Women of History: Rosario Castellanos

This week seems to have a theme of Mexican women who are in the arts born in the early 19th century.  Rosario Castellanos was a poet, activist and author who became associated with the “Generation of 1950”, a poet’s group that gained popularity following the end of WWII.

Rosario was born in Mexico City on May 25, 1925 to a family of ranchers in the state of Chiapas, so she grew up in Comitán. During the years before her birth, landowners in Mexico had a hold on the power structure.  Her family was of mixed heritage and had indigenous servants. She was an introverted child and found herself at odds with her family.  She didn’t care for the way the indigenous people were treated, and her relationship with her mother was estranged after she proved to favor her brother.

When she was 9 years old, President Lazaro Cardenas passed and enacted the 1934 Agrarian code which redistributed land from the wealthy elite and changed the social-political makeup of Mexico.  It also effected Rosario’s family, as much of their property was confiscated.  The country had spent much of its recent history with the power being in the hands of wealthy landowners, and the redistribution of land broke up that power hold.

When she was 15 she moved to Mexico City with her parents. Unfortunately, within a year, both her parents had died, leaving her and her siblings orphans.  She enrolled in the National Autonomous University of Mexico, studying literature and philosophy.  She also joined the National Indigenous Institute, developed by President Cardenas, to help promote literacy in impoverished sections of the country.  She also began writing for the newspaper Excélsior.

It was while she was at the school that she met Ricardo Guerra Tejada, a fellow academic and philosopher.  The two married in 1958. The two of them had one son, Gabriel, born in 1961.  Rosario suffered from depression and fertility issues and would have no more children. She and Ricardo divorced in 1971 after Ricardo’s infidelity came to light.

In 1960, she published Ciudad Real, a collection of short stories that focused on the differences between selected groups.  It dealt with both racial and gender related bias. She also became the press director for the University a year later. She also taught at the university and had visiting professorship in various universities across North America. In 1963, she wrote Oficio de tinieblas or in English as The Book of Lamentations in one translation and The Office of Darkness in another. The story recreates a native rebellion in a more modern time period.  The struggle of native people was an influence over much of her work.  She was inspired by also by two Catholic authors as well, including Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz, who I profiled several weeks ago.

Rosario’s work was varied.  She was dedicated to improving literacy and women’s rights in Mexico.  She also served in several governmental positions, culminating in being assigned in 1971 to be Mexico’s ambassador to Israel in 1971.

Rosario died on August 7, 1974.  She was 49 years old, and her death was an electrical accident.  She left behind a body of work that showcased the idea of feminism in Mexico as well as better treatment for indigenous people.  She holds a high spot in Mexico for both her literary and governmental pursuits.  Two of her works were published after her death, as well.

Most of the sources of information about her that appear in English online appear to just repeat the same information. There are several sites and videos in Spanish that may include information but unfortunately my Spanish is not good enough to translate that quickly.  I’m also sure offline there is more information, if you are interested in learning more about Rosario and her works.  Amazon has several of her published works in Spanish.

Further Reading

Wikipedia:  Rosario Castellanos

Wikipedia:  Cardenista Land Reform 1934-1940

Encyclopedia Britannica: Rosario Castellanos

Rosario Castellanos was one of Mexico’s greatest Poets – Constance Grady (Vox.com)

Rosario Castellanos – Beth Miller (2012)

 

Master List

Women of History: Frida Kahlo (Part Two)

(See Previous)

[WARNING: Paintings linked within in this post may have triggering content]

1937 also happened to be when Frida became more productive as an artist, with several self-portraits and other paintings.  She began to exhibit her paintings despite her own doubts about her talents.  However, others did not have the same doubts and she became more recognized as an artist in her own right, rather than just the wife of Diego Rivera.

Her first solo exhibition happened in New York City in 1938.  She managed to sell half of her paintings despite it being the great Depression, and her exhibit was also attended by several famous artists and public figures.  It brought more attention to her art and earned her two commissions.  One was for A. Conger Goodyear, who was the President and founder of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) which remains a major art museum.  Another was for Clare Boothe Luce, a socialite and political activist who commissioned a portrait of her friend, Dorothy Hale.   The painting depicted Hale’s suicide, with writing on the bottom with the details of the event. The painting was controversial due to what it depicted.

This would not however be the last time that a painting of Frida’s would be considered scandalous or controversial.  In fact, the following year she traveled to Paris for another exhibit of her artwork only to find the gallery refused to showcase most of her work.  They found it too controversial for their audiences.  However, on the brighter side the Louvre bought one of her paintings.  The Frame (1938) was the first artwork by a Mexican artist that the famous art collection had bought.

Frida moved back to her childhood home, La Casa Azul, in 1939 following her divorce from Diego. She would remain there until her death, living at times with her husband and/or her sister and her children.  The 1940s were a productive time for Frida, although her health started to decline even further.  She tried new mediums and substrates for her art and starting making art that was considered more sellable to support herself.

She continued to exhibit her art in Mexico and the United States, attending three separate exhibits in 1940 alone.  Some of her more famous paintings were painted while she was back at La Casa Azul.

1940 was troubling year personally however.  While her artistic work seemed to be going higher, her personal life and health suffered.  She was arrested and held for two days in Mexico City as she was investigated when her former lover, Leon Trotsky, was killed.  It was suspected that she, and her sister Cristina, knew who the murderer was.  She was released, however.  She then found herself in San Francisco soon afterwards dealing with various health problems, including a fungal infection and back pain.

While she was in San Francisco she was reunited with Diego, and the two reconciled.  They remarried in a civil ceremony on December 8, 1940 and returned to Mexico together.  Their marriage remained as it was before, with both having affairs.  Diego kept their old home in San Angel as a second apartment and his studio despite living at La Caza Azul.

Her health problems continued, as she had chronic pain due to her spine, her hand infection became a continuing problem, and at one point she was treated for Syphilis.  She went through twenty-eight different casts in 14 years due to the pain she lived through. She also suffered from depression after her father, who she had been close to, died in 1941.

One highlight of the 1940s was that Frida’s artwork had gained more notice in her native Mexico, and she was a member of the Seminario De Cultura Mexicana, a commission of the Mexican government to spread awareness of Mexican culture.  With the Seminario, she held various exhibitions, attended conferences and other promotions.  It led to her accepting a teaching position in a local national Art school called La Esmeralda.  Eventually her illnesses prevented her from having classes on campus, and instead she held them within her home and studio. Her students, known as Los Fridos for their devotion to her, continued her ideal of painting from Mexican culture and life.  Her own works continued to be somewhat controversial, but she always kept to what she wanted to express.

In 1945, she faced another health setback.  Her pain had worsened to the point that she could no longer sit or stand for long periods of time.  She traveled to New York for a surgery, but in the end the surgery did not help.  Like she always had, she painted her emotions into her art, such as The Wounded Deer (1946).

In 1950, she once again tried to get a bone graft, but it was not a smooth recovery, and several follow-up surgeries were required.  At this point, Frida was forced to use either a wheel chair or crutches to move around.  This did not stop her from being politically active or continuing her paintings.  She got an adjustable easel so she could paint from her wheelchair, and campaigned for a ban on nuclear weapons. When Doctors told her she needed to be on Bed rest and therefore could not attend her solo exhibit in 1953, she had her bed delivered to the gallery and had herself carried by ambulance and stretcher to it so she could attend the event.

As the mid fifties arrived, Frida’s health declined rapidly. In August 1953, only months after her exhibit, she had a leg amputation due to gangrene.  Her depression increased, and she became addicted to painkillers according to some sources.  At times she was suicidal and was hospitalized in 1954.

She was active till the very end, both as a political activist and as an artist.  In 1954, she released at least four paintings and she also attended a demonstration against the CIA invasion of Guatemala with her husband in July.  However, her activity did nothing to help the illness, and on July 13, 1954 Frida passed away at the age of 47.  Arguments about what actually caused her death appear to differ between various sources.

She was laid in state at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a cultural center, and a communist flag covered her casket. She was later cremated and her remains displayed in an urn at her home, La Caza Azul.  In her memory, Diego allowed her childhood home to become a museum to his wife’s artistic career, and for the promotion of Mexican history, culture and art.  He died in 1957, and the museum opened a year later.

Frida left behind a legacy in her art, and in her courage to do what she wanted despite people telling her she couldn’t.  She never let people change her into something she rather not be.  She preserved through physical pain and made artwork to express her life in a surrealist way.  Many people relate to her artwork.  Many people also relate to her, whether it is her feminism, her politics, her disabilities, or her bisexuality.

Her artwork has only increased in value, setting records for sale prices for Mexican artists. Two Nudes  in a Forest (1939) for example was auctioned in 2016 for 8 million dollars.  Interest in her art and her life have increased over the last few decades due to new biographies (such as Hayden Herrera’s Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo -1983) and the fact that in 1984 her works were considered national treasures and Mexico prohibited any more from leaving the country.

In more recent years, the biopic Frida (based on Herrera’s biography) was released in 2002 and stared fellow Mexican Selma Hayek.  It won several Academy awards.  She also gained a mention in 2017’s Coco.  In the US, she got her own postage stamp in 2001 and was inducted into the Legacy Walk in 2012.  In the past year, Mattel released a Frida doll as part of her new Women Role Models collection.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Frida Kahlo

Wikipedia: Diego Rivera

Wikipedia: Mexican Revolution

Biography.com: Frida Kahlo

Lisa’s History Room:  Frida Kahlo An Accidental Artist

Frida Kahlo.Org

The Frida Kahlo Foundation

Mattel Unveiled ‘Role Model’ Barbies for International Woman’s Day and I’ve never felt less Inspired – Biba Kang (Independent)

Mattel.com:  Barbie celebrates Role Models

Diary of a Mad Artist – Amy Fine Collins (Vanity Fair Magazine -1995)

 

 

Women of History: Frida Kahlo (Part One)

Frida_Kahlo,_by_Guillermo_Kahlo_3
Frida Kahlo;  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Guillermo Kahlo; 1932
Frida Kahlo is a well-known artist and will be our featured Woman of History this week.

[WARNING: Paintings linked within in this post may have triggering content]

Frida was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon on July 6, 1907 in a small suburb of Mexico City.  Her father was a German immigrant to Mexico, Guillermo (born Carl Wilhelm) Kahlo.  He was a photographer, so the art bug came naturally to Frida.  Her mother was Matilde Calderon y Gonzalez, a Mexican born woman of indigenous and Spanish descent.  Guillermo and Matilde had four daughters together: Matilde, Adriana, Frida and Cristina.  Frida also had two half-sisters named Maria Louisa and Margarita, but they played a lesser part in her life.  Frida would be especially close to her younger sister Cristina. Continue reading “Women of History: Frida Kahlo (Part One)”

Women of History: Nana Yaa Asantewaa

Yaa Asantewaa was many things. She was a woman, a farmer, a Queen, a rebel leader, a mother and a historical figure. She led troops against British Expansion and colonisation in the Ashanti Empire, having grown up in what is modern Ghana. She ruled over her tribe for her brother, and cultivated various crops in her area. I was inspired to look into her life after seeing her doodle on Google’s home page a few weeks ago. So today we will travel to 19th century Africa. Continue reading “Women of History: Nana Yaa Asantewaa”

Women of History: Sor Juana de la Cruz

Author’s note:  I apologise for the lack of Spanish punctuation.  I haven’t quite figured out the character settings on this blog to do them.

This week we travel to Mexico during the 1600s. Our featured lady of history is Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Sister Juana Ines of the Cross), a 17th century nun who was an early feminist and poet

Sor Juana Ines was born Juana Ines de Asbaje y Ramriz de Santillana on November 12, 1651 (or possibly 1648). She was born in San Miquel Napantla, a town located in the southern half of Modern Mexico. At the time however, it was known as New Spain, still a colony of Spain. Her hometown was later renamed in her honor as Napantla de Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz) Continue reading “Women of History: Sor Juana de la Cruz”

Women of History: Kim Seondeok

Author’s Note:  This post is posted late due to some editing process issues.  The next post will be posted tomorrow on schedule.

This week we travel to Korea, during the 7th Century. Our featured Women of History is Queen Seondeok of Silla, a kingdom of Korea.

Seondeok was born Princess Deokmen, the daughter of King Jinpyeong and Queen Maya. Her birthdate is not a sure fact, but it is suspected to be at the very end of the 6th century to early end of the 7th century. She had two sisters, Princess Cheonmyeong and Seonhwa. At this point in their kingdom’s history, there had not been a female ruler of the kingdom. Women were involved in governing and held roles of power but it was limited. Her grandmother, Queen Sado, had once ruled as regent for her grandfather for example. Yet no women had been Queen Regnant (Queen in her own right, rather than representing someone else).

When the time came for Jinpyeong to choose a successor, he leaned towards his son-in-law Kim Yongsu. Yongsu was married to Cheonmyeong. He was the second cousin of the King, and thus a member of the bone rank of Seonggol (Sacred Bone).

The bone rank system was based on lineage, and was very rigid in nature. A person’s status or rank would determine everyday life. This included a person’s occupation and sometimes even clothing choices. There were three main ranks. Seonggol was the highest and included the royal family. Lesser royals and ministers were part of the Jingol (true bone) rank. The lowest rank was the head rank (Tupum) and included most of the rest of the population. Tupum divided into 6 subclasses. The lower 3 classes were that of the lower class. The Aristocracy were the higher 3 classes. One’s rank determined your place in society. It determined who you could socialize with, who you could marry and what type of housing you got. Higher ranks had clothing restrictions as well. Seondeok herself was a member of the Seonggol rank as had all the royals at this point.

Yongsu seemed an acceptable heir to a man with no sons. Seondeok had taken an interest in governing and had asked her father to prove herself. Jinpyeong decided to give her the opportunity. Seondeok proved herself, but she was still not without detractors. Despite Yongsu conceding and even taking the lower rank of jingol, it was not an easy transition. A rebellion against her was thorted before it beg

In 632, Seondeok was given the crown and the name change, becoming the first female ruler of Silla on her own right. She immediately got to work, with grand plans for her people and her country. She sent out inspectors to oversee the people’s welfare and gave tax breaks for the peasant class. She built Cheomseongdae, one of the oldest astronomy towers. She also sent yearly emissaries to Tang China to improve foreign relations. Emperor Taizang Tang would not recognise her, believeing women were ineffective rulers. It would be three years before he would change his mind.

Seondeok’s interest in foreign affairs was an important part of her legacy. Through alliances and strategy, she expanded the borders of her Kingdom. Her kingdom would one day cover a good deal of the Korean Peninsula.

At the start of her reign, Silla was located in the southeast corner of South Korea. The capital of Silla was Gyeongju, which is located not too far inland from the coast.. Over the course of her reign, as well as that of her successors, the boundaries of Silla morphed and changed. It would go from a small confederation at the southern half of Korea to ruling most of it.

The kingdom of Baekje invaded the country in 642, ten years into Seondeok’s reign. At first they were successful, capturing cities and castles on the western border. Seondeok sought the advice of a buddhist monk named Jajang about what to do to protect her people. She took his advice and created a pagoda called Hwangnyongsa along the border. She even offered to use the materials of her own palace if it would help calm the fears of her countrymen. It was to be both a religious center as well as a military post to watch for invaders. The pagoda was nine stories, meant to represent her ‘enemies’ with various depictions. Unfortunately the pagoda was burned down by invaders in 1238.

It was only the growing power of Goguryeo, the third Kingdom of Korea, that caused Emperor Tiazong to change his mind. This alliance was enough to help her forces drive back the forces of Baekje (which became a part of Silla) and Goguryeo(who lost territory to Silla). Silla held a good deal of the territory of Korea and eventually even separated their alliance with Tiazong. This would be an ongoing problem during her reign as the borders shifted back and forth between the warring kingdoms.

Yet, it was not to be easy for Queen Seondeok even domestically. In 647, she fell ill. Her official Bidam used this as an opportunity to raise a rebellion. He was popular with his countrymen, and many rallied to be behind him. He used their belief in signs to promote the idea that Queen Seondeok was a failure as a Queen. After all, her illness, and a failing star aimed in the direction of her home were signs of failure.

The rebellion lasted ten days, but Seondeok did not live to see the end of the rebellion. She died on February 17th, 647. She had no heirs, so her cousin Kim Seungman became Queen. She renamed herself Jindeok and completed the final suppression of the rebellion. Jindeok continued to improve the country and work towards unification.

King Muyeol, who was born Kim Chunchu, suceeded Jindeok who had died without an heir as well. He was the son of Seondeok’s sister Cheonmyeong and Kim Yongsu. Jindeok was the last of the Seonggol rulers, ending the rank. It would be Muyeol’s son King Munmu who would complete the unification of Korea.

Queen Seondeck’s legacy is not only the expansion of the borders of Silla and the military protection of her country. She started the alliance with Tang China, which would be strengthened during the reigns of her successors. She also strengthened the country’s connection to Buddhism, which had already been the national religion. She built many temples, statues and pagodas to that effect, some of which still stand. She also built Cheomseongdae, which remains one of the oldest observatories in the world. This inspired her neighbors to build their own observatories. She promoted interest in the sciences and education. She created public works and aid for those who needed it.

Some of her life has become legend – or legends have replaced some of her life. She was thought to have some sense of clairvoyance. One story tells of Seondeok receiving some Poppy seeds from the Emperor of China. It was accompanied by a picture showing what the flower would look like upon blooming. She stated that the flowers would have no fragrance. When the blooms finally came, no one could detect a fragrance. In some versions of the story, it is passed off as Seondeok’s clairvoyance. In others, she later explains she saw no bees or butterflies near it, so she had made a deductive conclusion.

The amount of legends involved in her life make it hard to do generic research on her. Since I only have a week to work on these, I tend to focus on internet sources. I always try to find multiple sources for anything I write. I was also limited because I only speak English fluently. However, I believe a lot of the scholarship on Queen Seondeok is still in paper form. I recommend researching more into her if you are interested.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: The Kingdom of Silla

Wikipedia: Cheomseongdae

Traditional East Asia: Queen Seondeok of Silla

The Ancient Encyclopedia: Seondeok

The Ancient Encyclopedia: The Bone Rank System

Thought Co: Queen Seondeok of the Silla Kingdom

History of Royal Women: The Three Queens of Silla

 

Masterlist

TV Review: The Orville 1×03

Regularly scheduled posts that are not tv episode reviews will happen for those of you who are interested in my writing and/or reading posts.  As I said previously, I am trying to catch up with the “live” episode, which airs on Thursday.

Episode:  1×03 About a Girl

Notable Guest Stars:

Lamount Thompson (Kaybrak) – He’s been on various programs I’ve seen, including several daytime soaps, but he is notable because he was credited with a role on Star Trek Enterprise (my favorite Trek show!).  He also may be known from The O.C.

This episode focuses on Moclan society; in particular gender politics.  The species, though primarily male, does once and awhile have female offspring.  However, this is considered a genetic defect and is often the child is given a sex-change operation as an infant to make them male.  Claire refuses to do the procedure, believing it to be something that is unnecessary to the health of the child and something the child should decide for themselves.  Ed and Kelly agree, although Ed manages to make himself double-check to make sure he’s not policing another culture’s practices by his own.

I’m not sure if theme of this episode is misogyny or gender identity, but I’m leaning towards misogyny because of the rest of the episode.  It seems a heavy subject to barge into 3 episodes in, but Star Trek (which inspired this show) has been known to do this. I don’t think episode really stands up against Star Trek’s The Measure of a Man but it has a similar style and theme to it.  Instead of saying how a AI can be a being, they are trying to prove to a society that prides maleness that being Female is not a bad thing.  Although I think they kind of messed up with some of the issues…like if Klyton was a female, obviously it happens more often than the 75 years it is supposed to be, and the older woman doesn’t look like she’s in her seventies too.  But then they don’t really explain the life expectancy of the Moclans.

Notable Quotes:

Gordon:  I would like a pair of pants to be waiting at the landing pad
Moclan Flight: A pair of pants will be waiting.
Kelly:  He was kidding
Gordon:  No I wasn’t

Pros:

  • Seeing the various characters work together to help their friend
  • Alara being so confident in her abilities and differences
  • Seeing Kelly being proficient at her job that is in no way related to interacting with Ed

Cons:

  • I feel that the Moclan society should have been developed a bit more before they got into such a heavy subject.
  • The random Thought lighting of Ed to search for female Moclans.  It just seemed really sudden a bit like “We need to move this plot along, we only have 10 minutes left.”

Final Grade: B-

Women of History: Emmeline Pankhurst

Today’s Woman of history topic is one that was requested, and I actually was not aware of till it was mentioned.  I found out quite a bit from my minor looking into her life. Emmeline Pankhurst was an early 19th century political activist in Great Britain. In particular she is known for her strong militant ways of promoting her cause and for helping bring along the vote for women in the UK as well as improve various other social problems she discovered through out her life.

Emmeline was born Emmeline Goulden on July 15, 1858 (according to her birth certificate, she always claimed the 14th) in a Manchester suburb. She was born into a family familiar with political activism for several generations. Her parents were active in their community and passed that down to their children. This included their interest in woman’s suffrage.

Her education was not as involved as her brothers, as at the time it was felt it was better she learn to be an attractive prospect as a wife rather than be educated on the scale of her brothers. However, she was an avid reader, and her time at Ecole Nomale de Neuilly helped her expand her influences and knowledge base. Continue reading “Women of History: Emmeline Pankhurst”

Brofixes. A Pet Peeve.

I wish Male-focused Marketing would stop renaming things.  They make it sound like men need to be told that its manly to be able to enjoy thigns.  It drives me nuts, even more so when I get an unnecessarily gendered product geared for women  Like Bic for Her .  Its a pen. I don’t need to say Lady or be in pastel to know I can use it.  But do read the customer reviews, they make its existance almost worth it.

But lately I keep seeing things that have prefixes added on to them to make them more palatable to men.  Bronuts (That would be donuts, which I’m pretty sure I saw men eating long before someone thought to make money making it bro), Brogurt (that article annoys me on several levels beyond the brogurt name),Man bun, Man braids, and most recently Man Perm.

Its a freaking Perm.  Learn to enjoy what you enjoy and not let it effect how you few your gender expression.  If you want to braid your hair, go ahead and do it.  If you want to eat healthy and get a yogurt, go ahead and do so.  But please don’t do so because somehow adding “Bro” or “Man” to it suddenly makes it socially acceptable to be seen doing.

I also find it hard to believe, going back to brogurt category, that people think women wouldn’t like bigger containers of yogurt.  So I feel no threat to my femininity to go out and purchase something that says bro- or Man as part of the title.

Mainly I think this is an excuse to charge people more money, and fed on social norms to do it.

But seriously, stop calling things “Man-”  just to take a thing done all the time and make it more suitable because you are a guy.  Its a braid, a perm or a donut.  Enjoy it.

There is way too much unecessarily gendered products out there.  And I feel marketing has just continued to push gender seperation to get us to pay more just because it makes you believe that something is more feminine (the so called woman’s tax on bathroom and personal products) or masculine (the urge to rename ordinary items to make it more palatable to men).

On a happier note, there is a bronut I will happily consider, and that is Bronuts a company that makes donut holes that was founded by a pair of brothers (so the name actually makes sense and has less to do with who eats them as much as who made them).

Also I learned not to click on the Urban Dictionary links because sometimes there are completely different answers on the page and some of them I really wish I could unsee and also makes me detest the terms .