Women In History: Dora María Téllez

On the afternoon of October 23, 2018, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary called Las Sandinistas which featured the role of women in the Nicaraguan revolution. The documentary was directed by Jenny Murray, a woman herself. To my surprise, the film did not have one main character but focused on multiple women who had a massive role in the revolution. For this article, however, I will concentrate on Dora María Téllez. 

 

Dora María Téllez was a combatant and “Commander Two” in the group Sandinista National Liberation Front, also known as FSLN.  The FSLN was the organization that rebelled against the Somoza government during 1970 throughout the 1980s. FSLN recruited Dora around the age of sixteen or seventeen. Since then she trained and took a role in the military side of FSLN. Dora María also went to university to study health and nursing. Not only was she the "Commander Two" of one of the FSLN most crucial missions, but she was also head of the Health Department once FSLN beat Somoza. 

 

I want to emphasize how misogynous the society in Nicaragua was during this time. For Dora María to undertake different positions in the FSLN military, she was steadfast and determined. Even at a young age, she was extremely educated. In the film, they show various clips of her talking about the political situation in Nicaragua, and she was more than knowledgeable, she was wise. You could see her sitting down in a balcony, smoking a cigarette as she answered questions the interviewer asked. The mere presence and vibe she gave could give you chills. Words can't describe how unique that experience was, seeing clips of Dora when she was young compared to how she is now, it was extraordinary. 

 

However, something in particular in the film got me by total surprise. Not a single women who worked for the revolution is mentioned in monuments or memorials in Nicaragua. It is as if she did not exist or partake any role in the fight against Somoza. When the film explained this my heart broke. How could this hard working woman of excellence be almost erased from the Nicaraguan history? How can she not receive any credit for all that she went through? Those are the questions that inspired this article. While I can't change the fact that Dora along with other women has been discredited, I can write about them in hopes that we as women can learn something new from her. 

 

To finish off, after the documentary, the students present had the chance to ask the director of the film questions. And while I don't remember the questions asked I remember how Jenny responded to one of them. She mentioned how empowering it felt to get to know women who had a significant impact politically, and socially since growing up she did not see that representation. Jenny then continued to say that growing up she loved actions movies and how there were barely any female heroines in the film regarding the military. She then shared how getting to know Dora personally and interviewing her felt empowering and was a fantastic experience. Watching the documentary I felt the exact same way, it was empowering to see how much change woman have bought to a country since we barely get that representation in the media.