Mexican Historietas: A History



Background Information

Women in Mexican Comics

Historietas: Beginnings to 1959

Censorship and the Historietas

Historietas: 1959 to 1999

Historietas in the 21st Century


Mexican Flag

Women in Mexican Comics

This would be a good opportunity to discuss the place of women within Mexican comics culture. While female readers were included in the numbers of newly literate comics consumers in Mexico, women started reading comics in large numbers when Yolanda Vargas Dulché, creator of the wildly popular romance comic Lágrimas, Risas y Amor, or Tears, Laughter, and Love, started publishing romance comics in the 1930s and 1940s. When Lágrimas was published in the 1960s, it became one of the best-selling comics in the industry's history and illustrated that female readers represented a large percentage of the historieta audience in Mexico.


The depiction of women in the pages of the earliest Mexican comics was remarkably progressive and proto-feminist. Chicas modernas, or modern women, populated the early pepines and were "modern women living independent of the traditional male-dominated hierarchies" of Mexican society (Duncan and Smith 304). This representation of the new Mexican woman was young, educated, and financially independent. During the thirties and forties in the Pepín series, "Adelita y las guerillas," Jose G. Cruz portrayed women as capable of independence, responsibility, and power without compromising their morals or, as often occurred in other comics, illustrating them as terrifically unattractive. Why did this enlightened representation of Mexican womanhood appear in the early comics? It is likely that the moneros, or cartoonists, were responding to the excitement of modernity and urbanization in Mexico, just as the Americans were also adopting more progressive views of the "New Woman." However, this proto-feminism was relatively short-lived, and a backlash to the chica moderna grew in the pages of the pepines as a new stereotype emerged: la mujer tradicional (the traditional woman). This figure was a silent, self-abnegating, servile, and virtuous woman who, since 1940, was cast by state propaganda as a patriotic ideal. In response to censorship campaigns and increasing state control over the publishing industry, the historietas became less experimental, and this modern woman all but disappeared from the pages of Mexican comics. One could argue that, to this day, she has yet to reappear.

For the last four decades, as Hinds asserts in "Images of Women in Mexican Comic Books," the images of women encountered in the most popular comic books, Kalimán and Lágrimas, Risas y Amor, "largely conform to the stereotypes widely held in Mexico - woman as ideal fiancé-spouse, as mistress-sex object and as witch - there is little doubt that the approved role model is that of the dependent, submissive, sexually repressed, servile, passive fiancé-wife" (159). The continued popularity of these two titles is indicative of polarized and traditional attitudes towards gender norms pervading Mexican society as a whole, and although these particular comics have ceased publication and are available as reissues, hugely popular comics such as El Libro Vaquero (The Cowboy Book) and the romance comic, El Libro Semanal (The Weekly Book) continue to promulgate archaic views of masculinity and femininity respectively. Overwhelmingly, unconventional women are rewarded with tragic ends in mainstream historietas, frequently suffering or even meeting violent deaths (akin to Gail Simone's women in refrigerators syndrome). However, the heroine of the popular comics, La Familia Burron (The Big Dumb Family), Borola, deviates from standard stereotypes of the Mexican woman, "with humour and perseverance. She has enlarged the role of acceptable female behavior within the strictures of marriage and motherhood -she suggests that women can both maintain a satisfying marital and home life and take on the male preserves of jobs and politics" (Hinds "Images" 161). While the new generation of Mexican comiqueros is gradually changing the situation, with the emergence of more progressive depictions of gender in underground and webcomics and graphic novels, mainstream comics remain semi-pornographic, or in the case of romance comics popular with women, very conservative in their representation of the idealized and subservient Mexican woman. It should be remembered though, that a large minority of comics producers and distributors in Mexico have been women, playing a much larger and continued role in the development and evolution of comics than the U.S. or Japan (Rubenstein Bad 83).

Please continue to the next page to read about the history of comics in Mexico.

This website was created by Brianna Erban for LIS 518: Comic Books and Graphic Novels in Schools and Public Libraries

Last updated December 1, 2009.