22 Indigenous Rights Fighters From Latin America To Keep In Mind While You Celebrate Women’s History Month
No look back at Latino culture and history could be complete without a thorough investigation of the various Indigenous women who existed long before and after the Spanish colonized the Americas. In the many years before Spanish colonization, Indigenous women were FIERCE chiefs, warriors, leaders and rule breakers. Today, they still are. Here’s a list of the 25 Indigenous women who shaped Latin America and contributed to the world we know.
1. Janequeo, Peru
Also, known as Yanequén, was a heroine of the Mapuche-Pehuenche people and the wife of the chief, Huepotaén. After her husband’s murder, which was ordered by Governor Alonso de Sotomayor, Janequeo succeeded him as lonco and led her people in battles against the Spanish.
2. Emilia Nuyado, Chile
Nuyado is a political leader of the indigenous Mapuche group and one of two women of that group to become members of Chile’s Congress. She represents the southern Araucanía region and is working with the Chilean government to put an end to a centuries-old conflict.
3. Aracely Leuquén, Chile
Like Nuyado, Leuquén is also a political leader representative of the indigenous Mapuche group. Along with Nuyado she is the first woman to become a member of Chile’s Congress.
4. Milagro Sala, Argentina
The Indigenous leader from Argentina is considered the first political prisoner of President Mauricio Macri’s government. She is the founder of the 70,000 member group called the Tupac Amaru movement and leads the organization in efforts focused on Indigenous rights and impacting political issues.
5. Silvia Carrera, Panama
As the first woman chief of the Ngobe Bugl, Carrera led a resistance movement that worked to block hydroelectric dam and copper mining projects being built on an Indigenous territory. Throughout her activism, she has strived to negotiate with the Panamanian government and to represent her people in talks concerning respect for Indigenous rights. Today she is seen as a symbol of resistance for women across Panama and Latin America.
6. Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, Guatemala
The Guatemalan Maya K’iche leader is a defender of women’s rights and environmental causes. Today, she is a leader of the Council of K’iche’ Peoples in Defense of Life, Mother Nature, Earth and Territory and fights for the right of indigenous people to determine the fate of their territories.
7. Miriam Miranda, Honduras
The leader of the Garifuna Afro-Indigenous community and the organization known as Ofraneh is known for her activism. Her resistance has combatted mega-tourism projects and the climate change effects that have displaced Garifuna communities along the Honduran coast.
8. Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemala
The Guatemalan human rights activist began campaigning for human rights when she was a teen. In the years since she has devoted her life’s work to fighting for the rights of indigenous people and victims of Guatemala’s civil war.
9. Berta Caceres, Honduras
The Lenca indigenous leader and environmental and human rights defender is also the co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Her work has helped her and others to spearhead a successful resistance movement to halt the creation of the Agua Zarca Dam. Before and during its construction the project was never given consent by the local indigenous community. Caceres was murdered in 2016 because of her activism.
10. Transito Amaguaña, Ecuador
Transito Amaguaña, AKA “Mama Transito,” was an Ecuadorean indigenous activist and feminist icon in Ecuador. Her political work and community activism has pushed the efforts of major indigenous and campesino actions further. In 11946 she co-founded the Ecuadorean Indian Federation to fight for land redistribution.
11. Digna Ochoa, Mexico
The human rights lawyer and political activist advocated for the interests of Mexico’s campesino ecologists and vulnerable indigenous people. She took on the Mexican army and led campaigns that eventually and brought soldiers who had abused their power and tortured others to court. She was eventually found shot dead in her office.
11. Dolores Cacuango, Ecuador
The native rights leader and Ecuadorean revolutionary began an early life of servitude on a hacienda as a teen. Realizing the difference in the quality of life between the rich and poor pushed her to advocacy that focused on education, native lands rights, and government reform in recognition of indigenous people. Despite never reaching higher education, Cacuango directed one of the first schools for indigenous children with instruction in Spanish and Quechua for 18 years.
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