South America is a continent south of North America, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. There are 12 countries in the continent namely,
Strong Women cut across cultures and continents. They are the women who fight for causes that liberate and supports women. They also defy stereotypical gender roles. Strong Women have innate inner strength; they are exceptionally wired so, and suffer much frustrations trying to minimize their strength to conform to societal gender norms.
Strong Women are trailblazers. They do not compete with men; they complement their men. And their men cherish them because they recognize both their inner strength and beauty.
According to CultureTrip, Latin America has produced no shortage of inspirational women, from bold politicians and bestselling authors to superstar feminist activists. As we’ve stated during the Series, it’s impossible to highlight every single one of Latin America’s Strong Women, but here’s a curated list “from the hundreds of inspiring women Latin America has to offer.”
- Rigoberta Menchú. Guatemalan human rights activist. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her fight to defend indigenous and human rights in her country during and after the Guatemalan Civil War. She’s now a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and even ran for Guatemalan president in 2007 and 2011, a move which cemented her status as one of the country’s most influential people.
- Dandara of Palmares. A Brazilian warrior who knew capoeira and fought many battles to defend Palmares (present-day Alagoas, Brazil), a place where slaves who managed to escape, would settle. She had a big role in the fight against slavery in colonial Brazil. She was also the wife of Zumbi, one of Brazil’s of anti-slavery pioneers.
- Policarpa Salavarrieta, also known as La Pola, was a spy for the pro-independence Colombian forces. She is considered a symbol of courage and freedom.
- Manuela Saenz was an important figure in South America’s fight for independence and Simon Bolivar’s lover. She was known as the “Libertadora del libertador” (the liberator’s liberator) after saving Bolivar from an assassination attempt.
- Elvia Carrillo Puerto. Also known as “Monja Roja del Mayab,” she was a feminist activist who fought for women’s rights. She founded various feminist leagues which helped women with family planning programs, prenatal, and postnatal care. In 1923 she was elected as a member of Yucatan’s congress, making her the first Mexican woman to hold a position of this nature.
- Eva Duarte de Perón is one of Argentina’s most beloved, yet controversial figures. She was first lady of Argentina and played an important role in granting Argentine women the right to vote in 1947, and getting more women involved in politics.
- Juana Azurduy was the heroine of the independence of Upper Peru (present day Bolivia). After her husband’s death, she took control of the troops and achieved significant military victories.
- Evangelina Rodriguez became the first Dominican woman physician in1909. She treated poor people for free or for very little money, and handed out medicine for free. She was family planning advocate, and risked her life multiple times by clashing with dictator Rafael Trujillo.
- Teresa Carreño made an impact in the world as being a talented pianist. She was only nine years old when she performed her first concert in New York. She would later play at the White House for President Abraham Lincoln.
- Hermila Galindo was a pioneer in the feminist movement in Mexico, and made defending women’s rights the basis of her political career. She founded the feminist seminar The Modern Woman, which promoted the development of women and defended their position in the social structure. She fought for secular education, sex education and women’s right to exercise their sexuality.
- Eulalia Guzmán was the first female Mexican archaeologist. Guzmán was responsible for collecting a large amount of information on pre-Hispanic Mexico that determined historical details about the country.
- The Mirabal Sisters
The Mirabal sisters (Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa) courageously opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. They never gave up the fight dictatorship until the day they were assassinated by orders of Trujillo. Trujillo thought getting rid of the sisters would benefit him, but things didn’t go as he planned. Their assassination angered Dominicans and it is believed it contributed to the assassination of Trujillo one year later.
- Anabel Hernandez is a Mexican journalist and author of the book, “Los señores del narco”, which details the complicity between organized crime and the Mexican government, the police, the army, and different businesses. Hernandez has received numerous death threats since her book was published.
- Laureana Wright. A writer, journalist and important figure in Mexico’s feminist movement. She became interested in the social position of women from a young age. Wright expressed her ideas in a range of publications of the time, and founded the first feminist magazine in Mexico, Violetas del Anáhuac.
- Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer, who is famous for her novels. Allende has sold more than 57 million copies, and her work has been translated into 35 languages. In 2014, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
- Leona Vicario was one of Mexico’s first female journalists and a key player in the fight for independence from Spain. Leona was part of a correspondence network called “Los Guadalupes,” and the newspaper El Ilustrador Americano to write secret codes for revolutionaries. She was discovered and threatened with a life sentence in prison if she didn’t give up who she was working with. Leona chose to go to prison, but was quickly rescued by her colleagues and disguised as a beggar in order to escape.
- Gabriela Mistral. One of the most important figures in Chilean literature. Mistral was the first Latin American women to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945.
- Chavela Vargas. An iconic ranchera singer with a unique, raspy, melancholic voice. A rebel from a young age, she was one of Pedro Almodovar’s favorite singers, and muses.
- Frida Kahlo. A Mexican artist who used art as a way to express her suffering and the physical struggles she endured after surviving a bus accident when she was 18 years old. In 1939 she exhibited her paintings in France after being invited by André Breton. One of her works became the first painting by a Mexican artist to be acquired by the Louvre Museum.
- Mariana Costa Checa. The brains behind Laboratoria, a business directed towards getting low-income women into the tech industry by providing them with web design classes, she’s been praised by both Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg. She was also recently recognized by MIT as one of the most innovative minds under 35 and named as one of just nine Latin American women in the BBC’s 2016 Women of the Year rankings.
- Comandanta Ramona. An iconic, indigenous, women’s rights activist and revolutionary. She led the 1994 San Cristóbal de las Casas uprising, in response to Mexico’s involvement in NAFTA and also participated in some of the first peace talks with the Mexican government.
- Berta Cáceres. Honduran environmental and indigenous land rights activist.
- Argelia Laya. A revolutionary Afro-Latina, Venezuelan political activist who fought for decades to eradicate ethnic, gender and able-bodied discrimination in her country, advocating peacefully for gender equality in the education system and women’s rights surrounding pregnancy and abortion along the way.
- María Teresa Ferrari. Argentinian doctor, educator and advocate for women’s rights María Teresa Ferrari was a pioneer during her lifetime and an icon after death, due to the revolutionary strides she took in the female healthcare sector. Ferrari brought gynaecological services to Argentina in 1925 and founded the first maternity ward, before becoming the first female Latin American university professor in 1927 and conducting research surrounding possible treatments for uterine tumours. She also founded the Argentina Federation of University Women.
- Eloísa Díaz. The Chilean pioneer who became South America’s first female doctor in 1887, a move which solidified Chile’s status as the first country to employ professional women. After qualifying and practising as a doctor, she became a physician and teacher, ultimately ascending to the position of Director of the School Medical Service of Chile. She also founded several nurseries and clinics for the poor, introduced school breakfasts and vaccinations, as well as anti-alcoholism, rickets and TB campaigns.
. . .
- Geisha Williams. CEO and President, PG & E
- Grace Puma. Executive Vice-Pesident of Global Operations, PepsiCo
- Maria Castanon Moats. Vice-President PwC. Leader of insurance for United States and Mexico
- Sonia Dula. Vice-President of Bank of America for Latin America
- Gisel Ruiz. Executive Vice-President and Director of Operations of Sam’s Club, a Walmart division
- Maria Martinez. President, Salesforce Customer Success Group and Success Cloud. Manager of Salesforce for Latin America.
- Michele Docharty. Co-Director of Global Synthetics Products Distribution / General Head of Corporative Access, Values Division of Goldman Sachs
- Yasmine Winkler. CEO, Central Region, of UnitedHealthcare Community and State
- Adriana Cisneros. CEO, Cisneros
- Jessica Alba. Founder of The Honest Company
Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.
Honorary mentions also go to:
- Nicaraguan poet Claribel Alegría,
- Mexico’s first indigenous female presidential candidate María de Jesús ‘Marichuy’ Patricio,
- The Brazilian Tina Turner Elza Soares,
- former Argentine First Lady Eva Perón,
- Nicaraguan activist Bianca Jagger,
- Chilean Prime Minister Michelle Bachelet
- Ecuadorian activist Dolores Cacuango.