Soldadera on a train platform in the Buenavista station Mexico City April 1912.png

La Adelita - Cropped Version

Soldaderas on a train platform in the Buenavista station Mexico City 1912.png

Soldaderas on a train platform in the Buenavista station Mexico City 1912 - Original Version

The most notable cropped photograph of a soldadera is commonly referred to as Adelita and depicts a woman standing on the steps of a train car, leaning out and looking urgently away from the camera down the tracks.[1] This image captures the “ideal” representation of the soldadera: an individual woman with worry etched on her face, perhaps looking out for danger or looking for her lover to return safely from battle. She carries neither a food basket nor laundry; her work is merely suffering for and emotionally supporting her soldier. This image became the face of the soldaderas and encapsulates the archetype of the soldadera provided by the folk song of the same name.

The original version of this photograph, however, complicates that understanding of soldaderas. The other women in the photo look quite calmly into the camera; the baskets which some of them hold suggest that they are waiting for soldiers, not necessarily to lock them in a loving embrace, but to feed them. Photohistorian John Mraz notes that the location of these women inside the car rather than above or below it suggests that they are not rank and file soldaderas, but either privileged followers of federal officers or Mexican City food vendors serving the soldiers while the train was stationed there; in any case, the reasons behind their presence were more complicated than that of the subject of the “Adelita” folk song.[2] Depicting a whole group of women conflicts with the idea of the unique, individual camp follower motivated by love and reminds the audience that these women likely had a variety of reasons for becoming soldaderas.

[1] Laura M. Addison, Photographing the 'Woman Alone': The Performance of Gender in the Mexican Revolution (Thesis), (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1999), 77.

[2] John Mraz, Photographing the Mexican Revolution: Commitments, Testimonies, Icons, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012), 245.