Humanities › History & Culture 7 Famous Women in the History of Latin America Never mind the machismo, these women changed their world Share Flipboard Email Print History & Culture Latin American History History Before Columbus Colonialism and Imperialism Caribbean History Central American History South American History Mexican History American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Christopher Minster Professor of History and Literature Ph.D., Spanish, Ohio State University M.A., Spanish, University of Montana B.A., Spanish, Penn State University Christopher Minster, Ph.D., is a professor at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. He is a former head writer at VIVA Travel Guides. our editorial process Christopher Minster Updated April 04, 2020 From Evita Peron to Empress Maria Leopoldina, women have always played key roles in the history of Latin America. Here are a few of the more important ones, in no particular order. Malinali 'Malinche' Malinche with Cortés. Jujomx / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 Hernan Cortes, in his audacious conquest of the Aztec Empire, had cannons, horses, guns, crossbows, and even a fleet of ships on Lake Texcoco. His secret weapon, however, was a teenage girl he enslaved early in his expedition. "Malinche," as she came to be known, interpreted for Cortes and his men, but she was much more than that. She advised Cortes on the intricacies of Mexican politics, allowing him to bring down the greatest empire Mesoamerica had ever seen. Evita Peron, Argentina's Greatest First Lady Annemarie Heinrich / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain You've may have seen the musical and the History Channel Special, but what do you really know about "Evita"? Wife of President Juan Peron, Eva Peron was the most powerful woman in Argentina during her short life. Her legacy is such that, even now, decades after her death, the citizens of Buenos Aires leave flowers at her tomb. Manuela Saenz, Heroine of Independence Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain Manuela Saenz, best known for being the mistress of the great Simón Bolívar, liberator of South America, was a heroine in her own right. She fought and served as a nurse in battles and was even promoted to colonel. On one occasion, she stood up to a group of assassins sent to kill Bolivar while he escaped. Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemala's Nobel Prize Winner Carlos Rodriguez / ANDES / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0 Rigoberta Menchu is a Guatemalan activist who gained fame when she won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. Her story is told in a biography of questionable accuracy but indubitable emotional power. Today she is still an activist and attends Native rights conventions. Anne Bonny, Ruthless Pirate Anushka.Holding / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 Anne Bonny was a female pirate who sailed between 1718 and 1720 with John "Calico Jack" Rackham. Along with fellow female pirate and shipmate Mary Read, she made headlines in 1720 at her sensational trial, at which it was revealed that both women were pregnant. Anne Bonny disappeared after she gave birth, and no one really knows for sure what became of her. Mary Read, Another Ruthless Pirate Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain Like her fellow pirate Anne Bonny, Mary Read sailed with the colorful "Calico Jack" Rackham around 1719. Mary Read was a fearsome pirate: according to legend, she once killed a man in a duel because he had threatened a young pirate she had taken a fancy to. Read, Bonny, and the rest of the crew were captured with Rackham, and although the men were hanged, Read and Bonny were spared because they were both pregnant. Read died in prison shortly thereafter. Empress Maria Leopoldina of Brazil Senate of Brazil / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain Maria Leopoldina was the wife of Dom Pedro I, the first Emperor of Brazil. Well-educated and bright, she was much beloved by the people of Brazil. Leopoldina was much better at statecraft than Pedro and the people of Brazil loved her. She died young of complications from a miscarriage.