“From the Heart of a Woman”: Yucatec Maya Women as Political Actors1

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Abstract

In the early 1990's Yucatecan women achieved a political prominence unparalled in any other Mexican state. Included among the politically prominent women was a notable cohort of indigenous Maya women. The national and regional context of democratization reforms in Mexico explains much of the waxing and waning of Yucatecan women's political success. The common use of essentialist definitions of gender and the employment of gender in the strategy of political actors, however, was also central to understanding women's political success. Gender identity, but not indigenous identity, proved to be a significant factor in women's participation in regional politics. The title of this paper refers to the campaign slogan of a Maya woman politician,“from the heart of a woman,” (but not “from the heart of a Maya woman”) who thus claimed her gender identity but not her indigenous one. Some reforms benefiting women were achieved in the early 1990's. Despite women's electoral victories there was opposition to women expressed through sexual insult. By the late 1990's women's public political prominence had diminished in Yucatan.

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