Mujeres a la lucha: Ernestina González en el Royal Windsor de Nueva York

[Imagen: “Habla usted español”, La Voz, 19 de julio de 1937. Fondos de la Biblioteca Pública de Nueva York. General Research Division.]

Por Ana María Díaz-Marcos, Universidad de Connecticut

El 22 de diciembre de 1937 se publica en La voz el artículo “Mujeres a la lucha” que contiene un discurso pronunciado unos días antes por Ernestina González Rodríguez (1899-1976) en el Teatro Royal Windsor de Nueva York. El evento tuvo lugar durante el festival para el aguinaldo del miliciano, organizado por los Comités Femeninos Unidos. Ernestina González es mucho menos conocida que las otras tres firmas españolas que aparecen en la “Página de la Mujer” de La voz en esos mismos meses (Margarita Nelken, Dolores Ibárruri y Federica Montseny) pero es una figura de gran relevancia en la arena política de esos años. Natural de Medina del Pomar (Burgos), estudió en la Universidad de Salamanca y al estallar la guerra era bibliotecaria en la Escuela Superior de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado en la Universidad de Madrid. Su primera estancia en Estados Unidos fue en la Universidad de Nebraska-Lincoln, donde probablemente impartió clases de español en el curso 1926-1927.

“Mujer española que defiendes”, La voz, 14 de abril de 1938. Fondos de la Biblioteca Pública de Nueva York. General Research Division.

Esta maestra, bibliotecaria y activista mantuvo una activa agenda política en Estados Unidos, particularmente en Nueva York, ciudad donde residió durante al menos dos décadas. Fundó los Comités Femeninos Unidos y fue miembro del Comité Pro Diario Hispano que organizó la empresa editorial The Spanish Newspaper Corporation que empieza a publicar La voz en el verano de 1937. En abril de ese mismo año el periódico Daily worker recoge una semblanza biográfica resaltando su intensa actividad en tareas de propaganda y apoyo a la causa republicana.

El referido discurso “Mujeres a la lucha” recoge una brillante exposición del papel de las mujeres en el frente y la retaguardia, subrayando la tarea impresionante que estas llevan a cabo en el “despertar político del pueblo español”. Ernestina enumera algunas de las ambiciosas conclusiones de la 2ª Conferencia del Comité de Mujeres Antifascistas que se había celebrado en octubre en Valencia: incorporación de la mujer a la producción de guerra, construcción de casas-cuna y jardines de infancia para facilitar el trabajo de las mujeres, igualdad salarial, creación de escuelas en el campo para erradicar el analfabetismo y escuelas de formación profesional en las ciudades.

Su disertación ensalza valores democráticos, antibelicistas y antiimperialistas. Ernestina destaca en su discurso que cuando el fascismo se impone en un país la mujer es la primera en sufrir las consecuencias de la opresión, denuncia que los regímenes fascistas explotan el potencial reproductivo de las mujeres, instigándolas a tener hijos sin proporcionarles los medios para mantenerlos, y arguye que muchas veces esos hijos son carne destinada al matadero de las guerras imperialistas.

Retrato de Ernestina González, Archivo de la familia Vicéns

Para Ernestina la agencia de las mujeres es insustituible en la lucha política pues ninguna revolución puede triunfar sin su apoyo, del mismo modo que ningún proyecto de construcción nacional es capaz de prosperar sin su contribución. Esta conferencia documenta la tarea y el compromiso de las mujeres republicanas tanto en el puesto de lucha como en la retaguardia, en los hogares y en las calles:

la mujer española desde el principio de nuestra guerra acudió en defensa de las libertades de España (…) En los momentos de improvisación, cogió el fusil y marchó a los frentes de combate; en la retaguardia invadía los hospitales, las escuelas, los comités políticos, en el hogar alentaba a sus compañeros, a sus hermanos, a sus hijos en la lucha, en la calle organizaba manifestaciones levantando la moral de los combatientes.

Al igual que hicieron desde La voz Federica Montseny y Dolores Ibárruri, Ernestina González apela a las mujeres de América en la lucha contra “el fascismo imperialista”, destacando que la emancipación de la mujer se vincula estrechamente a la lucha de la clase trabajadora. Este apasionado discurso ensalza el papel de las españolas en la contienda y en él palpita el deseo de que las hispanas antifascistas sigan su ejemplo. De este modo, gracias al empeño y esfuerzo de sus mujeres, Estados Unidos podría llegar a convertirse en una simbólica retaguardia trasatlántica para la España leal a la República:

Mujeres españolas de América, imitad el ejemplo de estas compañeras de España, trabajad aquí para que esta retaguardia sea una prolongación de la retaguardia de la España leal. Todas unidas sumemos nuestros esfuerzos a los suyos. Querer la victoria, desearla, no es bastante: es necesario trabajar por la victoria (…) Adelante contra los crímenes del fascismo, contra sus feroces apetitos colonizadores, por la defensa de la paz y la democracia.


Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Sororidad antifascista: Federica Montseny en La voz, 18 de enero de 1938

Por Ana María Díaz Marcos, Universidad de Connecticut

El 1 de enero de 1938 aparece en la “Página de la Mujer” del periódico neoyorquino La voz una felicitación de Año Nuevo que apela a la sororidad antifascista deseando salud “A las mujeres de lucha unidas contra el fascismo”. En la misma página Margarita Robles de Mendoza publica un artículo titulado “La partida y la contra partida” celebrando el asociacionismo femenino a través de “Ligas de mujeres contra el fascismo y la guerra”. El concepto de sororidad resulta central para abordar el asociacionismo y activismo de las mujeres de la colonia hispana de Nueva York en los años treinta. La “Página de la Mujer” de La voz es un ejemplo excepcional de los poderosos vínculos entre feminismo y antifascismo que se ponen de evidencia en los artículos destinados a unas lectoras retratadas en las páginas del periódico como hermanas, amigas, activistas, feministas, antifascistas, madres y mujeres modernas.

La Voz, 31 diciembre 1937

Esta felicitación de Año Nuevo alude a la agencia femenina de las “mujeres de lucha” cuyos esfuerzos trascendían cualquier tipo de frontera nacional. Las lectoras de La voz eran hispanas afincadas en Nueva York y la “Página de la mujer” se dirigía a ellas como mujeres unidas por su lengua, cultura e ideología en una sororidad transnacional que defendía causas comunes: la lucha contra el fascismo y los derechos de la mujer, la crítica antibelicista, la defensa de los valores democráticos y la protección de la infancia. En esta “Página de la mujer” publican en poco más de un año cuatro españolas de reconocido prestigio en la arena política e intelectual: Ernestina González (22-12-1937), Federica Montseny (18-1-1938), Dolores Ibárruri (17-3-1938) y Margarita Nelken (21-9-1938).1

El subtítulo del texto de Montseny subraya que “hace un llamamiento vibrante a las Mujeres de América” sostenido sobre tres pilares: la función maternal (refiriéndose a las madres españolas y americanas que desean proteger el futuro de sus hijos), la sororidad (apelando a sus “hermanas” en esta petición de ayuda de Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista) y la idea de que las mujeres tienen agencia y son luchadoras. Montseny se dirige a sus hermanas de América desde ese terreno común, con “voz de mujer y de madre, de combatientes en esta lucha”, pidiendo su apoyo para la causa republicana en un momento en que “los cuatro caballos del Apocalipsis… asolan las tierras de Iberia”. En su llamamiento se destaca que la solidaridad internacional es indispensable para combatir el fascismo, caracterizado en el texto como un peligroso enemigo universal que amenaza a esposos e hijos.  En ese contexto se volvía imprescindible la acción de la mujer, madre protectora y mujer de lucha, que tenía el deber de actuar para defender a las generaciones venideras de la amenaza fascista:

¡Ayudadnos! ¡Movilizad vuestras conciencias! ¡Agitad a favor de España y las víctimas del fascismo donde quiera que estéis! Es vuestro deber de antifascistas, de madres, de mujeres dignas, en todo momento. Al ayudarnos, empezáis a defenderos contra un enemigo que es vuestro enemigo; empezáis a proteger la vida de vuestros esposos, de vuestros hijos, mañana también amenazadas por los mismos que (…) siembran la desolación y la muerte en la mártir España. ¡Mujeres, madres de América! (…) Vuestra solidaridad moral y material; vuestra ayuda, el hálito de la fraternidad generosa es nuestro consuelo y nuestra esperanza.

La apasionada petición de Federica Montseny a comienzos de 1938 no contemplaba barreras políticas, geográficas o de clase, se dirigía a las mujeres españolas, hispanas y americanas, de todas las clases, profesiones y nacionalidades, unidas política y espiritualmente en un puente transatlántico construido sobre una sororidad cimentada en ideales de justicia, solidaridad, libertad, derecho, democracia y justicia, militando en un frente común contra el fascismo y la guerra:

Donde quiera que militéis, no importa la clase a la que pertenezcáis, si en vuestro pecho alienta un corazón noble (…) un alma justa, habéis de colocaros de nuestro lado; habéis de sentir el odio hacia los verdugos y la piedad, la fraternidad más encendida hacia las víctimas… ¡Maestras, intelectuales, empleadas, periodistas, obreras! Donde quiera que estéis, escuchadme.


Notas

1. Hoy examinamos el texto de Federica Montseny (1905-1994). De familia e ideología anarquista, Montseny ejerció el periodismo en Solidaridad Obrera, fue miembro de la CNT y llegó a ser la primera mujer ministra en España, ocupando la cartera de Sanidad y Asistencia Social en 1936.


Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Feminismo y antifascismo en la “Página de la mujer” en La Voz

Por Ana María Díaz Marcos

El periódico neoyorquino La voz empieza a publicarse en julio de 1937, haciendo gala desde el primer número de un rotundo compromiso antifascista. El 11 de diciembre de 1937, con el artículo “Amigas de habla hispana” firmado por Lina Mares, se inicia la publicación de una “Página de la mujer” destinada a las mujeres hispanas interesadas -además de en los aspectos de hogar, crianza, moda y feminidad asociados históricamente con el sexo- en cuestiones políticas, feministas e intelectuales como la lucha de la democracia contra el fascismo, los derechos de la mujer, la educación, los conflictos bélicos y los derechos de la infancia.

La “Página de la mujer” editada por Mares se construye así en tribuna destinada a las “mujeres de mi raza y de mi lengua” que aúna la vocación política antifascista y feminista con otros elementos característicos de la prensa femenina más convencional: recetas, consejos de belleza, patrones y fotos de moda, publicidad, salud y estética. Esta convergencia del claro compromiso democrático antifascista y la voluntad feminista tiene una poderosa presencia en el periódico hasta mayo de 1938, cuando la firma de Lina Mares deja de aparecer en el encabezamiento de la “Página de la mujer” que pierde de inmediato esa orientación política. Durante esos seis primeros meses de publicación la página expone su ideario democrático y feminista a través de numerosos artículos que se dirigen a una mujer moderna interesada en un abanico amplio de propuestas: “lo mismo el consejo legal para la defensa de vuestros derechos de mujer, que la receta de cocina; el patrón de moda, que la manera de ataviaros o conservar vuestros encantos físicos. Lo mismo hallaréis el artículo relativo a la educación o el cuidado de vuestros hijos, que la noticia y el comentario oportunos sobre alguna conquista de nuestras hermanas en el campo de la ciencia, de la industria o en el aula universitaria”.

Con ese espíritu de sororidad Mares describe en el artículo “Amigas de habla hispana” el papel de la mujer en la sociedad, centrándose en varios ejes fundamentales: como madre en su sentido pleno y no como “mera máquina de producir hijos”, como ciudadana y como compañera del hombre, con quien comparte los mismos derechos y deberes. No es posible establecer por qué la “Página de la mujer” perdió tan pronto su orientación política y feminista pero lo cierto es que esos primeros meses el mensaje se vincula sobre todo a las colaboraciones y el trabajo editorial de Lina Mares (de quien no se tienen más datos en este momento) y de la periodista y sufragista mexicana Margarita Robles de Mendoza que vivía en Nueva York en aquellas fechas y que contribuye activamente en ese página entre enero y abril de 1938 con artículos que reflejan su vocación desde el título: «Hermanas de España, Aquí Estamos» (La Voz, 22-I-38), «La Posición de la Mujer ante el Fascismo» (La Voz, 20-I-38) y «La Mujer en la Alemania Nazi» (La Voz, 21-III-38).

Dentro del proyecto de Recuperación del Legado Escrito Hispano se prepara una galería con los artículos publicados por Margarita Robles de Mendoza en La Voz. El objetivo es que esta galería esté disponible y en acceso libre para el verano del 2021.


Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Picture This: The Modesta We Never Knew

Train depot in background, black and white photograph of a woman in foreground

Tracing a relevant role model in US History

By Cecilia López

Amid the pandemic, I was invited to be a research contributor for Sarah Rafael García’s archival ethnofiction project on the life of Modesta Avila. During this time, I had moved back home after completing my first year as an undergrad student at the University of California, Berkeley. My initial reaction to Modesta Avila’s story was utter shock at how young she was when she battled for land rights. Just like Modesta, I am nineteen years old and was born in Santa Ana, California where she had familial ties and was convicted in court. As I reflect on my everyday struggles, I cannot fathom the fears and emotions that went through Modesta’s mind as she tried to sustain her livelihood. 

Photograph of Modesta featured alongside original images of the Combs House, and Cannery and Packing House. Below Avila’s photo, the inscription states: “In 1889, Modesta Avila objected to the Santa Fe railroad running through her mother’s land and hung a line of laundry across the tracks. Although she removed it before the train arrived, she was later charged and convicted of a felony, sentenced to three years in San Quentin and Died there at age 22 after serving two years of her sentence.” Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

Modesta Avila, a Mexican American a folk heroine, is known for her resistance against the Southern Pacific Railroad during the 1800s. Born and raised in San Juan Capistrano, California, Modesta lived in her family’s home that laid fifteen feet away from the railroad tracks. The many disruptions caused by the train impeded on her life and ability to engage in daily activities, such as caring for her hens. After voicing her concerns and still seeing no necessary measures being enacted or even considered by the railroad company, Modesta took matters into her own hands by placing a laundry line post across the railroad tracks. Along with this physical barrier, she attached a note: “This land belongs to me. And if the railroad wants to run here, they will have to pay me ten thousand dollars.” Shortly after performing this act of protest, Modesta was arrested for the obstruction of the railroad and would face three years of incarceration at San Quentin Prison.

Although I am frustrated by the injustice Modesta faced, I am very honored to now share her story with others. During the month of July 2020, I had the opportunity to visit and photograph Modesta’s house as a way to document her memory. Along with my parents and two younger sisters, I traveled from Santa Ana to San Juan Capistrano, California. My parents, who have lived in Santa Ana for over 40 years, were intrigued by Modesta’s poignant story, yet they questioned why no one ever spoke about her in the community. Upon arriving, my first inclination was to observe the space and walk around the area before shooting any photographs. The entrance exhibits a memorial wall that frames the trunks of the evergreen trees that wrap around Los Rios. This adorned stone wall lies near a neighborhood of native hummingbird sage, honeysuckles and prickly cactus with vibrant ruby red tunas. Centered in the middle of the memorial is a plaque with Modesta’s black and white mugshot from San Quentin Prison when she was arrested for the obstruction of the railroad. Following the memorial is a dirt path that leads toward Modesta’s home, now known as the Hummingbird Cafe or Combs House. Built in 1865, the Combs House was moved to Los Rios Street in 1878 when Forster City, south of San Clemente, failed and was later abandoned. The name pays homage to its original owner, Jack Combs, who served as an early town constable and lived on the property.

Located on 26711 Verdugo Street, Modesta Avila’s house quickly stands out as the only historical site right next to the train tracks and Metrolink station. Her house now serves as a tourist attraction that serves Greek and American food. Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

After researching Modesta for months, it was fascinating to visit her home, yet troubling to be there knowing how her story would ultimately end. While walking past her brown wooden house, I paused to reimagine how this space once looked. I felt that it was crucial to fully immerse myself in the environment to visualize how Modesta’s mid 19th century home might’ve looked, as well as the other living conditions that surrounded her. Despite not being able to enter the interior of her home, I was able to explore the house quite well and witness how the train tracks were literally right outside her front porch. The whistles of the train rang in my ears while the aged wooden planks of Modesta’s house creaked and echoed like the sounds of distant cries. It felt hauntingly surreal to take each step into what felt like another realm, where Modesta was standing right beside me.

The Los Rios Street District is the oldest and continually occupied residential street in California. Californian plants, such as cactus and succulents surround the area to provide a variant of diverse colors and wildlife. Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

I hope that my photographs allow the viewer to place themselves in the shoes of Modesta, as well as question the institutions or forces of power and privilege that push members of our society out to the margins. After recognizing how Modesta’s story had been sexualized, criminalized or simply forgotten, I made it my personal and visual objective to shoot as much detail as possible, thus providing multiple alternative perspectives. Unfortunately, many people in Santa Ana and the surrounding community are still unaware of Modesta’s narrative due to the lack of archived information and history that has documented her memory. Historians such as Richard Brock and his work, Modesta Again: Setting the Record Straight have countered Modesta’s narrative by criminalizing and sexualizing her . While the responsibility of a historian involves telling a more “accurate” sense of the past from an unbiased position—this is not the case. The history taught in standard US classrooms is dominated by an idealistic Westernized perspective told by the white cisgender male perspective. The counter narrative provided by Modesta reciprocates the equal oppressive and damaging behavior expressed in court that did not grant her a fair trial or the opportunity to voice her story as its authentic truth. And here I am, a nineteen year old in 2021 re-presenting history for all of us to learn more about the truths of Modesta Avila’s life.


Cecilia López is a photographer, research coordinator and literacy tutor. She is an advocate for human trafficking survivors; her creative work intersects social justice themes with photographic documentation. She is a second year undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Sociology with a focus on Chicanx Studies and Digital Humanities. Currently, she is a research contributor for the 2020-2021 USLDH Mellon-Funded Grant: Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889, an archival project that documents the life of Modesta Avila, under the direction of Sarah Rafael García.  

Collecting and Re-presenting US History: Digital Storytelling as Archives

Woman standing in front of a powerpoint screen

By Sarah Rafael García

As an adjunct professor teaching Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives at Chapman University, every semester I tell the following story on the first day of class:

In late 2019, I arrived to meet with Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura after procrastinating for months and while carrying a backpack full of books and snacks. I procrastinated to meet with her and loaded my backpack with too many things because I thought I would spend six to eight hours beating my head against my laptop. You laugh, but you should all know that I went to undergrad before the internet existed. As you can imagine, I’m not tech friendly at all. But what I learned in a couple of hours, besides how to create a virtual timeline, was that the digital humanities are also abbreviated as DH and not about elaborate techy skills. DH is about the passion to share knowledge — to provide information without the barriers of financial constraints and paywalls. Dr. Baeza Ventura became a relevant role-model — not because we are from the same generation — but because she’s a Latina passing on knowledge in order for all of us to be able to collect, preserve and re-present our own history in the US. And now I’m passing on those skills to you, I can’t wait to see what you teach others.

After a year of navigating through a pandemic and witnessing an invasion of the US Capitol by white supremacists, I find myself lacking motivation to continue creating. But as a Chicana born at la frontera and first generation everything, I also know more than ever that Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities need to continue to evolve and rise through our various platforms. I started to incorporate digital humanities into literary projects in 2016. As a MFA graduate and writer who was struggling to sustain myself through employment and obtain acknowledgement as a scholar, I brainstormed on how I could fortify my work while still remaining creative, critical and countering the national headlines.

I felt it was imperative to be strategic on how I passed on research and information to my audience. I didn’t want to develop a textbook or seminar or false news. I also prioritized accessibility through the use of diverse languages (regional dialects, Spanish and non-academic) and the visual arts. This led to my first collaborative multimedia project SanTana’s Fairy Tales, which included storytelling through music, visual arts and digital archives produced via powerpoint and presented on electronic devices in a live exhibition and accessible via a website.

As a result of that experience and the impact it made in Mexican-American Studies classrooms, I couldn’t imagine completing another publication without support from documented resources or archives. It was through the University of Houston Katherine G. McGovern College for the Arts and Project Row Houses Fellowship in 2019 that I got to visit and learn from Arte Público Press’ Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program (Recovery) and US Latino Digital Humanities Program (USLDH).

With the help of Recovery/USLDH, I created my first virtual timeline for my living archival project, Reality Check 3rd Ward. It was the first fellowship program that allowed me to establish research methods to collect and preserve BIPOC history and culture while drawing parallels from regional BIPOC social justice movements to national politics. The combined mentorship also led me to design an undergraduate course. Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives is a research and writing workshop using digital humanities and creative writing to trace BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and feminist history from the 1960s to present time. The course is open to students studying history, anthropology, creative writing, ethnic studies, women and gender studies, and humanities in order to pilot how they each will interpret US history while also learning to enhance and document their research through the arts and digital humanities. Students are expected to complete a historical virtual timeline, multimedia project in one semester. Over the last two semesters, I have witnessed a new generation of students accomplish more in three months than what I accomplished in a one-year fellowship.

Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889 (#MAOD)

Artistic rendition of Modesta Avila.
(Image credit: Carla y Patricia Zárate Suárez)

Through each past experience, I continued to research Modesta Avila. She served as muse for one of my stories in SanTana’s Fairy Tales and learning about her then taught me how to dig deeper for more unsung heroes while conducting research for Third Ward Houston. She became my research topic for the USLDH Mellon-Funded Grant: Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889 (#MAOD).

To me, Modesta Avila has become even more relevant these last few weeks. As a Mexican American who obstructed development of the railroad system in Southern California in the late 1800s, her place in history has been perpetuated as a criminal. She is the first felon out of Orange County who was initially convicted in Santa Ana and became the first woman admitted into the San Quentin State Prison. Her mugshot has become as iconic as the Australian 19 Crimes wine labels showcasing British prisoners through augmented reality. She’s known by some but none have actually heard her story without her mugshot establishing their point of view.

The majority of the publications available before 1920 are newspaper clippings and court documents, all of which cover the points of view of city officials and court proceedings in Santa Ana. Most recently, like in the last 15-20 years, there seems to be a fascination about Modesta currently existing as an urban legend near the San Juan Capistrano train station and to many in Santa Ana she has provided inspiration as a late 1800’s youth activist fighting against development. However, the majority of her history has only been published under white scholars and some even go as far as minimizing her purpose to merely a nuisance.

Follow the #MAOD Twitter account at @ModestaAvilaOD

#MAOD is a bilingual platform for collecting and sharing relevant history with a specific focus on Latinx, women and regional narratives in English and Spanish. #MAOD builds movement culture by preserving and re-presenting history from a people of color point of view. Combined, the archives and published creative work will also present a bilingual open-source book through APP Digital that engages a broader audience through diverse language, scholarly work and the digital humanities. With the collaborative research produced alongside undergraduate student and photographer Cecilia Lopez, we will transpose Modesta Avila’s image from criminal to digital storyteller. The digital enhancement is supported in part by multi-media artist Carla Zarate Suarez and transmedia artist Reema, jointly they will create the graphic illustrations and augmented reality for digital storytelling. Most recently, Modesta Avila has resurfaced in Twitter– collectively we have reconstituted her image to demonstrate a story from an alternative perspective. Her narrative includes black and white photos as regional documentation. #MAOD is the first multi-media scholarly publication of Modesta Avila that is collected, preserved and re-presented by two Chicanas from SanTana: Sarah Rafael García and Cecilia Lopez.

And yet over the last few weeks media headlines share how white supremacists rioted and vandalized the White House. Their actions have not been held accountable as a criminal act; they continue to gain attention and live their lives. This, again, leads me back to Modesta Avila– who was convicted and sent to San Quentin State Prison for hanging up a clothesline across railroad tracks. As a woman of color and Mexican American myself, born in the US, I have experienced firsthand how I too have become a nuisance to the white hierarchical models of this nation. Tracing Modesta’s history is affirming and also provides a method to continue to teach the next BIPOC generation to tell their own history– the digital humanities is the platform that has the potential to set the record straight and elevate our work and US history virtually and globally.


Sarah Rafael García is a writer, community educator, and performance ethnographer. She’s the author of Las Niñas and SanTana’s Fairy Tales, co-editor of pariahs writing from outside the margins and the forthcoming sci-fi anthology Speculative Fiction for Dreamers as well as founder of Barrio Writers and LibroMobile. Currently, she splits her time between shipping books out to loyal readers across the nation, teaching Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives, and developing an archival ethnofiction project for the life of Modesta Avila as a 2020 USLDH Mellon-Funded Grantee. Follow her on Twitter: @SarahRafaGarcia.

Reading List for Women’s History Month

Are you looking for more books by Latinas to read this Women’s History Month? Why not read a recovered manuscript?! Here is a list of manuscripts recovered and published by Arte Público Press/Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage. Enjoy!

A Nation of Women: An Early Feminist Speaks Out (Mi opinión sobre las libertades, derechos y deberes de la mujer) by Luisa Capetillo

Mi opinión is considered by many to be the first feminist treatise in Puerto Rico and one of the first in Latin America and the Caribbean.  In concise prose, Capetillo advocates a workers’ revolution, forcefully demanding an end to the exploitation and subordination of workers and women.


Absolute Equality: An Early Feminist Perspective (Influencias de las ideas modernas) by Luisa Capetillo

In Luisa Capetillo’s three-act play written in 1907, “Influences of Modern Ideas,” Angelina, the daughter of a rich Puerto Rican businessman and landowner, educates herself by reading the works of European writers, philosophers, and anarchists. After reading Tolstoy’s The Slavery of Our Times, she is convinced that “the slavery of our times is the inflexible wage law.” As the workers go on strike in her home town of Arecibo, Angelina tries to convince her father to give his property—home, factories, land—to the working class. And so the stage is set for Capetillo, a militant feminist, anarchist, and labor leader, to inform the public about her passions: the fight for workers’ rights; the struggle for justice and equality, for women as well as workers; and the education of all classes and sexes. The themes in this social protest play appear throughout Capetillo’s writings.


The Collected Stories of María Cristina Mena 

This volume gathers for the first time Mena’s stories written between 1913 and 1931 and published originally in such magazines as Century, American and Cosmopolitan. In her short fiction Mena writes about Mexico for an Anglo-American audience, and skillfully confronts issues of gender, race and nation.

 


Dew on the Thorn by Jovita González

Dew on the Thorn seeks to recreate the life of Texas Mexicans as Anglo culture gradually encroached upon them. González, a former president of the Texas Folklore Society, provides us with a richly detailed portrait of the ranch life of the Olivares clan of South Texas, focusing on the cultural traditions of Texas Mexicans at a time when the divisions of class and race were pressing on the established way of life.


Feminist and Abolitionist: The Story of Emilia Casanova

When asked to deliver contraband papers to her native island home of Cuba in 1852, twenty-year-old Emilia Casanova gulped audibly in a most unladylike manner. This was her chance to be in the thick of the rebellion against Spanish authority instead of on the sidelines more befitting someone of her station. Even though she would be branded a traitor and endanger her family if she was caught, she pushed her fear aside and accepted the mission.

Back in Cuba following her first summer abroad, distributing seditious propaganda isn’t as easy as it had seemed while in New York. But she honors her commitment to the Junta Cubana, a group of Cuban revolutionaries living in exile in the U. S., and begins her efforts to convert compatriots to the cause of independence from Spain. She begins planting the seeds of insubordination in her social circle and enlists two of her brothers in the cause. Things become more dangerous when she targets soldiers in the garrison close to the family’s home, and it doesn’t take long for one of her brothers to be exposed. Soon Emilia’s father is forced to lead his entire family away from their home and into exile in the U. S.


Firefly Summer by Pura Belpré

Firefly Summer is an enchanting poetic recreation of life in rural Puerto Rico at the turn of the century. Returning home to her parents’ plantation for the holidays, a young student rediscovers the quaint customs, music and lore of country folk, and the lush verdant beauty and lure of the tropical hills. Teresa is honored when her family initiates her in their traditional rites and celebrations that mark the seasons of the year as well as the stages in people’s lives.

However this idyllic journey is not without intrigue. Unknown to Teresa and her best friend from school, there is a real-life mystery unraveling concerning the foreman of the plantation who was raised by the family since early childhood. In the course of their sleuthing, the three young people discover the challenges of approaching adulthood. The events of the summer bind the trio in a lasting friendship.


History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio by Adina de Zavala

Originally published in 1917 by Adina de Zavala, this volume reconstructs the history of the Alamo back to pre-colonial times. Its importance lies not only in its portrayal of Texas’ history as a product of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American contributions, but also in its focus on the role of Texas women and Texas Mexicans in shaping the historical record. At a time when Texas Mexican women held little influence, de Zavala attempted to rewrite the way Texas history was written and constructed. This milestone literary work includes historical maps, plates, diary accounts and other records.


The Rebel by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

The Rebel, by Leonor Villegas de Magnón, is the autobiography of the Mexican-American feminist and pacifist who served as a nurse in the Mexican Revolution and became active in Texas politics and culture. Originally written in the 1920s but never published, The Rebel stands as one of the few written documents which consciously challenges misconceptions of Mexican Americans.


La Rebelde by Leonor Villegas de Magnón

La Rebelde is the original Spanish-language version of Leonor Villegas de Magnón’s memoir. Many women from both sides of the border risked their lives and left their families to support the Mexican Revolution.  Years later, however, when their participation remained unacknowledged and was running the risk of being forgotten, Villegas de Magnón decided to write her personal account of this history. With enthralling text and 22 pages of photos, La Rebelde examines the period from 1876 through 1920, documenting the heroic actions of the women.  Written in the third person with a romantic fervor, the narrative weaves Villegas de Magnón’s autobiography with the story of La Cruz Blanca.


The Squatter and the Don by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Originally published in San Francisco in 1885, The Squatter and the Don is the first fictional narrative written and published in English from the perspective of the conquered Mexican population. Despite being granted the full rights of citizenship under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, this group had become a subordinated and marginalized national minority by 1860.


The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Other Stories: Collected Tales and Short Stories by Jovita González

Jovita González was long a member—and ultimately served as president—of the Texas Folklore Society, which strove to preserve the oral traditions and customs of her native state. Many of the folklore-based stories in this volume were published by González in periodicals such as the Southwest Review from the 1920s through the 1940s but have been gathered here for the first time.


Who Would Have Thought It? by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Who Would Have Thought It? (1872) is a historical romance which engages the dominant myths about nationality, race and gender prevalent in society in the United States, prior to and during the Civil War. The narrative follows a young Mexican girl as she is delivered from Indian captivity in the Southwest and comes to live in the household of a New England family. Culture and perspectives on history and national identity clash as the novel criticizes the dominant society’s opportunism and hypocrisy, and indicts northern racism.


Women’s Tales from the New Mexico WPA: La Diabla a Pie

At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the administration of U. S. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a Federal Writers Project as part of the larger Works Progress Administration (WPA), massive national undertakings aimed at getting the nation back to work. Many people participated in compiling a series of state-by-state guides to the country. Other writers’ projects included the gathering of folk songs and oral narratives by still-living ex-slaves.


For lists of contemporary woman-centric writings, see Arte Público Press’s Women’s History Month Fiction Titles list and their Non-Fiction Titles list.