By Julie Etra and Jane Bauer
Maria Asuncion Arumburuzabala is the wealthiest woman in Mexico. She is the granddaughter of Don Felix Arumburuzabala, founder of Grupo Modelo, the brewing company that produces Corona which is distributed in more than 180 countries worldwide. She is considered one of the most influential Mexican women in the economic sector, serves on the Boards of several Mexican corporations, and also has a stake in Grupo Televisa. She was the first woman to serve on the Mexican Stock Exchange (2003-2006) and as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the German company Siemens, Mexican division (2003 to 2006).
Josefina Vasquez Mota is a Mexican business woman and politician who was the presidential candidate of the National Action Party (PAN) for the 2012 elections. Vázquez Mota was trained as an economist and began her working career in family businesses and with various business organizations and conferences, also working as a journalist and writing books. She began her political career with the PAN organization, becoming involved in Mexico’s federal Chamber of Deputies of Mexico and then in the administrations of Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón. She was PAN’s first female candidate for president. She lost in 2012 to Mexico’s current president Enrique Peña Nieto.
Marisela Morales Ibáñez was the 42nd Attorney General, and the first female to hold the position. She has been praised for her work by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama, and received the 2011 International Women of Courage Award. The American award is presented annually by the US Department of State to women around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially for better promotion of women’s rights.
Elba Esther Gordillo is president of the teacher’s union, the largest one in Latin America she controls 1.5 million union votes and dictates educational policy. Teacher strikes are very common and Gordillo seems to be unsupportive of women’s issues and blames the abysmal state of education in Mexico on working mothers. She is possibly the most publicly vilified high profile woman in Mexico. She is extremely ostentatious, sporting $5,000 Hermes purses and once gave Hummers as gifts to loyal teachers. Newly elected Enrique Peña Nieto has pledged to negotiate with the union and to reform the system.
Lydia Cacho is a renowned award winning journalist and writer. She has been an outspoken advocate for women’s and children’s rights especially regarding victims of domestic and sexual violence, and human trafficking. Described by Amnesty International as “perhaps Mexico’s most famous investigative journalist and women’s rights advocate.” In 2004, her book Los Demonios del Edén created a nationwide scandal by alleging that several prominent businessmen had conspired to protect a pedophilia ring. As of August 2012 she has been in temporary self exile due to death threats.
Elena Poniatowska was born in Paris to a Mexican mother and a father descended from Polish aristocrats, is an award winning Mexican writer, journalist, and activist. She and her mother fled the Nazi invasion of Europe, arriving in Mexico when she was just ten years old. Poniatowska has written stories, novels, plays, and poetry. Her best known work is La noche de Tlatelolco (Massacre in Mexico) about the repression of the 1968 student protests in Mexico City. Despite the lack of international recognition, she is considered to be “Mexico’s grande dame of letters” and is still an active writer.
Lorena Ochoa is a Mexican professional golfer who played on the U.S.-based LPGA Tour from 2003 to 2010, and was the top- ranked female golfer in the world for over three years, from April 2007 to her retirement in May 2010. As the first Mexican golfer of either gender to be ranked number one in the world, she is considered the best Mexican golfer of all time. Since December 2004, the Lorena Ochoa Foundation has combined forces with other associations dedicated mostly to education, helping hundreds of marginalized children to reach a balanced life through educational programs, sports, healthy living and self-esteem seminars.
Salma Hayek is a Mexican American film actress, director and producer. She began her career in Mexico starring in the telenovela Teresa. Hayek’s charitable work includes increasing awareness on violence against women and discrimination against immigrants. In 2005, Hayek testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary supporting reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. In February 2006, she donated $25,000 to a Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, shelter for battered women and another $50,000 to Monterrey based anti-domestic violence groups.
Paola Espinosa is an athlete from La Paz, Mexico. She competes in diving and represented Mexico at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and again at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, being her national team’s flagbearer in the latter. She won a bronze medal in the 10m Synchronized Platform with her partner Tatiana Ortiz. She qualified to participate in both platform events at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She won silver in 10m Synchronized platform at the 2012 Olympics.
Mariana Avitia is an athlete from Monterrey, Mexico who competes in archery. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London Avitia finished third, doing the 2, 3 along with Aída Roman to win the first two medals for Mexico in the country’s Olympic archery history for both Male and Female.