoleer. Each has a pistol at her waist. However, one of the women actually wears a ribbon in her hair, and a row of girls sitting in dresses the front row suggest that these other women are not a combat unit. In addition, most of the women are not holding their guns correctly as if not experienced with weaponry. It may even be that these women in the photographs were members of the "women's clubs" that existed before and during the Revolution to support the various factions. The club members were often middle class women with feminist leanings. The photograph, rather than giving support to the solderados, strengthened the stereotype that these women did not fight but rather prepared meals and other support to the men other than military. Says Benjamin King: "Unfortunately, what may be an attempt to claim equal status among revolutionaries visually supports a stereotypical image of women as solely spiritual warriors." Other depictions represented the soldaderos as a "conflicted middle ground between loyalists and feminists, one that could be fiercely independent, yet strongly male-identified"
More recently, however, women artists have returned to this original artwork and recast them as examples of liberated Chicana who were able to adapt to the circumstances and prove themselves important and an "actual force in making history (Adelaida del Castillo, p. 125). in
Santa Barraza's 1991 oil painting of La Malinche, the main woman figure is the foreground, and Cortez watches her from the background. Black shadows throughout represent historic periods of Mexico's conquest fading like ghosts of a distant past. Barraza focuses on a child who is revealed through La Malinche's chest, with hair and skin coloring similar to that of Cortez. Although this child represents the beginning of the mestizo race, his emergence from La Malinche's breast and the maguey plant, have him growing from Mexican soil. Instead of depicting La Malinche for her traitorous acts, this artwork makes her more of an accepted character with smooth brushstrokes and vibrant colors. Barraza says he wanted to instill her with religious nuances, motherly characteristics and primeval virtues. Salas emphasizes that although the soldaderas such as La Malinche were not charged with treasonous acts, they have been de-historicized and mythicized and thus excluded from the Mexican history and the importance that they played.
According to King, the artwork including photographs, illustrations and paintings present powerful images of the soldaderas. However, they also reinforce two stereotypes of the soldaderas. The first is making the women into an icon rather than true fighters of the cause. Although some women did fight in the armies, in art this heroic contribution is reduced to a symbolic level. This is supported by the photographs and illustrations of middle class women who are posing as spiritual fighters instead of actual soldiers. This builds up an emotional state that ignores the hardships that many of the soldaderas actually endured during this time and "supports the pre-existing image of soldaderas as emblematic of Mexico's revolutionary spirit rather than full fledged revolutionaries." The other stereotype is much of the artwork depicts these women as being limited to cooking and other domestic roles. They continue to be seen as representative figures instead of equal contributors.
It needs to be remembered that these soldaradas Mexican women were vital contributors to Revolution in a number of ways. They were significant participants of the politics and strong supporters for the causes in which they believed, as well as powerful fighters on the battlefields. Female political figures were extremely important and powerful women during the Mexican Revolution. They were well-known political advocates, authors, educators and role models and were courageous in their continuous aim toward reaching their goals. Many times, they were jailed for their efforts. Both middle class and upper class women were able to attain important political positions and thus overcome the traditional inequalities that normally presented too great of a barrier. They ultimately garnered the respect of women and men alike. A number of these women political leaders also set the foundation for other men and women in future generations on what was important to Mexican society and its people. As noted, women such as the political author Jimenez y Muro and speaker and advocate Hermila Galindo were able to have a strong voice and be recognized by the high-ranking Revolutionary leaders.
The soldaderas must be considered as much more than icons or symbols of the…
Sources Used in Documents:
Coerver, Don M.. Suzanne B. Pasztor and Robert Buffington. Mexico: an encyclopedia of contemporary culture and history Santa Barber, CA: ABC-Clio.
Fuentes, Andres. "Battleground Women: Soldaderas and Female Soldiers in the Mexican Revolution." The Americas 51 no. 4 (1995): 525-553.