The Mexican revolution is not only the name of an armed conflict, but also the name of the early-20th-century period when such conflict occurred. During this lapse, many important characters – along with others not so – left their mark in our History. Besides the known and renowned heroes, there was among the crowd of rebel warriors a special group highlighted by their courage and a feature never before seen in combat: they were women.
The female soldiers of the Revolution, thrown into the conflict for following their husbands, were known as Adelitas. The origin of the name is uncertain. Some versions say the original Adelita was Adela Velarde Peláez, soldier and nurse from Ciudad Juárez who took care of wounded soldiers in Pancho Villa’s army in several combats. She was awarded in different occasions during war and as a Veteran.
History has it that Adela Velarde Peláez took care of soldier Antonio del Río Armenta, who inspired by her wrote the corrido La Adelita to show his appreciation. Other versions point to aristocrat-turned-rebel Altagracia Martínez as the woman who received the name Adelita from the very General Pancho Villa, who would tell her “you can’t be a revolutionary with that name, from now on, you will be Adelita!” Whatever the true origin, Las Adelitas became a symbol of Mexican Revolution, immortalized on photographs with their long skirts, bandoliers slung on their shoulders and armed with rifles, pistols and a defiant attitude, a novel weapon in Mexican women.
Soldiers, nurses, spies, fund raisers, journalists, secret mail carriers, generals, colonels, all the roles they played always with that attitude, which became a milestone in women’s social participation within our society. Today, Las Adelitas has stopped being a generic name to become a synonym of brave, restless fighting women, men’s source of inspiration.