La conservación campesina de Elena Torres Cuéllar: las mujeres, la maestría rural y el medio ambiente en México (1923-1939)

  • Erin Shea Finzer University of Arkansas at Little Rock


Elena Torres Cuéllar (1894-1970) remains one of the lesser-known public intellectuals of the educational reforms under the Mexican Revolution.  A sub-secretary of education under José Vasconcelos and escort to Gabriela Mistral during her controversial visit to Mexico as an educational adviser, Torres occasionally appears in footnotes to Mexican women’s histories as a revolutionary and feminist.  This paper examines her prolific writing from the 1930s on the roles of rural women as primary stewards of the land and indigenous cultures. In these texts she articulated a uniquely Mexican and revolutionary model of womanhood that was exported to other countries throughout the hemisphere via international print media, lecture tours, and radio programs.  Torres underlined the value of the campesina woman by promoting a modern home economics that included traditional aspects of rural homemaking, such as preparing tortillas and weaving huipiles.  She also invested the symbols of revolutionary land reform with women’s interests by insisting that readers recognize the essentialist relationship between women and the fertile cycles of Madre Tierra.  In this way, Torres helped to amplify the vanguard voices of other Latin American female writers, such as Mistral, Magda Portal, and Carmen Lyra, who also combined indigenismo and ecofeminism in their writings as a rhetorical basis for promoting women’s rights, conservationism, and anti-imperialism.

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