Amelio Robles Ávila

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Amelio Robles Ávila
Photo of Robles from a newspaper leaning against a chair with a cigarette in his hand (colorized)
Robles in 1915 (colorized)
Amelia Robles Ávila

(1889-11-03)3 November 1889
Died9 December 1984(1984-12-09) (aged 95)
Xochipala, Guerrero, Mexico
SpouseÁngela Torres

Amelio Robles Ávila (3 November 1889 – 9 December 1984) was a colonel during the Mexican Revolution. Assigned female at birth with the name Amelia Robles Ávila, Robles lived openly as a man from age 24 until his death at age 95.[1]

Early life[edit]

Robles was born on 3 November 1889 in Xochipala, Guerrero to Casimiro Robles and Josefa Ávila.[2][3][4] Casimiro Robles was a wealthy farmer[3] who owned 42 hectares of land and a small mezcal factory.[4] Robles had two older siblings[3] Teódulo and Prisca.[4] Robles was three years old when Casimiro died,[5] and a few years later Josefa married Jesús Martinez, one of the ranch workers who took care of the livestock.[2][4] Josefa and Jesús had three more children, Luis, Concepción and Jesús Martínez Avila.[4] They raised the children in the Catholic religion.[3] Robles studied until the fourth grade at the school for young ladies in Chilpancingo.[6]

From a young age, Robles showed an interest in activities that were considered masculine, learning to tame horses and handling weapons, and becoming an excellent marksman and rider.[3] Before joining the army, he was treasurer in a Maderistas club in Xochipala.[7]

Army life[edit]

Robles joined the army in 1911 or 1912,[8] perhaps when General Juan Andreu Almazán passed through Xochipala in 1911 as pressure mounted against Porfirio Díaz to resign as president.[citation needed]

Between August and November 1911, Robles was sent to the Gulf of Mexico on a commission in order to obtain money from oil companies for the revolutionary cause.[7] Two years later, Robles began to dress as a man and demanded to be treated as such.[9] (Robles was not alone as a person assigned female presenting as male in the Mexican army at the time. Maria de la Luz Barrera and Ángel(a) Jiménez also adopted male identities during the war.)[10] From 1913 to 1918, Robles fought as "el coronel Robles" with the Zapatistas under the command of Jesús H. Salgado, Heliodoro Castillo [es], and Encarnación Díaz [es]. Robles gained the respect of peers and superiors as a capable military leader, and was eventually given his own command.[3]

In 1919, some time after Emiliano Zapata was killed, Robles and 315 men under his command joined the forces of Alvaro Obregón, and in 1920 fought with them in the Agua Prieta Revolt which brought an end to the government of Venustiano Carranza.[3] In 1924, Robles supported General Alvaro Obregón against the Delahuertist rebellion under the command of General Adrian Castrejón, where the Delahuertista general Marcial Cavazos [es] died and Robles was hurt.[citation needed]

Following the military phase of the Revolution, Robles supported revolutionary general Álvaro Obregón when the latter was president of Mexico in 1920–1924; Robles fought with Obregón's forces to put down the 1923 rebellion of Adolfo de la Huerta.[3] When Robles settled in Iguala for a time after the revolution, a group of men are said to have attacked him wanting to reveal his anatomy; he killed two in self-defense.[11] In 1939 he supported Almazán in the presidential election.[7]

In 1948, Robles received the medical certificate required to officially enter the Confederation of Veterans of the Revolution.[12] The medical revision confirmed that Robles had received six bullet wounds.[12]


In 1970, the Mexican Secretary of National Defense recognized Robles as a veteran (veterano) of the Revolution.[13] Toward the end of his life, Robles received various decorations acknowledging distinguished military service: a decoration as a veteran of the Mexican Revolution, and the Mexican Legion of Honor; in 1973 or 1974, Robles was also decorated with the Revolutionary Merit award (Medalla al mérito revolucionario).[3]

Personal life and death[edit]

Robles met Ángela Torres in Apipilulco in the 1930s, and they later married.[7][9] They adopted a daughter together, Regula Robles Torres.[14] Horacio Legrás says that both later became estranged from Robles.[3]

On his deathbed Robles supposedly made two requests, to receive honors for his military service and to be dressed as a woman in order to commend his soul to God.[7][15] Neither request was ever confirmed to be true,[15] and Robles had already received several military honors. Furthermore, Robles's death certificate notes that he lost the ability to speak more than a year before dying.[16]

Robles died 9 December 1984, aged 95.[17]

Gender identity and legacy[edit]

According to historian Gabriela Cano Ortega, Robles adopted a male identity not as a survival strategy but because of a strong desire to be a man.[9][18] Robles's male identity was accepted by family, society, and the Mexican government, and Robles lived as a man from the age of 24 until his death.[9] According to a former neighbor, if anyone called Robles a woman or Doña (an honorific for women, similar to English Mrs.), he would threaten them with a pistol.[12] Robles has therefore been described by historians as transgender.[11][18][19]

Robles is documented using both the masculine and feminine versions of his name and pronouns. Robles is both commemorated as a male hero of the Mexican revolution and iconized as a female warrior.[20]

A public school was named after him using the masculine version of his name, confirming the official recognition of his identity by the local government. His tombstone bears the feminine version of his name and there is a museum in Xochipala celebrating "Coronela Amelia Robles", recognizing him as a "woman fighter".[20]

A 1951 children's book entitled El Coyote: Corrido de la Revolución creates an image of "La Coronela Amelia Robles" through both visual and written elements.[20]

The image of Robles in his uniform was drawn on as inspiration for a section of a drag performance depicting soldaderas.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Losser, Sheryl (2023-04-26). "Long after the Revolution's end, a trans soldier fought for recognition". Mexico News Daily. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  2. ^ a b Edith Pérez Abarca, Amelia Robles: revolucionaria zapatista del sur (2007), page 25.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Horacio Legrás, Culture and Revolution: Violence, Memory, and the Making of Modern Mexico (2017, ISBN 1477311734), page 91.
  4. ^ a b c d e Laura Espejel López (2000), p. 305.
  5. ^ Edith Pérez Abarca (2007), page 28.
  6. ^ Laura Espejel López (2000), p. 306.
  7. ^ a b c d e Cárdenas Trueba, Olga (2010-11-20). "Amelia Robles Avila, 1889 - 1984". Archived from the original on 2021-06-28. Extracted from: Espejel López, Laura (2000). Estudios sobre el zapatismo (in Spanish). México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. pp. 303–319. ISBN 970-18-4184-0. OCLC 48797560.
  8. ^ David Pérez López, Historias cercanas (relatos ignorados de la frontera) (2004), page 125.
  9. ^ a b c d Lydia Zárate (13 September 2016). "Amelio Robles, coronel transgénero de la Revolución mexicana". Pikara Magazine. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  10. ^ Cano, Gabriela (2009-01-01). "Amelio Robles, andar de soldado viejo. Masculinidad (trangénero) en la Revolución Mexicana". Debate Feminista. 39: 14–39. doi:10.22201/cieg.2594066xe.2009.39.1417. JSTOR 42625542.
  11. ^ a b Gabriela Cano, Unconcealable Realities of Desire, in Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics, and Power in Modern Mexico (2007, ISBN 0822388448), ed. by Mary Kay Vaughan, Gabriela Cano, Jocelyn H. Olcott, page 45.
  12. ^ a b c Gabriela Cano (27 November 2009). "Inocultables Realidades del Deseo: Amelio Robles, masculinidad (transgénero) en la Revolución mexicana" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2022-06-29. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  13. ^ "Editarán la biografía de la coronela revolucinaria Amelia Robles". El Sur. Información del Sur, SA. 23 April 2003. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  14. ^ Laura Martínez Alarcón (7 March 2016). "La Coronela es un hombre y, sin embargo, nació mujer" (in Spanish). Actitud Fem. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  15. ^ a b Agencias. "La Coronela de Zapata que luchó por ser reconocida como Coronel". Archived from the original on 2018-01-01. Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  16. ^ "Datos de acta de defuncion" (in Spanish). State of Guerrero. Archived from the original on 2017-01-08. Retrieved 2018-01-01. To use the page: Nombre: Amelio; apellido paterno: Robles; apellido materno: Avila (without accent as it will mark an error); sexo: masculino; fecha de nacimiento: left blank; fecha de defunción: 09/12/1984.
  17. ^ Laura Espejel López (2000), p. 319.
  18. ^ a b Oswaldo Estrada, Troubled Memories: Iconic Mexican Women and the Traps of Representation (2018, ISBN 1438471912), page 180: "Others, such as Amelia Robles, became true transgendered subjects over the course of the revolution and defined themselves as men for the rest of their lives."
  19. ^ Katherine Crawford, Eunuchs and Castrati: Disability and Normativity in Early Modern Europe (2018, ISBN 1351166352), page 10.
  20. ^ a b c Women Warriors and National Heroes: Global Histories. Bloomsbury Academic. 2020. doi:10.5040/ ISBN 978-1-350-12113-3. S2CID 214264218.
  21. ^ Slaughter, Stephany (2011). "Queering the Memory of the Mexican Revolution: Cabaret as a Space for Contesting National Memory". Letras Femeninas. 37 (1): 47–70. ISSN 0277-4356. JSTOR 23021843.

Further reading[edit]

  • López González, Valentín; Morelos (2000) [1980]. Los Compañeros de Zapata [Zapata's Companions] (in Spanish). Cuernavaca, Morelos, MX: Gobierno del Estado Libre y Soberano de Morelos. OCLC 651560916.