HipLatina is dedicated to talking about inspirational women in all the topics we discuss such as food, beauty and the arts. I, of course, wanted to write about historical Latina women travelers. As soon as I started researching, I easily found plenty of articles and books online about American and European female travelers such as Amelia Earhart and Nellie Bly but none about Latinas. It became clear, very quickly that this part of history has been seldom documented for various reasons of which I will speak about.
In order to get the information I was looking for, I had to sort through many books at the biggest library in New York where I was lucky to find one book – Magical Sites: Women Travelers in 19th Century Latin America, a compilation of travel journals from women who traveled in Latin America.
The book’s introduction clearly explains that throughout history traveling for women was forbidden, unimaginable, and outside of social norms. At the same time, traveling was considered a metaphor for women’s true liberation. The “traditional gender roles” of women maintaining the home and men being the ones that could travel made this camouflaged oppression acceptable.
Although these ideals were accepted by the masses, a few brave women counter-cultured, such as Mary Read who disguised herself as a man to board a ship and enter the business of piracy. However, little is known of them because the women’s point of view was never recorded.
While at first I wanted to talk about the greatest Latina women travelers, it struck me that talking about the importance of documenting our stories is a much more prevalent topic today—one cannot exist without the other. We want to make sure we are telling our own stories instead of others telling it for us because most likely they won’t get it exactly right.
Here are four women, then and now, who made and are paving the path for female perspectives to be heard and respected by writing about their travel experiences.
Juana Manuela Gorriti was born in Salta, Argentina in 1818 and became a writer, traveler and feminist after her separation with Bolivian dictator, Manuel Isidro Belzu. After her separation, she left Bolivia for Peru where her literary life took off. Always restless, Juana would travel back and forth between Buenos Aires, Lima and La Paz documenting her travel experiences along the way.
Maria de la Merced Beltrán was born in 1789 in Cuba into privilege and aristocracy but left at the age of twelve to Paris. She became a writer and opened a well-respected literary salon in Paris. Her greatest work was La Havane, written in 1844 as epistolary letters about her childhood memories in Cuba, her Creole heritage, and her upbringing in Europe.
Nomadic Chica is written completely by Gloria Apara Paillas who is of Chilean descent. She shares her adventures and experiences from around the world in hopes of inspiring female travelers. She writes about her favorite foods, hotels, restaurants and fun activities from various countries. Her blog is also available in español here.
Travel Latina a blog by Alexandra Tracy Chavarriaga, born of a Colombian mother and Anglo-American father, features women of Latina American and Caribbean diaspora who travel the world. In addition, she opens up the blog to other Latina contributors to talk about their unique travel experiences. To help promote positive Latina role models by writing about your own travel perspective, contact Alexandra here.
Just like the women travelers of yesterday and of today, you too can spread your story or the stories of other amazing women you know or have read about. Here are a few ways:
– Write in your journal(s) you can pass down to your children and then they can pass it down to their children
– Post your stories on social media (most may be reluctant to do this because of privacy but if it’s a story that can inspire or help others, why not?)
– Word of mouth: Tell your or another female’s story to your friends and family
– Get your stories published by a blog or any other publication
– Write a book about yourself or of an unknown inspirational female
– Print images and make a collage of your story