100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas – meet the inspirational women who shaped Latin American history and society

A new book celebrating 100 women who have shaped the history and society of Latin America, based on research by an academic at the University of Sheffield, will be published in November 2019.

Art from '100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas' book

Set to be released as part of the centenary celebrations of the world’s longest running children’s magazine – Billiken – the illustrated book will represent the diversity of women’s experiences, the challenges they have faced and their remarkable achievements in Latin America and across the world.

Co-authored by Dr Lauren Rea from the University of Sheffield’s School of Languages and Cultures, the book stems directly from Dr Rea’s research into the representation of gender roles within Argentina’s Billiken magazine.

The book, 100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas, features a selection of inspirational and iconic women drawn from political leaders, independence revolutionaries, sportswomen, activists, artists, writers, scientists, entrepreneurs and pioneers of feminism.

Alongside iconic figures such as Eva Perón and Frida Kahlo, well known within and beyond Latin America, the book’s focus on the region makes space for women whose achievements have perhaps not been as widely recognised.

Historical women featured include; Ecuador’s Hermelinda Urvina, the first Latin American woman to hold a professional pilot’s license; Argentine sculptor Lola Mora; and El Salvador’s Prudencia Ayala, who put herself forward for the Presidency at a time women did not even have the vote.

The book also showcases the impact that Latin American women are having today by highlighting women such as Carolina Contreras from the Dominican Republic, a social entrepreneur active in the natural hair movement who is working to build girls’ esteem by challenging Eurocentric beauty standards; Amalia Dutra, a Uruguayan biologist who worked on the Human Genome Project; and María del Carmen Fleytas who is leading jaguar conservation in Paraguay.

Unlike magazines such as The Beano, familiar to UK readers, Billiken’s content extends beyond comics to illustrated short and serialised stories, graphic novels, readers’ letters, craft activities, educational material aligned to the Argentine national curriculum and photographs of contemporary political and world events. For generations, Billiken was a fixture in the childhoods of those growing up in Argentina and other Latin American countries.

Today, Billiken is reinventing itself as a multiplatform product, tailored to the new ways in which children are consuming and curating 'edutainment' content.

Dr Rea’s research is having a sustained and meaningful impact on the magazine’s publisher, Editorial Atlántida, underpinning both Editorial Atlántida’s institutional narrative for the commemoration of the magazine’s centenary, and the plans for the future of the brand.

100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas is positioned as the flagship commemorative publication for the Billken centenary. Dr Rea worked with Billiken’s director, Euhen Matarozzo, on the book’s coordination, together leading an international team of creative industries professionals.

Dr Rea said: “This project is an example of how academia and the creative industries can work together to push for social change. In Latin America, gender inequality is a deeply rooted issue, and women’s contributions to society are not sufficiently recognised. The 100 Great Latin American Women project responds to the need for greater visibility of real women – past and present – in the region’s popular culture. We hope that these stories of great women will inspire today’s girls and boys and show them what is possible to achieve.”

Euhen Matarozzo, Director of Billiken, said: “Working with Lauren has helped us to position Billiken for the future. We have rediscovered the spirit of innovation upon which Billiken was founded and are working to ensure that this iconic product endures for another hundred years.”

The launch of 100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas will be held at Argentina’s National Congress on 20 November 2019 during an event to commemorate the Billiken centenary. At the launch, the Chamber of Deputies will officially recognise Billiken’s contribution to Argentina’s cultural life.

Aside from the launch in Argentina, Dr Rea is also holding an exhibition juxtaposing historical, gendered images from Billiken magazine against inspiring images from the 100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas book in Sheffield’s Winter Garden.

The exhibition, which is free and open to all, will run from the 2-9 November 2019 as part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science. On Saturday 2 November 2019 from 11am-2pm, children will be invited to create their own inspiring image of a great woman with help from artist Laura Page, who will be running a drop-in art workshop at the Winter Garden.

For a copy of the 100 Grandes Mujeres Latinoamericanas book, visit: www.atlantidalibros.com.ar

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