The role of women is studied through their 19th-century travel journals

The book Exploratrices europeas. Relatos de viaje a México en el siglo XIX deals with the stories and testimonies of five women travelers, or rather explorers, who visited Mexico during the 19th century.

This work is an interesting analysis of some texts written by European women who visited Mexico from 1839 until the end of that century.

The authors, Nora Marisa León-Real Méndez and Blanca López de Mariscal, who are members of the Communication, Discourse and Culture Research Group, portray the vision of these women when arriving in Mexico, which was, as they mention, “permeated by their own otherness, that of being a feminine subject within the universe of travel stories, which at that time was predominantly masculine”.

The book analyzes five texts written by European women: the Scottish Frances Calderón de la Barca; the Austrian Paula Kolonitz; the English Alice Dixon Le Plongeon and Ethel Tweedie, and the Irish Mary Elizabeth Blake and Margaret F. Sullivan. Those texts were published almost immediately after they traveled throughout Mexico, all during the 19th century.

Dr. León-Real Méndez and Dr. López de Mariscal emphasize that, by reading this book, we can also compare the diverse observations and interpretations the explorers made about Mexico as they described the country they were discovering.

“You can also see the evolution in the situation of European women – gaining ground in the struggle for their individuality – as well as a transformation in the way they see and represent Mexico,” they remarked.

Another aspect worth studying is the evolution perceived in the stories of these travelers when they detached themselves from the initial purpose of their journey, which was completely linked to their husbands’ agendas, and began to write stories inspired by their personal interest in exploring the country. It is then, according to the authors of this book, that “Mexico, as described in these texts, expands, enriches itself, and takes on a life that is independent of the expectations one has of it”.

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