Saturday, January 10, 2015

Prudencia Ayala

It is a shortcoming of this blog that I have never previously written of Prudencia Ayala.   Born in 1885 in the department of Sonsonate, El Salvador, to a humble family with indigenous roots, Ayala rose from being a seamstress to being the country's first female candidate for president.

She was a poet, an essayist and a feminist.    Her writings in the early decades of the 20th century supported unions and women's rights.   She criticized the dictators of Central America and foreign (US) military intervention in the region.   Her activism led to her arrests and imprisonment for short periods in both Guatemala and El Salvador.

In the 1920s she founded the periodical Redención Femenina (Feminine Redemption) where she wrote in support of women's rights.

In 1930, Prudencia Ayala put herself forward as a candidate for president of El Salvador, at a time when women were not even allowed to vote in the country.   Her campaign platform included support for unions, integrity and transparency in public administration, limitations on sale of alcohol, respect for freedom of worship, and recognition of the rights of children born out of wedlock.

It was a campaign ridiculed by the male hierarchy in the country, but prominent Salvadoran philosopher, writer, journalist and politician Alberto Masferrer wrote at the time:
Prudencia Ayala defends a just and noble cause, which is the right of women to vote and hold high positions. Her government program is not inferior in clarity, practicality and simplicity, to the other candidates who are taken seriously.
Ayala's presidential candidacy was ultimately rejected by the country's supreme court.  Prudencia Ayala died July 11,  1936.  Women would not get the right to vote in El Salvador until the Constitution of 1950, but the initial groundwork was put in place by Ayala.

In 2014, the Salvadoran government posthumously decorated Prudencia Ayala with the Order of José Matías Delgado.

Online references (all in Spanish) for more information about the life and thought of Prudencia Ayala:

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