It seems women have had the right to vote forever, but in reality, in México this was just 70 years ago. If you think about it, that is not so long ago.


We owe this very right and so many others to the many valiant women who in the past opened doors for all of us today. Many of these women, curiously enough, lived here in Yucatán. Today I want to tell you about one of them: the “Red Nun.”


Born in Motul, Yucatán in 1878, Elvia Carrillo Puerto was passionate about women’s rights and was an openly feminist leader, poet and politician. Together, with the most illustrious of her siblings , the revered Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Elvia was a key piece during and after the Mexican Revolution in Yucatán and the entire country. 


Thanks to her childhood years where she studied at Colegio Roque J., she noticed the inequality that the children of Maya workers suffered. This touched her heart and her quest for justice was born. 


Elvia Carrillo Puerto, the red nunLater on, in her youth, because of her close relationship with the poet Rita Cetina Gutiérrez, she read about the rights of women like Mary Wollstonecraft, Flora Tristán, and Victoria Woodhull. It is interesting to see how the very women that inspire us were, in turn, inspired by other women. Kind of like a never-ending cycle. 


Besides lighting the torch of the discussion on the right to vote, Elvia contributed to various women’s social struggles, such as the right to literacy, the decision to have or not have children, the right for health, freedom of sexuality, and more. 


In 1919, she tried to open the debate about the feminine vote in the legislature chambers but unfortunately her colleagues ignored her. However, Elvia was not alone: her brother Felipe, who was Governor of Yucatán from 1922 to 1924, was known as the “Red Apostle” for his also admirable defense of social struggles. It was during his term in office that she was the first Mexican woman to be elected as representative to the Local Congress in 1923. 


It is said that her brother Felipe supported her even in the smaller details, like the time in 1857 when he gave her a Maya translation of the Mexican Constitution, so she could read it to her students, and they could learn about their rights.


Raquel Dzib Cicero, Alma Reed, Elvia Carrillo Puerto by Michael Schuessler

Raquel Dzib Cicero, Alma Reed, and Elvia Carrillo Puerto

After her brother’s assassination in 1924, Elvia was obligated to seek refuge in Mexico City with the help of then President Plutarco Elias Calles. Many years passed by with no concrete results for all her efforts, until October 17, 1953 when then President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines passed the constitutional reforms so that Mexican women could claim full citizenship and, consequently, exercise the right to vote.


There are many achievements that Elvia took to heart and fought for, like the so-called “Rebellion of Valladolid” in 1910, a movement that became known as the first spark of the Mexican Revolution; her participation in the Feminist Resistance League; or her founding of the first organization of women farmers so that the feminine heads of the family would have the same rights as the men in the distribution of land.


Elvia Carrillo Puerto was a woman who marked Yucatecan history and the present of all women who walk these lands today. Her achievements are of titanic importance when you remember the never-ending cycle that allows women to be inspired by other women, regardless of place, and regardless of time. 



By Pame Fernández García
Creator and storyteller in my head 24/7, sometimes through multidisciplinary platforms with whom I share a passion for letters, imagination, and feelings.



Photography by Alicia Navarrete, Michael Schuessler, and of Public Domain for use in Yucatán Today.

Esta entrada también está disponible en: ES