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Fronteras: The revolutionary women of Texas and Mexico, and the Mexican roots of the universal Christmas ‘flower’

The list of women considered revolutionary could — and should — be a long one.

Their names, except for a select few, are not known to many, especially those who lived in the Texas and Mexico region before, during and after the Mexican Revolution.

Names like journalist and militant Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza, the preservationist Adina De Zavala and the artist and writer Nahui Olin.

These women and several more are highlighted in the book “Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico: Portraits of Soldaderas, Saints, and Subversives.”

The book was edited by Ellen Riojas Clark, professor emerita at the University of Texas at San Antonio; Jennifer Speed, historian and a research development strategist at Princeton University; and San Antonio-based artist Kathy Sosa.

Sosa said these women did not set out to be revolutionary.

“They just did what needed to be done or responded to their own circumstances in such a way that made them highly influential and significant,” she said. “They just responded to what was handed to them or what was happening around them in a way that we need to write down and remember.”

Hear Part 1 of our conversation with Sosa, Clark and Speed here.

The poinsettia: Hecho en Mexico (made in Mexico)

Poinsettias are everywhere at Christmastime.

Their flashy red bracts are often confused with a flower. The flowers are actually the unassuming small yellow buds at the center of the red foliage.

The plant is indigenous to Mexico, where it’s known as noche buena or cuetlaxochitl.

Poinsettia plants at Christmastime.
Creative Touch Imaging Ltd
Poinsettia plants at Christmastime.

The American diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett is said to have introduced the plant to the U.S., “but other part of that that I find fascinating is that it has an older history before Poinsett ever ‘discovers’ it, and that is with the Aztec culture,” said folklorist, poet and writer Norma Elia Cantú, Murchison Professor of the Humanities at Trinity University in San Antonio.

Cantú joins us to talk about poinsettias, posadas, pastorelas and nacimientos.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1