June 2, 2010




The introduction has two main points. The first one is to sensitize people about the importance of history, and how it is a source of learning that we don’t tend to use much. The second point is to make a brief mention of the topic that we are going to talk about, to acknowledge the importance of every member of society for the development of the world, in this study, how women have evolved and what should we expect for the future.


–          The path starts with the generation of my great grandmother and her position in the world, her roles functions and families. The statement for this point is my grandmother and how she saw her mother.

–          It continues with my grandmother’s generation and her liberation. She was one of the first women to be recognized as a citizen, the roles she played, how she was able to work, her family and the composition. The statement for this point is my grandmother and her experience

–          Then my mother and her generation. How she was able to study, to be a professional. Her motherhood, the role in the family, the work environment etc. The statement for this point would be provided by my mother

–          Finally my generation. How do I see myself as a woman in this modern world? The roles I think I should play the family I think I must form, my role as a professional.


What is the future for women in Colombia? The generations change, history teaches us. Can we expect to continue through this path or should we look at new perspectives to start talking really about freedom.

Walking towards evolution in theory should be always progressive. Evolving is supposed to be changing for better. But, how can people improve if they don`t learn from the past? What happened in the past matters because determines how we see the present, and for instance a new future.  Looking back is sometimes hard, sometimes fun, but is every time necessary. Because understanding what happened before will prevent us from making the same mistakes over and over again.

Nature provides all the living creatures with characteristics that complement each other in order to reproduce. Pistils need the style to be able to create new flowers and vice versa; lioness needs the lion to reproduce, the same as lion needs the lioness; man need women just as women need man in terms of procreation. Every single piece of nature is as important as the other pieces, because equilibrium is the base of nature and of the world. Having said this, the path the reader is going to follow is the real understanding of the social evolution of women in Colombia. History teaches women have evolved; it is time we recognize what was good and what was wrong in this process in order to assure a real social evolution, a real liberation.  To make this journey, we are going to take a look back into 4 generations of women in my own family. This choice is made to exemplify a piece of the story that took place for women during the 20th century, and the beginning of the 21st.  I warn the reader that this is not the only one side of the story, but perhaps it can give you details to understand the big picture.

My great grandmother Genoveva Angel was born in the end of the 1890’s, she was able to study but she only got to primary school. That was probably a reason for women her age to marry so young. She married when she was 16 years old, which according to society was a proper age to start a family. Girls were taught to be wives and mothers and that ended the role they played in society.  As she formed a family, she started to take the lead in everything that went on in the house. “Mi mama era dueña, señora ama y directora de la casa. Era de armas tomar. Lo que ella dijera se hacía, era mandona y buena organizadora. Pero aunque era dueña, siempre debía pedir la aceptación de mi papá para lo que quisiera hacer; A lo que él respondía, Lo que diga <nenita>”[1]

Society was not used to the fact that women were active as my great grandmother used to be; in fact although she seemed to be the one in charge, the approval of the husband was entirely necessary. This shows how women were not able to make free choices in their apparently own grounds, the house. In terms of what they symbolized, women were considered incapable. So much that they were unable to manage even their own money. So when a member of the family died and left the woman an inheritance, the husband had full rights over that money and could spend it the way he thought was best, even if the money didn’t belong to him.

It was an unfair situation that women started slowly to change. Because with my grandmother things started to change. My grandmother is Helena de la Cruz Botero de Calle. She represents the second generation in the journey. She was born in the 1930’s and she had a really different role compared to her mother. She did until 4th year of high school. In that time there were two types of high school. One was the commercial high school that was until 4th year. The second one was the technical high school which was until 6th year. She got married a little older than her own mother, at 19. As well as her mother she was the owner of the house, but this time she was really the owner. She managed the money of the house, had a car, knew how to drive (and as she recalls people pointed at her for doing so), she worked for the WOMEN RIGHTS by being part of an association called the “Unión de Ciudadanas de Colombia” <Association of women citizens of Colombia>

In 1954 women in Colombia obtained the right to vote which they first used in 1957. Now, being recognized as citizens changed their working possibilities. “Yo fui casi fundadora de Suramericana, trabajaba de secretaria de presidencia, y fui de las primeras mujeres que logró llegar a un puesto como esos”[2]

She was hard working, but the amount of time she worked was not the same she spent at home with kids. She had 6 kids. This generation is called the baby boom, because most of the families had more than 4 children. This had a particular meaning. Women still recognized themselves as woman because of the children, realization was motherhood. This generation started opening the spaces for the next generation to be able to study not only high school but in the universities. It was the first step of liberation. The concept of liberation I rely on, is not a sexual liberation but opportunities liberation, this is something the reader has to have completely clear.

These hardworking women made it possible for others to change social patterns and the relationships that women have w with work, with society, with family, with knowledge.

“La revolución viene desde la generación de mi mamá. Porque aunque tuvieron que asumir un rol sumiso, empezaron a cuestionarse y a luchar porque la mujer tuviera mejores oportunidades. Gracias a la lucha de ellas, mi generación fue bien vista en la universidad demostrando al mundo que la mujer era igual intelectualmente que el hombre.”[3]

With this testimony we make the third stop in the journey of the women of my family. My mother Maria Claudia Calle Botero, was the first of 6 children, was born in 1952.  She was able not only to study full high school, but also to go to college. Her primary and secondary studies were in “Colegio Jesús María” in Medellín, a school directed by nuns, a school directed by traditionalism. Even though she was taught how to be mother and a wife, young women started to have different expectations of their future and the role they wanted to fill in society. That is why she searched for the best University of the time, she studied in “La Universidad de los Andes” Industrial Engineering. In her time women were able to study what they wanted, she even had a friend <la mona> that was the first women to graduate as Mechanical Engineer, which was the time one of the careers that was still completely male dominated.

Things were actually changing. Women for the first time started to have in many aspects the same opportunities as men. So, what happened with the other roles they had to fulfill? “Llega mi generación con un reto muy grande que es demostrarles a los hombres y a las mujeres que no solamente somos iguales sino que también podemos sobrepasarlos. Pero pasó algo: El rol de madre no lo habíamos evolucionado, entonces hubo conflictos y dificultades en términos de que teníamos que ser profesionales exitosas, pero también tener absoluta dedicación en el hogar. Eso hizo que las mujeres de mi generación trabajáramos 3 turnos. Porque el hombre todavía no estaba listo a asumir el rol de compartir ciertas labores en el hogar y responsabilidades familiares. “[4]

Women overloaded themselves with work, and with chores in every aspect of their life for the need of a real recognition. Well they made it. Because of women like my mother, my grandmother and my great grandmother I have a place in the world that all of the unrecognized discriminated or so called “different” people should have.

This is how we enter to the last and final stop in our journey, the present. Master Ugway in Kung Fu Panda once said. <Now is a gift that is why they call it present> and that is what we are going to look at now.

The past is teaching us that there is a place where we did a wrong turn. Overloading our life was part or a process of acceptance that women had to have in order to obtain recognition. Now that we have this recognition what are we going to do? It turns out that we start making decisions by absolute choice, decisions taken by love. “La maternidad no es una obligación es una elección. Formar una familia es una decisión, ya no es lo que la sociedad nos ha dicho que tenemos que hacer. Las mujeres somos independientes de nuestros actos, ya logramos el respeto que queríamos dejando un poco a un lado nuestra feminidad. Ahora debemos recuperarla.”[5]

But for women to regain our different femininities we need the help of those who which we established to be the bad ones of the movie, we need the help of men. Women of the past had to change in order to be recognized, it was part of the process. But they didn’t understand that filling mans places in ALL of the circumstances will backfire to us. For me is not about independence, but is about CODEPENDENCE. “Las mujeres necesitamos a los hombres, tanto como los hombres necesitan a las mujeres. Lo más importante que se debe recordar es que en la sociedad todos somos miembros importantes, incluso los que son considerados como minoría o como los <diferentes>”[6]

Nature shows how everything has a place, why can we human beings understand that difference makes us stronger? We should really revise the past, because the struggle of women to be recognized teaches us a big lesson. NATURE IS NOT INDEPENDENT, IT IS CODEPENDENT. It seems to me that it is not about liberation, it is about recognition.

[1] Testimony of Helena de la Cruz Botero de Calle daughter of Genoveva Angel de Botero

[2] Testimony of Helena de la Cruz Botero de Calle

[3] Testimony of María Claudia Calle Botero. My mother.

[4] Testimony of María Claudia Calle Botero. My mother.

[5] My testimony, Camila Martínez Calle. The daughter.

[6] My testimony, Camila Martínez Calle. The daughter.


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