Nela Martínez Espinosa – Ecuador (1912 – 2004)

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Read: Nela en la memoria – Un nido de colibrí, conchas de colores, flores y cartas, elementos que siempre acompañaron a Nela. Entre sus obras figuran “Cuentos de la Tortura”, “Antología de Narradores Ecuatorianos”, su colaboración en “Los Guandos” y numerosos poemas publicados e inéditos.

She said: “In the revolutionary spirit of 1944 it was logical to encounter the harshest machismo, after the storm of the armed fighting had passed and the presence of the military and the police. The city of Quito was taken by the people without even a single violent action. I was moved by the presence of the women who were there day and night with their children, carrying them on their backs or holding them by their hands. That powerful symbol was enough to enable us to liberate those persecuted and confined as political prisoners. It was not necessary to resort to repression to gain peace”.

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Nela Martínez Espinosa – Ecuador (1912 – 2004)

She worked for the Women’s Continental Front for Peace and Against Intervention.

She was a world fighter for peace, against military dictatorships and imperialism. She turned her indignation into a campaign for the human rights of both men and women. From different departure points, she contributed to the thoughts and actions behind the construction of citizenship for women. She was dedicated from a very young age to the struggle of the indigenous people and their process of self-determination and the historical appreciation of their identity.

Read: Nela Martínez, Una luchadora infatigable.

She was committed to the most important causes of the century in which she lived: equality, freedom, autonomy, sovereignty, independence and peace. We still have the legacy of her inspiring life as well as innumerable political and literary texts, most of them unpublished.

She said also: “In the history of this country there are women that played a key role in events. They are kept quiet, forgotten or frankly rejected. Such is the case of Manuela Sáenz, whose story does not appear among the established heroes of this country. They ignore her in spite of all our demands. She, who participated in the rebellion of Lima and in the battles of Pichincha, without resting until she reached Ayacucho. They do not want to know that she was given the military rank of Colonel of the Liberating Army of the Republic. It was given to her by (Simon) Bolivar, after a request from the officials who participated with her in the last anti-colonial battle in our America. This signals that resistance to recognizing the political actions of women, even the greatest of them, has not disappeared. It is an ancient and traditional resistance that is an integral part of the patriarchal society. To say that societies are republican and egalitarian is not enough to bring about a change of habits, thoughts and plans”.

In 1940, Nela Martínez Espinosa led the occupation of the Presidential Palace where she was chosen, by the people, to manage the country for three days. After a popular election, she was elected the first female member of the Parliament of Ecuador (1944-1945).

An interview gives her own version of the events of those days: “I was born the same year that Alfaro was carried away and burned. (She refers to Eloy Alfaro, the revolutionary leader from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, killed in 1912). On the penultimate month of that year, an open inquisition, with the support of liberal politicians, made a bonfire of the dreams born in 1809, dreams of autonomy and dignity. Dreams that were betrayed and lost until today. What did I learn from my sensitive and tender mother from the moment I was in her womb? What did I learn from the way she was moved when she faced crimes? The women called Huarichas did not hide anymore like Nicolasa Jurado and Inés Jiménez did in 1821 when they wore male uniforms in an effort to obscure their bodies. They experienced harder living conditions than the Montoneros. They did not carry weapons but remained beside the men. Later they gained the right to carry arms, those female colonels who came down from Manabí using their own names and displaying with pride their own bodies and their own ideology. They wanted the right to be citizens”.

The severely conservative social conditions of the beginning of the 20th century do not play down the importance of the active role of Nela, dedicated from a very young age, to the struggle of the indigenous people and their process of self-determination and the historical appreciation of their identity.

And she said: “During the course of my political career, brave and determined women have appeared, searching to change the destiny of their people and free them from subjection (…) My perception of those women led me to see their inner strengths. My antennae tell me if a woman is an indigenous woman and if she has bee meditating for many hours in the mountains and with each thought, incorporating the golden butterfly into her own dreams and those of others”.

She reached prominence as a leader of the Communist Party of Ecuador, which she entered a few years after its foundation in 1957. She was the first woman to join the Executive Committee and was also a member of the Central Committee.

She participated in the consolidation of the first indigenous organization, the Federación Ecuatoriana de Indios (the Ecuadorian Federation of Indigenous People) and contributed to its magazine ‘Nucanchic Allpa’ * . She was very active in the foundation of trade unions, and female trade unions and the Federación de Trabajadores de Pichincha (Federation of Workers of Pichincha) and the Confederación de Trabajadores del Ecuador (Co-federation of Workers of Ecuador, named in this text of

Along with her contemporaries she created and led the first women’s organization with the aim of increasing women’s participation in the political life of the country, Alianza Femenina Ecuatoriana (1937), named in this text of That organization played a transcendental role in the popular feat of May 28, 1944. In the same context she created the Unión Revolucionaria de Mujeres del Ecuador (1952), named in this text of, within which she founded and directed the first magazine for the women of the country ‘Nuestra Palabra‘ (Our Word).

She participated actively in the Movimiento Antitotalitario del Ecuador, named in this text, a movement against fascism, and in the foundation of the World Council for Peace (1949), in Paris. She also participated in the fight against the nuclear bomb and founded and directed the International Democratic Women’s Federation.

Through a contemporary reading of history she supported the achievements of Manuela Sáenz Aizpuru, ‘Colonel of the Liberating Army in the Fight for Independence’.

She said: “Then, I knew that by beating the ripened wheat and harvesting the grain, we would be capable of milling our flour, baking our bread and giving ourselves a banquet in memory of our true history”.

She has been working intensively for decades for Human Rights. She founded different organizations for solidarity with the people of Guatemala, Vietnam, Cuba, Chile, Argentina, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, Palestine, among others. In Ecuador, she led the fight for the demands of the citizens, even in times of military or civil dictatorships, putting at risk her own safety.

She was cofounder and leader of the Frente Continental de Mujeres por la Paz y Contra la Intervención (Women´s Continental Front for Peace and Against Intervention).

She made distinguished incursions into almost all the literary genres: poetry, short stories, novels, essays, epistles, historical narratives and journalism. She was a very moving orator, known for the great passion, depth and clarity with which she communicated. She always asked herself: Is an Andean culture possible? Her life gives the answer. (Read all this on 1000peacewomen 2005).

Escritora y revolucionaria ecuatoriana, Nela Martínez Espinosa (1912-2004), fue la primera mujer diputada del país. Dirigente del Partido Comunista del Ecuador, fundadora de Alianza Femenina Ecuatoriana y la Union Revolucionaria de Mujeres del Ecuador. Trabajó incansablemente en la solidaridad internacionalista y en la conquista de los derechos de la mujer y el pueblo. (full text).

28 de julio de 2006, Altercom, 30 de julio de hace dos años, con la mirada puesta en su América, falleció en La Habana, la escritora y revolucionaria ecuatoriana NELA MARTÍNEZ ESPINOSA (1912-2004). Se convoca a los actos que en su memoria se realizarán en Quito y La Habana. (full text).

Read: Segundo aniversario de su fallecimiento, ’Se marchó con la mirada puesta en América’, Nela Martínez en Quito y La Habana el domingo 30 de Julio.

Read: Nela Martínez: ’Quedo en deuda de amor con todo lo que me habita desde la primera luz de mi alba’.

Read: Nela Martínez. Un capítulo de la historia ecuatoriana.

* Marc Becker (Truman State University) “Writing the History of the Twentieth-Century Indigenous Movement in Ecuador through Ñucanchic Allpa” Ñucanchic Allpa (Quechua: “Our Land”) was a bilingual newspaper that indigenous activists and their allies published on and off in Ecuador from the 1930s to the 1960s. Government officials complained about its distribution in rural communities and the threat that it represented to their hegemonic control over the indigenous population. Through an examination of five issues, this paper examines how a largely illiterate population used the written word to present their concerns. (See page 17 of 32 for a conference hold in 2004).


Museo Manuela Sáenz;


Victor Wolfgang von Hagen;

Committee on freedom of association report;

Electronic Appendix;

Arcatao celebró nominación de mujeres al Nóbel de la Paz;

Work, protest and Identity in Latin America;

an old draft of study on Ecuador (1989);

Nela Martínez: Una luchadora infatigable.

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